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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Stressed Out? Self-Calming Activities Restore Clear Thinking

Be Calm

What's on Your Mind This Morning?
What did you wake up thinking about this morning?  Were you calm or stressed as you thought about it?

Whichever way we start--calm or stressed-- it usually builds momentum and determines  the course of our day.  It's just the way our brains work--stress begets stress, and calm begets calm.

I've got those Overwhelmed, Out-of-control, Stressed-out Blues

My daughter is transferring to a new college. That's what's what was on my mind this morning.  She's 600 miles away, needs to move, find a place to live in another state, rent a U-Haul, and move her belongings while dealing with snow storms and safety issues. In addition, she still needs to finish the school term and get oriented to the new school at the same time. Of course I want to help. And that's just the beginning. You see how it is....

Self-Calming Activities Provide the Cure

Like you, I have to figure out how to get myself out of that overwhelmed feeling when a bout of life hits.  I have a low tolerance for discomfort. I hate feeling overwhelmed, and I'm very motivated to get out of it as fast as I can.

To return to being clear and focused sooner, I've learned to engage in self-calming activities when overwhelmed.  It's a simple, effective strategy for redirecting my focus, and I make good and reasoned choices when I'm calm.

Heart Rate over 100? Kiss Your Ability to Think Clearly Good-Bye!

John Gottman, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington, and co-founder and co-director of the Gottman Institute, studies couples to determine what makes for harmonious relationships and what gets in the way.  Use of self-calming techniques is part of the answer to what makes for more harmonious relationships.

As part of his research, Gottman takes physiological recordings, including heart rate and blood pressure readings to determine how stressed or relaxed couples are while talking to each other.

Gottman has shown when our heart rate goes above 100 in non-exercise situations, such as when engaged in an argument with a spouse, our brains go diffuse. In other words, our ability to problem-solve or think clearly flies out the window, and fear and irrationality move in.

In order to bring their heart rates down so they can think more clearly and problem solve more effectively, Gottman teaches couples to pause and practice self-calming techniques when their emotions cause their heart rate to raise above 100.

You Know Best What Calms You

What are self-calming activities for you? You know best what will calm and relax you.  It's anything you can engage in that redirects your attention away from the stress to a calmer state. This activity can take as little as 5-10 minutes, or it can be sleeping on it overnight.

The list below will get you started. Try one and see what happens.

Me? Today I took a walk,  brewed some tea, got some facts, and put it down. I'm going to sleep on it tonight and see what tomorrow brings.

Self-Calming Activities

Take a Walk
Take a Break
Take a Nap
Take a Shower
Take a Bath
Take Action
Read a Book
Brew some Tea
Nourish your Body
Make a List
Talk with a Friend
Get the Facts
Take a step
Put it down
Do Something Else
Sleep on it
Give it Time
Let it Go
Believe the Affirmation

Be Calm

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Day Begins with Gratitude and Joy!

Simple Pleasures
 The Chicken or the Egg?

Does my day begin with gratitude and joy because I choose my day to begin that way? 

Or does my day begin with gratitude and joy because that's the way I'm made?

It's the old 'which came first--the chicken or the egg?'  But it  doesn't really matter which came first. What matters is the creation of the story.

Stories Create the Meaning

Our stories create the meaning in our lives. If you want your day to begin with gratitude and joy, create stories to put gratitude and joy into your day, and continue to build upon those pleasurable stories. You are the creator of your own stories.

The Chickens and The Eggs

See those beautiful eggs among the affirmation hearts? The story is those eggs were a gift from my friend, Deb, with whom I share a love of chickens.  I am often the recipient of a carton of freshly laid eggs from her chickens. Seeing those eggs with my affirmation hearts makes me smile. It makes me think of the relationship I share with Deb and her chickens.

Deb never just hands the eggs over to me. She opens the carton so we can admire the individual eggs she has arranged in some artistic manner for my enjoyment. Each egg is a work of art, worthy of closer examination before I crack it  open for breakfast. And of course my appreciation for the artistry of the eggs makes them taste better too.

Something to Crow About? Egg-actly!

But the story of Deb's chicken eggs doesn't stop there. I have years of chicken and egg stories to build upon-- those snippets of memories that make me smile.

Ten years ago, Debi gifted me, 'Extraordinary Chickens' by Stephen Green-Armytage, a glorious photo book of exotic chickens. Looking through this book makes me think about the funny chickens I've known, like Aunt Sophie, the bantam hen my father thought looked like his aunt, who nested on a goose egg and hatched out 'The Oaf; and Brooster, the Rooster, a bantam rooster so full of testosterone, I had to carry a bucket to put over him to keep him from attacking me every time I took food scraps to the chicken pen.

And it always makes me smile when I think about the time Deb and I put chairs in the chicken coop to share a glass of wine. She had just finished rebuilding her chicken coop and we decided to celebrate. There we sat with the chickens, as the sun went down, telling stories and admiring the plumage and personalities of her gregarious chickens. Our bursts of laughter fit right in with the cackling of the chickens.

So, as I reached into the refrigerator for one of the eggs this morning, my day began with gratitude and joy. I am grateful for the chickens that lay the eggs that nourish my body and soul. And I am grateful for the friendship, memories and stories I have with Deb.

Find Your Stories, Find Your Meaning

What are your stories? What positive memories do you have that fill you with gratitude and joy? How can you build upon them to increase your gratitude and joy? What are you grateful for? What makes you joyful? What makes you smile?

Small daily pleasures over a lifetime add up. Don't put off till tomorrow what you could enjoy today.

Lightarted Sue

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Everything is (Secretly) Okay!

At Last! The Secret Decoded

 "Worrying does not empty today of its troubles, it empties tomorrow of its strength."
Mary Englebreit

The Secret Decoded

Do you ever wake up with doubts, anxiety or insecurities? I do.

It's those little whispers in my brain causing my heart to race and my stomach to flutter until I pause to identify 'what's up'.

Over the years I've learned the secret to  befriending these physical messages. I've developed a more positive interpretation of the role my brain plays in producing the unsettling messages, and this helps me transition faster from reacting fearfully to taking calm, conscious action.

So what's the secret? It's simple. I know my brain cares about me.

A Womb With a View 

Because my brain cares,  I think of it as my Womb with a View ~a warm, caring place from which I can safely look out into the world around me and begin living each day.

Hello, Womb Service?

My Womb with a View comes with Womb Service. The little whispers causing those anxious feelings are just friendly, pre-scheduled wake up calls.

Although the messages from within are initially unnerving, they become my call to action.  I now embrace the friendly service call to 'WAKE UP!'  and make a conscious choice to do something, or to do nothing ~ and let it be.

By converting my anxiety into Womb Service, I have reframed those morning whispers from 'start-your-day-anxious and in avoidance'  to 'start-your-day-calm-and-conscious'.

Everything Is (Secretly) Okay!

My lifelong friend, Karen, is a very successful CEO Coach who has lived life fully engaged. She is amazing. She is also a worrier and full of self-doubt.

During our last visit together, Karen's husband, Bill, shared an affirmation he began whispering into Karen's ear, "Karen, Everything is (Secretly) OKAY!"  It made me laugh!

I couldn't believe what a perfect message this was---not only for Karen, but for all of us. It made Karen laugh and let go ~ and it spoke a to a deep truth about the foundation of worries, self-doubt and anxiety in us all.

Learn What You Do Want from What You Don't

Our worries, anxieties and fears are always about things we don't want to happen.  If you can identify what you don't want (to happen), you can turn it around to identify what you DO want and work to make it happen.

When that secret worry begins to tie your stomach in knots, let it wake you up to what's bothering you and name what you fear. Begin by affirming 'everything is (secretly) okay!', then ask these questions:

What  is it about the message behind my womb service I fear?
What do I fear will happen that I don't want to happen?
*  What do I want  (to happen)?

"Worrying is using your imagination to create something you don't want."Abraham

Hello, Womb Service?

 Wake up to the possibilities. Wake up to new beginnings.

You have one new Message:
Everything is (Secretly) Okay!

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Comments ~ At the end of the post you'll see 'posted by Lightarted Sue'. Click the word 'comments' to the right, to open the comments box. After you enter your comments, click 'post comments'. You will be given letters to type in to confirm you are a person, not spam.  
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Please freely share this blog with anyone you think could benefit from more lightarted messages and affirmations in their lives.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Sending All the Best of Good Wishes
Become a Follower
If you like the Lightarted Living blog, become a Follower by clicking  Follow at the top of the page.

How Do I Leave Comments or Share the Blog?

Comments ~ At the end of each post you'll see 'posted by Lightarted Sue' (look below). Click on  the word 'comments' to the right to be taken to box to put your comments.When you leave comments, you will be asked how you want to be identified....anonymously or by an email address or other. If you find this confusing just chose anonymous.

Want to Share Blog?   If you run your cursor over the M, B, F, T to the right of comments you'll discover these link you to ways to share the blog with others through your own e-mail, Blog, Facebook or Twitter accounts. Why not try it now?

Please freely share this blog with anyone you think could benefit from more lightarted messages and affirmations in their lives.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Brighten Your Day: Do Good, Be Good, Feel Good

My NEW Jean Bakewell Mouse pad
Checkout her web page 

Brighten Your Day ~ Just a Mouse Click Away!

My days just got brighter. After running into local Ashland Artist, Jean Bakewell at a Friday Art Walk, I decided to check out her website so I could feast my eyes on her cheerful and whimsical art. When I discovered she put her images on mouse pads I was hooked. I really needed a new mouse pad.

I don't know where my sad black and brown ThirdFederal Bank mouse pad came from. But with the edges curling up, and the coffee stains, this aged mouse pad was not adding to the ambiance of my office.

My new mouse pad makes me smile. It affirms I live in a bright, cheerful place. It speaks to me without saying a word.

Brighten Someone Else's Day as You Brighten Your Own

My new mouse pad does more than cheer me up. It serves as a daily reminder of the commitment I made myself ~to support one NEW business a week ~ and to encourage you to do the same.  I want to make a difference in 52 people's lives in a year--just one a week.

I'm not talking about spending a lot of money, especially if you don't have much. Nor am I saying we should be frivolous with our money. This is a conscious act of good will in which you get something you really enjoy at the same time you support the work of someone you admire.

A Conscious Act of Good Will

Are there people, nonprofits, or businesses in your community you would be willing to support by purchasing their products or services? If you're able, what amount are you willing to consciously spend a week in a conscious act of good will?  $5, $20 or $50?

If your conscious act of good will comes in time, not money, how much time are you willing to spend a week promoting a deserving person or nonprofit, do good organization? What avenues do you have available to you to spread the word on their endeavors? ~ Spread word of mouth ~ Share on Facebook ~ Blog about it ~Give words of encouragement.

Don't underestimate the effect of a single conscious act of good will, especially today. A kind word ~ A single purchase ~ A single referral ~ It's always appreciated.

It doesn't take much if we all contribute a little , and we only give what we can afford.  We are all in the position to do something. Don't wait for Business and Industry, the Banks or Wall Street to step in. Reach out and help each other in little ways now.

Once I made the decision to contribute to one worthy person's business, a person appeared.  I needed a new mouse pad and Jean Bakewell had just what I needed---functional art.
 Brighten Your Day: Do Good, Be Good, Feel Good

Small daily decisions over a lifetime DO add up. It feels good to support the work of others one small step at a time. Whatever you put out there will return to you 100 fold. Give what you'd like to receive.

Be the Cat

Brighten your day ~ Just a mouse click away! Check out Jean Bakewell's Whimsical Art
 @ call 541-482-1802 to order.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Life-Affirming or Fear-Affirming ~ What Messages Are You Letting In?

Your Brain Remembers Meaning, not Facts

"Thinking will not overcome fear, but action will."
W. Clement Stone

Affirmations Are Everywhere
Affirmations are everywhere ~ in the newspaper, T.V. and internet ~in your communications and actions ~ and in your photos, art, and  music.

Every day you're bombarded with messages running the gamut from life-affirming to fear-affirming. Unless you pause to consciously choose which ones you let in, those heightening your emotional response, especially your fear response, are most likely to get in.

This morning, I was in that 'I just woke up, haven't had a cup of coffee  or breakfast yet frame of mind' when I saw the newspaper headline:

'Layoffs rare now even with unemployment high'.

I think, not a bad start for reducing fear in this job market. So I read on:
 'Got a job? Take a breath, you're lucky to keep it; No job? Good luck trying to get one.'
Ugh! I could feel the collective grip of fear and anxiety surge through my body.

Unfortunately fear-affirming messages, such as these, do not need help getting into our consciousness. They get fast-tracked in as the fear whips through our body and there they stay until we work to get them out.

Let the Sunshine In
It doesn't have to be that way. You can choose the messages you let take up residence in your brain by presenting those messages with strong emotional and visual impact. The stronger the meaning you give a message, the more your brain attends to it.

The key is: your brain doesn't remember facts, it remembers meaning.  So the more meaning you give something, the more it takes root in your memory.

Do Something With Positive Messages to Give More Meaning
Rather than glancing at the affirmation 'All Is Well in my World' and moving on with your day, stop and do something with it ~React to it ~ Talk about it ~ Redesign it ~ Apply it ~ Go for a walk and ponder it.

What meaning does 'All Is Well in my World' have for you today? What can you do to apply it to your life? What is getting in the way of you accepting it as true right now? How can you switch from accepting fear-based messages to accepting everything is well in your world?

Artful Messages with Visual and Emotional Impact
Many of the affirmations I use on the watercolor hearts come from Louise L Hay's book, 'You Can Heal Your Life'. Rather than reading the book, I actively responded to it by turning the messages that spoke to me into pieces of art visually appealing to me. The more I work with creating these artful messages, the more meaning I give them. And the more I share them with others, the deeper the messages get in my psyche.

All is Well in my World
Let go of the fear. All is well.

What are you affirming in your life?
~Getting out for a walk or bicycle ride daily affirms you're healthy and active.
~Staying involved in your community confirms you're connected.
~Celebrating other's good fortune in getting or keeping a job, affirm your own good fortune is on its way.
~Passing on life-affirming messages to others affirms your own desire to choose life-affirming actions.

Together we can make a difference
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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Learn to Make Today a Pleasure

If you could choose, what would you do today?
 "Carpe diem! Rejoice while you are alive; enjoy the day; live life to the fullest; make the most of what you have. It is later than you think." Horace

What's been getting in the way of you enjoying your life lately?

Have you:

~Lost a job, relationship or loved one?
~Dealt with cancer, or other chronic illness or injury?
~Been struggling to keep a job or get back on your feet in a weak economy?

While tough times find their way into our lives all by themselves, we need to consciously invite the good stuff in. Otherwise, if you let it, the tough stuff will permeate your life and stay for a very long time.

Putting Pleasure Back into Your Life
Life brings tough challenges ~ and one of the toughest challenges of all is finding a way to put pleasure back into your life after dealing with traumatic experiences~ like losing a job, relationship, or loved one;  or dealing with cancer or other chronic illness or injury.

Sometimes you have to put one foot in front of the other, or fake it till you make it, to reengage in activities you enjoyed in the past. Initially, it can be overwhelming being with people, or tiring if you attempt to fully engage in that previously enjoyed hobby too soon. But you don't need to come out of your shell all at once. By limiting the amount of 'fun' you commit to initially, you'll make it easier to step back into a fully engaged life.

Create Your List of Ones
Start your trek back to healthy pleasures by making a List of Ones. This is your list of 'one step' activities you could take to put a moment of pleasure into your life-- one lunch date, one walk or one phone call.  If you like it, you can do another. If it's too much, you can stop or try a smaller step. Take one minute a day to brainstorm pleasurable activities to add to your List of Ones.

List of Ones
Listen to one hour of music on Pandora
Listen to one CD in my collection.
Make one date for coffee, walk or meal
Call one friend
Contact one friend on facebook
Take one walk
Take one drive.
Take one bike ride
Write one letter.
Create one affirmation.
Paint one picture
Drive to one beautiful place I've never been
Take one minute to begin my List of Ones

Reengage in Activities that Make Life Worth Living
As you allow yourself to focus on things you might find pleasurable, your attention will begin to shift from hardships to those things that make life worth living. Why put off until tomorrow doing something that you could enjoy today? Go ahead, start your List of Ones. You might discover, SHIFT HAPPENS!

Choose to Engage in One Pleasurable Activity a Day

Learn to Choose. Put Healthy Pleasures into Your Life.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Golden Opportunities Are Everywhere--Even in Adversity

Stop. Look. Listen.

"Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then."
John Wooden

How are you today?
  • 'All stressed out and no one to choke?'
  • Someone at work making it difficult for you to do good work and accomplish your goals?
  • Sending job applications into faceless computer sites and getting round after round of rejection?

Put Adversity to Work For You

Golden Opportunities ARE everywhere-- especially in adversity and tough times.

Somehow it seems there's always that ONE person at work or in our life that irritates and annoys us. And now, for job seekers, there isn't even that person to make life miserable---just the computer.Sometimes we feel trapped in a situation with no way out.

React and Your Irritant Controls You

Too often we react to unpleasant situations by 'actively avoiding what we don't want'.
  • I don't want to work with her so I'm quitting my job (that I love).
  • I don't want to be rejected by a computer so I quit. I'm not applying for any more jobs.
  • I don't want to be bullied by him, so I'm just shutting up and keeping my thoughts to myself.
 When we react, we put the irritant in charge of our lives--- making us lose our voice, our dream, our vision, and our way. Life stops up, and we begin the day thinking about the irritant controlling our life instead of what we want to accomplish.

Be the Clam That Produces the Pearl

Why give that person or other irritant the power to control and shape your life? Reframe the situation and take charge. Become the clam that produces the pearl, and turn that irritant into the sand that helps you create your pearl.

Let your irritant, or sand,  be what stops and signals you it's time to consciously and deliberately articulate what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve your Pearl.

When thoughts of your irritant permeate your day, pause, and redirect your attention to what you want. Consider how you want to work through the sand, instead of getting stuck in it-- and what you're going to do keep the focus on your internally motivated work or dreams.

Life is Full of Opportunities

Golden opportunities are everywhere for you.  No one can trap you or hold you back--only you. Learn to act, not react, to unpleasant situations by choosing to actively move toward what you do want; stop actively avoiding what you don't.

 Stop, look and listen for the golden opportunities in your most troubling situations and relationships as well as in your everyday life.

Questions to Ask Yourself
  • Who or what is your current irritant?
  • How are you letting your irritant get in your way?
  • Are you in charge of your daily actions or are you letting your irritant dictate your actions or inactions? 
  • What is it you dream about achieving that you're letting your irritant stop you from doing?
  • If you were to name one golden opportunity available to you in your current situation, what would it be?
  • If you had all the time in the world and all the money in the world, what would you do with the rest of your life if you knew you couldn't fail?

Be the Clam
Believe it!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Affirmations in Action

By your actions  you build
yourself up or tear yourself down.
Choose to create personal strength and resiliency.

When my son was a toddler I started the day by asking him, 'Sean, do you want to have a good day or a bad day?' He would always choose a good one.

I think most of us would choose to have a good day too--if we stopped and thought about it.

And that's the point, isn't it---stopping to think about it. Practicing the pause.
Putting our mind at rest at the beginning of the day so we can choose our attitude and direction for the day----no matter what lies before us.

If you think about it, every moment of every day you're training your body and mind for something. By your actions (or inaction) you're either building yourself up or tearing yourself down--creating or destroying personal strength and resiliency.

Why allow negative images and anxious thoughts to unconsciously permeate your thoughts when you could choose differently?

When you practice the pause, you have a choice: You can choose to affirm the positive or the negative. When given a conscious choice, very few of us will choose to purposely fill our heads with negativity.

I am at peace with myself

  • What does this mean to you?
  • What do you need to do to put it into action?
  • How can you let it seep into your deepest beliefs?

Give a Gift of Encouragement and Hope

 I love creating watercolored affirmation hearts. Each affirmation is simple, positive and colorful. Our brains like that...and I do too.

Is there someone in your life you would like to encourage and support? Commission a Felted Life Change Purse filled with affirmation hearts to send a message of love, hope, encouragement and inspiration for moving through life transitions. See About Me for contact information.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Wisdom Within

Apply What You Know

Ever since 'Sammy the Psychic', a radio personality, showed up in my very grounded and concrete-thinking sister's dream years ago, we  refer to her intuition as 'Sammy', as in 'What's Sammy telling you?'.

I used to try out life management exercises on my sister before Sammy showed up. She hated answering the questions, but she did. Questions like 'If I had my life to do over I would....' or 'The most important thing I ever did was....' made her squirm.

Over the years 'Sammy' has appeared more frequently as Nancy learned to trust her insights more. Today she's very comfortable dealing with the profound questions of life. But listening to that inner voice, or the wisdom within, doesn't necessarily mean always listening for the profound.

As Nancy aka Sammy often advises me, look for horses, not zebras. Listening to the wisdom within can mean paying attention to the obvious or acting on what I know. And a failure to tap into that inner wisdom can lead to unresolved issues when the solution is right under my nose.

 I'm always amazed to discover I've put common sense or wisdom on the shelf. Last year my knees that had been giving me trouble for a year or so suddenly improved. I'd like to say the pain subsided because I was wise enough to listen to my body, or because I put my vast professional knowledge to use. No.

My knees stopped hurting because I started wearing the orthotics I stumbled across as I conducted my end-of-the-year closet clean up.  As soon as I started wearing my orthotics--the ones prescribed to reposition my pronating feet--the pain disappeared completely.

The truth is I often need to stop and make myself pay attention. To be truly wise, I have to see when I am not.

The affirmation, 'I open myself to the wisdom within' gives me pause. What is the truth of my inner wisdom? Am I really listening? Am I paying attention? Am I putting it to good use?

While there are many interpretations of the meaning of wisdom, what matters is how we use it to enhance our lives and the lives of those around us. For me, the Hebrew definition, 'to apply what I know',is the more important one. Time and again I  rediscover what I know in order to put it to good use in my life.
Greek Wisdom:      'To have knowledge.'
Hebrew Wisdom:  'To apply what you know.'

I invite you to practice the pause with me to  'open yourself to the wisdom within'. Who knows? Maybe Sammy will show up to help.