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 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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How do you re-charge?

Day 73In order to feel and be our best is important to stop in our tracks and re-charge regularly..

Many people try to re-charge artificially by drinking caffeine, alcohol or by eating sweets. But that only gives short-term energy. If we are tired, what our body and mind need is relaxation and an opportunity to re-charge from within.

There are numerous ways to re-charge; for example by writing a journal, spending time with friends, or by oneself, taking long showers or baths, lying on the sofa, sitting on a balcony or terrace reading in the sun, spending time overlooking the ocean, hiking in a forest or in the mountains, looking into the fire in a fire-place or a candle, dancing, singing, meditation, yoga, artwork, breath-work, etc. How we best nurture ourselves is unique for each one of us.

Personally, what nurtures and energises me the most is to carve out time and let go of my to-do -list and invest time alone. I quickly find inner peace when I journal and meditate, as well as when I spend time in nature. There is also something magical for me around a fire. I find it very calming to have candles around me and in sitting in front of a fireplace.

And when I give myself the luxurious gift of just being here and now without reflecting on the past or thinking about the future I ground myself and energise from within.

In the afternoon, if I am tired I meditate sitting for 20 minutes. If I am very tired, due to for example a poor night’s sleep, I lie down on a yoga mat and relax for 20 minutes. These 20 minutes of relaxation gives me quickly a large amount of energy, and enough to make me feel energised, positive and alive for the rest of the evening.

Take time to re-charge. It’ll light your inner energy and fire!