So how was your week? Should you have done more sports? Should you have called your family? Shouldn’t you be much further in this online course? Would you much rather see everything on the to-do list checked off?
Look back – what you did last week and what you have completed successfully, whatever you spent your time with, is a mirror for what was important to you (consciously or unconsciously). It is simple: If you didn’t do the “should – would – could”, it was not important to you. Or something else was more important to you. And if you look back and recognize that you did a lot of things that were not important to you – then it is high time to take a closer look at how this could have happened. Reality Check. Face it – even if might be uncomfortable. Insight and acceptance create clarity and clear the way. Save yourself the “should-would-could” whining – and the energy. Invest it wiser. There will always be more tasks and opportunities than time. It makes a difference, however, whether things “fall down the drain” (maybe exactly the ones that are important to you?) – or whether you consciously take them off the agenda, e.g. say no, or simply allow yourself a realistic time management – to ensure that there is time and space for “should-would-could”.
You have the choice – do you want to go through the next week as a designer or a driven one? What is your should-would-could? What is important to you next week? Don’t write it on the To Do list, but do it – if possible right away.
What you spend your time with and what you do shows the world and yourself what is really important to you.
I love the forest. All year round. But especially now in autumn, as it is a feast for the senses. These colourful leaves, the intense scents that are even more intense due to the humid air, the soaked, soft forest floor, leaves that slowly sink to the ground ….
And because temperatures are now falling and the weather is more often dominated by rain showers and high air humidity, it is particularly important to spend time outdoors. Anyone who now continuously parks their body in the warm flat and on the cosy couch is particularly susceptible to colds – not only when exposed to colder temperatures.
Exercise in the fresh air is good for your health and exercise in the forest even strengthens the immune system. It is scientifically proven that just one day in the forest increases the number of our natural killer cells by almost 40%! And for seven days. And what could be more important than a stable immune system right now?
The positive effect of the forest on our health has been well researched. It was in the early 1980s when the Japanese Forestry Commission recommended that spending time in the forest regularly should be established as an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle. This resulted in Shinrin Yoku, the so-called forest bathing.
What the forest can do for us
It has been proven that the forest is like an aromatherapy. It can …
contribute to relaxation with its calm and natural sounds and smells
lower the cortisol level in the blood (relieve stress)
help you to switch off from everyday life with its impressions
relieve muscle tension
moisten the airways and mucous membranes
prevent depression and burnout
lower blood pressure
prevent cardiovascular diseases
How the forest helps us
There are several conditions in the forest which contribute to its health-promoting effect:
increased concentration of oxygen in the air
increased air humidity (good for the defence function of the mucous membranes)
environmental influences such as heat or cold are alleviated by the leaf canopy
the leaf canopy also serves as a noise barrier and provides a soft light whose green tones have a calming effect
Terpenes, messenger substances released by plants, have a positive effect on our immune system. We absorb them through our skin and breathing.
How you can benefit from the forest
Even regular walks in the forest have a positive effect on our immune system (as little as 20-30 minutes per day help to reduce the stress hormone cortisol in the blood). If, in addition, you wish to bathe in the atmosphere of the forest according to Japanese tradition and thus enhance its positive effects, you can enrich your walk by
consciously perceive the surroundings with all your senses – listen to the rustling of the leaves and the sounds of the animals, immerse yourself in the colours that appear to your eyes, perceive the smells that surround you, walk consciously and feel the soft ground under your feet, let your fingers slide over the rough bark of a tree, lean against it…
choose a rather slow pace
go to a time when you are not under deadline pressure
take breaks and drink regularly. Take a pot of your favourite tea with you and enjoy it consciously
combine the walk with relaxation exercises such as Qi Gong, breathing exercises or a little meditation
“Must” and “relax” in one sentence – a contradiction in terms, isn’t it? But it happens more often than you might think. We are aware that we should create a balance to the stressful everyday life, that we should pay attention to our health, get enough sleep, drink a lot, eat healthy food and, oh yes, do sports. And not just cardio training so that the heart remains strong, but also something for strength so that we keep posture. And kaching – at least three points more on the daily To Do List. Sometimes there mediation is added. And there we sit, restless, with our monkey mind … “Meditation is not for me. I tried so hard not to think, but it just doesn’t work. And then I get angry at myself for not being able to do it,” someone said to me the other day. I couldn’t help laughing. Especially since I know the effect myself. We plan for something to make us feel better, to calm us down – and exactly the opposite happens. Mostly because we transfer the performance principles of our everyday work-life to our leisure time and relaxation activities. And suddenly our anti-stress programme stresses us out. And we are not totally with ourselves in the yoga class, for example, and pay attention to our well-being and our limits, but instead look at our trainings mate next to us to see if we are the one that performs better.
I still remember when I was doing training for a half marathon. That was at a time when I had to travel a lot in my job. But the training schedule had to be adhered to if I wanted to achieve my time target. What happened was that suddenly running was no longer fun for me, it had become a duty, a compulsion, a compulsion I had imposed on myself. In the end I was not fitter but even more exhausted after the running sessions. I ran the half-marathon anyway – but I decided: running should not have this taste in the future. Meanwhile I’m running again – out of joy. Regularly, yes, but as often and as much as I like. And I have made room for other sports and leisure activities that I enjoy. Feels smoother. More relaxed. And sometimes I take a nap instead of meditating. Or a walk instead of running. My inner voice has become my compass for relaxation. It is very reliable in knowing what would be good for me in that moment, what I need to feel better. It only needs stillness to perceive it – and the will to listen to it.
How do you “plan” your relaxation? Why don’t you try to create “neutral” islands of relaxation in the coming week. These can be a few minutes in between, but also longer periods. Then pause, breathe consciously, come to rest and listen inside yourself what you feel like. Follow the first impulse and be curious, what happens!
Last week I took some time off. Completely offline, mobile phone off, immersed myself into nature. Hiking with a map – yes, a real paper one – and attentive perception of the impressions around me. Amazing how many waypoints and features nature has in store to find some orientation. A beautiful and intensive experience.
On one of my tours I was particularly impressed by a stately, very tall, old tree. I think it was a beech. It had a trunk that was so high that I had to put my head far down into the neck to see its crown of leaves, which was swaying in the sun above most of the trees around it.
But what impressed me even more than the size of this tree was its bark. It was dark and firm, with furrows, elevations and niches. The traces of the years and the weather had left an uneven and yet harmonious structure on it. I let my fingers slide over it and discovered that spiders and other insects had made their home in the furrows and niches. This made me smile and think about how the traces left by life can have their uses.
Aren’t the scars and wrinkles that we get over time a sign that we have been exposed to life? And isn’t every scar also connected to an experience from which we were able to learn and which we can pass on to others – a scar that makes us a little bit wiser, despite the pain we might have felt when we got it?
Of course nobody wants to consciously scar themselves or have experiences that cause pain, grey hair and worry lines. But if we dare to expose ourselves to life, to the storm and fire as well as the sunshine, consequences will show up. But whether they make us older or more alive is up to us.
If we manage to look conciliatory and with a smile at the traces that our experiences have left behind, if we see them as a sign of what we have achieved and mastered and if we begin to be grateful for what they have taught us, then they suddenly become beautiful, the “traces of life” (on us and on others!). Because
“Everything you look at with love is beautiful.” Christian Morgenstern
And often we are much better able to make peace with the events that have scarred us, to accept them as part of us without grieving about them for long or to revive them as justification for further events that are causing pain.
Let’s look with love and respect at the furrows and niches in our physical and mental bark and use the wealth of experience they have given us for ourselves and others.
“The meaning of life lies not in our expectations of it, but in the tasks it sends us”. Victor Frankl
Do you sometimes feel misunderstood by your partner? Do you want to be seen and loved as you are? So let me ask you a provocative question: do you really show yourselve as you are?
If we want real connection, we must allow ourselves to be really seen. – Brené Brown
And have the courage to show ourselves fully and go all in.
To do this, we must first be aware of what is going on inside us – and then dare to express it. This is easy with good feelings, difficulties start, when we do not feell well. The feeling itself is uncomfortable – and now, weakened as we feel, we are supposed to show ourselves vulnerable? No way!
So we tend to lean into strategies which may look as if we tell about ourselves. But in fact, if we take a closer look, they help us distracting from our own discomfort. They are attractive, because they make us feel better in the short term. However, in the long term they emotionally separate us more and more.
One of these strategies is to objectify our feelings and communication. Instead of “I am unsure what this means” we say something like “the situation leaves many questions open”. I had halo moment the other day when I wanted to tell someone in a message how I am feeling. A friend read what I had written and said: “That sounds like a business letter. Why don’t you really write about what’s going on inside you – the way you feel, not so formal. Get naked!” First I didn’t get it at all. But when I read the message again, I suddenly realised what she was trying to tell me. The sentences were well thought out. Controlled language to the last word. And when I started to rephrase, I felt the increasing discomfort. Interesting moment – and very valuable, because I became aware not only of what I was feeling – but also of what I was afraid of.
Another strategy is to wrap up our bad feeling in an accusation against the other. It is easier to blame the other person than to appear vulnerable. Not saying anything and expecting that the other person has to feel how you feel is also belongs to this strategy. Instead of “I miss that you ask questions” we say something like “I wish you would show more interest in me”. Without asking the other person, we have interpreted the lack of questions as disinterest. So it’s not surprising if our partner reacts defensively rather than empathically.
That it is not easy for us to open up is normal and can have different reasons:
The level of trust we have built up with our childhood caregivers
Our general level of trust and confidence in life
Our mindset towards other people
Fear of rejection
Fear of being hurt
But it’s our choice whether we use these reasons as justifications to leave everything as it is or whether we dare to take the step into the unknown and learn.
If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. -Henry Ford
If you are looking for more clarity, bonding and empathy in your relationships, then it is worth taking a closer look at these three aspects:
Emotional self-consciousness (clarity): Are you aware of what you feel? What you miss? Can you name it? Can you accept it?
Courage to take risks: Do you have the courage to talk about it? And if so …
Speak about yourself: How do you express it? Are you talking about yourself or are you falling into one of the strategies?
It’s true, opening up, “getting emotionally naked”, makes you afraid, makes you vulnerable, is a risk. But having the courage to do so also sends a singal of trust to your partner. And it is this trust that creates real closeness and a real, deep connection.
This week, I don’t want to spend too many words. Sometimes silence is the better choice. Silence creates room to unfold. We experience it far too rarely. Our world is loud, busy and characterized by continuous media input.
Those who speak cannot listen.
Yet silence is so important. If we really want to learn something – about others and about ourselves – we have to learn to create moments of silence – and to learn to stand them. Only stillness leads to proper listening. Listening to your conversation partner and listening to yourself. And I don’t only mean silence by shutting your mouth but also inner silence. How often do our thoughts already create and answer to or interpretation of what the other one is saying – even before he or she has finished speaking? How often do we listen in order to answer – and less in order to really understand?
Not everyone has the same pace. Some people only thaw out, only dare to reveal more when they are given time and space. So, just wait and don’t say anything.
It is similar with our body and our mind. Who doesn’t know the phenomenon that physical pain only becomes apparent when we come to rest? Have a holiday? They were there before – only we didn’t hear them or didn’t want to hear them. And there is a lot going on in our head, too. We think an average of 60,000-70,000 thoughts per day. Most of them are subconscious, but there is this constant mental chatter – which often motivates us to act – just as unconsciously and automatically. And this chatterbox inside is constantly being fired up by stimuli from the outside – and changes the subject faster than you recognize. The true inner voice rarely or never gets a chance to talk. In Buddhism there is a beautiful metaphor: Our soul is like a deep water. If it is constantly in motion and the waves whirl up the sand, we won’t be able to see the ground clearly. So, just look for a quiet place, no input, bear silence and be curious what happens (and be curious how long you can stand it ;-))
I am pleased to bring you another article by Dr. Haley Perlus, Ph.D. Sports & Exercise Psychology and certified fitness expert. I had the opportunity to meet Haley personally last year and can confirm – she walks the talk. Haley is an expert in principles and strategies that lead top athletes to top results. Her portfolio ranges from mental training to personal energy management. Most strategies can be seamlessly transferred to other areas of life – and thus to all of our daily lives. Today’s article is about appreciating the 5 big L for happiness: love, labor, learn, laughter, let go. Have fun reading, and many thanks to Dr. Haley Perlus!
The truth is it doesn’t matter how educated you are about the dos and don’ts of healthy living if you don’t have the mindset to follow through on your intentions. Mental toughness, specifically an attitude of gratitude, is an important part of health, wellness, and overall happiness. The best way to explain what it means to have an attitude of gratitude is to focus on the Gratitude Five: Love, Labor, Learn, Laughter, and Let Go.
Love. For happiness, one of the greatest shifts in perceptions is moving from an attitude of what do I have to do to what do I get to do. Although you may have begun healthy living for extrinsic motives such as lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease, when you pay attention to the strength, enthusiasm, courage, and confidence you experience, you can develop a deep love for your healthy behaviors and, even more important, a profound love for yourself.
One way to shift your perception is to replace old damaging thoughts with new, empowering, and loving thoughts that can help keep you in an attitude of gratitude and enhance positive emotions. For example, replace “My body was not meant for Yoga” with “Yoga challenges my mind and body to experience amazing things!” And replace “I hate spinach but I have to eat it” by “Eating spinach makes me feel good!”
Labor. Any worthwhile goal requires you to fight for it. Top performers understand that to experience ultimate pleasure, they often endure some discomfort. What helps them to cope with the pain is acknowledging it exists, accepting that it’s part of the process, and being grateful for it because it is a sign they are on the right path to personal excellence. A good friend once told me that, in every training session, he experiences a moment of struggle. It’s in this moment when he says to himself, “why am I putting myself through this?” He then reminds himself of his performance goals and immediately shifts his perception to one of gratitude for the struggle. It’s the struggle of that last pull up, mile run, or five more second hold, that can make your goals a reality. Take this lesson into every aspect of your life that requires some discomfort, but eventual peace and happiness.
Learn. Many of my clients explain to me that learning about healthy living is overwhelming and confusing. They want someone who will tell them what to eat and how to exercise. How about you? Would it be easier if someone just gave you a set menu each day, told you how to move to exert the most calories, and sent you on your way? Although I understand the desire, I also know that, without a clear understanding of why you eat and exercise a certain way, the behavior of simply following someone else’s instructions will not help you to get results that last. Every day, you can learn new information about all aspects of health. I recommend setting a goal to sift through the content and pick one tip to experiment with. Focusing on one tip to implement can help eliminate feeling overwhelmed and make room to truly appreciate what you just learned and how it can help you to be your best self.
Laughter. I know that your health and performance is serious stuff. That said, when you do make a mistake, appreciating the experience and using laughter to move through it can help you to bounce back quickly. Humor is a main ingredient for health, happiness, and resilience. The next time you find yourself feeling awkward in a new yoga pose, tripping on your trail run, or burning a new recipe in the oven, do your best to be grateful for what that experience has taught you. Laugh at yourself to make the moment less intense. Then, you’ll be able to not just move forward quickly, but also with a fun story to share with others.
Let Go. Professional athletes are obsessed with their performance, but most are equally grateful for the time off the field. Your goals are important – as they should be. When it’s time to eat and exercise, exert maximum effort towards your goals. Then, leave them “on the field” and carry out the rest of your day with equal enthusiasm, dedication, and gratitude.
The Gratitude Five provide a great
overview of what it means to have an attitude of gratitude that can help your be
your best self. Experiment with one today and observe how it can influence your
thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and ultimately help your ability to achieve
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” (Mike Tyson)
These straight words of Mike Tyson launched a wonderful blog article by Förster & Kreuz this week. It describes why the ordinary act of making plans no longer works in today’s world and what we can do instead to move forward and to avoid getting stuck.
The quote inspired another thought in my mind:
Way too often we invest our energy into the wrong actions – making detailed plans and thinking and planning everything a thousand times is part of it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that we shouldn’t think and plan at all. But if the unpredictability of things is continuously increasing and the aspects contributing to a situation are becoming ever more numerous, complex and confusing, and the shelf-life of knowledge ever shorter, in other words, if life is always changing according to chaotic principles, how is something like a static plan supposed to work?
However, we still do have this need to plan – but is less the situation but rather us asking for this plan. Reflecting, considering and coordinating gives us a feeling of control and security – in what is actually an uncontrollable environment. Maybe you are one of those people who always intensify their planning actions when they think that a situation is slipping away from them or that a feeling of helplessness is creeping in due to circumstances that have never been experienced before?
But what else if not planning can give us that feeling of security in the chaos? What should we do instead of measuring, weighing, assessing, judging?
Don’t occupy your mind with increasing your knowledge about waves – instead, train your competence to ride them.
I’m not a surfer, but the image immediately comes to my mind when I consider the circumstances described above. What good is it for the surfer if he knows everything about waves, their origin, course, occurrence, duration, size, volume, speed – when he stands on his board and faces a unprecedented wave and he simply lacks the ease in his knees and the practice of standing it?
So, let’s rather put our energy into building up our abilities to deal with whatever comes our way in a confident, solution-oriented and easy way.
The last months have brought numerous unprecendented waves – and the sea of our reality will probably remain quite rough in the future.
What do we need to
Openness to change
Pioneering spirit and curiosity
Focus – in the here and now!
Willingness to collaborate
Willingness to learn and develop
Positive attitude towards mistakes
Where do you encounter situations in everyday life where you can practice this?
Whenever you catch yourself thinking or using words like “if, then …”, “he/she should …”, “I can’t help it, that’s …”, it is time to put an inner stop to yourself and ask yourself: “what was/is YOUR contribution to the situation? What can YOU do to accept/change/complete/leave it? (Regardless of the behaviour or opinion of other people – you are the only one responsible for your life).
When was the last time something changed in your life? Without your intervention? Maybe even against your will? In a way you didn’t like? How did you react? How much energy did you put into the resistance against unchangeable circumstances? If the wave is too big, too fast, too wild, it doesn’t help to complain about it. Accepting change is especially easy to train if you deliberately step out of your comfort zone from time to time in your everyday life – controlled uncomfort, so to speak. Approaching people when you are shy, wearing something you usually would never wear, going on vacation without a room reservation, etc.
There is a traffic jam on the planned route? The ingredients planned for dinner are no longer available in the supermarket? Your guests arrive half an hour early? How do you feel about this? Try “wow, maybe I’ll discover new ways to avoid the traffic jam “. – “I wonder what happens if ingredient x is replaced by ingredient y? This will then be my secret recipe!” or “Hey, glad you’re here! Will you help me with the preparations?”
Do you ever find yourself thinking, “If only I had…” – don’t bother. It won’t do any good to solve the situation you’re in now. Worse still, it draws important energy from the here and now and puts it into the past – which you can’t change anyway. Focus all your attention on the only “time” you have influence in – the present moment. What exactly do you perceive NOW? What can you do NOW?
When was the last time you asked someone for help? Or for an opinion? Getting ideas and suggestions? What is stopping you? Maybe the fact that you see the situation you have to cope with in a completely different way than others? That’s a good thing! The more perspectives, the more possible solutions! None is wrong or right – and many are worth a try! Because if you do, what you hace always done you will get what you always got.
Ask yourself every evening what you have learned over the day. Learning is to be understood in a broader sense. It can also come as knowledge – about yourself, others, life, a situation … or discovery – of something new – in your environment, everyday life, about yourself … But maybe you have also experienced something interesting? It doesn’t matter – the important thing is that you never assume that you have finished learning. Because what you have learned today will be obsolete the day after tomorrow.
How do you deal with yourself when you make a mistake, forget something or something goes wrong? And what is your attitude towards the fallibility of your fellow human beings? Without mistakes there is no learning. Wanting to avoid mistakes means paralysing yourself and not developing any further. Where do you not dare to take the next step for fear of doing something wrong or failing?
All this may sound like a lot.
I would say get on the board and ride the waves. And then – one after the other, ease in your knees and – enjoy the ride!
Google search: Relaxation – about 374.000.000 results Mindfulness – about 119.000.000 results Meditation – about 399.000.000 results Emotional intelligence – about 243.000.000 results Resilience – about 89.100.000 results
What topic to chose if it looks like all is said and written already?
This week I would like to invite you not to consume more knowledge, but act upon it. Because knowledge is not competence. How often do you think – while reading or listeing to an article or podcast: “Yeah, no new news – I knew all that already.”? But what do you do with all this knowledge? Could you have generated it if someone had asked you? And above all: do you know how to apply it?
Knowing everything about a topic does not make us competent. Knowledge is the foundation, but competence means moving from knowledge into action, i.e. applying our knowledge and developing abilities and skills – and above all, havint the willingness to do so.
In order to be competent in a field, you need …
Skills and abilities learned on the basis of this knowledge
The willingness to apply and implement these skills and abilities
The ability to transfer what has been learned to future situations (even if these are only similar to the situation learned)
Let us assume that you have a tendency to brood. Your mind wanders from one topic to another, from one stick to the next – and never comes to rest. It is always present, this voice in your head – the so-called “Monkey Mind”. You investigate what you can do about it and find the 5-4-3-2-1 method.
You now know that this method exists and how it works and you think: “Cool, I have to try it.”
During your next “Monkey Mind Phase” you remember the method and try it out. It doesn’t work right away – your mind moves on. But you stay with it until it works.
You repeat the method every time your mind starts its mental chatter again – to get better at stopping it.
A few weeks later you are confronted with a situation so complex that it is totally overwhelming. You do not know where to start. Your mind feels totally blocked, you can’t think a single rational thought. You ask yourself if the Monkey Mind method works in this case and you try it out. And – surprise – your mind relaxes and it is easier for you to make a plan.
I think the current situation presents a lot of opportunities to apply what we know and have learned in theory. It’s the best time to try out if it works. What about the competence of “accepting what is” when you are sent on furlough? What do we do with the knowledge that socializing helps to reduce stress in times of social distancing? And if we are aware of how important it is to focus and think in a solution-oriented way – how well do we succeed when we are exposed to the daily news?
So before I write about a new topic today, I would like to invite you to browse through the old ones.
In which one could you increase your competence? Which knowledge is waiting for application? In which area is it time to put your knowledge into action and develop skills to make you feel better?
-> Pick one thing. -> Take ONE action to move from knowing to doing, -> Dedicate yourself to this action once a day. -> Reflect on the other situations in which you could benefit from this competence and – apply it there as well!
“When I look back now, I wonder how I managed to master this situation,” said a dear friend of mine the other day as we talked about changes in life.
Does this sound familiar to you? Sometimes life delivers a task or situation that seems to be too big for us to cope with. Thoughts like “How shall I ever master this situation?” or “And now?” arise. And then, some time later, we look back and think – “My goodness, if someone had told me I could do this, I would have said he is crazy!”
It’s amazing what we are able to do, how we know how to mobilize our inner strength when we have to, when we seem to have no choice. Suddenly we have a razor-sharp focus, a purpose. We hold on, secondary issues are consequently sent to the second row. Our determination grows, all energy is collected and directed to master the task at hand – no matter what its nature (and I’m talking about life-changing circumstances, situations that put a stop to your everyday routine).
Why I am writing this? Because I think that in situations that seem too big or hopeless, we should remind ourselves from time to time what we already have mastered in the past. And we should allow ourselves the thought that we have not reached our limit yet. There is this reserve that our sophisticated system of body and mind keeps for emergencies – and only releases it in such cases.
So when you are at a point in your life that seems to overwhelm you…
Accept the situation. It is as it is – do not lose valuable energy in anger about it!
Admit that you feel overwhelmed. This is fine. Say it: “I feel overwhelmed right now.” As soon as you acknowledge your feelings (only perceive them, do not judge or even draw conclusions) pressure goes down.
Look back and remember what you have already mastered in the past and draw confidence from it.
Then look ahead: assuming you have done everything with flying colours – what does your desired result look like? What do you see, feel, do ? Have a vision in mind that is clear enough to set the focus – but not so detailed that you lose flexibility for other or better ways to reach your goal. It’s a bit like looking for an apartment – if you know what you want, your eye will be sharpened for the right ads – and you can safely ignore all others.
Give yourself time and allow your mind to take breaks so that it can process. It will sort out the impressions and feed your intuition with them. The subconsciousness continues its work – even when you sleep.
Be diligent and hold on – but also trust that ways or solutions will perhaps show up unexpectedly. Practice calm and confident attention.
And finally a saying that has already helped me in difficult situations: “The universe only sends you tasks it thinks you can handle.” So be proud – the universe thinks you can do a lot – so think alike! 😉