Mindful Walking: Step by Step

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What do you think about when you’re walking? We all walk for different reasons…to get somewhere, to take a break, to clear our heads. And yes, a quick walk can do wonders for our minds; we all know the endorphins can get us into a better state. But have you ever really been mindful whilst walking?

I published an earlier post on mindful eating which talked about really thinking about the food you eat, where it comes from, the tastes and the textures; really getting your mind to be aware of what is in front of you and the same can be applied to walking. We all have busy lives and seemingly need to rush from one thing to another. When we walk we tend to be distracted with all the thoughts that are swirling around in our heads and rarely aware of the sensations of walking and breathing.

Mindful walking can be a really amazing exercise to do. Of course, it’s not easy to be mindful every time you walk somewhere but I encourage you to try it out at least once especially on a beautiful, sunny day 🙂

Before you start walking just take a minute to stop and be aware of the sensation of the soles of your feet on the floor, notice where the weight is strongest (on the toe or the heel, the inside or outside of the foot). Also notice what you see around you, what sounds you can hear or any strong smells. Take some deep breathes and really be in the present moment.

Begin walking at your natural speed with no need to rush. Just maintain the awareness of what’s going on around you.

Begin to notice how your body moves as you walk; how your arms, legs, hips and feet move. Notice how your right and left leg moves, how your feet lift off the ground, experience the physical sensation of the soles of the feet on the floor. Maintain the sensations of your body’s natural movements.

Notice your breathing. Feel the air entering your lungs and slowly release it. Really feel the sensation of your chest expanding and your muscles relaxing. When you become distracted by thoughts, just bring your focus back to this continuous motion of breathing

Continue this for 5-10 minutes (or the duration of your walk). It’s absolutely normal to get distracted by thoughts but when you’re aware of this happening just focus your attention back to the breathe and the physical sensations.

At the end of your walk just take a few moments to notice your surroundings, the sights and smells again taking in the space around you.

Mindful walking can really make a huge difference in our day. It has endless benefits like getting you out of that fog of thoughts, opening you up to a more universal mind shift, getting to know your body, connecting with the environment around you, strengthening your concentration and much more. And, of course, it’s really important for our well-being and happiness to take time out and just be in the present moment. Whether you’re taking your dog for a walk, walking to the bus stop or to the shops, in your lunch break or finding a specific time to try this out, you can incorporate this into your busy life. Even if you try it a few times it’ll be well worth it 🙂

 

 

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Sunshine Blogger Award!

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Misty has kindly nominated me for a Sunshine Blogger Award for which I’m truly grateful so thank you 🙂 Head on over to The Bikini Bookworm and read some great posts about her insights into fitness and good reads 🙂

The Sunshine Blogger Award Rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Answer the 11 questions you were asked (and answer below)
  • Nominate 11 other bloggers and let them know they were nominated
  • Ask the nominees 11 questions

The questions Misty asked me:

  1. Where did you grow up? I grew up in the UK with a few years in Dubai.
  2. Do you work out regularly? At the moment I go running 5 days a week (you’ve caught me at a good period haha!)
  3. Do you like to cook? I love to cook when I have no time pressure!
  4. What’s been your favourite vacation? I’ve been lucky enough to visit over 30 countries but my favourite has always been New Zealand (it was a year long vacation!)
  5. What’s your least favourite food? No amount of pineapple on pizza will make me think of Hawaii – take the damn stuff off.
  6. What’s your favourite animal? Dogs, dogs, dogs
  7. What’s the last book you read? Hector’s Search for Happiness by François Lelord
  8. Do you have any kids? No, but I really want a dog!
  9. What TV shows do you watch? What TV shows don’t I watch would be an easier question 😉
  10. Do you prefer indoors or outdoors? There’s nothing better than getting out into nature but curling up indoors with a good book is equally nice.
  11. What would your perfect day look like? Renting a cabin by the sea, eating good food and drinking red wine with good people 🙂

My 11 nominees:

Dedicated Polygot: Maria blogs about all things life with great perspectives.

Seeds 4 Life: A great website about personal development and inspirational advice.

Curious London: Emily writes about unusual and quirky things to do in London.

Free Thoughts of A Scattered Brain: A nice blog with some great thoughts and insights.

80 Insights: Jerry writes great, insightful posts about life.

Smores and Sundresses: A blog about the great outdoors and all things camping

A Virtual Vegan: Amazing vegan recipes.

That Weird Brown Girl: Pooja has a hilarious blog – worth a read.

fiddledeedeebooks: Dee posts some great musings 🙂

Message In A Bottle: Clint finds old messages in bottles and tracks down the original senders – heartwarming stuff!

Maudie + Jane: A lovely blog with lovely recipes 🙂

 

My 11 questions:

  1. Would you rather live like a king/queen with no friends or family OR be homeless with your friends and family?
  2. Would you rather always have to say everything on your mind OR never say a word in your whole life again?
  3. Would you rather eat your favourite meal every day for the rest of your life OR never eat your favourite meal again?
  4. Would you rather live a short life and be rich OR a long life but be poor?
  5. Would you rather know everything OR be amazing at every activity that you try?
  6. Would you rather find happiness in a place OR in another person?
  7. Would you rather find happiness in your current place in life OR find a better place in life and then become happy?
  8. Would you rather speak every language in the world OR be able to play every  musical instrument in the world?
  9. Would you rather be able to always know the perfect thing to say OR look like you never aged beyond 25?
  10. Would you rather have unlimited money OR make a discovery that changed the world and get no payment for it?
  11. And the all-important question: What makes you happy?? 🙂

 

 

 

Learning to Cope With Negative People

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Bringing more positivity into our lives can work wonders. Once we start getting into that happy mindset you can start to see the world through new eyes. But what do you do when you come up against negativity or, more specifically, negative people? You’re up there riding the positive wave and suddenly you can come crashing down from a bad comment or a bad attitude from somebody.

Whether at work, home or school we can come across these people quite often and it can have a detrimental effect on our happiness especially when we have to spend time with them or they are close to us.

It’s quite common to hear that spending time with negative people can bring you down while positive people keep you at that higher vibe for longer. The message we broadcast in our everyday lives have a profound effect on those around us. As social animals, we are extremely receptive to the people we establish relationships with whether they are colleagues, friends, family or even the barista we say hello to at the coffee shop. So as well as making sure we ourselves are not broadcasting a negative vibe to those around us, we must protect ourselves from the negativity of others.

We all know that person. The one that never has a positive thing to sayenters into a rant or always possesses a negative slant on everything. They may seem to be small things but they can lower our happy vibe very quickly.

So what can we do with the people in our lives that are constantly coming at us with negativity? The obvious answer may be to cut negative people out of our lives but this isn’t easy or necessarily something we want to do. Instead there is a strategy to lessen contact with these people that can be useful to combat these situations without going to extremes.

When someone is being negative and the situation is not allowing for positive communication to exist then the smartest thing you can do is follow these three steps…

Retreat. Spend time away from this person and away from their negativity. Whether that means stepping away momentarily or taking a longer break.

Delve into your positive resources. This is where your happiness habits really come in handy. Meditating, thinking about what you’re grateful for in your life, taking a walk, listening to a good song – anything that will get you into that positive state. These seem like small tips and tricks but what they end up doing is transforming the way our brain experiences its reality. The more we pull on our positive resources, the less impact a negative person can have on us and this is so important for our overall happiness.

Re-enter. If it’s someone you can’t avoid, have a plan about how you’re going to effectively communicate with them. Be positive with them and try not to spend time listening to any negativity. Smile, be pleasant and continue the positivity in small conversations and meetings with them. The aim is to create short, communicative bursts of conversation while maintaining a positive atmosphere. By doing this you establish a pattern of positive interaction where that person isn’t affecting you negatively as much and also, in turn, you’re positively influencing them as well.

Since we influence each other significantly in our everyday lives, it isn’t just important to lessen our time spent with negative people but the best way to combat this is by modelling the positive behaviour ourselves. By doing this we’re reminding people that there is that choice to have a more positive mindset.

Of course, spending time with more positive people is always a wonderful thing and finding that time to engage with them should be done as much as possible. It elevates us greatly and does wonders for our happiness. In our daily lives, it’s not always possible to avoid the negative ones so why not try and be an ambassador for positivity and teach them from your own happy outlook and mindset? If we’re not going to spread the happiness then who is? 🙂

 

 

Hector’s Lessons on Happiness

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I’ve just finished reading this great book Hector’s Search For Happiness by François LeLord which I found really insightful when thinking about what makes us truly happy, and thought it would be worth sharing with you.

If you don’t already know the story, it tells a tale about a psychiatrist called Hector who finds himself unhappy with life and unable to help his patients in a positive way. So he decides to up and travel the world to try and find out what makes people happy. He comes across many different people from all walks of life and asks them the all-important question – what makes you happy?

The following are Hector’s lessons on happiness. To know how he discovered them I encourage you to read the book (or watch the movie adaptation which stars the brilliant Simon Pegg) but in all I think that they help to sum up the notion of happiness and what happiness should mean to us – what do you think? 🙂

  1. Making comparisons can spoil your happiness.
  2. Happiness often comes when least expected.
  3. Many people only see happiness in their future.
  4. Many people think happiness comes from having more power or more money.
  5. Sometimes happiness is not knowing the whole story.
  6. Happiness is a long walk in beautiful, unfamiliar mountains.
  7. It’s a mistake to think that happiness is the goal.
  8. Happiness is being with the people you love; unhappiness is being separated from the people you love.
  9. Happiness is knowing that your family lacks for nothing.
  10. Happiness is doing a job you love.
  11. Happiness is having a home and a garden of your own.
  12. It’s harder to be happy in a country run by bad people.
  13. Happiness is feeling useful to others.
  14. Happiness is to be loved for exactly who you are.
  15. Happiness comes when you feel truly alive.
  16. Happiness is knowing how to celebrate.
  17. Happiness is caring about the happiness of those you love.
  18. Happiness is not attaching too much importance to what other people think.
  19. The sun and the sea make everybody happy.
  20. Happiness is a certain way of seeing things.
  21. Rivalry ruins happiness.

The Happy Norway Way: What We Can Learn From The Norwegian Mindset

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The hot, smoggy metropolis of Beijing (a far cry from Norway – a quiet and cold country with a very small population) was where I encountered my first Norwegians. I was teaching English in China and I was pleasantly surprised by their friendly nature and near perfect grasp of the English language. Fast forward a year and I found myself living in the city of Trondheim on the west coast of Norway. For the next three years I was immersed in the Norwegian culture, making Norwegian friends and attempting to learn their language (albeit badly!)

For the past 12 years, Norway has been voted the best country to live in and Norwegians being some of the happiest people in the world. From what I’ve learnt about my time living there and the observations I made, I want to share why I think this is and how they’ve seemingly got it so right in the happy stakes.

Many people would say that yes, it’s easy to be happy in Norway because they’re such a rich country but this hasn’t always been the case. The Norwegian culture has been carved out of a history of survival; living in difficult, isolated landscape and working hard to live in these extreme conditions with little money. All the while fostering basic principles of fairness and equality that lives on today.

Norwegians are big on their equality both with gender and society. There are almost no social classes which, in contrast to the UK where I’m from, is a breath of fresh air. There is something called the Law of Jante, a concept created by Aksel Sandemose that critises individual success, and expressions of achievement are deemed inappropriate – basically you should see your achievements as a collective not as an individual. Although not taken to an extreme in Scandinavian countries, I think this has enriched the quiet modesty that is ingrained in the Norwegian character. A rich Norwegian is seen as on the same level as someone relatively poorer. This pretty much eradicates the prejudice and social problems that occur in many other countries.

Gender equality is high. It is not unusual to see women builders, bus drivers, carpenters and engineers – roles that in many countries are seen as dominantly male. Norway was also the pioneer in paternity leave for men. Men and women have 48 weeks paid leave that both are encouraged to take.

There is a strong emphasis on teamwork. Especially in the smaller villages and towns, you regularly come across local groups coming together and volunteering for community projects just from the joy of it and sense of community it brings.

Nature plays a huge part in the lives of Norwegians. With stunning mountains, fjords and northern lights there is no end to the beautiful nature around them. Because of this, their lives are revolved around hiking, skiing and trips to their back-to-basics cabins in the mountain or the forest where a Norwegian is probably at his happiest. They don’t just make this an annual thing, they make this a way of life and regularly indulge their time doing what makes them the most happy.

The weather in Norway is not to everyone’s taste. The winters can be ferocious and even in Trondheim, it could get down to -25 degrees. As a foreigner, I can’t say I found this the most enjoyable time but it’s pretty rare to find a Norwegian that complains. Snow is what they look forward to for 6 months of the year and when it comes it’s welcomed with open arms. Kids at school happily go out to play in minus degree weather all kitted out in their snowsuits and thermals. You may have heard the Norwegian saying there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing and I think this is something I took away with me. No more will I be a complaining Brit wearing next to nothing in the middle of winter and wondering why the hell I’m so cold. And no weather will interfere with a Norwegian’s day, whether it’s sun, rain, ice or snow they will still be out walking, exercising and enjoying it.

Norwegians themselves are very friendly, humble and laid-back people. Although they can come across quiet, serious and maybe even unfriendly to our standards when they encounter people they don’t know, once you break past that, you can guarantee they will become a great loyal friend. Ask any favour and they will be happy to do it. I can honestly say, some of the nicest and most genuine people I know are Norwegian.

So what can we take away from this? A sense of community, an appreciation for nature and surroundings, family values, equality and a genuine humble character are all attributes that can make up a happy society and a happy life. The Norwegian mindset is ingrained and has been transient through a time where Norway has been relatively poor to oil-rich. Yes, they have more money and the standards of living have increased dramatically over the last few decades but their sense of hard work, appreciation of their humble beginnings and proudness of their country both as a society and a thing of beauty, has barely changed at all.

Obviously, there will always be positive and negative elements to living in a country but I think Norway has managed to outweigh the bad with the good. And culture is deep-rooted and developed over time so we can’t, as a society, change quickly and mimic that of another but we can take elements of the Norwegian mindset and apply it to our own lives. At the heart of it, they just seem to be truly grateful for the simple pleasures in life and appreciate their surroundings, friends, family and community which I believe we can all incorporate to create a more positive and happier life 🙂

 

Creating Habits For Happiness

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Since this blog is all about different ways of making happiness a habit in our lives, I thought I’d touch on the difficulties and importance of creating habits. Happiness is important and we all need it but we need to make it a habit and we all know starting a habit can be hard to do! But practising small daily habits can lead to building a better version of ourselves.

We usually start habits from a place of having had enough. We want something to change, we want something to be different. We have a picture in our mind of the goal we want to achieve, however this is where things can go a bit wrong. Our minds get seduced by the end goal and we are impatient to get there quickly. The idea of the goal fires up our enthusiasm which is great, but when the changes aren’t happening quickly we start losing the belief in ourselves and it can result in us giving up.

Change is hard – the brain has a built in mechanism which means we need to repeat something a lot for us to get better at it and after hundreds of repetitions (i.e thinking the same thought or learning new foreign words) our brains get faster at it. Unfortunately this is also how negativity has been ingrained in us from past experiences, thoughts and beliefs – it has almost become subconscious and this makes it hard to create new positive thoughts and habits that counteract this. But creating habits for happiness can be achieved.

So what is the secret to a successful habit? It’s all about understanding the importance of the present moment. We tend to take the present moment for granted – it seems insignificant and we believe the little things we do in the moment aren’t changing us.

For example, you want to learn something new and you read 10 pages of a book a day…if you read 10 pages today will you be more successful? No. If you don’t read 10 pages today will you be less successful? No. The difference between reading 10 pages today and not reading 10 pages today is insignificant in the moment but if you read these 10 pages every day for a year you will have read a lot of books and therefore changed your attitude and philosophy on the subject – it will have changed you.

You must invest in the small things over a long period of time and understand that you only have the moment you are in and although these moments seem insignificant when determining whether you succeed or fail at something, it is the combination of moments over time that achieve the big things.

This is especially important for bringing more successful habits of happiness into your life.  We need to stop looking so far ahead and not quit based on the day to day moments and realising the discipline to be aware that it is these insignificant present moments that ultimately achieve your goals.

It’s really important to realise that happiness is not about the big things that happen in our lives. It’s not about the money, the big house, the flash car, the perfect job, the perfect family – we tend to think we’ll be happy once these things are here but it’s actually about the little habits that you do consistently and persistently in your present moments. It can be something that takes 5 or 10 minutes in your day like taking a walk, being grateful and thankful for things in your life, ringing up a person you love for a chat or deciding to go for a run. These things gradually build up a mindset of happiness and improves our outlook on life sometimes without us even realising.

We are all on a different happiness journey but for all of us it is about choosing to make a habit of these moments and little things that can shift the way we feel and think. It is inevitable that we have our bad days and negative thoughts so don’t feel like you have failed when you have these down moments. A bad day does not cancel out a good one. Never dismiss the small moments that bring us joy as unimportant – that walk you take, that good chat with your friend, meditating, the 10 minutes you take cuddling your pet – it all adds up to a happier mindset and better life in the long term 🙂