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6 pointers for practicing patience


Last week I spent a good part of my day in a hospital waiting room as a friend of mine was undergoing surgery. The waiting room had zero phone service reception, and during hours of iPhone-less waiting I was given a chance to reflect on how to cultivate patience, particularly while waiting in a situation that's less-than ideal. (I've spent time waiting in hospital rooms before, but usually for someone's new baby to arrive, which is a totally different, more exciting kind of waiting.)

Patience is something I've always struggled with — my lack of it being one of the reasons I started Positively Present in the first place! — but as difficult as it is for me to master, I know it's something that's absolutely essential for living a positive and present life, which is why I've spent some time thinking up some pointers for practicing patience.  



It really helps to think about why you're impatient. Is it because you're bored and want to leave a situation? Is it because you're in a hurry and you really have to be somewhere? Is it because you want to get home because you're tired / don't feel well / are hungry? Knowing the reasons behind your impatience can be extremely helpful because, in some cases, you can fix the issue. (For example, if your impatience is due to hunger, you can locate a place to get a snack, or if that happens often, carry a snack with you when you know you'll have to wait.) You won't always be able to directly address the reason for your impatience, but sometimes just the act of acknowledging why it's happening can help you become more calm. 



Having an idea of the people and situations that particularly test your patience can be very helpful for learning to practice patience. When you know where, when, and with whom you feel the most impatient, you can either (1) avoid these situations and people as much as possible or (2) prepare yourself for them by bringing along things that will help you stay present and patient. Unfortunately most patience-trying situations aren't avoidable, but it's usually possible to prepare for them, both physically and mentally. If you know you're going to be in a situation that will cause you to be impatient, bring something with you that will help you stay calm or mentally prepare for the situation by reviewing these patience pointers. 



Even if you're not the mantra-having type, you can choose a word (like "patience!") or a phrase (like "be in this moment.") to help you when you're struggling to stay cool, calm, and collected. Whatever mantra you choose, say it to yourself whenever you find that your patience is being tried as a way to bring you back to the moment and remind you to focus on being patient. One of the hardest things about being patient is remembering to be patient, so having an easy to remember mantra or word can be a really helpful reminder. You can also share this mantra with someone close to you, who can then say it to you when it becomes obvious that you're suffering from a bout of impatience. 



Being impatient is partly the result of being too focused on the present. (Yep, that's a thing that can happen!) When you're in the moment and you're intently focused on what you want right now, you might lose sight of what's really important. When you find yourself having difficulty staying patient, ask yourself, "Will this matter a year from now?" Most of the time it won't. And even if you think it will, follow up with the question, "What really matters most to me?" When you consider this question, you help yourself put whatever situation you're in in perspective. Whatever's stress-inducing or patient-trying is probably not as important as you initially thought it was after you've considered life's big picture and contemplated what truly matters to you. 



One of patience's greatest enemies is worry, and that's often what you'll find yourself doing if you have time to waste. Instead of ruminating on what could happen or what else you could be doing with time spent waiting, it's useful to find some distractions that will engage you enough to take your mind off whatever's trying your patience. If you're with others who are also having their patience tried, consider playing a game or conversing about an interesting topic. If you're solo, you might want to dive into a good book or spend a few minutes on your favorite website. Distracting yourself for a long period of time may not be an option, but even a few moments spent disengaging from impatience can be beneficial. 



The trickiest thing about practicing patience is finding a balance between not being in the moment (where you're worrying about what was or what could be) and being too in the moment (where you're so focused on the challenging situation that you don't put it in perspective). One of the best ways to stay just the right amount of present is getting in touch with your five senses by paying close attention to what you see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. When you do this, you bring yourself back to the moment and away from impatient thoughts, but you don't allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the irritations that might come with the present moment.



It seems like patience can be strengthened, just like muscles, by practicing. Instead of waiting until your patience is tried to practice your patience, give yourself a chance to practice when you don't really need to. For example, when you get a package in the mail, don't open it right away and practice the art of waiting. Or get in a longer line at the grocery store and practice waiting for someone to pay for a million things. The more you train yourself to be patient in everyday situations, the easier it will be to keep yourself calm when you're in a situation that's out of your control and really trying your patience. Another way to practice is by slowing down. Walk slower. Eat slower. Talk slower. Doing all of these will help you moderate your pace of life so it's easier to cope when things actually slow down or get in the way of your desired pace. 


B.R.E.A.K.: 5 tips for breaking bad habits

HabitImage Source


I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I've been biting my nails for as long as I can remember. This wasn't such a big deal when I was a kid, but there's something about a full-grown adult with bitten nails that's just, well, gross. I've managed to stop a few times over the years, but I always seem to come back to it the second just one nail gets chipped. As I've gotten older, I've wanted to break the habit even more, but the longer I keep at it, the harder the habit is to break. 
With my book coming out at the end of the year, I've been daydreaming about what it will be like to sign books for my readers. I'd envision a pen in my hand, the book propped open, me ready to write a positive little note, and then... the vision would be tarnished by the thought of writing with those god-awful nails of mine. It frustrated me to no end to imagine my nasty little habit ruining the act of doing something I'd waited my whole life to do: sign a book I'd written. I knew I had to break the habit, no matter how hard it was. 
Having quit a few things in the past — I gave up smoking after about ten years, and I've been sober for almost four years now — you'd think it wouldn't be that hard to give up a little thing like nail biting, but it's actually an incredibly difficult thing to do because, you see, I'm an all-or-nothing kind of person. I don't have the willpower to do things in moderation; if I don't want to over do it, I have to completely quit, removing all temptations from my life. And it's not so easy to remove the temptation when it's physically attached to my body. 
I've tried all of the physical tricks for breaking the nail biting habit — coating my nails in anti-bite polish (just got used to the taste), wearing gloves (not really possible if you spend your days typing), getting regular manicures (just picked the polish off, making it a waste of money) — but none of those seemed to work for long so I decided it was time to address the issue from an internal point of view. That's how I came up with the B.R.E.A.K. Method. 
The B.R.E.A.K. Method includes what I've found to be the five essential aspects of breaking a bad habit. (Note: a bad habit is very different than an addiction. If you think you might have an addiction to a substance or activity, I'd highly recommend seeking help from a trained professional.) It's only been a few weeks of bite-free nails, but I really believe that using this method is going to allow me to break the habit for good. Whatever habit you've been trying to break (and we all have that one we just can't seem to quit!), these five tips — B.R.E.A.K. — should help you tackle it. 




Whatever you habit is, you probably have specific situations in which you engage in your habit (at a certain time of day, in conjunction with another activity, when you're with a specific person). The first step to breaking any habit is to identify what these triggers are and avoid (or transform) them if possible. For example, I always seem to bite my nails when I'm alone and when I'm reading. It's something I do mindlessly, without even really thinking about it. Obviously I can't stop reading, but I could be more mindful of what I was doing. Every time I found myself putting my hand near my mouth, I'd quickly return it to my book, making sure I was holding the book with both hands at all times. Keep in mind that your triggers will be unique to you so you can't just go looking them up online; you have to pay close attention to when and where you engage in your habit (then you can search online for some ways to tackle the trigger if you can't think of any ideas). 



For decades I've longed to stop biting my nails, particularly in recent years when nail art became such a fun, creative trend. I'd always searched for some sort of motivator — an upcoming event, the start of a new year, etc. — to inspire me to quit, but nothing really worked for long. It wasn't until I thought about signing books (my dream come true!) that I really buckled down and felt motivated enough to attempt breaking my habit for good. No matter what bad habit you're battling, I bet you there's something out there that is better than the habit, something you'll receive (like pretty nails, for me!) that will make all the trouble of quitting worth it. It's not always easy to find a motivator that will keep you going, but don't give up. There is absolutely something that's worth quitting for and once you find it, it'll be the inspiration you need to keep the habit broken. 



Though I don't have a ton of extra money to spend, I know how important little rewards are to keep me motivated. (After all, my love language is gifts.) In order to keep myself on track, I'm giving myself little treats along the way, including manicures, new bottles of polish, and even some custom nail decals. These little rewards keep me interested in staying on track and they serve as reminders of my progress. If you don't have something directly linked to the habit you're breaking (like pretty polish for nail biters), try rewarding yourself with little things that make you really happy (and make sure those things are also positive for you — you don't want to go breaking one bad habit only to begin a new one!). These rewards need not be big or extravagant, but they should be things that you don't get or experience every day, things that will keep you inspired to keep going. 



I've found that letting others know what you're up to can really help you stay on track with breaking a bad habit. I've told my close friends and family members that I'm trying to stop biting my nails so that they can inquire about my progress (or simply look at my hands!) and I've even asked my boyfriend to tell me to stop if he happens to see me taking a nibble at nail. Telling others about what you're trying to do makes it feel almost as if you've made a promise to them as well as to yourself, and I've found that it's hard to break promises to others than it is to break them with yourself. If you have someone looking out for you, supporting your choice to break a habit that serves no positive purpose, you'll be more likely to stay on track. 



The further away you keep the temptation, the easier it is to break the habit. Of course, when it comes to something like nails (which are always with you!), this can be really tough, but I've made it a new rule not to put my hands near my mouth — not even just to get that one tiny hangnail! — which makes it easier to resist biting. It's not always easy to do this — just as it won't always be easy for you to keep your distance from whatever's tempting you — but the more space you put between yourself and what tempts you, the more the temptation will lessen and the easier it will be to break your bad habit for good.    

announcing every day matters!


I've been working on an exciting project for quite awhile now and I'm finally ready to share it with you. I'm so excited about this, as it's my first big design project and it incorporates inspiration and concepts from Positively Present. And even more exciting to me (a lover of anything organized) is the fact that this project has resulted in something that'll actually use every day—a planner! 

I love planners (anything to keep my day organized!) and it's been such a dream come true to create a planner of my own (or, as it's known in the UK, a diary). Every Day Matters 2015 Diary: A Year of Inspiration for the Mind Body & Spirit is a diary/planner, available in desk or pocket size, that I've created with Watkins Publishing. So I know it's super early to start thinking about a 2015 planner, but I'm so excited about the project going to print that I just couldn't wait to share it with you! 



Every Day Matters not only has plenty of space for daily planning but it also offers inspiring advice on how to make each and every day really matter. Designed as a resource for enriching daily life, it will guide you on a year-long journey of awareness and fulfilment as you go about your everyday activities. It’s all-too-easy to become overwhelmed with multiple thoughts each day as our to-do lists grow, so I've come up with one life-enhancing theme per month to focus on.

Each theme is based on a single word—like "love," "explore," or "marvel"—and is the basis for a weekly quote and activity chosen to inspire reflection and positive transformation. The monthly themes are: Organize, Love, Change, Explore, Create, Nurture, Inspire, Refresh, Learn, Share, Marvel and Believe. Focusing on just one theme each month, but looking at the theme in a different way each week allows for each theme to be considered from unique perspectives and encourages positive action to become an integral part of day-to-day life. (Check out a sample of the diary below. If you can't see the sample, click here.)



How you plan your day is probably pretty unique to you. Some people have a giant planner stuffed with every single detail of their daily lives. Other people mostly wing it, jotting things done wherever they spot a convenient sheet of paper. Whatever your current method, I can assure you that having a planner/diary in your life can be life-changing. I've been using one for as long as I can remember (even when I was a kid—who knows what I was planning back then!), and I couldn't imagine my life without one.  

If you're already a fan of using a planner, you probably already know all about the benefits of keeping one. If you're not sure they're for you, check out the list below to see why having a planner/diary can actually be life-changing. 



1. Organizes your lists in one spot. 

Have you every tried just jotting down things whenever and wherever they come to mind? If you have, you probably know that it doesn't usually work out so well. You forget where you wrote something down or you lose the scrap of paper where you wrote it. A diary gives you a place to put all of your to-do lists and keep track of the details of your life so you don't lose a thing. 


2. Frees your mind to focus on what matters. 

When you write down what you need to do or remember, you free your mind to focus on the tasks you need to actually get done. This might sound obvious—of course it's helpful to get those to-do's out of your mind and onto the page—but freeing your mind from dwelling on the little details can have big results. It can reduce your stress level, make you more productive, and even give you a better night's sleep!


3. Gives you a place to plan ahead. 

While I'm not a big fan of worrying too much about the future, planning ahead is actually a great way to stay present. When you write things down that need to be done in the future or schedule dates with yourself to revisit specific tasks, you allow your attention to be directed back to right now. By writing down what needs to be done later, you are able to stay more in the moment. 


4. Keeps you on track when you feel lost. 

Ever have those moments when you're like, What in the world should I do now? Even if you have a million things to do, sometimes it's hard to know where to begin. That's where a planner comes into play. If you've made a list of what you need to do, when you're feeling lost, you can take a look at the list and find at least one task that you can try tackling. 


5. Provides a feeling of accomplishment.

There are few feelings in the world better than crossing something off a to-do list (especially those things you've been putting off for awhile!). It might sound like a small act—drawing a line through a list item—but the feeling of accomplishment that comes with knowing you've done what needed to be done is actually pretty wonderful, and keeping a diary gives you a chance to experience those moments every single day. 


6. Helps you recall what happened.

I'm not an advocate of reflecting too much on the past, but sometimes you really do need to know what happened and when. Sometimes it's for a boring reason—like when you last had your car serviced—but sometimes it's fun to flip back through the pages of your diary and recall the happy moments you've experienced—like a lunch date with a good friend or an extra special date night with your loved one. 


7. Acts a back-up for your memory.

With all we see and hear and experience on a daily basis, it's a wonder we can remember anything at all! A diary helps you keep track of the important dates in life—birthdays, anniversaries, holidays. When you put them down on paper, you don't have to worry about keeping them in your mind and it's much easier to recall when you need to send a card, make a phone call, or buy a gift. 


8. Serves as source of inspiration.

Okay, this one doesn't apply to most planners and diaries, but it's one of the reasons Every Day Matters is so special. This diary doesn't just give you a pretty place to store your to-do lists and important dates. It also serves as a source of constant inspiration, featuring quotes, illustrations, and activities created to inspire, motivate, and uplift you. And, with all you probably have to do on a daily basis, I bet you could use a little added inspiration, couldn't you? 


Clearly there are some awesome benefits to keeping a planner/diary, and I'm so, so excited to share with you the one I've created with the stellar team at Watkins Publishing. The diary won't be available until late July, but you can pre-order it now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Get your copy now and you'll be all set for 2015!