Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Positive Habits - Positive Steps

"Feeling sorry for yourself, and your present condition, is not only a waste of energy but the worst habit you could possibly have" - Dale Carnegie

It was not until recently that I learned just how important our habits are. I was unaware of the science behind them and how they affected out everyday lives. But after doing a lot of reading on the subject I noticed that there a plenty of ways you can adjust your habits or reprogram your brain which will infuse positive changes into your life. The best part about this is it is very simple and does not require much effort. The first step would be examining your life as it is now, and asking yourself why you engage in the bad habits that already exist in your life. You can be brutally honest with yourself because explaining this to other people is not necessary. I call this "getting to know yourself, your patterns and your ways". For example: Everyday when I come home I will clean the entire kitchen -

do the dishes from the night before, wash the counters and season the nights dinner. This is generally around 6 or 7 o clock. But come 9 or 10 o clock if there are dishes in the sink, the chances of me getting up to do them are slim to none. When asked by numerous people why this was my answer would generally be "well I hate doing dishes". Logically that makes no sense, because at 6 o clock I have no problem doing them. It wasn't until I read "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg that I was able to understand why that habit had formed in my brain. Now I am not going to get into the science of how habits form in your brain as I am not scientifically inclined and would probably confuse and bore you - however I do suggest reading this book as it is extremely interesting and easy to follow. You can get it on Amazon for cheap, even cheaper on a kindle or kobo. According to this book though this habit had formed because of the "Cue, Routine, Reward and Craving" system that is explained in a few chapters. Here is how the system worked for me:

Cue: Time 6:00 and seeing the pile of dishes in the sink
Routine: cleaning the kitchen and preparing the food
Reward: Eating!!!
Craving: As soon as I saw those dishes I began to feel hungry because I new that once the routine was complete I would be fed.

Come 9 or 10 o clock though, once I was finished eating and the cue was reset (another pile of dirty dishes) there was no reward or craving - so the habit formed that I would leave them until the next day until the whole system started over! Now that I am able to identify how the system works for me and if replace the reward with something else, the cue and the routine can stay the same and a new habit can be formed.

This however is just one small example of how habit can effect you. Positive habits can help implement great changes into your life with a small amount of effort. I have always found it very hard to stick to a healthy diet as the thought of a greasy bacon filled burger would easily derail me. I needed to find a routine that would help make this habit form in my brain. Enter Bikram Yoga. Thanks to my naturally competitive spirit The Bikram Yoga Challenge has successfully helped me change my eating habits. Since I have started the challenge I have replaced a standard burger with a lettuce burger (a burger with lettuce as the bun) and watched other people scarf down McDonald's in front of me - while sitting in the restaurant (if you knew me you would know that this is a great accomplishment as usually I order an extra large fries and will not share). By making Bikram Yoga a habit in my life, positive changes started to occur and new habits were formed without me having to think about it.

Cue: Time (I try to go to the same class everyday - once this habit is deeply ingrained I will not need to go everyday)
Routine: Yoga Class
Reward: The amazing after sweating for 90 hours (it is becoming addictive)
Craving: I have started to look forward to and even crave the intense heat in the room (aka the torture chamber), and the relaxing meditation atmosphere.

The key however is taking it one day at a time. I did not set out to become a Bikram Master - I told myself tomorrow I am going to go to Yoga and when I accomplished that I felt good! And then the next day I said to myself "Tomorrow I am going to go back to Yoga" and I did and it felt awesome. The next day I set out to improve my yoga experience - therefor adding onto the previous goal I had set for myself - so I said to myself "tomorrow I am going to go to yoga and not eat foods that will upset my stomach during class". You can see where I am going with this, I slowly built a wall, formed a habit, by laying one brick at a time. Since starting this challenge I have now made it a habit to drink 3-4 litres of water every day, attend class everyday, eat balanced non processed food diet, and relax my shoulders while sitting at my computer desk. I am only two weeks into this challenge and the above list is starting to become second nature to me.

The following except Is from a fellow blogger quoting "The Power of Habit" - The Blog is by Jason Shen

Fostering a new positive habit reaps many benefits

By developing a new positive habit, such as regular exercise, a meditation practice or making your bed in the morning, you will immediately reap the direct benefits of the new habit. On top of this you will also increase your willpower and naturally implement better behaviors across many aspects of your life, including health and social activities.
To put more crisp through the example of developing your exercise habit Charles Duhigg writes:

“Typically, people who exercise, start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”

So in summary what you should do after carefully examining your current behaviour process - identify something you would like to accomplish. The goal itself may to be big to tackle all at once, so take one step and back think of the tiny puzzle pieces that will put together that goal. You will only frustrate yourself if you start with a goal you do not believe you can achieve. You need to believe it or it will never happen! Start with one of the puzzle pieces- put it on your dream board and from there everything will fall into place. This falls directly inline with the "Action" part of The Law of Attraction. You need to take steps towards your goals. Your dream board is the first step, now here is the second. If you want to be a Bikram master first put Bikram himself on your dream board, then start attending classes - the 'how' will sort itself out.

"Just because you can't see the end of the highway, doesn't mean you can't get to it. So start your ignition and drive" - Me

Friday, August 16, 2013

Project Vision

"The realisation that limitations are imaginary will make you strong and empowering" - Stephen Richards         

So pretty much in all of the books that I have read that talk about the Law of Attraction or achieving personal happiness they mention creating a vision board - also known as a dream board. I am totally all for that and I have been meaning to do one for a while. I just couldn't decide how I wanted to do it. Did I want to go total 2013 and do an online board using Pinterest or this blog for example, or did I want to go old school and cut some pictures out of magazines and books. I honestly couldn't decide which one would be most beneficial for me. I do know however to get the most benefit out of it you need to see it everyday so I knew I wanted it to be pretty...with sparkles! So I came up with the idea to play dress up, take the pictures, have them printed out in a glossy format and then tack them to one of those cool picture boards you can get from winners with a glass covering (I think they are called picture boxes).
What I am saying is if in the next three years you want to be walking down the aisle - go try on a wedding dress with a friend, have them take a picture of you in it and stick that to your dream board. If you want a specific new car - go take a picture inside that car and stick it to your dream board. How much more literal and straightforward can you be. Go play pretend with your dreams and capture the memory. Remember the feeling it gives you and hold on to it until it appears in your life for good. Make a day of it and have fun planning your future, because only you are in complete control.

          However don't exclude things from your board because you do not think it is not attainable. Put everything your heart desires on that board. You do not have to worry about how you are going to get there, just focus all your energy on what it is that you want to achieve. The quote "Where there is a will there is a way" is famous for a reason. I am honestly not sure if doing your board this way will make it any more effective - however I am sure that it will be a fun activity, especially if you grab some friends and a camera. It is also a positive way to approach the board, it will really will get you thinking! Not to mention it will be a nice piece of d├ęcor to hang if you put it in a glass frame. After all this is something you need to look at everyday.

"To dream by night is to escape your life. To dream by day is to make it happen" - Stephen Richards 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Enhance Your Surroundings - Law of Attraction

These are some quotes that helped me further understand and implement the Law of Attraction. This is assuming you already know the fundamental principals. Keep in mind, I am currently in the process of implementation. I have always been a firm believer but it was not until recently that I was merely agreeing with the things I read instead of infusing them into my life. There is so many articles you can read to help you do you, however they can be complicated or not descriptive enough. The easiest was for me to understand it was to use the quotes that float around their fan pages and pull meaning from them. So here is my simplified version. These happen to be my favorite ones.

"Surround yourself with people who want what you have"
This one here is simple, but didn't at first seem necessary. I also wondered why would I have to do this, because not all the people in my life currently want what I have. As a matter of fact they seem to be on the same level as I am with what I currently have. It wasn't until I thought about that last sentence that I realised why I needed to surround myself with people that have what I am aiming for. I applied this concept to my life as it is now. My group of friends, we think a like, act a like and can sometimes finish each others thoughts if given the chance. In certain situations we may even have similar reactions. We hold similar jobs in terms of pay and the amount of extra curricular activities we do are about the same. This is not necessarily a bad thing, all it means is that we are all in the same mindset and are vibrationally aligned. This will make it harder for you to constantly be thinking and feeling the things it is you want out of life - which is a major aspect of the Law of Attraction. If you are constantly in the mindset of what you have now, nothing will ever change for you. So keeping this in mind try to surround yourself with people that have more then you and eventually you will become more vibrationally aligned with them, all of your thoughts and feelings will be directed towards what you want to achieve and you will start noticing these things appearing in your every day life.

"What ever is going on in your mind is what you are attracting....People who think about what they don't want attract more if the same"
"Happy Feelings attract Happy Circumstances" 
This is why I have employed my "Say yes to everything" strategy. So far it has gotten me into some really cool situations. I have ended up at parties I wasn't planning on attending - I was planning on staying home and staying sad - and I have also ended up surrounded by other happy people. I have inserted myself into situations where I knew I would have happy feelings, and life just took over from there with positive feelings and vibes. Think of it this way, have you ever been an okay to happy mood and gone to visit a friend who was just down in the dumps. How quickly did he or she ruin your happy vibe. Don't let that happen, surround yourself with the right people. And if one of your friends moods is feeling a little low, try to radiate your positiveness onto them, because they need it. Mood's are contagious so be careful!

"Once you let go of negative people, positive ones appear"
"Anger won't make your problems easier. Tears won't bring back what is gone. But a SMILE and GRATITUDE will make you stronger" 
Don't get me a wrong a good cry will sometimes make you feel better, I can not discount that. But what I do is try to limit myself. The Law of Attraction would not promote sitting around crying, but I am being realistic in saying that sometimes the tears just come. SO, what I do is say "Stephanie, you can feel crappy for the next two hours, but then the dishes must get done....with a smile". Believe it or not, that works for me....a glass of wine usually helps the process. My friend Sam that I mentioned in an earlier post - the one that hangs on me if I call her crying - limits herself to a 10 minute cry and then moves on with her life. Get it out and move right along is the way she approaches the situation. Do whatever works best for you, but keep in mind that spending to long with those thoughts and tears will actually do you know good. I just understand that sometimes you need to get it out. I am hoping to get to the point where that is no longer necessary - but lets be honest, a good cry, a glass of wine and an amazing book always leaves me feeling complete. You just have to know how to move on with positive thoughts after the tears and anger come.
"No one is in charge of your happiness but yourself"
Putting other people in control of your happiness should be seen as completely giving up. Aristotle would tell you to hang your head in shame if you were to do that. According to him the ultimate goal in life is achieve happiness, so why let someone else be in control of yours. Other people will try to greatly effect your happiness in a negative way, but like unwanted eyebrow hairs, pluck them out of your life
"A negative mind will never get you a positive life" 
"A good life is when you smile often, dream big, laugh a lot and realize how blessed you are for what you have"
"Be thankful for what you have, you have no idea how many people would love to have what you got"

You actually never know a lot of things. Like how a simple comment can greatly effect another person's day, or what is hiding behind the smile of the coworker that sits next to you or lastly, just how badly somebody might yearn for your appreciation or approval. So be thankful for what you do have, because not only will that attract more positive things into your life, but there is somebody out there who is dying to have exactly what you have. Gratitude will get you places, see how all these points interlock!

The Turtle Vs The Butterfly

Why it is better to be The Butterfly rather then The Turtle during Hard Times

This post is based purely on past experiences and is meant as a reminder to myself and to others why it is always better to be a butterfly.

First let me explain what I mean by being one or the other. In literal terms, a butterfly is constantly flying from one spot to another and are admired by many due to their colourful nature. Turtles can also be cute (dependant upon your definition of cute, I don't like them), but are slow moving creatures and as a result things are always passing them by. More importantly they retreat into their shells when they are scared instead of moving forward and facing things head on. 

Everyone, unfortunately is guaranteed to go through multiple periods of hard times in their life. At first thought, many people would love to just skip past those times and live on cloud 9 until eternity. However true appreciation of those "good times", only emerge after one has stuck it out through the bad.

"When I thought I couldn't go on, I forced myself to keep going. My success is based on persistence not luck" Estee Lauder

 To make sticking out the bad times bearable, I recommend being a butterfly rather than a turtle. And no, this is not easier said then done. It is quite easy and enjoyable and eventually will become part of your routine. You might not likes the sounds of it as you are sitting there down in the dumps, but it is not a hard task and it will only help you on your path to happiness. There are some things you can do to help move yourself from the turtle category to the butterfly side.

  • Employ my say yes to everything strategy. I learned this one from a good friend and I took a hint from the movie "Yes Man". I've done this one before and it is listed in my 12 Bricks to Happiness post. When someone invites you out to a bbq, a club, a dinner or even a mid-day chill session - you say yes. Regardless of if you want to go or not, you put on your best pair of shoes and you go. That is only part one though, once you get to your destination you can not revert back to being a turtle. Grab a drink, take your shoes off and enjoy the company you are with. In other words, it is called keeping yourself busy.
  • Putting on your Sunday Best.....Everyday! I learned this one from a mother of a friend of mine. Everyday when you wake up, or before going out somewhere (regardless of
    location) - get dressed as if you are going to run into your celebrity crush or a film crew looking for someone that fits your description! I don't care if you are going to the grocery store, if you look good you will feel good, it is an age old theory that have been proven true.
  • Find a new passion/hobby, or restart an old one! For me it was Bikram Yoga - which if you look online looks more like a cult. However you can't spell culture without cult. And for me Bikram Yoga has only helped infuse positivity into my life. I am only on week two and I feel fantastic. Check out my previous post to keep track of my progress. When you immerse yourself into your hobby or passion, whatever it is that is bothering you will not be able to take up as much space in your mind. 
"Laughter attracts Joy and releases Negativity.......Joy and Depression can not reside in the same space" Steve Harvey 

Those three things seem like such simple things that I am sure you have heard before, but they have always helped me and are easily forgettable. Even if you have it fake it at first - pretending to be excited to go somewhere when you really rather would be at home watching Meredith Grey drink tequila - once you get to where your going, if you allow yourself to have fun you will not regret it. Challenge your self to do these things, let a few friends know that you are playing the yes game, and they will help keep you on track. Try not to think or talk about the things that are bothering you or bringing you down during this time. Set aside a time to deal with your problems so they don't continue to interfere with your everyday life. Try seeing your problems in a positive light as well, because no matter how bad a situation can get, something positive will always come of it. The best life lessons come from the crappies of situations. So don't a turtle and crawl back in your shell to retreat. You can definitely move at your own pace but in the process be a butterfly!


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

12 Bricks to Happiness

Having only read the description and a few reviews of the book "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin, I was intrigued. Really it was the title that drew me in, even though I know better than to judge a book by its cover, let alone its title. I saw it in Chapters, quickly read the description on the back and the first page (that's my thing). As soon as l left, I went on Amazon

and read some mixed reviews. I knew just from that little bit of information that I needed to start a happiness project. Don't get me wrong, I lead a decent life - I have my own apartment, a good paying job (although somehow there is never enough money to buy more shoes) and I have amazing friends. You can tell by my last post that I just picked up a new hobby, and trying out recipes from other peoples cooking blogs has become a passion. But, and there is always a but - there are some parts of my life that were in need of a happiness takeover. Those are the parts that only your close friends can see, or sometimes nobody at all. The parts that you cover up with a smile when an acquaintance asks how you are doing, the parts that wine fixes and the parts that only really surface when your alone with your thoughts. So here is my Happiness project - to fix those parts, because no one wants those! So over the next year! Yes I said year, each bullet point will get filled in. Like I said in my previous post "Lay one brick at a time". So think of these points as my bricks, and I am laying them down month by month for a complete transformation. Each month I will do one of these bricks and report back how they helped contribute to my happiness. Some are small and some are real challenges. Suggestions are welcome as it is a working list.

PS - I bought the book on Amazon today - I chose the expedited shipping. Hopefully I haven't gotten this project wrong. 

The Yoga Challenge and Yoga Diet (as seen in the previous post)
60 days of consecutive yoga (Bikram and Moksha combined)

Divide up my time
Don't just stick to the 1-3 friends in my comfort zone. Make an effort to see all my friends, even if it just for a quick coffee. 

Stop trying to change situations for my wants and benefits
Accept each situation as it is presented - Pretend as if there is nothing as I can do but go with the flow

Be an early riser! Out of bed by 5:00am
I have to be up and at em by 5:15 am every morning, whether I am going to the gym or making a big breakfast and working on my finances.

30 acts of kindness
Each day I must complete one act of kindness that directly affects another person. 

No complaining
No complaining to myself or other people about situations, other people or things

Try Something New
Everyday I have to try something new. It could be food, an activity or a game. Just something I have never done before.

Cold Shower
I have read far to many benefits of taking a cold shower. So one month, I am going to challenge myself to make every shower, a cold one!

Be a Yes Girl
You know those days when friends call you and invite you out to what sounds like a boring party (half the time you find out later it was out of this world) - Well I will challenge myself to say yes to everything that is purposed to me. Like in the movie Yes Man. Of course I do have my limits - Dangerous things will be excluded.

Organize a Charity Event
Pretty self explanatory and time consuming, however it will create lots of happy memories and good vibes.

Make a Music Video and upload it
Choose a song, grab some friends, and recreate my favorite music video!  A glass of wine may be needed with this one

Back to Basics
Look back through your Facebook pictures, or an old album on your laptop or think back to your childhood. Take 3 things that made you really happy last year, three things from in the last 5 years and 3 more things from when you were a child. Do them all again this month! Everything from swinging on swings in a park with a popsicle to taking to many tequila shots and dancing on a table....kidding!

60 Day Yoga Challenge (1)

So I decided about a week ago that I needed to change one thing in my life. I had no idea what though, so I took to Groupon. I logged in and browsed the Toronto listings. Half way through browsing I paused to watch the new Miley Cyrus video "We can't stop" and wondered how to get her body! So, I goggled it, and Google told me that she did Pilates everyday. I closed the page and went back to Groupon. As I was scrolling through I noticed that there was a Groupon for a Bikram Yoga studio walking distance from my house - the fact that it is so close was very important. I clicked buy hoping I was not being to impulsive. I had not done any research on what Bikram Yoga was nor did I realise the commitment that would come along with it. After finalizing my purchase, I again did a quick Google search. This time to find out some info on Bikram Yoga. Every site I clicked on had people raving about the 30 or 60 day challenge and how it changed there lives. I didn't read much, but I decided between yawns that I was going to do it. With no further research I went to sleep.

Week 1

Wednesday morning I woke up to get ready for work and remembered my purchase from the previous night. I grabbed a pair of soccer shorts, a sports bra and my gym bag and headed to work for the day. I hadn't packed a lunch the night before so I decided I would have a burger for lunch. As soon as I got to work I checked the evening schedule for the Bikram Studio - class was at 6. I was already proud of myself for immediately following through with my commitment, although I still hadn't made it to class, there was no doubt in my mind that I would go.

 Side note: Usually  I tell myself I am going to go to the gym, but I really end up watching "How I Met Your Mother"

Although this would only be my second time in a hot yoga studio and my first time in a Bikram Studio, I didn't think to do any research because I didn't think the challenge would be the class, I thought the real challenge would be getting myself to the class. On day one I arrived at the studio and was greeted by a sign that informed me to be silent - kind of funny if you know me, I am always talking. I registered and went down to the change room. I threw on my sports bra and booty shorts, and was a bit nervous to be wearing so little, you know, with my love handles exposed. I rented a mat, went into class and laid in Savasana (on my back, palms up and in silence). After 5 minutes of laying there I was glad to be nearly naked. I hadn't moved yet and I was dripping. 30 minutes into the class (I think because there are no clocks) I started to feel light headed, hungry and nauseous. I pushed through it and 15 minutes later I felt a headache coming on, All I was thinking about was "when is this class over" and "why I am I so uncomfortable".  A week into this challenge and after doing some research, I now know the answer and I will list some reasons below. Towards the end of the class, I had to sit in "Child's Pose" a lot due to my now pounding headache and dizziness. I new if I didn't get some water that wasn't near boiling point quick, I would be in for a long night. Once class finished, I could barely thank the teacher and get to my car fast enough. By time I got home I had a full blown migraine and spent 30 minutes on my bathroom floor. I couldn't decide if this was my fault, yoga's fault or if I was just meant to have a migraine today and it coincided with yoga. At the time, I didn't realise that by committing to this 60 Day Challenge, I was committing to a lifestyle overhaul - and because  all I did was go to class with out preparing I was now facing the consequences.
Things I learned on Day 1 
  • Try to drink at least 3 litres of water through out the day - Don't just chug it before class begins as it will have no effect. From what I have learned you need to give your body at least an hour and a half to absorb the water
  • Processed foods do not sit well in your stomach while doing yoga - I ate a yummy burger for lunch
  • Do not eat 2 hours before class - and if you must, try eating crackers or fruit
  • The breathing actually is important, holding my breath and tensing my shoulders is what gave me that terrible migraine on top of being very dehydrated
The next day I was definitely discouraged and was advised by friends not to return right away. I was told that my body needed more time to recoup. However I did not want to give myself a reason to miss a day in the challenge so early on. I decided to go, talk to the teacher before hand and pace myself. Thankfully the teacher I had was very understanding and told me that was common for new comers. Every so often in the class she would look over and ask about my head. About 70 minutes into the class, I felt the head pounding again, she told me to skip out early and fold my tongue against the roof of my mouth and continue to breath on my way home.

With my headache gone, I was now faced with my next problem. The weekend! Tomorrow was Friday and I was heading out east to visit family - about an hour away from the studio I signed up at. I didn't want the weekend to ruin my challenge so I bought an unlimited membership to a Moksha (also hot) Yoga studio near my dads house. It was nice to try a different style of yoga - as Bikram is the same 26 poses every class. Regardless, I was extremely proud of myself for completing week one and sticking to the healthy diet that goes along with the challenge. I am very sore but I have already noticed some benefits. My shoulders are more relaxed especially when driving and typing, I realise when I am clenching my jaw muscles and I honestly do not crave any fast food! Lets see what week two brings!