Lessons learned from movement (and writing).

I’ve always been a huge fan of mind-body activities, or exercises that teach you in physical form what is to be learned in the mind. It can be argued that anything in life can teach the mind lessons, but there are a few activities I’ve found that foster mind-body learning unlike anything else. As someone intensely interested in personal growth/philosophy and movement, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite lessons.

Archery: Trust and follow your intuition. Don’t think. Just point your body in the direction of what you want. Stay humble. Shoot before your mind takes over, because overthinking will cause you to make mistakes. Your mind is more powerful than you think. Trust your first gut reaction, and trust your instincts.

Hiking: Trust the process. Always remember to look back and see how far you come. Remember to stop to enjoy the view and your surroundings – it’s not just about the work. Savor the small things. Find someone walking on the same path. In life there are valleys, peaks and summits. Find someone who will walk with you through it all and give you a hand or a lift when things get hard, and do the same for them. Enjoy every minute of life because it’s not just about the summit, but the journey. There is no destination.

Yoga: Trust the signals your body sends you. Life is not a competition – you are on your own personal journey. When the body is moving, it brings the mind into the now. Be where you are. Be compassionate with yourself, and be compassionate with others. Be humble and open, and stay curious. Sometimes there is a muscle you can move that you might not have known even existed – if you listen and stay open to instruction, you’ll find it. The more open you are, and the more curious, the more you’ll find. Relax and breathe into difficulty. Trust yourself, give yourself what you need (and so, so much more.)

Climbing: Being in the present moment allows you to be free of anxiety about the past and anxiety about the future. It allows you to enjoy life exactly where you are at (and prevents you from falling.) Staying present and focusing on something with the body can force the mind into a state of flow and intense presence, which helps you enjoy life more. Be where you are. Don’t look down or back at where you came from, focus on what’s ahead and where you are going. It’s all in the mind. Trust that you will get there. Know you will. Refuse to give up. Keep trying. Encourage and support others. Take risks. Know you can. Have fun.

Writing: Don’t overthink this, either. Write every day. Write from the part of you that sits beyond the mind and the ego. Write from your creative energy. Writing is like driving through the desert at night with just your headlamps on – you can only see 4 feet ahead of you, but you’ll still get to where you need to go. Sometimes you find where you need to go just by starting the journey. Sometimes you realize what you wanted to say only after you are well into a piece. Sometimes what you want to say changes. Sometimes what you think you want for your life is different than what you actually want, and writing helps you realize that. Jump on the “train” of inspiration as soon as it hits and before it leaves, or it may never come back. It doesn’t have to make sense, as long as it is true. Don’t try – just make it honest and true, and be brave enough to talk about what hurts. Be vulnerable – because that is what connects us, and our writing to everyone else in the world.

 

How a Gratitude Practice Can Make You (and Your Brain) Happier

Develop A Gratitude Practice

Did you know that practicing gratitude is the most consistent, scientifically backed way to increase your happiness? In fact, there are 26 studies and counting that show the positive correlation between gratitude and happiness.

I started a regular gratitude practice a few years ago after a major breakup. Starting a gratitude practice has been the single most positive, life-changing practice I have ever developed.

A gratitude practice trains your brain to look for the good. As you train your mind to look for the bright parts of your day (no matter how bad the rest of it was), it starts to rewire itself to look for the positive events in your life.

The pre-frontal cortex determines what is important to you based on how much attention you pay to it. The more you pay attention to negativity, the more your brain will strengthen neural passageways and synapses that support negative thought. The more attention you pay to positivity, the more your brain will start to re-allocate energy to developing the neural circuits that support those types of thoughts.

Yes, you can actually train your brain to be happier. It’s much like building muscle at the gym and working out. Whatever muscle you work regularly becomes stronger. The grass is greener where you water it. With limited water, what types of thoughts would you like to feed?

Through a consistent gratitude practice, I watched myself grow into a positive, resilient person who truly considers myself to be my greatest asset. I have experienced more joy than I’ve ever been able to experience, and I can now easily find at least three things to be grateful for each day.  (On certain, more challenging days, one of the things I might be grateful for might be the fact that I did *not* spill coffee on my shirt on the way to work, but – you get the picture.)

So why wait? A gratitude practice is one of the absolute easiest things you can start doing to become happier, and you are scientifically guaranteed to reap huge rewards.

Here’s my challenge for you.

Each day, think of 3 things you were grateful for that day, and then 1 thing you are looking forward to in the next day.

It doesn’t matter how small the things you’re grateful for are – just find something. In fact, being able to experience joy from the little things in life and being happy with what you have are huge when it comes to happiness. (More on that in a later blog post.)

Want to share the love? Ask your friends what they’re grateful for. Better yet, check in with them weekly.

Their answers just might bring a smile to your face.