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September 2011
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November 2011

5 ways you'll feel good by doing good

 

Last weekend I volunteered for my local human society's annual event -- a festive ball and auction to raise money for animals in need. A lot of hard work went into the event -- hours and hours of volunteering and a crazy weekend filled with organizing and assisting at the event -- but every moment was worth it when I knew that all of the effort was going to make the world a better place for some animals in need. 

Though I've volunteered at events before, this was the first one I've felt truly passionate about. It felt like everything I was doing had an impact on the lives of animals and that made every action feel important and meaningful. At times the work was daunting, but in the end it was all worth it to see the success of the event play out. Looking back on it, I'm so glad I was able to be a part of it and I honestly cannot wait to help out with future events. 

Participating in event made me realize how good I feel when I'm doing good. Instead of sitting on my couch watching TV or reading, as I often find myself doing on the weekends, I was making a difference (albeit a small one) in the world this weekend. Because of the event, more dogs and cats will have the care they need. More of them will find homes. More of them will live happier, healthier lives. Helping with the event offered me so many personal rewards and I wanted to share some of them with you in case you're thinking about volunteering for a cause you feel passionately about. 

 

When You Do Good, You'll Feel...  


... inspired.
Being around other people who are spending their time doing something good for the world is truly one of the most inspiring things. You'll probably be around people who do inspiring things for a living (like the people I met who spend every day at the animal shelter) and that will make you feel even more inspired. Doing something good for a good cause is one of the most inspiring things. You will realize that there are many other people out there in the world that want to make it a better place. 

 

... grateful. When you're in a situation where you're donating your time to a cause, it's probably because something or someone needs help. In this case, I was assisting with an event to raise money for animals in need. Hearing about those animals in need made me feel incredibly grateful for my own life -- and for the life I am able to give my pup Bella. No matter what the cause, if you are aware of what your work is benefiting, you will most likely feel incredibly grateful for all of the goodness in your own life. 

... useful. Being a part of this great event made me feel like, even if it was just for a weekend, I was doing something good with my life. I had a purpose and that purpose was to assist with an event that would raise money for animals in need. Feeling as if our lives have purpose is one of the wonderful impacts of being involved in a meaningful volunteer opportunity, and it's not something to be taken lightly. This weekend, it was amazing and inspiring to feel as if what I was doing had a true purpose. 

 

... connected. For the first time in my life, I was with a group of people who really got how I felt about animals. I've certainly met animal-lovers before, but to be in a room full of people who feel as passionately about helping animals as I do was truly a wonderful feeling. Whatever cause you choose to support, it's such a great feeling to be around other people who support the cause that you feel strongly about. Feeling connected to complete strangers is a rare occurrence and something to be enjoyed. 

 

... hopeful. When working with a group of people who are inspired and motivated by a single cause, you almost can't help but be hopeful. Though it might seem like you're only impacting a small corner of the world when you're working on one event for one cause, you'll find yourself filled with hope because you know that all over the world -- in all of the other little corners -- there are other people doing good things to make something -- maybe just one thing -- a little better. 

 

These are just a few of the benefits I received from working at this event. Most importantly, volunteering for this event has motivated me to want to help in other ways. It's inspired me to want to become even more involved in making a difference. If you're thinking about volunteering or donating to cause that means something to you, I'd highly recommend it. Not only will you be helping others, but you're helping to make your own life a more positive one. Don't know where to volunteer? Check out VolunteerMatch.org for inspiration. Believe me, I know how easy it is to say you don't have time or you don't know what you'd be able to help with, but trust me -- there is something you can do. Remember: it only takes one person to make a difference. 


want to be positive + present? get some zzz's




Sleep is one of those things -- like food or air -- that most of us don't give too much thought to until we're without it. When you have no trouble sleeping, sleep doesn't seem like a topic to deserve much thought. However, when you can't sleep, that lack of rest can impact everything in your life. Whether you realize it or not, sleep is a crucial element of living a positive, present life. When you're exhausted, it's pretty hard to be positive. And it's also hard to be present as well. Your mind wanders, you can feel disoriented. Staying positive in the present becomes very difficult when you're tired. 

To live the best possible life, you need to make sure you're rested and ready for whatever comes your way. If you've ever had trouble sleeping and looked for ideas online, I'm sure you've come across countless articles (and even entire sites!) dedicated to the topic of finding rest. I'm certainly no expert on the subject, but I've been a pretty decent sleeper most of my life. I have my nights where sleep eludes me, but those nights are rare, so I've come up with five tips -- S.L.E.E.P. -- that I've used over the years to help me sleep. Hopefully they can help you the next time you find yourself lying awake pondering whether or not counting sheep might actually work...

 

Schedule your sleep. Seems like a silly thing to do, but just like you schedule your meals, your workouts, or your time spent with friends, you should also schedule your sleep time. I personally strive to go to sleep every night at 10pm -- and I rarely miss that deadline. If you schedule your sleep like you would another appointment in your life, you'll help yourself stay on track and you'll (hopefully) get yourself to bed at reasonable hour.

Limit sources of stimulation. You've heard it before: before you go to bed, don't consume caffeine or sugar; don't watch television or play video games; don't go to the gym. Yes, this advice is pretty unoriginal, but it really is worth listening to. Whatever pumps you up -- whether it be a substance or an activity -- avoid it for at least a few hours before bedtime. For some added sleep help, try doing something that calms you down -- drinking decaf tea, taking a bubble bath, reading a book, etc.

Eliminate distractions. Just as you should rid your life of stimulation when you are trying to get some rest, you must also eliminate all elements that might distract you from sleep. Turn off or silence your cell phone. Stop checking email so you don't become stressed about the next day's to-do list. Ask your friend or family members to save potentially stressful conversations for the next day. Whatever you need to do to elminate distractions from your life so you can focus on sleeping, do it.

Engage four of your senses. When I was a kid, my cousin shared this tip with me: if you're having trouble falling asleep, tune into your senses. Instead of letting worries fill your mind, instead think about what you can hear, feel, smell, taste. (But ignore what you see -- you need to keep your eyes closed!) Whenever I do this exercise, I always find that I fall asleep. Something about being fully present and not allowing my mind to wander too much helps to ease me into a restful state.

Put yourself in an odd spot. This last one I can't guarentee. The only person I know who has tried it is me -- but it seems to work like a charm! When I'm having trouble sleeping, I'll lie on my back. Since I'm a side sleeper, this isn't a comfortable way for me to sleep and the longer I lie like that, the more my body wants to get into a comfortable position. When I finally allow myself to roll over, my body seems grateful and is almost always ready for sleep.

 

Whether you're consciously aware of it or not, sleep is essential when it comes to experiencing a positive day. The less sleep you get, the unhappier you become. To make the most of every day, strive to get the sleep you need (from what I've read, the "right" amount is different for everyone so experiment until you find the number of hours that are right for you). And if you're struggling to get to sleep, give some of these tips a try. They've certainly worked for me!


finding the magic in the mundane

 

Let's face it -- life can be mundane sometimes. There's the day in, day out shuffle of work or school or whatever else it is you do on a daily basis and no matter what you do to try to spice things up, things will probably start to feel boring at some point. The other day on Tumblr (Happily Ever After Now) I spotted this intriguing photograph created by Amanda Mabel and it got me to thinking: why can't I find more magic in the mundane? I ask this question not in the sense of why doesn't the magic exist, but in the sense of why can't I personally find the magic that's already there. 

Of this photo, Amanda writes: 

Sometimes I wonder if I'm strange. I love looking at ordinary things and making it into a complex world full of magic and beauty. The thought of creating worlds fascinate me; it's like exploring someplace which you will never get the chance to go to in reality. For this place, I think of foggy forests shrouded in darkness. Misty trees leading on, and on, entangling into deeper echelons of fear and mystery. When you tilt your head up, you see a hauntingly beautiful full moon; faintly glimmering stars; birds crying in the cold breeze and wisps of clouds in a pale haze. Everything is enchanting but eerie, a dark fairytale of whispered hisses and glowing eyes. You're running downwards, bare feet being scratched by thorns and branches, body seeming to defy gravity in a sort of spiralling fall. But you don't know where you're going to end up. 

Reading those words and seeing her image reminds me that there are people out there that see the magic in every day things, that can take a photo of a steaming cup and create an entire story behind it. And I'm not just talking about magic like this -- an image that literally looks magical -- I'm talking about finding magic, excitement in the mundane things in your life. This is no easy feat, I know. Finding magic in the mundane is quite a difficult task. To motivate yourself to look for the magic when you're bored or unimpressed is taxing. 

Magic is one of those things that often seems either unbelievable or completely out of our grasp. It something that often appears to be beyond us, something we cannot see or touch. Lately I’ve begun to realize that’s just not true. Magic is all around us—something we can find and us to create more interesting and exciting lives. Life is too short to merely coast through it. It’s up to find—and create—a world of magic. What exactly do I mean by a world of magic? I don’t mean the stuff of fairy tales and witchcraft; no, I mean the magic of living a life that makes you feel incredibly happy and fulfilled. Real magic.

What's "real magic," you ask? There are many definitions for the word magic, but my personal favorite -- and the one I'm talking about here -- is "a feeling of enchantment." How many of you feel enchanted right now? How many of you are sitting there, looking at your surroundings, and thinking "This is such an enchanted place."? Probably not too many of you (and lucky you if you're one of the few that is feeling enchanted right now!). 

But why aren't we enchanted with our own magical lives? Why aren't we seeing the magic in everything around us? Because it's hard, that's why. There's a lot in this world that tries to bring us down, that tries to bring us down to earth. 

 

How to Find the Magic in the Mundane


Open your mind up to the possibility of magic. 

Keep your mind open when it comes to looking for magic in your own life. Don't rule out the fact that even the most mundane activity can be magical. That drive to work not leaving feeling spellbound? Switch up your route and pay attention to the new things you see. Or offer to give someone else a ride and get a new perspective on your surroundings. Magic is all around you if you just open your eyes and look around. 


Seek out magic in every situation.

So you've opened your eyes and been unable to see magic in your everyday surroundings? Don't worry -- this is more common than you think. Sometimes it takes a new experience, environment, etc. to help us find the magic in our lives. Go somewhere new. Look around. Pay close attention. And look for the little things. If you make the effort to find magic in the world, you will be certain to discover it.  


Stay focused on the present moment.

One of the biggest reasons we don't all see more magic in our lives is because we're not present. Just yesterday I realized that, if someone asked me what color the fence outside my place is I wouldn't have been able to answer that question. I don't pay enough attention to my surroundings and, as a result, I'm missing all of the magic. Every moment is filled with a bit of magic. Be present if you want to be enchanted.


Use your imagination and creativity.

People who are unimaginative are never going to see the magic in a cup of tea or changing of leaves from green to yellow. And that's okay. Some people don't want to see the magic in life -- but if you're the type that wants to, you've got to open your mind up to a more creative way of viewing the world. Is there really magic in a friend's laughter? Yes. Is there really magic in a rain-soaked morning? Yes. It's there, but you must be willing to create and imagine it.  


See life from a new perspective.

You know how you feel when you watch a film or read a book filled with magic? You're in awe at the types of things someone has come up with in her/his mind. Now think about what it would be like to describe things about our lives -- the Internet, the airplanes, the amazing feats humans accomplish -- to someone(thing?) not familiar with the world. Yes, it might be science and fact, but through the eyes of someone else, it would seem like magic. 



That last point reminded me of another way to see the world filled with magic: imagine it through the eyes of a child. Kids don't know about electrons and gravity and mathematical formulas. They see a plane in the sky and are amazed. They see the leaves miraculously changing colors and they are awed. They hear a catchy tune on the radio and cannot help but sing along. They gobble up a plate of mac-and-cheese like it came from a five-star restaurant. Kids get the concept of magic. They see it in everything because everything is new to them. And that's what magic really is about -- finding the newness, the excitement. It's about being open to enchanted, about being willing to become bewitched by our own mundane lives.

For some, this may sound silly. You might say, "I already know how gravity works, why the leaves change in the fall, or how a computer works. Seeing the magic in these things is stupid." I get that. I really do. I see how silly it might sound -- me, a grown woman, exclaiming, "Find the magic!" But, to be completely honest with you, I've found that I'm a lot more positive -- and more present -- when I'm looking for the magic in my life. When I stare in amazement at the changing of seasons or think it's pretty amazing that I have an animal in my house -- another species! -- that I truly connect with, I feel excited about life. I feel like I cannot wait to see what else I'll uncover in this crazy world. And, to me, that feeling of wonder is worth the silliness that comes with claiming that I'm striving, every day, to find the magic in the mundane.