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How Writing Can Improve Your Mental & Physical Health

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The benefits of writing extend beyond the way it creatively engages the intellect. Writing can be an emotionally rewarding way of letting go of pent up stress and sorrow. It’s good to control and override stressful emotional impulses but it serves no benefit if we keep them inside of us.  Exercise or talking to loved ones about how you feel can help in this regard, but you may find yourself in a situation where you might not have a voice to hear you or you prefer to keep how you feel to yourself but still need a way to release your emotions. Writing in this case can be very helpful.

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Writing helps you enter a flow state in which all the built up emotions rush out of your heart and mind and onto the paper. When you write vividly and honestly about your experiences and how you feel, a gradual collection of emotional experiences will be documented throughout your life. Looking back at the journal, you will be able to see patterns of how certain emotional conflicts arise, giving you insight into the source and nature of your malfunctions, and the environment you are putting yourself in that is increasing those conflicts. You’ll be in a position to make a better decision about whether certain behavior patterns are serving you or not, as well as determine which people and things are causing those problems in your life.

I call this process a wisdom journal because, looking back on your writings, you will have a more thorough understanding and appreciation for who you have become as a result of your past toils and hiccups. This journal will document the gradual strengthening of your mind and the evolutionary process of who you have become.

This will only work if you are honest about yourself and you truly document your contributions to the scenarios that made you feel a certain way. Your mistakes are all a part of the process of becoming a better person so it is important to document the mistake and the overall lesson learned from it. This is a very personal documentation of your journey, so if you are worried about other people finding and reading it, you can write it in a way that only you can understand, using metaphors and language that would appear vague to others but trigger crystal clear memories within you.

The physical and mental health benefits of writing include long-term reductions in stress levels and depressive symptoms. A 2005 study on the emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing found that just 15 to 20 minutes of writing a day was enough to make a difference in the overall stress levels of participants.

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Participants were less likely to have illnesses and less likely to experience trauma as a result of writing about traumatic, emotional, and stressful events. Less time was spent in the hospital along with a drop in blood pressure and liver functionality.

Remarkably, another study suggests that writing can help physical wounds heal faster. In 2013, New Zealand researchers monitored the recovery of wounds from medically necessary biopsies on 49 healthy adults. For 3 days the participants wrote about upsetting events or daily activities for 20 minutes each day. After two weeks (researchers wanted to wait to make sure any initial negative feelings stirred up by recalling upsetting events had passed), all the subjects had a biopsy on the arm and then their healing was tracked over the subsequent twenty one days. 11 days after the procedure, 76% of the group that chose to write were healed completely while 58% of the control group had not yet recovered. The study concluded that writing about distressing events helped the participants come to terms with the events, therefore reducing distress.

People who suffer from a long term disease or illness can benefit from writing. Studies have revealed that people who suffer from asthma have fewer attacks if they keep a journal of how they are feeling compared to those who don’t. AIDS patients who write have been proven to show higher T-cell counts because they are under less stress. Cancer patients who write are less affected by stress and depression and have an improved quality of life because they are more optimistic.

James W. Pennebaker has been conducting research on the healing nature of writing for several years at the University of Texas at Austin. “When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals, they often experience improved health. They go to the doctor less. They have changes in immune function.”

Pennebaker suggests that the act of expressive writing enables one to take a step back and more objectively analyze their life. Rather than obsess over a life event in an unhealthy manner, one can focus on moving forward. Moving forward with less anxiety about the future reduces stress; it removes the blockage that is holding one back from being happier.

It seems like writing can be akin to exercise, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep. Our emotional well-being is just as important as our physical well-being and writing is a great way to keep ourselves emotionally fit. Thoughts and emotions are like little life forms in our body. They want to live as long as possible and run the show. When we write, we are getting those thoughts and emotions out of our body and into the zoo. Our journals are the zoo of experiences that make us who we are.

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Consciousness

Tips For Those Who Have Trouble Meditating & How To Overcome Them

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I’m willing to bet that meditation is not a new concept to you.

With one of the latest rough estimates gauging that anywhere between 200 to 500 million people meditate with regularity globally, there is a pretty good chance you’ve either tried it at some point or at least have been encouraged to — especially if you decided to read this article.

And while there are plenty of people who swear by its power, myself included at times, I’m convinced that there are plenty more of us who just don’t get what all the hype is about. While I don’t personally believe that we all need to become meditation aficionados, I wanted to create a resource for those of you who have interest in jumping on the bandwagon but always seem to hit a roadblock.

I’ve nailed down 4 of the most common reasons why so many of us struggle to meditate and how we can change that. Watch it or read it, the choice is yours!

1. Preconceived Belief That Meditation Is Boring

Compared to the sights and sounds of ordinary conscious life, meditation certainly can be substantially less sensorially stimulating — especially at first. But that’s part of the point! One of meditation’s greatest potential powers is its ability to bring us into the present moment without any glaring distractions, a reality that many of us haven’t experienced in years.

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So if you’re part of the crowd that keeps putting meditation off because you think it’ll be too boring, I challenge you to ask yourself: is boredom really the issue? Or am I instead either so addicted to stimulation or even worse afraid to be alone with my thoughts?

Solution: Involve others! Either set up a challenge with your friends to add an element of competition and accountability to it, or meditate with a group in a public space. It’s amazing how much less intimidating being alone with your thoughts can be if you’re not the only one intending to do it.

2. Crazy Expectations

If I were to ask you to create a mental image representative of the word meditation, what would come to mind? I’m willing to bet that at least one (if not several) of the following elements would come up: the sunrise, a sunset, a monk, mountains, or someone sitting cross-legged with great posture.

While these visuals certainly are accurate depictions of meditation, they don’t account for the vast majority of the 200 to 500 million of us that are practicing it regularly. Meditation can be done at any time of day, in a countless number of settings, on a comfy chair, and sitting or laying quite normally. So rather than setting these unrealistic expectations of what meditation is supposed to be like, why not just try making it your own?

Solution: Remind yourself that we are all human. Even those who claim to have attained the most profound insight while meditating have had just as many random thoughts pop into their head, so you’re not broken and just as capable.

3. Shear Impatience

We live in a world where a substantial number of us are not only used to but fully expect things instantaneously. We’re run by instant gratification, and when something fails to provide that, we’re quick to lose interest and ultimately our patience.

If you want to meditate regularly but patience is an issue for you, I’ve got some bad news: meditation will never satisfy your need for instant results. But meditation is also one of the best tools for developing a state of mind that won’t be so hungry for them!

Solution: Start by “forcing” yourself to practice patience through a reward and/or punishment system. Establish something that you are going to reward yourself with for meditating 7, 14, or 21 days in a row. Or even better, set up a punishment (ex. donating $100 to a cause you don’t believe in) for not sticking to your goal.

4. Overreacting To Thoughts

One second you’re focusing on your breath, and before you know it several minutes have gone by and your mind has drifted through a random string of thoughts you never thought imaginable. As I mentioned above, this is far more normal than you may think!

The part we need to focus on is how we choose to react to noticing that our mind has drifted off rather than the fact that it has.

There is a substantial difference between allowing yourself to get pissed off while believing that the entire meditation is ruined, and just noting that you’ve drifted, and bringing yourself back to your initial intention.

Solution: I’ve highlighted the word noting above because I believe it’s one of the best solutions for this issue. When you realize that your mind has drifted, choose to make a calm mental note that it has happened and then bring yourself back either by re-focusing your attention on your breath or by doing a numeric countdown (anything with a meditative purpose that your mind can easily focus on).


Ready to change your life today? Get my FREE eBook on 5 Quick Daily Hacks for a GENUINELY Happier Life sent straight to your inbox within 48 hours by signing up here. And for more brutally honest personal development content designed for those who actually want to change, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel and to follow me on Facebook.

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Consciousness

How To Stay Calm & Present Throughout The Day

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Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A simple process to bring you back to presence and freedom throughout the day.

  • Reflect On:

    Can we expect our world to change if we don't change our inner states of everyday being?

Do you notice yourself feeling tense shoulders? A cleansed jaw? Perhaps you’re holding your breath in some ways and you don’t even know it? Maybe you feel a clenched tummy from time to time and have tricky digestion. You might notice yourself rushing through life, tasks, wanting to get to the next thing. You may not be paying full attention to your life and everything feels like autopilot.

If this is the case, you’re not alone.

This is a very calm state of being for most people in highly developed countries who are living the ‘average everyday life.’ You wake up, go to your job, work all day, come home and then either veg out or spend time with family and go to sleep. This is the ‘modern life’ that we have accepted as ‘ a good life’ and yet almost every aspect of it presents a challenge to our health and well being. But, at this time, money is required to live our lives, and so we must play within this system in some way or another as we actively change it.

The good news is, you have ultimate freedom within yourself to perceive your reality as you wish to perceive it. When we are unconscious, or allowing our programmed states of being to run our lives, we typically move through life on autopilot, moving from one habit to another.  However, when we begin to gain presence, and pull ourselves out of all these unconscious habits, we begin to gain some freedom back. This builds over time.

Before we get to the exercise, I want to add that for those that pay a lot of attention to the news and media side of our work here at CE, using these practices to gain more presence and self-awareness in your life will play deeply into the CE Protocol which is designed to help us gain more clarity on what’s happening in the world, and be an active part of changing it. Skipping the personal transformation end of our journeys only holds us in our current state of being and understanding.

A Simple Process

One powerful thing you can do to begin seeing the subtleties in life, noticing the magic and incredible beauty around you and within you at all times is going back to the breath. Combine that with a few processes in releasing tension and getting into your heart, and you’ll truly begin waking up to who you truly are on a daily basis. The best part is, this muscle grows with time, the more you practice, the more present you become, and the more your monkey mind goes into the passenger seat instead of the driver seat.

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Approx time needed: 5 mins

1. There are two ways to initiate the exercise, either you do it when you notice yourself tense or not present, or you set an alarm that goes off about 6 times per day. If you choose the first method, you want to know that your awareness already catches yourself about 6 times a day so you can make sure you are doing this enough.

2. When the alarm goes off, or when you notice yourself, stop what you are doing and take a couple of deep breaths. In through the nose and out through the mouth. Do this slowly and controlled. Nothing too fast and nothing too out of control.

3. After about 2 to 5 breaths, allow yourself to breathe normally, making sure it is still through the nose. Begin to say within yourself. ‘I am releasing all tension in my head, my neck, my shoulders, my jaw, my stomach, my fists, and my legs.” This is like a mini mantra if you will, but don’t take it too seriously in that it has to be said any particular way. You’re simply noticing and instructing the body to relax.

4. After you have gone through the releasing, and you notice your body is more relaxed and your breathing has brought you back to the moment. Sense yourself in your chair or where you stand. Feel the air around you, notice any breezes on your skin or any scents that you smell. Notice all the various sounds around you, not focusing on anyone or feeling any as a distraction, but noticing them and allowing them to be. This is presence, while in this state. Noticing.

If you happen to have any rampant thoughts or feelings of stress arise during this at any point, simply notice it and say within yourself “OK stress or OK task I have to complete, I see you, I will take care of you momentarily” and allow it to pass.

5. Once in presence, turn your attention to the area of your sternum, the heart centre. You may put your hand or fingers on this area, and simply focus your attention on this space. See your awareness moving into this space as if you yourself are moving from your mind to your heart. However that looks or feels to you is OK. It doesn’t have to be anything mystical. This is a common mistake of overcomplicating simple methods.

6. Finally, allow yourself to be in that space for as long as you like. 1 min, 10 mins, whatever works. Usually I say this exercise is meant to be done as a check-in for about 5 mins.

Repeat this each time your alarm goes off or when you notice yourself tense. Through this, you are gaining more awareness of self more regularly. You are also beginning to realize you have a lot more control over your state of being than once thought. This is a key step to emotional freedom. In this space, your mind does not run you, nor do your emotions.

Bonus: As an extended tip, once you gain a sense of what that short meditation felt like. Even if you notice yourself for a moment 20 or 30 minutes later being tense, just take one deep breath and recall the energy and feeling of your meditation.

The Takeaway

When will things like full disclosure happen, or big changes in our world? When people focus deeply enough on personal transformation that our consciousness becomes ready to hear what’s being hidden and becomes ready for a world that is grounded in a state of peace, love, and freedom as opposed to monkey mind behavior.

 

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Consciousness

A Profound Speech From Alan Watts – What If Money Was No Object ? (Video)

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Alan Watts delivers a speech that puts into question the idea of money and what we are all doing here on planet Earth.

  • Reflect On:

    Do we have enough resources and technology to provide everybody on Earth with abundance? If we do, and if we did, what would human beings do? Would we return to our natural state and start exploring and advancing?

You probably hear this now-cliché question all the time: “If money was no object, what would you be doing with your life?” But hearing a question multiple times doesn’t make it any less valid. There is a profound truth underlying these words which it seems many of us have come to belittle or outright ignore, and yet the implications of truly internalizing their meaning are huge.

You may be a young, excited individual coming into the workforce or you may be part of an older generation who has been in the workforce for a while, wondering, “How did I get here?” Or perhaps you are someone who already loves what you do. In any case, I truly think that regularly asking yourself what it is you would love to do with your time if money was no longer an object can be a powerful tool. So why don’t we go ahead and do some self-analysis? But first, let’s listen to what Alan Watts has to say about the topic, as I think it will really get us into the right mindset for this task.

The Exercise

This exercise is a pretty simple one, just like the question it addresses. When answering these questions, it is important to go beyond some of the things we are kinda taught are the things to strive for. For example, letting go of our ideas about ‘success,’ money, material goods, fame, etc. and instead looking at it like Alan says – if money didn’t matter and I could do anything right now… what would it be?

Don’t worry about the whole career or job thing right now, just begin with what you like. Then think about what you feel you can contribute to the world, whether it be to just one person or a whole community (or the entire globe!). Educating others, contribution to a project, and bringing joy to others are all examples of ways you could contribute to the world. 

Then grab a piece of paper and write:

“What do I enjoy doing? What makes me tick or gets me excited?”
“What would my ideal day look like if I could do what I wanted to do?”
“What is my ideal job? What does it look like?”
“What are my favorite hobbies or things to do?”

Once you start answering some of these more basic questions, we dive into things like:

“Why do I like these things I enjoy doing?”
“What about them are interesting to me?”

What this does is gets you thinking about yourself and the things that you enjoy. More importantly, it gets you thinking about why you enjoy them. This is key, 
because it helps you to isolate the elements of those activities that are important to you. You can then use that knowledge to find or incorporate those things into many different tasks or jobs. Because sometimes you really should ‘sweat the small stuff.’ Sometimes it’s those little details which make a job really great, or really awful. 

In the end it’s all about participating in activities that bring you joy and ignite your passion, even if it’s only for a few hours a week. The key is trying not to get too stressed about the process either. Worrying that you can’t find your passion or your purpose is not going to help you find it. Have fun and be playful with it. The answer may also change a year from now or 5 years from now. It is human nature to change and to grow, and our passions and interests may change as we do.

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