Finding Your Passion

Passion 101: Finding Your Passion

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Finding Your Passion

 

This idea, finding your passion, may seem trite or trendy or even simplistic; who doesn’t know what their passions are? Well, surprisingly there are many who really have no idea, or are not in touch with them. Many live lackluster lives, going through the motions and not connecting with much meaning other than in relationships, and sometimes not even then.

Some people say they have no passion, that they need help creating or building it. I believe passion is hardwired, but sometimes it needs uncovering and cultivating. Watch children play, or listen to them tell you stories…it’s easy to see that they tend to feel passionate about many things. Does this passion just disappear as we age? I don’t think so, but many things can get in the way.

In today’s ever-busier, ever-more demanding world, most people find their minds overrun with information and doing…right now you can probably list at least a couple of people you help or take care of, five decisions you have to make soon and ten things you need to do. Where are you on that list? If you’re like many, you’re at the bottom, if you made the list at all.

If you’re not paying much attention to what you need and every moment is filled with doing, no wonder it’s difficult to connect with your passion. One of the keys to finding your passion is learning and practicing mindfulness and stress reduction techniques. When you slow down and become more self-aware, really spend some time with you, you can observe thoughts and feelings and pursue what matters to you. This can’t occur while you’re online or texting, watching movies or gaming, even if you’re alone, nor while spending time with others.

When you are alone, quiet and mindful and paying specific attention, you can try some simple techniques to become more aware of your passion.

Tips for finding your passion

 

~Make a list of when you are really happy, really angry/frustrated, really fearful, really excited…basically when you feel strong emotions.

Explore this in more depth and see what comes to you. Generally a passion will energize you—it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be ecstatically happy, but your feelings and energy will be heightened. This may be joyful or exciting, or very centered or inspired. It will likely keep your attention for a long time…you’ll feel like you could do or experience this thing very often and never grow tired of it. And likely, while you’re engaged in this activity or experience you probably lose track of time and stop being aware of much else.

Sometimes passions are identified through things or situations which result in emotions like anger or frustration, or fear. If you find that you are not only extremely troubled by an issue, but can’t stop thinking about it, perhaps if you focus on it more at length, with no distractions, you’ll discover a passion for working to change it. Or perhaps thinking about it more will lead to a related issue or activity which holds your interest and passion.

~What are the things you think about often, that come back to you again and again?

Do you daydream about the same things often, even to the point of distraction from work or duties? Maybe friends or family members say that you are obsessed with something, that you’re always talking about it. Do you dream often of something? If you sit down and really give your attention to this for a while perhaps you’ll realize it’s really important to you and it’s always on your mind because it’s a passion.

Finding Your Passion 2~If money and situation were not factors, what would you do/what changes would you make?

Perhaps your answer to this just doesn’t seem feasible. Still pursue the gist of this idea (and whether it’s truly impossible) and what you love about it…what feelings come up, where does it lead you?

~Peruse a catalog of classes at the local community college or online workshop resource.

Which listings interest you most or sound really exciting? Which do you wish you could take if you had the time and/or money? Think about these more in depth. Our interests and hobbies aren’t always our passions, but if we spend more time doing them, or even thinking about them, we may find that they are.

~When do you become really animated while talking about something?

If your heart rate increases while talking about something and you start talking more quickly and people say you’re really excited about it, you’re probably passionate about it. If you find yourself unable to hold back a huge smile while thinking of something, you’ve probably been successful in finding your passion, and you likely have others if you can allow them to surface.

~What did you always want to be as a kid, or what really stands out from your childhood that you felt excited and happy about?

These may have become refined, but there’s likely still something that gets your energy flowing now as it did then.

“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” – Oprah Winfrey

Great, so you’ve been successful in finding your passion…now what? Now you just need to learn how to cultivate and follow it. Next time: Following Your Passion.

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10 Ways Nature Heals and Nurtures

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10 Ways Nature Heals and Nurtures

They say time heals all wounds, but for me and many others, nothing heals and nurtures like Nature. When was the last time you spent an hour or two, or a day, just being in the forest or at a river, with no distractions? There’s quite a bit of research being presented these days on just this topic. Science is now interested in something people have done for eons, and some of what the research shows can seem rather obvious, but some is a bit surprising. Here are 10 Ways Nature Heals and Nurtures, 10 reasons to get yourself out there.

1 ~ Stress Reduction: As you might expect, time in nature reduces stress. It not only helps to decrease heart rate and lower blood pressure, it can actually lower your night time cortisol levels. This leads to better, more restful sleep. In addition, time spent in natural light helps maintain a stable sleep pattern by regulating the production of Melatonin.

2 ~ Improved Mental Health: It’s a quick step from #1 to understanding how nature can also help to improve mental health—decrease depression and anxiety, and increase self-esteem. It definitely increases your Happiness Quotient, and for those struggling with more significant issues, it can be a very helpful addition to counseling or other treatment.

3 ~ Decrease in Mental Fatigue: Meditation and yoga and similar activities can be helpful in creating a restorative effect on the brain, and time in Nature can do the same. It turns out that even looking at pictures of nature can create this effect, more so with images which create a sense of awe and inspiration.

4 ~ Better Health: If time in nature includes activity…walking/hiking, kayaking, cycling or others, health benefits tend to include weight loss/management, better cardiovascular functioning, higher oxygen levels (which helps everything), etc. If that time is purely quiet and meditative, however, it can be just as beneficial by decreasing the effects of stress on the brain and body. Meditation indoors is highly beneficial, but adding the component of nature boosts the effect.

Benefits which may surprise you:

5 ~ Stronger Immune System: Being around living green things…plants and especially forests, allows us to breathe in special chemical compounds given off by the plants. These result in increasing “natural killer” white blood cells which help to fight off viruses, and developing more anti-CANCER proteins!

6 ~ Better Eyesight: These days we spend so much time indoors in artificial light, especially looking at one type of computer screen or another, that the incidence of near-sightedness has greatly increased. Spending more time in Nature away from these can decrease the likelihood of worsening eyesight, especially in children.

7 ~ Improved Concentration, Memory and Productivity: Certain studies have shown improved results on retention and problem solving activities and work performance, the more time spent outdoors leading to better results. Even looking at Nature images helps, though. And if kids, especially those with ADHD, are struggling, a good, solid dose of Nature time can help them to refocus and improve their concentration and performance.

8 ~ Increased Energy Level: Those who exercise tend to have increased energy levels overall. Being in Nature can create the same effect. Thus, exercising outdoors near or in natural settings can be that much more effective. Increased oxygen intake, which happens much more readily while in Nature, especially forests, leads to increased Seratonin. This affects mood, memory and social interactions. And if the sun is shining, there’s an added benefit of increased Vitamin D.

9 ~ Boost in Creativity: I know that the majority of my creative thoughts, including poetry and new children’s book ideas, come while I spend time in Nature. Nature has always been my best Muse. It turns out that this is the case with most people! Perhaps this is due to the decrease in arousal and frustration levels and distractions inherent in time outdoors. Nature helps us let go of stressors and things weighing us down, as long as the phones get left behind or at least set on ‘do not disturb’ mode.

10 ~ Last, and definitely not least, is one dear to my heart—Increased Appreciation of Nature Itself: The more time we spend in Nature the more we realize just how important it is, for ourselves and future generations. Those who routinely spend time communing with Nature are more likely to see the benefits of taking care of our planet and acting as good stewards and helping others to do so. This is especially significant with children. Those who are immersed in Nature routinely from a young age tend to develop stronger voices for protecting it.

Truly, Nature Heals and Nurtures. It’s great to be outside at sporting events or other activities, but there’s no substitute for quite time with the trees, rivers, mountains, desert or ocean. To improve your health, mood and productivity, get out and spend time in Nature. If you want to decrease stress or increase creativity or sleep or memory, spend more time outdoors. If you can’t get out for a while, at least take breaks from the computer screen and all of life’s pressures and browse some beautiful images of the amazing thing that is our Earth.

More on how Nature Heals and Nurtures

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New Years Resolutions

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New Years Resolutions

 

A new year begins. Did you make any new years resolutions? I heard of one from a stranger at the checkout counter today. His resolution is to be healthier; he was buying a pair of dumbbells. This fits in perfectly with the topic I’ve been wanting to write about this week.

Every year millions of people make resolutions, and millions minus a few eventually feel frustrated then guilty for not following through and ultimately abandon them. A resolution is “a firm decision to do or not to do something” or “the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter.” People resolve to be healthier, to get along better with their significant others or family members, to get rid of things which no longer serve them. They decide it’s time to commit to someone or something or move on, to leave an unsatisfactory job and do something more worthwhile or fulfilling, or to just be more positive overall.

Two reasons so many of us “fail” in our resolutions isn’t lack of or misguided vision or intent, but under-defined goals and lack of plans for reaching them. Let’s look at the goal to “be healthier.” It sounds like a great goal…who can’t benefit from becoming more healthy? But what does that mean? If that’s the whole goal, it’s extremely vague and not very motivating for making changes. It’s also difficult to measure follow through and progress.

When we set goals we need to be very specific, create plans for achieving them, then evaluate and make adjustments as needed. In order to be healthier do you want to improve your diet, exercise more, get more sleep, drink less alcohol, incorporate meditation into your life? Once you have a more specific goal, it can be further refined to make it easier to achieve. If you want to get more sleep, identify how many hours you get regularly now and how many you want to get in order to be healthier. But don’t stop there.

It sounds great to have a goal of getting an hour and a half more sleep, on average, every night, but just wishing for it won’t make it happen. Will you set an alarm on your phone for an hour before you want to be in bed so you can be ready at your new bedtime? Maybe you will make a to do list on Sunday evening with specific items for each day and schedule them in so you don’t find yourself trying to achieve multiple tasks a half hour before bed. Maybe you’re a napper and will schedule a nap every other day. The point here is to be specific and set into motion a plan that will work.

As you proceed along the path of fulfilling your resolution, it helps to check in. Is your plan workable or do you need to make adjustments? How many hours of sleep are you getting regularly now? It’s also a good idea to have small rewards periodically to keep you motivated, and to allow for slip-ups without condemning yourself. Sometimes it helps to make changes gradually so you’re not overwhelmed. Maybe your goal is to add an hour and a half of sleep each night, but that’s a big change, so increasing by a half hour every month or two might be more reachable. You can always increase more quickly if it goes really well, but expecting too much at first can lead to “failure” and abandoning the goal because it’s too difficult.

It is good to reflect on the past year and make reasonable goals for the new one. Hopefully we’ll all choose a resolution or two that are workable and make specific plans to achieve them, then reward ourselves as we make progress along the way. It feels great to achieve goals—small, daily ones and major life-changing ones. Here’s to making 2017 the best year yet!

 

 

 

 

Taking Time for Yourself

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Taking Time for Yourself

Taking time for yourself is so important. I’m so blessed to be able to do this more often than most, and I cherish every moment. Next to a day spent recreating in the outdoors, yesterday was one of my favorite kinds of Sunday: Sleep late, yummy gluten-free pancake breakfast with chocolate bits and chicken sausages, a dog walk to the river, then time with a good book in my window seat. All of this followed by an afternoon of dancing, then an evening with my dog watching a captivating movie. Doesn’t get much better, eh?

Even if life is too busy to allow for such a day very frequently, at least once a month is really a necessity, or maybe a half day more often. Having these down times allows us to regroup and reduce stress and be more able to cope with work, family and other responsibilities. It also helps for being the best we can be in relationships. Over the years I’ve heard many clients state that they just don’t have time for, or feel guilty for taking, such a luxury. I try to help them understand that, like visiting the dentist, time for yourself isn’t a luxury…it’s preventive medicine. And much more enjoyable than the dentist!

Here’s to you!

Choosing the right supplements

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Choosing the right supplements

Before beginning a supplement regimen I like to search for information on it in order to determine the correct one for me. I look for blogs or articles that are written by nutritionists, naturopaths or other specific practitioners, and those who aren’t selling anything. I feel these are more likely to give me the unbiased and educated information.

Here’s something you might find surprising. Calcium and Magnesium are often paired in supplements. According to several practitioners, the two compete for the same things. If you take them together they pretty much negate each other. If you want to take both, it works better to purchase separate supplements and take them at different times. There are several forms of each as well, some of which are absorbed more readily or are more potent, and more appropriate for the specific purpose you’re taking them.

I’ve never had a practitioner tell me this when he or she recommended taking these supplements. There is some good information out there on the web!

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Reframing Negative Thoughts

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Reframing Negative Thoughts

I went on a wonderful personal retreat in Sedona this spring. Among many, the most important thing I brought back with me is the most simple 2-word phrase…”So what?” You’ve probably heard, “It just is,” or “Let it go,” or other equally helpful statements. Like the others, “So what?” helps me to regain perspective on whatever it is I’m reacting to that’s leaving me with a less than positive emotional response. It helps a lot to let go of judgment.

What makes this even more powerful is that it’s actually a question. It not only helps to shift perspective, but goes deeper. It requires me to answer my own question, which usually creates another opportunity to ask, “So what?” about the next thing that comes up, and the next, until I’m facing the real issue that needs to be released.

If someone cuts me off in traffic and I feel frustration about it, I can say, “So what?” I might answer, “It’s not fair!” “So What?” followed by, “He shouldn’t treat me that way.” So I feel slighted and undervalued. This may lead to a realization that this person doesn’t know me, it means nothing about me, and I have no idea what’s going on in his life right now. Asking “So what?” helps me realize it’s just not that important. If I let it go it feels so much better than holding onto that irritation.

This is a simple example, but it works with everything that I find myself reacting to in a negative way, and it feel so much better to just be happy 🙂

 

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Stand Tall

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Stand Tall

There are many ways to help ourselves remain healthy and most require conscious focus. In childhood you likely heard one adult or more telling you, “Stand up straight!” This was very good advice, even if it may have seemed like a command you wanted to resist. Standing tall allows for more space between vertebrae and less pressure on joints and can help to prevent a stooped posture as we age. We can prevent, minimize or alleviate neck and back pain just through a nice upright posture.

This has become even more of a challenge in recent years as we spend so much time on our phones, tablets and laptops, arms and heads forward, upper bodies slouched. Many muscles have to do double duty due to increased pressure and load in such awkward positions.

Standing, and sitting, tall helps not only with physical health, but emotional well being as well. If you present a bold, confident posture, you feel more bold and confident, and others are more likely to notice you and embrace your energy. Add a radiant smile and you’re golden!

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