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Cultivating Contentment

According to Swami Sivananda, the cravings will always try to place themselves at the forefront of our minds. We are flooded with marketers, friends, family, our culture, and our own ambitions , to do more, be more, see more, acquire more. So long as we can recognize the bombardment and not fall prey to it, we will open the door to observing how magnificent contentment can be. And the magnificent realization is that contentment can be found in  our every day reality. Thus happiness can be found readily at our fingertips no matter how outstanding, or lack thereof, our lives look to the outside world.

“There is no end to craving. Hence contentment alone is the best way to happiness. Develop contentment.” Swami Sivananda

The next question then, is how do we find this contentment and how do we maintain it?
Below I share 8 live coaching tools for cultivating contentment:

1) Practice gratitude
Being grateful for our lives exactly as they are right now, provides a mindset of knowing that things are not nearly as bad as we sometimes make them out to be. It allows for the realization that, although things could be better, they are manageable for the time being. It is impossible to develop contentment without gratitude—they are inseparable. focus on the good things in your life, not the things you lack. The simple discipline of engaging in gratitude will undoubtedly shift your focus back to the many good things you already have.

Make a commitment to practice gratitude by letting gratitude be the last thought before you fall asleep, and your first thought when you wake up in the morning.

2) Ask yourself what is going well
So much goes well in our lives, each and every day, that is easy to become desensitized and accustomed to how fortunate we are. Recognize the countless details you take for granted. What is working well in your life today?

3) Be content with what you have, while you continue to grow.
Do something that keeps the flames of your dreams and hopes alive. Take pride in your person-hood and the progress that you have made so far, and continue improving. Contentment is not the same as complacency. Contentment invites you to always keep growing. learning and discovering.

4) Shift your perspective
Develop the habit of seeing the positive side of things – specially of all the bad things that happen.
Start by recognizing negative thoughts as you have them. Then, take a step back and ask yourself these key questions:
• Is the situation, really as bad as I think it is?
• Is there another way to look at the situation?
• What can I learn from this challenging experience that can help me evolve as a person?

5) Find your purpose
Are you engaged in something you love? If not, ask yourself these questions to discover how you can find your purpose:
• What excites and energizes me?
• What are my proudest achievements?
• How do I want others to remember me?

6) Take control of your attitude.
A person who lacks contentment in their life will often engage in “when… and… then” thinking – “when I get _______, then I will be happy.” Instead, take control of your attitude. Contentment is finding satisfaction in your life as it is in the present moment, regardless of the circumstances.

7) Stop comparing yourself to others.
Comparing your life with someone else’s will always lead to discontentment. “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”. There will always be people who “appear” to seemingly be living the perfect life. You are unique. You are special. Affirm that your life is awesome in its own way.

8) Live in the moment
Focus on the positives in the present moment, instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Don’t postpone joy waiting for a day when your life is less busy or less stressful.
Instead, look for opportunities to savor the small pleasures of everyday life.

Finding Balance In This New Normal

By Veronica Vidal

Finding balance is a lifetime project. It is an ongoing process. It is not a fixed goal at the end of which you will have a calm, relaxed, and meaningful life. It is ongoing. Looking for balance is a mindset that leads to wellness. When we feel out of balance, our emotions get out of whack. Feeling out of balance can be both a sign and a result of stress. Research shows that it can lead to many other emotional and physical symptoms, ranging from general feelings of irritability to feeling overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, to stomach problems, headaches, sleeping disorders, and other physical/mental symptoms.

So, what can you do to find some balance in your life?

1) First, take a deep breath. Most of us are holding our breath far more often than we realize. Anxiety, depression, and stress all cause us to constrict our breathing, making us feel even more out of balance. Stress releases cortisol into the body, which can have a negative effect on both our mental and physical well-being. Clinical studies have shown that learning to breathe deeply stimulates our relaxation response; and through relaxation techniques, we can help to undo some of the harm caused by stress. Taking a deep breath is the beginning of finding balance in our lives.

2) Time Yourself. Author and time-management coach Jamie Novak points out that few people assign a time limit to a task. “Sure, to-do lists make us more productive; so, does grouping the tasks into batches and prioritizing them,” she said. But that does not mean you’ll get them done in the time you allotted, or that whatever you are batching won’t end up taking over your day. The more you time yourself and become aware of how long a task takes you, the more time you’ll be able to identify and re-purpose in your schedule.

3) Adopt Time Theming. To help ensure work-life balance, Mike Vardy, founder of the Productivity’s consultancy, says this technique -Time theming – assigning a main theme to a given afternoon, or perhaps a full day of the week – is a great way to avoid decision fatigue. Mike explained: “Theming your months, weeks and days gives you less to think about when you’re trying to decide what to do because that time has already been given some thematic value.” For instance, every Friday could be themed ‘friends day,’ and every Saturday could be themed ‘family day.’ By theming different priorities into your calendar, you can gain more freedom and flexibility to start creating a work-life balance that fulfills them finally.

4) Be specific. It’s more useful to say, “I’m going to spend an hour alone with each child sometime this week,” than to say, “I’m going to have quality time with each of my children.” Quality time is a great concept, but it’s also a vague one. And since it’s so vague, it’s hard to know whether or not you’ve accomplished that goal, which makes it hard to feel in balance. The same is true if you say that you’re going to eat healthily or exercise more. Set something specific—for example, this week you’ll add kale to three meals, or you’ll have fruit with your breakfast every morning; or decide that you’ll run for thirty minutes on Wednesday and Friday mornings.

5) Get enough rest and sleep. We think if we just meditated enough, or jogged enough, ate perfect food, or did this or that, everything would be perfect. But not only is that not possible, that actually adds more pressure to your already loaded list. To fell a sense of balance, it is not just about what you do, but also what you stop doing. Stopping everything to allow 7 to 9 hours of sleep and recover is an essential component to finding balance in your life.

6) Practice Yoga. Relaxation and Meditation Yoga practice, relaxation techniques and mindfulness meditation can clear your mind and regulate your mood, which will make you feel more balance in all aspects of your life.

And finally, remember that finding balance is not a one-time achievement.

Just like “practicing yoga”—the goal is not to become a master at it, but to keep practicing it. The same is true in life. As long as we keep practicing finding balance, we will find one. Of course, we will lose it. But we will find it again.

“If you don’t want to burn out, stop living like you’re on fire.” – Brené Brown

Continue to stay safe, strong, and serene as we transition to our new normal. Your loving support, referrals, and loyalty fill me with immense gratitude.

With Infinite Love

Vero Vidal

9 Tips For Living Stress-Free

By Veronica Vidal

We all deal with stress in some form in our lives. Our job, a family illness, money troubles, kids issues, and so much more.

These are common triggers. However, stress is different for everyone. What stresses you out may not even bother someone else, and vice versa. Still, our bodies react the same to stressors. That’s because the stress response is our body’s way of dealing with tough or demanding situations. It causes hormonal, respiratory, cardiovascular, and nervous system changes. This is known as the body’s “fight-or-flight response.” It’s this chemical reaction that prepares our body for a physical reaction because it thinks it’s under attack. Because stress will always be part of our lives in one way or another, we need to know how to manage it day-to-day.

The good news is that we can all learn how to handle stress and lead a happier healthier life. Here are some reminders to help you experience less stress and more calmness in your life:

1) Am I Stressed? ~ Recognize Stress
The first step to reducing your stress is recognizing you are stressed. Since we are always dealing with stress in many forms it can sometimes be hard to recognize. Sometimes you might be able to tell right away when you’re feeling under stress. Many people need a health care professional to tell them their back pain or chronic headaches are a result of stress, not another issue. The important thing is to start by asking yourself or to begin to look for signs or symptoms of stress.

2) Set priorities for your life
Focus on what’s important. Let the other stuff go. Also, identify tasks that you can share or delegate, then ask for help. Set limits appropriately and learn to say no to requests that would create excessive stress in your life.

3) Avoid Perfectionism
Remember, things don’t have to be perfect. Sometimes “good enough” is just fine.

4) Accept that there are events that you cannot control.
Practice acceptance of things you cannot change, Keep a positive attitude.

5) Get enough rest and sleep.
Your body needs time to recover from stressful events. Further, the lack of sleep itself is a stress trigger factor. 7 to 9 hours of sleep, and if needed, try to squeeze in a nap in. Get your “z”s

6) Don’t rely on alcohol, drugs, or compulsive behaviors to reduce stress
One of the biggest problems people face is they rely on poor coping mechanisms. While stress eating or binge drinking alcohol may temporarily provide some stress relief, they do not solve the underlying issue. Likewise, they end up causing more stress in the long term. Find a reliable and healthy way to relieve the stress in your life.

7) Practice Yoga, Relaxation and Meditation
Yoga practice, relaxation techniques, and mindfulness meditation can improve your concentration and regulate your mood, which will make you better able to cope with stress. Focusing on your breathing during yoga can do wonders for both your body and your mind.

8) Reframe your view of the situation:
Not necessarily changing the facts, but reframing how you think about the facts.

9) Make time for hobbies, interests, and relaxation.
Laugh! Look for the humor in your everyday life, or watch a funny video. Listen to music. Choose tunes that relax or revive you. Dance at home, sing alone, connect within, and be lighthearted!

Continue to stay safe, strong, and serene as we transition to our new normal.
Your loving support, referrals, and loyalty fill me with immense gratitude.

With Infinite Love

Vero Vidal
www.VeroVidal.com

Practicing Self-Care

By Veronica Vidal

Sometimes it seems like we spend so much of our energy taking care of life’s endless details that there’s no time left to focus on our health and well-being. If we really want to make self-care a priority, we simply have to develop certain habits–and let go of habits that sabotage us.

The first step in knowing how to take care of yourself is to learn to identify when you start going off track. The body will tell you this information if you listen. But it’s like learning a new language for many of us who have spent years ignoring the messages our bodies are telling us.

Basically, self-care is taking the time to care for yourself in whichever ways work best for you. What are some of the ways you can take care of your self?

Let me remind you of some ways you can use to take care of yourself:

1) Speak kindly–especially to yourself ~ Speak kind, truthful words, and notice how your mindset changes. Most of us spend a lot of time criticizing or judging ourselves, our bodies, our past, and our experience. Even the smallest incident can bring on a wave of negativity. The way we use speech creates energy patterns that infuse the body and send out signals into the environment. If you are constantly lashing out in criticism–even if it is only in your mind–you are germinating a toxic inner environment. Develop awareness of your critical inner voice and cultivate a non-judgmental attitude.

2) Practice Yoga ~ Yoga postures, breathing techniques, relaxation, and meditation practices keep us centered during times of uncertainty. When we are relaxed, our organs function optimally, which boosts our body’s capacity to fight invaders and heal faster. Yoga can truly help during these times. This isn’t just speculation; countless research shows yoga can lessen anxiety and depression symptoms, lower stress hormones, relieve pain, and improve emotional regulation.

3) Prioritize sleep ~This is such an easy and quick way to introduce self-care on a profound level. It’s amazing more of us don’t do this. Notice I didn’t say: get enough sleep. Most of us can function on less-than-optimal sleep, and convince ourselves that we are getting enough shut-eye. But to prioritize sleep, we start looking at all the ways we sabotage our rest cycle through stimulants, computer screens late at night, unresolved emotional issues, taking on too much, and generally not being aware of our natural rhythms. Try a phase of making sleep your #1 priority and see how your attitude shifts. Rest; Rest is key to keep distressed down and immunity up. SLEEP. SLEEP. SLEEP. 7-8 hours a night – if suffering from insomnia practice Yoga Nidra meditation.

4) Gratitude ~ Start a gratitude journal and write 5 things you are GRATEFUL for each and every day.

5) Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables: PLANTS, PLANTS, PLANTS. 8 to 10 servings – combining vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and legumes is recommended as a minimum.

6) Manage Stressors ~ We pick up habits from the people we spend time with, and without notice, many times, we tend to please others at our expense. To take care of your self learn to say “no.” This benign little word can be very empowering. Get clear on what supports your well-being and what stresses you out. You might want to add “thank you.”. This is key to developing nourishing relationships + setting boundaries with unhealthy ones.

7) Repeat Positive Affirmations  Out Loud or Silently ~ May I be well, May I be happy, May I let go of the past, May I let go of the uncertain future, May I be healthy, May I be protected, May I be at peace.

Continue to stay safe, strong, and serene as we transition to our new normal. Your loving support, referrals, and loyalty fill me with immense gratitude.

Cultivating Mindfulness ~ Staying in the Present

By Veronica Vidal

Why Focus on Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment—and accepting it without judgment.

Mindfulness is now being examined scientifically and has been found to be a key element in stress reduction and overall happiness.

Mindfulness can help relieve stress, treat heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep, alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties, treat depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Mindfulness improves overall well-being!

Here are 6 simple steps to practice mindfulness anytime, anywhere.

1)    FIND A PLACE that feels calm and quiet to you
2)    SET A TIME LIMIT. Use an alarm or your smartphone to set between 2 and 10 minutes. (beginners do just 2 minutes)
3)    REMAIN STILL. Commit to a comfortable and stable position during your meditation.
4)    FEEL YOUR BREATH. Follow the sensation of your breath as it goes in and out your nose.
5)    NOTICE WHEN YOUR MIND IS WANDERING. When you notice your mind is wandering, simply return your attention to the breath.
6)    BE KIND. Don’t judge yourself nor obsess over the content of the thoughts. Just keep coming back to observing the sensation of your breath.

Note:  In addition to formal meditation, you can also cultivate mindfulness informally by focusing your attention on your moment-to-moment sensations during everyday activities. This is done by single-tasking—doing one thing at a time and giving it your full attention. As you floss your teeth, pet the dog, or eat an apple, slow down the process and be fully present as it unfolds and involves all of your senses.

The Science of The Breath

Breathing is everything. Rather, correct breathing is everything.

It can be the difference between a super-strong pain-free body and one that’s under constant Cortisol distress and full of instability.

When you take a deep breath in and your diaphragm contracts down, it stimulates the vagus nerve. When the vagus nerve is stimulated, this sends a message back up to the brain telling you to relax. Lots of wonderful things happen when we relax. We sleep better,  food digest better, the process of waste products elimination is better, and even sex is better.

So, what happens if you have a shallow breathing pattern and the top of your chest and shoulders move primarily when you take air in? Say hello to your friend Cortisol — your body is thrown into a flight or fight stimulus! No one needs that extra stress, life is hard enough, so let’s break it down a bit more and get you into a correct deep breathing pattern.

Although many people feel a deep breath comes solely from the expansion of the chest, chest breathing (in of itself) is not the best way to take a deep breath. While most of us never give breathing a second thought, the way we draw breath can affect our physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Breathing correctly is the path to self-healing. Besides transporting oxygen and carbon dioxide through the bloodstream, how else do you think the breath contributes to our health and well-being?

Reducing stress, sleeping better, or relieving pain – all may be as simple as becoming conscious of our breath. Deep breathing techniques can change our life!
Becoming conscious of our breath

Poor breathing habits can lead to negative health consequences—our body’s organs cannot work to their full potential without plenty of oxygen and the proper elimination of carbon dioxide. Many common health ailments such as high blood pressure, migraine headaches, anxiety, stress, chronic pain, depression, asthma, and insomnia. can be at least alleviated or completely controlled simply by making a conscious effort to breathe slowly and deeply.

Breathing properly can reduce stress levels, improve workouts and boost your immunity to infections and illnesses. Poor breathing can contribute to panic attacks and even conditions like insomnia and depression.

So, what can we do to reverse these obviously undesirable effects? Simply pause and become aware of the incoming and outgoing breath. Allow the breath’s rhythm to the center, ground and calm you. Just Breathe Consciously! 

Conscious breathing is a great form of meditation that can be easily practiced anywhere, anytime! 

How do you take a deep breath?

Test #1: Place your hands surrounding your rib cage right under your chest and take in a big breath of air. Your ribs should move out in the front, sides, and back. Did you feel them move? They should move a lot! Maybe you only felt some of your ribs move? Did the ribs on the back left under your thumb not move as much as the right? No? There’s the source of that neck or midback tightness you’ve been feeling. Fascinating, isn’t it?

Step one: Get your ribs to expand out in a 360 fashion when you breathe.

Test #2: Did your diaphragm contract down in a deep breathing pattern with great rib expansion? Did you feel expansion right under your ribcage or did your ribcage move followed by your shoulders and your belly suck in? Now, I want you to drop a couple of fingers down under your ribcage while leaving one or two on top. Take a deep breath in. Did it expand out into your fingers right under your ribcage?

Breathing is absolutely essential to life, but it’s often overlooked as a necessity for good health. Practicing conscious breathing can help us to improve our sleep, reduce stress, and boost overall health.

Breathing properly can reduce stress levels, improve workouts and boost your immunity to infections and illnesses. Poor breathing can contribute to panic attacks and even conditions like insomnia and depression. Conscious breathing is a great form of meditation that can be easily practiced anywhere, anytime! Simply pause and become aware of the incoming and outgoing breath. Allow the breath’s rhythm to the center, ground and calm you.

Breathing is most unique as compared to other visceral (e.g. digestion, endocrine, or cardiovascular) functions in that it can also be regulated voluntarily.

Cellular metabolism (reactions in the cell to produce energy) for example, is regulated by oxygen provided during breathing. There is clear evidence that controlled breathing techniques can affect oxygen consumption and metabolism (Jerath et al., 2006). In fact, much of the aim of pranayama breathing (yogic breathing) appears to shift the autonomic nervous system away from its sympathetic (excitatory) dominance. Pranayama breathing has been shown to positively affect immune function, hypertension, asthma, autonomic nervous system imbalances, and psychological or stress-related disorders (Jerath et al., 2006). Jerath and colleagues add those investigations regarding stress and psychological improvements support evidence that pranayama breathing alters the brain’s information processing, making it an intervention that improves a person’s psychological profile.”

Slow pranayama breathing techniques show the most practical and physiological benefit, yet the underlying mechanism of how they work is not fully elucidated in the research (Jerath et al., 2006). However, Jerath and colleagues hypothesize that “the voluntary, slow deep breathing functionally resets the autonomic nervous system through stretch-induced inhibitory signals and hyperpolarization (slowing electrical action potentials) currents…which synchronizes neural elements in the heart, lungs, limbic system and cortex.” As well, investigations have demonstrated that slow breathing pranayama breathing techniques activate the parasympathetic (inhibitory) nervous system, thus slowing certain physiological processes down that may be functioning too fast or conflicting with the homeostasis of the cells (Jerath et al., 2006).

Thus, one meaningful aspect in learning breathing techniques is the awareness in the difference in smooth, even breathing to erratic breathing. Modifications in respiratory patterns come naturally to some individuals after one lesson, however, it may take up to six months to replace bad habits, and ultimately change the way one breathes (Sovik, 2000). The general rule, often noted in studies, and particularly observed by Gallego et al. (2001) was that if a voluntary act is repeated, “learning occurs, and the neurophysiological and cognitive processes underpinning its control may change.” Gallego et al. continue that while some changes can be made, the need for longer-term studies is warranted to better understand the attention-demanding phases involved with these breathing changes.

To summarize, Sovik suggests the characteristics of optimal breathing (at rest) are that it is diaphragmatic, nasal (inhalation and exhalation), smooth, deep, even, quiet and free of pauses.

Final Thoughts
The research is very clear that breathing exercises (e.g. pranayama breathing) can enhance parasympathetic (inhibit neural responses) tone, decrease sympathetic (excitatory) nervous activity, improve respiratory and cardiovascular function, decrease the effects of stress, and improve physical and mental health (Pal, Velkumary, and Madanmohan, 2004).