Positivity Project #3: Deep Breathing and Meditation (and My Experiences With Both)
In the past few months, I have noticed that I'm constantly being reminded of the importance of mediation and deep breathing exercises. Whether it be through advertisements on the bus for meditation centers or friends sharing their experience on social media, it seems like many people are turning to these activities to help with their health and well being . Try an internet search on ways to destress, clear your mind, be more positive etc and you will find meditation and deep breathing to be suggested in many of the search results.
In the Fall of 2014, I attended a workshop on Emotional Intelligence. The workshop was led by Angela Low, a Grad student in Human Development and Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at The University of British Columbia. The most important part of the workshop was the discussion on "6 Seconds". Angela emphasized how important it is to take a 6 Second Pause when we are in a situation that has made us very emotional in a negative way (such as an argument or some kind of conflict). She mentioned that the actual live time of an emotion is 6 seconds and that any reaction before 6 seconds is an emotional one (and in this time we are very likely to say/do something that we may regret or might make the situation worse). This is why it is important to take a pause of 6 seconds to help us calm down and help in resolving the conflict. Angela specifically said that during these 6 seconds we should focus on taking deep breaths and engage our brains in thinking about something else. This particular workshop was aimed at parents and caregivers (although the information applies to everybody) and, as a nanny, I found this tip very useful. We all know that children can be difficult to deal with at times. When I find myself in situations where I am about to lose my patience with a child in my care, I think back to the 6 Seconds technique and I put it to use, taking 6 seconds for a few deep breaths and to focus on being positive. This tool is great for any situation whether it be a conflict with children, a partner, a co worker or a friend, just take a few deep breaths and you will notice that it really helps to regain composure.
A few days ago, seeing as I wanted to start the new year right and am on a "positivty kick", I took the opportunity to check out a meditation center (Kadampa Meditation Center in Vancouver) that is just minutes away from my home. I wasn't sure what to expect since I have never attended a meditation center and only explored meditation through YouTube videos and sound clips in my own home. The class I attended is part of a series called Transform Your Life and is based on teachings from a book of the same name and another book called How To Understand The Mind, both by Buddhist monk Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. The one and a half hour class consists of a 5 minute guided meditation followed by a teaching by the center's extremely engaging resident teacher and local Vancouver monk Gen Sanden followed by another 5 minute guided meditation. I need to emphasize how casual and modern this class and Gen Sanden's approach was. There was some great advice given and information that everybody could benefit from hearing. I could relate to everything Gen Sanden was saying and could think of so many of my friends and family members that would benefit from attending a class like this. The attendees were constantly in hysterics by Gen Sanden's humor and I was constantly forgetting that this was a monk that was talking to us as it was so down to earth and not preachy at all (not saying that monks preach but just emphasizing the casual nature in case you have a preconceived notion that a class like this is very traditional and means being preached to). Even the center's advertisements highlight the modern nature of the classes and with the SkyTrain line running right alongside the building, the sound of the passing trains adds to the atmosphere. What really put a smile to my face was when Gen Sanden defined meditation as "familiarizing yourself with positive states of mind" and this is when I knew I was meant to attend the class. I was constantly wishing that my friends and family were all there to take in the great advice. I am definitely planning on attending more classes in the near future (and introducing my friends and family to them) and exploring meditation further. I highly recommend it to everybody. There is no harm in attending a class like this. They may not all be as casual as the one I attended but you will most likely walk away with very valuable advice and, maybe even some delicious tea and cookies (as they offered at this particular center). Do an internet search to find meditation centers near you and if you can't find any, Buddhist temples are an alternative and always very welcoming (although this may be in a more traditional manner - no harm in trying it out). Also, there is an abundance of meditation resources on YouTube that you can spend hours exploring including guided meditations to partake in from the comfort of your home.
Whether it be deep breathing, meditation, or another similar activity, clearing your mind is very beneficial to our health and well being and therefore helps us to be more positive and happier individuals. There is no harm in trying either!
I would love to hear feedback from any of you that have tried meditation (or considering it). And also please let me know if there are any other meditation centers or classes that I should check out! Feel free to contact me using the links above or by leaving a comment.
Lots more exciting stuff to come! Check back soon! :-)
SIDE NOTE: Those of you in Vancouver, there is a really great sounding public talk this upcoming Thursday January 15th by world renowned mediation teacher and Buddhist nun Gen-la Kelsang Dekyong. The topic is "Stop Stressing. Start Living" and is a highly anticipated event among the attendees of the meditation class I attended. Click here for more details and ticket information.
As I was decluttering my home before the new year, I took some time to flip through my journals from my teen years. They were filled with so much positivity and happiness and, as mentioned in my first post of the new year, I definitely saw the world in a better way back then. There was a particular part of my journal that really made me ponder and this was my list of "50 Things In My Life to be Happy About" that was part of a Creative Writing class assignment. Going over the list, I noticed it turned from more personal things in my life, like having good grades, to more general and obvious things, like "nature" and "reading". When I flipped to the next page, I couldn't help but smile..
I guess as a teen, I was happy about a lot of things...When I got to number 50 on my list, I realized, hey, there are even more things to be happy about...so I kept going....
And when I got to number 50 of ANOTHER 50 Things to be Happy About....I kept going...
...and when I got to number 37 of "...And Then Some", I all of a sudden had a list of 137 things that I was happy about. Wow! I was on a roll! I probably could have kept going but the school bell must have rang!
So, reflecting back to this journal entry of 50, or, lets face it, 137 things to be happy about, I realize that a list like this would actually be really beneficial and fun to do as an adult to help us see that there is a lot in our lives to be happy about. The last time I did this was over ten years ago in my last year of high school. Looking back at the simplicity of my list, I found happiness and positivity in nearly everything and this has inspired me to be more like my old self in 2015 and beyond.
Since coming across this list, I have told myself that I will not leave it another 10+ years to complete another one like it and will attempt to write one once a month or even every time I am feeling glum, stressed or that things are not working in my favor.
I urge you all to try it out. You can write your list anywhere: in a journal, on a scrap piece of paper, on your phone's notepad or a real notepad...ANYWHERE! Email the list to yourself so you have something to look back and reflect on. I assure you, there is ALWAYS something in your life to be happy about....think about your favorite foods, people in your life, events, milestones, travel, movies you like, concerts you've attended etc. Or just look to my list for inspiration. It may be silly (ie. Willy Wonka, Easter Egg Hunts, Lava Lamps etc) but, hey, it proves that there is always something to be happy about (and yes I was too young to be drinking margaritas and cheap wine - what a rebel I was). You don't have to go past 50, but I assure you, once you get going on your list, you will want to keep going...and going...and going, just like the Energizer Bunny!
Would love to hear your feedback if you attempt this project! Have fun and enjoy! Check back soon for Positivity Project #3 and, if you missed Positivity Project #1, you can find it here!
As I was browsing my Facebook News Feed on New Year's day, I came across a post from HelloGiggles entitled "Why You Need to Start a Gratitude Jar Today". This intrigued me as one of my resolutions is to be more positive in 2015 (and beyond) and this idea sounded like something that would help with this particular resolution.
The idea of the gratitude jar is to take a moment out of each day (or however frequently you choose) to write down something you are happy about or grateful for each day and store it in a jar or container. It can be anything from "happy that I got to see my best friend" to "happy that I paid off my credit card" to something as simple as "happy that there is only one more sleep until the Game of Thrones season premiere". It can be absolutely anything. At the end of the year, you can read through them and have nice reminders of the year that has just passed us by.
As soon as I read the HelloGiggles post, I was adamant about having a Gratitude Jar in our home. I searched through the house for a container to use as my Gratitude Jar. You can use anything really: a shoe box, a mason jar, a vase, a tupperware container, a Ziploc bag or whatever you may have lying around the house. .I chose to use a Bookers Bourbon signature wooden box that was sitting there waiting to be used for some sort of DIY project (my husband Perry works at the Liquor Store and he is always bringing me home wine crates and wooden boxes to use for projects...so I am sure you have something in your home that can be used as a container). For the paper, I just cut some Post-It notepads in half (again, you can use any paper you desire). I started my first note immediately and am currently on day three.
I am really excited about this project and, each day, I have looked forward to writing my note down. I asked Perry to participate in this project with me and after much hesitation, he agreed. It will be fun to go through them at the end of year (and perhaps even years to come) and think back to days and moments we otherwise would have forgotten about. I am even thinking of allowing visitors to our home to participate and add to our Gratitude Jar. There really is no harm in reflecting on your day and thinking back to all the good things that happened rather than focusing on the negative. The way I see it, it helps us to appreciate what we have and to complain a lot less. At the end of the day, no matter how bad our day seems to be going, there is always going to be someone out there in the world (usually a lot of someones) whose day is a thousand times worse than ours and we really need to be more appreciative of what we have.
I hope I have inspired some of you to start this project. To get more ideas on Gratitude Jars, just complete a Google Image Search or browse through Pinterest for inspiration.
What are your thoughts on this Positivity Project? Is it something you are interested in trying out?
Check back in the next few days for more Positivity Projects to help you be more, well, positive!
Happy crafting and happy reflecting everyone!
I wasn't a huge fan of 2014 but I think this is because we didn't travel as much as in previous years and didn't even go on a plane. Not 1! The previous year, we went on 10 that I can recall! Travel withdrawal is not the end of the world though and one of my resolutions this year is to be more positive and eliminate negativity as much as possible! There were many great things that happened in 2014 too. We witnessed many friends get married, many friends give birth to beautiful healthy babies, we went on a couple of pretty great road trips....BUT I am very excited for the new year. I have high hopes for 2015 and feeling extremely positive about it. With ringing in the new year with some of my favorite people, to Tottenham kicking Chelsea's butts in a Premier League match and our first plane ride since 1.5 years ago coming up in one month (for a quick getaway to England), this year is already off to a fantastic start and I am looking forward to all that's in store for us!
As mentioned, a major focus this year is to be positive. As I was decluttering and purging earlier this week, I looked back at photos and mementos from my teen years, including my journals. They were filled with such simple and positive words and I definitely saw the world in a better way back then. Yes, as adults most of us are not as carefree as we were in our teens and we have a lot more responsibilities, but this doesn't mean we should allow the responsibilities and routines of adult life get in the way of us looking in the world in a more positive light and being optimistic and happier ourselves.
I have a few other resolutions and goals for this year as well:
- hike at least two times a month and spend more time outdoors
- meditate twice a day for at least 5 minutes
- learn to drive
- read more
- blog at least twice a week and generally write more and be more creative
- exercise at least three times a week
- and the usual: stress/worry less, declutter, stay organized, spend more time with family and friends, don't be judgemental etc etc (just be a better person)
I believe that being positive will help me achieve these goals and also sticking to these goals will help keep me positive and ultimately help to clear my mind and keep the stress levels down. I have already registered for a meditation seminar and class and am really looking forward to exploring this practice.
I also have some simple tools that will help keep me positive and I will be sharing these in the next week.
What are your goals, resolutions and hopes for this new year?
I leave you with some photos from January 1st, 2015. After throwing a NYE house party which resulted in a giant mess (see photo for proof), a lack of sleep and a hole in our wall, I called my former high school creative writing teacher, Miss Nabata, to wish her a Happy New Year and ask her if she'd like to get together sometime in the near future. She suggested we go for a walk right that moment. I hesitated as we had to complete the daunting task of cleaning the suite BUT it was such a beautiful day outside and if we weren't going to get out there, we would definitely regret it later! She convinced us to seize the moment and I figured I may as well get a good start to my resolutions. Our impromptu walk ended up being a 5 hour adventure around downtown Vancouver and False Creek and I thank the fabulous Miss Nabata for convincing us to seize the moment and allowing us to have a fresh start to 2015...cause boy that air sure was fresh!
I wish you all an amazing 2015 and hope it is filled with good health, lots of love, amazing adventures, positivity, good energy, blue skies, sunshine, lollipops and all that your hearts desire. Hugs and kisses in whatever part of the world you are in!