Neom Happiness Programme Week 2

neom-range-happiness

To continue my post from a week ago on the Neom Happiness Programme, here is what Week 2 looked like:

Day 8 – Exercise your mind in under 6 minutes.  Based on the fact that learning something new is good for your self-confidence and it improves your memory,  today’s task was to learn something new, and the choice was between a short TED talk or Duolingo. I love both, but today I chose a TED talk. The task was under 6 minutes, but I find it can get addicting and 6 minutes end up being an hour… TED.com has over a thousand videos on so many topics, and you can set your filters for the topic, duration and so on, so they make it really easy. Duolingo is a great suggestion as well. This is a free website where you can practice and learn your skills in many languages. I used to practice my French on there, and I think Italian might be next.:)

Day 9 – The morning mantra for happiness. As soon as you wake up, repeat a positive affirmation 5 times before you start your day. I actually took this further and used certain cues throughout the day to remind me of my affirmation. Everytime that cue would come up, I would pause and repeat to myself “I choose to be happy because it is good for my health”. Of course, you can choose any positive affirmation you want, but this one is a personal favorite of mine:)

Day 10 – Have a bath. I LOVE BATHS! I would have a bath every single day if I could, but I am grateful for even once a week or every two weeks. For me, this takes some planning, but when I do get the chance to have some time for myself and have a bath, I make it AMAZING!

Day 11 – Mood boosting smoothie bowls in minutes. For this day, you are given 3 different recipes for some yummy-looking, nutrient packed smoothie bowls. I was really sick last week, so instead of a smoothie bowl, I made a smoothie: I juiced some apples and celery sticks, a lemon, and then added that to the blender, with an avocado, a couple of kiwis, and a good handful of spinach. It was perfect and just what I needed since I couldn’t eat that much.

Day 12 – Get up and at ’em. This day is about setting your alarm 10 minutes early, so you can give yourself those extra 10 minutes in the morning for some deep breathing and visualization. When the alarm goes, you light up a candle, practice a few deep breaths  and then visualize the day ahead.  Give yourself one clear goal to achieve in the next 8 hours and write it down. Use it to motivate you through the day. The Daily Greatness Journal is like this, too, (I mentioned previously I started to write in it again), where every morning you write one thing you would like to accomplish or do, a few things you are grateful for, a course of action for the day ahead in 3 steps, and then 4 affirmations for the day ahead. Each day finished with a few questions to help you learn and let go of the day, like “What was great about today?” or “What did I learn?”, “What challenged me today that I can grow from?”, “After today, what behaviour would I like to upgrade?” or “What would I like to let go of?”, “What did I do really well today? What strengths did I use?”. These questions or similar ones are written down on every page, and you just need to fill in every morning and night. I am really glad I am beginning to write in it again. I find it really helps, even if I have to wake up a few minutes earlier. It is a time well spent:)

Day 13 – Date Night. Positive social connections are really important for our wellbeing, so it is important for us to spend an evening catching up with someone we love, either going out for dinner at a new restaurant, or maybe spending the evening getting competitive playing board games, or going out to the theatre, or maybe going indoor rock climbing. Although I like all those suggestions, I was sick for 3 good days with a high fever, and so was my entire family, so this day we were all actually finally feeling a bit better, so we ordered some food in, played Mario Party then we all sat together and watched movies, cuddled up under blankets and the fireplace on. This for me was pure happiness 🙂

Day 14 – 10 minute self-massage. I think by now, if you have been following my posts, you know how much I love self massage. I will use any excuse to spend some time releasing muscle tension and inhaling some lovely aromatherapy in the process, and in fact, I do this every day. This is actually the one thing that I do no matter how busy/tired/sick/cranky/excited I may be. This is the one thing I somehow always manage to find time for, even if it is just a face, shoulder and scalp massage when I am laying in bed ready to go to sleep….but on most days, I find time way more often than that. (Even when I am on my laptop, I roll a tennis ball under my foot or when I am on the phone, I rub one shoulder than the other).

Again, the steps are really simple and easy to fit into even the busiest of schedules. I love that you have to focus on yourself for a little bit of wellbeing every single day, and I love that there are a variety of little things you can do each day to add more happiness into your life.

To be continued

Image source: Neomorganics.com

 

 

 

Today, I choose Happiness

08da175c86ae947c0efd91a8c04ab965

The Neom Happiness Programme got me thinking…all the little daily tasks in the program are things we already know are good for us and things most of us probably know we SHOULD be doing. Our bodies and our instincts constantly send us messages and feedback… “I am so stiff, I should really be doing some yoga today”, “I feel so bloated, I should eat a little healthier”, “I feel so exhausted, I should take a nap”, “My shoulders are so tight, I should go for a massage”, “My mind won’t shut up, I should really try to meditate daily”…

Deep down we know what we need, but we tend to ignore, postpone, procrastinate, find a million excuses until we BREAK DOWN completely…Then, when our health is in a state of emergency, that is when our SHOULDS turn into SHOULD HAVES and then we are forced to turn them into MUSTS. But why is it that when it comes to our own health and wellbeing, we don’t make ourselves a priority? If one of our children, or a loved one or a best friend were unwell, we somehow always find the time to attend to them in some way. If we had a last minute appointment or a job interview, we would also somehow find the time. There is enough time for everything we need to do, we are just not very good at prioritizing and managing it.

We tend not to look at these things we “should” be doing with a sense of urgency. We see them as ideals, but we end up never doing them, or not doing them enough or when we need them most.

Today, pay attention to your words and to your thoughts, and everytime you hear yourself saying “I should”, pause and ask yourself: would this enrich my life, improve my health and wellbeing (in body, mind and/or spirit) and/or bring me more happiness? If the answer is yes even to one of those, turn that SHOULD into MUST. Do it before life forces you to. Treat is with urgency, just as you would a job interview, an appointment, or even attending to a loved one who is unwell and needs your help. Put it in your calendar if you must. Don’t look for excuses, there will always be a million you will come up with.Set the alarm 10 minutes early and meditate to set the tone for the rest of your day, take that 20 minute afternoon nap, or turn your phone off after 7 and practice some gentle yoga, book that massage you’ve been meaning to for months, have that relaxing bath you’ve been dreaming of for weeks, do something that makes you happy every single day. YOU MUST!

Image: from Pinterest

The Art of the Moment

20160224_101025

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.

–John O’Donohue, from “Blessings”

Continuing my previous post, I want to share a couple of my favorite parts from “The Art of the Moment” , by Veronique Vienne.

“Improvisation is the child of the moment. It thrives under the benevolent glance of the instant. “I don’t search, I find,” said Picasso, commenting on the fact that, for him at least, creativity was not a lengthy process of trial and error but the discovery of a hidden reality tucked away in the immediacy of the here and now.”

“You can’t leave it all to chance. If only to tempt fate, you have to map out the forseeable future. But take it for granted that your best-laid plans will conflict with your good fortune. As you are about to close a deal on your first home, you’ll get a chance to spend a year in Rome on a generous scholarship. When at long last the plumber decides to come fix your sewage system, a crew from the local television station will show up to interview you.[…]Opportunity knocks at the least opportune moment.To prevent future concerns from spoiling the present moment, make a list of all the things you’d like to do in the next couple of years and hang it on the wall next to your desk:”

20160224_093319

“The wonderful thing about attention is its fluidity. Like water, it flows effortlessly from its original source somewhere in your mind. Even though most of the time your attention just ripples over the surface of things […], it can also penetrate into the smallest nooks and crannies, highlighting minute details under the magnifying glass of its liquid lens.The wonder of the world is yours to witness. […] You don’t have to travel far to see the beauty of the world. It is always there, within reach, at the other end of the notoriously short leash of your attention.”

“[In life] what happens next is more compelling than what happens in the end, because every ending is also a beginning. […] Experience life as an adventure by resisting the temptation to explain everything….Let your life be the epic poem it is. Embrace each moment on its own merit, one at a time, in the sequence in which it happens. Be the adventurous one.”

20160224_091832

I hope this inspires you to slow down and find more happiness in every moment, even those simplest moments, or those moments when life throws you a curve ball.

“Perfect moments happen to imperfect people at the most imperfect times.

On a rainy afternoon, while waiting for the local locksmith to show up to retrieve the ignition key you locked inside your car, you have a bowl of homemade chicken soup at the counter of a quaint coffee shop.

When impatiently rummaging through papers in search of the receipt for your defective answering machine, you find an old picture of yourself with your best friend at age ten.

As you put down the receiver after a stressful fight with your sister about family matters, you notice how pretty the garden looks in winter.

Don’t hold your breath any longer. Perfect moments happen every day.”

-V. Vienne “The Art of Imperfection”

The Art of Doing Nothing

20160223_195147

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

-Leisure by William Henry Davies

I recently read a couple of books by Veronique Vienne. One was “The Art of Imperfection”, “The Art of the Moment” and “The Art of Doing Nothing”. They are such great books on the art of living. In the spirit of slowing down, I would like to share today a few of my favorite excerpts from “The Art of Doing Nothing”.

  1. The Art of Procrastinating. “[Procrastination] takes you places you would otherwise have missed. It also gets you to do things that are long overdue. Instead of paying bills, for example, you decide to organize your sock drawer. Rather than fix the garage door, you give the new puppy a bath. How about working on your novel? First you want to strip the waxy buildup off the kitchen floor. Maybe procrastinating is nature’s way of tidying up messes and cleaning up corners. […]By taking procrastination out of the home and into the woods, Henry David Thoreau helped make idleness part of the American cult of nature. “When I go out of the house for a walk, uncertain as yet whither I will bend my steps, I submit myself to my instinct to decide for me.” “
  2. The Art of Breathing. “When a crisis is over, breathe a sigh of relief. The murmur of the breath as it gently passes through the vocal cords makes for the sweetest ending. A measure of happiness is how often we sigh with ease.”
  3. The Art of Meditating. “Enlightenment is just another word of feeling comfortable with being a completely ordinary person. At long last, the unexceptional seems extraordinary enough: a puddle of water, a child running after a bird, the peaceful hum of your computer-and you, in the midst of it all, with your unvarnished self-image. […] You are not a perfect being – far from it – but your mind is clear. For the first time perhaps, you feel unflustered, alert, and ready to go.”
  4. The Art of Lounging. “Find a low chair – a couple of pillows, a footstool, or a tree stump will also do- and drop down by about three feet, so that your eyes are where your navel was when you were standing. What happens next is called lounging. It requires that you stay put for a while and wait for your head to return to its senses. Don’t move until your brain is safely back in its skull.”
  5. The Art of Yawning. “Fight the ho-hums by playing tricks on your mind: *scramble time: it’s Monday afternoon? Make believe it’s Friday P.M. – just for a few minutes * challenge the written word: visualize the word “red” in bright blue letters; spell out the word river and see a pebble in your mind’s eye; write “lips”, but imagine a cloud.”
  6. The Art of Napping. “If you’ve got too much to do, take a nap-just a ten minute nap. […] Close your eyes and imagine that you are in a small boat, about to embark on a short journey. Pull up the anchor and let the boat drift. The water may feel choppy at first, but soon the waves will diminish and you’ll be sailing on a smooth sea.”
  7. The Art of Bathing. “To penetrate into this ever-flowing liquid domain, just submerge your ears below the surface and listen to the sloshing of the invisible underworld; the gurgling in your stomach, the pulsing in your throat, the swishing of the bathwater…Like a huge enameled seashell, your bathtub is a listening device that lets you eavesdrop on the constant percolation of water in the universe.”
  8. The Art of Tasting. “We eat to nourish our bodies, but we taste food to satiate our minds. No dainty eater, the brain feasts on the aroma and flavor of each bite we bring to our lips long before the stomach has a chance to get a piece of the action. … People who eat slowly are usually more involved with their minds than their bellies. Tasting food is one of the most pleasant ways to stimulate your thoughts.”
  9. The Art of Listening. “You don’t have to talk to be an active participant: As far as others are concerned, every one of your glances, head movements, smiles or facial expressions is part of what is being said. The more you listen to others, the more they will seek your approval. Vigilance is a powerful magnet. When focused, your attention acts as the baton of a conductor. Silently, you can orchestrate the flow of ideas, influence the outcome of the conversation – or add to the confusion. Whoever listens most usually controls the situation.”
  10. The Art of Waiting.

12407142_1018840418175899_931668937_n

A good Night’s Sleep

71AbJYlDjhL._SX450_ (1)

A good night’s sleep can do wonders for our health and wellbeing. During the day we are in a metabolic phase, when our cells require and burn energy. While we sleep, we go into an anabolic  state, where our bodies repair and rejuvenate. After a good night’s sleep, we wake up with more energy, a clearer mind and usually a better mood.
There are a few steps we can take in order to get a deeper, more restful sleep. I have read quite a few books and articles about this, and watched quite a few documentaries. Here are some things I have learned:

  • Spend as much time as possible in natural daylight during the day. Go for a little walk outside after lunch if possible, and soak up some sunshine and some fresh air.
  • Avoid over-stimulating the mind in the evening with caffeine and technology. If you must be on your phone or laptop, install a blue-light filter. This filters the blue light emitted by your screen after sunset and applies a pleasant soft red filter (think of the way it looks outside when the sun is setting). The filter intensity is gradually adjusted to the sun cycle based on your location.
  • Don’t overnap during the day. If you feel tired, try practicing yoga NIdra instead (I talked about this in a previous post), try meditating or do something relaxing . Afternoons are the time when physically we tend to hit an energy slump, but it is a great time to do something that rests the body but keeps the mind engaged. Things like reading a book or painting are great options.
  • Have an early, light dinner. This is because a big meal, or a meal too high in sugar will spike your blood sugar and boost your metabolism which will keep you up for longer.
  • Don’t perform any strenuous physical activities. Instead, a 20 minute walk outise after dinner or some gentle yoga or stretches, followed by breathing meditation will help the body and mind unwind after the day.
  • Create a relaxing bed-time ritual. Maybe turn off your phone or TV an hour before bed and read a book instead. Meditate. Write in your journal. Sip on some herbal tea like chamomile, hops, lavender or peppermint.
  • Have a 20-minute bath before bed. I once watched a documentary where they explained that it is the steep drop in our body temperature after a hot bath that puts us in a deeper sleep. With my two children who also love baths and only one bathtub in the house, I don’t get to have a bath as often as I would like to (every night), but when I do get the chance (once a week), I make it luxurious…candlelight, luxurious oils, soothing music, herbal tea, eye pads soaked in rose water, my favorite face mask…and finish with a really nice self-massage with body balm with rose, tuberose and vetivert or a body oil with jasmine and sandalwood and acupressure facial massage with my favorite rose face oil. So maybe it is not as often as I would like, but when I do get the time, I make sure it’s pure bliss
  • Your bedroom should be aired out, cool and dark. Using aromatherapy like lavender, basil and jasmine can help you relax even more. I put a few drops of lavender or jasmine on a handkerchief and place it in my pillowcase.
  • Try going to bed around the same time every evening….ideally at around 10-10:30 pm.
  • When you are in bed, use a relaxation technique to help the body relax. For me, I cover my eyes with a silk eye pillow, filled with flax, peppermint and lavender. I absolutely love the gentle coolness of the silk, the weight of the pillow gently helping relax tension around my eyes and the aromatherapy of lavender and peppermint. It even helps relieve tension when I get a headache. I used to use a silk eye mask, but I personally find the heaviness of the eye pillow much more relaxing. I can feel the tension of the muscles around my eyes just melt away. I also use the Intelligent Nutrients Destress Express elixir on my pressure points. It has peppermint, spearmint, ravintsara, cardamom, cinnamon, chamomile, lime, vanilla and red raspberry, and it is a personal favorite of mine, but you can use any other aromatherapy you may prefer. Lavender and jasmine are also known for their relaxing, sleep-inducing effects. I practice some deep breathing and then a full body relaxation or body scan. I usually fall asleep before I complete it.

Here is a really delicious dinner recipe I learned to make from the Neom Guide to Sleep book for a good night’s sleep:

 

what to eat1

what to eat123

And here is a body scan – relaxation technique:

Begin by laying down and taking 10 slow, deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Feel your mind and body slow down and begin to unwind. Feel the tension start to release.

The next part is a visualization to help relax your body. As you inhale, you visualize a warm, healing bright light enveloping the part of the body you are focusing on. As you exhale, you release it. Feel that body part energized, healed and relaxed. I think of this almost like a very relaxing, healing massage with pure, white light.

Begin with moving your attention to your toes. As you inhale, visualize a warm, bright white light travelling through your toes. As you exhale, let this light energize, heal and relax your toes.

Move your attention to your ankles. As you inhale, visualize a warm, bright white light enveloping your ankles. As you exhale, feel this light energize, heal and relax your ankles.

Keep repeating this for the following body parts: middle of your calves, your knees, middle of your thighs, your sacrum, your hips, your pelvis, your navel, your heart, your lower back, your entire spine, vertebra by vertebra, your shoulders, your fingertips, your palms, your wrists, your forearms, your elbows,  your upper arms, your neck, your face: your chin, jaw, lips, tongue, throat, your nostrils, your cheeks, muscles around your eyes, eyes, eyelids, eyebrows, area between the eyebrows, forehead, temples, ears, the back of your head, the crown of your head.

Once the whole body is relaxed, focus on this healing energy enveloping your entire body. Feel your whole body fully relaxed and healed. Take 10 deep, slow breaths, in silence.

If you are not sleeping already, or if you are doing this in the afternoon, you can begin to wiggle your fingers and toes, rub your palms together and gently place them over your eyes. Then, slowly sit up, still with your eyes closed. When you are ready, open your eyes.

Top image found on Google images.

Body Brushing

927cef4b98dbb1811b776b923b2f61fb

This post goes hand in hand with my post from a few days ago on Facial Lymphatic Drainage massage, only this is for the body. The epic flu I experienced recently made me more determined than ever to get my lymph circulation a boost, hence the post a few days ago, and now this one.

Once upon a time, (in a galaxy far away), I used to body brush every single day. Fast forward 10 years, and two children later, and body brushing has become a treat for when I actually remember to do it. But it shouldn’t be that way. It really only takes 5 minutes, and it has such great benefits. It increases circulation, exfoliates the skin and it helps lymphatic circulation and drainage. So I decided, since the last 2 weeks have been quite sedentary for me, fighting one of the worst colds I have probably ever had, it is now time for me to get rid of all the junk that was left behind after my amazing immune system did its thing. Time to help drain and clean up the mess left behind:) Starting today, my plan is to body brush again every single day, for just 5 minutes.

If you are unfamiliar with this, here is how it’s done:

You will need a natural bristle body brush for this. ( I got mine at the health food store and it’s lasted me YEARS! with proper care). Do this on dry skin, preferably first thing in the morning, and ideally followed by a shower or bath. The movements are light and brisk and each stroke should be repeated about 7 times. On the abdomen and decolletage, the pressure is a little bit lighter than on the rest of the body.

Starting with the soles of the feet, brush from toes to heel. Then moving to the outside of the foot, brush around the ankles in circular motions.Follow with the top of the foot. Continue up the leg, brushing in sweeping movements up, starting with the inner side of the leg and moving outwards . Keep moving up the leg towards the hips. When you reach the lower back, brush as high as you can reach, moving from the spine outwards on both sides, in upward, sweeping movements. Brush the sides of the waist upwards as well, towards the armpits. Continue by brushing the upper back , by placing the brush in the middle of the spine horizontal to the base of the shoulder blades and move the brush in sweeping strokes towards the armpits, moving up the spine, towards the neck. Do this on both sides. Brush around each shoulder from the neck towards the armpit.Now move to the hands and brush upwards from fingertips towards the wrist, then keep moving up the arm, from wrist to shoulder, moving from the inside towards the outside of the arm. Next, brush the abdomen moving in a circular clockwise movement. On the torso, sweep up towards the collarbone and armpit. You can use the diagram at the top of my post for reference. (Image found on Pinterest)

Follow with a shower or epsom salt bath for extra detoxification. Make sure you also drink lots of water.

Happy brushing!:)

Daily Greatness

20160221_131142

It is time to start writing in my Daily Greatness Journal again. I started last year and saw so many positive results unfold in my life…and then, when I hurt my knee, I stopped writing. I think I was just so frustrated and my ego took a really big hit. I think it was actually my ego more than the knee that hurt. I couldn’t walk, and I felt like all the things I used to pride myself on went down the drain. All the hardcore steep hikes, all the aerial yoga moves I had finally succeeded in, all the advanced yoga asanas that took me over 10 years to perfect, it felt like it all went down the drain. I now had to start from scratch. I had to be EXTREMELY mindful of every single movement I made, and had to do so SLOWLY. In fact, I found it frustrating that I had to really slow down. I was a beginner again. I had to find new things to be excited about other than just physical activity. I was so devastated that I just felt like completely giving up on all my fitness goals altogether. I was angry with myself for not paying close attention to my body. That is actually how I injured myself. I pushed too hard, I was tired, but still kept going, and twisted my knee to the point where I tore 2 ligaments and a muscle.

In a very weird way though, I think my injury was life’s way of teaching me a very important lesson, and that is to be mindful and grateful of every single moment we have, and also not to get attached to the results. Sometimes it is so good to re-learn things like a beginner, because by being more mindful the second time, you can discover things you may have overlooked before. This has definitely been my experience. I also learned that we shouldn’t let all these curve balls life throws at us stop our momentum towards something great. We can use these moments as levers, to push us even further ahead instead. Yes, I got injured, and I had to slow down, but that shouldn’t have stopped me from wanting to improve. It should have been the opposite. I got a new chance to understand my current limits, and learn new ways to improve in the future. I eventually got it. I healed…my knee healed, my ego healed, but I no longer push myself to exhaustion. I pay attention to my body A LOT more now, to how I feel in the moment, not how cool it may look on the outside. I am no longer attached to the results. I set goals, but I no longer obsess over them. I just do my best, whatever that may be in that very moment.

I find the Daily Greatness Journal helps with that. It helps me break my goals down into small steps I can do daily/weekly/monthly/early, it helps me figure out what is it that I truly want…. I think sometimes we may feel lost because we don’t know what we want, and we don’t know what questions to ask ourselves in order to figure what we want.

So today, I am asking myself all these questions once more, and begin filling in my Daily Greatness Journal again.