Get yourself on the list (Get it Magazine, July column)

 

Excited to be contributing the Last Word in my Get it Magazine column again. Here’s a few honest lessons in gratitude. –Sarah

Read the issue 

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Another morning, another effort to get up. The sunshine wasn’t helping my mood and I knew before I touched it, that I should refrain from reaching for my mobile the second I woke. Inevitably the first thing that appeared would be bad news.

There was a period of time that was like this last year when quite simply, I was unhappy. It’s nothing you haven’t experienced, I’m sure. If we’re lucky, we know that actually – soon, hopefully – things will be brighter, bit at a time.

During my particularly stressful period, I was simultaneously dealing with illness in the family, a confidence crisis, finance worries, challenging business associates and a hopeless feeling of helplessness. Making matters worse, I was being particularly tough on myself for how I was reacting on the phone, over email and with friends. I kept apologising for being ‘that person’ who didn’t want to bring the lunchtime conversations down, and I was aware of carrying around a negative attitude. I wasn’t feeling, behaving or showing up as the me I wanted to be.

I am all about taking charge though, and knew the only person who could change what was being reflected in my world was me. I invested time into shifting my view on areas of my life that were getting me down. Included in this effort was a dedicated daily gratitude practice, because if there’s one ‘secret’ I’ve seen work wonders in a multitude of difficult scenarios, it is the act of specifically identifying what has been good each day.

When I was a child, I was encouraged to recognise that there is always someone worse off, so to be grateful for my lot. That sentiment is largely true, although now I get that the real power in being grateful is that like attracts like.

What I – what you – focus on expands.

Some say it works like this: like attracts like, and if we focus on the bad bits like hours of miserable news broadcasts, difficult colleagues or those who have cheated us, that’s exactly what is going to show up more in our own experience.

If, however, we practice the shift to an attitude of gratitude such as, ‘I’m grateful to have the cash to pay my rent’, or ‘I’m grateful to be catching up with Leanne today because she is an awesome friend’ (among thousands of other examples), more of the positives manifest in your world.

A little bit of magic. Quite cool!

None of this is revelatory though, so what was the big learning for me out of recent challenges?

I realised there was something I constantly omitted from my own gratitude list. Me!

Your list may include similar items to mine like ‘loving partner’, ‘friends and family’, ‘cool boss’, ‘dog’ (dogs plural, for that matter), ‘good health’, ‘upcoming travel adventure just paid off’… but do you include yourself?

I have given myself such a hard time in the past for feeling miserable and worried about a whole host of things. I didn’t consider that my resilience was carrying me through and that my nous was leading me to rewarding points of realisation.

You rock. We rock! I’m remembering to be grateful for that. I am grateful for my mistakes and the times I’ve spoken without thinking. I am grateful for the falls and how I picked myself up. I am grateful for the lessons learnt the hard way that I now share to help others. I am grateful for the words I can use to communicate, share and resolve.

These days I add ‘me’ to my list, up the top with a smiley face. My intention is that this serves as a reminder for you to do the same on yours (smiley face optional).

Regardless of what kind of day or week you’re having, take five to compose your top five things you’re grateful for now. Make it bright, bold, and uniquely you.

 

 

Diary of a mindful commute

I tweet, write, talk about and certainly practise mindfulness and meditation, but in my current state of busyness, time easily escapes me. Consequently I’ve wondered about ways to enjoy a more mindful commute to work because that’s when I have time.

It makes a huge difference to my day taking time out to breathe and let myself enjoy a peaceful space free of the pressures of the world or worries of my to-do list. This daily activity keeps me calmer and less reactive, particularly if I’m in the middle of a stressful situation or I’m tired and in need of a rejuvenating break away.

I really notice when I’m not in this flow and sometimes – lately often – I run out of time in the morning to get into this sacred and important space (twenty minutes is my preferred time frame for meditation, although if I can spare it on a day off, thirty or forty is bliss).

As much as I intend to take the time out, something always comes up, and before I know it I need to run to the bus to make it to work on time.

I have about half an hour on the bus to work, and it’s been on my mind for a while to test ways I can prepare for the day ahead during this commute.

I’ve been really trying to stay reflective, intentional and positive this year, and in this spirit I decided last week to not only test mindful options on the commute, but to document them too.

In London, the commute is many things – 99 per cent of them are not peaceful!

There’s a vast range of annoying noise, gross smells, agitated people, and stress … lots of it. Fortunately I found a way to avoid the Victoria line on my morning commute, but the bus can be slow and feature some ‘interesting’ characters.

Here’s what I discovered about the pursuit of a mindful commute, and they are tips you can take with you, whether you’re on a busy bus or train; possibly in the car, but be mindful of paying attention to road rules!

 

How to have a mindful commute – my week’s diary

Monday I was off to a good start with a seat all to myself on the bus!

I felt like a little inspiration was in order so I opened Soundcloud and found some playlists other users had compiled with audio by Hayhouse authors like Dr. Wayne Dyer. I chose a piece that would take me about 18 minutes along into my journey, and despite background noise and chatter, I was mostly able to focus on his workshop.

In this snippet of audio he discussed the concept of simply ‘being aware’, so after the clip ended, I practised sitting in my chair and observing my surroundings – the trees, cars and passing foot traffic; sounds and smells.

I found ‘simply observing’ was a really interesting, if not calming experience that kept me entirely present without worry or judgement.

During that day at work, for the first time in a long time, I caught myself in the act of not breathing properly.

I’ve been extremely busy lately and I realised – possibly because of my mindful commute activity – that half the time I’m sitting at my desk not breathing properly! I bet I’m not the only one.

Now, I’m conscious to stop what I’m doing and take some deep breaths – even now as I type. I’m sure this is a step in the right direction and it helps with everything from concentration to digestion and a reduction in stress levels.

On Tuesday for some reason I felt like I wanted to listen to music – the kind that gets a little party going in my head!

Now I don’t know what yogis think of dance music, but I love it. There’s nothing like a melodic dance track to get me in good spirits. I decided to go with this but instead of thinking about things while streaming my favourite tracks, I just listened.

Fortunate enough to have a seat on the bus again, I gently closed my eyes and spent the best parts of the music focusing only on the intricate production and cool melodies that some very clever producers had published.

This might very well be the most outrageous and certainly nontraditional way of meditating, but I was focused on my breath and only the sound, and I felt happier for the experience.

Day two was off to a bright start.

Doom and gloom Wednesday hit – it’s been so dull and grey here lately.

Oh, cold. I forgot to mention that! Cold, even for me who quite likes winter (it’s so much better than sweating)!

I wasn’t sure what to try this morning and on auto-pilot turned back to something I’ve tried to avoid as much as possible, that is, spending my entire commute on social media.

Although I am inspired by Instagram and engage with interest groups on Facebook and Twitter, I work in front of a screen all day and know for the good of my sanity that I need to break from it when I can.

On this day I didn’t get a seat.

Drat.

It was a little bit crowded too, but I managed to find a spot in a corner and a hand rail to keep me steady.

Something a yoga teacher taught me a couple of years ago sprung to mind; she said we often hold too much tension in the tops of our legs and into our hips. She taught us to stand steadily on two feet, about hip width distance apart, shoulders straight but relaxed, slight tone to the belly; and to soften the legs and thighs just a bit to reduce the tension. So, I found my posture and breathed through it.

Again I brought into the activity my awareness consciousness from Monday; that is, simply being aware of what was going on around me – observing without judgement or concern.

It worked in bouts – with people getting on and off and noisy school kids evidently enthusiastic about the day ahead, I found this a bit tougher to get into. However, the focus on breathing did help to centre me and I felt like I was making up a little for not sitting down properly to meditate in the morning prior to the commute.

By Thursday I’m usually tired.

I’m naughty and forget to wrap up work on time most days which means I have less hours to unwind at home (yes, I like my work, and am grateful for it).

Feeling relatively unenthusiastic I decided to do something really simple on my mindful commute – experiment with ‘silence’.

That is, I didn’t pull my phone out to listen to music or watch YouTube.

I didn’t read or even write notes or my intentions for the day.

Actually, I intentionally sought out silence.

Of course, I’m on a busy commuter bus with people, announcements, traffic and more surrounding me, but upon starting with a focus on my breath and relaxing the area in the middle of my brow (where your third eye is imagined), I sat and actually relished in silence created by, surprisingly, me.

On Friday I began as I would any other day – I’d actually chosen one of my favourite Gabby Bernstein lectures on developing intentions to listen to.

But, about five minutes into my mindful commute, my dad called.

He’s in Australia, so I take every chance I can to talk to both he and my mum, and as we chatted (albeit I was quieter than normal, so as not to be one of those noisy commuters) I realised that the simple practise of focusing solely on my conversation with him was a mindful act in itself and a positive experience for both of us.

Enjoying a mindful commute when the time calls for it, means an otherwise challenging part of the day has the potential to become a personal and helpful journey in itself!

What are your thoughts and tips though? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Further reading

A couple of articles I found on how to have a mindful commute that you might find interesting too:

How to have a mindful commute (London Evening Standard), includes a definition of mindfulness, why it’s helpful and who else is adopting it.

Wanderlust‘s 50 ways to make a commute mindful

 

How I’m preparing for the new year

…out with the old ‘goals’ and in with some smart, mindful actions that are very NOW

I think after 37 years of experience I’m a little done with devising goals when preparing for a new year; but I do believe in setting intentions and maintaining some kind of vision about where you see yourself headed.

If you can’t see it (or importantly, feel it) then how do you know ‘it’ when it shows up?

I’m often asked about the processes I implement coming into a new year, because in recent times I’ve developed a suite of tools and tips that have proven to be helpful for friends trying to either set themselves up for the months ahead, or recover (faster) from bad news and tough times.

While we do have the opportunity at any time of the year to begin fresh; even any time of the month, week or day (and God knows I’ve been practising that recently), January is a nice time to try to set yourself up for a positive start.

I’d like to share what works for me, and what I’m doing now to prepare for the new year. Personally this year has had definite high points, however it ended up a bit rocky. But that’s ok – it’s life, right? As Anne [of Green Gables] says, each day is a chance to start fresh.

Onwards.

How I’m preparing for the new year

I seek positive, helpful books for reading during the holidays

I plan to use the holiday break to get stuck into a few good reads intended to motivate and inspire me. My go-to authors are people like Gabby Bernstein and Rebecca Campbell who write about life, business, spirituality and strategies on how to make space in your life for the important stuff, as well as how to move through difficult times faster.

Of course, your go-to books might be about goal setting, fitness, healthy eating, mindfulness or on a subject you aim to know more about in 2017 like learning a language. It’s all good!

I find investing just twenty minutes a day in reading something positive, interesting and helpful can shift your energy and perception. If you’re too tired to read, try finding a podcast or listen to audio books as an alternative.

 

I subscribe to regular free broadcasts

We’ve all heard of YouTube, but did you know you can utilise it for much more than getting the odd laugh out of dog and cat clips?

If you sign up for an account (and here’s why you should do that) you can subscribe to inspiring broadcasters you find on the platform. Some YouTubers now have more influence than most people on television, and no matter what you’re into, there’s a daily or weekly vlogger who can supply you with a dose of inspiration and motivation each week.

About a year ago I got into watching Doreen Virtue‘s weekly oracle card readings. She’s cute and quirky but quite possibly not for everyone (obviously, angel cards and tarot isn’t for everyone, anyway!). However, every Monday morning first thing I take a look at her ten to fifteen minute broadcast for the week (I’ve come to love her). She reads three cards that she pulls from a deck and quite surprisingly I find her readings to be accurate.

BUT I should stress that I’m not actually looking at this to view my ‘fortune’ for the week. I watch it for the messages I can take away to apply to situations in my life, whether they be challenging work or personal problems that I’m looking for a fresh perspective on, or words of wisdom I can share as advice with friends.

These resources are free and at our fingertips, and finding something to engage with on a regular basis that encourages a positive perspective shift – whatever you need – is a healthy way to pass the time, I think. It’s something I’ll focus on with any spare time this holiday season, and a habit I’ll continue into next year. I hope you choose to take advantage of this type of resource too.

 

I’ve engaged advice from a coach

An opportunity to work with a life and business coach popped up in my sphere very recently. I’ve engaged in this type of activity before but for a slightly different purpose (back then I had the intention of gaining a new perspective on building my own business). This time around, I’m aiming to see things differently in my life and career and to learn new strategies for dealing with situations that are unfamiliar to me.

I find I’m very happy to help and mentor others and am proud to have achieved a level of success in doing so. But when it comes to getting yourself out of a rut sometimes you need a fresh pair of eyes – and someone who is trained in this art is even better!

In our first session I outlined issues that I could simply not see a way out of, and left the session with a set of action points that really gave me my power back and made me feel so so much better and in control.

I realised that engaging in this activity before the new year is preferable to starting after January 1 has ticked over (although obviously any time is a good time to begin).

When I talk about ‘coaching’ though, for you this could mean in the fitness, health, Yoga, meditation, business, personal or spiritual sense. I think we can all do with guidance, and you definitely need the help of the right person, but if you’re on the lookout for them, I believe you’ll know and feel it when they appear.

And of course, if you’re serious about making real change (eg. getting fit, quitting smoking) make a call and set up an appointment with an expert now, and maybe even invite a friend along too so you can keep each other accountable.

 

I get serious about gratitude

There’s no faster way to make yourself feel better or to attract positive things than to mindfully consider all the things and people you’re grateful for.

Big, small, unexpected or the constants in your life – begin it now and I guarantee in under 60 seconds you’ll feel better about yourself and the world.

Using kindness and gratitude as a tool moving into the new year, set the intention to remember these things; recall them, revisit the list, add to it and send a little love back to those people on it to remind them about the good in the world.

This isn’t about forgetting the atrocities that go on around us; on the contrary, it puts things into perspective and is a reminder to help out where we can. Also, by giving more energy to the drama the television news generates, we’re perpetuating that negativity and it’s not helpful!

There are just as many like-minded souls such as you and I who are doing our best to bring the light – we can never have or contribute too much of that!

 

On that note, I really enjoyed this story by Bernadette Russell in Balance Magazine (December 2016) on being kind at Christmastime and how often the nicest thing we can offer anyone is our time.

 

I write things down

Using a good old notebook or an app like Evernote or OneNote, write down the things you want!

I have several years worth of experience writing ideas, wishes, dreams, plans down (funnily enough, often done during long flights); I’ve written down what I want to see happen, that I intend or that I want… I have later come across these lists and am so surprised to see what has actually manifested!

The power of putting it on paper is proclaimed by so many motivational speakers, coaches, authors, successful entrepreneurs… you name it. I don’t know what the magic behind it is (although I know a bit about the Law of Attraction and believe it to be true from personal experience); but write it down because wow, I’ve seen it work first hand – even before I knew about any of the things I talk and write about today.

A tip: try not to be too manipulative when it comes to specifics around working in a certain business or seeking a particular person as your new romantic partner; a neat trick to try is writing down how you want to feel.

 

In other words, what you want or what is for the greater good might not come in the exact form you imagine, but it will come, and it will be better. Write it down.

 

In one of my favourite Gabby Bernstein lectures (via podcast on iTunes) she talks about how to develop what she calls a ‘desire statement‘.

The process is made up of three parts:

  1. Write down a list of what you want right now in your life;
  2. Then make another list about how these things will make you feel;
  3. Following this activity free write (that is, simply write whatever comes to mind, no editing) for two to ten minutes after pondering these things you want to receive in your life right now.
  4. When you’re done, go back and underline any significant words or phrases that particularly resonate with you.
  5. From there write and edit your ‘desire statement’ into a clean, succinct, positively worded paragraph that you should then read and reflect on day and night. Use language like, “I want to be abundantly rewarded for a job I love and in a workplace where I’m valued…” rather than, “I don’t want to have trouble paying my bills and I don’t want a job where I’m not respected.” (note the difference in language used).

Surround yourself with your new intention, read it aloud consistently, and watch it come to life.

This manifestation technique has worked for me and friends so I personally vouch for the process. All it takes to work is your time commitment.

If you want an example of one of these or would like input on your own for the new year, feel free to email me or drop me a line in the comments.

 

Christmas can be indulgent – who cares, just go with it. But be aware of balancing some healthy activity for your body, mind and soul.

After a tough few months I’ve become very aware of the fact that I don’t want to be someone who moans or ‘carries on’. Yes, life is filled with hard times, difficult characters, sickness, sadness, challenges both personal and professional, but without those things we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the good. Nor would we be able to lean on faith and positive, nurturing activities that we can take responsibility for on our own (like the ideas I have outlined above)!

If I can help just one with something in here, then I’ve done my job. Drop me a line in the comments if an idea here has sparked inspiration in you, or if you have other tips to add then we’re always grateful to hear from you.