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12 Habits to Adopt to Make This Your Best Year Yet

Many of us head into the New Year with big goals and ambitions. We think about everything that seems to be lacking in our lives and imagine ourselves far happier and more fulfilled on the other side of massive change. There’s no denying that certain accomplishments can amp up our life satisfaction, but I’ve found that our daily habits are the biggest contributor to our happiness. You can have a job that excites you, the best body of your life, and the perfect partner for you, but none of it will fully satisfy you if you don’t also prioritize the daily habits that nurture your overall well-being. If you want to feel good about yourself and your life, you need to regularly do the things that make you feel peaceful, joyful, and alive. With this in mind, I recently asked twelve Tiny Buddha contributors (all involved in our upcoming Best You, Best Life Bundle Sale) to share one habit worth adopting in the New Year. Here’s what they had to say:  1. Start the day with positive intentions. “The moment I wake up, I do not move. I hold still for several minutes. I contemplate qualities I would like to offer for the day. Then I silently repeat the following affirmations: I offer this day peace. I offer this day joy. I offer this day enthusiasm. I offer this day kindness… (or whatever qualities I would like to offer on that day). And I keep going until I feel I am done. Some days are harder than others, especially if I wake up very early, still tired, with the prospect of a long day ahead. However, this simple, pithy practice sets the right tone. It fills me with gratitude and it firmly places me on the right track. From that point on, my day goes well, and everything aligns in the best and highest way possible, even if/as and when challenges arise.” ~Personal Growth Teacher Julie Hoyle (juliehoyle.org)  2. Practice mindfulness.  “For someone seeking a change in their life—to stop doing something destructive, to start doing something healthier, to become more confident, to step into the version of themselves they know they really are—the single best habit to cultivate is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the skill of paying attention on purpose to the present moment without judgment. This is the first step to change. It helps you recognize when you are doing the thing you want to change. It helps you understand when you are stuck. It helps you realize what you are really feeling and thinking. It gives you the starting point of your map. You can recognize what is really happening—’Oh look, I jumped to the worst-case scenario again. That made me feel afraid and uncomfortable. So that’s why I am looking for an excuse not to go to the party.’ From here you are able to step outside those emotions of fear and discomfort and look at the situation objectively. From here, you can create [...]

2020-01-09T16:08:58+00:00 By |

The Value of Love

What are your values? Down through the ages, many have said honesty, loyalty, justice, fairness, mercy, and bravery.  I concur, however I believe that in this new decade we need not to forget the value of love. That raises some important questions. Is love a value? Does love belong in the same category as these other values? A value is a characteristic of merit to which we can live by. So, can we live by love?   “Love is of all passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart, and the senses.” — Lao Tzu   Based on the current events that are happening in the world, like me, you probably also feel like the future is uncertain and that the world is quickly turning into a very sad place. With rumors of war, hate, and unfairness happening, we feel powerless sometimes not knowing what to do to help stop these things from coming to pass in the scary world that we live in. However, I believe we as humans have forgotten that one thing that can heal the brokenness of this world, love. Love is the value that makes our relationships better. Love means I can be kind, caring, and understanding. Spreading love in your own way will get us one step closer to unity throughout mankind. It would make it a more positive and livable place for our children. It doesn’t have to be too great or too big, it can be as small as expressing gratitude to your friends and family, or helping out a stranger whenever they need a helping hand. Donate your clothes you no longer wear. Say “thank you” more. Make an extra lunch for a homeless person. In conclusion, in today’s society we are overloaded with messages that admonish us to put “me” first. As a consequence, we forget that the point of having the value of love is to spread it to others. When you spread the love, the love comes back to you many times over through loving relationships. If we can all come together and do our small part each day in spreading the value of love, we can leave this world knowing that we have created a positive place for our children to enjoy without any fear or sadness. So, can we live by love? I say, YES, WE CAN!

2020-01-09T18:52:21+00:00 By |

What Does It Mean to Live a Happy Life?

We live in a happy-obsessed society, constantly bombarded with happy smiling faces on TV or billboard ads telling us their version of happiness. Even worse than this, we see our own friends on social media posting photos of their ridiculously happy lives; but never sharing any raw feelings of what’s really going on in their lives. It is an unspoken law that we all want to be happy but the reality is that most of us have not thought about what happiness means for *ourselves*. I used to think if only I had the right kind of job, the right group of friends and the right partner, then I would be happy. I worked so hard chasing these goals. I saw happiness like reaching the peak of a mountain… All I had to do was work really hard, achieve all my goals and then I’ll be happy. And that’s exactly what I did. I worked really hard and got to the top of the mountain. But at the top, I didn’t find what I was looking for… What I actually found at the top of the mountain was disappointment. I had worked so hard to conquer my goals and the realization that I still wasn’t happy made me even more unhappy. But little did I know it, I had no idea what happiness was. What on earth is happiness? There are probably as many definitions of happiness as there humans on the planet but broadly speaking, modern psychology categorizes happiness in two parts: 1. Happiness is an emotion Experiencing positive emotions like joy, pleasure and excitement We are all familiar with this type of happiness – good food, great sex, new clothes, walks on the beach, hot oil massages and puppies, lots of puppies. This is what’s constantly advertised to us and what we think of when we see our happy smiling friends on Facebook. 2. Happiness as a life satisfaction Living with a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment with life We are less familiar with this type of happiness as it is not as straightforward as getting a massage or hugging a warm puppy. Rather it involves a deliberate process of self-discovery and cultivating the right mental attitudes to live a happy life despite the ups and downs of everyday emotions. Let’s explore these… 1. Happiness as an emotion Chasing positive emotions Imagine if there was a machine you could plug yourself into that made you feel pleasure and joy 100% of the time. Better yet, you wouldn’t know you were plugged in so you would have no feelings of guilt. Would you plug in or stay in your current life? The answer you give this question can reveal a lot about how you feel about happiness as an emotion. If you asked me this question shortly after I had finished climbing my mountain of happiness, I would have almost certainly said yes. This is because I saw happiness only as an emotion that [...]

2020-01-09T13:07:40+00:00 By |

Stop Chasing Happiness: 17 Alternative Ways to Live Your Best Possible Life

“If only we’d stop trying to be happy we’d have a pretty good time.” ~Edith Wharton I have a question for you. What would you be willing to sacrifice to be happy? Would you be happy to let go of Netflix? Alcohol? Pizza? Would you be willing to take up a monastic life? Every single day of the year we’re being sold happiness. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in the form of a pill or a book or a holiday, the underlying idea is the same: What we have to sell you will make you happy. The problem with happiness is that no one really knows exactly what it is. It’s intangible, even a little mysterious, yet still we all want to be happy. But trying to be happy is like trying to get to sleep; the harder you try, the less likely it is to happen. So four years ago, on New Years Eve, I made the pledge to myself to stop trying to be happy. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t miserable. I was just spending too much time thinking about whether or not I was happy—even though neither I, nor anyone I knew really, could give a clear answer about what this meant. So instead of saying to myself, This year I’m going to be happy, I said, This year I’m going to try new things. I’m going to meet new people. I’m going to go to new places. I’m going to push myself out of my comfort zone. And if I’m not happy, well, I’m not happy, but at least I’ve had some interesting experiences. The result of this was the best (and probably happiest) year of my life, at least up to that point. And I realized something obvious in hindsight, but still profound: Happiness is something that comes a lot more easily when we stop thinking about it. It’s more like a place you occupy than an object you obtain. Some days you’ll be there and some days you wont, but the more time you spend thinking about being happy, the less likely you are to spend time being so. A large part of what less than happy people have is a problem with their patterns of attention. In the same way the attention of an extrovert is naturally directed at social communication, the attention of an entrepreneur seeks out business opportunities, and an artist looks for creative expression, an unhappy person tends to look directly at happiness. This post will explore some practices that can help you to stop focusing so hard on the idea of happiness and instead embrace the experiences and thoughts that will actually make you happy.   1. Take the word “happy” out of your vocabulary. We all know words are used to communicate ideas. Unfortunately, sometimes a word can get overused and it becomes confusing, stifling, or even dangerous. Here are some other words you should start to use in conversations with yourself and [...]

2019-10-01T18:04:10+00:00 By |

There’s More to Life Than Being Busy: Why I Took a Pressure-Free Pause

“When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection with one another—and ourselves.” ~Jack Kornfield It was a Monday a few weeks ago, 6:00am, and I was taking a morning walk. The only light in sight was the neon yellow glare of the street lamps. My heart was heavy. It was as if someone had cut my chest open while I was asleep and slipped a cannonball inside. My alarm had awoken me at 5:00am, as it had every morning since the start of the year. My shoes crunch-crunched in the snow as I trudged along, ignoring this dull ache in my chest, telling myself “It’s just resistance to being up so early. Keep pushing through; gotta get those 12,000 steps today, Will.” I got to the end of the road, a mere eighty or so meters from my house, and WHOOSH, a wild wave of emotions washed over me, forcing me—jolting me—to stop walking and stand still and silent in the snow. I stood and stood as if I’d fallen asleep upright and frozen to death. This whooshing wave felt like a panic attack. Except it wasn’t. It was this feeling coming from my chest, the one I had tried to ignore. If its first attempt to get my attention was a whisper, this was a shout. And it was shouting in desperation ”LISTEN TO ME, WILL’.’ Without consciously making the decision, I turned and walked home. I’d barely walked for two minutes, not quite the forty-five-minute morning walk I had planned, but something inside of me, I can’t explain what, told me this was long enough for today. Arriving home, I sat down at my desk to give this feeling some attention. My eyes closed. I did my best to give a name to what I was feeling… Was it sadness? Nope. Dissatisfaction? Closer, but not quite. Pressure? Yes, pressure! I was feeling pressured! The next logical question for me was, why? Why was I feeling pressured? The answer was right under my nose, and no, that’s not a metaphor; the answer was literally right under my nose, sitting there on my desk staring up at me. You see, lying there in the center of my desk, scribbled on a piece of paper, was my list of jobs for the day, and it was a long, long list. I’d listed all the action steps I felt I needed to take, I felt I should take, I felt I must take on this day. An intimidating list detailing emails to be sent, words to be written, opportunities to be created. More. More. More. This list was going to keep me occupied almost every waking minute of the day, having me run around like a headless chicken, stuck in doing mode. Sure, there were self-care rituals—meditation, Qi Gong, walks dotted throughout the day—but even these seemed like chores within my strict schedule, just something else to tick off. Supporting [...]

2019-10-01T17:48:31+00:00 By |

4 Fears That Create People-Pleasers and How to Ease Them

“It feels good to be accepted, loved, and approved of by others, but often the membership fee to belong to that club is far too high of a price to pay.” ~Dennis Merritt Jones Like a lot of people, I grew up putting others’ needs and wants first. I learned early that doing things for other people and accommodating their wishes gained me attention and approval. It was only in those moments that I felt good enough and deserving of love. As a child, I liked nothing more than feeling indispensable and being told I was a good and nice girl. This praise was incredibly important to me, as was making others happy. My own happiness did not come into the equation; I was happy because they were happy. I felt loved, safe, and appreciated, in the short term at least. As I got older my people-pleasing went into overdrive. I continually tried to gain people’s approval, make them happy, and help them whenever needed. I hated to see loved ones hurt or upset and felt it was my responsibility to come to their rescue and ease their problems and pain. Before long I became so hyper-aware of others’ feelings that I lost sight of where I ended and where other people began. For many years, I didn’t question why I felt I didn’t have the right to say no to people’s demands. I just assumed this was how my relationships were meant to be. By the time I was in my late teens, however, I often felt lost, drained, and empty. After a terrifying anxiety attack, I realized I’d been unhappy for years. Trying to please everyone had made me miserable and ill, and my relationships felt draining and one-sided. I took a long, hard look at myself and realized I’d become a people-pleaser not simply because I wanted to be a nice person or help others, but due to a specific emotion, an emotion I’d felt since early childhood: fear. I realized I’d given control over my life to other people out of fear. I’d let an emotion steal my life and well-being. When I examined my past behavior it was obvious I’d been compelled to people-please due to a fear of certain situations, stemming from my childhood. I believe these specific fears are the reason why many of us become people-pleasers.   Fear of Rejection and Abandonment Inside every people-pleaser is a little child who never felt worthy of love and was afraid of being rejected and abandoned by his or her loved ones. Being good and nice and striving for approval is a way to try to suppress the fear. Children know instinctively that their survival depends on other people. As a child I felt I had to be good all the time—one misdemeanor would be enough to make my loved ones reject me. That’s not to say my family didn’t love me, they absolutely did. But they were often emotionally [...]

2019-10-01T17:39:38+00:00 By |

What It Really Means to Be There and “Hold Space” for Someone Else

“A healer does not heal you. A healer is someone who holds space for you while you awaken your inner healer, so that you may heal yourself.” ~Maryam Hasnaa   I was sobbing quite hysterically, huddled into myself sitting on the kitchen floor. It literally felt like my life was falling apart. And so was I. I had been striving so hard to start a meaningful business that would change the world and help others, as well as heal myself from intense ongoing physical symptoms. But it seemed the harder I tried, the less things worked. My head bobbed slightly off my knees as I took ragged breaths. What the hell was wrong with me? The thought that was driving my meltdown was unintelligible in my brain, due to the crashing waves of my emotional reaction. But somehow, eventually, I found myself able to fully lift my head and stare straight on at my distorted reflection in the stainless steel door of the dishwasher. The whole while, he sat with me. My endlessly loving partner, Jonathan, held space. I remember when I first turned to a friend and said, “What does holding space really mean?” I asked with the inquisitiveness of a child, like a small human who does not yet know what a word means. Because with something like this, can any of us really find the words to accurately explain it? She used a story in an attempt to define it, “When I was really freaking out about something, I went over to my friend’s house and just let it all out. My friend was able to just listen to me and just you know… hold the space.” “Holding space” is a concept that is hard to define without using the exact same words to define it. But as she explained it to me, I realized I’ve been lucky to have many experiences of people holding space for me, and I for them. When it comes down to it, what are we really doing when we are “holding space?” The interesting thing about this term is that we aren’t actually “holding” anything. When your daughter comes home from school and wants to tell you all about her day, and you listen intently… you are holding space. When your boyfriend vents about how hard work was that day, and you give him your full attention… you are holding space. When you are flipping out over one thing or another or all the things, and someone looks at you with complete acceptance… that is holding space. When you are both recognizing what is currently is going on, and open to stepping into a new reality… that is holding space. Holding space is about being in the space.  It’s about being fully present with the experience. Holding space is viewing someone without judgment and seeing him or her through loving kindness. Holding space is recognizing that although we all may stumble, we are all also so powerful. Holding [...]

2019-10-01T17:25:07+00:00 By |

How I Learned to Stop Absorbing Other People’s Emotions

“Sometimes I think I need a spare heart to feel all the things I feel.” ~Sanober Khan I felt her agony and loneliness as if it were my own. Even as I write that sentence, my eyes well up and heaviness fills my heart. Then, I’m reminded to apply the advice I give others. My mom was a special person, a sensitive soul just like me. Actually, I’m so much like she was, yet so different. One of the differences between us is that I had an opportunity to observe her life’s challenges. I saw her challenges reflected within myself and made a conscious choice to find healthy ways to cope. You see, my mom was a deep feeler and felt the emotions of people near and far. I imagine it was her strong empathy and personal challenges that led her to want to help others, as a wounded healer in a sense. But as a helper and healer, she struggled with her mental and emotional health over the years. Witnessing her life moved me to learn how to regulate my own sensitive emotions and set healthy boundaries. Sometimes I wonder if not knowing how to manage her empathy is what made her sick. There are many ways to understand the challenges my mom battled before her death in 2007. From her perspective, she had a rare, unknown physical illness. Some who knew her may have thought she was manipulative and attention-seeking. Some would see an addiction to pain medication. Psychologists would diagnose her with psychosomatic disorder, borderline personality disorder, and bipolar disorder. Maybe all and none of those explanations are true. But perhaps she didn’t have any “disorder” at all. I’m not really asserting that to be true, but merely posing a curious question. What if she was just a sensitive, empathic person who lacked the skills to manage the pain around and within her? What if one unhelpful coping mechanism led a to slew of other ailments? I believe my mom felt real physical and emotional pain. I struggled to fully understand her over the years. But after many years of reflection, I now trust her experience because of what I know about my own sensitive nature. As sensitive people, we may present with high emotion and feel easily overwhelmed by our senses. We’re often told by the world that there’s something wrong with us. And when we think there’s something inherently wrong with us, we tend to tuck these traits away into our “shadow” or unconscious mind. Well, now we’ve not only tucked away our core nature, but possibly the empathic depth that goes along with being a sensitive person as well. There may be a part of us that knows that we’re emotional sponges. Yet, we may choose to ignore our nature without really learning how to manage our empathy in such a way that prevents “dis-ease” and fosters well-being. This was me for a long time. Not only am I [...]

2019-10-01T17:11:38+00:00 By |

Can We Change?

For the last two years this question has returned to me again and again: can we really change? What can we change about ourselves and what do we need to accept? There is the beautiful truth-ism commonly cited by AA groups: "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference," by Reinhold Neibuhr.  There are aspects of my personality that seem to change with time and experience, while others remain fixed. Still others seem to change and then change back in the blink of an eye. The latter experience, my regression into former attitudes and behaviors, is most confounding. Recently, I read Dr. Carol Dweck’s thoughtful book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Her work is a wonderful exploration around what we can change, given the right attitude. In her research, Dr. Dweck cites instance after instance where the outcome of any given situation hinges on the mindset of the person or people involved. In business, she has found the mindset of leadership sets the stage for the entire corporate body. At home, the mindset approach of parents sets up children for success or failure again and again. In athletics, it is not the innate ability as much as the mindset of the athlete that results in lasting success. And what is a growth mindset? It is the attitude that your success or failure does not define you. It is the belief that there is always room for improvement, no matter how much you achieve. It is knowing that perfection on earth is impossible, but improvement is inevitable with hard work. This is the spiritual path, this is what we do every day when we sit to meditate. This is the attitude we adopt when we realize that Self-realization awaits every one of us, given enough time and experience.   So what of our daily set backs? What do we do when we feel ourselves sliding into ego, again and again? Whether it’s the psychological approach of Dr. Dweck or the spiritual approach of great Masters, the remedy is the same: become aware of your shortcomings, but do not dwell on them. Stand up, dust yourself off, and try again and again. You will inevitably reach new heights if you are compassionate with yourself and willing to do the work.   For me, I crave participating on a global stage. In my career, I don’t want to run the local charity, I want to work with the United Nations. I want to help change the world in meaningful ways. It’s a desire that I cannot seem to shake, try as I might to focus on my own spiritual development and the development of my children as the most effective ways to change the world. I just keep returning, again and again, to a pull toward a bigger arena. Is this ego? Is this an unchangeable aspect of myself? [...]

2019-10-07T17:34:38+00:00 By |