Friday, December 28, 2007

Why Winter is a Good Time to Slow Down.

Blue in Yellow by tlindenbaum

Well Christmas is over, with all of its lights, fanfare and celebration. One last party to go on New Year’s Eve. Then it’s back to the daily grind and our normal routine. It’s a great time to slow down your hectic pace and take some time for yourself. Winter is the ideal time of year to reflect on our current path. With the early nights, cloudy weather and chill in the air, it’s a perfect opportunity to relax in the warmth and security of your home while you evaluate your life.

Use this extra time indoors to do more inner reflection. Start a new activity like journaling, meditation, Yoga, or another stress-relieving activity. Eliminate any unnecessary commitments and take a “winter break.” Start slowly if you need to, by simply scheduling in a 2-hour weekly vacation. Take the time to do something just for you. Visit the local park for a quiet walk, read a leisurely book, or take a nap.

Slowing down from your busy life works best when you do it daily. Give yourself 15 minutes of quiet every day - even if you have to lock yourself in the bathroom to get it! Time alone is especially important for anyone who is overworked. You need that time to slow down your heartbeat and breathing, and calm your racing thoughts. Most people start to realize what an energy boost it is to do nothing for just 15 minutes a day. Those short few minutes help you feel rested and invigorated.

From there you can start looking for additional ways to add more downtime to your day. Look for opportunities when you’re restless. That’s a good sign you’d rather be doing something else. Delegate more chores to the kids, leave your work at the office, and cut down your Internet time. Freeing up even a half-hour a day can result in fantastic changes in your life.

With that half-hour you can simply relax. Listen to some soothing music, read a self-help book, take a short walk, learn acupressure for those headache hotspots, or simply write out a plan to tackle those tasks you’ve been putting off. Use the extra time to focus on yourself, to get organized and reconnect with your spirit. Your body and mind will thank you for it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Funny videos.

For anyone who is stressed out from the holiday hoopla, or if you just want a break and a good laugh, here are some great videos brought to my attention friends and family alike. Enjoy!

White Men Can Dance – watch this and see one do amazing moves!

Japanese Illusionist. Watch this guy from Japan do some really cool tricks.

Baby Giving the “Evil Eye” – too funny!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Adventures in extreme braking; holiday travel fun.

Tow Truck by DavidDennis

Since I’m lucky enough to be at home and not traveling for the holidays I thought I’d share a few tips to prevent road rage and crankiness for those of you stuck on the roadways this holiday season:

  1. Give yourself extra time. This one eludes many people, but is so effective it needs to be first in line. When you give yourself that extra 15 minutes to get started, you can take the time you need to gas up, stop at the bank and get on the road by your original time. You’ll start your drive on a positive note and feel more relaxed.
  2. Bring easy-to-eat snacks. When you’re on the road and trying to make good time to your destination you don’t want to stop and wander around a convenience store looking for something to eat. Plan ahead to bring things that aren’t too messy and are easy to hold. Maybe some apples, a banana, granola bars, etc. . . Don’t get chips, trail mix or peanuts that are easily dropped and hard to clean up.
  3. Bring music or audio books to listen to. Music you enjoy, a good CD of your favorite comedian, or an audio version of a book you’ve been wanting to read will make the miles fly by much quicker, and you’ll be less tempted to glance at the movie your spouse or children are watching.
  4. Drive during your peak time. Some people are naturally awake during the morning, others late in the evening. Pick the time that you feel most energized and awake to do the bulk of your driving. You’ll be more alert and focused and not as easily irritated by problems.
  5. Signal your intentions. With so many people on the road, be sure to use your turn signals, brakes, headlights and if necessary your horn. Too many people simply slide in and out of lanes without using their blinkers. If it’s raining, use your headlights so people know where you are in the dim light. You’ll be safer and so will everyone else on the road.
  6. Enjoy the journey. If you like quiet time to think while you drive be sure to supply everyone with their own set of headphones. They can use them to watch movies, listen to music or play games. It will keep them occupied and keep the noise level down. If you’d rather have an interactive trip, plan a few car games, or just spend the time catching up with each other. Plan the ride to suit your particular style and you’ll arrive in a positive frame of mind.
  7. Take stretch breaks. Many people often underestimate the re-energizing quality of a quick break. When you get gas, stop for food or a rest stop, don’t forget to stretch and take a few deep breaths. Even on the best drive tension builds up. Just moving around and working the kinks out can help you wake up and feel more comfortable on your drive.

Of course the best thing to bring on your trip is a healthy sense of humor. Problems will arise as they often do in the midst of hectic holiday travels. The most effective remedy is the ability to laugh off the quirks, slip-ups and malfunctions that inevitably occur in heavy traffic. Take it easy, plan ahead and you’ll arrive with your body and mind in good health. Drive safely everyone!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Car That Hated Vanilla Ice Cream.

Here’s an interesting article I found on the web that gives a wonderful example of how open-minded and creative thinking can help you find solutions in even the most bizarre situations. This is a brilliant example for customer service reps that shows how even when a customer makes an outrageous complaint there may be a grain of truth in it.

The great part is that although it took logical and rational thinking to solve the problem, it also took a willingness to suspend disbelief to find the truth of the situation.

This is a real story that happened between the customer of General Motors and its Customer-Care Executive. Please read on…..

A complaint was received by the Pontiac Division of General Motors:

‘This is the second time I have written to you, and I don’t blame you for not answering me, because I sounded crazy, but it is a fact that we have a tradition in our family of Ice-Cream for dessert after dinner each night, but the kind of ice cream varies so, every night, after we’ve eaten, the whole family votes on which kind of ice cream we should have and I drive down to the store to get it. It’s also a fact that I recently purchased a new Pontiac and since then my trips to the store have created a problem….

You see, every time I buy a vanilla ice-cream, when I start back from the store my car won’t start. If I get any other kind of ice cream, the car starts just fine. I want you to know I’m serious about this question, no matter how silly it sounds “What is there about a Pontiac that makes it not start when I get vanilla ice cream, and easy to start whenever I get any other kind?” The Pontiac President was understandably skeptical about the letter, but sent an Engineer to check it out anyway.

The latter was surprised to be greeted by a successful, obviously well educated man in a fine neighborhood. He had arranged to meet the man just after dinner time, so the two hopped into the car and drove to the ice cream store. It was vanilla ice cream that night and, sure enough, after they came back to the car, it wouldn’t start.

The Engineer returned for three more nights. The first night, they got chocolate. The car started. The second night, he got strawberry. The car started. The third night he ordered vanilla. The car failed to start.

Now the engineer, being a logical man, refused to believe that this man’s car was allergic to vanilla ice cream. He arranged, therefore, to continue his visits for as long as it took to solve the problem. And toward this end he began to take notes: He jotted down all sorts of data: time of day, type of gas uses, time to drive back and forth etc.

In a short time, he had a clue: the man took less time to buy vanilla than any other flavor. Why? The answer was in the layout of the store. Vanilla, being the most popular flavor, was in a separate case at the front of the store for quick pickup. All the other flavors were kept in the back of the store at a different counter where it took considerably longer to check out the flavor.

Now, the question for the Engineer was why the car wouldn’t start when it took less time. Eureka - Time was now the problem - not the vanilla ice cream!!!! The engineer quickly came up with the answer: “vapor lock”.

It was happening every night; but the extra time taken to get the other flavors allowed the engine to cool down sufficiently to start. When the man got vanilla, the engine was still too hot for the vapor lock to dissipate.

What a gift flexible thinking and an open mind can be! Next time you have a problem that seems to have no solution, remember this story and look at it again. There’s an answer there somewhere, if you know how to look.

To help you creatively solve your problems read the wonderful book “A Whack on the Side of the Head,” by Roger von Oech, and check out his web site here. This book made a huge difference in my thinking, and its 25th anniversary edition is coming out in May 2008. I’d also like to thank Naveen’s Journal where this great article originated.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Fun Christmas Videos!

Here are some funny Christmas videos. Hope they add a little fun and cheer to your day!

Batman– Twas the Dark Knight Before Christmas

Santa and His Reindeer sing “White Christmas”

Charlie Brown Christmas Song

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A happy person’s guide to conflict resolution.

AAAaaahhhh!!! by
Beard Papa

All of us have times when we need to resolve a conflict with another person. Whether at work or at home, they are times when we find it hard to be rational about our problems. Perhaps we can’t admit our fault, or we are blind to good qualities in the other person. Maybe they just rub us the wrong way or push our hot-buttons.

Whatever the reason, we all find ourselves in need of tools to come to a fair and equal solution to a quarrel or problem. The best way to do this is rationally, thoughtfully, with a positive attitude. So here are a few tips to get you started on cooperative problem-solving:

  1. Take a deep breath and smile. Start your interaction off on the right foot. Let the past stay in the past and imagine today going smoothly as you both work together to achieve your goals.
  2. Look for mutual interests. Search for the areas where you both agree. Once you know where you’re both on the same page, you can consider how to reach a compromise on the other issues.
  3. Take a humor break. If you are in a conflict that grows heated, or you are at opposite sides of the field, take a short break to calm yourself and relax. Problems are resolved more easily when people are open to listening. Try asking them their favorite funny commercial or their ideal pet. Anything to diffuse the tension and relieve stress.
  4. Improve your listening skills. Listen to the opposition’s argument as if you have to win a debate from their side. Focus your attention to find the valid points in their concerns. This will help you find common ground and work together more easily.
  5. Ask questions. Clarify the positions of others. Ask them, “What do you see as the biggest difference in our positions?” Or “How do you think we can fix this problem?” Asking specific questions on topics that are unclear to avoid confusion.
  6. List several possible solutions. Choosing more than one solution leaves room for cooperation and flexibility. It also suggests that more than one person can be right. Work on the one you both like, perhaps with pieces of the remaining solutions to improve it.
  7. Outline your key points. Whether you are dealing with a problem at work or at home, preparing an outline helps to gather your thoughts and keep you focused on the topic of debate. Your key points will keep the conversation on track and keep confusion and misunderstanding to a minimum.

Mutual, respectful problem solving doesn’t happen overnight. You have to work at it and practice. Bringing a positive attitude and an open mind is the best starting point to having constructive, honest and open communication.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Link Love

Here is a list of recent blog carnivals I’ve posted to. They are very good and full of interesting articles. Check them out for yourself.

Carnival of Inspiration and Motivation at Positive and Successful Life Style tips.

Carnival of Observations on Life by Anja Merret.

Doing it Differently at Today is That Day.

All Women Blogging Carnival at All For Women

Canine Carnival at Pamibe.

Monday, December 10, 2007

8 Ways to Deal with Negative People.

All of us deal with negative people at one time or another. They come in many different varieties; the constant complainer, the whiner, the loud-mouth, the rude jerk and the boaster among others. In some cases we may have to deal with it to the best of our ability. At work it may be our boss, at home it could be our spouse, or even our mother. But there are ways to lessen the impact these people have on our mood.

Because negative people are always around, it is important to have strategies to deal with the behavior that affects you most. We all have different hot-button issues, and knowing what yours are and how to deal with them can help you more confidently and effectively interact with the negative people in your life.

Here are a few strategies:

  1. Evaluate their worth. Note whether you are dealing with this person because you choose to or because you are required to. Even if they are a relative, you don’t put up with inappropriate behavior. You may choose to limit your time with them, talk to them on the phone versus in person, or communicate by email and greeting cards. If you decide the relationship is totally one-sided and unhealthy, you may even choose to end it.
  2. Change your tactics. Try to change up your own behavior when working with negative people. If anger doesn’t work with a complainer, try indifference or a smile instead. If patient listening doesn’t work, interrupt them with a shift in subject or leave the room. Be flexible and open to new techniques.
  3. Reward yourself. If you deal with negative people mostly in your job, perhaps you can reward yourself with something on those really tough days. It could be stopping by the park on the way home, your favorite comedy movie, or a hot bath with no interruptions. Make a list of your favorites activities and keep a “stress kit” ready when the complaints don’t stop.
  4. Pretend they are dying. Sometimes when people are frequently negative and complaining, we start to tune them out. Then when they have something useful and positive to contribute, we overlook it, making them feel ignored and adding to their victim-hood. Today pretend they only have a little longer to live. What things do they like? What good ideas do they have? Take a minute to find their worth.
  5. Praise them often. Many negative people are crying out for help. They are insecure, lonely, and lack confidence in themselves. Make a point of noticing when they do a good job. Compliment their cooking, praise their report, or commend their meeting notes for their attention to detail. Let them feel appreciated and valued.
  6. Excuse yourself for an errand. Some people get so caught up in their criticisms and complaints; they don’t realize how long they’ve been rambling. Take the initiative. Have a ready-made list of office activities like copying, or home chores like the dishes as a ready-made excuse. When the complaining has gone on long enough, simply excuse yourself to do your work. It gives you both a break when you need it most.
  7. Enjoy the lesson. Although this is a hard one, it can be very enlightening. When you have a very negative person around you, see if you can see what you are doing to attract their energy. Are you complaining too often? Do you correct other people’s mistakes? Are you overworked and acting tired and cranky? If you can see you own “bad habits,” or problems you are on your way to solving them. Mentally thank the person for the lesson and let them go. (By the way, I have actually done this a time or two and the irritating presence left after I figured it out. It does work.)
  8. Ask them to come back with some solutions. Catch the complainer or criticizer off guard by asking for their feedback. Say, “Hmm, you may be right. Can you think about this and bring me back some solutions to this problem?” No matter what happens you’ve made them think, stopped the attack and bought yourself some peace.

There’s no “cure” for negative people, but there are ways to lessen their impact on you. Focus your attention on the positive. Make sure you have at least as many positive influences as negative. If you don’t have friends or family that can help, look to self-help books, counselors, mentors or coaches.

Train yourself to notice the good news in the local paper, or the heroes in the reports of tragedies on the TV news. Stop your own negative thoughts and words whenever you become aware of them. Look at these annoyances as a chance to improve your own behavior so you don’t add to the problem. Do your best not to let a bad attitude bring you down and you’ll have won half the battle.

Here are two more useful links:

How to Deal With Negative People

How to Help Negative People – Steve Pavlina

Friday, December 7, 2007

Good News is Always Welcome.

Freddy’s Happy by Rob Lee

The everyday world sometimes seems cold and unfriendly. Newspapers and TV are full of information on murders, fires, car accidents and more. As you listen to the statistics of crime and see the images of men and women beaten and attacked in their homes, you begin to feel grouchy and irritable. “The world’s a mess,” you say. Suddenly you find yourself feeling inexplicably depressed for no understandable reason.

There is hope. You need a good old fashioned dose of positive thinking and optimism. Good news is out there. You can scan newspaper articles and find heroic 8-year-olds whose phone call to 911 saved their mother’s life. You can watch TV and find Holmes on Homes, where Mike Holmes fixes the construction, plumbing and electrical mistakes that others have made. You can find the good out there if you just make the time to look.

Putting in that extra effort is worth it. As you start to notice the good people and organizations that are dedicated to helping others, your day will brighten and your cynicism will fade away. You’ll recognize the goodness in mankind is out there, it’s just being ignored. You’ll read about people who promote random acts of kindness, whether it’s something as simple as smiling at a over-worked mom, or purchasing a meal for the person behind you at your favorite fast food restaurant. As you read about the kindness people share with each other, the beautiful generosity of the human spirit, you’ll be moved and inspired to share the joy.

You’re outlook will brighten through the uplifting stories of hope and selflessness. After book marking a few “Good News Only” web sites, you notice you’re view beginning to change. You’ll feel more comfortable around strangers, and find yourself singing as you work. This more balanced perspective will help you find life more of a joy, and help you not to lose hope in the future. People around the world are working hard to make a positive difference. The world is a good place to be.

There are people working to help the poor, improve the environment and give back to their communities. Read the story of Dave, who studied the “natural recovery from MS,” program and went from wheelchair to bicycle in less than 3 years. Or watch the You Tube video about Hybrid Solar Lighting that was shown on Discovery channel. See the miraculous rescue and inter-species hero when a dolphin saves a surfer from a shark attack.

Share your own good news stories with friends and families. Change your own focus to the positive and uplifting and watch as your perspective and view of the world shift to a more upbeat outlook.

To help you get your search started, here are a few of my favorite good news and happiness sites:

Good News Network

Happy News

Happiness at Work – The Chief Happiness Officer

The Positivity Blog

Free Hugs Campaign

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Snow Day – Time to Play!

Well, we’ve been snowed in pretty good here in West Virginia, and there’s more on the way. I have to admit, my first thoughts when seeing all that beautiful white snow was “Let’s go play!” We took a walk this morning through the pristine whiteness. It snowed 4-5 inches in 5-6 hours. It was literally a winter wonderland. Everywhere snow lay like vanilla frosting, covering up the bare tree limbs and dull brown grass with beautiful fluffy white.

I have great childhood memories of snow. I remember how puzzled I was the one year a blizzard came through. While my parents complained of being “stuck at home,” because of snow piled against the door, my brother and I tunneled our way out. I think we were out of school for 3-4 days. The whole block came out to play. We made snow forts, tunnels, had snowball fights, made snowmen and snow angels. It was a blast!

Here are a few pictures I took on my morning walk:

Here’s the road to get off the mountain.

Here’s a view down the hill – want to go sledding?

This was the morning blizzard!

Me and the dogs having fun in the snow.

I did find a little downside to all the fun. My poor little dog had the snow stick to her warm fur. It began piling up more and more as she walked. Check out this photo snapped at the end of the walk. We had to give her a warm soaking to melt all the snow off of her. Too funny!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Help Me – I Can’t Meditate!

Meditation Retreat by The Philosophy of Photography

Many people I speak to about the serenity and calming effect of meditation tell me that they can’t sit still, or that it doesn’t work for them. They are not alone. While some of us find meditation easier than others, it’s a skill almost anyone can learn. Meditation is less complicated than you think; it is simply the calming of your thoughts, deep, relaxing breathing and relief from daily stress.

Don’t think that just because certain thoughts keep returning or you feel fidgety that you’re not good at meditation. That happens to everyone! It takes practice and a little patience, but the results are worth it. When I first started I struggled with the same problems as everyone else. The intention is to keep your mind focused on one thing and to gently let go of the overwhelming amount of thoughts that swirl through your head. Think of it as a mini mind-vacation. Here are a few of the techniques I use to help me focus my attention:

  1. Counting backwards. This technique is highly effective for focusing your attention. Whenever you lose your place, simply start over again. Even if you don’t make it from 100 to 0, you will still feel a calming of the mind and body. Picture a neon sign with numbers counting down. Take deep breathes that raise your belly and exhale slowly. This technique can be done any time.
  2. Tense and relax. When your muscles are tight and stiff, this will help them un-knot and loosen up. Take a few deep breaths to relax the body. Now tighten your left leg muscles for a count of five, then release. Do the same with the right leg, then both together. Progress up the body, making sure to tighten and release shoulder and neck muscles, as well as your face. Your body will feel softer, warmer and less sore. If you’re really tense try repeating the exercise twice. You’ll notice yourself really picking up on places of discomfort and pain and breathing more deeply as well.
  3. Listen to music. Music helps to block out the ordinary house noises that take your concentration away from your meditation. You won’t hear the dog barking, the car next door, the hum of the refrigerator or other annoying intrusions. Music style varies by person. I suggest instrumental, Native American or African drumming, Tibetan bells and gongs or even nature sounds like ocean surf or birds singing. Allow yourself to follow the melody into a different world, where you can escape the demands of your day.
  4. Guided meditation. This is one of my favorites. Unlike music alone, guided meditation will give you step by step guidance, reminding you to breathe deeply and relax each muscle in your body. The soft music lulls you into a calmer state while your mind follows on each exercise to rid your body of stress. Because your mind is creating a picture based on the spoken words, I find this a highly effective method for those new to meditation.
  5. If you fall asleep, it means you needed it. Many people believe that if they fall asleep during meditation it means they’ve failed. Trust me, it will happen to you. When I began meditating I would lay down with my headphones on, and promptly fall asleep 10 minutes later. I usually slept anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. It is simply your body’s response to releasing all that tension. As you practice you will stay awake more often. (Also, sitting up during meditation does help with this somewhat.)

Remember that even small bits of meditation, say five or ten minutes can make a big difference if done on a daily basis. Don’t believe that you can successfully stay in a “perfect, peaceful state,” without lots of practice. After years of hectic rushing, the mind is not used to the slowness of this exercise. Give yourself time.

Recognize that interruptions will happen, and be patient with it. Trying for two short 10-minute meditations may be more realistic for you. Don’t feel you have to sit for an hour at a time. This is simply time for you to collect yourself and unwind. Don’t pressure yourself with expectations, other than this is your time to have a break. Enjoy the peace!

Here are few web sites that have helpful instructions for a beginner:

Beginning Meditation – A Zen Primer.

Beginning Meditation Podcasts.

Getting Started With Meditation (what to expect).

The Basics of Buddhist Meditation.