The Power of Flowers + Random Acts of Kindness

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This past week has been a really challenging one for me, but one thing these tough times have made me acutely aware of is just how much a small, random act of kindness can mean to someone who is in pain (and, let's be real, most of us are in some kind of pain). Over the past week, I've been shown so many little kindnesses — from friends, colleagues, random people I don't even know — and it's really made me appreciate the truth behind the old saying: "Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." 

Random acts of kindness are not only wonderful to receive, but they're also amazing to give as well. This week, I highly recommend you giving one of the ideas below a try. Not only will it feel great for you, but you'll be spreading kindness in the world, and we all could use a lot more of that! 

 

RANDOM ACT 1 : GIVE FLOWERS

Did you know that simply seeing or smelling flowers can be a mood booster? Maybe that's why the concept of giving flowers for all sorts of special occasions has been around for so long! Last week, the Society of American Florists did something really amazing: they had florists in 467 cities across the US and Canada hit the streets to surprise people with two bouquets of flowers — one to keep and one to give to a friend (or complete stranger!). Through these random acts of (floral!) kindness, called Petal It Forward, tens of thousands of flowers were sent out into the world to reaffirm the science behind flowers’ ability to improve moods and bring people together. Research has shown that receiving flowers makes us happy, and giving flowers makes us even happier. Go out this week and buy some flowers for someone you love (or someone you don't even know!). It's a small act that can have a big impact. 

 

RANDOM ACT 2 : GIVE COMPLIMENTS

How many times have you had a kind thought about someone else but kept it to yourself? This week, make a point to speak all of your compliments aloud. Tell that stranger that her outfit is awesome. Share with your coworker how much his dedication means to you. Call up your parents and tell them how much you love their good qualities. The trick to making this random act work well is paying attention to your own thoughts. We often have tons of positive thoughts about other people all the time, but we don't share them, sometimes because we're simply not paying close attention to them. Do your best this week to take close notice of what you're thinking and share it! It can sometimes feel awkward to compliment people, but if you feel a little weird about it, just remember how you felt the last time someone gave you a compliment. It's such a lovely feeling, and remembering that experience will make it easier to open up with others. 

 

RANDOM ACT 3 : GIVE BACK

One of the best random acts of kindness is giving back. This is obviously super broad, but it's meant to be because there are so many ways of giving back. You can give your time to a friend, colleague, or organization you want to support. You can donate to a cause that matters to you. You can give back to those who have helped you in the past by reaching out to them to see how you might be able to help them in some way now. You can even give something back to the earth by planting a tree or growing a garden! (Bonus points for a garden since the flowers will make you and others happier!) There are countless ways to give back, but the important thing is that you take action. 

 

We all recognize the many benefits of random acts of kindness, but most of us don't make doing them a priority. This week, I encourage you do something — anything! — kind for someone. Don't feel like kindness has to be some huge, grand gesture. (Personally, I think that's why so many of us fail to do kind things: we think they're too small and won't really make a difference.) Kindness is incredibly valuable, no matter what form it comes in, so pick one (or all!) of the random acts above and do something wonderful this week. 

  


Petal It Forward 3Thanks 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, visit
www.aboutflowers.com and www.aboutflowersblog.com. You can also check out this fun video that illustrates the Petal It Forward concept! 


6 Steps for Dealing with Emotionally Draining People

 

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Do you have a friend (or coworker or family member) who leaves you feeling exhausted and emotionally drained after you interact with him or her? You're not alone. Empathy and sympathy are incredible skills to have and maintain, but practicing them can, at times, be overwhelming and emotionally (and sometimes physically) draining, especially if you are a highly sensitive person who tends to absorb the emotional states of others. A friend recently emailed me and asked for my advice. What should I do, she asked, when my best friend calls me and shares traumatic events she frequently experiences frequently as a result of her career? How do I cope with the negative emotions I indirectly experience as a result of listening to her? Is this just what best friends are supposed to do, allow themselves to be emotionally hijacked in order to offer support and comfort? 
 
My first reaction to this was: no, friendship is absolutely not about being supportive and comforting at the risk of undoing your own mental wellbeing. My second reaction was: I've experienced this before, too, and I've heard others talk about similar situations as well, so it seemed like a great topic to dive into this week. If you haven't already, at some point you're going to encounter someone who feels emotionally draining but who, due to circumstances out of your control (or because you don't want to), you cannot completely remove from your life. Here are some of the best ways to deal with emotionally draining people. 
 
 
 
 
STEP 1 : CREATE PERSONAL PEACE
 
First and foremost, you have to be in a peaceful emotional state yourself, or it's going to be really difficult to cope with others' emotions. Of course, creating personal peace is no easy task (it's kind of the point of this whole website, in fact, and I'm still learning how to do it!), but it's important to make the effort. Your life as a whole (when you're not interacting with this emotionally draining individual) influences your interactions with others, so it's important to do the best you can to take care of yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally so you're in the best possible shape to cope when others come to you for comfort or counsel. This will always be a work in progress so don't beat yourself up if you don't have this down. Just keep trying to create as much personal peace as you can. 
 
 
 
STEP 2 : ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES
 
Once you have personal peace (hahaha, jk, that's a lifelong journey, but at least you're trying!), it's time to establish your boundaries for what you'll allow to penetrate that peace. It sounds like this wouldn't be too hard, but it's actually quite a tough task when it comes to people you love (or people you have to work with and can't just avoid). Years ago I wrote Preserving Your Perimeter: 4 Steps to Set Boundaries, and it's worth a read if you're struggling to identify, set, and maintain your boundaries with others. Learning about personal boundaries has been life-changing for me, and it's one of the best ways to combat emotional fatigue. 
 
 
 
STEP 3 : BE HONEST + DIRECT
 
Now that you're perfectly peaceful (ha!) and you've identified what your boundaries are, it's time for the challenging part: communicating your thoughts and boundaries to those around you. It's important to remember that other people can't read your mind. Most of the time they don't have any idea that they're negatively influencing your emotional state. You don't have to be harsh or cruel when you communicate with others, but you must be honest and direct. You'll probably feel vulnerable (and maybe even a bit selfish) by expressing how you feel, but it's worth it to maintain your own mental health, and to ultimately be a better friend / coworker / partner / etc. 
 
 
 
STEP 4 : OFFER AN ALTERNATIVE
 
After you've conveyed your feelings, it may be helpful to offer an alternative. For example, let's say a friend is sharing her heartbreaking experiences with emotional abuse, pain so raw and real that it's difficult for you to cope with. After explaining to her that the emotional burden is too much for you, do some research and offer her solutions, information, or suggest a professional who can better help her deal with her situation. While it's wonderful to be a good listener and a empathetic friend, if someone you know is going through deep emotional stress, the best thing s/he can do is seek the advice and guidance of a professional, not simply the comfort of a friend. Friends ≠ therapists.
 
 
 
STEP 5 : COUNTERACT THE IMPACT
 
If you have to interact with an emotionally draining person (and, despite all of your efforts to create boundaries and honestly convey your feelings, you will), one of the best things you can do for yourself is to counteract the emotional impact with positive experiences. If possible, bookend your emotionally draining experience with uplifting and inspiring ones. These don't have to be grand activities -- just reading an inspiring quote, for example, could count as a positive bookend -- but they should be implemented as much as possible. Know you're going to have a tough meeting with a coworker? Treat yourself to reading a chapter of an uplifting book beforehand and schedule a meeting with an inspiring colleague after to make the experience more bearable.  
 
 
 
STEP 6 : CONSIDER DISTANCING YOURSELF
 
If you're dealing with a close friend, coworker, or partner, this can be challenging, but it's up to you to enforce your own emotional boundaries. It might feel like you have no choice (I can't dump my best friend! I can't leave this job! I don't want a divorce!), but you always have a choice. If someone drains you to the point that it's unbearable, you need to consider the possibility that this person isn't a good fit for your life. If you've done the five steps above and this person continues to drag you down emotionally, it might be time to remove yourself from the friendship / job / relationship. That's not easy to hear, but you'll know, deep down in your heart, if this person's impact is so great that it's preventing you from living an emotionally sane life. Yes, a great deal of your emotional state is up to you, but part of maintaining your own personal peace means making choices to eliminate the people who threaten the kind of life you want to be living. 
 
 
 
If you're currently in a situation with an emotionally draining individual, it's my hope that these tips with positively impact that relationship in some way. Always remember: You can be a good friend without being a therapist. You can be a good coworker without being a therapist. You can be a good partner or parent or sibling or child without being a therapist. You are not required (nor qualified, in most cases) to be anyone else's therapist or emotional dumping ground, and you can, with kindness and compassion, often find a way to maintain a relationship with this person without sacrificing your own emotional health. 

    

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Mastering Mindfulness (No Meditation Required!)

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When many people hear the word "mindfulness," what comes to mind is a serene-looking yogi chanting mantras softly from atop an embroidered cushion. Many people equate mindfulness with meditation — a nice activity to aspire to, but one that, for a variety of reasons (time, cultural expectations, etc.), often feels unattainable. Meditation, while it does offer many incredible benefits to those who practice it, isn't the same as mindfulness. Meditation can be a wonderful way to cultivate a more mindful life, and with its rise in popularity in recent years, there are tons of sites and apps to guide those interested in it, but mindfulness is about so much more than meditation.
 
Mindfulness isn't just about deep breathing and motivating mantras (though those can be wonderful!). Mindfulness is, as Masters of Mindfulness founder, Monica Ortiz, says in this video, "just about being present, about being aware of where you are, what you're doing, how you're feeling, what you're thinking, and what's going on around you without being overly reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on."
 
Of course, we all know that's way easier said than done. Staying in the moment, being aware of what's happening but not feeling reactive or overwhelmed, is really challenging for most of us. It's so difficult, in fact, that most of us would rather not do it, choosing instead to hurry through our days, numb ourselves from awareness, or distract ourselves so we don't have to master the art of being mindful. 
 
But, as with most things in life, it's the really challenging stuff that offers some of the greatest benefits. Here are just a few of the positive things that mindfulness has been proven to do: reduce stress, offer insights into the self, discover deeper a understanding of life, experience better health, enhance job performance, improve relationships, and enjoy how we're spending our time. If mindfulness offers so many benefits, why are so many of us avoiding it? 
 
The reasons for avoiding mindfulness are plenty, but one of the main reasons, I believe, is that people don't know what to do to be more mindful. Mindfulness requires practice and repetition. It's kind of like exercise. We know it's good for us, but some of us aren't interested in going for a run. The thing is: running isn't the only way to get some exercise, just like meditation isn't the only way to practice mindfulness. 
 
When it comes to mastering mindfulness, the trick is to find what works best for you and incorporate it into your life as often as possible. You might have to play around a bit, trying different activities to see what feels right for you. Here are some ways you can play around with adding more mindfulness to your life. 
 
 
SEEK OUT INSPIRATION
 
You're already on the right path, just by being here on Positively Present! Seeking out inspiration is a great way to connect with a mindful experience. Just think about the last time you saw or read or experienced something that made you feel inspired. It caused you to stop for a moment and reflect, didn't it? Inspiration can be anything — a stunning piece of artwork, a glorious sunset, a smile on a child's face, a quote that feels like it was written just for you at this exact point in your life. Whatever inspires you, seek it out often because every time feel inspired, you're mindfully in the moment. 
 
 
GENERATE MORE GRATITUDE
 
Practicing gratitude might sound like cliched advice, but, trust me, it works. Nothing has helped me more in my quest for a positively present life than learning to be grateful for everything (even the not-so-great parts of life). I've been keeping a gratitude journal consistently for the past year (in my Every Day Matters diary!), and I've seen a huge difference in how I feel about the world around me (and about myself too!). There are many ways to practice gratitude, but a gratitude journal is an excellent place to begin. 
 
 
MONITOR YOUR MOOD
 
Paying attention to your mood is one of the best ways to not only be more mindful, but to use that mindfulness to create a more wonderful life. Knowing how you feel in certain circumstances, around certain people, and when doing certain tasks allows you to make adjustments — to include more of the positive aspects of life and to remove more of the negative aspects — and, while these adjustments aren't always easy, it's amazing what you can do when you remove what's not working. Get yourself a mood tracker, and you'll find yourself becoming more mindful of how everything makes you feel. 
 
 
REVERE RELAXATION
 
Relaxation isn't exactly revered in Western culture. It's usually reserved for vacations and lazy Sunday mornings. But learning how to relax leads to great moments of mindfulness. For many of us, relaxation can actually be really tough. We feel like we should be doing something. One way to give more reverence to relaxation is by surrounding yourself with things to sooth your five senses — soft melodies to listen to, calming scents to take in, comforting items to touch (a dog's fur is my favorite), serene images to look at, and foods that make your tastebuds rejoice. Make time for relaxation and you're making time for mindfulness. 
 
 
 
These are just a few of the many ways you can practice mindfulness without meditation (though meditation can be really amazing so definitely give it a try if you haven't!). There's also a great new app, Masters of Mindfulness, that's an excellent resource for exploring a variety of mindfulness techniques. The app includes everything you'd ever need to master mindfulness all in one spot: a mood tracker, a gratitude journal, healing songs, mindful living videos, upspirations (inspirational quotes with insights on applying them to your life), and, of course, meditation! Mindfulness isn't about adhering to one strict idea of what it means to stay in the moment; it's about using the techniques that work best for you so you can reap the benefits of being more aware of what's happening in your life. 
  
 
 
Blog-post-marketing-imageThank you to the new Masters of Mindfulness app for sponsoring today's post!
 
Masters of Mindfulness is the world's most complete mindfulness app, now available on iOS and Android. The app brings all the tools you need to become a master of mindfulness. Meditate with others in a live stream meditation, or on your own time with a library of recorded meditations. Track your Mood daily and discover what is affecting you negatively / positively and become empowered to change things up. Cultivate positivity through your very own Gratitude Journal. Relax and destress with healing songs in the Soothing Sounds section. Browse Upspirations, quotes meant to inspire, and learn how to apply them to your situation. Enlighten and expand your mind through video interviews with health and healing practitioners, mindful living teachers, and more in the Videos section. This app has everything you need to cultivate mindfulness.
 
Visit their website to learn more about the Masters of Mindfulness app, or download the app to get started today and watch your world change!