How to Meditate

How to Meditate to Reduce Stress

In my ongoing campaign to reduce stress and anxiety, increase my levels of gratitude, and embrace optimism, I have taken up meditation. Actually, I should say that I have taken up meditation again. I have long been aware of the reported benefits of meditation. I first learned how to meditate in a college course on “Stress and Health”. At the time, my professor emphasized both the emotional and physical benefits of meditation. However, when I gave meditation a try as part of a homework assignment, I had a panic attack.

That experience stuck with me for a long time. I finally gave meditation another shot a couple of years ago, when life events sent my stress levels off the charts. I knew I needed to reduce my stress and anxiety or I was going to be heading to the doctor. This time around I had a much better experience, and have been meditating at least semi-consistently ever since.

So I learned how to meditate, downloaded a couple of meditation apps, and started practicing regularly. I have since reaped the benefits of meditation. My stress levels are definitely lower now that I meditate. Despite juggling three  jobs, two teenagers, and the financial challenges posed by a child heading off to college. Meditation also helps me to sleep better and think more clearly.

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How to Keep a Gratitude Journal

How To Keep a Gratitude Journal

When you are working toward long-term goals, it can be difficult to maintain focus on the positive.  If optimism does not come naturally to you, it’s easy to emphasize the obstacles and stumbling blocks rather than the progress you are making toward your goal. In order to keep your motivation high, it is crucial to acknowledge the wins. And the best way to ensure that you notice the good things in your life is to write them down. Keeping a gratitude journal has helped prevent us from missing all we have to be grateful for and kept our eye on the prize of our long-term dream.

Why Keep a Gratitude Journal

We keep a gratitude journal just because it feels good and it reminds us to be thankful. As it turns out, a number of scientific studies have shown concrete benefits of gratitude journaling. In 2015, Psychology Today published an article citing several scientific studies about gratitude which have shown, among other things, that gratitude improves physical and psychological health, improves empathy, and actually leads to better sleep. Last year, an article in Time Magazine added the benefits of patience, better relationships, and willpower to that list. Researchers at NIH have found the direct neurological causes for these outcomes. Gratitude increases activity in the hypothalamus (hormone levels and eating and sleeping control) and the brain’s use of dopamine.

So why not just think happy thoughts? There is value to translating your thoughts into whole language. In other words, simply thinking grateful thoughts is not as powerful as writing them down. Additionally, research indicates that using handwriting to record gratitude (vs. speaking or typing) is a  more effective way to reap the full physical and emotional benefits.

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The Summit: A Conversation for Healthy Relationships

Key to a Healthy Relationship: Save It for the Summit

Paul and I have a pretty healthy relationship. In fact, I would say that we are soulmates.  However, we also have each had numerous romance fails in the past. So we expend every effort to insure that our current relationship does not start to slide. Generally this is pretty easy. We agree on most things, work pretty easily together, and generally pick up the slack for each other’s weak spots.

However, into every relationship a little friction will come. When you spend 24/7 alongside another person (we work, live, and play together), sand will sometimes grind the gears. Despite being generally reasonable people, we both get a bit irrational when steamed. Each of us has resorted to, shall we say, less than ideal methods of communication when angry.

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4 Tips to Staying Positive When Motivation Lags

4 Tricks to Recapturing Self Motivation When Energy Flags

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Sometimes Paul and I have a bit of trouble keeping up our self motivation over the course of a long day. If you read Paul’s post on Stumbling Toward Optimism, you know that a positive attitude is not in our DNA. However, we have a lot of important goals and very busy lives. We have three kids still at home, full-time jobs, multiple side hustles, and this great journey to plan (largely through this blog). So when our motivation hits a low point, we need to figure out how to bring it back up quickly. And, sadly, motivation often hits a low point.

Fortunately, through our years together, we have identified some tricks to remedy the problem. We’ve tried a lot of different methods to throw off the gloom and get back to work. Below are the four measures we have found to be most effective at recapturing our mojo when we hit a rough patch. Read More

stumbling toward optimism

Stumbling Toward Optimism

Heather and I naturally gravitate toward the bleak. Optimism has traditionally been anathema to our shared world view.

We’re not proud of our glass half empty –  more like glass-broke-and-hope-leaked-all-over-the-counter – outlook. But it’s become ingrained. Brush teeth, shower, think about how we are going to die one day and how it has all been for naught.

Twenty-five years ago in a single weekend I went to see Glengarry Glen Ross and Waterland, and rented the John Cassavettes’ classic A Woman Under the Influence. If you’ve never seen those films, don’t. At least not without a bottle of Prozac and the local suicide hotline on speed dial. These are three of the most depressing films ever made. Yet, a quarter century later, I still refer to this as the most enjoyable film viewing weekend of my life.

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