365 ways to energize – a daily companion to living with health, purpose, and joy

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Day 90/365  – The joy and benefit of meditation

Day 90Inner calm and a quiet mind go hand in hand.

This blog is about the power of meditation and is the 4th blog post that introduces stress reduction techniques written in the past five days.

Meditation gives me about the same pleasure as exercising. It is almost hard for me to believe that I can say that – because I truly love to exercise.

Meditation brings me serenity, conscious awareness, introspection and inner peace. Mediation has opened to an inner life that is very precious. Through meditation I have realized that I have what I need within, and – during the moment of meditation – that I do not need anything, or anyone to make me happy. This state of contentment I have during my 20 minutes colors my day in a brighter light.

When I close my eyes and go inside, and peace wash over me I feel bliss and contentment. (Having said that, I would never want to withdraw and live solely in meditative existence, that would be too boring; life has way much more to offer.

The mornings I begin with 20 minutes of mediation, I set myself up for living in alignment with my body, mind, heart and soul, which helps me become focused and productive, and to operate in harmony with the people in my surrounding. If I haven’t meditated, I am perhaps more into my own things and am less receptive and perceptive.

The afternoon meditations offer me something different. In the afternoons when I return to another 20 minutes of meditation, I recharge my energy and wellbeing to feel alert and awake throughout the evening. (In the past before I began to meditate, I would often feel tired in the afternoons and evenings).

I have been introduced to several types of meditation and each time it has had a different and profound impact on the quality of my life.

The first time I was introduced to the world of meditation I was 16 years old. I took the initiative to invite my friends to join me in taking a course. That was 33 years ago. I had no idea at the time what it would give me. I was just curious, and it sounded exciting to try something mystical and different. This experience impacted me and opened me to be more curious about my inner world. The course did not inspire me to get into a regular meditation practice, but I learned how to relax my body better and I was very happy to share my learning’s with friends who for example had difficulty falling asleep. Little did I know at the time, that I would in my thirties take a Master in holistic health education and enthusiastically teach and support people living with health, purpose & joy.

When I was in my twenties I was ones again called to refresh my meditation skills. At the time I worked as a management consultant, which was quite stressful. I was often very tired in the afternoons and evening and I, like most people, would drink coffee and eat sweats to stay awake. I longed for a way to optimize my brainpower, energy and yet feel calm. The course I took this time around, moved me into a daily discipline; I meditated ones per day for more than ten years, which opened me up to a whole new world of possibilities and energy.

When I moved to Switzerland in my late thirties, I stopped my regular meditation practice for several years – until I ones again seeked a teacher to get inspired, and then re-committed to a daily practice.

Today I attempt to meditate twice daily as I learned (and experience) that the benefit manifolds.

To those of you who are curious about the benefit of mediation, you might find this study done by Harvard University Interesting;

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Breathe your way to inner peace

Day 89

Sleeping tight and inner peace is something that concerns us all.

My husband shared with me this morning that he had woken up in the middle of the night with a thousands thoughts roaming in his head about the things he has on his plate to do these days. He was worried that he would not fall back asleep, as he really needs to feel rested to be able to address all of the things going on.

Most of us can probably recognize that when we feel we have too much going on and our sleep is disturbed – we can get into a vicious cycle – where we feel we are behind, which impacts our subconscious and wake us in our sleep, we feel tired in the morning; we then get less done, and so it continues.

My husband though, remembered my blog post from yesterday, and decided to calmly breathe deeply into his belly. After about fifteen minutes of deep long breaths lying on his back, he turned on his side and took a few more long deep breaths and then fell back to sleep. When he woke up this morning, he was quite surprised that he had managed to fall asleep quite easily by just focusing on his breath.

If I feel overwhelmed and need to rest, I also engage in deep long breaths like my husband did. Sometimes I take deep breaths into the nose, hold it for about 8-10 seconds and then breath out very slowly through the nose.

When I want to add one more dimension, I sit with a straight back and breathe in, touch my chin towards the chest, then I pull up the perineum and suck in my stomach, which expands the diaphragm and chest. I hold my breath for 8-10 seconds, then lift my chin back up calmly and breathe out very slowly. After repeating this 3-5 times, I notice a big shift in my sense of inner peace. The calmness I feel, prepares me for going into meditation, or makes me focused and concentrated on work.

Tomorrow I will be sharing the power of meditation.

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Breathe life!

Day 88In search for inner peace

Breath is life. We all know that. But how much knowledge do we have about the quality of our breathing and the impact it has on our sense of energy, inner peace and wellbeing?

In the past two days I have shared two techniques; the relaxation response and visualization, which help our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) to counter stress. Today I will share the power of breathing and the way it impacts our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

Our breath has numerous functions. For example to allow oxygen to energize our body and remove toxins as we breathe out carbon dioxide. If our breath is shallow, our lungs cannot do their job and as a result will lack oxygen and we do not eliminate sufficiently toxins and waste products from the body.

Most of us do not pay much attention to our breath – as it works on automatic. Even though our breath operates without us actively having to control it, we still have a huge opportunity to influence the quality of our breathing.

Our breath is regulated by our autonomic nervous system (ANS) – which has two main divisions, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) that regulates our fight-and-flight response, and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) that operate to help our body to rest and digest.

A baby naturally breathes diaphragmatic, meaning into the belly. When we breathe correctly, our lungs inflate to the extent that the diaphragm expand and pushes down into our stomach. This has many positive functions, one of them is to stimulates the Vagus nerve, which runs inside our abdomen, and that contributes greatly to activate the PNS.

When we feel tense, afraid, anxious, angry or stressed, our breathing changes to meet the ‘perceived’ challenges of life. We often tighten our stomach muscles and allow for only thoracic breathing – meaning only in the chest. This shortened breath activates our SNS and prepares us to fight or flight. After years of living with an activated SNS, we loose our ability to relax, due to that we no longer naturally breathe diaphragmatically. Nervousness, anxiety, inner stress, worry, high blood pressure, digestive problems, cardiovascular disease, fatigue etc. caused by inadequate breathing.

We can heal our body and mind by returning back to breathing properly. First by becoming aware of how we breathe and then learn to control and deepen the breath when we need it. By learning some simple exercises, we can aid and support the PNS. There are various forms of yoga and meditation that focuses on breathing that can be very helpful in re-learning how to breathe properly.

I will later share with you some of the breathing exercises that I engage in and that has helped me to feel at peace.

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Reducing stress

Day 87Stress Less

Yesterday, I brought up the subject of relaxation and how important it is activate the parasympathetic nervous system to counter stress, in particular for us that live under persistent pressure.

Work, family and leisure time are for most people quite intense. There is nothing wrong with being active, but to live under constant pressure and constant doing without time to relax in our daily lives, will eventually wear us down. Consistent stress lies behind most illnesses and hospital visits.

One out of four exercises that aid our parasympathetic nervous system, which I mentioned yesterday is ‘the relaxation response’ where the muscles are contracted one by one for a few seconds before letting go. We often tense our muscles when we are stressed. Common areas we hold tension is in our jaws, shoulders, stomach, buttocks, hands and feet. The relaxation response exercise brings awareness to the areas where we hold tension, as well as help us to let go fully.

Today I will introduce visualization, which is another method to calm and relax the nervous system.

Close your eyes and imagine yourself in the most beautiful calm place. Where are you? By the ocean, in the mountains, or perhaps in a forest? Visualize yourself by using your five senses. Look around, what do you see? Perhaps waves that role in over a beach, animals that grass in the forest, birds flying high?

What do you hear? Can you hear calm rolling waves that wash against the shore, or early morning humming birds, or perhaps classical music played in the distance?

What do you feel on your skin, a touch of a warm, kind hand, or the warm breeze on your skin?

Can you taste some sea salt on our lips from having had a swim in the ocean?

What do you smell? Is it the sea, exotic flowers or the scent from a nice perfume or your favorite food being cooked?

Visual travel outsmart your stress, because you cannot hold onto stressful thoughts in your head at the same time as you are visualizing your favorite peaceful place.

You can use this visualization exercise in various situations. For example, when you have experienced a particularly stressful encounter while driving, or if you have been under pressure socially (arguments or negotiation) or work wise (working under time pressure).

By closing our eyes and taking time-out for just a few minutes visualizing ourselves in a calm place, we can relatively quickly recover from the stress we just encountered and relax, so we do not have to carry unnecessary stress with us for the remainder of the day.

We can also use this exercise when we lie in bed at night to prepare our body and mind to fall asleep, if we feel tense or have difficulties falling asleep.

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Do you know how to relax…?

DAy 86It’s time to relax
How tense are you on a scale from 0-10?

Are you constantly switched on; on the move, doing things, fidgeting, and/or restlessly shaking your foot or leg?

You might not be aware if you do. If you are tense and find it challenging to take time out, why not ask a family member if they have noticed if you are fidgeting or seem restless! If you move body parts without a purpose, it is a clear sign that your body is under stress, which is harmful for your health long term.

You might see yourself as having plenty of energy as you go-go-go all the time without taking time to relax. But really, if you tuned inside, you would know that you are stressed and tired. If your body is in an overwhelmed state and you have a hard time to relax, you might have noticed that you are not feeling your optimal. You might experience pain, inflammation, muscle tension, hypertension, irritability, insomnia, poor sleep, lack of focus and productivity, high blood pressure, anxiety, overwhelm, fatigue, relationship and communication problems; these are all signs that you can be stressed and need rest.

When we relax we activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which works like balsam for body and soul and which counters ‘fight and flight response’ that switches on during stress.

There are various ways we can relax. The key is to find a method that works for us, and which we can integrate into our daily life.

I will share four different relaxation methods over the coming days.

  1. The relaxation response,
  2. Visualization,
  3. Breathing and
  4. Meditation

One of the easiest to use is “the relaxation response” which can give immediate sense of rest to our muscles and body.

The relaxation response is an exercise sitting or lying down, where we tense various muscles to the max – one by one – then letting go and fully relax. By going through each body part beginning with the toes, the calves, the thighs, buttocks, back, stomach, chest, shoulders, arms, hands and fingers, and face, we help our muscles to deeply relax and we give our body an opportunity to rest. We can do this at work, in the car while waiting for a red light, in bed, or in a chair or sofa.

It is advisable to establish a routine in and engage in the exercise daily if it speaks to you.


Self-healing really works

Day 85Trust your own healing abilities

I am amazed at how quickly my body responds and heals itself naturally – from pure rest. This afternoon while in various meetings, the glands in my throat began to swell, my head felt heavy and stuffy and my energy dropped. (My body got seriously cold a couple of mornings ago while I was skiing the ‘Haut Route’, due to blasting chilly wind – which weakened my immune system). Towards the end of the day I realized that unless I stop these symptoms quickly from developing further, I could catch a cold or flu.

There was no time to relax at the time I felt the symptoms, but I took C-vitamins and Echinaforce, which I always have handy. By the end of the day, I laid down on the floor and covered up with a warm blanket and a scarf over my eyes. After just a few minutes of relaxing fully, my throat and head instantly felt better. After 20 minutes, I got up and was symptom free.

How magic isn’t that!

Our body is a wonderful organism with a self-repair mechanism installed. It is designed to establish optimal health. Through various complex interactions within our body, it attempts to maintain balance and stability and manages to bring imbalances back to a normal range – also referred to as homeostasis. In other words, we have all the help we need in order to heal, if we just give our body a chance – by giving it some rest.

P.S. I mentioned in an earlier blog post, Day 70, about the reasons why we catch a cold; the combination of exposure to bacteria or virus –and our immune system weakening due to lack of sleep, necessary vitamins, exposure to daylight as well as cold body temperature. What I did not mention was that our digestive system and intestines also plays a very important part for our immune system. Our digestive system will receive it’s own blog post at a later stage, as it is another passionate subject of mine.


Dream Goals

Day 83From dreaming to doing
Dream goals – are goals we dream of – but find challenging and difficult to materialize due to a variety of reasons.

Below I have listed some examples of why we are stuck, or don’t live these dreams, which are key to understand; since one, or several of these can teach us what we need to unlock:

  • the dream is so big so we feel overwhelmed and do not know where to begin.
  • we have dreams and hopes to improve our weaknesses – which can be discouraging, as it is very hard, or next to impossible as an adult to get very good at something where we are lacking talent.
  • we are busy supporting other people’s agendas and making their dreams more important than our own.
  • we get distracted doing too many other things than working towards our dream.
  • we cannot formulate our dream(s) and make it (them) specific enough.
  • we do not set off enough time to fantasize, visualize and see ourselves realizing our dream.
  • we are too committed to being comfortable and are not willing to go through ‘fire’ to reach our dream.
  • we lack the self-discipline, tenacity, endurance, patience and fighting spirit that it take to reach our dream.
  • we do not take the necessary time to create and develop the new habits required to reach out dream.
  • we might give up when we have no fun on our journey, or when it is too hard, or when we experience no flow.
  • we don’t have the courage to go after the dream, as we are afraid of what will be expected of us when we have reached the goal. Some of us are as much, or perhaps more afraid of success than failure.
  • we have too many dreams and goals and we fall short because we can’t aim at them all at once.
  • the timing in our lives is not right- either in terms of relationships, health, work, the market, the environment, or the rest of the world where we want to operate.
  • there are tings that we need to sort out and clear before we can work towards the dream, something that captures our energy and attention and away from our dream.
  • our dream may require a completely different, and sometimes permanent change of routine in our lives, which can put us face-to-face with our inner demons and gremlins that frighten and stop us.

Did you identify some or several of the above reasons for why you are not living your dream(s)? Where is your growing edge? What can you address which can clear your path and help you begin living the life of your dreams and your desires?

Some thoughts on the way:

  1. To achieve a dream goal requires that we stop doing something in order to give space for the new. As Steve Jobs said, “I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.”
  2. It takes approximately 21-28 days to create a new habit, since that is how long it takes to create the synaptic pathways in our brain. Repeating a pattern over and over again all of a sudden makes something we used to struggle with easy – because we have learned it.
  3. We need to get creative about finding the necessary support we need to embark upon and achieve our dreams and goals. Many of us will never achieve what we long for – all by ourselves. We simply don’t have what it takes all on our own. (Otherwise we would not have struggled for a long time). We need a structure and a support system in place that can lead us the way through the thick forest of unknown territory.

So, if I may give advice – let’s not feel bad about not having achieved our goal or dream yet. Let’s not give up. Instead, let’s find out where we keep ourselves short and if needed, begin searching for someone who can support us – to hold our hand the first steps – someone who is more experienced within the territory to show the way – until we one day feel assured and confident enough in our own capacity to continue on our own.