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How to Practice Mindfulness

Do you ever feel like life is passing you by? Feel overwhelmed by uncontrollable situations, and that you’re not actually enjoying the present? In today’s busy world, it’s easy to focus on the next thing we need to do, rather than actually caring for ourselves and those around us.

Mindfulness involves focusing our attention on being fully present, being aware of who we are and what we’re doing and accepting our surroundings without judgment. When we practice mindfulness, we train our brain to refocus on current surroundings, leaving us in a more peaceful and relaxed state. If you want to practice mindfulness, check out these easy steps.

1. Focus on your breathing.
The first step in practicing mindfulness is breathing. Find a calm, quiet place, where you can truly relax and focus your attention on quiet time. Slow your breathing to long and deep breaths in and out of your lungs. Identify your in-breath and out-breath as you go through the motions.

Be sure to sit straight comfortably so your lungs can completely fill in and out. If useful, go through your breaths as you would through counting. Breathe in… 2, 3, 4, 5. Breathe out… 2, 3, 4, 5. Clear your mind as you notice, “This is my in breath. This is my out breath.” Let your thoughts float away as you focus on your slow, deep breaths.

2. Cultivate your concentration.
Next, cultivate your concentration by focusing all of your thoughts on the present moment. Be careful not to allow any interrupting thoughts, such as, “Did I remember to take the dog out?” Interruptions draw you away from the moment and distract your mindfulness. When they do happen, excuse the thought and continue to focus your concentration on the present.

Take in the current moment completely as it is. The goal is not to focus on how you can improve the moment, but rather to accept it completely without judgment. Whenever outside thoughts creep in, don’t feel overwhelmed or irritated. Gently bring back your concentration and continue to relax in the present moment.

3. Be aware of your body.
As you practice mindfulness, be aware of every part of your body and how you use it. Sit comfortably straight, with hands on your knees and arms uncrossed. Open body language lets your mind know that you are relaxed and willing to accept anything that comes. If you’re sitting on a cushion, cross your legs comfortably; if in a chair, rest your feet flat on the floor.

Be sure your body is comfortable and open. If you feel relaxed enough, close your eyes and let your chin drop to your chest. As you practice mindfulness, be aware of your body by focusing, “I am aware of every part of my body. I feel it and accept it for who I am.” Continue to slowly breathe in and out as you focus on each individual part of your body.

4. Release your tension.
Once you’ve become aware of your body, recognize and release any built-up tension or stress you feel. Tension accumulates when we let our bodies go on for too long under stress. But, by focusing on mindfulness, we can help to release all of this.

Focus your thoughts on deep relaxation. By accepting the current moment for what it is, we can release any judgments or stress we feel towards it, and therefore relax the tension in our body. Focus your breaths on any part of your body you feel tension, and let them stay there as you fall deeper and deeper into relaxation and mindfulness.

When you feel completely relaxed, come out of your state of mindfulness and continue through the day. But remember, mindfulness isn’t another thing to check off the “to do” list every week.

Whenever life feels too overwhelming, take time to practice mindfulness in that moment, and appreciate the present for what it is: a gift.

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Thanking Through Giving on Thanksgiving

When you think of Thanksgiving, what comes to mind? Is it images of family sitting around a table together enjoying a meal? Friends going outside to play a rowdy game of touch football? Maybe even the smell of freshly cooked turkey coming out of the oven?

Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends to come together and celebrate one another’s company in honor of a founding moment for our country. But even more than that—more than the food, football and friends—Thanksgiving is about giving thanks. It’s about recognizing everything we’ve been given, and appreciating it fully.

What’s the best way to show thankfulness? By giving back to others less fortunate. This Thanksgiving, remember the reason for the season by showing thanks through giving.

Invite a friend.
One easy way to give back on Thanksgiving is by recognizing friends who have no family nearby to spend the holiday with. Invite them to share with you and enjoy the holiday together. Some friends even go so far as to celebrate “Friendsgiving” by gathering all of their friends to spend time together and enjoy Thanksgiving as a family away from home.

Donate a meal.
This holiday season, many families can’t afford to celebrate Thanksgiving with a meal. You can change this by donating a meal to a local food program. Whether you donate cash, pitch in a can of cranberry sauce or buy an entire meal, you can help a family in need by showing thankfulness through giving back.

Volunteer at a kitchen.
If you want to take your donation even further, give to others this Thanksgiving through volunteering at a local soup kitchen. Hand out food to those without a home to go to, help those who are never served and hear their stories. When you give back by volunteering, you impact others’ lives and feel gratitude for your own.

Visit a retirement home.
Many elderly among us have few family members able or willing to spend the holidays with them while living in a retirement home. On Thanksgiving, show our elders you still care by visiting a home in your community and spending time getting to know those who live there. They will be grateful for your presence, and you will feel the Thanksgiving spirit in return.

Spend time at a hospital.
Many people aren’t able to go home and spend time with family over the holidays because they’re too ill to leave the hospital. But, you can make their day by spending time this Thanksgiving visiting them and acting as family. Not only will you help them enjoy the holiday, but you will lift their spirits more than ever.

Remember the troops.
Finally, don’t forget about the community members who are overseas on Thanksgiving fighting for our country. Try putting together a Thanksgiving meal package, write letters or give a donation to send to our troops overseas. For those military personnel who don’t have family members to celebrate Thanksgiving with, gifts from someone back home mean the world.

This Thanksgiving, remember the reason for the season by showing thanks for the wonderful opportunities in your own life. Give thanks by giving back, and see the impact you can make around you and toward those in need.

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How to Positively Live a Positive Lifestyle

There’s a lot going on in the world right now. Television, media, and news broadcasts press in from all sides and tell us all of the horrible events our society is experiencing. Sometimes it seems that no matter where we turn, there’s another negative source trying to influence us.

With all of this outside pressure, it can be difficult to try and live a positive life. How do we pay attention to current events while still living positively? Well, today we’re going to find out. Check out these tips for how to positively live a positive lifestyle.

1. Remember positivity is a choice.
One of the biggest mistakes we make is believing outside forces control our attitudes. As the saying goes, the glass can be half-empty or half-full, depending on how you look at it. While cliché, nothing is more true when it comes to positive living.

No matter what is going on in the world around us, we can choose to be kicked and stay down, or choose to look at things from a positive perspective. Had a bad day at work? Tomorrow will be better. Had a fight with a friend? Trials create stronger friendships. When we choose to look at our lives positively, we unconsciously create a positive life around us.

2. Find daily inspiration.
Positive living is made easier when we find inspiration daily. Whether your inspiration comes from a mentor, a friend or family member, a religious affiliation or an internal spiritual focus, finding inspiration rejuvenates us every day to live a more positive lifestyle.

So next time you feel negativity seeping in, take time to find inspiration in the world around you through nature, a sweet song or just a solid good book.

3. Take care of yourself.
You can’t feel positive about yourself if you don’t first feel healthy. Physical, mental and emotional well being are all key components of living a positive lifestyle. Even though life can be busy, take time to focus on promoting your own health and nutrition every day.

Eat clean, find ways to exercise throughout the day and focus time on de-stressing. When you feel well physically, mentally and emotionally, you’ll be more able to continue that positivity through every aspect of your life.

4. Stop comparing.
One of the quickest ways to feel negative is by comparing ourselves with others. Friendships, work interactions and social media are all key examples. When we compare ourselves with others, we’re looking at their “main stage” and our “behind the scenes.” There’s nothing equal about it, and yet we feel the negative sting of jealousy and self-denigration.

So stop comparing. No more scrolling through social media just to see everyone’s perfect pictures; no more jealous glances across the cubicles. Focus on growing yourself and living well and you will undoubtedly feel more positive.

5. Be grateful and give back.
One of the best ways to live a positive lifestyle is to focus on gratitude for the positive things we have in our lives. Show the ones you love how much you appreciate them by spending time together. Take time to journal about the positive aspects of life, and how much they mean to you. Practice gratitude every day by using 5 minutes to reflect on the things you’re grateful for.

When you feel gratitude and positivity seeping into your life, pay it forward by giving back to those who are less fortunate. Not only will you be more appreciative about your own life, but you will feel more positive through helping improve others’ lives.

Living a positive lifestyle can undoubtedly be a difficult challenge in today’s overwhelming world. However, you can take positive steps by trying out some of these tips. When you live a positive lifestyle, you shine as a light for other people to follow, and promote positivity to all.

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Practicing Thankfulness This November

They say November is the month of gratefulness, and how it could it not be, with a holiday like Thanksgiving smack dab in the middle of it? The truth is, it can be easy to take the wonderful things in our lives for granted. It’s more difficult to take a step back and feel thankful.

Gratefulness is not something which comes naturally; it needs practice. If you want to live an altruistic life and practice thankfulness this month, check out these easy steps you can take.

Keep a journal.
One simple way to practice thankfulness is to write down everything you’re thankful for in a gratitude journal. This allows you to physically see the beautiful things in life all together, and feel the magnitude of their impact.

Keeping a gratitude journal over time also shows everything coming in and out of your life, such as new people, different adventures or even small interactions day to day. Write for 10 minutes every morning or evening and see how your views on thankfulness shift this November.

Try meditating.
While writing in your gratitude journal, try meditating for a few moments. This helps you to practice thankfulness through meditation every day. It doesn’t matter whether your meditation time is long, short, spiritual or non-religious. Giving your mind quiet time every day will help focus your energy on things you’re thankful for.

Focus positively.
While meditating, focus your thoughts on positive things throughout your day, week or month. Interactions with others, moments of good luck or new discoveries are all positive influences on our lives which we often forget to be thankful for.

Even difficult times can call for gratitude. Hard day at the office? Use the chance to change your thinking into something positive: a job which puts food on the table and supports your family. When we focus our thoughts positively, we show more gratitude naturally.

Listen to others.
Sometimes we get so caught up in ourselves, we forget about everyone around us with lives all their own. You can practice thankfulness for the people in your life by truly taking the time to listen to them and hear their thoughts. Show your spouse, children, family or friends what they mean to you by asking how their lives are going, and then listening for an answer. You may just be surprised at what you hear.

Give back.
What better way to appreciate our own lives than to give back to others who are less fortunate than we are? Show thankfulness this month by giving back through volunteering, donating financially or pledging goods to people in need.

When we recognize the fortunes we have in our own lives, and then help others who may not have them, we practice thankfulness through giving.

This November, don’t wait until Thanksgiving to recognize the good things in life. Practice altruism through thankfulness, and recognize ways to be thankful for every day moments. Because when we practice thankfulness in our own lives, we unconsciously promote a more positive world with others.