Hope is Always Available

Day 2 – Hope Is Always Available

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” – Desmond Tutu

In today’s meditation, we learn that hope is an intrinsic part of who you are, like the love and compassion in your heart. But to make this hope a real and powerful force in life, we need to activate it with self-awareness. Once genuine hope is ignited, it transforms your reality and eradicates fear and uncertainty.

OPRAH:

Welcome to Day 2, “Hope is Always Available.”  Anything can be a miracle, a blessing, an opportunity, if you choose to see it that way.  When you see life through a lens of hope, everything can change.  This can be a challenging concept of practice when you’re in the center of a storm.  I know this is true.  I’ve had a few storms myself.  But what looks like a dark patch or a setback can actually be a beautiful turning point.  Hard to see it when you’re in it.  Maya always used to say, “There’s always a rainbow in the clouds”.

As Michael Bernard Beckwith said on Super Soul Sunday, “I can choose to feel love even when there’s conflict.  What happens I activate my choice muscle, expand my awareness, my life changes.”  Choice muscle…that’s a good concept.

 

When we’re faced with a difficult situation we always have the choice of two reactions…hope or despair.  When you choose hope you open your mind and heart and very naturally you begin to imagine other possibilities.  Are you facing significant life change like getting out of a bad relationship or starting a new job or trying to lose the burden of weight?  Well often we feel chaos or resistance in those moments.  What I do know for sure is that resistance will try to take you down.  So we often put off life-decisions because we don’t take the leap.  Deepak says, “Go for it now.  Hope lives in this moment and every moment.  Don’t waste another second.”

DEEPAK:

We’ve started the journey to make hope real and lasting in our lives.  The first thing to know is that hope is a quality that exists in consciousness, like love or joy.  When a situation looks hopeless we are not seeing clearly.  On its own consciousness is always life-supporting.  Every cell in the body nourishes and supports itself through the wisdom that evolved in our DNA.  Your awareness is just as life-supporting.  But if we make choices that are self-defeating or that deny reality, the mind can lose hope.  The way to heal any situation is to activate hope.  This happens here and now because hope is always a part of our present awareness.  Otherwise hope is mere wishing, which is a dream of the past or future.  Stop and think about the things you hope for at work, in relationships or from yourself.  You will find there is a spectrum of hope that runs from a casual “I hope so” to “My hope is my rock.”  A conviction born of trust and belief in yourself.

Where does such a solid foundation come from?  Your core self.  When you connect with your true-self as we do in meditation, hope develops more strength.  Then “I hope” begins to change your personal reality.  It eradicates fear of uncertainty.  As an example, consider your approach to love.  You may be waiting for the one to magically appear.  An ideal beloved who will make everything right.  You may be in a relationship where love is taken for granted or where the most loving part was at the beginning.  You may feel not enough love.

These are mild forms of hopelessness.  On the other hand a hopeful relationship to love is active and self-directed.  Instead of waiting for the one to magically appear, YOU become the one.  Instead of seeking love, you live and give the love you want by what you say and do.  In both the hopeless and hopeful relationships to love a person hopes to be loved.  Yet only in the second case is this hope active, strong and life-supporting.  At its strongest hope creates the outcome you want in any situation.  It carries the full power of intention.

CENTERING THOUGHT

The power of hope is here every day.

SANSKRIT MANTRA

Samprati Hum

My true self is wide awake.

DEE:

Today hope is a strong part of who I am.  And that comes from faith in having a power greater than myself in my life, a god of my own understanding.  And that hope comes from self-awareness.  I didn’t have hope, faith, a god, nor self-awareness until I reached my bottom in my disease of alcoholism.  I just existed on the planet with no purpose, no direction and a huge void in my life.

I don’t believe it was a coincidence when I finally had the desperation to ask for help.  I couldn’t go a day, no matter how much, how long and how hard I tried, to get through a day without drinking.  And that is when my life changed and I became a sponge soaking up this new way of living.

For me a 28-day treatment program and Alcoholics Anonymous has shown me the way to Dee, to understand Dee, to accept and embrace Dee, to love Dee.  And the new Dee has hope because my god is here with and for me to guide and protect me on my journey through life.  And my purpose is to share that with you in your periods of self-doubt and self-loathing, or just in a state of confusion.  We all go there.  We all get over-whelmed.

I just want to share with you that everything is perfect at this very moment.  Stay here.  In the moment.  Love yourself for YOUR gifts.  You have many!  Don’t compare yourself to anyone.  They don’t have YOUR gifts.  And remember that you are perfect just the way you are, right here, right now, on your journey through life.  Keep going.  Enjoy the ride.  Love yourself.  And never forget that you are not on this ride alone.  There are many of us who want to share your journey, to give you hope and compassion.  Don’t deprive us of that.  Please.

Aloha, Dee

For those interested in inspirational and motivational gifts with a message, please visit my website at http://www.DeesignsByHarris.com.

From Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey’s 21-Day Meditation on HOPE.

Advertisements

Faith Connects Us Heart-to-Heart

FAITH CONNECTS US HEART-TO-HEART

(from Oprah and Deepak – Become What You Believe)

OPRAH:

I believe our greatest power is our ability to love.  That’s where all power is…to show love, to receive it, to BE love.  There are a lot of ways to describe love.  It’s grace and kindness; it’s understanding; it’s forgiveness; it’s respect; it’s cooperation; it’s harmony and reverence for light.  You have the entire power of all that is at your disposal.

Love is trusting and having faith in something larger than yourself.  Every opportunity you get move in the direction of love.  That’s where your greatest power lies.  It’s the power to connect us all in peace…heart-to-heart.

As my friend, Marianne Williamson said, “Love is what we’re born with, in our hearts.  Fear is what we learn.”  The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back in our hearts.  Love is the essential reality and our purpose being here on earth.  To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life.

Marianne goes on to articulate so beautifully the power of love when she says, “When our minds move in harmony with love, through forgiveness or prayer or the simplest tint of thought, then mountains move and the Universe shifts.”  When we believe in the power of love to move mountains to shift the Universe, miracles will no doubt occur.

DEEPAK:

The strongest imagined bond in the world is the bond of love.  A total transformation occurs when enemies are turned into loved ones.  In the World’s Wisdom Traditions love is deeply connected with spirit.  As the great Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote, “Love is the only reality and it is not a mere sentiment.  It is the ultimate truth that lies at the heart of creation.”

To find the heart of creation, you must explore your own heart.  Inside it are stores many experiences of love and non-love.  These two side are in conflict which is why many people find it difficult to place their faith in love.  They have had too many experiences of non-love.  Whether they were experiences of betrayal, rejection, fear or abandonment, trusting in love is hard when painful memories still linger.  That is why we restrict our search for love, in order to not be too exposed or vulnerable or put ourselves in harms way.  Matters of faith must be proven in real life.  This is certainly true of love when we go beyond the personal, expanding love to include more and more people.

The first step is to aspire and live as a loving person.  The second step is to look for situations where love can help.  The third step is to reach out and perform an act of love.

The ego is afraid to be exposed and vulnerable.  But this is a misperception.  An act of love doesn’t mean putting yourself on the line or saying “I love you” out loud.  It means performing an action that helps another person the way you would like to be helped.

Help can come even through a loving thought.  It can come through an act of generosity, an understanding word, or by simply asking, “Are you okay?”.  Your heart already knows what to do.  In fact when we extend ourselves, it is almost always from the fullness of the heart.  When you act out of love you expect nothing in return from the other person.  Love makes no one a victim or a martyr.  Love connects people from heart-to-heart with mutual benefit for both.

A mother finds it easy and natural to turn her love into action.  There is a connection of the heart that bonds mother and child.  Feeling vulnerable or exposed doesn’t come into the picture.  The bond of feeling is unbroken.  This is the idea to keep in mind in extending your love beyond your family and close friends.  Find a sympathy of the heart that feels right.  In this way you avoid stress and strain in the name of love.  A world based on the sympathy of one heart to another would be a perfect world.

CENTERING THOUGHT:  My faith calls me to love.

DEE:

When Oprah says, “Love is trusting and having faith in something larger than yourself”, my heart gets so grateful and full that today I have faith in something larger than myself.  This has changed my whole life, my outlook on life and, more importantly, this has changed ME.

I wasn’t given this life-changing gift until I reached my bottom in the disease of alcoholism, miraculously asked for help, and slowly scraped my way out of the depths of hell.  Prior to this surrender I knew my life was void of something but I couldn’t figure it out.  I had everything that every middle class American woman would want…a family, a home, two cars, a dog and a cat, a job, a loving family and friends.  What was missing?

A Power Greater Than Myself, a God of My Own Understanding, was awarded me by Alcoholics Anonymous.  Not only have I learned to turn my life over, I have learned to stop thinking and to live from my heart.  I have learned to let my god do the driving while I ride along in the passenger seat of our pink convertible Cadillac and enjoy the ride of life (the pink cloud).

When Marianne Williamson says, “Fear is what we learn”,  I thank my AA sponsor for walking me through the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous to teach me how fear-based I have been my entire life and how to let that go.  Being able to finally get comfortable in my own skin and to love myself for who and what I am is so empowering.  And to learn that my purpose is to share my experience, strength and hope with those who enter my bubble gives me a reason to excitedly arise every morning!

When Deepak says, “Matters of faith must be proven in real life.  This is certainly true of love when we go beyond the personal, expanding love to include more and more people,” I am honored to practice AA’s 12th Step, “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and practice these principles in all our affairs,” in my everyday “real” life.  When I continue to stay active in my recovery, then Step 12 is a no-brainer for me and I can actively accomplish Deepak’s three steps above.

I know for a fact that as I got and stayed sober “One Day at a Time”, I got “unsober’ that way as well.  When I ceased attending meetings, working with my sponsor, picking up the phone, connecting with the fellowship, that void came back into my life.  And, oh yeah, I picked up a drink after over 13 years of sobriety.  The disease immediately reared its ugly head and once again took over my life.  All I could think about once again was the next drink.  Cunning.  Baffling.  Powerful.  The disease of alcoholism.

So don’t go there.  Take it from me.  Learn from my experience, strength and hope.  Stay mindful.  Stay connected.

With much aloha, Dee

For those interested in inspirational gifts, art with a message, please visit my website at http://www.DeesignsByHarris.com.

LOVE YOURSELF

 4_bevhrtqts (gimp wht) copy

LOVE YOURSELF

by Dee Harris 

when you love yourself

   I’m remembering kindergarten, playing with confidence, having fun, no worries.  In elementary school I was still pretty confident, in charge, and appreciative of myself.  In junior high school things start to change.  

   It has nothing to do with the school, but with me and this time of my life.  Although I’ve always been learning about the world around, especially from the people who come into my Bubble, the teenage years seemed to be where I really started to be self-conscious.

   So somewhere I started to question myself, how I felt about myself.  I started to worry about what you thought of me because my hands were sweaty when we danced together.  You made fun of my flat nose because I was Chinese.  You looked at me in “that way” when I didn’t know the answer.  I started to live self-consciously in a fearful kind of way.

   This is where my fear could have been nipped in the bud, but it wasn’t the journey for which I was destined.  In retrospect, being affirmed and taught from the get-go that I am unique, beautiful and worthy human being with my differences, might have helped me overcome my fear, perhaps not.

   Fast-forward to 1998.  I look at myself in the bathroom mirror.  There’s an “L” placed over my forehead with my hand denoting “Loser”.  I have self-loathing and self-hatred.  I look like sh*t and I feel like sh*t.  I hate myself.  Why?  Because I know I will drink today and I will drink too much today.  And I will feel like sh*t again tomorrow.

   I have tried many ways to stop drinking, but none of them work.  I am not living under the bridge nor drinking from a brown paper bag.  I have a family, a home, two cars, a dog and a job.  I am college educated.  Yet I can’t go a day without a drink.

   Drinking helped me when I felt self-conscious.  Drinking helped me when I didn’t fit in.  Drinking helped me when I didn’t know the answer.  It took the edge off for a long while until one day…POOF!…I HAD to drink.  No if’s, and’s or but’s.  I was going to drink today because that’s all I could think about and drinking was my life.

   So in 1998 I am in an alcohol treatment program.  I learn that drinking, alcoholism, is a disease of mind and body.  It has nothing to do with self-will.  And from that day forward I learn to love myself for who and what I am.  What a beautiful thing to be on the upside of my journey, to look at the glass half-full, with hope and optimism for this beautiful time in my life.

   I know that I couldn’t have got to this magical place in my life on my own.  I would still be trying to scrape together enough self-will or willpower to not drink today.  I would be devising some other new plans to keep me from drinking today, or just drinking only one or two.  It wouldn’t work.  So the recovery program set me on my new, and clearly, right path.

   Having counselors and students in my program was the first time I realized there were others out there that battled with drinking.  And then going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, as was suggested, is where the real freedom began.  Working with a sponsor, surrounding myself with like-minded people who just wanted to be sober for the day, confirmed for me I do not have to do this alone.  And not only that, I wasn’t judged.  I was loved in the rooms of AA before I could love myself.

   So now I get to love myself, to glow from the inside out.  I get to attract people who love, respect, and appreciate my energy.  I am worthy and get to be comfortable in my own skin.

   Just know that if you are feeling like a “loser”, feeling worthless and will never be good enough, together we can get through this.  Don’t give up.  Put out your hand and let us love you until you can love yourself.

   Thank you for sharing your time with me.  I encourage feedback so please don’t feel yours isn’t deserving.  It IS!  One day at a time, one ripple at a time, we can be the best we can be and help others to do the same.  The rewards are massive!

   With warmest aloha, Dee Harris

   For those searching for affirmations and inspirational messages, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH YOUR DISAPPOINTMENT? 

When certain blogs touch me I share them with you, with a few short paragraphs from me about how it pertains to my life in recovery…Dee Harris

Dee:  This blog was inspired by “How Do You Deal with Your Disappointment?”

by Aishwarya Shah. 

1_enjoyjourneymos (dbh)

INSPIRATION 

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH YOUR DISAPPOINTMENT? 

JANUARY 7, 2019 BY AISHWARYA SHAH 

Don’t let today’s disappointments cast a shadow on tomorrow’s dreams. 

Though some do get more than their share of disappointments, I believe that we have the inner strength to deal with whatever life doles out. It is not the amount of grief or disappointment that comes one’s way, but the manner of dealing with it that shapes a person’s character. And, moreover, I think, those who can take the good and bad, success and failure, victory and disappointment with the same equanimity are the ones who pass the test of life. It is your response to setbacks that set the blueprint for how life treats you for rest of the journey. 

When disappointed with something or someone, how do you react? Do you get angry or depressed? Do you sulk or start a blame game? Or do you withdraw into yourself, discouraged and defeated, to lick your wounds in self-pity? 

Disappointments are inevitable for everyone. Expectations cannot always be met to our satisfaction, nor can all dreams be fulfilled. This is the hard truth of life. People will not always act as we wish them to, nor relationships proceed in the manner we plan. Parents won’t always approve what you have set your heart on; lovers won’t always dole out ardour and compliments; children won’t always aim to please, nor if we allow it to, disappointment could lead to sadness, grumpiness, disillusionment, discouragement or helpless anger. We often tend to vent our spleen on those closest to us, which of course leads to further issues. Most of the caustic, anti-social people we come across, those whom we label ‘frustrated souls’, have been repeatedly disappointed in life and not dealt with it right. Some even develop sour facial features, so deep is the surliness etched into their souls! Surely you do not wish to end up in that category? 

Dee:

I love being an alcoholic in recovery, the “grateful alcoholic” that folks would call themselves that made me cringe in bewilderment.  Today I AM that “grateful alcoholic.

A 28-day treatment program for alcoholism and, more importantly, Alcoholics Anonymous has taught me so much to make a better, lighter, freer life for myself.  Many slogans on the walls of our meeting places and a toolbox for living in the 12 Steps and the Big Book all started to make sense as I trudged the road to happy destiny.

One very important slogan or quote I learned in AA that I carry with me always is “No Expectations.  No disappointments.”  You see, I learned that I have no control over people, places, or things.  I was given the opportunity to “make up” a Power Greater Than Myself over which I could turn my will and my life.  

Today I can trust that this Higher Power has my back and has the control.  And with faith that everything is perfect at this very moment I have no disappointments, just journeys toward learning and growth on a path to make me the best me I can be.

The first step towards dealing with disappointments with maturity is to set realistic expectations. Even while doing so, keep room for disappointment. Do not get into anything expecting disappointment of course—that would be a sure recipe for disaster! But do keep Plan B ready. If your plans or expectations are thwarted, allow yourself time for disappointment; there is nothing wrong in feeling disappointed or disillusioned. Wallow in the emotion for a bit; understand what you are experiencing and what the loss means to you. Just know you have to snap out of it soon and in time you will get over it – whatever it is. 

Dee:

So if your plans or expectations are thwarted, embrace those those incidents..  Thank them for coming.  And then let them go…even blow them a kiss good bye as you send them up to the clouds.  And then move on, knowing that everything happens for a reason, perfectly, and the best is yet to come.  A Power Greater Than Ourselves has plans for us that we can’t even create in our wildest dreams!

This also gives you time and the opportunity to assess the situation and your position. I have spoken about this in my last post on The Uplifting Power Of Perspective, that, Getting a perspective is important. How big will the impact of this disappointment be in your life? How can you minimize the damage? Do you see a silver lining and can you try and make the most of it? 

Dee:

I always try to look at the glass half-full.  Living optimistically helps turn any negative situation into a positive one and always helps get me out of my ego and back in touch with who’s running the show, my Higher Power.  Taking moments throughout our hectic days to recenter is so important to our mental health and emotional well-being.  Remembering that we are NOT in control of people, places, or things is crucial.  Trust and faith helps heaps, too!

So turn it over.  Trust.  Learn.  Know that these situations are uncomfortable and try doing something differently in the future when similar situations arise.  That’s what it’s all about.  Learning.  Growing.  And then sharing with others compassionately and lovingly who are going through similar situations.

Once you accept the situation, it is easier to move away, take an objective view and plan future action. Maybe you can be allowed another chance – assess if you would like to take it or pass it up for something else. Or maybe all doors are firmly closed and you need to look towards something else. That is ok too. Life offers so many options – and gives you several chances to make good your mistakes or disappointments. Take those chances. 

While you have life and health and a positive outlook, you can always move on towards other, different victories. The key is in not letting yourself be dejected, to accept and objectively assess before moving on… 

The size of your success for anything is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way. 

Dee:

Thank you for reading and allowing me to share my experience, strength and hope with you.  So how can we deal with disappointments?  By remembering “No Expectations.  No disappointments.”  Ta Da!!!  Go with the flow, that which life offers you, and know that everything is happening for a reason, perfectly!  It starts to make sense that all situations are sent our way to help us to be the best we can be!  Enjoy the journey…

With warmest aloha, Dee Harris

For those interested in inspirational quotes to get you through your hectic days, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

ECLIPSED WORDS BY AISHWARYA SHAH | JANUARY’2019 | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 

I AM: THE POWER OF POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS

When certain blogs touch me I share them with you, with a few short paragraphs from me about how it pertains to my life in recovery…Dee Harris

Dee:  This blog was inspired by “I Am:  The Power of Positive Affirmations”                      by Aishwarya Shah. 

27_hrtmorn (dbh)

AFFIRMATIONS AND REMINDERS 

I AM: THE POWER OF POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS

NOVEMBER 5, 2018 BY AISHWARYA SHAH 

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. – Buddha 

Let me teach you. 

(Yes. exactly. I will practically teach you through words here, how to use positive affirmations to your benefit. but don’t get me wrong. as Jim Carrey says – affirmations and the law of attraction is just that…you can’t say them or write them down somewhere and go and eat a sandwich and expect the universe to work in your favor miraculously. The work and effort to put into them are just as much important as the oxygen is to your lungs.) 

As you all know I’m a huge believer of affirmations and practicing meditation. 

Today’s topic has been covered by motivational speakers and has become popular over the years. I believe we are currently in a spiritual revolution where increasingly more people are practicing meditation and relaxation. In other words, Eastern medicine is becoming more popular through mainstream media, as we see more of it on television. However, people still don’t know what is meant by the phrase “positive affirmations.” 

Growing up, I for sure know, Indian (and mostly Eastern) parents teach their kids all about the importance of meditation, mantras, and affirmations. 

If you’ve been taught or know about this or believe in this topic, high five! 

The science behind positive affirmations. 

If you think affirmations is solely a spiritual thought or connotation, you’re wrong. The power of positive affirmations has been proved by science as well. 

A research summary in The Indian Journal of Psychiatry addresses the power of positive affirmations, noting specifically that neurotransmitters are affected by affirmations. The brain uses neurotransmitters to communicate information continuously, and affirmations seem to set positive pathways for these brain travelers. 

The research indicates that beliefs are not only thoughts we hold but are actual brain mechanisms mixed with emotions. The input our brain takes in from the environment goes through a filtering process as it all travels across one or more synapses. Eventually, information reaches an area of higher processing, such as the frontal lobes. This is what we think of as conscious awareness. However, the portion of our sensory information reaches these higher levels is to some degree determined by our beliefs. Essentially, we can create a more positive belief system by inputting more positive thoughts. 

A later study, published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, was able to capture the effect of affirmations using an MRI. Participants who gave positive self-affirmations showed increased activity in various parts of the prefrontal cortex and other areas of the brain. Moreover, participants with greater stimulation in those sections of the brain – which control processing and valuation – exhibited less sedentary behavior afterward than participants who did not provide positive self-affirmations. This research indicates that future behavior, as well as thoughts, can be improved by positive affirmations. 

It’s empowering to realize that even when we feel stuck in our emotions, there is a biochemical potential for positive change and growth. When we repeat a positive intention, we become open to pieces of sensory information that we’d previously been blocking with a negative belief. This becomes a self-reinforcing pattern of thought, belief, behavior. But with positive affirmations, science shows we can change those patterns. 

Dee:

“Loser!”  “You’re a worthless piece of sh*t that is just a waste of space on this planet!”  “You can’t even go one day without drinking!”  “What’s wrong with you?”  That is how I used to talk to myself.  Pretty pitiful, huh?

I, too, am a true believer in positive affirmations and how I have to respect my prefrontal cortex.  When I found myself in a 28-day alcohol recovery treatment center I never thought of positive affirmations nor any part of my brain.  All I knew was that I couldn’t stop drinking no matter how hard nor how many ways I tried.  I knew I wasn’t stupid.  I knew I wasn’t a victim.  I just couldn’t stop.

Today I know that I have the disease of alcoholism and when I put a drink into my body my brain, my prefrontal cortex, which is different than “normal” drinkers, called out for more.  And that’s all I could think about.  That’s all I lived for.  I couldn’t satisfy the craving; I could’t shut my head off.

What Are Positive Affirmations? 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the benefits of positive affirmations, I’d like to explain a little about them. 

An affirmations is really anything you say or think. A lot of what we normally say and think is quite negative and doesn’t create good experiences for us. We have to retrain our thinking and speaking into positive patterns if we want to change our lives. 

An affirmations opens the door. It’s a beginning point on the path to change. In essence, you’re saying to your subconscious mind: “I am taking responsibility. I am aware that there is something I can do to change.” When I talk about doing affirmations, I mean consciously choosing words that will either help eliminate something from your life or help create something new in your life. 

Every thought you think and every word you speak is an affirmations. All of our self-talk, our internal dialogue, is a stream of affirmations. You’re using affirmations every moment whether you know it or not. You’re arming and creating your life experiences with every word and thought. 

Your beliefs are merely habitual thinking patterns that you learned as a child. Many of them work very well for you. Other beliefs may be limiting your ability to create the very things you say you want. What you want and what you believe you deserve may be very different. You need to pay attention to your thoughts so that you can begin to eliminate the ones creating experiences you do not want in your life. 

Please realize that every complaint is an affirmations of something you think you don’t want in your life. Every time you get angry, you’re arming that you want more anger in your life. Every time you feel like a victim, you’re arming that you want to continue to feel like a victim. If you feel that Life isn’t giving you what you want in your world, then it’s certain that you will never have the goodies that Life gives to others – that is, until you change the way you think and talk. 

You’re not a bad person for thinking the way you do. You’ve just never learned how to think and talk (about positive affirmations). People throughout the world are just now beginning to learn that our thoughts create our experiences. 

Each time you repeat this statement, you’re rearming the seeds you’ve planted in the atmosphere of your mind. That’s why you want it to be a happy atmosphere. Things grow more quickly in rich, fertile soil. 

When you change your thinking process, then everything in your life will also change. You’ll be amazed and delighted to see how people, places, things, and circumstances can change. Don’t waste time arguing for your limitations: poor relationships, problems, illness, poverty and so on. The more you talk about the problem, the more you anchor it in place. 

Learn to turn your negative affirmations into positive ones. For instance: “I never have enough money” becomes “Money flows into my life in an abundant way.” 

Affirmations are solutions that will replace whatever problem you might have. Whenever you have a problem, repeat over and over: 

“All is well. Everything is working out for my highest good. Out of this situation only good will come. I am safe.” 

This simple affirmation will work miracles in your life! 

Dee:

One thing we did every morning in rehab was repeat an affirmation of our choice, everyday, out loud to the group.  Being I’m an alcoholic and more is better, I chose two affirmations, “I am a good person,” and “I am a whole person.”

It seemed like forever since I had felt good or whole (if I ever even did or thought about it), but repeating those two affirmations for 28 days straight started to sink into not only my brain, but the very core of my being.  And to this day I repeat those affirmations daily.  It works! because today I AM a good person and I AM a whole person.  

It just took one day at a time to quit the negative self-talk, work the 12 Steps of AA with a trusted sponsor, do the footwork that was suggested by the fellowship and eventually I learned to love myself for who and what I am.  Simple affirmations will work miracles in your life!  I am living proof!

How to Repeat Affirmations? Choose Affirmations that are not too long. 

Repeat them every time your mind is not engaged in something important, such as while traveling in a bus or a train, waiting in line, walking, etc., but do not arm while driving or crossing a street. You may also repeat them in special sessions of 5-10 minutes each, several times a day. 

Be as relaxed as you can. 

Pay full attention to the words you are repeating. 

Stronger faith in what you are saying, and more desire and feelings bring faster results. 

Preferably, choose positive words with no negative connotations. If you want to lose weight, don’t use words such as, “I am not fat”, or “I am losing weight.” These are negative statements, bringing into the mind mental images of what you do not want. Repeat instead, “I am getting slim”, or “I have my ideal weight”. Such words build positive images in your mind. 

Arm, using the present tense, not the future tense. Saying, “I will be rich”, means that you intend to be rich one day, in the indefinite future, but not now. It is more effective to say, and also feel, “I am rich now”, and the subconscious mind will work at overtime to make this happen now, in the present. 

By stating what you want to be true in your life, you mentally and emotionally see and feel it as true, irrespective of your current circumstances, and thereby attract it into your life. 

However, saying affirmations is only part of the process. What you do the rest of the day and night is even more important. The secret to having your affirmations work quickly and consistently is to prepare an atmosphere for them to grow in. Affirmations are like seeds planted in soil. Poor soil, poor growth. Rich soil, abundant growth. The more you choose to think thoughts that make you feel good, the quicker the affirmations work. 

So think happy thoughts, it’s that simple. And it is doable. The way you choose to think, right now, is just that-a choice. You may not realize it because you’ve thought this way for so long, but it really is a choice. Now . . . today . . . this moment . . . you can choose to change your thinking. Your life won’t turn around overnight, but if you’re consistent and make the choice on a daily basis to think thoughts that make you feel good, you’ll definitely make positive changes in every area of your life. 

Here Is A List Of Positive Affirmations (maybe it’ll help you or get you started)

 – I am healthy and happy.
– Wealth is pouring into my life.
– I am sailing on the river of health.                                                                                                 – I am getting happier each day.
– My body is healthy and functioning in a very good way.
– I have a lot of energy.
– I study and comprehend fast.
– My mind is calm.
– I am calm and relaxed in every situation.
– My thoughts are under my control.
– I radiate love and happiness.
– I am surrounded by love.
– I have the perfect job for me.
– I have good and loving relations with my wife/husband/(or any person/people close to you)     – I have a wonderful and satisfying business/job.
– I have the means to travel abroad, whenever I want to.
– I am successful in whatever I do.
– Everything is getting better every day. (this one is my personal favorite) 

Dee:

Not only have I learned to let go of negative self-talk, I have learned to trust that everything that happens in my life (no matter how negative I “think” it is), is happening for a positive reason, in a perfect way, to help me to learn and be a better and stronger human being.  If I can stay positive and optimistic I attract more positive and optimistic occurrences into my life.  If I think negatively, that is what I shall attract.  I choose positive today.

What has helped me in this process is having been given the opportunity to make up a Higher Power of My Own Understanding over which I can turn my will and my life.  So with my ego being out of the picture I can now go with the flow and trust that everything in my life, including myself, is being nurtured and protected. 

This peeling away of the onion skin didn’t happen overnight.  But one day at a time, with clarity, I started to think less and feel more.  I was experiencing wonderful things happening in my life which didn’t come from me.  I felt lighter and freer and happier and content.

So slowly rid yourself of the negative self-talk and all other negativity in your life.  Learn to love yourself for the unique gift that you are; there’s no one else on this planet like you.  Share your gifts.  Use affirmations.  They work!

Thank you for being here.  With warmest aloha, Dee Harris

For those interested in affirmations, I have created many inspirational quotes and affirmations on mosaics that can help you through any trying day or time in your life.  Please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

by ECLIPSED WORDS BY AISHWARYA SHAH, ASPIRE TO INSPIRE TM 

Regrets of the Dying 

Dee:  This blog was inspired by “Five Regrets of the Dying” by Bronnie Ware.  

23_OvalORN (DbH)

Regrets of the Dying 

by Bronnie Ware 

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. 

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them. 

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five: 

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. 

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it. 

Dee:

I am blessed to have not been told I have “x” amount of time to live.  But I try to live as if I have.  I do try to live in the moment striving to have no regrets.  If this were my last day on the planet, I know I have done my best and I cannot think of any unresolved issues nor regrets that need tending to.

Ok, I could update my will and trust, but it actually is “good enough” as they are written.  I could clean up my paper trail, making sure that passwords and accounts are readily available for my loved ones.  I could get rid of a lot of my shit so that my family doesn’t have to encounter the mountains of possessions I’ve accumulated.

But this is more than that.  This is about being true to yourself.  This I did not learn until crawling out of the depths of my addictions.  And when I was given the opportunity for a new life, I ran with it.  This gift was given me by Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 Steps are my toolbox for living a sensible and meaningful life today.

So living a life true to myself is a fabulous blessing.  By working the Steps with a trusted sponsor I found how fear-based I was living.  I was trying to live the life I thought others expected of me.  I was more concerned about getting your approval than my own self-worth and self-love as I wasn’t aware of what that was.

As I peeled away the layers of the onion skin eventually revealing the real me and learned to accept and love the real me, everything changed.  Everything got easier, lighter, freer.  I found happiness and contentment.  I found purpose.  I found compassion and empathy.  I found ME!

Yes, I still do for you today but not because I need your approval to validate myself.  I do it because I want to and it gives my heart joy.  And today I get to be the person I was meant to be, allowing the inner child to play and run free.  I get to be the responsible me, making sure commitments are being fulfilled and doing my best to help others and the planet.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard. 

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence. 

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle. 

Dee:

For as long as I can remember I heard and learned how important it is to have more, and to do whatever it takes to get more.  So if that means sacrificing relationships, so be it.  If that means no date nights with your mate, oh well.  If that means missing your kids’ special events, there will be others.  If that means putting yourself at the bottom of the list, someday you will take care of yourself.

Does more money, more power, more stuff, serve us?  Hell, no.  We learn as we age that less is better, not more.  Finding peace and contentment with the simplest of needs frees us to enjoy what is really important…life itself and the relationships we were meant to have with each other and this wonderful planet on which we live.  So not being a slave to expensive, non-meaningful possessions is what we should be striving toward.  Basic needs, yes.  Comparing yourself to the Joneses, no.  Feel comfortable enough in your own skin to know, feel, what is best for you.  And if/when you can, find work that you’re passionate about…that fills your soul!

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.                                                            

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result. 

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win. 

Dee:

Again, being true to yourself, loving yourself, valuing yourself, is key here.  That is where we need to start.  And, again, for me that came from staying active in a very strong support group of AA and using the tools they so freely offered.

There are many places to find support…your church, your doctor, your friends, your family (please, not your bartender), and a wealth of support groups to fit your needs.  Use them.  You never have to be alone to struggle through life.  They can teach you how to kindly express your feelings, stop walking on egg shells, be true to yourself.  

I learned that living from my heart and not my head (which rationalized any- and everything detrimental to my greatest good), was the way to go for me.  I learned that trusting in a Higher Power of My Own Understanding and turning my will and life over to the care of that Power Greater Than Myself, was freeing and took the burdens of life off my shoulders.  I learned that I have no control over people, places, or things, so go with the flow and just take care of my side of the street (so to say).

Getting rid of negative thoughts and feelings (resentments) is crucial to this process.  And learning how your part (if any) in these situations blew them out of proportion is vital to their resolve.  Fear-based?  Ego?  Selfishness?  Let it go.  It doesn’t serve you.  Be true to yourself and love yourself for who and what you are.  Be comfortable in your own skin.  And then you can comfortably speak your mind with grace and love.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. 

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying. 

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships. 

Dee:

Although I am not an avid supporter of social media, it has made keeping in touch much easier.  I have found long-lost friends on the internet.  Today we have relationships more priceless than we had when the memories that were conjured up in my brain even occurred.

When thoughts of long-lost friends arise, follow through on them.  There are no coincidences.  These thoughts arise for a reason.  Honor them.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. 

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again. 

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying. 

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness. 

Dee:

Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  Release your inner child.  That beautiful, uninhibited YOU that you were meant to be.  Laugh.  Be silly.  Have fun.  Don’t worry about what others will think about you because “they” usually don’t give a shit anyhow.  They are too wrapped up in their own lives and egos to care.  Let them be on their own journeys.  Love them.  Accept them.  But don’t seek their approval.  Seek your own!  Be happy, joyous and free! and live a life that serves YOU as if today were the last day of your life!

Thank you all for reading and being part of my story.  With warmest aloha and best wishes for a wonderful New Year and New Life, Dee Harris

I use affirmations to keep me on track when the busyness of life takes me away from the moment in front of my nose.  They help recenter me.  If you’re interested in inspiring, even funny, affirmations, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

Note: This excellent article is mirrored from the original posted at Bronnie Ware’s website. “Based on this article, Bronnie has now released a full length book titled The Top Five Regrets of the Dying – A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing. It is a memoir of her own life and how it was transformed through the regrets of the dying people she cared for. This inspiring book is available internationally through Hay House.” 

Copyright Bronnie Ware. 

http://www.hospicepatients.org/five-regrets-of-the-dying-bronnie-ware.html 

3 Meditations to Get You in the Holiday Spirit

Dee:  This blog was inspired by the Chopra Center’s                                                                 “3 Meditations to Get You in the Holiday Spirit” 

4_BreatheMOS (wht) DbH copy

3 Meditations to Get You in the Holiday Spirit 

By Melissa Eisler

The holidays are upon us again—a busy time of year filled with visiting with friends and family, shopping for gifts, and preparing special meals to enjoy with loved ones. 

The holiday season is meant to be a happy time; it conjures up images of cozying up by the fireplace, baking ginger bread cookies, giving to and helping those in need, and stepping away from the day-to-day grind to focus on family and loved ones. But it can also come with a lot of stress—worrying over extra expenses, navigating unpredictable family drama, and burning out from a jam-packed schedule. With all the hustle and bustle this time of year brings, it can be easy to get caught up in this stress and lose focus on the essence of what the holidays represent: feeling and sharing joy, kindness, and gratitude for all that you have in your life. 

Dee:

Ew.  The image just conjured up in my mind is one of incomprehensible demoralization.  Thank God I’m not that person today and I have a support group and a toolbox for living to keep me from going back there.

The image conjured up cozying up by the fireplace is one Christmas Eve years ago, opening gifts with family after a wonderful lobster dinner.  I think.  You see, I am an alcoholic.  Today a grateful alcoholic in recovery.  But then I was active in my disease.

Coming home after a full day at work (being a checker at a grocery store on Christmas Eve is no easy feat in itself), I made a lobster thermidor dinner for my family, which included my mom and step-dad who were visiting.  I must of had too many glasses of wine (which was a daily occurrence) because the rest is very fuzzy.

I wake up in bed on Christmas morning (or “come to” which was also a daily occurrence) not remembering if we had opened our gifts.  This Christmas I asked my boys to pick out one gift they would like to open on Christmas Eve.  They chose.  Then we opened them all except for that special gift we would save for Christmas Day.  I think.  I don’t remember.

When I “fished” for clues from my mom on Christmas Day what happened on Christmas Eve, she said she knew I was tired after a long day at work and making dinner.  Apparently I fell asleep by the wood stove (but really I passed out).  Shit.  I hate this story.  I hate my life.  I hate myself.

I am not going to say that the holidays were too stressful or that I did not meditate.  My story is that I am an alcoholic and one drink for me is too many because I will not stop until I pass out, kill you and your family on the road, and end up in an institution.

Meditation is a great way to help you refocus on what matters most this holiday season. You can’t control other people or events, but you can use meditation to help you navigate through the overwhelming feelings. Try practicing the following meditations to cultivate joy, kindness, and gratitude for 10 to 15 minutes each day from now through to the end of the year. 

Dee:

Since then I have gone to a recovery center, become an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous, and have learned a new way to live in sobriety.  Now I love my story, my past, because without the feeling of incomprehensible demoralization I would not feel the freedom and happiness I feel at this moment.

And I have learned that I am a gift and how to love myself in the moment with the many wretched stories in my past.  That was me then.  I am me now.  And tomorrow doesn’t exist.  And I practice meditation and I get quiet and know that there is a Power Greater Than Myself who is in control, driving my car, taking me on the ride of my life, introducing me to exciting new adventures and people, while I soak it all up in the passenger seat.  This gives me contentment and joy knowing all is perfect at this moment, that I don’t have to be in control, that I don’t have to think anymore and can live from my heart, knowing, trusting, that I am protected and guided by a Higher Power.

A Meditation for Cultivating Joy 

The stress this time of year can sometimes leave you feeling exhausted, often zapping the joy that the holidays are supposed to bring. Meditating not only helps you be more joyful and present, but it can also help you spread joy to those around you. And spreading joy, lifting others, and being jolly are central to the holiday spirit! Try these simple steps to cultivate that joyful, jolly feeling: 

•Find a quiet area—this can be in a room in your house, an area in your garden, or next to the fireplace when everyone else has gone to sleep.                                                                                        
•Sit in an upright position. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose, and exhale through your mouth.                                                                                                •Continue with five deeps breaths. Pay attention to how you are feeling, finding any discomfort or pain points and adjusting yourself to be more comfortable.
•Continue to breathe, focusing on the feeling of your chest rising and falling.
•Now, turn your attention to your thoughts. Your mind may be racing with your holiday to-do list; if so, visualize yourself crossing the items off and feeling accomplished. Know that you are taking this time for yourself, so that you can have the energy to tackle that list joyfully.                                                                                   •Now that you are clearing your mind and making room for joy, think of a holiday memory from your past when you felt deep joy. This could be a joyful holiday moment from your youth or from a recent memory. Focus on the details of that moment as you attempt to relive it in your mind, like you were watching a movie of that memory.                                                                •As you bring that moment to the center of your consciousness, pay attention to the joyful emotions and sensations that you felt, the smells that you experienced (ginger bread and peppermint, perhaps?), and the rich tastes of the season. Stay with the memory for a while.
Next, think of a way to recreate those feelings in your life today, perhaps with different people, a different location, and a different activity, but working to cultivate the same mood of joy for yourself and those you would like to share those feelings with.                                                                                                                                       •Release that visual and take 10 deep breaths, inhaling to fill yourself with the holiday spirit of joy, and exhaling to send joy out into the world.
•When you’re finished, sit quietly for a few moments before gently opening your eyes. 

Practice this meditation daily, focusing on cultivating and spreading joy. With repetition, you’ll be able to tap into those feelings more readily, even when faced with the stress of the season. 

A Meditation for Cultivating Kindness 

The holidays are a great time to give back and spread kindness to your loved ones, strangers, and even to those who you are not on good terms with. Kindness is about extending grace, compassion, and love to others, and you can use meditation to improve your capacity for empathy and compassion. Try these simple steps, a derivative of the Loving-Kindness Meditation: 

Before you start this mediation, set a timer for between 5 and 20 minutes and think of a few phrases that invoke kindness and compassion toward others. String three or four short phrases together. Write them down if it helps you memorize them. If you can’t think of any, try these: 

“May you be at peace.” “May you be healthy.” “May you feel free.” “May joy fill your life.” 

•As before, find yourself in a comfortable area where you can focus on your meditation without distractions. Sit in a comfortable position and start to take five deep breaths. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, while tuning in to any discomfort in your body and adjusting as needed.                                                                                                            •Continue your rhythmic breathing and pick someone (or yourself!) or a group of people that you will channel loving-kindness to (for example, your family, your neighbors, your community, your country, or refugees across the world that you read about in the news).
•With this person or people clear in your mind, repeat your loving-kindness phrases silently for the duration of your meditation:                                                                                                “May you be at peace.” “May you be healthy.” “May you feel free.” “May joy fill your life.”                                                                                                                                          •When your timer goes off, sit quietly for a few moments, smiling at the kindness you have sent to others, and gently open your eyes. 

Try practicing this meditation when you wake up and before you go to bed, so that you start and end your day with loving-kindness. You can change the beneficiary of your meditation each time you do it if you’d like. It will help you practice kindness to everyone on this planet during this holiday season. 

A Meditation for Cultivating Gratitude 

Being grateful is something you can practice year-round, but the holidays are often a time to be especially reflective on your life. This meditation will help you think about what you are grateful for and how to express that appreciation. Try these simple steps to develop a gratitude mindset: 

•Find a comfortable, quiet location to begin your practice. For this one, find a sunny spot on your patio, take a seat next to warm fireplace, or curl up in a warm blanket on a cold winter day.
•Sit up straight, adjusting your posture as necessary to ease any pain points.
•Start by taking a series of deep breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Lightly close your eyes and continue a rhythmic breathing pattern.                                                           •If you are sitting outside on a sunny day or next to the fireplace, notice how the warmth embraces you and melts the cool winter chill. Breathe and enjoy the sensation of warmth flowing through your body.
•Start to reflect on the gifts that life has given you today. What can you be grateful for today, in this very moment? You can choose something specific that happened today or even the simple fact that you are alive and breathing and practicing the gift of meditation.                                                                                                                               •Bring to mind all the potential comforts that you have in your life, for example:                 

Access to water and food                                                                                                        Clothes
Electricity
Home                                                                                                                                      

Friends, family, and pets 

Technology
                                                                                                                                                        One by one, think of all the special people or animals that are a part of your life, both directly and indirectly: 

Family
Friends
Pets
Coworkers
Mentor
The farmer who grew your food
The officer who keeps your neighborhood safe
The engineer who constructed the school your kids go to 

Now, think about something in your life that you are grateful for that was new in the last year.
Now, think of one talent or skill that you possess that you’re grateful for.
Now, think of one thing that you are really looking forward to in the future.
Now, think about something that makes you smile or laugh, and observe the emotions that flow through your body. 

•Release the gratitude images, take a few deep breaths, and finish by taking inventory of how you are feeling. Without judgment, simply observe. 

When you are finished, you can gently open your eyes and bring the feelings of gratitude with you into the rest of your day. 

When you practice these three meditations, you are actively working to cultivate feelings of joy, kindness, and gratitude this holiday season, benefitting your well-being as well as those around you. What better way to get into the holiday spirit, and in turn, make it contagious! 

Dee:

I have GOT TO do this!  I have GOT TO add “self” to my list of to-do’s.  I randomly, fleetingly, have thoughts of how grateful I am, how compassionate I am for those who have less.  But if I set that timer for 5-20 minutes for ME and make that time for getting centered, getting humble, and getting back focused and in the moment, I know in my heart that the day will unfold more smoothly and effortlessly than had I not.

I shall start today, right now, by adding in my list of daily activities in my phone: 5 MINUTES OF MEDITATION.  When I turn off that damned alarm and get quiet, take those deep breaths, I might just adjust that timer for 20 minutes.  

Then I’ll get to finish decorating the house, finish writing the Christmas cards, finish the orders that need to be finished before Christmas, eat some lunch, take a shower, get ready for tonight’s guests…

Thank you for taking time for yourself and knowing we are all crazy and stressed this time of year.  Just breathe…  Wishing you Mele Kalikimaka with warmest Aloha, Dee Harris

For those interested in Art with a Message of Self-Care, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

About the Author 

Melissa Eisler (/bios/melissa-eisler)
Certified Leadership & Career Coach, Yoga & Meditation Instructor, Author 

Melissa is the Senior Content Strategist at the Chopra Center. Also an ICF Certified Leadership and Career Coach (ACC) and certified meditation and yoga instructor, she is passionate about motivating people to live a healthy, balanced, and purposeful life. You can learn more about Melissa’s coaching practice at MelissaEisler.com (https://melissaeisler.com/). Melissa is also the author of The Type A’s Guide to Mindfulness: Meditation for Busy Minds and Busy People (http://amzn.to/1J1dYvz), a practical guide for new meditators in the modern world, and the creator of mindfulminutes.com (http://mindfulminutes.com/), a… Read more (/bios/melissa-eisler) 

The Chopra Center

The Impact of Holiday Stress on the Mind and Body

Dee:  This blog was inspired by the Chopra Center’s “The Impact of Holiday Stress on the Mind and Body” 

Screen Shot 2018-12-15 at 9.56.27 AM

The Impact of Holiday Stress on the Mind and Body 

By JenniferWeinberg

‘Tis the season for joyful gatherings with family, remembering your blessings, and celebrations. But it can also be a season full of expectations and stress as you scramble to deck the halls, bake endless batches of cookies, and pick out the perfect presents. Even festive demands create stress on the mind and body; understanding the way that your body copes with stress can help you employ strategies to enjoy all that the holidays offer without suffering the consequences of unneeded holiday stress. 

The holidays bring many stressors, including a lack of time to fit in all the holiday parties, the pressure and financial burdens of picking out the perfect presents, the tensions of long-standing family dynamics, and the temptation to indulge in different foods—on top of your usual workload and obligations. It is no coincidence that you always come down with the annual cold or flu during or just after the winter holidays, or that your pants seem to shrink in January. 

How Your Body Handles Stress 

Stress refers to any type of perceived or real demand or threat—positive or negative. It is the way that your body reacts to and responds to demands that can have short- or long-term effects on your mind and body health due to the powerful mind-body connection. 

Dee:

Great to know that stress can be positive as well as negative.  I’ve always perceived stress as negative.  I try to always look at the glass half full and turn every negative into a positive, but stress wasn’t a word that held a positive image for me.  I shall look at stress differently as of today!

Emotions such as anxiety or fear can trigger physiological changes in your body involving a cascade of stress hormones (like cortisol and epinephrine) as you attempt to maintain balance and ensure survival. This stress response involves neurological pathways and biochemical reactions throughout the body that you may recognize as a pounding heart, rapid breathing, muscle tension, sweating, and/or digestive upset. This is why major life events like holiday traditions, stressors like coping with family gatherings, or emotions like those that arise around giving and receiving gifts may trigger physical symptoms. 

This combination of reactions to stress is also known as the fight-or-flight response since it evolved as an adaptive coping and survival mechanism, enabling you to react quickly to life-threatening situations. Unfortunately, in modern life multitasking, juggling too many things, lacking true meaningful connections, and bombardment with constant stimulation are a regular part of life, especially during the holiday season, making stress incessant in many people’s lives. 

Over time, your body can also overreact to stressors that are not life-threatening, such as family difficulties, packed shopping malls, or the awkward office gift exchange. These types of chronic ongoing stressors can contribute to inflammation, irritability, anxiety, and chronic disease. 

Holiday Stress and Metabolic Imbalances 

The stress of the holidays can be a major contributor to weight gain and metabolic imbalances. 

Cortisol is one of the hormones that your body releases in response to stress, helping to provide enough energy to cope with threats and challenges. During the stress response, blood sugar levels rise in an effort to enable fighting or fleeing from a threat, after which insulin is released to bring the blood sugar levels back into a normal range. 

Insulin plays a key role in regulating the amount of glucose being taken from the bloodstream into the cells, but when this cycle is chronically and repeatedly activated due to stress, the signaling process can become impaired, and your cells can become resistant to insulin, which has far-reaching consequences. Some common metabolic consequences of stress and imbalanced cortisol levels are insulin resistance, blood sugar imbalances, and weight gain, especially in the belly area. 

The threat of holiday weight gain is increased further when you are tempted with so many holiday treats and foods that may not normally be part of your lifestyle. Emotional eating, or turning to food to cope with the extra stress of the season, is often exacerbated during this busy time of the year. 

A busy holiday season is not necessarily a bad thing, but there are some steps you can take to cope with holiday expectations and obligations to minimize undue stress and its impacts on your mind and body. The key is to build resiliency so that you can respond to stressful situations without triggering the alarm system every time. 

Recognize Your Holiday Stress Triggers 

The holiday season brings many demands that can contribute to overwhelm. Recognizing the types of triggers that send you into a stress response can help you take steps to reprioritize your choices and plan ahead to find greater balance. 

Go into the season with an awareness of potential holiday demands to give yourself the chance to mindfully choose where to spend your time and energy so that you can manage stressful triggers. 

Common holiday stressors include: 

Overextending yourself by accepting every holiday party invite
Feeling immense pressure to find the perfect present
Trying to make everything for your holiday meals from scratch
Going beyond your budget for gift and food shopping, adding to long-term financial stress                                                                                                                                   Excessive drinking or eating foods that aren’t ideal for your individual body or needs                                                                                                                  Unrealistic and overly high expectations of what makes a “perfect” holiday season                                                                                                      Family tensions and arguments 

Listen to Your Body 

Learning to recognize the symptoms of stress and when they are becoming overwhelming or harmful to you is the first step in effectively managing it. Paying attention allows you to identify emotions as they arise, recognize when stress threatens to become overwhelming, and choose how you react and dedicate your time and energy. 

Stress can lead to emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and physical symptoms when it is too intense or too frequent. Red flags that can alert you to excessive stress include: 

Difficulty sleeping
Cold hands and feet
Racing heart
Mood changes or irritability
Nervousness or shaking
Weight gain, especially around the belly                                                                                        Exhaustion that interferes with daily life activities                                                                                 Rapid breathing
Tension headaches, backaches, or other excessive muscle tension
Clenched jaw and teeth grinding
Changes in digestion, including constipation, diarrhea, nausea, or abdominal pain 

Build Resiliency to Enjoy the True Meaning of the Season 

As you start to pay more attention to how you spend your energy and the ways in which different demands affect your body and mind, you can choose your priorities and begin to build resiliency. This will allow you to take control of the holiday chaos in a way that brings more enjoyment and meaning to the season. 

Stress arises from the ways in which you respond to challenges, so a great start to reducing your holiday stress is to slow down enough to have the freedom to choose your priorities, recognize your interpretation of what is happening around you, and decide how you want to move forward. Remember the distinction between events and your experience of them. This allows you to start to leverage challenges as opportunities to grow and evolve, which in turns builds resiliency and buffers you from the negative impacts of stress. 

One way to keep the holidays manageable is to plan ahead to keep realistic expectations. Reflect on what matters to you and make deliberate choices to create a season that feels meaningful. This allows you to set boundaries and focus on what’s important to you so that you have the energy to savor each experience more. 

Dee:

This reminds me to just stay in the present moment, that which is right in front of my nose.  I can feel the breeze now and hear the leaves rustle.  The thoughts come of the 50 million things I should do today, but the rustle gets louder.  STAY IN THE MOMENT, Dee!

Turn it over to my Higher Power who will do the driving today and take me to where I need to go and who I need to see.  Aaahhh.  It’ll be a piece of cake!  But you need to finish and send out the Christmas cookies.  Ssshhh, Dee.  Hear the leaves.

Hope this article helps you when you’re wigging out with holiday stress.  Just remember to breathe, be grateful, and turn it over.  Everything is perfect at this moment.  Do your best and be at peace with your achievements.  Love yourself.  Nurture yourself.  Appreciate yourself!

Mele Kalikimaka with warmest Aloha,

Dee Harris

For those interested in Art with a Message of JUST BREATHE and CHILL, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

With some planning and awareness, you can recapture the magic of the holidays. Understanding some of the science of stress and increasing your ability to pay attention to your body will help you to find peace, joy, and better health throughout the holiday season! 

*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center’s Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program. 

Give your body, mind, and spirit a fresh start—and commit to healthier habits—at Perfect Health, our intimate wellness retreat customized just for you. Learn More. (https://www.chopra.com/live-events/perfect-health- program).

About the Author 

Jennifer Weinberg (/bios/jennifer-weinberg) Preventive and Lifestyle Medicine Physician and Author 

Dr. Jennifer Weinberg, MD, MPH, MBE is a preventive and lifestyle medicine physician, author, corporate wellness specialist, blogger, and the founder of the Simple | Pure | Whole Wellness Method. (http://www.jenniferweinbergmd.com/) Weinberg offers innovative online wellness and education programs for individuals looking for sustainable optimal health as well as health care providers seeking health communications support and corporations wanting to integrate a comprehensive approach to corporate wellness. Get a free preview (http://bit.ly/PQNnH0) of her best-selling stress management guide 

… Read more (/bios/jennifer-weinberg) 

The Chopra Center

Advice for Grinches: How to Avoid the Holiday Funk 

Dee:  This blog was inspired by the Chopra Center’s                                                       “Advice for Grinches: How to Avoid the Holiday Funk”

Dee Grinch 12:7:18

Advice for Grinches: How to Avoid the Holiday Funk 

By Sara Schairer 

The holidays are here, and they bring with them an abundance of twinkle lights, parties, cookies, and joy. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? 

Yes. For some lucky people. 

Perhaps this line from the Dr. Seuss’ book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, is a more accurate depiction of how you feel about Christmas: “Hate, hate, hate. Hate, hate, hate. Double Hate. LOATHE ENTIRELY!”  The Grinch’s comments refer to his feelings for the Whos, and it quite accurately describes his feeling about the holidays. 

Do you have an inner-Grinch who comes out this time of year? 

Despite the festivities, the holidays bring sadness for many. Feelings of grief and loneliness may rise to the surface. For me, this time of year reminds me of the loss I’ve experienced over the years. I miss my deceased father every holiday season, and I feel sadness about my failed marriage. 

Dee:

A bit of sadness surfaces for me as well as our home is no longer filled with excited-for-Christmas children.  But I still hang lights inside and outside the house.  I put up a small  tree for my husband and me.  I hang stockings.  I send out Christmas cards with a short year-in-brief note.  I bake cookies.  

I do this for ME!  It gives my heart joy.  No sadness necessary for wonderful past memories.  I must stay in the moment and be grateful for them and this moment present in front of my nose.  I lack for nothing.  I am grateful.  I am humble.

But you don’t have to stay stuck in sadness during the holiday sadness. Here are some simple tips to help you stay less Grinch-y and more positive this holiday season. 

1. Self-Compassion 

Self-compassion meditations and simple practices can help you gracefully navigate sadness and grief. By remembering the three main pillars of self-compassion (mindfulness, common humanity, self-kindness), you can stay attuned to your suffering with more grace and ease. 

Dee:

For me self-compassion and meditations both bring me back to this present moment.  In this present moment I don’t have to pick up a drink or drug.  That wasn’t always the case.  I would be hanging up Christmas lights in a snow storm on a metal ladder.  Year after year.  Stupid.  Drunk.  I would bake cookies, wrap gifts and decorate the inside of the house to all hours of the night.  Year after year.  Drunk.  High.  I would black out and then pass out while opening gifts.  Sick.  Sad.

No more.  Today I have a choice to not pick up a drink or a drug.  For that and Alcoholics Anonymous I am truly grateful and truly humble.  I can practice self-compassion and love myself for who and what I am…today…one day at a time.

2. Gratitude 

Research indicates that a daily or weekly gratitude practice enhances overall well-being, and a simple gratitude practice can take just five minutes or less of your time each day. 

At the end of the day, write down three things for which you are grateful. Instead of the normal responses like my health and family, ratchet up the practice by looking back on your day and picking out specific highlights. For example, you could write, “I am grateful for the lunch and laughs I shared with my co-workers. We ate outside and enjoyed the crisp air and sunshine.” 

Dee:

I start my day and end my day in bed, duh.  Before getting out of bed to face the day I turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand God, a God of My Own Understanding to whom I was introduced working the 12 Steps of AA.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not promoting AA.  I am promoting YOU and your well-being.  There are many support groups in your neck of the woods that can help walk you through whatever ails you.  AA was introduced to me in rehab and they loved me until I could love myself.  Find your tribe!

Before falling asleep I again deeply connect with my Higher Power so thankful for his driving me around throughout the day while I enjoyed the passenger seat.  I got to meet new people, experience new adventures, all without having to be in control or affect the outcome.  Everything turned out perfectly!

3. Cultivate Joy 

The human brain focuses on the negative, which means you need to intentionally cultivate more positivity in your life. It’s referred to as the brain’s negativity bias and research suggests that you need a three-to-one ratio of positive feelings to negative feelings in order to flourish. 

Dee:

It seems like the older I get the harder it is to muster up any energy.  So when I do scoop up a pile or two of energy, I choose to use it in a positive way.  I remember how exhausting it was to live a life in active alcoholism, having to drink everyday, but more exhausting was the guilt, shame, hiding, lying and cheating.  That negative shit took all the energy I had and I had nothing left for me, let alone joy.

One way to add more positivity is through self-affirmation. Take time each day to think of things you appreciate about yourself. A gratitude practice also infuses your day with positivity. 

Dee:

One thing we did in rehab was to make up an affirmation and recite it to the group every morning for 28 days.  I chose, “I am a good person.  I am a whole person.”  At that time in my life I felt anything but good nor whole.  I was a piece of shit wasting space on the planet with no purpose.

But reciting this affirmation has helped me tremendously to get back in the moment, to remember where I am today and how I got here.  As I peeled the layers of the onion skin off of myself I realized that I do, indeed, have a purpose.  To share my experience, strength and hope with those who enter my Dee Bubble.  Those who are going through tough times, whether from addictions, abuses, or just too much on their plates.

Today I am able to use my tough times to help me stay grounded, grateful and humble.  I needed those tough times to bring me to this calmness and lightness in my life.  So I share with you that you are not alone on your journey.  And that everything is perfect right now.  Just go in faith and not fear.  Live from your heart and not your head.

4. Minimize Social Media Consumption 

If you’re regularly (obsessively?) checking your Facebook and Instagram feeds, try to bring awareness to how you’re feeling. Do you notice sadness, uneasiness, or any tightness? Your mind might be comparing your life to the lives you see online. Since most people only highlight their best moments on social media, you are most likely not getting the full picture of someone’s life. Comparing your normal, flawed life to one that appears to be perfect is a recipe for sadness. 

Try putting your phone down more often and staying off of social media. Notice if any of your feelings shift. 

Dee:

I use social media mostly to promote my business.  But getting on Facebook or Instagram draws me in to life outside my Bubble.  I experience everyone’s journeys and get to be a part of.  I get joy from these long-distance interactions.

I no longer need to compare my journey with yours as I know now that we are all alike with both good times and hard times.  I finally feel good enough in my own skin that I don’t need to impress you.  I have my own gifts as you have yours.  And sharing our gifts with one another makes the world a better place.

5. Find a Holiday Accountability Buddy 

Do you know someone else who has experienced loss or has a tough time during the holidays? If so, reach out to that person and see if you can lean on each other every day. Send this person a quick text once a day to check in, and he or she can do the same for you. 

You might want to use this accountability as a way to start or enhance your daily gratitude practice. 

Dee:

In AA it was suggested I get a sponsor, someone I trust, with whom I can share my journey and who could walk me through the 12 Steps of AA.  So I did and she has helped me to grow in ways far beyond my wildest dreams.  She is my accountability buddy, not just during the holidays, but everyday!

And when she is unavailable I have the fellowship of AA to nurture, protect and teach me.  I am never alone, nor are YOU!  Find like-minded people for your tribe to help you through the holidays and to enrich your life.

6. Take Deep Breaths 

If a formal meditation practice isn’t your style, you can experiment with a brief breathing practice to help you bring awareness to the moment and calm yourself. Research shows that by taking a big, slow, deep inhale, and then exhaling slowly, you can calm your body’s response to stress. 

Dee:

We all experience holding our breath in that fight or flight situation.  But why am I not taking deep breaths in calm situations?  If you’re like me it takes getting back in the moment, knowing we are being cared for and protected, getting out of self that brings by breathing back into a healthy rhythm.  It takes practice but I hope someday to breathe deeply naturally.

7. Practice Generosity 

While it is said that, “it is better to give than to receive,” you might not feel this around the holidays. The added expenses, packed stores, and overall stress that comes with holiday gift-giving might make you feel like giving is not the best way to get out of your Grinch-y attitude. 

True, heartfelt generosity doesn’t equate to stress, however. You can be generous with your time, your hugs, your smile, and your listening ear. If you do have extra funds, you can support nonprofits who might rely on end-of- year giving to support their work. 

Dee:

I learned early on in my recovery that unless I give it back, I won’t keep it.  And I found that to be true when I got complacent in my sobriety, stopped going to meetings, stopped AA altogether and found my defects of character, my old sick way of being and doing and thinking come back…one day at a time.  And then I drank.

I cannot afford to let down my guard.  My disease of alcoholism deserves the respect I give to the ocean.  I am careful.  I don’t turn my back on it.  I must take nothing for granted.

So I give back.  This time of year especially and year-round as well I give my Art with a Message of Hope and Inspiration to local fundraisers, especially to AA.  I give a portion of my earnings all year-round to our local AA, which gets doled out to the district, the area, and the world.  If I don’t give it away, I can’t keep it.  Today my life is good.  I want to keep it that way!

8. Volunteer 

Speaking of nonprofits, many of them can use an extra hand during the holidays. The need for many services may increases during the winter months. Find a nonprofit in your community that needs help and spend some time serving your community. 

Because of your compassionate feelings, you just might feel a boost. 

Dee:

One volunteer commitment that is sure to give me that boost is speaking once or twice a month at our local DUI classes.  I do this not as community service but as a service to my community.  My hope is that one person will leave the class feeling hopeful and optimistic by hearing my experience, strength and hope.  Hopefully, I can change a life for the better.

And with the holidays just around the corner, what a hard time to try to get and stay clean and sober.  So I’ve volunteered to lead one of the 24-Hour Alkathons that the newcomer or person struggling can attend non-stop from Christmas Eve through Christmas Day.

These volunteer commitments get me out of self.  They help to remind me where I’ve come from and how good it is today.  They help me to not drink one day at a time and to give back what was so freely given me when I needed it most – compassion.

Thank you for being here and I hope I was able to offer you some hope and optimism.  Wishing you the happiest of holidays and, if you feel overwhelmed, know that you are not alone.  Help is just a phone call away.

With warmest aloha, Dee Harris

For those looking for Gifts with a Message of Hope and Optimism, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

Try out some of these techniques and send your inner Grinch into hibernation this winter. 

Learn a natural, effortless style of meditation that helps invite renewal and freshness into every day with Basics of Meditation, a self-paced online course guided by Deepak Chopra.

About the Author 

Sara Schairer (/bios/sara-schairer) 

Sara Schairer is the founder and executive director of COMPASSION IT (http://compassionit.com/), a start-up nonprofit organization and global social movement whose mission is to inspire daily compassionate actions and attitudes. She created the one-of-a-kind reversible COMPASSION IT wristband (http://compassionit.com/wristbands/) prompting compassionate actions on six continents, 48 countries, and all 50 states. Wristband sales fund compassion education programs for youth, teens, and adults. As a public speaker, Sara encourages her audiences to “compassion it” in their daily lives. A Stanford-certified instructor of Compassion Cultivation… Read more (/bios/sara-schairer) 

The Chopra Center