An exercise worth trying during any season

As the summer rolls on and time seems to pass at a quicker pace than I like to admit, I realize how important it is for me to remain as present as possible and cherish these days.  We talk about ‘being present’ all the time but I think this concept is as unique for each person as their own experiences.

For me, ‘being present’ is about recognizing an experience, acknowledging my energy, and appreciating my emotional response without getting caught up in interpreting the event or worry about what is going to happen next.  I know this sounds pretty direct but the truth is that it’s not always easy.  However, one of my favorite ways to embrace any moment (even the frustrating ones) is to smile and take a deep breath.

Try it out.  Pause, put a smile on your face, then take a deep breath in.  As you try this, you will become more aware of your body, your emotion, and tension that may be present. If you continue to smile and breathe for a few minutes you will notice that if tension is present, it starts to ease a bit and if you are feeling good to begin with, the smile only enhances your experience to its full capacity.

If you want to see the true magic of this simple exercise, try it during a challenging moment.  For instance; when someone has just said something offensive or hurtful or when something doesn’t go the way you would like.  The beautiful thing about smiling is that even if you don’t ‘mean’ the smile or you feel like you are forcing it, your body and mind respond just as if it is genuine.

So practice this exercise out this summer and remember that being present isn’t just about embracing amazing and beautiful moments; it’s about taking an active part in our own realities and remembering that we are wonderfully complex and thoughtful beings that are full of love, hope, and compassion.

Being present doesn’t have to take a lot of energy or even a lot of thought.  It just takes a moment to be totally real with ourselves and open to an experience.  The more we engage in this exercise, the better our hearts and minds will be to practice love and compassion for ourselves and for those around us.

Even though smiling may not be an exercise that helps you tone up your physical self;  it targets the most important part of our bodies….our heart and souls.   So go get your smile on and be present.  🙂

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This thing we call stress

stress

stress (Photo credit: bottled_void)

What is the stress in your life?  The actual definition of stress is an emotional strain on the body.  However, I think we tend to use the word like it’s a living thing instead of simply a reaction of our own thinking.  The reality is that we can’t bottle stress up and give it away, we can’t take it from someone or leave it on the kitchen table.  Stress is the result of what we feel after experiencing stressful thoughts.  In those terms, if we limit or reduce the stressful thinking; we reduce the experience of stress.  Simple, right?  Ha!  Even as I write that statement I realize how difficult it is to let that sit.  Stress is real.  I feel it, I experience it.

The problem is that I don’t often take the time to think through to the source of stress. It’s easier to say, “yeah, work is stressing me out’ than it is to actually process what is happening and what I could reasonably do about it.  Oh wait, that’s part of the problem.  Because when I feel stressed out, I start thinking about the fact that I may not be able to do anything about it.  And of course, the other twisted part of this whole stress reaction is its kissing cousin, worry.  Worry is also a source of thoughts that typically involve anxiety or concern about a real or imagined situation. I mean, has there ever been a time in your life when worrying about something helped the situation?  Or made you feel better?

Hmm, I’m sensing some themes here. So if we think stressful thoughts and worry about things that may or may not happen we essentially cause our own emotional and mental strain on our bodies. Now, I’m not going all crazy and suggesting that we never experience stress or worry.  But maybe if we realize that when the stressful thoughts occur or the worry happens, we simply acknowledge it and spin it into a less stressful thought that includes a solution, support, or strength.  For instance instead of thinking “all this work is stressing me out” could be “how can I take better care of myself and organize my work to make it feel more manageable?”  Granted, it may be tough to find a positive spin or proactive approach for each situation, but it’s a lot easier to think about actions I can take to change a situation or simply cope rather than get caught up in the relentless space of fear, worry, and stress.  Yes, if I have to choose, I will always choose a space of hope versus stress or worry.  Now I just have to practice making that conscious choice instead of falling into the habit of an automatic way of thinking.  🙂