How to Meditate

See Author Article Here
By Mindful Staff

How do you learn to meditate? In mindfulness meditation, we’re learning how to pay attention to the breath as it goes in and out, and notice when the mind wanders from this task. This practice of returning to the breath builds the muscles of attention and mindfulness.

When we pay attention to our breath, we are learning how to return to, and remain in, the present moment—to anchor ourselves in the here and now on purpose, without judgement.

In mindfulness practice, we are learning how to return to, and remain in, the present moment—to anchor ourselves in the here and now on purpose, without judgement.

The idea behind mindfulness seems simple—the practice takes patience. Indeed, renowned meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg recounts that her first experience with meditation showed her how quickly the mind gets caught up in other tasks. “I thought, okay, what will it be, like, 800 breaths before my mind starts to wander? And to my absolute amazement, it was one breath, and I’d be gone,” says Salzberg.

While meditation isn’t a cure-all, it can certainly provide some much-needed space in your life. Sometimes, that’s all we need to make better choices for ourselves, our families, and our communities. And the most important tools you can bring with you to your meditation practice are a little patience, some kindness for yourself, and a comfortable place to sit.


A Basic Meditation for Beginners

The first thing to clarify: What we’re doing here is aiming for mindfulness, not some process that magically wipes your mind clear of the countless and endless thoughts that erupt and ping constantly in our brains. We’re just practicing bringing our attention to our breath, and then back to the breath when we notice our attention has wandered.

  1. Get comfortable and prepare to sit still for a few minutes. After you stop reading this, you’re going to simply focus on your own natural inhaling and exhaling of breath.
  2. Focus on your breath. Where do you feel your breath most? In your belly? In your nose? Try to keep your attention on your inhale and exhale.
  3. Follow your breath for two minutes. You can use the breath ball—inhaling as the ball expands, exhaling when the ball contracts.

Welcome back. What happened? How long was it before your mind wandered away from your breath? Did notice how busy your mind was even without your consciously directing it to think about anything in particular? Did you notice yourself getting caught up in thoughts before you came back to reading this? We often have little narratives running in our minds that we didn’t choose to put there, like: “Why DOES my boss want to meet with me tomorrow?” “I should have gone to the gym yesterday.” “I’ve got to pay some bills” or (the classic) “I don’t have time to sit still, I’ve got stuff to do.”

We “practice” mindfulness so we can learn how to recognize when our minds are doing their normal everyday acrobatics, and maybe take a pause from that for just a little while so we can choose what we’d like to focus on.

If you experienced these sorts of distractions (and we all do), you’ve made an important discovery: simply put, that’s the opposite of mindfulness. It’s when we live in our heads, on automatic pilot, letting our thoughts go here and there, exploring, say, the future or the past, and essentially, not being present in the moment. But that’s where most of us live most of the time—and pretty uncomfortably, if we’re being honest, right? But it doesn’t have to be that way.

We “practice” mindfulness so we can learn how to recognize when our minds are doing their normal everyday acrobatics, and maybe take a pause from that for just a little while so we can choose what we’d like to focus on. In a nutshell, meditation helps us have a much healthier relationship with ourselves (and, by extension, with others).

WHY SHOULD YOU MEDITATE?

When we meditate, we inject far-reaching and long-lasting benefits into our lives. And bonus: you don’t need any extra gear or an expensive membership.

Here are five reasons to meditate:

1: Understand your pain
2: Lower stress
3: Connect better
4: Improve focus
5: Reduce brain chatter


How to Meditate

Meditation is simpler (and harder) than most people think. Read these steps, make sure you’re somewhere where you can relax into this process, set a timer, and give it a shot:

  1. Take a seat. Find a place to sit that feels calm and quiet to you.
  2. Set a time limit. If you’re just beginning, it can help to choose a short time, such as five or 10 minutes.
  3. Notice your body. You can sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, you can sit loosely cross-legged, you can kneel—all are fine. Just make sure you are stable and in a position you can stay in for a while.
  4. Feel your breath. Follow the sensation of your breath as it goes in and as it goes out.
  5. Notice when your mind has wandered. Inevitably, your attention will leave the breath and wander to other places. When you get around to noticing that your mind has wandered—in
  6. a few seconds, a minute, five minutes—simply return your attention to the breath.
  7. Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself or obsess over the content of the thoughts you find yourself lost in. Just come back.
  8. That’s it! That’s the practice. You go away, you come back, and you try to do it as kindly as possible.
  9. Close with kindness. When you’re ready, gently lift your gaze (if your eyes are closed, open them). Take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels right now. Notice your thoughts and emotions.

Meditation 101: The Basics

A 3-part guided audio series from Barry Boyce

How long would you like to meditate? Sometimes we only have time for a quick check-in, sometimes we can dip in a little longer. Meditating every helps build awareness, fosters resilience, and lower stress. Try to make meditation a habit by practicing with these short meditations from our Editor-in-Chief Barry Boyce. Find time to site once a day for one month and see what you notice.

1-Minute Meditation

  • 2:36

A short practice for settling the mind, intended for doing in the middle of the day, wherever you are out in the world.

10-Minute Meditation

  • 10:28

A longer practice that explores meditation posture, breathing techniques, and working with thoughts and emotions as they surface during mindfulness practice.

15-Minute Meditation

  • 15:54

A practice that explores sitting in formal meditation for longer periods of time.

More Meditation Techniques:

We’ve gone over the basic breath meditation so far, but there are other mindfulness techniques that use different focal points than the breath to anchor our attention—external objects like a sound in the room, or something broader, such as noticing spontaneous things that come into your awareness during an aimless wandering practice. But all of these practice have one thing in common: We notice that our minds ARE running the show a lot of the time. It’s true. We think thoughts, typically, and then we act. But here are some helpful strategies to change that up:

How to Make Mindfulness a Habit

By Kyra Bobinet

It’s estimated that 95%of our behavior runs on autopilot. That’s because neural networks underlie all of our habits, reducing our millions of sensory inputs per second into manageable shortcuts so we can function in this crazy world. These default brain signals are so efficient that they often cause us to relapse into old behaviors before we remember what we meant to do instead.

Mindfulness is the exact opposite of these default processes. It’s executive control rather than autopilot, and enables intentional actions, willpower, and decisions. But that takes practice. The more we activate the intentional brain, the stronger it gets. Every time we do something deliberate and new, we stimulate neuroplasticity, activating our grey matter, which is full of newly sprouted neurons that have not yet been groomed for “autopilot” brain.

But here’s the problem. While our intentional brain knows what is best for us, our autopilot brain causes us to shortcut our way through life. So how can we trigger ourselves to be mindful when we need it most? This is where the notion of “behavior design” comes in. It’s a way to put your intentional brain in the driver’s seat. There are two ways to do that—first, slowing down the autopilot brain by putting obstacles in its way, and second, removing obstacles in the path of the intentional brain, so it can gain control.

Shifting the balance to give your intentional brain more power takes some work, though. Here are some ways to get started.

  • Put meditation reminders around you. If you intend to do some yoga or to meditate, put your yoga mat or your meditation cushion in the middle of your floor so you can’t miss it as you walk by.
  • Refresh your reminders regularly. Say you decide to use sticky notes to remind yourself of a new intention. That might work for about a week, but then your autopilot brain and old habits take over again. Try writing new notes to yourself; add variety or make them funny. That way they’ll stick with you longer.
  • Create new patterns. You could try a series of “If this, then that” messages to create easy reminders to shift into intentional brain. For instance, you might come up with, “If office door, then deep breath,” as a way to shift into mindfulness as you are about to start your workday. Or, “If phone rings, take a breath before answering.” Each intentional action to shift into mindfulness will strengthen your intentional brain.

More Mindfulness Meditations

Once you have explored a basic seated meditation practice, you might want to consider other forms of meditation including walking and lying down. Whereas the previous meditations used the breath as a focal point for practice, these meditations below focus on different parts of the body.

Body Scan Meditation

man meditating in chair, illustration

Try this: feel your feet on the ground right now. In your shoes or without, it doesn’t matter. Then track or scan over your whole body, bit by bit—slowly—all the way up to the crown of your head. The point of this practice is to check in with your whole body: Fingertips to shoulders, butt to big toe. Only rules are: No judging, no wondering, no worrying (all activities your mind may want to do); just check in with the physical feeling of being in your body. Aches and pains are fine. You don’t have to do anything about anything here. You’re just noticing.

Body Scan Meditation

  • 25:41

A brief body awareness practice for tuning in to sensations, head-to-toe.

Begin to focus your attention on different parts of your body. You can spotlight one particular area or go through a sequence like this: toes, feet (sole, heel, top of foot), through the legs, pelvis, abdomen, lower back, upper back, chest shoulders, arms down to the fingers, shoulders, neck, different parts of the face, and head. For each part of the body, linger for a few moments and notice the different sensations as you focus.

The moment you notice that your mind has wandered, return your attention to the part of the body you last remember.

If you fall asleep during this body-scan practice, that’s okay. When you realize you’ve been nodding off, take a deep breath to help you reawaken and perhaps reposition your body (which will also help wake it up). When you’re ready, return your attention to the part of the body you last remember focusing on.

Walking Meditation

Fact: Most of us live pretty sedentary lives, leaving us to build extra-curricular physical activity into our days to counteract all that. Point is: Mindfulness doesn’t have to feel like another thing on your to-do list. It can be injected into some of the activities you’re already doing. Here’s how to integrate a mindful walking practice into your day.

Walking Meditation

  • 8:58

A mindful movement practice for bringing awareness to what we feel with each step.

As you begin, walk at a natural pace. Place your hands wherever comfortable: on your belly, behind your back, or at your sides.

  • If you find it useful, you can count steps up to 10, and then start back at one again. If you’re in a small space, as you reach ten, pause, and with intention, choose a moment to turn around.
  • With each step, pay attention to the lifting and falling of your foot. Notice movement in your legs and the rest of your body. Notice any shifting of your body from side to side.
  • Whatever else captures your attention, come back to the sensation of walking. Your mind will wander, so without frustration, guide it back again as many times as you need.
  • Particularly outdoors, maintain a larger sense of the environment around you, taking it all in, staying safe and aware.

MORE GUIDED PRACTICES

WELL-BEING

Stop Mourning the Morning

Learn to love (or at least accept) your alarm clock with this wake-up practice from sleep psychologist Shelby Freedman Harris. Read More 

  • SHELBY FREEDMAN HARRIS
  • OCTOBER 8, 2015

GUIDED MEDITATION

A Meditation for Easing Into Sleep

The more you try to force sleep, the less likely you are to achieve it. Explore this guided meditation to let go of stubborn thoughts and get a full night’s rest. Read More 

  • MARK BERTIN
  • OCTOBER 4, 2018

Questions About Mindfulness Meditation Answered

When you’re new to meditation, it’s natural for questions to pop up often. These answers may ease your mind.

If I have an itch, can I scratch it? 
Yes—however, first try scratching it with your mind before using your fingers.

Should I breathe fast or slow or in between? 
Only worry if you’ve stopped breathing. Otherwise, you’re doing fine. Breath in whatever way feels comfortable to you.

Should my eyes be open or closed?
 

No hard-and fast-rules.
Try both. If open, not too wide, and with a soft, slightly downward gaze, not focusing on anything in particular. If closed, not too hard, and not imagining anything in particular in your mind’s eye.

Is it possible I’m someone who just CANNOT meditate? 
When you find yourself asking that question, your meditation has officially begun. Everyone wonders that. Notice it. Escort your attention back to your object of focus (the breath). When you’re lost and questioning again, come back to the breathe again. That’s the practice. There’s no limit to the number of times you can be distracted and come back to the breath. Meditating is not a race to perfection—It’s returning again and again to the breath.

Is it better to practice in a group or by myself?
 

Both are great! It’s enormously supportive to meditate with others. And, practicing on your own builds discipline.

What’s the best time of day to meditate? Whatever works. Consider your circumstances: children, pets, work. Experiment. But watch out. If you always choose the most convenient time, it will usually be tomorrow.

What if I get sexually (and physically) aroused by thoughts in my head? 
No big deal. Meditation stokes the imagination. In time, every thought and sensation will pop up (so
to speak). And come back. Same old story. Release the thought, bring awareness and receptivity to body sensations, bring attention back to your chosen object (the breath, in this case). Repeat.

Do you have any tips on integrating pets into meditation practice? 
While meditating, we don’t have to fight off distractions like a knight slaying dragons. If your dog or cat comes into the room and barks and meows and brushes up against you or settles down on a part of your cushion,
no big deal. Let it be. What works less well is to interrupt your session to relate to them. If that’s what’s going to happen, try to find a way to avoid their interrupting your practice.

HOW MUCH SHOULD I MEDITATE?

For further reading on adding to your meditation practice at home (or in the office, or on the subway), here’s some guidance on how to fit meditation into daily life. Remember, though: meditation is no more complicated than what we’ve described above. It is that simple … and that challenging. It’s also powerful and worth it. Give it a try.

52 Critical Questions To Ask Yourself To Ensure That You’re Living A Mindful & Meaningful Life

PsychCentral Article Here

Questions To Ask Yourself For Every Week Of The Year:

  1. What is standing between you and your biggest goal?
  2. What do you get distracted by that keeps you from effectively engaging and connecting with others?
  3. What or who could you pay more attention to in life?
  4. What thoughts or ideas do you attach to (your rules, script about people and things) that keep you from growing and making further progress?
  5. How often do you make excuses about things? About what in particular?
  6. Where do you want to be in five years from now? What may get in the way? What are you willing to do about it?
  7. What is one change you need to make in your life this year?
  8. What meaningful thing(s) did you learn about yourself this year?
  9. What was the best day of your life? Why? How can you replicate those meaningful moment(s)?
  10. If your life was a movie, what would the title be? What would you want it to be?
  11. What life lessons do you wish you knew 10 years ago? What got you to the place of learning those life lessons?
  12. What is the biggest dream in life? Did you achieve it? Hope to achieve it? What will help get you there?
  13. What is your biggest fear? Why? Are your actions guided by this fear? Does it get in the way of doing what I want to be doing? In what way?
  14. What are some personal characteristics or qualities that you’re not proud or fond of? What helped to create them (e.g., family genetics, family role modeling, experience, etc.)? What are those you need to accept and what are those you could work to change? Are you engaging in this process?
  15. Do you think that you’re enough and are worthy of love and affection? If not, what gets in the way of this?
  16. Do you quickly get defensive and have a hard time facing yourself or confronting your mistakes or imperfections? About what? Why do you think so? What is its impact?
  17. Do you quickly get defended or cut off to avoid uncomfortable/negative thoughts or emotions? Which emotions? Why do you think you do this? What is its impact?
  18. If you had one year to live, what would you try to achieve?
  19. If you have one month left to live, what would you try to achieve?
  20. What would you say about you at your funeral? What would others say about you? What would you want to be said?
  21. What is your ideal self? What does it mean to be your best self?
  22. Look at your life now. Are you living the life of your dreams? What’s getting in the way? What can you do to change it?
  23. What advice would you give to yourself 3 years ago?
  24. Is there anything you are avoiding/running away from? Why?
  25. Are you settling for less than what you are worth? In what arena of your life? Why?
  26. What bad habits do you want to break? What’s keeping you from breaking them? How will you go about working on them?
  27. What good habits do you want to cultivate?
  28. How can you make your life more meaningful, starting today?
  29. What qualities do you want to embody?
  30. Who is/are the most important person(s) to you in the world? Why are they most important?
  31. When was the last time you told yourself that you love and appreciate yourself? Do you feel comfortable doing so? Why?
  32. Do you treat yourself with the love and respect you truly deserve? What gets in the way?
  33. What is one thing you could start doing today to improve the quality of your life?
  34. Are you holding onto something you need to let go of? What?
  35. Is there someone who has hurt, angered, or rejected you that you need and want to forgive?
  36. What parts of your life doesn’t reflect who you are? How can you improve that?
  37. Do you find yourself feeling lonely at times? What’s making you feel this way?
  38. Where are you not being honest with yourself and why?
  39. Are you comfortable with being uncomfortable? How does this impact you?
  40. Do you enjoy your own company? If not, Why?
  41. What do you want to be remembered for?
  42. What are you most thankful for?
  43. When did you last push the boundaries of your comfort zone? Do you avoid doing this? When? Why?
  44. Who has had the greatest impact on your life? Why? In what way?
  45. Who do you want to get closer to? How will you pursue this relationship?
  46. What can you improve about the way you communicate to others? How would you go about doing this?
  47. What emotion do you often tap into and is most familiar to you (e.g., worry, anger, frustration, etc.)? If you were to look more in depth and beneath that feeling, what might you find (e.g., sadness, disappointment, etc.)? Are you willing to go there? Why or why not?
  48. What was the most challenging circumstance that you had to experience, that profoundly impacted and changed your life? In what way did it affect you? What did you learn from it?
  49. What is the one rule that you hope or wished for that everyone lived by in order to live a more meaningful life? What are you doing to change or reconstruct this rule in your life or in society in general?
  50. What regret do you have that you wish you can change? Have you learned from it going forward? What have you learned?
  51. Are there times like you feel like giving up? What leads you to that state? What helps you out of your rut?
  52. What’s your strengths and best qualities? What contributed to the formation of it? How could you continue fostering them?

Mindfulness Resources For Beginners

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A Few Links To Start:

A Beginner’s Guide To Being Mindful AF

How to Start a Meditation Practice: A Guide for Beginners

Psychology Today: Mindfulness for Beginners

How to Live an Extraordinary Life, Starting Right Where You Are

Tiny Buddha Article Here
By Leslie Ralph

“Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” ~Rumi

“Isn’t this a miracle?” I asked myself in the milk aisle at Whole Foods.

It was a Wednesday night after work, and I was buying a few staples to get us through the week. It was a completely ordinary moment in a completely ordinary day, and it was miraculous.

Rewind a few years, same Whole Foods, same shopping list, and you’d find me absentmindedly wandering the aisles, lost in a head full of worries. I couldn’t tell you now what I was worried about then—the house, the kids, money, probably.

My body would be tense, with a hint of tears right behind my eyes.

“Isn’t this supposed to be a miracle?” I might have asked if I had the words to describe that feeling.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be one of those interesting people who did interesting things like paint murals or write books. I wanted to see every continent and learn as many languages as my brain could hold. I wanted to feel excited by my life.

As a child, I had no doubt that this is what growing up would be like.

But, for just as long as I can remember, I also lived under the assumption that I had something to prove. My intelligence, my worth, my place in this world.

Somehow, these two ideas became intertwined.

That part of me that felt so certain that her life would be extraordinary started to have doubts.

Could I really pull it off?

Had I really earned it?

Was I being completely delusional?

Over time, that vision of an extraordinary life felt like a silly childhood dream, and I stopped myself from following it. I worked hard and earned a good reputation, but that excitement, that fulfillment was always just out of my reach.

I would let it go saying, it’ll come later, but as I checked off the boxes of life’s to-do list—degree, job, marriage, kids—I wasn’t feeling anything like I thought I would.

The feeling that something was off fueled a restlessness that I mistook for motivation. I poured myself into school and then work, but not necessarily out of excitement. I think a part of me still believed that if you weren’t happy, you just weren’t working hard enough at it.

What confused me about it all was that my life was good. I had a beautiful, growing family, a stable job, and a safe, comfortable house. I mean, I was buying organic milk to pour on my cereal. That’s a privilege.

So, if nothing was “wrong,” why didn’t it feel right?

I’d scold myself for not being more grateful, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t feel the way I wanted.

Then, one ordinary day, while squeezing in another email during my lunch hour, a little thought snapped me out of it.

“You’re missing the point, Leslie.”

Time stopped just long enough for me to notice my racing heart.

Maybe you’ve had these epiphanies, where you’re amazed by your own wisdom and you feel so incredibly clear and awake. Maybe it was during a life-changing event, or maybe, like me, it was during an everyday moment, like buying toothpaste or feeding the cats.

The immediate effect wasn’t anything extreme. There was no out of body experience, no inexplicable knowledge of the universe. Just an ordinary little thought that led to another ordinary little thought.

What if living an extraordinary life isn’t about the details?

Every now and then, I’d pull out a list I made that day and add a thought or two to it.

The point is…

Overflowing.

Seeing more magic.

Doing what you love.

Being happy.

Being present.

Feeling bright, brave, and brilliant.

Waking up and appreciating the mountains.

My children knowing how much they are loved.

Gratefully receiving everything I have.

Letting myself unfold.

Alignment, not approval.

Trusting the wisdom of my own heart.

A hundred percent up to me.

And in a gradual, ordinary kind of way, I figured it out. That feeling I wanted wasn’t an outcome. It wasn’t something that would happen “when.” It wasn’t in the details at all. It’s your feelings, moment to moment, that make your life extraordinary.

There is no committee keeping score and waiting to grant permission to begin. There’s just us, the people we care about, our corner of the world, and those little moments. And we have a choice in what we do with them.

That feeling that something was wrong wasn’t about my reputation or my checklist. It was about my awareness of the miracles right in front of me and my willingness to take conscious, meaningful steps that felt extraordinary to take.

Since that day, my life has changed dramatically.

We live in the same house, we shop at the same store, I have the same job, but now, I’m also one of those people who is curious about everything. Who loses themselves in creative projects just because. Who creates art, writes poetry, and self-publishes books. I’ve become one of those people who sees even the most ordinary moment at Whole Foods on a Wednesday afternoon as extraordinary.

How did I do it? I simply let myself begin right where I was.

You may have a completely different version of extraordinary, and that’s what’s so perfect. How to live an extraordinary life entirely up to you—it’s your life, after all. The action itself isn’t as important as the intent behind it.

As long as your intent is to make something in your world just a little better, to learn something just a little deeper, to try something you’re just a little curious about, it’s foolproof. You could institute pizza Saturdays or travel the world, saving endangered species. Both are extraordinary.

If you’re not sure where to begin, here are a few things to try. They changed the world for me.

1. Be tenacious in your appreciation and optimism.

First, slow down and look around. Then, appreciate anything and everything you possibly can. Thank the sun, thank the water, thank the air you breathe. Look out for the funny thing that happened on your way to work, beautiful sunsets, and acts of human kindness. Even when everyone around you wants to complain about the boss, be the one who notices that it’s such a nice day.

When I talked about my day, I used to begin with something that went wrong. Then, I gave myself one tiny challenge: lead with gratitude. I made a point of starting conversations with something positive as often as I could, which meant I had to start looking for those positive things and remembering to bring them up. I discovered so much beauty around me with this one simple switch.

2. Define your extraordinary.

What do you want to see in this lifetime? What do you want to learn? How do you want to feel while you’re living your life?

I’d thought about these things before, of course, but they would quickly get taken over by something more serious. I didn’t want to waste time. My attitude changed when I decided that feeling curious, engaged, and alive was more important than being productive.

I began setting intentions for the week. I’d write down an idea that excited me, a feeling I wanted to nurture, and something I wanted to learn or create. Then, I gave myself small, meaningful challenges that fit with those intentions. Carrying a composition book with me quickly led to filling that composition book, and then another and another.

3. Make friends with your body.

Your body was made for living, so live in it. Use it in a life-affirming way. Don’t just feed it, nourish it. Let it move, let it sweat, let it pump its blood, laugh, cry, and feel. Stretch into it and savor its senses. Rest it when it’s tired, heal it when it’s hurting, love it even when you want to change it, and thank it. And when it has something to tell you, lean in and really listen.

I used to treat my body like it had no purpose. I didn’t nourish it, I overworked its muscles, and I constantly tried to remodel it.

It wasn’t until I started paying attention to how I feel now that I asked myself, is this how you would treat a child or an animal in your care?

My answer was an emphatic, NO.

4. Lose yourself in curiosity and creativity.

Follow the fun and let yourself overflow. Take on a ridiculous project just because it lights you up, even if it’s silly, you’re “too old,” or it’s “wasting time.” Let it be messy. Let it change directions. And let it fail spectacularly. The outcome isn’t as important as the process of it.

I practice this by painting with my children. They are experts at following curiosity and creativity. While I’m painstakingly sketching a dog or a flower, they’re creating imaginary animals in underwater kingdoms and then covering the entire thing in handprints when the inspiration strikes.

Every time, I shake my head with a smile—this is supposed to be fun, remember?

5. Be of service in a way that’s meaningful to you.

Share something. Create something. Teach something. Go where you are masterful and add value to the world in any way that’s accessible to you. Feed the hummingbirds, pick up litter, volunteer in your community. Big or small, it doesn’t matter; it’s the meaning behind it that makes all the difference.

I started by cultivating the kind of presence I wanted to have in my own life. I wanted to feel present at home, for one, so I reduced the expectations I put on myself. The house may be messier, but our weekend adventures at the park are nothing short of extraordinary.

If you’ve ever wanted to feel differently in your life, take one little, ordinary step. And then another. Let your feelings guide you. Your extraordinary life is waiting for you on the other side.

Great Blogs For People With Mental Illness

Hi guys, so I wanted to compile a little collection of blogs out there that are about and/or for people with mental illness.

You can never have too many resources at your disposal.

12 Great Blogs for People With Depression

The Best Mental Health Bloggers You Need to Follow

8 Inspiring Blogs to Read Whenever You Feel Alone

Hope your Mondays were AMAAZING!

7 steps to a more productive morning

7 steps to a more productive morning
– by Josh Steimle

 

 

When you hear someone talk about mornings, what comes to mind? Do you picture peace and serenity with a warm cup of coffee in one hand and a computer mouse in the other – fervently getting a head start on the day’s tasks? Or do you imagine hitting the snooze button, rolling out of bed, and hastily grabbing a breakfast bar before getting in the car and racing to the office?

When discussing the topic of mornings with people, you’ll get passionate responses and beliefs. There are those who believe mornings are meant for productivity and output. And then there are those who feel like mornings are meant for sleep and idleness. And while there’s a time for both, rarely do you meet successful people who opt for the snooze button over starting the day a few minutes early.

For decades people have said, “the early bird gets the worm.” For many years, this has been nothing more than opinion; however, we’ve recently been inundated with a number of studies that justify the validity of this saying.

Take a 2012 study published in the American Psychological Association journal, Emotion. The study worked with more than 700 people ranging in age from 17 to 79 and showed that early risers report feeling happier and healthier than self-proclaimed night owls.

But why exactly is this true? One theory is that the 8-5 workday structure is oriented around mornings. Morning people tend to procrastinate less and have a proclivity for being proactive.

Christopher Randler, a biology professor who has had some of his work published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, has noticed that, “[morning people] tend to get better grades in school, which gets them into better colleges which then leads to better job opportunities. Morning people also anticipate problems and try to minimize them. They’re proactive.”

By the way, this doesn’t mean night owls are bums. Throughout history, there has been a demand for people who are productive at night. It all started with manning watchtowers and is now carried out in the form of night shifts for 24/7 businesses.  And as Randler tells the Harvard Business Review: “Evening types may no longer serve as our midnight lookouts, but their intelligence, creativity, humor, and extroversion are huge potential benefits to the organization.”

With that being said, morning people — on average – tend to be more productive and efficient, especially in a society that is heavily structured around the hours before lunch.

Have a productive morning with these seven tips

Is there hope for night owls who desperately want to enjoy the benefits of morning productivity? While Randler notes that half of each individual’s chronotype is determined by genetics, the other half can be manipulated by conscientious choices.

So, here are some tips that both early worms and night owls can use to become more productive on a daily basis.

1. Prepare the night before

Best selling author and productivity expert Michael Hyatt’s recommends sleeping more to get more done, and his first tip for a good night’s rest and great morning starts the afternoon before by avoiding caffeinated drinks, especially after 4:00 p.m. “In my 20s for sure, but even in my 30s, I could drink a full cup of coffee at 9:00 at night and go right to sleep. It didn’t faze me at all,” he says “But I noticed when I started getting into my 40s that I started developing some sensitivity so that if I had caffeine in the evening… I wouldn’t get to sleep until 2:00 in the morning.”

“Set your intention for waking up, before you go to bed,” recommends Hal Elrod, author of the best selling book The Miracle Morning. He recommends deciding every night to create a positive expectation for when you wake up in the morning. Some people do this by listing three big things they want to accomplish the next day and making a plan for how they’ll get them done first thing in the morning.

If you exercise in the morning (which you should, see #5 below), then prepare your exercise gear the night before so it’s ready to go.

2. Get a good night’s sleep

A productive morning includes adequate rest, which means quantity andquality. While most people think about a good night’s sleep in terms of the number of hours they get, this is just one part of the equation.

Quality sleep depends on having the right sleeping environment and getting an adequate amount of undisturbed sleep. Minimizing artificial light from screens an hour or two before going to bed and leaving your phone outside your bedroom are two quick tips to improve your sleep.

Another is to have a consistent sleep schedule. “This is key!” says Shawn Stevenson, author of Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success. “You can literally get amplified benefits of sleep by sleeping at the right hours. It’s been shown that humans get the most significant hormonal secretions and recovery by sleeping during the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. This is what I call ‘Money Time’.”

One issue for many people is that they sleep on the wrong mattress. Your mattress is where you spend a third of your life and it can have a big effect on the other two thirds when you’re not horizontal. Spend time evaluating your current situation and identifying the best mattress for your specific needs. A lot of new mattresses have come on the market in the past few years and competition has pushed quality up and prices down. You can get a high-tech gel mattress from mattress maker Purple for just $1,000, which might sound like a lot until you shop around and see that similar mattresses are going for thousands.

3. Wake Up in the Right Manner

How you wake up can have a major impact on your first few waking hours. If a blaring alarm clock leaves you feeling agitated, perhaps you should try a more gentle approach.

There are lots of alarm alternatives, including natural light simulations that mimic a sunrise or the Kello “smart” alarm clock that connects to an app on your phone that acts like a morning coach and integrates with services like Spotify and Soundcloud. If you can’t stand getting out of bed and stepping on cold floors, then have a pair of warm slippers waiting for you. Whatever your biggest pain point is, there’s a way to overcome it.

Immediately after getting out bed, start with something you’re passionate about. This could be reading, writing, or playing with your dog. “As humans, we are most disciplined in the things we are most passionate about,” writer Kalen Bruce says. “Start your day with something you’re passionate about and you’ll be much more likely to get up and do it.”

4. Eat a real breakfast

Your parents always told you to eat a good, healthy breakfast in the morning if you wanted to perform well during the day – and it looks like this is more than just parental wisdom. Multiple studies have validated this idea, connecting a healthy breakfast to lower BMI, less fat consumption throughout the day, and having better memory and focus throughout the day.

As Eliza Martinez of LiveStrong.com says, “Eating first thing not only improves your concentration and ability to remember, but it also helps control the number on the scale. When you skip breakfast, your body goes into fasting mode, which increases your insulin response and, in turn, causes your body to store more fat.”

And remember, a real breakfast doesn’t come in the form of a breakfast bar or something greasy from a fast food restaurant. Instead, go for oatmeal with fresh fruit or a fruit and veggie smoothie.

5. Exercise

“Exercise has been touted to do everything from treat depression to improve memory, with the power to cure a host of problems while preventing even more,” researcher MK McGovern notes. “In particular, exercise leads to the release of certain neurotransmitters in the brain that alleviate pain, both physical and mental. Additionally, it is one of the few ways scientists have found to generate new neurons.”

While you can get exercise whenever you want, an early-morning routine can help wake you up and release neurotransmitters that will carry you through the rest of the day. And you don’t need an hour-long workout – just 15-30 minutes will do.

6. Tackle the hardest task on your agenda

We all have tasks that we enjoy doing and those that we’d prefer not to deal with. Make it your priority to tackle the most difficult, least interesting task first. By completing this task early in the morning, you can free up your schedule and change your entire outlook on the day. Instead of dreading certain things, you’re able to enjoy your time.

7. Set some goals for the day

Before you really get into the “meat” of your daily routine, spend a few minutes in the morning setting goals for your day. This may be a list of mental goals, or it could be a physical checklist that you write down. The important thing is that have a plan and you’re managing your time, rather than letting your email inbox manage it for you. This will help you maximize productivity for the remaining hours of the day.

Anyone Can Become a Morning Person

We all have our own natural tendencies. Some are drawn towards nighttime, while others prefer to enjoy their mornings. But the reality is that anyone can train themselves to maximize their morning output by putting into practice habits that squash procrastination and elevate productivity.

Learn from those around you and develop a routine that works for you.

When you hear someone talk about mornings, what comes to mind? Do you picture peace and serenity with a warm cup of coffee in one hand and a computer mouse in the other – fervently getting a head start on the day’s tasks? Or do you imagine hitting the snooze button, rolling out of bed, and hastily grabbing a breakfast bar before getting in the car and racing to the office?

When discussing the topic of mornings with people, you’ll get passionate responses and beliefs. There are those who believe mornings are meant for productivity and output. And then there are those who feel like mornings are meant for sleep and idleness. And while there’s a time for both, rarely do you meet successful people who opt for the snooze button over starting the day a few minutes early.

For decades people have said, “the early bird gets the worm.” For many years, this has been nothing more than opinion; however, we’ve recently been inundated with a number of studies that justify the validity of this saying.

Take a 2012 study published in the American Psychological Association journal, Emotion. The study worked with more than 700 people ranging in age from 17 to 79 and showed that early risers report feeling happier and healthier than self-proclaimed night owls.

But why exactly is this true? One theory is that the 8-5 workday structure is oriented around mornings. Morning people tend to procrastinate less and have a proclivity for being proactive.

Christopher Randler, a biology professor who has had some of his work published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, has noticed that, “[morning people] tend to get better grades in school, which gets them into better colleges which then leads to better job opportunities. Morning people also anticipate problems and try to minimize them. They’re proactive.”

By the way, this doesn’t mean night owls are bums. Throughout history, there has been a demand for people who are productive at night. It all started with manning watchtowers and is now carried out in the form of night shifts for 24/7 businesses.  And as Randler tells the Harvard Business Review: “Evening types may no longer serve as our midnight lookouts, but their intelligence, creativity, humor, and extroversion are huge potential benefits to the organization.”

With that being said, morning people — on average – tend to be more productive and efficient, especially in a society that is heavily structured around the hours before lunch.

Have a productive morning with these seven tips

Is there hope for night owls who desperately want to enjoy the benefits of morning productivity? While Randler notes that half of each individual’s chronotype is determined by genetics, the other half can be manipulated by conscientious choices.

So, here are some tips that both early worms and night owls can use to become more productive on a daily basis.