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Wakin’ Up is Hard to do

Have you ever had a change in mood and not know what triggered the change? Or maybe something is making you feel anxious or nauseous, and you cannot pin down the source. In reference to the title of this post, “Wakin’ Up” isn’t about wake up time or morning rituals. It’s about awareness. In particular, self-awareness. With the way society has rolled, at least in my lifetime, our brains default to automatic, a lot. Look it up – it’s biology and also psychology. More resources are available in our brain when things go automatic. For example – do you remember what you had to eat this week at every meal? Unless you keep a food diary, probably not. Or, if you drive to work, do you remember details from the drive? The point to all of this is being aware makes us more connected to what’s happening.

The last few years, especially, I feel like I slid backwards. My energy levels, appetite, and even social interests completely changed. Based on psychology class discussions and readings, if I better understand, then it will be easier to maintain and improve health. It’s also good for personal growth. The top three items that have helped push me in the personal growth direction are as follows:

Yoga

When I began participating in yoga classes, I didn’t know exactly what that meant. I mean, I knew they were different than most gym classes, and the more I did yoga, the more I liked doing yoga. Plus, some days I know I need it.

My experience widened from a gym to a local yoga studio a couple of years ago. I learned more about types of yoga and hours of certification and how many people liked recovery type classes. I feel like I’ve been in recovery for “something” for a long time. Maybe I have been and maybe it’s multiple reasons. Yoga gives time for me and to slow things down for an hour. If I’m lucky, that time helps me to heal.

At the moment, my favorite class is a Friday night heated vinyasa. When I first started going a few months ago, I would get there and really “sink” into my mat cause I was exhausted from the week. The class has opened things up – less aches are good since inflammation seems to be a root cause of many health problems. Plus, there’s something about that group at that time making the transition to the weekend. Also, the instructor’s focus (which many there do) on cues and creating an awareness so we observe within – differences, aches, everything. I had a personal trainer who would do that – describe what I should feel and where. Otherwise, how are you supposed to know what is correct? Since we practice in a heated room, the heat stays with me and keeps me warm and happy until I am at home and fall asleep.

A Book

Sometimes in yoga the instructors refer to meditation. Plus, as Eastern culture penetrates more of Western society, it’s easy to find meditation references related to health, whether in schools or something that is trending. What is meditation, though? I mean, if we cannot remember what we ate this morning or anything about the route we drove to work, how do we connect through meditation? And is meditation really for anybody?

One of my friends happened to mention this book by journalist Dan Harris, “10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story.” After an on air panic attack, Harris began to unravel the real problem – the voice in his head (that we all have) – and take the reader with him on his journey to tame that voice. The journey includes a meditation retreat, and Harris describes his experience in details. The phrases people express about meditation, such as “clarity,” make more sense after reading Harris’ story. The reader learns as Harris learns. Plus, Harris is a cool (acceptable) guy to teach a reader not initially into meditation or anything similar.

Feedback from Others

Years ago, sometimes a member of my Toastmasters club would challenge a speaker to immediately redo a speech after everyone’s feedback. I accepted that challenge, too. For Toastmasters, feedback is expected, and the Club meeting is considered a safe environment. What if it’s more random and in the wild – as far as you don’t know in what form or the timing you may receive it?

Referring again to psychology classes and discussions – without feedback, needed change would be slow, if at all. So when I get picked on for mumbling or speaking too softly (which I know I do), the feedback is aversive enough where I want to change (and I want to be heard). Yes, the group picking on me might make it feel like we’re on the playground as 5th graders instead of at a meeting with adults. It works, and they’ve done it enough that I have become more aware of how often and when it happens and therefore I have a better chance of improving my life. In fact, I’ve told the people who provide the most feedback that I don’t want it sugar coated. I just want to know. Wow, has some of it been a wake up call, too. Feedback is also two way, so I hope what I provide helps others. What you do with the feedback you receive is a choice. Always consider it, then use it or push it aside.

The combination of reading the Dan Harris book, yoga, and feedback, plus my intentions, have helped me. I love that I feel more awake and energetic lately. I am grateful for these practices and experience. What are yours?

 

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The Birds are Chirping, The Sun is Shining, and Thunderstorms are Coming

capture_2016-03-15-16-45-45.png.pngOne of the first things noted this morning in my head, and then out loud by my yoga instructor, was that the birds were chirping. Yay! A genuine sign of spring! As I type this, it is warm and sunny outside, very similar to when I was in California a few weeks ago. The difference is that I heard thunderstorms are expected later. Actually, that is typical for a Michigan spring.

Now that the weather description is over, the topic I have been thinking about was the discussion on social relationships during one of today’s classes. Probably the most interesting part is the hierarchy mapping with three concentric circles. In this diagram, you are in the center, your closest family and friends are in the closest circle to you, then friends who are not quite as close, and the outer circle contains people you know and who are usually acquaintances. We did an in class activity to look at a list of who we would put in the different circles,  and where those people might put us, and this was also related to who we tell secrets to, who takes care of us when we are sick, and some other questions Those questions were also flipped around, as far as who we take care of when sick and who tells us secrets. Part of the point was to see what relationships are reciprocal. Someone with a significant other, for example, probably has that person in the inner most circle, and vice versa. Another point about taking care of people had to do with the attitude. In other words, there is a difference between feeling obligated to take care of someone when that person is sick versus wanting to take care of that person. Perception and attitudes are part of what may effect our overall health, too.

20160315_163722.jpgIn my case, I used to have more people, including a spouse, within that first circle. The only reason I wouldn’t put as many friends there now is because our discussions may be deep yet most of the reciprocity is with those who are the closest in physical distance. We split between the two closest circles, if anything. Plus, I tend to take care of myself and use externals – sign up for classes so the instructors knows to look for me, set-up meetings where someone is expecting me, regularly visit the coffee shop for food as much as being in the community, and I make doctor’s appointments so there is a record and a relationship there, too. As much as I am glad to be capable of all of this, there are two reasons why I wish more people were closer friends: 1. It makes me busier and sometimes it makes me more isolated 2. I like the feeling of helping to take care of somebody more when I know they would help me for the same reason – that they care – as opposed to an obligation.

I realize that people do move on, or maybe “out” to the furthest circle. Maybe that is a part of making room in our lives for new and closer friends. According to the discussion, as we grow older, we have more friends who are closer and less friends overall because that is what becomes most important. I can definitely relate to that right now. Seeing a ton of people for my birthday, for example, can be a great thing. Knowing some of those people would want more than the general social relationship that I would also want is priceless. What do you think?

Thanks for reading!

Stacy