Plant Positive Seeds: 3 Stress-Reducing Habits

 

Positively Present - Little Deeds

 

Feeling stressed? Yeah, you're not alone. Most of us experience stress, particularly at this time of year when we're reflecting on the months that have passed and looking forward to the typically-busy months to come. If you're stressed, you're probably thinking of in-the-moment things you can do to quell the chaotic feelings (deep breathing, taking breaks, spa-like activities, etc.), but one of the best ways to combat stress is to develop regular habits that keep you calm. Planting positive seeds in the form of stress-reducing habits can greatly reduce your stress level, in part because you don't have to think about things to help you reduce your stress -- they'll already be habits! 

There are tons of ideas for habits that reduce stress -- eating well, exercising, spending time with loved ones, etc. -- but here are three of my favorite stress-reducing habits that you might want to consider adopting. Even if you're not currently stressed, putting habits like this in place can help you when you're facing stress in the future! 

 

START A GRATITUDE JOURNAL

I'm sure this isn't the first time you've heard "gratitude journal" in connection with stress reduction, but there's a reason that it's a popular topic in the self-help community. Spending time reflecting on what you're thankful for really does help cut down on stress. Studies have shown that gratitude is good for your health and, on a personal level, I've found that tracking things I'm thankful for on a daily basis really does help me feel less stressed. 

 

PICK UP A BUNCH OF FLOWERS

Surrounding yourself with beauty and nature is another great habit to embrace if you want to stress less. New research shows that people who lived with flowers in their homes for just a few days reported a significant decrease in their levels of stress and improvements in their moods. The simple act of making it a habit to have flowers around can help you stress less! This is a great example of how a small habit -- putting some pretty flowers in your home -- can have a meaningful impact on your stress level. 

 

OFFER TO HELP SOMEONE ELSE

Another great habit to consider adopting is regularly helping out others. Whether it's volunteering for a local charity, assisting a coworker, or helping those you love, helping other people is a habit that will cut down on your stress. It might sound counterintuitive -- adding another thing to your to-do list to reduce stress? -- but studies have shown that volunteering is good for your mental health, and the more stable your mental health, the better you'll be able to cope with stress! 

 

Nobody likes being stressed, but hopefully the three habits detailed above will inspire you to consider incorporating a stress-reducing, positive habit into your life on a regular basis. While deep breaths and mindfulness techniques can help combat stress in the moment, it's a good idea to create regular positive habits that will counteract stress without you having to even think about it. So consider adding gratitude journaling into your nightly routine, picking up some flowers on the way home from work, signing up to volunteer (or any other positive habit that cuts down on stress!) and see how simple, small things can have a big impact on your stress level! 

 

 

On StreetThank you to the Society of American Florists (SAF) for kindly sponsoring today's post! Whether it’s paying for a fellow commuter’s toll, or leaving a generous restaurant tip, “paying it forward” and “random acts of kindness” give people hope and inspire kindness towards others. SAF and the whole floral industry is taking part in this movement. It started with a small idea, that grew into everyone wanting to take part. Floral industry members know the power of flowers — they see it every day in their work. Whether to give or receive, flowers make people happy. For more information on the scientifically proven benefits of flowers including new university research on how living with flowers decreases stress, visit www.aboutflowers.com/research.


Get Grateful! : The 2018 Gratitude Challenge Is Here


2018_Gratitude_Challenge

 

It's hard to believe, but 2018 is the EIGHTH year of this Gratitude Challenge! 

I'm sharing the prompts a bit early this year so everyone who wants to participate can have a chance to prepare (and get a head start on thinking about gratitude!). I personally like tracking gratitude daily in my Every Day Matters diary, but even though I do it daily, focusing on a single word each day throughout November has served as a wonderful way to move toward the end of the year on a thankful note. 

Like last year, I'll be sharing my illustrations on Instagram daily (follow me on Instagram if you're not already!), but most people choose to to share photographs. Do whatever works best for you. It's all about connecting with what you're grateful for, so the method is less important than the content. If you're new to the Challenge, read on for details! 

 

THE CHALLENGE DETAILS

  • “Challenge” is just a word.

    The goal of the Challenge is to take and/or share something (a photo, illustration, quote, etc.) every day using the prompts to help you feel more appreciative. Feel free to get creative, make up your own prompts, etc. And don’t feel pressured to attain perfection, either. Thankfulness is what it’s all about; no need to be a professional photographer or artist!

  • Join in at any time.

    The point of the Challenge is to focus on staying thankful for thirty days. You can start the challenge on November 1 and do it for the whole month (as I am doing), or you can start the challenge any day that works for you and follow along at your own pace. I see people discovering and partaking in the Challenge all year 'round so don't feel limited to November!

  • Use the hashtag #Gratitude30.

    Sharing your pics on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.? If you tag them with #Gratitude30, others can see them and you’ll be able to see all of the other cool things that other people are sharing. It's one of my favorite things ever to look through all of the posts and see the various ways people interpret the prompts. 

  • Save or print out a reminder.

    Keep up with the prompts by downloading the photo above (save it to your phone, perhaps!) or, if you’re more of a IRL type, print out a version to post wherever you'd find a reminder helpful so you can stay on top of the prompts. Of course, you don't have to do them all in a row, but there is something special about spending 30 days focusing on what you're thankful for. 

 

THE 2018 PROMPTS...

 

DAY 1: HOME

It's said that home is where the heart is, but what does the word "home" mean to you? Is it where you rest your head each night? Is it where you grew up? Or is home more of a state of mind? Whatever home means to you, reflect on it and share a photo of it today.

 

DAY 2: INSPIRATION

We all find unique inspiration in the world around us. On Day 2, consider what inspires you to get out of the bed in the morning. What inspires you to keep working, loving, living? Use today as an opportunity to share your favorite source of inspiration. 

 

DAY 3: LOVE

Of course, we couldn't do this without mentioning love. There are so many kinds of love (romantic, friendship, etc.) and each one is deserving of your gratitude. How do you share love in your life? How do you accept it? How does it make you feel when you think of the word "love"?

 

DAY 4: COLOR

If you can't tell from my colorful site, there are few things I love more than color. It's something I'm incredibly grateful for on a daily basis. How do you feel about color? Which ones are your favorites? What colors inspire feelings of happiness? Share those today!

 

DAY 5: HAPPINESS

For each and every one of us, the word "happiness" might mean something different. Try not to place any judgment on what makes you happy. Just contemplate it today and then find a way share with the world. Don't forget to use #Gratitude30! 

 

DAY 6: WORDS

Someone once asked me what is the one thing I couldn't live without and I immediately answered: words. Words are my passion, but even if you're not passionate about words, I bet they've had a profound influence on your life. Share your favorites -- a single word, a quote, etc. -- today. 

 

DAY 7: MEMORIES

While staying present is very important, reflecting on positive memories can be uplifting. Consider your favorite moment or item from the past. What was wonderful about it? How do you feel when you think of that time / thing / person? 

 

DAY 8: NATURE

Look around for whatever nature you can find. No matter where you live, there's likely to be something natural that can inspire you. What is inspiring or beautiful about what you see? What elements of nature do you most connect with? When are you most in touch with nature? 

 

DAY 9: LAUGHTER

Laughing is one of the best activities in life, and I'm grateful for every moment I spend laughing. Today, reflect on what makes you laugh. Is it a movie? A book? A joke? A memory? A friend? Whatever evokes that giddy sense of joy within you, be thankful for it. 

 

DAY 10: MUSIC

Music is an aspect of life I'm immensely grateful for. (Check out my playlists on Spotify!) There are songs for every occasion and mood and hearing the right one can change everything. What kind of music do you enjoy? What song is your favorite right now?

 

DAY 11: GIFT

This prompt can go one of two ways: (1) you could share a gift that someone else that has given you that you're thankful to have received, or (2) you can share your gratitude for a gift/talent that you possess. Whatever you choose, focus on being thankful for life's gifts. 

 

DAY 12: WISDOM

Reflect on the wisdom you've received (or gained!) in your life. Who is the wisest person you know? What have you learned from him/her? Or, reflect specifically on a piece of advice or an experience that's made you wiser. 

 

DAY 13: ART

What you consider "art" is unique to you. Even if you don't consider yourself artistic, you know what appeals to you when you see it. Ask yourself: What art do I see on a daily basis? What art have I seen that's positively impacted my life? 

 

DAY 14: ROUTINE

Many of us (especially me!) are creatures of habit. What positive routines do you have in your life? What is it about those routines that keeps you doing them? Do they make your life easier? What elements of them are you thankful for? 

 

DAY 15: CLOTHING

Clothing is a something we often take for granted, but we are fortunate to have it. What attire are you the most thankful for? What item makes you happy every time you wear it? What item has an important meaning for you? 

 

DAY 16: NOVELTY

New things and experiences are exciting! What's been added to your life over the past year? What's changed since last November? Do you have new friends, new experiences, new mindsets? If you're struggling with this prompt, go out and do something new today! 

 

DAY 17: WEATHER

Without the bad weather, we'd never appreciate the good. Weather itself is a reminder to be grateful, which makes it a great thing to focus on today. How do you feel when the sun shines? When the storm clouds gather? What is the weather today and how does it make you feel? 

 

DAY 18: FOOD

For all of us, food is life-giving, which means it's a pretty great thing to be grateful for. What is your favorite food? Why? What tastes (sweet, salty, etc.) are you most drawn to? What flavors entice and excite you? Celebrate (and maybe eat!) your favorites today. 

 

DAY 19: BEAUTY 

Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. What beauty are you grateful to see or experience? What things make your home, office, neighborhood, etc. more beautiful? Who around you embodies the essence of beauty? What do you find beautiful about yourself? 

  

DAY 20: FRIENDSHIP

Today, be grateful for and celebrate the friendships in your life. Who has been by your side no matter what? Who can you call, day or night, for a chat? Who puts a smile on your face when you think of his/her name? 

 

DAY 21: TECHNOLOGY

I've always loved technology, and I'm so thankful to have it in my life. In what ways does technology change your life for the better? What are you most thankful for when it comes to the technological advances in our world today? 

 

DAY 22: FAMILY

Family — no matter what shape or size it comes in  — is something we're all lucky to have in our lives. Take note of your family today (and "family" can include friends, too!). What do you love about them? What do you often take for granted?

 

DAY 23: SCENT

What we smell can be transformative, memory-making, and important. Consider what your favorite smells are and why. How do they make you feel? Why do you like feeling that way? Today, be thankful for the aromas in your life. 

 

DAY 24: KNOWLEDGE

Consider how much you've learned since the day you were born. Pretty amazing, isn't it? I bet in the last year alone, you've learned tons of things you didn't know before. What are you thankful to know? What knowledge resources are you thankful to have? 

 

DAY 25: COMFORT

Comfort is a gift — whether it's in the form of physical comfort (a hug, a blanket) or an emotional outlet (a good listener, wise advice). What things, people, or situations make you feel most comforted? Be thankful for those things in your life today.  

 

DAY 26: TIME

We all have limited amounts of time, which is one reason we should be so grateful for whatever we've been given. How do you like to spend your time? What would you do if you had more time? What does the word "time" mean to you? 

 

DAY 27: LUXURY

Most of what we have in our lives (other than food and shelter) is a wonderful luxury. What luxuries do you have in your life that you're thankful for? A car to drive you where you need to go? A bookshelf stuffed with books? Recognize (and appreciate!) your luxuries. 

 

DAY 28: WORK

Being thankful for work might be a challenge, but consider how work makes your life better. It provides income, and it can challenge, inspire, and excite you. Why are you fortunate to have a job? How does this job improve your life, or at least help you in some way?  

 

DAY 29: CREATIVITY

Even if you don't think you're "creative," every day you create something. You create connections, experiences, conversations. You might create art and music and magic. Consider what you have created recently. How did it feel? What would you like to create more of?  

 

DAY 30: SELF-LOVE

The one thing you will always have in your life, no matter what, is yourself. On the final day of the challenge, consider all the ways you are amazing and appreciate the good (and not so good!) parts of yourself. What do you love most about you? 

 

 

Even though this is the eighth year of the challenge, I'm still so excited to see what everyone posts! Being thankful can sound like cliched advice, but it really does make a positive difference. If you've never done the Challenge before, I highly recommend you give it a try. Even if you can't post every day or don't want to do it for 30 days, urging yourself to focus on gratitude as much as possible will help you stress less, allow you to feel more positive, and provide a fresh perspective. I'll be checking the #Gratitude30 hashtag and I'll begin posting my work on November 1. Can't wait to share and see what's being shared! 

 


Positively Predictive Text: Life Advice from My Phone


Positively Present - Could Be Happy

 

"You are amidst all this drama and you can decide to be friends with your life."

That sentence was written using predictive text on my phone. You may have seen the trend that was popular awhile back where people would use predictive text to write their life stories or finish the sentence "I was born...", etc. It was silly and fun and I loved it. Last night I was playing around on my phone and the sentence above came together with predictive text, inspiring me to wonder, What kinds of advice might my phone have for me?

Obviously the advice isn't completely created by my phone since I choose the initial letter of the sentence and choose from three options predicted following each word, but it's still a fun little adventure to see what the phone (and, in reality, the average person since I assume that the predictions come from data gathered?) will suggest. 

As I've been working on my next book on creativity, I keep coming up against the concept of limitations and how, contrary to what we often think, they can be really liberating. As Kierkegaard put it, "Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom." Too much freedom in a creative activity -- writing, drawing, etc., -- can be overwhelming, which is why using the predictive text function is so fun. It limits in a way that's liberating. Plus, it's just fun! 

I highly recommend you give it a go on your own phone, but, before you do, check out some of the life lessons my phone came up with (along with a few thoughts about this predictive-text-driven advice):  

 

Today is the day you can decide what you want.

Ooh, this was a good one! How often do you have an idea / task / dream that you defer to tomorrow? Sometimes it feels like my entire life is just endlessly re-writing the items on my to-do list that I didn't do the day before. Part of the "deferred dream" problem, I think, is that we don't really know what we want. We may or may not spend time thinking about what we want, but true action (and change!) happens when we decide what we want. 

 

The best way of making it work is to do it. 

Alright. So this isn't the most life-changing bit of advice (just a tad cliche, wouldn't you say?), but it is pretty accurate. There's often such a chasm between want we want to happen and what we want to do to make something happen. Sometimes this lack of action is a good thing -- a sign that we're not on the right path and should reconsider -- but avoiding the work is the reason most of us don't have what we want in life. If you want it, do it

 

After a while, it seems like a good idea.

Hmm... I'm not sure if this is (good) advice, but it is relatable. Every bad idea starts out with uncertainty, but the more times I make the same bad choice, the more I start to rationalize it. The more time that passes, the more reasons I can come with for why something might actually be good for me (no matter how obvious the evidence to the contrary). I guess the advice here would be to consider how it was in the beginning and remember that we're really good at rationalizing so it's important to pay attention. 

 

Waste your hours on your phone, but it’s not worth your time. 

Obviously spending less time on your phone is good advice, but let's focus on the second half for a minute. Worth your time. That's an important thing to think about. How do you spend your time each day? Are the activities you engage in (and the people with whom you engage in them) worth your time and effort? It's always a good idea to check in with yourself and make sure you're spending your time wisely! 

 

Get it back to you.

Oh, interesting! I like to think of this one as a reminder not to let other people dominate your story. We're all meant to be the lead characters in our own stories but, depending on who you surround yourself with, you might find your story being dominated by someone else's drama / needs / etc. This ties in with the notion that self-love isn't selfish. If you get yourself in a good place, you can be good for others. 

 

You know how to get out of your way.

This bit of advice is so important. Not everyone knows how to get out of their own way, but most of us have a good idea of what we're doing that's not helpful to the people we want to be. We make choices that aren't healthy or helpful for a variety of reasons, but we frequently know which choices are "bad" for us. Pay attention to what's not working and work on changing it. 

 

Optimism is a little better than the other side.

Intriguing! This one is powerful to me because sometimes I feel like people think that optimism is some cure-all magical potion that will make everything in life perfect. In fact, it's just a mindset that helps to make everything a little bit better -- the highs a little higher and the lows a little less low. It's not a panacea. It's just a little bit better than choosing negativity. 

 

It’ll probably be better tomorrow. 

Yes, yes, yes! When you're going through a difficult day (or days), it can seem as if things will never get better (even when you've been through difficulties before and know, logically, that things have to improve!). I like the "probably" here because, let's be real, sometimes things aren't better tomorrow, but, in my experience, I've found that time -- whether it's getting through the night or through a tough season in life -- does improve things. Keep going. 

 

Stop being what you don’t want to be.

Well, this is certainly good advice! It's not always easy to implement (isn't that the case with all good advice, though?!), but the first step is knowing what you don't want to be. A lot of the time we focus on what we want to be, which is great and can help us move forward in a positive direction, but what about what we don't want to be. Knowing that can be really useful too! 

 

After everything, you could be happy.

I don't know why, but this one made me tear up a little bit! There's something so hopeful about it and yet the "could" makes it seem like happiness is still uncertain. It also makes it seem like happiness is a choice, like it might be chosen from a bin of options for how you could be in the future. I like the sadness that I'm reading in this one, even if it's meant to be hopeful. (It's not "meant" to be anything other than what you want it to be, I suppose!)

 

Make it easier for yourself.

Another good one! How often do we make it harder on ourselves than we need it to be? How often do we stay in negative situations because we're afraid of the unknown? Or set ourselves up for failure by making choices that might feel good in the moment but will later lead to regret? As someone who tries to stay in the present, sometimes it's hard to set up the future so it'll be easier on me, but this bit of advice made me think about what I can do now to make life easier on my future self. 

 

I hope you have something to learn today.

Not so much advice, this last one is more of a statement, but it's still a good one. I'm personally obsessed with learning. What I'm learning about shifts depending on where I am in my life, but I'm always striving to know something now that I didn't know the yesterday. The thought of not continuing to grow or learn -- or the notion that their wouldn't be something to learn (brought to mind by the word "hope" here) -- saddens me and reminds me to make an effort to keep pursing knowledge about myself and the world. 

 

I had a lot of fun making this post and I'd highly recommend playing around with the predictive text on your phone (and it's now coming to Gmail, too!) to see what kinds of insights you can uncover. While the phone does provide some limits and ideas, the end result ends up telling you more about your own inner dialogue than it does about the inner workings of the device in your hand. Give it a go -- and if you come across any inspiring words of wisdom, leave 'em in the comments below! 

 

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