What comes to your mind, or what do you think of when I say the word WATER?
When I was just a young girl of about 9-years old, my family moved overseas. Every weekend, all six of us would pile into the red and white VW Camper and travel to some new and exciting location in Italy. My dad usually took the scenic route along the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea. I can still recall the thrill and utter amazement of coming around a corner only to see the magnificent majesty of the deep blue sea, Breathtaking!
Water relaxes the mind, heals the body, soothes the heart, and calms the spirit! Water has always been an incredible source of healing for me; how about you?
Have you ever heard of Blue Mind Science? Is it the study of the aquatic environment’s health benefits? It offers up a cure for whatever ails you, whether it’s stress, anxiety, or just a case of the blues.
Humans are naturally drawn to water. That’s why most communities are built near bodies of water. Scientists are now quantifying the positive physical and cognitive effects of water. It turns out it leads to an improved overall sense of wellbeing and can produce a meditative state that makes us happier, healthier, calmer, creative, and more capable of AWE! And all for free!
Whether it’s going down to the ocean, visiting the local swimming pool, sitting in a jacuzzi, the smell of rain, a good thunderstorm, or spa service, water heals. Did you know the word SPA is an abbreviation for Solus Par Aqua, which means health or healing through water? Have you ever experienced a Vichy shower?
Now I would be remiss as an OT Practitioner and a Wholistic Empowerment Coach if I didn’t mention HYDRATION and its importance. Did you know that humans are approximately 70% water? Have you experienced any of the following?
• Dry skin
• Dry mouth
• Brain fog
• Muscle cramps
• Rapid heart rate
These are all symptoms of dehydration:
Whether you choose to drink tap, spring, mineral, seltzer, purified, alkaline, vitamin, or well-water, so long as it is safe, the main goal is to stay hydrated and drink enough water each day to stay healthy and happy. Also, what is it they say about the fountain of youth? Why not stop for a spot of tea or pause this season for some delicious watermelon.
Some benefits of water are:
• Better heart health and overall health
• Increased energy and brain function
• Lubricated joints and more robust muscles
• Ease with digestion
• Maximized physical performance
And the list goes on. Water is therapeutic!
To you, it might just be water, but to me, it’s how I regain my sanity.
I want to end today’s blog with a quote by Sir George Sitwell.
“I have left almost to the last the magic of water, an element which owing to its changefulness of form and mood and color and to the vast range of its effects is ever the principal source of landscape beauty, and has like music a mysterious influence over the mind.”
— Sir George Sitwell, On the Making of Gardens
May you experience a wholehearted, wholistic sense of wellbeing, along with the Blue Mind happier, healthier, calmer, more creative, and capable of Awe, MAGIC OF WATER OFTEN!
May I ask, where is your mind right now?
Are you focused on the words you’re reading or has your mind wandered somewhere else? If it has, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert studied five thousand people and learned that about 50 percent of our time is spent thinking about something other than what we are doing. That means that only about half our time is spent in the present moment!
In addition, they found that 80 percent of the time we are thinking about something that is actually more stressful than what we are currently doing; which means we are often the originators of the very stress that we are trying to avoid!
Research shows that we are happiest when we are aware of what we are doing – even if what we are doing is unpleasant or boring. We tend to feel calmer when we are present for our activities rather than thinking about something else. Interestingly, our mental and physical well-being is improved when we are present regardless of whether our activity is exciting, boring, enjoyable, or unpleasant.
Why is that? Because when our mind wanders, we tend to go backward or forwards. We can easily play re-runs in our mind to process and perhaps even get stuck in ruminating over the past. Or we can fast forward trying to prepare for the future by pre-thinking, worrying, and even catastrophizing about what’s to come. You may notice that your mind wants to either race ahead to predict and prepare or look backward to process and integrate what already happened. Whether racing ahead or gazing behind…our minds seem to prefer anything other than the present!
Presence is defined as “being with another” or “in the immediate vicinity or proximity.” We know that the opposite of presence is absence. The curious thing about presence is that even though you could be physically present with someone right now, your mind could be somewhere else. This is not new information, yet our digital devices have radically increased the ability of our minds and bodies to be in different places at the same time.
Ideally, presence is a state of “receptive awareness” which helps us pay attention to what’s happening right now. It means being able to choose where and how we will intentionally focus our attention.
Being present and maintaining a sense of presence sounds like it should be easy, but it is challenging for many of us. We are easily distracted.
How do we achieve a ‘be here now’ lifestyle? What skills support us in being mindful and present? There are formal mindfulness practices to help us such as yoga, meditation, tai chi, qigong. And there are informal practices such as feeling the sun on your face, being fully engaged in a conversation with a child, pausing to enjoy the sunset, or a bird in flight. If it seems hard to you, start small. I recommend that you begin with your senses. Our bodies are the perfect tool to ground ourselves in the present moment. Pause to notice what you see, smell, taste, feel, and hear. Check in with your emotions to linger and savor them a moment longer than you usually do. Is that joy you’re feeling? Savor it. Are tears in your eyes? Treasure them. They connect to your heart. Notice what your body is telling you and let it guide you to the present moment.
There is good news; we can train our brains to be more present, and science proves it.
Since the 1970’s there has been a growing recognition of the benefits of mindfulness, which is another word for focused attention or presence. Findings show that mindfulness practices have an impact on the structure and function of the brain through what is known as neuroplasticity. Neuro refers to our neurons and plasticity describes the brain’s malleability in response to experience. It means our adult brains can be transformed by experiences. This is big news because prior to this information it was believed that our brains didn’t change after puberty. This is encouraging news for those of us who want to experience more presence.
The more we can inhabit a mental state of presence, the more likely it will become a familiar baseline. Then when we are under stress, we will more easily tap into that familiar capability. With intention…and attention…we can cultivate the ability to more readily connect to the people we are with, the activities that we do, and even to our own inner landscape.
Personally, the more I practice presence the more peaceful I feel. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns all the time but I can tap into a peacefulness even when stressful things are happening around me. I discover a sense of calmness when I focus on my breath and notice something to be grateful for at that moment.
I find that practicing presence leads me to an inner spiritual place. When I pause to notice my surroundings, attend to what I’m hearing, or really see what is before me, I’m often filled with gratitude. Appreciation seems to naturally flow from being present. Mindfulness leads me to feel God’s Presence and I can find my Self reflected in that mirror. I feel one with the Divine when I take time to slow down and be present for the experiences I am having.
When I more fully inhabit the body I’m in, feel the emotions I’m experiencing, and the breath I’m breathing, I am in the moment. Such connectedness with my inner and outer landscape draws me closer to the God of my understanding. Faith grows as I intentionally develop this muscle of connection and love.
I’m curious to know how you experience presence. How does it connect your heart, mind, body, and spirit? What does spiritual presence mean to you?
The next Wholistic Woman Retreat and Academy program on June 30th will discuss this topic. Be sure to check the details here and register.
References: M.A. Killingsworth and D.T. Gilbert, “ A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind,” Science 330, no 6006 (2010):932 The Gift of Presence, A Mindfulness Guide for Women by Caroline Welch
As life goes on, we typically encounter a variety of challenges, changing environments, and new roles that require us to adapt. Our ability to manage change is important and necessary for our personal and professional success, and professional development may be something that can help you reach those goals. It helps us to avoid stagnating or getting stuck in a rut both personally and professionally. To keep from getting in a rut or to get out of one, you may be wondering how to begin your journey towards professional development – especially if you are juggling full-time work with the care of your family. This may sound overly simple, but the honest truth is that the journey begins with you!
Professional development is closely tied to self-awareness. Through observation and reflection, we pause to take an honest look at ourselves. In the process, we get to know who we really are: what our core values are, our strengths and talents, where we see room for improvement, and the direction we would like to go. If working with a coach is an option, they will help you create a roadmap and guide you along this important journey of self-discovery. While there is no set way to do this, the roadmap to professional development with a coach may unfold something like this:
- Knowing yourself – Through a process of reflection, meditation, taking assessments, and asking yourself important questions, you can get to know yourself better. You may be surprised by your discoveries of untapped talents, abilities, and strengths. You will also become more familiar with your conditioning, filters, the mental models that you subconsciously follow, as well as the habits that help or impede your growth.
- Knowing your why – Asking yourself why you are here and what your vision is for your life and career can be transformational. These are powerful questions such as: Who are you? What is your purpose? Where are you going? Are you thriving, or merely surviving? Do you feel your work environment recognizes and supports who you really are?
Manifesting Your Intention
Once you know who you are and what your “why” is, the next challenge is to know how to manifest this intention, your vision. Many of us may know and feel where we would like to be in our life and work, but we don’t know how to make this happen. It begins with these steps:
- Setting your intention – Having a very clear intention is essential. Without it, we often flounder, not knowing and the actions and goals needed to manifest our desires. An intention could be, for example, to start your own wellness business and work for yourself while also helping others.
- Creating realistic goals – Now that you have a clear intention you can create a series of goals and a timeline for achieving them.
- What small steps do you need to take to manifest your vision?
- Do you need to obtain more skills?
- Do you need to invest in a training or certification program, so you have the qualifications you need? If so, creating a task list – which might contain small actions such as looking into licensing or certification programs – could be your first step towards activating your intention.
- Achieving your goals – While it is up to us to take action and do the work needed to achieve our goals, having an accountability partner such as a coach, supportive friend or colleague would be very helpful at this juncture. An accountability partner will help you mark your progress, encourage you if you lose steam, and help you regroup if you get off track or lose sight of your intention.
- Celebrating your milestones– Achieving even one small goal along the way is something to be acknowledged and celebrated. Reflective journaling and noting important milestones in a calendar will give you the positive perspective you need to forge your way forward. A supportive group that can celebrate with you is even better! In the words of Vicky Saunders, Founder, SheEO “Who you are surrounded by often determines who you become.”
Becoming Who You Are
There is nothing more fulfilling than becoming who you are designed to be; who you came here to be both personally and professionally! While life and work are bound to throw problems at us, with plenty of twists and turns in our journeys, knowing who we are, anchors us to a deeper and more meaningful reality. By overcoming challenges, we become stronger and even more deeply committed to our unique vision.
We hope these points will inspire you to begin the journey of knowing yourself and knowing your “why” in life. We encourage you to manifest your intentions through greater self-awareness, professional development, and continued growth.
I have read Marie Forleo’s book, “Everything Is Figureoutable” twice, once because I loved the title and was intrigued. The second time was more recently, as I prepared for the Book Club meeting I am leading later this month. I am grateful for the main theme of this book that we have the power to figure out any challenges that may arise in our life!
As a Neurocoach, I work with my clients on mastering their mindset. This book is all about the mindset – the key to transformation! Our mindset is responsible for most of our success in life! It’s our core beliefs, thoughts, and emotions that drive our behavior and results. By embracing the core belief that we can figure out anything, we are creating thoughts of empowerment. By approaching our life with a “can do” attitude, we are setting ourselves up for success!
There are key concepts in this book that can elevate you to embrace the mindset of being able to figure out anything:
- The Magic of Belief: our beliefs are the main source of “why we do what we do.” By digging deep into your core beliefs and understanding which are serving you and which ones are holding you back is a pivotal exercise in approaching your life with a proactive mindset.
- Eliminate Excuses: we all have made excuses as to why we haven’t achieved something! Excuses are a result of our brain doing its job-keep you in safe and familiar territory! Beyond that, we have the ability to examine what our inner voice is saying. Is it saying, “I can’t?” or is it really saying, “I won’t?” Discriminating between these two phrases can add powerful insight as to how excuses may be holding you back.
- Dealing with Fear: As Marie states, “Fear is not the enemy. Waiting to stop feeling afraid is.” Fear is a natural emotion that dates back to our earliest days as humans. In those early days, fear kept us alive! Recognizing that fear is not our enemy, but a signal of something to pay attention to, to move us forward, inspiring us to act. Action is the anecdote to fear!
- Define Your Dream: What is it that you really want? In order to achieve any goal or dream, you need to clarify what that means and commit to it. Maire says, “You wouldn’t have the dream if you didn’t have what it takes to make it happen.” She has five specific steps to follow to make your dream a reality:
- List your top one-year dreams: be brutally honest about what you want!
- Get real about this dream: narrow down your list based on the ones that make your heart jump! Then get curious about how important this dream is and the degree of difficulty you may face in pursuing it.
- Choose One! Choosing a primary dream will require your focus to achieve it!
- Make It Specific, Measurable, and Actionable: use simple and clear baby steps to cultivate mental, emotional and behavioral discipline in moving forward.
- Determine Your Next Three Steps and Get Started Now: resist your mind telling you that you are not ready yet!
- Start Before You Are Ready: don’t let your mindset talk you out of getting started!
- Focus on Progress, Not Perfection: think of five small things you can do now to move a project or goal forward: breaking down your action steps into smaller micro steps can lead to big progress!
- Refuse to Be Refused: don’t let the fear of judgment. Think of your goal or dream as something beyond yourself.
- The World Needs Your Gift: If you believed that everything is figureoutable, what would you do?
I am looking forward to the May Book Club, where we will have an interactive discussion around these key concepts and encourage each other to adopt the mindset of knowing we got this!
The pursuit of happiness has long been the goal of humankind. But, what is happiness? For us, it could be a feeling of calm and security. For others, it may be a feeling of success on a professional and/or personal front. Happiness is truly subjective! One of the keys to unlocking the path to being happy is to practice mindful happiness.
Mindfulness is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as, “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” So how does mindfulness increase our feelings of happiness?
By utilizing the power of awareness of the present moment, we allow ourselves the opportunity to connect with our heart, mind, body, and spirit with crystal clear transparency. When we allow our thoughts to be focused on the “now,” we invite our clarity to serve as a compass, guiding us toward the happiness that may have eluded us in the past.
When practicing mindfulness, we pay close attention to the signals that our bodies are sending us, those pangs of guilt, shame, regret, and learning to bless and release them through allowing those signals to remind us that we are a work in progress. Through the mindfulness practice of breathwork, we empower our bodies to cleanse some of the adverse biological reactions that our bodies and minds have created in reaction to our perception of the lack of happiness.
Mindfulness is a skill that takes practice! Our bodies and minds have a natural tendency to fight stillness. If you have tried meditation and find your mind racing with that list of “to-dos” or constant distraction, it’s not your fault! Our brains are designed to be the operating system that we rely on both consciously and subconsciously. Taking some small steps in quieting your mind will lead to training your brain to power down temporarily. Here are some steps to try when working on quieting the mind:
- Find a space that will allow you solitude and quiet
- Start with an intention of a short time period, perhaps 5 minutes. You can always increase this as you increase your skill level!
- Pay attention to your breath. Using this awareness as a focus increases the release of stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, and increases the “feel good” chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine: both of which are “happiness hormones.”
- Notice your body: find a seated position that is comfortable to you and that will allow you to relax.
- Allow your mind to wander. Remember, when your mind is sending you messages, it’s doing its job! Work on recognizing the thought without judgment.
Mindful happiness occurs when we align our mind, body, and spirit with our unique strengths. Happiness is not a destination, but a journey of the authenticity of our truth, a lifelong practice of pursuing a wholeness that is genuine and unique to each of us. Each moment in our life gives us the opportunity to be keenly aware of the path to follow, even if it’s one that you need to create. By following your individual journey through mindfulness, you will own the key to creating a life of fulfillment, which in my view is “happiness.”
There is so much to love about this time of year. One of my favorite things to do in December is to reflect on the past year and begin anticipating the months ahead. Goal-setting is my jam, but if I’m honest, I easily lose momentum when it comes to resolutions. In hindsight, I’m grateful I didn’t put pressure on myself back in January 2020. Who could have known what a crazy year we’d all face?
While this certainly wasn’t the year anyone expected and we’ve all had to make adjustments, I can still say I learned a lot. Here’s what stands out as I reflect on 2020 and look ahead to 2021:
What I Will Keep
I’m grateful to say that despite the chaos in the world around us, my personal mental health blossomed this year. I chose to take a few months off of work, slowly re-built my hours, and now work a part-time job that brings me enjoyment and involves little stress. I learned to be gentle with myself, letting go of the pressure to live a life that looks like everyone else’s and instead embrace what works best for my family.
I also took on new hobbies: how to garden, how to cross-stitch, and how to paint with gouache (okay, I’m still learning that one). I became more flexible, a necessary skill to survive this year! And best of all, through a therapy session and much prayer and reflection, I learned to accept and appreciate my spouse instead of focusing on what could be different.
What I Will Leave Behind
I’m grateful for the opportunities to leave some things behind and start fresh in 2021. If you’re like me, you felt the pull of the news and social media more than ever this year. The pressure to be connected at all times has worn me out and threatens to dismantle the inner peace I’ve worked hard to protect.
I also want to leave behind the negativity and temptation to complain that has seemed inescapable. I imagine it will be some time before our lives all go back to “normal” (or whatever our new normal will be). Acknowledging the grief caused by the pandemic is necessary and valuable. We are allowed to mourn the many losses we’ve experienced. But as much as I can, I want to move forward with thankfulness for what I have. That leads me to my goals for 2021!
New Goals for the New Year
In 2021, I want to continue prioritizing health, self-growth, and gratitude. I want to hike with my daughter (I just purchased hiking boots for both of us), do another stitching project (also purchased), and go on a writing retreat, among many other things. I am trying something new and starting my goals this month so that I will hopefully have already created new habits before the New Year hits.
What good from this year will you carry with you into 2021? What will you leave behind? We’d love to know!