A Pup's Guide to Being Present

  Positively-Present-Pup
 

 

This weekend I had the privilege of having not one, but two dogs in my home, as I was dog-sitting for a friend. I spend a lot of time with my pup, Barkley, but something about having two dogs, and perhaps being more attentive than I am on a day-to-day basis, made me reflect on how skilled dogs are at staying present. While they don't do it all the time (I can definitely tell when Bark is stressed or anxious about something that just happened or is about to happen), they do seem to be much better at staying in the moment. Of course, they have the added benefit of not having quite as much on their minds as humans do, but that doesn't mean we still can learn from them. 

Here are some of the mindfulness tips I was reminded of over the weekend. Learn from the the wisdom of pups! (If you're looking for additional inspiration on pets and mindfulness, I highly recommend the book Guardians of Being by Eckhart Tolle and Patrick McDonnell. It's adorable and insightful.) 

 

Do less every day.

Pups don't overwhelm their schedules with lengthy to-do lists, appointments, and activities. Pups (and most pets!) know how to take it easy. They spend most of the day relaxing and another good chunk of it playing, going for walks, eating, etc.. We'd all probably love to live a life on a pup's schedule, but since that's impossible for most of us, we can at least strive to do less each day. We can make fewer appointments. We can schedule fewer activities. Yes, some things must be done, but take a look at your to-do list and see if there are tasks that maybe aren't so essential.

 

Worry less often.

Even if you have an anxious pup (like Bark!), pup still don't worry as much as humans do. Worrying, as you might know, doesn't really do anything. It's completely unproductive, but yet many of us spend a lot of time doing it. What we should do instead is determine if there's something we can do about a worrisome situation. If we can, we should take action. If we can't, we should do our best to let the worry go. 

 

Experience more joy.

There's no joy quite like that of a dog with a beloved toy. Barkley, for example, loves this one blue ball she has. You can just see the joy on her face when she runs for the ball, or even when I say the word "ball." As humans, I think we all have things like this, situations or things or people that make us feel completely joyful. Unfortunately, we don't always allow ourselves to experience it fully and without inhibition. Take a lesson from a pup, and allow yourself to feel complete and total joy without fear of judgment. 

 

Refrain from judgment.

And speaking of judgment, the lack of it is one of the most precious assets of any pup. Pups might have preferences for certain things, as we all do, but they don't judge people or themselves. Have you ever seen a pup look in the mirror and complain about her appearance? Yes, I'm aware that they don't have the mental capacity to do that, but still, it's something we should be inspired by, even if it's much more difficult for us, as humans, to attain.

 

Avoid complaining.

Life's got its highs and lows, for both pups and people, but consider how dogs handle most situations: they cope. If they're hot or cold or tired or hungry, they deal with it. Yes, sometimes there's a bit of whining involved, but generally they make the best of where they are until things get better. We could all learn from this. Yes, sometimes it feels good to vent, but more often than not, complaining only makes a difficult situation worse. 

 

Ditch the drama.

Whether its intentional or not, most people create some bit of drama for themselves. Sometimes it's purposeful (stirring the pot, as my mom would say) and other times its unintentional (not being as straightforward as you could be, for example), but regardless of how it happens, its something we have the power to become aware of and transform. Dogs don't create drama for no reason. They face situations head-on without rationalization or blame -- and we'd be a lot better off if we did the same!

 

Create deep connections.

Pets and their owners have a unique and magical kind of unconditional love. Because humans are more complex, it's not always easy to have such a simple, nearly flawless connection with them, but it doesn't hurt to consider how you'd treat your pup if s/he made a mistake vs. how you'd treat a person. The love between pups and people is strong and, typically, unwavering, and it would help us all if we made that kind of connection our goal with other humans. 

 

Notice the little things. 

One of the best things about having a pet is how much they notice. Barkley is particularly adept at noticing any changes in her environment and investigating them for more info. We, as humans, are often rushing around and fail to notice the little things. If you have a pup, take him/her on a walk and take note of everything the pup notices. Whenever I do this, it really helps to make even the most mundane things more magical. 

 

 

For most people (including me!), mindfulness is a challenge. But if we were able to adopt some of these lessons from the pets in our lives (or at least try to adopt them), we'd all be a lot more mindful. Staying present takes practice, and I'm thankful to have a present-minded pup in my life to inspire me. If you have a pet, pay attention to how amazingly present they are most of the time. If you don't have one, hopefully these tips from Bark will give you some mindfulness tips you can put into practice in your own life! 

 

 

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Stressful Day? 20 Things to Add to Your To-Do List

Stressful Day - Positively Present

 

Having a stressful day? You’re not alone! Must of us have quite a lot on our plates, and I bet most people have at least one stressful day a week. (No science to back that up —  just some personal experience!) I figure, if stressful days are going to be part of our lives, why not do what we can to make the most of them?

After going through a pretty stressful day myself recently, I spent some time reflecting on what could have made (or, in some cases, did make!) the day better. Here are the top 20 items I’d recommend adding to your to-do list if you’re having a stressful day (… or week… or year…).

  1. Call or text a friend

    One of the best things you can do when you’re having a tough day is reach out to someone who uplifts, inspires, and encourages you. It’s not always easy to open up when you’re having a tough time, but it’s worth reaching out to those who love and care about you. Even a small bit of encouragement can make your day a bit easier to cope with.

 

  1. Tell someone “I love you”

    Obviously, I recommend only doing this to someone you know and love, but saying “I love you” can have a really positive impact on how you feel. Focusing on someone else — and not on your own stress — is a great way to take a step back and shift your mind to a more positive place, and putting love out into the world —  even if it’s just in the form of three little words —  cuts down on stress.


  2. Write about how you feel

    Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, it can be useful to jot down your feelings when you’re overwhelmed. Just getting them out of your head and onto the page or screen can give you a bit of perspective and make whatever burden you’re carrying a little bit easier to manage. (Bonus: Google your specific situation online and use someone else’s writing to remind you you’re not alone!)


  3. Celebrate what’s working

    When we’re stressed, it’s tempting to focus on what’s not going right or how much you have to get done, but a simple shift in perspective can really make a big difference. Instead of paying attention to what’s not easy, take a moment to pause and celebrate what is Focusing on the things that are going your way will make it easier to tackle the things that aren’t.


  4. Eat something healthy

    I know, I know — healthy eating is often one of the first things to fly out the window when it comes to stressful days, but making the effort to eat healthy, balanced meals and drink lots of water will help your mental and physical state tremendously. It’s often when we need energy the most that we eat the foods least likely to give us energy!


  5. Find a dog (or other animal)

    My go-to stress buster is my dog, Barkley. Spending even just a few minutes with her can transform my mood ¾ and my day! If you don’t have access to a pet, there are plenty of them online that you can look at. (And I’m pretty sure it’s even been proven that looking at cute animals can decrease stress.) If you need a quick fix, here’s a second-a-day of Barkley during her first year.


  6. Take a time out

    Stressful days often equal rushing around like crazy, and it might feel counterproductive to take a break, but sometimes a time out can be just what you need to recharge your mental batteries and get back to dealing with whatever situation you’re in. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, remember to pause and give your mind a little break.


  7. Go outside for a walk

    This tip is a bit of a two-for-one because it involves two stress-fighters: exercise and nature. If at all possible, schedule some time to go for a walk (however brief!). It’s a great way to cut down on stress and you can even count it as #7 (a time out) from your day. Being outside and getting exercise have both been shown to reduce stress so combining them into one stress-fighting activity should be a no-brainer.


  8. Wear something comfortable

    Depending on your situation, this might not be an option, but if it’s possible, go for a comfortable outfit (or at least make your underthings comfy!). Nothing makes a stressful day more stressful than being physically uncomfortable, so set yourself up for at least a bit less stress by wearing something that feels good. (Bonus if you can find something that’s comfortable and makes you feel like you look good too!)


  9. Remember how far you’ve come

    When we’re stressed, we’re often focusing on what’s overwhelming us right in the moment, but it’s worth taking a moment to remember how far you’ve come in your life. Even if you don’t feel like you’re where you want to be, you’ve probably made a lot more progress in your life that you realize and, like most of us, you might take it for granted. Remind yourself of it today for a little self-love.


  10. Drink warm tea

    This might be a personal one, but I think I’ve read somewhere that warm things have de-stressing benefits. And I know that certain types of teas (lavender, chamomile) can help you keep calm. So it makes sense that a nice cup of tea (maybe iced if it’s summer!) can provide you with some good relaxation benefits. Pour yourself a cup when you need a little chill!


  11. Trash negative thoughts

    One of the craziest things about stressful days is how we often make them more stressful within our own heads! It’s tempting to look for the negative — especially if you’re trying to avoid things going wrong — but getting rid of negative thoughts (or at least challenging them with positive ones) can cut down an amazing amount on the stress you’re experiencing.


  12. Look at pretty art

    It might sound superficial, but what you look at when you’re stressed matters. If you’re having a particularly stressful day (and your situation allows it), turn off the news for a bit and spend a moment or two looking at something beautiful. Either spend a bit of time in front of your favorite piece in your house or do a search online for something you know brings you feelings of calm.


  13. Don’t overbook yourself

    A major cause of stress is having way too much to do at one time. We all only have 24 hours in a day (and most of us use quite a few of them for sleeping) so don’t crowd your schedule with things that aren’t essential on a stressful day. If you know a stressful day is coming, make it clear to those around you that you’re going to be focused on something specific and other tasks will have to wait to another day.


  14. Slow down

    I don’t know about you, but when I’m stressed, my whole world speeds up. I walk faster, I drive faster, I type faster, and I talk faster. It seems like this would make things more productive but, from experience, I know it doesn’t. It not only makes it more likely that I’ll make mistakes or say the wrong thing, but it just makes me feel more stressed! Slowing down when you’re busy is so hard, but give it a try and you’ll find that it’s actually more helpful than harmful.


  15. Listen to happy tunes

    Music can have a huge impact on your mood, so a stressful day is a great time to choose tunes that make you feel uplifted and inspired. (But make sure they’re not too fast-paced because that can make you feel more anxious than happy.) If you need some ideas, check out my weekly YouTube playlists and my Positive Vibes Spotify playlist.


  16. Compliment yourself

    When you’re stressed, self-love is essential. A little compliment can go a long way, and there’s no reason why you can’t give one of those little mood-boosters to yourself. Even if it’s something small — you got out of bed, you got dressed, etc.— give yourself a bit of praise for getting something done.


  17. Remember: you’re small

    Stress can make us feel like everything around us is a huge, big deal. And, while sometimes that’s true, in the grand scheme of things, we’re all very, very tiny creatures on a giant planet in a huge universe. This isn’t meant to diminish your value, but it’s important to keep in mind because it helps you keep things in perspective. And perspective is everything when you’re stressed!


  18. Consider how you’re lucky

    You might not feel lucky when you’re in the midst of a stressful day, but, if you’re reading this, you’re probably pretty lucky ¾ you’ve got eyes to see, hands to click buttons, and an internet connection, just to name a few things. Considering how you’re lucky will make you feel incredibly grateful, and gratitude is a great stress-challenger. The more grateful you feel, the more your stress goes down.


  19. Be your own cheerleader

    In the midst of stress, you might not feel particularly cheery, but being your own cheerleader is a great way to combat feelings of stress. Periodically throughout your stressful day, pause and remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can where you are. Try your hardest to speak positively to yourself with encouragement and love. After all, the voice in your head is usually the loudest one you’ll hear all day, so why not make it an encouraging one?


I’m not going to lie— stressful days are never fun, and no matter how hard you try to stay positive and present, they’re bound to be rough. But if you give some of the tips above a try, you’re likely to cut down on some of the stress and, ultimately, that’ll make you more productive. So if you’re struggling to rationalize why you’d need any of these tips — “Who has the time!” you might think— remember: the calmer you are, the more productive you can be. Now, go get ‘em!

  

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5 Tactics for Conquering Positive Change

 

Change-PositivelyPresent
 

A few weeks ago, I wrote Clearing the Clouds: How to Cope with Panic, where I delved into the financial aspects of running my own business and shared some of the tactics I'd been using to make the most of a difficult time. Since then, I've had the great fortune to be connected with a number of companies and opportunities. (It's amazing what a little bit of time can do!) I'm thrilled about the opportunities that have come my way, but with new opportunities comes change — and, even when change is positive, it can be difficult to cope with.

Continue reading "5 Tactics for Conquering Positive Change" »