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light up your life: 5 ways to make your path brighter

 

live a happy life

This morning I was walking down the same path I had walked down the night before and it suddenly dawned on me how different my thoughts were in the daylight. Last night, I'd been walking down the brick path late at night and I'd been slightly scared, walking fast, clutching my keys and occasionally looking over my shoulder. But when I ventured down the same path this morning, I was walking leisurely, strolling along and not once considering looking behind me. It dawned on  me that that's the difference between night and day, between darkness and light. This is something that's probably happened to all of us at some point. We've walked somewhere at night and felt entirely differently when we walked down the very same path during the day. It's amazing what a little light, a little change of perspective, a little more ability to see where we're going, can do. To me, this is a great example of how our minds (coupled with external conditions) can transform the world. The path I was walking down was the exact same path. Same bricks. Same bushes lining it. Same distance from the road to the door. Nothing had changed overnight. Yet, now, in the morning light, I was seeing it differently. 

And seeing this path differently made me think about the way I see my life differently too. When I realized what a difference the daylight made in my perception of the path, I really got to thinking about my own internal "day" and "night," the light and dark within my own mine. As I left the path and entered my building, my mind was flooded with questions. What if we applied this light and dark to the paths of our lives? What if we realized, really understood, that we could be walking down the same path and see it entirely differently? What if we realized that we actually have the ability to transform the blackness into light? To transform a situation with the light we shed on it?

Of course, these are not novel ideas. People have known, well, forever that the way we think about things -- how much metaphorical darkness or light we give to a situation -- impacts the world around us. Our minds are powerful, powerful things and can truly alter our worlds with our thoughts. We have the ability to distort things -- both in negative and positive ways -- and, more importantly, we can control how we distort them. We have the ability to cast more light or more darkness on a situation. For example, when walking alone at night, I can frighten myself terribly when I start thinking of all the dangerous things that could happen or revisiting terrifying situations I've heard about. Conversely, when walking along on a beautiful fall day, the sun shining brightly overhead, I can convince myself that I don't have a care in the world. Even I might be having a bad day, for just a few moments, the warm sunshine pouring down on me can transform my mood because it causes me to think of summer, warmth, happiness. My mind takes what it sees out in the world and transforms it, labeling it, giving it a good or bad (or neutral) connotation.

When I thought about how much my mind has the ability to transform the world around me, I began thinking about how I could increase the light in my life. I then realized that, when walking at night, I could have brought a flashlight with me, lighting up the path before me. If I had the power to (as I would in the figurative sense), I could install lighting along side the path, creating a well-lit walk. And these ideas tie in perfectly with what I'm always writing about the effort it takes to be a positive and present person. Both in the literal and figurative sense, it takes work, energy, and effort to have a path that's bathed in light. But, as anyone who has walked down a well-lit path wrapped in a feeling of safety knows, it's worth the effort if you are able to walk down the path unafraid. 

If you're anything like me, you want to walk down your path unafraid. You want to walk down roads and paths that are well-lit. You want to see clearly and not be scared and feel safe. So how do you do that in a figurative sense? How do you make the path of your life a path that is lit up, inspiring contentment and drowning out fear while at the same time finding a balance between the darkness and the light? As we all know, you cannot live in bright, blinding light forever. Light is wonderful. It helps us to see and helps us to thrive and grow. But without darkness, we would be in a lot of trouble. We need the darkness as well as the light. We need a path that is lit the way many streets are -- the light and dark intertwined, allowing us to see without brightening the world to an unnatural state (unless, of course, you find that the roads you venture down happen to be in Time's Square...but even there, at night, there are patches of darkness). We need both the light and the dark in our lives, but there are ways we can make our paths brighter, ways we can make the road we're traveling down just a little bit more clear. And here are the 5 best ways to shed some light on that path of yours...


The 5 Best Ways to Shed Light on Your Path

  • Bring your own source of light. As I mentioned above, if you're going to be heading down a dark path, bring a flashlight. What does this mean in a figurative sense? It means you have to create light where there is darkness. When you're faced with a difficult situation, find a way to shed light on it. Look at it from new angles, shine a bright light into the darkest corners, and look deep within yourself for a positive perspective. You don't have to wait around for someone to turn a light on or rescue you from the darkness. In fact, more often than not, light isn't just going to beam down on you for no reason. If you're on a dark path, you have to create light or, better yet, you have be the light. Don't wait for it; be it.

  • Surround yourself with others. Ever notice how a dark path isn't nearly as scary when you're with other people? Walking down a dark road alone can be scary, but it's a lot less terrifying when you surround yourself with others. Life's kinda like that too. It can be scary and overwhelming at times, but when you surround yourself with people (especially positive, supportive people), the dark road before you seems a little brighter, a little easier to bear. I'm not exactly a people person, but I do know that I feel a lot safer on a dark road with a group of friends than I do when I'm on my own. Surrounding yourself with a great support system will help make even the most dimly lit path seem safe enough to walk down.

  • Choose your route carefully. It would be nice if we could always walk in sunshine, but we know that's not the case. We will all have to walk in the dark sometimes, stumbling and unsure of where we're headed. But don't look down and give up. Instead, look around you and see if this really is the best path to be on. Sometimes all it takes is opening your eyes and looking around to see that nearby is another, brighter path, a path that would be much safer to venture down. Occasionally we're forced in one direction, but more often than not we have a choice. We can choose the path we want to go down. We can look for the brightest path, and, if we don't see a bright path, we can make our own paths.

  • Imagine the best possible scenario. You're probably familiar with the Law of Attraction and, though I won't go into the details here, I find the concept fascinating. I really do believe that we can attract things with our thoughts. Therefore, if you think the path you're on is going to get darker and darker, it will. So imagine the best! Imagine the sky lightening and the sun peeking out of the clouds. Imagine bumping into a friendly group of people along your path. Don't think of all of the negative things that could happen or you will attract them to you. Instead, think of the wonderful things you'll encounter on your journey and you will encounter them.

  • Be prepared for the dark spots. Even with all of your positive thinking and imagining the best, sometimes things don't go as well as planned. Sometimes the batteries in your flashlight die. Sometimes all of your friends have to head down a different path and you're on your own again. Don't despair! Instead, be prepared. If possible, it's ideal to have some self-defense skills under your belt. This works in a figurative situation too. If you can prepare yourself by strengthening your skills, you'll be more likely to travel safely down your path. Not sure what to work on? I'd suggest confidence. I've read that the more confident you look, the less likely you are to get attacked. Same thing goes for life. Be confident, believe in yourself, and you're a lot less likely to be brought down by others.

Life is filled with light and dark, perfectly lit paths and dark, winding roads. We're all aware of the good and the bad, but we don't always remember that we can make the most of the darkness and, in fact, we can make even the darkest times brighter if we choose to take any of the actions I've mentioned above. You, me, we all have the ability to shed light on our own paths, to make the roads we're traveling down brighter. And, awesomely enough, we also have the opportunity to shed light on the paths of others as well. Give some thought to how you can brighten your own path and how you can give others a little bit of that bright light too.


How do you create light when walking down a dark path?
Do you shed light on the paths of others? How so?
  


the filmstrip: a new way to look at presence

 

being present



[Note: Today I'm honored to have a guest post written by the totally awesome Glen Allsopp. Glen writes for PluginID, a blog I've loved to read ever since I started blogging. His blog focuses on Personal Development and also covers topics such as Personality Development. Glen's blog is awesome and so is the guest post he wrote for me today. Thank you, Glen, for dedicating your time to writing this post!]



Presence is often quite a tricky topic to write about. If I talk about happiness, you can recall moments in your life where you were happy and relate to what I'm saying. If I talk about misery, you can probably recall moments in your life when you were miserable and know exactly what I'm talking about. Yet, when we talk about presence, things are a little different. Total presence, which involves significantly diminished mind chatter, is more of an experience, rather than a thought. In fact, if it was a thought, then it wouldn't really be presence. A little over a year ago now I purchased a book I'm sure many of you are aware of called The Power of Now. This book showed me that spirituality isn't some 'hippy rubbish' from the 60's but something more powerful which has roots that span thousands of years. There was something about this book which just...felt right. There was something about the message inside that just made total sense and I knew I had to pursue it more. So I did. I practiced meditation for the first time and was pleasantly surprised. I picked up the authors other book, A New Earth, and felt like I had a greatly expanded view of my environment. I even tried my best to be present as often as possible, but then I realised something: I knew how to be present, but my mind wanted a concept of what presence was.



Confusion About Presence

In my mind, being present is similar to being in the flow. It might be playing a video game and hours unknowingly disappear or it might be working out in the gym and only having the weights in your perception, completely unaware of the sweating companies around you. This kind of flow can be easy to get into naturally when you don't know about it, but now I was trying to do it consciously. I took on board advice like focusing on each step as I walked up or down stairs and I practiced going outside into nature and not putting a label on any items. I even practiced washing dishes without wishing I was doing something else or didn't have to do them. There were moments where I believe I experienced total presence, and everything felt blissful, but the majority of the time I was lost with the question: "Am I doing it right?" If I had to think about walking down the stairs consciously, do the thoughts imply I wasn't present? What about being aware that I was consciously walking down the stairs; was that presence? Or how about washing the dishes without wishing I was somewhere else. Was I really present, or was I just thinking about it? I became so confused about what presence actually was that I ended up less peaceful than before I was aware of the 'concept' of being present in the first place.


 


The Filmstrip

Whilst reading a spirituality book one day, I independently had the idea of presence being like a dial on a film strip. The strip represents different aspects of your life, and the dial represents the focus. The dial never moves, but the film strip is constantly running depending on your surroundings at any given moment. Your attention (your awareness) should be the dial. Whatever is on the film strip right now (your environment or task) is where your attention should be. Your awareness never moves, but your environment or tasks will. This is presence. Really. Your mind will probably want to make things a lot more complicated, but if you're aware of it doing that, you won't be sucked in. Once I realised this, being present suddenly become a lot easier. And, all the benefits of presence (peace, mood control, acceptance) started to come just as naturally. I recommend this great article by Dani if you want tips on how to become that dial. My favourite question to help is simply: "What is going on?" This can either refer to the contents of your mind, or the surroundings in view. Being aware of either can soon become the most enjoyable practice of your life.


words to live by: dare you to move

 Motion 

Welcome to the planet

Welcome to existence

Everyone's here

Everyone's here

Everybody's watching you now

Everybody waits for you now

What happens next

What happens next


I dare you to move

I dare you to move

I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor

I dare you to move

I dare you to move

Like today never happened

Today never happened before


Welcome to the fallout

Welcome to resistance

The tension is here

Tension is here

Between who you are and who you could be

Between how it is and how it should be


Maybe redemption has stories to tell

Maybe forgiveness is right where you fell

Where can you run to escape from yourself?

Where you gonna go?

Where you gonna go?

Salvation is here


I dare you to move

I dare you to move

I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor

I dare you to move

I dare you to move

Like today never happened

Today never happened

Today never happened

Today never happened before


Switchfoot
"Dare You To Move" 


Words To Live By" is a segment on Positively Present that features my favorite quote or lyrics from the week. Every Sunday I'll post a quote or lyrics that have inspired me with the hope that they'll inspire you too. Comments will be closed on these posts, but feel free to tweet the post if you enjoy it or contact me via Twitter


get happier (.com)!

 

get happier 

"Happiness is the consequence of personal effort...
And once you have achieved a state of happiness,
you must never become lax about maintaining it.

You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward
into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it."

Elizabeth Gilbert

 

You want to be happier, don't you? We all do! I'm a firm believer that happiness comes from within. It's a choice that you have to make every moment of your life. That being said, it doesn't hurt to have some external help. I love to read and learn about happiness and find ways to bring more happiness into my life and not too long ago, I discovered the website happier.com. What is happier.com? Well, for anyone interested in proactively working on their personal happiness, it's everything you could ever need and more! Read this summary of the site:


happier.com
 is a new website launching on today designed to help people not just be happier but “do happier.” This innovative website provides online tools and exercises for users to make an immediate positive impact on their lives. The website allows users to participate for free by taking 4 validated tests with instant feedback on strengths, optimism, happiness and positivity. More than 100 exclusive videos from the world's leading happiness researchers and practitioners are also included in this section of the site. Premium users can subscribe for just $5 a month for access to more than a dozen research-backed tools customized to increase happiness, resilience, optimism, engagement, and meaning.

 


This site is legit. Why? Because happier.com was created by Doug Hensch and Andrew Rosenthal to inspire happiness in others, and the foundation of the site is positive psychology. To develop the site, Hensch and Rosenthal had the privilege of working with Dr. Martin Seligman -- also known as the "father of positive psychology." When I first started reading up on positive psychology (and I'm still learning more about it every day), I quickly found out that Seligman was the go-to guy and the fact that he's assisted with this site is a pretty sure sign that you'll find just what you need to help create a happier you.

Now, I know what you're probably thinking: "Can't I do all of this stuff on my own? Can't I just do research and create documents and read books?" Sure, of course you can... but will you? If you're like me, it helps to have a place to organize everything and, if your happiness is something that's really important to you (I know it is to me!), this is well worth the few bucks you have to shell out to keep it all together. And you get access to all of this great stuff that you won't find anywhere else. How do I know all about it even though it's just officially launched? I had the wonderful privilege of trying it out for awhile before it was officially released and I can't say enough good things about it. Access to experts, tools, videos, and whole community of people who, like you, are interested in learning more about happiness. What could be better than that?

And if you can't afford to sign up for happier.com, at the very least you can read the happier.com blog, which I subscribe to and have already learned so much from. Every time I read it, I'm inspired to think about happiness in new ways. For example, right now there is a post up called "So You're Already Pretty Happy? Three Exercises That Will Work For You" that I found super interesting because who really spends that much time thinking about people who already consider themselves happy? That's the beauty of happier.com -- it covers everything you might ever want to know about happiness and it helps you in so many ways to improve upon your own happiness.

I was fortunate enough to be able to interview one of the co-founders of happier.com, Andrew Rosenthal, to learn more about how the site came to be and also to learn more about Rosenthal's background and how he got involved in this line of work. I want to give a big shout out to Andrew for taking the time to participate in the interview AND for creating the awesomeness that is happier.com!

 

What caused you to become interested in positive psychology? 

I’ve always been interested in determining what makes people happier. In college, I studied and wrote about the bioethics of human enhancement.  I signed up for a class with Dr. Martin Seligman, who is a noted professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and I started to learn more about positive psychology. Once I found out that there was a quantitative side to the study of happiness, I was hooked.    

  

What is the most important difference between positive psychology and psychology? 

To me, one of the most interesting aspects of positive psychology is its willingness to “play well” with other disciplines and fields. Look at the cutting-edge of positive psychology and you’ll find close partnerships between psychologists and educators, economics, physicians, business leaders, and others. This ability to closely, productively, work with other fields is an important aspect of positive psychology and I believe it’s one of the reasons that so many interesting people are attracted to the study of happiness.    

  

What inspired you to begin happier.com? 

I’ve spent hours listening to the best positive psychologists give speeches and explain their research. And I’ve read countless studies and books about the science of happiness.  It seemed to me that much of the best work is trapped in these formats. While speeches and books and grant applications and papers are good ways to record progress, they are not tools optimized for dissemination. happier.com is a way of getting the best happiness-boosting tools out to people who can really use them, immediately, and in the comfort of their own homes or offices.

 

What does the term "positive thinking" mean to you?   

 

To me, “positive thinking” is about employing the tools of positive psychology in everyday life, work, and relationships. Knowing your strengths and thinking about how to put them into use is positive thinking. Focusing on actively and constructively discussing a positive event, and learning how to be resilient in the face of bad news, is positive thinking.  And savoring ice cream instead of wolfing it down is positive thinking.  


What are your favorite features on happier.com? 

What I like most about happier.com is the freedom, coupled with the expert guidance.  All of the tests are available as soon as you register (for free) and all of the tools are available to premium subscribers. For those of us who know a bit about positive psychology — or just want to explore — being able to pick and choose tools and tests is great.  And for people who are looking for some guidance and who want to focus in on what will work best for them, the happiness plans are fantastic. All you do is pick a goal, like letting go of a grudge or working on your strengths, and you’ll immediately get guidance on where to start and what to do each day. 

 


If you couldn't tell from reading this post, I think happier.com is a pretty awesome (and useful!) site. For me, happiness is a lot of hard work. It's something I'm thinking about and working towards constantly. Though I know that happiness is within me and it's up to me to create it, it helps to have tools like the ones offered on this site to help motivate me to focus on my personal happiness. In addition, the site has helped me to pinpoint areas of my life that I want to focus on, something that I've been trying to figure out for as long as I can remember. Happiness requires work and, if you're going to work on it, you might as well have the right tools. Check out happier.com and see how you might be able to benefit from all of the great information and resources the site has to offer!


5 simple ways to cultivate inner peace

 

inner peace 

Today, for those of you who don't already know this, is the International Day of Peace. I know this, of course, because it was printed in faint grey writing in the corner of my day planner. (Yeah, I know, a little less impressive than knowing this because I am a peace activist or something like that...) A few days ago I noticed the small letters nearly scrawled all over by my "to do" lists, and I thought, "Wow! International Day of Peace! I've never even heard of that!" According to the International Day of Peace website: 

"The International Day of Peace ('Peace Day') provides an opportunity for individuals, organizations and nations to create practical acts of peace on a shared date. It was established by a United Nations resolution in 1981 to coincide with the opening of the General Assembly. The first Peace Day was celebrated in September 1982...Since its inception, Peace Day has marked our personal and planetary progress toward peace. It has grown to include millions of people in all parts of the world, and each year events are organized to commemorate and celebrate this day. Events range in scale from private gatherings to public concerts and forums where hundreds of thousands of people participate...Anyone, anywhere can celebrate Peace Day. It can be as simple as lighting a candle at noon, or just sitting in silent meditation. Or it can involve getting your co-workers, organization, community or government engaged in a large event. The impact if millions of people in all parts of the world, coming together for one day of peace, is immense. International Day of Peace is also a Day of Ceasefire – personal or political. Take this opportunity to make peace in your own relationships as well as impact the larger conflicts of our time. Imagine what a whole Day of Ceasefire would mean to humankind."

I'd love to sit here and write that I'm the most peaceful person in the world and that I strive for peace with all my heart, but I can't say that's entirely true. You know, there are those people who you look at or speak to and later think, "That person is really peaceful"? Well, that wouldn't be me. You might walk away from a conversation with me thinking a lot of things, but I'm pretty sure the idea of "peace" wouldn't come to your mind. The thing is, I want to be peaceful. Like a lot of people, I want there to be peace in the world and I've pretty much summed up the reason why there's not world peace: 

 

We don't have world peace because too many people lack inner peace. There isn't peace in the world because many people aren't at peace with themselves. 

 

 

Yes, I firmly believe that's true. If everyone in the world (me included!) was at peace with him/herself, there would be no need for hatred and jealousy and spite and wars. There would be happiness and love and, of course, peace. I know this is completely over-simplifying a concept that, let's be honest, I don't know all that much about. I'm not an expert on politics or history or even relationships or psychology, so I can't say that the above statement is based on anything more than my own opinion. I don't have facts to support it or statistics to say why it would be true. Instead, I just believe it. I know deep down in my heart that this is the truth. 

Ideally, at this point in the post I'd offer up some grand idea of how we can change the world and create peace everywhere, but I don't have a grand idea. I only have a small idea, but an idea that I believe could impact the world if we all took it to heart. Here it is: We need to create peace within ourselves. Yes, it's as simple as that. It would be easy to say that going to peace rallies or making donations or getting involved with politics is the solution, but I believe it's much more complicated -- much more personal -- than that. What we need is not more talk of peace; what we need is the creation of peace within ourselves. 

Personally, what I love about this idea is that I can start doing it right now. Right this second I can start working on my own inner peace, on cultivating an sense of contentment and happiness that I can pass on to those around me. As I've written before, positive thinking and emotions (as well as negative ones) can have a ripple effect. Ever notice how you feel after spending time with someone who is very calm and peaceful? You feel more peaceful. It's amazing how that works, isn't it? And we can have a part in creating world peace if we just take some time to work on our own inner peace. We can create a ripple effect of peace just by cultivating peace within us. 

Growing up, I was a big fan of wishing. (Okay, I still am, though I certainly don't put the emphasis on it that I once did...) Whenever I used to wish for something personal, I would feel guilty. I would realize that I was wishing for me, when I should be wishing for something big and universal, like world peace. Now I realize that world peace starts with one person. And it's not even necessarily an act or a word; it's a state of being. Though this is an area I absolutely need more work in (as does anyone -- like me -- who has been at one point joked about as being as "high strung as a yapping chihuahua"), I do have some ideas on how to get started on cultivating inner peace. Check 'em out below... 

 

 


5 Simple Ways to Cultivate Inner Peace

 

  1. Focus on the present. A lot of inner conflict is a result of worrying about the future or dwelling on the past so a great way to cultivate peace within yourself is to focus on the now. 
  2. Simplify your life. You've heard it a million times before, but less really is more. The more you simplify your life, the less anxiety and stress you'll have counteracting your peacefulness. 
  3. Learn to accept what is. Whenever you choose not to accept what is reality, you're causing turmoil within yourself. Accept what is and you'll be a lot more at peace with yourself and the world. 
  4. Avoid most negativity. While some negativity does have a purpose (such as to alert of us danger), most of it brings you down and if you want to have peace in your life, you have to do what you can to avoid it. 
  5. Make positive choices. Choose to spend time with positive people in positive situations or you will have a very difficult time having peace in your life. It's your life -- choose your surroundings carefully! 

 

Inner peace is a difficult thing to master, but it's something I truly believe is worth working on. So let's all try to work on perfecting that ripple effect, spreading peace by embracing it first within ourselves. As always, I'd love to hear about your thoughts on this topic. What do you think about peace and how it relates to inner peace? Any thoughts on how you will be celebrating peace in your own life today?