Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Things to remember durning the holiday season...

"You are the gift" morning pages with help from FlyPaper
1.  Remember you are the gift.  (I learned this from 14 Secrets member, Lore Caldwell)
2.  Remember the gift of breath.  (When we focus on breathing deeply for a few minutes it can ground and calm during the most anxious times.)
3.  Remember your freedom, your ability to choose what you do today, what you hold in your mind, and who you surround yourself with.
4.  Remember to use your senses.  Smell the scents in the air; pine, baking food, fresh air.  Listen to the sounds around you.  Fully experience everything that comes to you through your senses.  Be here now.
5.  Remember that humans need community, use this opportunity to build positive relationships.  Be a part of something greater than yourself.
6.  Remember to learn and grow from your experiences.
7.  Remember to give others your attention.
8.  Remember to appreciate those around you.  Let them know.
9.  Remember to treat people how we would want to be treated.
10. Remember you can forgive. 
11.  Remember to look for the light in others and in yourself.

This list of things to remember during the holiday season comes mostly from Lori Deschene's Tiny Buddha blog.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Play your way through the holidays!

‘Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions.’ – Mark Twain 

Collage play on iPad by Lani
I suspect during the pressures of the holidays we tend to forget to play, and I also suspect that PLAY is a huge element in this soon to be created "Instruction Manual for a Miraculous Occasion".  I've read that "Google" is as effective and creative as they are because the engineers spend one day of their work week at play, they work on their own inventive ideas during those days and of course that's when the miraculous occurs.  So add 20% (at least) of your own play time in all your preparations and see what happens.  Feel free to post results here.

‘We don’t stop playing because we grow old [or get stressed]; we grow old [and feel completely stressed] because we stop playing.’ – George Bernard Shaw  (stuff in brackets added by me)

Collage play on iPad by Lani

Saturday, December 08, 2012

14 Secrets for Creating a Stress Free Day (a stress free holiday and a stress free life)

14 Secrets Collage by Lani
1. Claim this day for yourself; it's your life, your day.  Claim it, and don't give it over to anyone else!  (One of the worst things we do for a holiday is to make someone else responsible for our having a happy day.  Even if you have Ebenezer Scrooge in your family this is your day, your happiness is yours!)

2. Be generous with LOVE!   If you are in the holiday gift giving cycle and you want to find new, less materialistic gifts for those you love, Christine Arylo, author of Madly in Love with Me, suggests asking these questions, "what love do I want to give you this year?" and "what form can the love take to help this person feel that love?"  What gift would bring delight and a feeling of being loved to sad, old Ebenezer or who ever is on your list?

3. Create a delightful, fragrant experience.   You can use naturally scented soy candles (love the Aveda candles) or create your own room fresheners.  Mix 30 drops of your favorite essential oil into a half cup of distilled water, place this in a spray bottle, and spritz.  Think balsam fir, spruce, cedar, or myrrh and frankincense, or cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and clove, or orange, lemon, and grapefruit.  Mmmmm.

Be Original collage by Lani with help from FlyPaper
4. Create new traditions for yourself and your family and make them yours.  Think about your strengths (see previous post), what traditions would speak most to your strengths and the strengths of your loved ones?  Want some ideas?  The folks at Folk have some great ideas!  (They have some nifty DIY gift ideas as well, come to think of it!)

5.  This little secret is from Leo Babauta of ZenHabits.  If you are feeling resistance and stress about anything at all, like the holidays just around the corner,  notice your reluctance and  see where it speaks to you from your body.  Is it a tightness in your shoulders, neck, chest, or mind?  Leo says you have a few choices, you can stop doing what ever it is, call off the holiday, or you can push yourself to go through with things even if you are feeling like you don't want to (usually results in bad moods, no?) or you can chose to let go of the feeling of tightness.  Woo!  Easy, right?  Leo has 5 simple steps right here, go immediately and check them out.  You won't be sorry.

6.  We all know about altered books and mixed media art, taking something that is one thing and using art materials to turn it into something else, right?  Why don't we do that with stuff that makes us feel stressed?  What could you do to alter the things that give you stress? 

Let's Occupy Our Hearts collage by Laniwith help from FlyPaper
7.  Go for a massage or take a long hot bath.

8.  Do a little yoga and/or meditation.

9.  The Universities of Dalhousie and Tufts have both employed therapy dogs to help with end of term stress.  What an awesome idea.  Play with your pet, and if you don't have a pet, visit a friend's pet for a pet therapy break!
"Pleasure in the Pathless Woods" collage by Lani with help from FlyPaper
10.  Go for a "treasure hunt" walk.  Look for evidence of love (got that from my love guru Christine Arylo), kindness, and beauty.  Take notes, take pictures, and share them.

11.  Spend some time in nature.  Dress well, stay warm, be comfortable.  See what you learn, take notes and share.

12.  Make a hot drink and pull out the art supplies.  Do a little journaling.  Awesome stress reducer, plus you will have something lovely to look at.

13.  Curl up with a good book and your favorite music by the fire, if you have a fire place, if not then imagine. Your imagination is a wonderful stress reducing tool!

14.  Make a list of what you would do to create a stress free day and share your list with others (or right here).  Ask them what they would do, start a conversation or a movement!  Take back your life!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Strengths and Occupying the Holiday Season.

"Endure" collage by Lani with help from FlyPaper

Sonja Lyubomirsky (Professor, University of California, Riverside) answered a question put to her by Amanda Horne on the Positive Psychology News Daily website, "How can I use my strengths this holiday season?"  Such a great question.  She said she would:

  • Focus less on materialistic goals (and, yes, I mean the buying and consuming of all those gifts, many of them useless) and more on intrinsic goals involving personal growth, connections with others, and contributing to family, community, and society
  • Live in the here-and-now — that is, focus on, enjoy, and savor the moment instead of dwelling on what work you’re missing or the chores you have to do tomorrow
  • Work on appreciating what you have, even if it’s not very much; this is extremely difficult to do and requires lots of practice
  • Set at least one new, intrinsic, important, and meaningful life goal and begin the first baby step towards it
  • When you find yourself ruminating about problems or comparing yourself to others, shift your mindset, and distract, distract, distract
  • Work out as much as you can, doing whatever physical activity that “fits” you best
Do you need a review of what the positive psychologists focus on as strengths to create your own list?  Here you go:

Under "Wisdom and Knowledge" positive psychologists place Curiosity, Love of Learning, Judgment, Ingenuity, Social Intelligence, and Perspective.  (Gosh, the holidays seem like a really great time to work on these!)

Under "Courage" they place Valor, Perseverance, and Integrity.  (These strength may come into play if you have some family  members who like to stir things up a bit.)

Under "Humanity and Love" they place Kindness and Loving.  (Since this is what the holidays are all about, maybe there would be lots of opportunity to practice these.)

Under "Justice" they place Citizenship, Fairness, and Leadership.

Under "Temperance" they place Self-control, Prudence, and Humility.  (My mother-in-law gave me some great advice about how to practice this particularly with rowdy holiday making family members who "like to stir things up."  She said just blend into the wood work, be a wall flower when it seems wise.  Good advice!)

Under "Transcendence" they place Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, Gratitude, Hope, Spirituality, Forgiveness,  Humor, and Zest.  (Ah, now these strengths really speak to me about the holidays and end of year exploration.  Lots of  material here!)
So how will you be using your strengths this holiday season? Need more ideas? Check the Positive Psychology News Daily!

Want to learn more about your own strengths?  Then the VIA character strengths website would be for you!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

"Instruction Manual for Miraculous Occasions"

Collage by Lani, wisdom by Papaya Art
It's that time of year again, when Spirit and Material seem to clash so amazingly.  We have the joy of the season; sharing good food, music, and time with neighbors and family and then there's this strange market driven panic about getting and consuming, and is it conspicuous enough, and will someone think badly of me if I don't go into debt for the holiday.  Every year this aspect of the holiday season seems to get a little more intense.  Now it really feels like everything else is pushed aside and we are supposed to consume in order to support our various nation's economies.  (And that word "economy" needs to be spoken with a certain amount of reverence, in hushed tones.)

So I'm in a bit of a radical mood here, I'm ready to take back my Christmas holiday from the marketers and big box stores.  I'm all for Occupying the Holiday Season.  I'm getting ready to create my own "Instruction Manual for Miraculous Occasions" (the idea is actually borrowed from some holiday junk mail that came from the Zen Mountain Monastery.  There's a DVD on Oryoki, the formal monastery meal, with Master Dogen's instructions for a miraculous occasion.)  Well, the way I figure it, we can all create our own miraculous occasions, and I'm going to start with the holidays.  I want my holiday to be the opposite of mass, conspicuous consumption.  I'd love to create meaning, joy, creativity, and delight.  I'm currently in search of the contents for my "Instruction Manual for Miraculous Occasions" and the search is actually a blast!

One place I looked was over at American Dream, specifically their "Beyond Consumerism" page.  They have a great little PDF about simplifying the Holidays.  GREAT ideas in this PDF and it's free.  First are some serious questions:
1. Does your usual celebration focus on those aspects of the holiday that you feel are most important?
2. Which parts of your celebration would be the easiest to change so that you could spend more time on the things that are most meaningful for you?
3. Which activities could you scale back to reduce stress?
4. Where can you enlist help to make tasks easier and more fun?  (One of my favorite holiday memories was making Christmas tree ornaments with my sisters; listening to carols, laughing, and enjoying each others' company.  It was a way to share the task of holiday decoration and it was fun!)
5.Which activities do you find particularly enriching, and worthy of more time and effort?
So these are great questions and pretty easy to answer.

Now here comes my favorite activity so far in this search for contents for my "Instruction Manual for Miraculous Occasions" also from this great little PDF.
The idea is to create admiration booklets for family, and since one of my favorite things in the world is creating books, booklets, altered books, and zines, I can totally see the amazing fun this could be.  Here's how they describe it:
One year, my immediate family (parents and siblings) decided
that we really didn’t need to buy each other gifts. So instead,
we all wrote something we love or admire about each other. I
collected these comments and created a little booklet for each
person containing all of the comments. At our get-together,
each person got a booklet of all of the qualities that people
like about them. I love this idea because it really allows you to
express your admiration and support for the people you love.
It’s a great keepsake and it definitely brought us together more
than a new pair of slippers would!
—Kindle Fahlenkamp-Morell  

So that's the beginning of my Occupation of the Holidays and the "Instruction Manual for Miraculous Occasions".  I will continue my research and post hear so stay tuned!