Here are four lifestyle changes that could help you become more successful in the new year:

1. Build an inspirational daily routine

Tony Robbins who is a best-selling author and international speaker, has helped many clients including Serena Williams and Hugh Jackman to feel more focused in their careers.

One method he uses is called ‘priming’ . This method involves conditioning yourself to react to events in a specific way.

“If you’re going to get the results that you deserve and that you want, you want to prime yourself for success, You need a daily practice, a daily practice that’s going to put you in the best state possible regularly.”

To help prime yourself for feeling strong, Robbins recommends the follwing two step process:

First of all, set aside 10 minutes each morning for reflection and mindful breathing, a process that helps him and will also help you stay focused and motivated every day.

Spend the first 3 minutes thinking about 3 things that you are grateful for. Spend the next 3 minutes feeling at peace and thinking about the people you care about. Finally, spend 3 minutes envisioning three things you want to accomplish.

Next, listen to an inspiring audiobook or podcast while you commute to work, do household tasks or exercise.

“Prime yourself for courage,” he said, “rather than hoping you show up that way, based on the triggers of your environment.”

 

2. Start carrying a book

Instead of picking up your mobile phone when you are bored and checking social media status and posts, open a book or download an app whereby you learn about something new or inspirational.

Charlie Munger who is the vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway says young people should spend less time on their phones and more time buried in books.

“In my whole life, I have known no wise people who didn’t read all the time — none, zero,” says Munger, according to David Clark, author of “The Tao of Charlie Munger.” Scientific research also supports Charlie Munger’s advice to read more. Several studies have found that people who read regularly show higher levels of empathy and emotional intelligence and are more likely to stay mentally sharp.

 

3. Regularly exercise for 20 minutes a day

One of the best ways to feel more relaxed and regain lost focus is to partake in regular exercise.

Just 20 minutes a day of exercise which is less than the time you probably spend watching an episode of your favorite TV show has been proved to boost a person’s physical and mental health.

People that exercise vigorously for 150 minutes each week or approximately 20 minutes each day have better sleep than those who don’t.

 

4. Create and maintain a sleep routine

According to Dr. Philip Gehrman (assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine), if you have difficulty in falling asleep, it may be because you don’t have a proper sleep routine.

“Most people need a good hour of winding down down time before they’re just physically and mentally ready to go bed,” Gehrman said.

Do not eat immediately before bed because it can cause acid reflux and make you feel uncomfortable, he says. Give your body time to digest the food, also while having a glass of wine before bed may seem to make you tired, alcohol can cause disrupted sleep.

Instead, set up a relaxation routine such as Yoga, meditation, reading or progressive muscle relaxation are all techniques experts recommend.

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SpiritualityMeditation is easy to perform and practice and will ultimately give you a feeling of calmness and relaxation. The following meditation technique is easy to perform and can be very effective and takes only several minutes to learn. It will help you relax and reduce the stresses of everyday life.

Although there are many differing definitions of the term ‘meditation’, most dictionaries adopt he following translation:-

Continuous and profound contemplation or musing on a subject or series of subjects of a deep or abstruse nature.

With regular practice of Meditation, we can develop inner strength which leads to a happier and more fulfilled life. Part of meditation process involves discounting our wandering thoughts, when we do this, we can then calm and focus the mind whilst controlling the breath and sensory awareness.

The following technique allows us to control our life force, turn off other senses and allow the mind to become quiet. Regular practice of this technique will allow a constant sense of peace and realization that only comes from true meditation. The technique is a prayer and a meditation mantra, a mantra being a spiritually charged word or series of words.

Soham soham…(I am He, He am I…)

‘Soham’ is an ancient mystical term that should be experienced and not understood as it is so difficult to try and explain or understand. Some Yogis see it as a form of meditation whereas others see it as a concept.

To practice the soham meditation technique:-

  • Sit up straight with your spine in a line so that you do not slouch.
  • Ensure you are comfortable, sit on a chair or on the floor with a soft mat or meditation cushion,
  • Allow your mind to become silent and your emotions to be still whilst keeping your body relaxed.
  • As you do this meditation, focus on the inhalation and the air entering your nose and traveling down into your lungs. Recite the term ‘So‘.
  • As you exhale, imagine the air traveling out of your lungs, up to your nose and out of your body. Recite the term ‘Ham‘.

Continue with this meditation for as long as you feel comfortable, but no less than 5 minutes and no longer than 20 minutes until the meditation feels natural to go longer.

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Chakras are energy centres located in the body from the very base of the spine to the crown of the head. The word ‘Chakra’ aschakra with most meditation terminology is derived from the ancient language of ‘Sanskrit’ and can be translated as ‘wheel’ or ‘turning’. Thus, chakras are seen as ‘wheels of energy’.

In terms of western Meditative practice, there are typically seven chakras that we are concerned with. Each of the seven chakras has a corresponding color and certain characteristics that deal with aspects such as physical, psychological/emotional and spiritual state.

If we are well and in good health, our chakras are said to be balanced. If one of your chakras becomes blocked or unbalanced, this will manifest itself in the form of illness. One common method to unblock the affected chakra is to visualise the color of the chakra. There are also essential oils associated with each chakra that will promote the re-balancing process.

 

 Root Chakra (Muladhara)

The Root chakra signifies our foundations and of feelings of security and of being grounded. The Root chakra provides energy to the other chakras, thus if this chakra is blocked, then the other chakras will be blocked to some extent also.

Location: Base of the spine

Color: Red

Focuses on: Survival and stability and covering the necessity of basic needs such as food and money.

Seed syllable: Lam

Balanced chakra: Well-grounded and focused

Unbalanced chakra: Feelings of insecurity and frustration

Rebalancing:

Use rosemary or cedar wood essential oils.

Any Yoga asana that opens your lower spine will prove beneficial. The bridge pose is another good yoga pose to try. Sitting in the butterfly pose, take hold of the outside of your feet with both hands and begin to rock backwards and forwards allowing your hips to raise and then drop, and thus stimulating the perineum.

 

Sacral Chakra (Svadhisthana)

The Sacral Chakra is concerned with the ability to be creative, sexuality and acceptance of change.

Location: Just below navel

Color: Orange

Focuses on: Association to others with regard to emotional needs, sexuality, pleasure and creativity.

Seed syllable: Vam

Balanced chakra: Empathy for other people, balanced with a good sense of humour

Unbalanced chakra: Shy with feelings of guilt

Rebalancing:

Use sandalwood or orange blossom essential oils.

Moving your body or exercises that involve whole body movement and allow a greater flow of energy will help open the sacral chakra. The Cow Face yoga pose or the Fire Log pose will also aid the opening of this chakra.

 

Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura)

Location: Abdomen

Color: Yellow

Focuses on: Personal attributes such as confidence and self-esteem. Also concerned with decision making.

Seed syllable: Ram

Balanced chakra: Happy and confident, respectful

Unbalanced chakra: Suppressed emotions, signs of depression and low confidence

Rebalancing:

User amber or lemongrass essential oils.

To rebalance the Solar Plexus chakra, any Yoga pose that develops your core strength will be very beneficial and holding that pose for several minutes will provide greater rebalancing. Try the Chair pose, the Plank, the Four Limbed Staff pose or Warrior 1.

 

Heart Chakra (Anahata)

Location: Centre of the chest

Color: Green

Focuses on: Love, joy and compassion.

Seed syllable: Yam

Balanced chakra: Empathetic, wanting to help others

Unbalanced chakra: Unloving, upset, mean

Rebalancing:

Use basil, peppermint or fennel essential oils.

Rebalancing of the Heart chakra can be done by visualising the color green, wearing green clothing and/or eating green leafy vegetables; eating, sleeping and thinking green is a sure fire way to eliminate heart blockages.

It is important to get rid of any negativity you are holding and forgiving anyone that has shown you negativity.

Camel pose and eagle pose are good Yoga poses to open up the Heart chakra.

 

Throat Chakra (Vishuddha)

Location: Throat

Color: Blue

Focuses on: The ability to communicate, self-expression.

Seed syllable: Ham

Balanced chakra: Good communication skills and creative flare

Unbalanced chakra: Suppression of feelings, uncommunicative

Rebalancing:

Use blue camomile or lavender essential oils.

To rebalance the Throat chakra, it is important to release any feelings of guilt. This may be quite a journey of self-discovery and lead you to deeper, unchartered areas of your life, which have been suppressed.

Singing, poetry recital and consuming good quality foods that lubricate the throat are also beneficial.

 

Brow/3rd Eye Chakra (Ajna)

Location: Third eye

Color: Purple

Focuses on: The ability to make decisions and intuition. Also concerned with wisdom and vison.

Seed syllable: OM

Balanced chakra: Indecisive, lack of thought and vision

Unbalanced chakra: Preoccupied mind, lack of clarity and confusion and undisciplined. May experience headaches and sinus issues.

Rebalancing:

Use camphor or eucalyptus essential oils.

To re-balance the Ajna chakra, we can incorporate the use of crystals into our practice .For the Ajna chakra, the use of blue gemstones such as sodalite or lapis lazuli can be very beneficial. If using visualisation techniques then try to visualise the an indigo light or a indigo flame. Meditation with brainwave audio created specifically for the Ajna chakra will also help in the re-balancing.

 

Crown Chakra (Sahasrara)

Location: Crown of the head

Color: Indigo

Focuses on: Sacredness and complete bliss. Connection with the divine.

Seed syllable: Om

Balanced chakra: High level of spirituality and intelligence, open minded and peaceful

Unbalanced chakra: Lower levels of concentration, depression

Rebalancing:

Use jasmine, juniper or lavender essential oils.

Rebalancing of the Crown chakra can be done by simple meditation techniques. The most beneficial yoga pose to rebalance this chakra is the Half Lotus.

 

Chakra Meditation Exercise

Choose the chakra on which you want to focus on and surround yourself with objects or wear clothing of the color specific to that chakra.

Whilst in a comfortable seated meditation position, begin by chanting the seed syllable associated with the chosen chakra; whist chanting, focus your attention on the energy center.

Visualise the color linked to the chakra being drawn into the specific area of the body and then radiating out of the body;

Incorporating this meditative practice into your yoga practice can be very dynamic from a physical, psychological and spiritual perspective.

 

 Note:

The above article outlines a non-exhaustive list of methods to realign the body’s Chakra system. Before starting any method of exercise, it is important to seek the advice of a qualified physician.

When working with the body’s different energy centers, guidance should also be sought from a Realised Guru. Different practitioners will have different experiences and it is important to understand what these experiences mean and what effect they are having on the body.

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Each and every day, we are faced with stressful situations leading to heightened levels of anxiety, loss of focus and control leading to an inability to function ‘normally’. One way to overcome anxiety is with pranayama techniques also referred to as breathing exercises. Pranayama can be translated as ‘prana’ meaning life force and ‘yama’ meaning control.

Regular and consistent pranayama practice can teach us to become consciously aware of our breath ultimately helping us to connect mind and body.

alternate nostril breathing

On a personal level, I use pranayama just before a meditation to help me prepare my mind and body for the forthcoming meditation session. Aside from this, pranayama is an excellent way to promote relaxation, quickly reduce stress levels and to calm a racing mind.

Below are 3 types of pranayama that can be used to quickly reduce anxiety levels and bring back that sense of normality.

  • Alternate nostril breathing
  • Abdominal breathing
  • Ujjayi (Victorious Breath)

It is important to maintain good posture during the breathing session; poor posture will lead to ineffective technique. You can perform these breathing exercises sitting on a chair, sitting straight but keeping your shoulders relaxed or sat cross legged, I find that sitting on a meditation cushion helps maintain good posture.

Alternate Nostril Breathing 

Take your index finger and middle finger of your right and fold them down towards the palm of your palm.  Perform the following steps:-

  1. Using the right thumb, close the right nostril and inhale through the left nostril
  2. Hold for a second
  3. Close the left nostril with your ring finger and exhale through the right nostril
  4. Pause for a second
  5. Keeping the left nostril closed, inhale through the right nostril
  6. Pause for a second
  7. Close the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril

Repeat these steps, alternating nostrils after each inhalation. Try and work up two minutes.

Abdominal breathing

This exercise is all about breathing air into your abdomen. The best position for this exercise is lying flat on your back; alternatively, you can perform this sitting on a chair. Place your hands on your abdomen, creating a sense of connectivity. Keeping your mouth closed, inhale through your nose, being aware of the air passing through your nostrils, down your oesophagus, into your lungs and the abdomen feeling it rise.

Begin exhaling through your nose allowing the abdomen to fall. Repeat this and settle into a steady rhythmic breathing cycle. Extend the technique by adding a short pause between inhalation and exhalation. Continue for as long as required.

abdominal breathing

Ujjayi (Victorious Breath)

Ujjayi breath is generally used in Yoga practice and allows for a deeper stretch but also heats the body for the inside out.

Sit up nice and straight and hold either your right or left palm approximately 2 inches away from your mouth. Inhale through your nose, and exhale through your mouth making an audible ‘haaa’ sound in the back of your throat and feel your breath on your palm.

Inhale again through your nose but keeping your mouth closed, exhaling through your nose, making the same ‘haaa’ sound in your throat. Continue for as long as required.

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Scientists and psychologists in meditation research continue to discover more and more health benefits from regular practice of Mindfulness Meditation. Mindfulness Meditation is a simple practice that anybody can do.

The following is a quick and easy guide to get started and how to achieve the best results.

Mindfulness meditation has a plethora of health benefits including reduced stress levels, greater levels of focus, attention, concentration and memory. It may also increase creativity, allow better sleep as well as being very relaxing and invigorating.

There are many different ways in which to meditate, this article considers Mindfulness Meditation. It is important, however, to study and practice more than one form and find a type of Meditation that you are comfortable using and from which you get the most benefit.

 Meditation: An ancient art but a modern need

The roots of Mindfulness Meditation can be found in the early preaching of Buddhism in particular the Theravada tradition approximately 2500 years ago in India. The fundamentals of practice were to help the practitioner to gain control of their thoughts and to observe things in their true state.

Regular practice of Mindfulness meditation can strengthen contextual awareness and develop our ability to remain stay in the present moment. This skill can map over into our ‘normal’ daily lives so practitioners find it easier to maintain voluntary attention.

“Mindfulness meditation is unique in that it is not directed toward getting us to be different from how we already are, but instead, it helps us become aware of what is already true moment by moment. We could say that it teaches us how to be unconditionally present; that is, it helps us be present with whatever is happening, no matter what it is.”

Dr. Karen Kissel Wegela – Naropa University

In today’s technological environments with all its distractions and the ever increasing pressure to be able to multitask, it is incredibly difficulty to maintain any level of focus and keep on task. The answer to this mish mash of mind bending hysteria is of course Mindfulness meditation, allowing the practitioner to completely focus on one task at a time until moving onto the next task.

 Getting Started

It is possible to meditate at any point during the day, and as many times as you wish and for however long you want but as an advisory it is generally good practice to meditate for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening. Beginners may struggle to meditate for long periods initially but meditation session time will increase with time. Discover what works best for you.

During your session, it may be beneficial to use a clock and set a timer, this will allow for complete concentration and negates the need to take a look at the clock and break your focus.

When preparing for your meditation session, you need to ensure that you’re doing it in an appropriate environment with the right ambience, you may benefit from a darkened room or dim light. Ideally, whenever possible, you should meditate in the same place each time. Ensure your environment is distraction free; free from mobile phones, outside disturbances etc., the quieter the environment, the better.

 Correct positioning for meditation

Correct positioning for meditation is incredibly important. Finding the most comfortable position can be most beneficial and enhance the effectiveness of the session. You need to feel stable thus enabling complete focus on the object of meditation.

The Lotus position is a traditional posture for meditation although you need to have a certain degree of flexibility to get into and maintain this posture. Alternatively, use Half Lotus, this is more comfortable and easier to maintain. Some practitioners use the Burmese position which becomes all the more comfortable whilst sitting on a cushion or blanket. Other positions include the Seiza posture, sitting on a chair or laying down on the floor or bed.

Here are some general rules for what you should do with your body, as described by the Vipassana Fellowship:

• It is important to sit with a straight back with your head in line with the spine.
• Remain relaxed with no stiffness or tension in the muscles.
• Try to sit lightly; this will automatically ease the position.
• To find the best position for you, experiment with different positions. It is important to sit without moving for the whole meditation session.
• Sitting with a straight back will feel strange for a start but you will eventually get used to it. If you maintain this position, it will automatically sustain your levels of alertness.

Practice really does make perfect.

Another type is walking meditation and we can be ‘mindful’ during the walking meditation. This can be a challenging form with the possibility of many distractions but again with practice and patience, it can be performed with enough focus from which you will benefit.

For walking meditation, wear comfortable clothing and start by taking some deep breaths, continue taking deep breaths until you feel you are entering a relaxed state.

Placing oneself in the present moment

Mindfulness meditation is often perceived as a meditation where practitioners place themselves into a deepened state of relaxation whilst clearing their mind of all thoughts and thus eradicating the ‘Monkey Mind’. Although some forms of meditation advocate this, Mindfulness meditation advocates the awareness and focus of a single thought.

The whole point of Mindfulness is to concentrate on what is actually happening in the present moment; this may mean concentrating on the breath. Each and every inhalation and exhalation is married with focused attention, concentrating and following the breath in through the nose, down the esophagus, passed the lungs and into the belly and maintaining that focus for the return path.

If the mind and focus wander, which may well happen more as a beginner, it is important to not get frustrated by this distraction, realize that distraction has occurred and calmly return the focus and hence the breath.

There are no hard and fast rules with regard to the speed at which you breathe during your meditation session. A more experienced practitioner may well inhale and exhale a lot slower than a beginner. Generally you should aim to inhale for 4-6 seconds. As mentioned earlier, the breath is not the only thing you can use for focus during meditation. Others things such as a flame, an immobile object, a single word or a mantra may also be used.

Quieting the ‘Monkey Mind’

Without doubt, generally the first few minutes of your meditation will be the most difficult, trying to get comfortable, finding the breath, attempting to switch off from the day’s stresses and strains, you will find that initially, your mind is still completely wired and active. This is what is known as the ‘Monkey Mind’.

During your meditation, you will find that you have drifted away from your initial focus, whether that is the breath, an object, mantra etc. and you won’t have even realized that you have done it. Automatically you find yourself thinking about the day’s events, family, work etc., you may even find that you are thinking about things that you haven’t thought about in months or even years. As mentioned, do not get annoyed by this but simply allow those disappear in their own time and return your focus to the meditation.

Bhante Gunaratana, in Vipassana meditation explains:

“What a bother but this is what it is all about. These distractions are actually the whole point. The key is to learn to deal with these things. Learning to notice them without being trapped in them. That’s what we are here for. The mental wandering is unpleasant, to be sure. But it is the normal mode of operation of your mind. Don’t think of it as the enemy. It is just the simple reality. And if you want to change something, the first thing you have to do is see it the way it is.
When you first sit down to concentrate on the breath, you will be struck by how incredibly busy the mind actually is. It jumps and jibbers. It veers and bucks. It chases itself around in constant circles. It chatters. It thinks. It fantasizes and daydreams. Don’t be upset about that, it’s natural. When your mind wanders from the subject of meditation, just observe the distraction mindfully.”

Progression in Mindfulness meditation is realized when you discover that the amount of time you spend in thoughtful awareness is greater than that spent in the wandering mind. Over time and with consistent practice, the ability to remain focused for greater amounts of time will increase.

Set short time goals for a start, even if it’s just for 2-3 minutes and as this becomes easier, increase the time until you can remain focused for at least 20 minutes. With 20 minutes of complete focus on a daily basis, you will benefit massively from your practice.

Understanding the concept of the ‘Monkey Mind’ and realizing the transition from this state and development of our focused concentration, you can begin to understand the power of meditation. We live our lives with a ‘Monkey Mind’ and it is not until we quiet our minds that we understand what a torrid time we put our minds and body’s through.

Dealing with issues during Meditation

During your Meditation session, you may experience issues, niggles, pain, little annoyances, even something as simple as an itch, all of which can be distracting and throw your concentration, it is important that you learn to deal with these.

If any of these do occur, you should move your focus away from your breath and onto the issue. If for example, you feel pain, begin to exhale in and out of the pain, become increasingly aware of the pain and gradually accept the pain. Do not react emotionally to the pain; certainly do not feel any negativity towards the pain. Continue to focus on the pain whilst inhaling and exhaling.

This technique is not guaranteed to work, in which case, it may be necessary to adjust your seated position, change position altogether or take a short break. Remember that there are no hard or fast rules with Meditation. Make your Meditation fit around you and now and again trying something different so you are also pushing boundaries, this is the way forward for progression.

Ambient noise may also be an annoyance that could easily disrupt your session. A loud television, traffic driving by or general chatter can be quite off putting. As mentioned previously, do not get frustrated, simply focus your attention on the distraction and learn to deal, accept it and continue with your session.

Final thought…..

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”

Zen proverb

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