I love this article from my colleague, Katherine Golub, career / business / leadership coach and consultant in Western Mass. She teaches us how to focus on the postitive! To learn more about her work, visit www.CoreBrillianceAcademy.com
What are you dreaming of for the new year? Did you make a resolution, set an intention, choose a word?
At the beginning of every year, I like to choose one word to focus my attention for the year. This year, my word is "Foundation."
No matter how you set your intentions, January is a time of fresh starts and new beginnings for many people. Do you want to learn how to be more confident, more present, or more creative? Perhaps you want to take better care of yourself. Whatever it is, if you’re like most people, I'm guessing that there's probably some new habit that you’d like to develop this year.
Most of us aren’t taught how we form habits or how we can change them, and because of that, developing new habits can feel daunting. I'm happy to tell you that, in fact, developing new habits and strengths can be simple.
Instead of working super hard to fight against old behaviors, it can be much more useful to just take in the good.
What do I mean by “taking in the good?”
In Hardwiring Happiness, Rick Hanson writes that the most effective path to developing emotional habits or strengths such as gratitude, presence, and confidence is to notice when you're already engaged in these habits and then to feel how you feel in your body. He calls this process “taking in the good.”
With repeated, intense, and prolonged mental focus on what’s working, you grow new synapses and change how your DNA functions so that you literally experience more of what works. For example, by noticing when you feel confident, you strengthen your ability to feel confident. When you notice yourself feeling focused, you increase your ability to focus. When you allow yourself to feel really good when you practice self-care (even if it’s just for five minutes), you increase the likelihood that you'll practice self-care again soon.
As human beings, we too often focus on what we don’t want to do or to feel.
Unfortunately, focusing on what you don’t want makes it harder to develop the habits you do want. For example, trying to figure out how to be "not stressed" can stress you out, even more.
The brain can't think in negatives. Don't think of a pink elephant. You can't do it, right? Every time you think about what you don't want, your focus goes to the negative, and you're more likely to replicate that. Instead, when you think about what you do want, you send your energy in that new, more generative direction.
So, what are the steps to taking in the good and building new habits?
Your first step to cultivating new habits or strengths is to choose one or two to focus on.
Rather than focusing on the habit you want to let go of, focus on the habit you want to cultivate. Keep in mind that your problem requires a matched solution. For example, if you struggle with the state in the left column, consider focusing on the habit or strength in the right column--
• Exhaustion… Energy
• Stagnation… Movement
• Anxiety… Ease
• Fear… Courage
• Shame… Self-Compassion
• Resistance… Curiosity
• Withdrawal… Engagement
• Scarcity… Gratitude
• Frustration… Fulfillment
• Stuckness… Forward Movement
• Drivenness… Pleasure
• Rejection… Belonging
• Isolation… Connection
• Grief… Love
Your next step is to notice moments in which you experience the habit or strength you desire.
To develop the habits and strengths we desire—such as trust, humor, and ease—we need to notice when we experience these positive states. Often, we’re already engaging in the actions or experiencing the states that we want to make habitual, but we’re not paying attention. By paying attention to when we are acting and feeling the ways we want, we strengthen our ability to act or feel this way even more.
If you don’t naturally find yourself experiencing your desired emotions, you can remember past experiences, imagine the future you desire, or celebrate the good in the lives of others.
Once you create a positive experience, allow yourself to really savor the moment and experience it in your body.
Sense the experience fully in your body, taking in as many sensory aspects as possible—sight, sound, touch, smell, taste, feeling, and thinking. Feeling the experience in your body helps it to sink in and create new connections in your brain.
Like any new strength, your ability to focus your attention is like a muscle. It gets stronger the more you exercise it. Taking in positive experiences makes your brain “stickier” for them, which in turn increases the likelihood that you'll notice more positive experiences. That makes your brain even more sticky so that you notice positive experiences more. It's a feedback loop of positivity. This cycle makes it less and less likely for negative experiences to slip into your mind and affect your brain.
From now on, any time you experience a small win, seize the opportunity to celebrate.
When you receive a compliment, take a deep breath, let it really soak in, and say thank you. Or cross off items off your to-do list as you complete them so that you have a picture of accomplishment. Or, at the beginning or end of each day, think of three things that you’re proud of, that you appreciate about yourself, or that brought you joy.
Focusing on what brings you joy ten times a day, fifteen seconds at a time only, takes a total of two and a half minutes. But it's one of the most powerful ways to change your brain and your life.
Whatever your hopes for the new year may be, I encourage you to gift yourself a few moments each day to take in the good. Not only is this a very effective way to cultivate new habits, but it’s also fun. I wish you all the best on your journey to building the habits you want!
What started out as an idea for a pre-Thanksgiving newsletter turned into a gratitude practice. It was one of those “aha” moments when I realized that I needed to follow the advice I was giving.
And so I started a gratitude list. I suggesting that you do this as well. It’s a powerful exercise in becoming aware of the connections that exist between you and the rest of the world.
Be true to the essence of the holiday. Give thanks...
Do you feel like you’re on go all the time? Do you feel the pressure of work, family and social obligations? We live in over-scheduled times. We have busy calendars and long to-do lists. You may be doing more and it may feel good for a little while. But take a moment to ask yourself if you are leading a truly meaningful and productive life.
From an Eastern perspective our culture focuses on the Yang side of life. Yang energy corresponds to activity, light, heat and daytime. It’s opposite, yin, corresponds to rest, darkness, sleep, cold, and nighttime.
These two types of energy are found in the autonomic nervous system (ANS), the system that operates mostly unconsciously and regulates many body functions such as heartbeat, respiration and digestion. The ANS consists of the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.
The Sympathetic Nervous System (your Yang energy) prepares your body for action when it senses danger by pumping adrenaline into your blood stream. During this “fight or flight” response, the following occurs:
The Parasympathetic Nervous System (your Yin energy) serves as a brake to this revved up energy. This “rest and digest” response slows things down in these ways:
Both the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems are important. They are needed to balance one another as they perform opposite but necessary functions. However, we live in a stressful culture. Each stressor activates the sympathetic nervous system keeping our bodies in sympathetic overdrive. For many of us there is too much go, go, go and not enough rest.
Acupuncture treatments regulate the autonomic nervous system by releasing neurotransmitters and hormones, or in Eastern terms, balancing yin and yang. I find that patients go into a deeply relaxed state and report sleeping better after treatments. Over time pain decreases, digestion improves, anxiety is diminished. This leads to improved health, relationships and life choices.
"One of the great things about a treatment with Bonnie is afterwards I feel very focused, clear and centered. Each treatment also has a calming effect and allows me to sleep better."
Pat P. - Sunderland
Nutrition is a part of the tradition of acupuncture. A balanced diet is considered essential to good health. Eastern nutrition focuses on the energetic qualities of food. Certain foods (like dairy products) cause cold and dampness in the body – both of which weaken the digestive system. Certain foods (like ginger) are warming and help strengthen digestion.
When I work with patients around nutrition and weight loss, my approach is fivefold:
I’ll share a weight-loss secret that has helped me take and keep off those few extra pounds. Eating well and obtaining and maintaining your ideal weight is within your reach. The wisdom of acupuncture can give you the tools that you need to love and nourish your body for life.
Halloween candy reminds me of a theory that I have been pondering over the last few months. I call it the "Twizzler effect:"
It goes back to the Twizzler licorice that I ate as a kid -- those strands of licorice twisted around each other. In my mind, they represent two aspects of any situation. One strand represents the aspects of life that you cannot change. If it's raining outside, you can't stop the rain.
But, there is also another factor – your relationship to the first aspect. This is the second strand.
You can’t stop the rain, but you can open an umbrella and stay dry. You can appreciate that the rain helps to grow the fruits and vegetables that you eat. You can jump in puddles or curl up with a good book. You can look for rainbows.
The Twizzler effect applies to your health. You are aging. At some point in your life, you are bound to feel the effects of illness and disease. (I say this so you don’t feel bad or blame yourself when this happens.) But, this is only the first strand. It’s not the whole picture. There is hope.
Hope exists in the second strand, the things that you do to care for yourself. This includes the foods you fill your body with, the thoughts you fill your mind with, the people you surround yourself with and the healers you go to. It’s this second strand that you have control over.
By focusing your energy on the things you can change, you can create a space of health and well-being. You can find deep acceptance of who you are AND make conscious shifts to become the person you want to be.
My life’s work is helping people reclaim their power to heal. That’s right. Whatever your situation, however much pain you may be in, you have that power.
When our lives go awry; when we get sick or suffer loss, it’s natural to think that we have no power. No one plans on pain. No one plans on illness. It can be devastating when we feel that our bodies have betrayed us.
That’s how I felt many years ago when I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I ate well and exercised. It was hard to understand how I could get so sick. Also, there was no clear path to recovery.
To find my power, I needed to look outside of my current life experience. I needed another way of understanding the world. I found it with acupuncture.
Here are some of the secrets I learned:
Whether you have a specific diagnosis, are feeling lousy for no apparent reason, or pulled a muscle, you deserve to feel listened to and receive treatment.
I found my power to heal, and I want to help you find yours!
Acupuncture is about balance in the body. One of the best ways to create this is by eating a balanced diet. Healthy foods in your kitchen are the easiest way to accomplish this. Just follow these 5 steps.
Step One: Clean out your pantry and refrigerator by removing these foods:
Note: If you absolutely cannot throw out food, put these unhealthy foods on one shelf in a cabinet and/or your refrigerator and do NOT replenish them once you have finished eating them.
Step Two: Make a list of foods that you use on a regular basis that you want to have in your kitchen at all times. My list looks something like this:
Step Three: Plan your week's meals.
These should be based on real food -- no chemicals, hormones or additives. In thinking about menus keep this in mind: vegetables and fruits should take up half your plate, grains one quarter of your plate and healthy proteins one quarter.
Step Four: Make a grocery list
Include any items on the list of foods that you use on a regular basis that you don’t have. You’ll want to restock these when you run out. Add whatever additional foods you’ll need for the week's meals.
Step Five: Go grocery shopping.
Buy ONLY the items on your list. Go food shopping after you have eaten and are not hungry.
Repeat steps three through five each week. You’ll be feeling fabulous in no time at all.
1) Love yourself fully
The Concept: What does this mean? Do the things that make you feel whole and complete. Find more of the moments that give you complete joy. Take time to smell the roses, watch beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and fill your life with laughter.
The Practice: Give yourself a day just for you. Wake up when you want to, fill your time with activities that make you smile, eat your favorite foods, spend time with a cherished friend. If circumstances don't allow you to take time off at the moment, then plan your perfect day. Write down the most fun way to spend 24 hours. (Then when you do have time, you have a plan of what to do.)
2) Take Life a Little Less Seriously
The Concept: It's easy to fill life with worry and get caught up with things that are really not that important. Over time, this is hard on the nervous system. Let go of worries.
The Practice: It you find yourself thinking about something over and over again, step back and ask yourself if this is something important to your life. If it is, take a moment to act in a way that will reduce stress. Write down a message or intention that will make you feel better. If it's not, just let it go. Either way, picture your worry in the shape of a balloon to which you are holding on tight. Then let it go. Watch it float off into space.
3) Honor Your Feelings, All of Them
The Concept: Feelings are a way that your body speaks to you and a way of shining light on what is most relevant in your life. It's easy to push feelings away--those things that gnaw at your gut. It's also easy to become completely immersed in feelings. There is a third way, a way to honor your feelings without being ransacked by them.
The Practice: Set time at the end of each day to invite your feelings in. Feelings generally live somewhere in your body; perhaps a tightness in your back or chest, or butterflies in your stomach. Take time to acknowledge these. What are they telling you? Give your feelings a little attention. Draw a picture or journal about what you are feeling. Make sure that you give yourself a set amount of time for this. It's as if you are inviting your feelings in for tea.
Treating yourself with love, kindness and compassion will transform your life in unimaginable ways. Find love on Valentine's Day and on each day of the year!
Our health consists of habits formed over a lifetime. What we eat, how we move, the thoughts we think -- all of these contribute to the ways our bodies respond to our environment. We become more powerful as we consciously choose and create these habits. What better new year's gift to give yourself than creating one new healthy habit.
The following steps will take you through the process of choosing and integrating one habit that will enhance your life in a positive way and become part of the foundation for a healthy balanced life.
Create Your Activity
1. Choose Wisely
Choose something you want to do, rather than something you think you should do. Choose something that you want to do tomorrow and also three years from now. Choose an activity that you can do given the present circumstances and resources of your life. If, for example, you want to join a gym make sure there is one that you can easily get to and that is open at hours that are convenient for you. Make sure that you can afford the cost of membership. I believe that each of us already knows of at least one thing we can do to improve our lives. If you have a long list of things, choose the one that feels most meaningful to you.
2. Think Small, Stay Simple
Begin with a small, achievable task rather than elaborate, unattainable goal. Focus on the task itself. If you dream of writing a novel, you might want to begin by setting aside a certain amount of time each day to write. Focus on the activity, rather than the goal. Goals are admirable, but generally achievable only if we focus on the activities that are necessary for their fruition. Thoreau said, “Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”
3. Be Creative
Sometimes we are in situations where we are unable to do the things we want to. Here’s where creativity comes into play. If your activity is to spend an hour each week at the ocean but you live in landlocked Iowa, you might get a video of ocean scenes, a CD with the sound of waves breaking on the sand, suntan lotion and some shells.
4. Commit to the Activity
Commit to spending at least one hour each week on this activity for the next three months. This can be 10 minutes everyday, 20 minutes three days a week or one hour once a week. If you cannot or do not want to commit to one hour a week, choose something else. If you are already committed to spending time each week that supports a balanced life, than commit to bringing more attention to that time. (See Step 10.)
5. Write It Down
There is something about the act of writing something down that solidifies it. It serves both to define the action and as a symbol of intent. There is a shift that happens when something goes from idea to tangible form. There are many ways of writing something down. You can do it very privately, on a folded up piece of paper or in a journal. You can write something and put it on your mirror or refrigerator. Just as the action itself comes from an inner, personal space so will the writing of it. Do what feels right to you.
If this activity is worth doing, it is worth doing now (or at least within this week.) This piece is often the most difficult. Waiting for the perfect moment may mean putting off something indefinitely. Just start now.
7. Begin Again
None of us are perfect. Our lives are complicated. Stuff unexpectedly happens. So if you are unable for whatever reason to do your chosen activity for a day, a week or even a month, begin again. Learn from your experience. Sometimes it takes a few false starts to develop a good habit. In the long run you are better off starting again then giving up on something important to you in your life. I once read that the people who succeed the most are also those who fail the most. Winston Churchill said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”
8. Get Help
Bring into your life people who support you in your journey towards health whether it’s a friend, a medical care provider or a significant other. Sometimes we need help. Intervention is often necessary to keep our bodies healthy.
9. Reward Yourself
Taking care of yourself is an accomplishment. Often our busy lives do not support choices that keep us healthy. Acknowledge the time and effort put into your new habit. Congratulate yourself. Tell your friends. Go wild!
10. Bring Intention to Your New Habit
Rather than going through the motions, use your time each week to connect more deeply with yourself. Good health is a sensory experience. If you are eating healthier take this opportunity to fully taste your food. If you are spending an hour each week listening to music or looking at art, fully see or fully hear. Whatever you have chosen to do be sure to notice your breath. We cannot live for more than a few minutes without breathing. The quality of our breath, the way we breathe, to a large extent determines the quality of our lives. Whatever you are doing you are also breathing. As you embrace your newly chosen activity, breathe deeply into your lower abdomen.
GO BACK TO STEP ONE
Whether you have successfully integrated a new, healthy habit into your life or have experienced three months of hell, or most likely, are somewhere in between, go back to step one. Learn from your accomplishments as well as your mistakes. You now have the advantage of experience in this process.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction), said “As long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than there is wrong, no matter how ill or how hopeless you may feel.”
Take a moment to reflect on this. As humans we often focus on the things that we have done wrong. We could be better, smarter, richer, thinner... fill in your own adjective. I encourage you to begin a practice of remembering and acknowledging all that is right with you. Do it now, as you read this.
1. Focus on your body. Write down all the things that are right about it. For example,
2. Focus on your actions. Write down a list of all the things that you have done to take good care of yourself and those that you love.
3. Focus on your thoughts. Write down all the thoughts that lift you up. Look to your favorite quotes for inspiration.
4. Focus on your emotions. Make a list of times when you felt complete, happy and at peace.
5. Focus on your connections. Make a list of all the positive connections that you have had with people in your life.
6. Focus on your accomplishments. Make a list of your accomplishments over the past year. Include projects big and small.
You are an amazing being!
Revel in this. Take your list of all that is good and right with you and post it on your bulletin board or on your refrigerator. Acknowledge yourself fully and completely.
When you find yourself being critical about something that you have done, switch to being gentle. Surround yourself with love and kindness. Lift yourself up when times get hard.
Look at your list of all that is right with you EVERY DAY. I promise that this practice will transform your life.
Bonnie Diamond, Licensed Acupuncturist
Tuesday & Wednesday & Thursday, 10am-8pm
179 Northampton Street, Suite C
Easthampton, MA 01027