Lighten Up

I’ll use the term or phrase “lighten up” to mean stop taking life so serious. There is a common affliction in our society that everything we do is serious business. We are constantly measured by metrics and KPI’s to attain more each year, to work harder, to be driven, and my question is what does it get us? We sacrifice our health and well being for goals that someone else set for us and make ourselves miserable in the process. I’m going to be a bit blunt here and call out a lot of this serious obsession as bullshit. We are not on this earth to work ourselves into an early grave for the sake of corporate profits or any other obligation imposed by someone else for that matter.

Cheryl Crow gonna-tell-everyone-to-lighten-up

Aside from all the destructive effects of the ultra serious demeanor that we have adopted; the real travesty is that we are sucking the joy right out of our life moment by precious moment. I used to attend a church where one of the parishioners worked for Pepsi corporation and had been working his way up the corporate ladder over the past decade moving his family with each promotion. Anyway I can recall how upset he was when someone brought a Coke product to the church picnic, and of course I thought this was pretty funny. I mean making sugar drinks that make people fat is pretty serious business after all. Now I’m not here to bash soft drink companies because I’m sure in their own weird way they contribute something to society other than obesity and diabetes. It is the serious nature of it all that drives me crazy. So much of what we do is just not serious by nature and we need to be able to distinguish from those things that are really serious in life and those things that we can give ourselves a pass on and relax a bit.

why-so-serious-little baby

Taking yourself or your role in an organization so seriously either emanates from ego or an anxiety you have about delivering something for other people. Let’s get real with ourselves; isn’t it much more fun and productive when we lighten up a bit? Being serious doesn’t equate to great results. I would argue that great results come from a calm state of mind and even more so from a joyful and happy state of mind. Be goal oriented, care about results, but in doing so lighten up and have fun.

Have fun at work pug.jpg

It is your right to have fun and you don’t need anyone’s permission except your own. I’m not saying give up on your goals and screw around all day, quite the opposite. I am saying that you need to stop being so serious and look for enjoyment, fulfillment, satisfaction, camaraderie, fun, challenge, calmness, and fun in everything you do. There are times to be serious, but 95% of the time focus on making life fun.

Namaste

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Turning garbage into gold

It has been a long time since I’ve actually written anything myself on this blog site, and while I could reel off a list of excuses it would be pointless. Well back to the actual purpose for this post. I have recently been burning the candle at both ends working some crazy hours, partying too much, and driving myself into the ground if you will. As with any stupid behavior things eventually catch up with you and a week before the holiday I catch a pretty bad cold and am literally bed ridden. To add to my list of bad habits I have been smoking for years, not a lot, but enough to worry me about what might be the long term affects.

I had been gearing up for another attempt at quitting, but this time I thought the timing could not be better, since I felt so terrible from the cold. It turns out the severe discomfort from the respiratory illness created a great opportunity to kick this rotten smoking addiction. I felt so bad that the first 3 days which are usually incredibly difficult were actually a breeze. As terrible as the respiratory infection had been it turned out to be a blessing in disguise and helped me break a four decade long habit. The lesson here is that each time you suffer a set back of some sort their is usually an opportunity buried in the pile somewhere, but you need to be aware enough to sift through things and seize it.

I recently landed the job of my life, both in terms of compensation and challenge, but my previous job had been a mental beat down for nearly a year and half before landing my new job. You would not have thought given the turmoil, lack of progress, and utter incompetent leadership that I would ever have the opportunity to work for the company I do today. One thing that my previous position held for me was an opportunity to work in what is one of the hottest technologies, and I knew if I could hang in there for over a year this pathetic job would turn into a much greater opportunity somewhere else and it did. My short term discomfort was traded for a much longer term gain.

Difficult situations provide the most fertile grounds for change and growth in your life; the key is to take advantage of these situations and not let them become something that drags you down. If you can see something like a layoff, an illness, a divorce, conflict with family members, bad investments, or any other difficulty as a chance to learn and start over then you become resilient and resilient people thrive in this environment.

Let’s be honest with ourselves when things are going great and we are cruising through life as fun as it is, we are not making great progress. The great improvements in our life come from overcoming or adapting to difficult situations. If you think back at the greatest lessons you learned in your life; they came when things didn’t go so well, in fact they have occurred during days or years of great pain. The greater the difficulty the greater the insight that can be gained, but only if you look at it as an opportunity.

I like the Jim Rohn quote:

Jim-Rohn-Quote-Don-t-wish-it-was-easier-wish-you-were-better-Don-t.jpg

Be resilient my friends.

Bend but not break.

Each setback in an opportunity.

It’s not a failure if you learned something from it.

Namaste

 

Deferring Happiness

happiness-is-now

I’ve written about various ways to foster more happiness in your life including yoga, meditation, expressing gratitude, and caring for your physical health. All of these things are wonderful ways to be more happy, but we still are not as happy as we could be. Most of us are trapped in thinking that happiness is something we defer until we retire, buy that new house, find a better job, create our own business, have a more fulfilling relationship with our significant other, or any other number of things we feel will make us happy.

Unfortunately this deferring of happiness based on some future event is robbing us of it in the present. I’m not advocating that you abandon your dreams or stop pursuing your goals, but thinking that these things will make you happier is a fallacy. Don’t let the things you want in the future delay the opportunity to be happy today. Each moment that you impose these walls around yourself that are blocking you from being happy in the now are time wasted. That expensive new car, home, or pile of money will only provide temporary happiness; find a way to enjoy today for that is all you are guaranteed. No one is assured of tomorrow, no matter what your age or health. How many years will you have wasted waiting for happiness? If I only had more money, a better job, a more attractive spouse, a bigger house, I could be truly happy. This self deception is stealing away the days, leaving you less available to those around you. Pursue your goals, but make it your purpose to be happy during the journey not the manifestation of these things.

“If you want to be happy, do not dwell in the past, do not worry about the future, focus on living fully in the present.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Hear

Namaste

It’s a choice – Part 2

In “It’s a choice” I discussed the need to make a conscious choice each day. The choice you must make is to choose a positive outlook over potentially negative behavior that is in response to the stimuli around you. Seems pretty simple, but as mentioned in the previous post it isn’t. You need to set the stage for choosing a positive response to life and the challenges you will face on a daily basis. I mentioned that you will need to nourish your mind and your body to prepare yourself for this transformation; failing to do so will leave you susceptible to reacting instead of controlling your behavior. I’m going to make a few suggestions on how you can prepare yourself to begin making those positive choices:

Yoga – practicing yoga can calm your body and your mind. It is more than a form of exercise, and can lead you to discover many things about yourself that few activities can offer. Yoga is also a great prelude to meditation, which I will discuss next.

exercise yoga class

Meditation –  I would recommend that you meditate for at least 10 minutes in the morning, preferably after you have done some form of exercise and before you start your work day. Meditation can help you control your mind by actually quieting it. Over time you will have the ability to center your mind on the present and turn off some of the noise that goes on in your head.

Old zen saying

Affirmations – I was not a big fan on using affirmations until recently. I think they are most effective when they follow your meditation session. You need to come up with a list of 3 to 6 statements that reinforce what you are trying to accomplish. Don’t just read them, say them out loud. Here are the ones I say each day when I’m finished meditating:

  • I am grateful for the opportunity to make today a great day.
  • I am confident in my abilities, and will work with purpose and joy.
  • I will lead by example, being positive, showing appreciation and compassion.
  • I will stay focused on the present, and enjoy each moment.

Affirmations1

This is what I have found effective, but you might find that running is a good substitute for yoga, or taking the dog for a walk, riding a bike, or doing Pilates. The key isn’t so much what you do as long as it is a physical activity that can be a precursor to meditation.

I know you are busy, and don’t have time for a yoga practice and 10 – 20 minutes of meditation, but what if you could make a 30 – 40 minute investment every morning. Maybe you would have to get up a little earlier to fit these things into your day. Remember you are investing in yourself, in your piece of mind.

I’m guessing that in your heart, you know you are worth it.

In “It’s a choice Part 3” I will write about why it is important to understand how your diet influences your ability to make positive choices in your life.

Namaste

 

 

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

About 6 weeks ago I discovered something called intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting can take various forms, but the most common are a 16 x 8, or a sporadic 24 hour fast. The 16 x 8 method is when you fast for 16 hours and have an 8 hour eating window. For people that work during the daytime, it makes sense to have your last meal at 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. and then not eat again until noon or lunch time. This provides you with a 16 or 17 hour fast, essentially skipping breakfast. I have been using the 16 hour fast method on a daily basis for about 6 weeks now, and found it to be fairly easy to accomplish. The first week is probably the hardest, but fortunately it becomes easier with time. Most of the fast is spent sleeping so depending on when you get up you may only go without food for 5 or 6 hours. I personally lost 5 pounds in the first 4 weeks, and this weight loss was in body fat. Here are some reasons you might want to adopt an intermittent fasting routine:

  • Changes The Function of Cells, Genes and Hormones
    • Insulin levels: Blood levels of insulin drop significantly, which facilitates fat burning
    • Human growth hormone: The blood levels of growth hormone may increase as much as 5-fold. Higher levels of this hormone facilitate fat burning and muscle gain, and have numerous other benefits.
    • Cellular repair: The body induces important cellular repair processes, such as removing waste material from cells.
  • Can Help You Lose Weight and Belly Fat
    • Lower insulin levels, an increase in metabolism, and higher growth hormone levels, are combined to use fat as an energy source. This occurs because you have no carbohydrates in your system to burn, so your body turns to the next available source of energy body fat.
  • Can Reduce Insulin Resistance, Lowering Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
    • Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve insulin resistance and lead to an impressive reduction in blood sugar levels
    • In human studies on intermittent fasting, fasting blood sugar has been reduced by 3-6%, while fasting insulin has been reduced by 20-31%
  • Induces Various Cellular Repair Processes
    • Fasting causes the cells in the body initiate a cellular “waste removal” process called autophagy
    • This involves the cells breaking down and metabolizing broken and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells over time.
    • Increased autophagy may provide protection against several diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Other benefits may include:

  • Helping to prevent cancer
  • Intermittent fasting is good for your brain
  • May protect against Alzheimer’s Disease
  • May extend your lifespan

With so with so many benefits that have been attributed to intermittent fasting, it is worth researching. In fact I have not been able to find any research that indicates any negative effects. The only caution here is if you are someone with an unusually low percent of body fat or an anorexic.

My advice is that unless you are doing this strictly as some form of dieting, make sure you are getting those calories in during your eating window. I personally like the 16 x 8 method versus a 24 hour fast. I’ve tried the 24 hour fast and while it is a great way to cleanse your body, it is much more difficult and in most cases you will be very hungry during those additional 8 hours of fasting that you have added on.

To make the fasting period a bit easier you will need to consume some liquids like coffee, tea, or water. This helps by providing something in your stomach, making it easier to endure the fast. Do not consume liquids that contain calories, so no sugar in your coffee or tea and avoid any other liquid that contains sugar like soft drinks.

The YouTube video below provides a great overview of the benefits and different types of intermittent fasting methods. I highly recommend you spend the 10 minutes to view this as part of your own research.

 

I personally don’t view intermittent fasting as a diet, but more of a way of enhancing your health. It is entirely possible that you will not lose any weight at all if you continue to have an unhealthy diet, but if you combine intermittent fasting with a healthy diet there is a good chance that you will lose fat and improve your body composition. Do your own research, and let me know what you think.

Namaste

 

References: https://authoritynutrition.com/10-health-benefits-of-intermittent-fasting/

 

How Yoga & Meditation saved my life

Yes, this title is a bit dramatic, but there is more than a little truth to it. I am also somewhat ashamed that I haven’t posted any of my own writing for some time, and I’m working on getting something posted, once a week.

women doing cobra

After some time off work, I joined a company, and found myself more unhappy than I have ever been at work. It turned out to be a combination of extremely poor leadership at the company and work that I didn’t enjoy. My stress levels were skyrocketing, and I leaned on some familiar ways of coping including a lot of binge drinking, which of course did little to relieve the growing anxiety and displeasure with my situation. When I wasn’t medicating myself, I began delving into other ways to help control my emotions, including reading about Buddhism, adding yoga to my daily routine, and meditating in the morning. I even started to listen to things like The Law of Attraction or classical music on my way into work to prepare me for the mental war that was being waged in my mind while working.

My somewhat sporadic use of yoga and meditation, finally turned into a daily ritual, and then it replaced drinking as a way of coping with my situation. After a couple months I quit drinking all together. The stress at work only increased, but my negative reaction to it began to become less severe and the amount of time I was upset by it started decreasing. There have been other times in my life when stress and anxiety were my close companion, but never to this extent. I can honestly say that my utter dislike for this work situation was probably a blessing in disguise, and led me to making a really sincere effort to cope with it. I really had two choices at the time; quit the job or find a way to deal with the stress. While this job led me to a regular yoga and meditation practice, which allowed me to cope with this situation, it also made me more resolute to do something about it. This led to pursuing other opportunities and I recently landed a new job and resigned eliminating the stressor part of the equation, well at least that one.

The question is why do I credit yoga and meditation for allowing me to cope and even take action. I won’t go into all the physiological reasons why yoga and meditation seem to work so well, as you can Google that yourself, or read some of my earlier posts. What I can say is there is a synergy when combining yoga and meditation. Your yoga practice is the perfect precursor to meditation as it depends upon an awareness of your breath, relieves tension through stretching, and thus sets the stage for sitting in meditation for 10 – 20 minutes. I find it much easier to meditate after my yoga practice, allowing me to reach a calmer state of mind much sooner than without it.

I don’t think that my experience of dealing with stress, anxiety, and other forms of mental anguish is unique. In fact I’m not sure anyone is immune to the stimulus that manifests itself in negative thoughts, sleepless nights, and all the self torture that is often the result of how we decide to cope with it all. Notable exceptions might be monks, young children, and those of you in the 1% category that have your shit together. For the rest of us that might want to consider another way of coping; I can heartily recommend giving yoga, followed by 10 – 20 minutes of meditation a try. Be committed to your practice, and within a couple weeks you begin to the see results. Here a few things you can expect from your yoga and meditation practice:

  • You will be calmer, little things that really pissed you off just don’t anymore
  • Your ability to cope with stress improves
  • Having a new coping mechanism can free you from those habits that were destructive and didn’t really work
  • It is inexpensive or free to pursue a yoga and meditation practice
  • Your ability to think with a greater level of clarity will improve
  • You might even begin to be a little more tolerant of other human beings, act more compasionate, and be more empathetic
  • Last but not least you will be healthier as you do something good for your body and your mind

Namaste