Monthly Archives: December 2014

Establishing Habits That Contribute To Your Happiness

My funny attempt at meditation in Texas

My funny attempt at meditation in Texas

Goodness gracious I tried two new things last week that made a hugely positive impact in my mood! I attended a public speaking meetup and tried meditation.

Last Sunday I finally took the initiative and went to the “Public Speaking Bootcamp” meetup group that I’ve been meaning to go to for months. There was a group of 8 friendly and successful people who were there for the same reasons as I: to feel more comfortable in the spotlight and to effectively address an audience.

Each person took turns telling a story or answering a question and would then await praise and constructive criticism from the rest of us.

This group is different from the well-known Toastmasters meetup group. Toastmasters has many more members and is focused on prepared speeches while this group was more about “getting up there and talking to the audience while thinking quick on your feet.”

This improvisational approach is an effective way to get the speakers more comfortable with themselves and to build their self-confidence.

I was absolutely thrilled with my performance all three rounds. I didn’t expect myself to be as smooth, fluid and articulate as I was. I normally see myself as a nervous speaker. I think I did well because I chose topics that I was knowledgeable about and spoke from the heart.

This was so good for my self-confidence that I felt slightly addicted and wanted to practice everyday after that!

Another thing I tried was a 2-minute breathing meditation that I’ve been putting off forever. I knew I needed to try this because I have a lot of tension and tend to be a worry-wart. So I dropped everything and gave it a go.

I tuned off the music on my computer and resolved to focus on deep belly breaths without timing myself. I started to feel the calming effects immediately. When I decided to stop I realized I had meditated for FOUR WHOLE MINUTES!

I, the hyperactive worry-wart was able to focus on nothing but breathing for 4 minutes! This is a huge accomplishment for me. The deep breathing had such an intoxicating effect on me that I resolved to do it everyday. I did it again yesterday before work.

Please try it!

I got this idea from Jeff Olson’s Slight Edge where he suggests readers to do these “Happy Habits” everyday for 3 weeks:

  1. Each morning write 3 new things you’re grateful for.
  2. Journal for 2 minutes a day about a positive experience you had within the last 24 hours. Describe with every detail to re-experience positive emotions.
  3. Meditate daily watching your breath go in and out for 2 minutes. This trains your brain to focus.
  4. Do a random act of kindness over the course of each day. This can be writing an email thanking someone for something they’ve done or helping a stranger carry their luggage up the subway stairs (always happening in NYC).
  5. Exercise for 15 minutes a day. Simple cardio has a powerful anti-depressant effect.

Jeff suggests trying one at a time and then slowly adding in the others to your daily routine. Starting small is effective in that it doesn’t overwhelm you. Steady changes are more effective than big diets and/or 30-day hardcore lifestyle changes (like bootcamp fitness) because they are so doable and easy-to-do.

You might not even notice the steadily increasing effort or results but they WILL come and people WILL notice. It’s as easy as walking 10 minutes a day and slowly working up to a 10-minute run and then add another minute everyday until it becomes 30 minutes a day!

That way you won’t injure yourself either. Remember the story of the tortoise and the hair:

“Slow and steady wins the race. Fast and furious burns out or gets too cocky and slacks off.” Slow isn’t important, STEADY is the key. If you stay consistent with your positive actions you’re heading up on the success curve.

It all starts with the first step. Take one, then another, and another. People procrastinate and avoid trying new habits that can improve their lives because sub-consciously they are afraid and resist change.

I don’t try these new things because I have to, it’s also fun to improve! Improving and getting good at something new is really FUN!

It is so empowering to learn to meditate when you never thought you could, or to nail that speech when you used to shake at the thought. I’m certain that I and anyone who uses the Slight Edge philosophy in their everyday lives  will reach unimaginable heights and live long, happy lives.

What do you think now? Do you want to get off your ass and make your life happier and better? I know I have and will keep doing so.

What happy habit will you take on for the next 3 weeks?

Stay tuned..

-Nicole

Birthdays And Insights

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So my 26th birthday just passed this Monday on December 1st and along with it came many different emotions. I think this tends to happen around “important” dates and holidays when people’s expectations tend to run higher than any other time of the year.

I say this because this Thanksgiving and 26th birthday is the FIRST time I wasn’t surrounded by a single family member or close friends.

For those of you who have been through this, you understand how unsettling it can feel. I’m new to this and this is why in the past I never imagined I’d move away from family. The funny thing is, my brother Michael is going through the same thing for the first time too. Amazing, similar experiences with completely different circumstances.

Despite this shock I joyfully express my gratitude to the people who have made their way into my crazy life in NYC and have welcomed me with open arms.

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I send a “thank you” to Roxy’s family for having me in the defining month of September and inviting me over for Thanksgiving. And I also send a “warm thank you” to Aleksandra, Giovanna, Jinna and Wendy for being good friends to me in the short time I’ve known them. I would be eccstatic to share another Peruvian feast with you again and again.

After my birthday dinner, me and a friend decided to go out until very late and ended up having a foolish scuffle. The next morning, I was left with a terrible hangover, aching body and some post-birthday blues that were facilitated by the hangover. The foolish scuffle caused me to feel negative emotions and turn introspective.

I’m going to commit to getting to sleep earlier and to stop drinking alcohol because I realized that I HATE the resulting hangover/blues much more than I love the short-lived high of being buzzed.

What’s worse, these negative habits grossly diminish productivity. There’s not a chance I’m going to work out, eat healthy or be alert after those late nights.

I’m afraid this is going to alienate me a little bit because people here generally like to drink outrageous amounts of alcohol and stay out until the sun rises. Either way, I have to do what’s best for me and am confident that I will find people that think and act similarly.

One of the biggest reasons for this resolution is my reading of Jeff Olson’s The Slight Edge and the idea that every single little decision you make is either working FOR you or AGAINST you.

An example could be every time you decide to eat that cheeseburger instead of a nutritious meal, hit the snooze button and skip your early workout, or worse – have a long night and lose half of the next day. Basically, it resembles the “compounding” of good or bad choices that end up resulting in your failing or improving health, relationships and finances.

There couldn’t be a better book to read for my current situation than the Slight Edge. The reason why this concept is so treasured by me and all of Jeff’s readers is the simplicity of it all.

“Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do.”

The 95% majority of people that are struggling are motivated by quick results and instant gratification. The successful 5% are those who use the slight edge to take action with a vision of where they will be and a confidence that their consistent good decisions will make a difference.

So remember, every decision you make counts. Think twice before you decide to skip that seminar, neglect to call your friend who you haven’t talked to in a while, or get that extra drink.

You’re either on your way down or on your way up, I know I’m on my way up.

-Nicole