Angels on Earth

Photo: Pixabay

Where angels dwell, there is heaven,
even in the midst of the tumult of the world.

Ḫāǧe Šams ad-Dīn Moḥammad Ḥāfeẓ-e Šīrāzī

Even if you don’t believe in angels, read on. When the term came to my mind this morning, I wasn’t thinking of heaven sent, winged messengers, but rather of “real people”.
This year has been a rollercoaster ride – and it looks like we’ll be doing a few more rides in the coming year. But you and I – we have made it this far. And I’m sure you, too, weren’t alone on the ride.

Who are the angels in your life?
Who was an angel for you particularly this year ?
Who has done you good?
Who has lifted you up?
Who was there for you – listened to you, gave you space?
Who has inspired you, has helped you to grow wings?

And – do these people know that they were or are angels to you?

In one of my last trainings, at the end, each participant was asked to write down something positive about every other participant. The small feedback slips were then handed over personally, the participants looked each other in the eye and spoke out what they had written down. Sounds simple. But it was incredibly powerful. The energy that was in the room at the end really did lift everyone up. At the beginning, it was noticeable how unfamiliar it is for most of us 1. to formulate valuable and substantial positive feedback that goes beyond a “thank you”, 2. to actually express such feedback and 3. to accept it – without feeling weird, without talking it down. But with each feedback, the insecurity diminished and appreciation filled the room.
There is hardly a better way to express appreciation. To be able to say exactly what you like about the other person requires that you engage with him or her, that you think about that person more thoroughly.
Perhaps we are often aware of many things – but rarely do we say them.
We are quick to take many things for granted, good at formulating what we lack – without seeing what we already have.
Sometimes we wait for the big miracle – and overlook the many small ones around us.
Sometimes we overload people with our expectations – not recognizing how much they already do for us.

Which of your angels could you show your appreciation in the next few days?

And:
To whom could you be an angel?
How?

Let’s move closer together.
This is also possible with physical distance and masks – through actions, words, looks, a loving and benevolent attitude.

Let us be more angels to each other, let us grow wings – because many things are easier when we are lifted up.

Have a good week!

Birgit

Set out on the path – YOUR path!

Photo: Pixabay

Today I want to share a story with you that I discovered in a TEDx Talk by Master Shi Hen Yi (Shaolin Monk) (link below this article if you are interested in the whole talk).
Because I love stories!
Because Christmas is around the corner – and Christmas is the time of stories.
And because I think it fits perfectly into this time when we often think about which path we should take in the following year.
Enjoy.

A man was living close to a mountain. And every day he was thinking: “How would it be to climb that moutain and what would I see on the peak?” So finally the day came, and the man went on the journey. Arriving at the foot of the mountain, he met the first traveller. So he asked: “How did you get up the mountain and what did you see from the top?” And so the traveller shared his path and also the view that he had. But then the man was thinking: “The way that this traveller decribed to me sounds very exhausting. I need to find another way to climb.” So he continued to walk on the foot of the mountain until he met the next traveller. So once again he asked: “How did you climb up that mountain and what did you see from the top?” And so again the traveller shared his story.
Still not being determined on which direction and way to go, the man asked 30 more people. When he finished talking to all of them, he finally made up his mind. “Now that so many people already shared with me their path and also what they saw from the top, I don’t need to climb there anymore.”

“You can be shown the way, but you have to walk it yourself.”

Bruce Lee

It is very unfortunate, this man never went on the journey.
Because:

  • Each individual needs to find the most suitable way to climb that mountain
  • There is information possible to be shared with words – but it is impossible to share the experience of clarity when you are standing on that peak by yourself
  • We can only find out for ourselves what efforts are necessary for us to reach the summit. Only in this way can we gain more knowledge about ourselves.
  • More clarity about ourselves means also seeing other things more clearly, becoming aware of which decisions are the right ones for us in order to get closer to our goals. We can decide from within ourselves, gain faith in ourselves – and thus lose the doubt and insecurity that grows the with the number of people telling us, what to do.
  • This clarity increases our focus and determination = less distraction = more sense of achievement = more self-efficacy = more happiness!

Is there a mountain that you have “given up” on climbing – but which still gives you no peace?

Where do you rely on the paths of others because you have not yet explored yours?

What’s your summit for the next year?

Set out on the path!

Yours, Birgit

Are you sober?

Photo: Pixabay


I’m not asking this because it’s mulled wine time. You can have it 😉
But when I decided to abstain from alcohol in November, I realized that we numb our bodies with all kinds of things – sometimes quite unconsciously.
Often we only notice it when we “sober up” in the corresponding area – that is, when we practice abstinence for a while. If we consume something regularly, we get used to it very quickly – and lose the feeling for the right measure. Anyone who has ever used the same perfume or aftershave for a longer period of time will be familiar with this: after a while, you get the feeling that the scent fades much faster. But the truth is that we perceive it less and less because our nose has already become accustomed to it. And when things go badly (for our fellow human beings ;-)) we continuously increase the amount until we smell it again.

“Anesthesia” can set in when we need more and more of something that boosts our reward system in the brain to achieve the desired feeling of happiness.
Or when we continuously distract ourselves to hide away from feeling.

Here is a small selection of common “anesthetics”:

  • Alcohol (to relax and unwind)
  • Sugar (happiness kick)
  • Caffeine (energy kick)
  • Food (do you eat for hunger or appetite?)
  • Work (“one more …. If I first… then …”)
  • Thoughts (brooding)
  • Social media / cell phone (the like kick, satisfying curiosity)
  • Television
  • Sports (“relief kick” upon completion)
  • Busyness (always having something to do, even if it’s not actually useful or necessary; no breaks)
  • Shopping (rewarding myself)
  • News (“excitement kick”)

You can find out if you are still enjoying and consuming at a normal level or are already in numbing mode by answering these questions:

Can you enjoy it without immediately wanting more?

Do you consume consciously or casually? (e.g. messages in the cell phone or the bag of chips).

Do you feel after a certain amount a physical or emotional “enough” (saturation)?

Are you aware of how often and how much you consume?

Are you aware in which situations you reach for the respective “narcotic” and which craving you actually want to satisfy with it?

Do you sometimes consume so much of it that you only notice the “overdose” when you are no longer feeling well?

Can you do without it for a certain period of time without any problems? (Answer yes only after you have tried it – you will be surprised …).

Maybe you would like to start an experiment during the next days and weeks and do without one of your favorite “narcotics”?
It is definitely worth it! If you succeed, you will:

  • gain exciting insights about yourself
  • regain a sense of control
  • become more mindful and aware of your feelings
  • be more in touch with your body and its signals again
  • regain the feeling for the right (healthy) measure
  • use this awareness to better control what is good for you
  • taste, feel and perceive the respective “remedy” more intensively after the renunciation
  • feel clearer, stronger and more alive!

And: when you are in contact with yourself again, you can apply this conscious mindfulness to other areas.

How does that sound?

Here’s to more clarity and liveliness!

Birgit

7 Steps to Strengthen your Resilience-Muscle

Photo: Pixabay

The other day I put on my running shoes and started running – although it rained a little.
While on track the rain got heavier and the wind blew from the front.
And although the water ran down my face, something happened to me during this run and I finally had to smile. I noticed how I was running out of my comfort zone and – that I enjoyed it. I felt alive, pure, present in the moment.

Yes, it’s about liveliness. It’s about standing the rain – or the wind. To get connected with your feelings, with the present moment.
And it’s about how exactly this can increase your resilience.

Admittedly, if we compare this year with a general weather situation, you could say that we have been in the rain quite a bit so far and any forecast was and is about as reliable as the weather report 😉
For such a situation there is no suitable exercise.
But it is a bit like marathon training. It also happens in small, intensive run segments, but all of them are shorter than 43 km.

How we cope with and deal with uncomfortable situations depends on the extent of which we are used to them. You won’t gain resistance and stamina if you take it easy or always choose the path of least resistance.

Our resilience is like a muscle for endurance. It can be trained – and it is advisable to do so continuously in order to be strong enough when it counts.

The training steps for your resilience muscle are always the same – whether voluntary or involuntary:

1. Awareness – You notice that something is stressing you or is triggering unpleasant thoughts and feelings in you. You discover a trigger and at the same time an area where you need more resilience. Let’s stay with my run. As the rain increased and I got wetter and wetter, I thought “Oh no, no!” I also noticed how I increased my pace.

2. Acceptance – Accepting means to accept the insight on your trigger. “Ok, I’m not used to walking in the rain” or “I don’t like walking with wet feet”.

3. Endurance – There is no way around it – only right through it. Especially in situations that we cannot choose, the simple and moving motto now is: “Face it, stand it, endure it.”

4. Adapting – Adapting can help with endurance and can affect both our behaviour and our thoughts. Can you do something different in an unpleasant situation to make it easier for you? Which thoughts would be helpful now? What should you focus on to make you feel better? “One step at a time – just keep going! – or “Haha, others go to the beautician and have their skin moistened so that it looks fresher. I have this included :-).” or “Oh, what am I looking forward to a warm shower and a tea afterwards.”

5. Recovery – Without question – enduring and adapting drains energy. Therefore it is important to allow yourself a phase of regeneration after such a strain. Your resilience muscle grows during the rest phase – just like any other muscle. I really enjoyed a long shower and put on some nice music for tea afterwards.

6. Learning – Reflection phase when the situation is over. How hard did you find it to bear? Which adaptation strategies worked particularly well? What can you learn from this for the next time? Changing my thoughts helped me a lot – and even brought a smile to my lips (I was thinking about it with the beautician ;-)) Learning: Running in the rain is cool and I can do it.

7. Adjusting – Put your insights into practice. What will you do (differently) next time? I will go running in the rain again and have bought a rain jacket. I am looking forward to the awesome feeling again!

It was especially exciting for me that I benefited in two ways just by changing my mindset in the situation: I felt alive and happy – and I trained my endurance and also made myself independent of the weather in my running schedule in the future.

When was the last time you trained yourself in accepting and enduring?
When did you voluntarily choose the more unpleasant option?
Or when did you consciously stay in an unpleasant situation and make it your teacher?

How and where could you consciously stand “in the rain” in the coming week to train your resilience muscle?

Leave the umbrella at home and dive into life!

Birgit

Life is not a walk in the park. Why not?

Photo: Pixabay

Who said it always has to be hard?
Sure, not everything is always easy and simple. But often we have the tendency to make things difficult for ourselves.
That is when good things happen to us, when something gets off our hands easily, when something falls into our laps, when we manage something on our own, when we get something effortlessly.
If that is the case, can you accept it, can you enjoy it, can you be happy about it?
Or do you become suspicious?
Do you wonder what the catch is?
Or if your are worth it?

And while you are brooding or playing down your happiness, you remove the magic from the situation and the joy from yourself.

That’s not very helpful – but there’s a reason for it.
There are two main phenomena that bring this heaviness into our lives:
Our socialisation and the convictions and beliefs associated with it and our own upper limit of happiness.

Only the strong survive – Our socialisation

There are a number of sayings that are intended to make it clear that life is not a bowl of cherries (that’s another one ;-)) You have probably already encountered them: “No pain, no gain”, “pride goes before a fall”, etc.
Achieving something without effort? No real achievment.
Something is available at a reasonable price? That cannot be of quality.
And even when it comes to choosing a better half – “make yourself scarce”.
Even marketing uses this belief. The so-called “scarcity principle” ensures that we consider something particularly desirable and valuable when it is hard to get or it’s only available in a small number. Hence, sometimes an artificial scarcity is created to drive the price. (Limited edition, exclusive membership …)

Your upper limit of happiness

And then there is a kind of inner boundary. There is something like a personal happiness limit. Whenever the degree of happiness that happens to us exceeds (or falls short of) previously known ranges, it feels strange. As if something has gone out of balance. And since our inner system is always focused on maintaining the known state with as little effort as possible, our subconscious mind starts to initiate thoughts and behaviour that ensure “that we don’t exaggerate our happiness”. Therefore, as research has shown, even after major happiness events, such as winning the lottery, we snap back to the original level of happiness after a certain time.

Thus, increasing your happiness level asks for entering new emotional territory and to allow and accept joy and ease.

So the next time something nice happens to you or someone does something good to you (e.g. shares positive feedback and appreciation), accept it, absorb it and allow yourself to be happy about it.
The energy that this joy gives you can then be used to tackle real challenges with more confidence.

“Whether life is a walk in the park or not depends a lot on whether you walk with your head down most of the time or if you decide to lift your perspective, look up and recognise the wonderful nature that surrounds you.

Do you want to be well?
Do you allow yourself to be happy?
Can it be easy?

I wish you a wonderful Advent season with easy moments and that you may succeed in accepting them and increasing your happiness level!

Yours, Birgit

PS: little warning about the risks and side effects: it is possible that people in your environment will react a little irritated if you leave the path of reasonable seriousness and problematisation in the future. But maybe one or the other wants to walk with you 😉

Nothing

Photo: Pixabay

Today I would like to invite you to do something that is super important for your personal development: nothing!
Yes, you read correctly! Growth does not take place during periods of stress – but during the following periods of rest.
This is not only the case in sports, where muscle growth is only enabled by training breaks. The principle can also be found in other areas:

It is easier to find solutions if we make ourselves aware of the challenge – and then let go (it’s for a reason that brilliant ideas rarely show up if we ponder hard enough, but rather in moments when we no longer think about the problem).

We process emotions in our sleep, e.g. by dreaming (by the way – everyone is dreaming – about it – even if not everyone can remember).

We learning experiences only stick when we allow the mind to rest in order to sort them correctly in our synaptic library.

Now, before you take it literally and switch off, there is one more thing that is important: Your emotional mindset. Your “lazy day” will only have a positive effect if you really allow yourself to have it and give yourself an okay – without a guilty conscience!

So – go ahead and treat yourself!
(And in case you need it: I hereby officially give you permission to do so ;-))

Enjoy the nothing,

Birgit

Magic Sports

Photo: Pixabay

While doing my running routine along the Neckar yesterday morning, the humid autumn air in my nose and the morning sun on my back, I thought: isn’t sport amazing! It almost felt as if I could run away from this weird situation – which is now going into another round with the Soft Lock Down. And it is indeed a bit like that.
That’s why I want to promote sports this week.
It doesn’t have to be running – no matter what kind of sport will make you sweat – it will do you good on several levels and provide exactly what you need to be physically and mentally strengthened to cope with whatever comes your way.

In order for us to feel good in the sense of salutogenesis (a concept that explores how health can be established and maintained), we need a sense of meaning, comprehensibility and manageability of what is happening and what we are dealing with.

We feel good, when we

  • are able to act in a self-determined way
  • have a sense of control
  • experience self-efficacy
  • contribute to something meaningful
  • do something that we are mastering, that challenges us and encourages us – at best even lets us get into the flow
  • have a sense of achievement

A regular sport unit can be an island in your everyday life, which includes all this!

  • You decide when, where, what and how often you exercise.
  • You can control the process, train at your own pace and rhythm.
  • Planning the sport unit, completing it successfully and even noticing positive changes in your shape and fitness after a while strengthens your self-esteem and self-confidence – and gives your ego a boost – you’re really on top of it!
  • Furthermore you make a valuable contribution to your health – not only the physical, but also the mental health.

“Everything that is good for the body helps the soul.”
Prof. Dr. Manfred Spitzer

Plus: If you choose an activity that you really enjoy or combine it with something you love to motivate you (e.g. a beautiful place in nature or your favourite music to your ears), the whole thing is even more effective.

So, get at the helm of your well-being and enjoy your sportive island – best outside to get some fresh air!

Be good to yourself and take care!

Birgit

Do you see people in 3D?

Photo: Pixabay

“You only know what’s beyond the horizon if you are able to cross it.”

I remembered how enriching but also how challenging it can be to broaden one’s own horizon, i.e. to exceed one’s mental or even physical limits just recently, when I recalled a series of films I saw on YouTube a few years ago.
It is HUMAN by Yann Arthus-Bertrand (link at the end of the article).
As a photographer, journalist and environmentalist, Arthus-Bertrand is known for his breathtaking bird’s eye views. The film series HUMAN consists of three parts, which are not films in the classical sense. Within 90 minutes each, the faces of people of different origins, genders, ages and cultures are shown in front of a black background. These people report on their experiences and views on the “great themes of humanity” such as love, war, death, poverty, work etc. The close-ups of the people alternate with pictures of their countries from a bird’s eye view.

As simple as the concept of the film may sound, all three parts totally captivated me. Looking into the eyes of these people – and equally into their souls and what moves them – moved e. It is the fact that it’s just statements and stories in the film – not commented or evaluated – that viewer to evaluate. You are not told what to think about it – instead, the film confronts you inwardly with your own opinion.
Some perspectives and stories sounded familiar and understandable, others challenged me, astonished me and pushed me to the limits of my beliefs. For when I suddenly perceived situations from the perspective of the person telling the story, with all the emotions that went with it, my inner “commentary” changed and my view became wider. It was as if I had previously looked at an object from only one side and someone invited me to walk around the object and look at it from behind.
The picture became more complete, got new facets and dimensions, became 3D.

How often do we look at the world in 1D?
How often do we not want to leave our point of view and change to another perspective?
Why should we?
Because the world is much more beautiful in 3D 🙂

Seriously:
Getting involved with someone else’s perspective, widening one’s view and heart and thus broadening one’s horizon has many advantages:

The more we have seen – and if only through the eyes of the other person – the …

… easier it becomes to appreciate differences. We no longer see them as obstacles, but accept them or even see them as enrichment.

… more we consider to be possible. If we consider more to be possible, we generate more options for action. More options for action in turn lead to better decisions and improved problem solving. And if we can solve problems more easily, we have less stress. So we become “fitter” in the sense of more adaptable.

… more we become more aware of our own perspective, feel our limits and where we run the risk of isolating ourselves.

… more we become more aware that what may be normal for us can cause a strange feelings in others and vice versa. This improves our social and emotional competence.

… more grateful we look at many aspects of our own life.

… more humble we become with regard to our beliefs.

… more we perceive the world and people in a multi-faceted way.

… more we improve our ability to really get involved with our counterpart and to build up a connection.

The good thing about it is that the world becomes much more colourful and diverse for us. The price for this is that we have to say goodbye to quite simple black and white / good-bad thinking. This can be challenging because our own convictions of what is wrong and right or who is good and who is evil give us supposed orientation, support and security. But they equally prevent us from approaching each other benevolently, openly and with the best of intentions.

If you are ready to see people in 3D, then

– why don’t you take some time next week and listen openly to someone you “don’t understand at all”? Let yourself in and become aware of your limits – and then dissolve them very gently.
– look for an opportunity to volunteer in a field that opens up new perspectives (e.g. helping out in the soup kitchen, reading to children …)
– take a look at HUMAN – or if you prefer more action: I think the film “Avatar” wonderful opportunities to changing perspectives. .(Funnily enough, it even ran in 3D in the cinema ;-))

Good luck looking through the 3D glasses – there is a lot to discover!

Birgit

HUMAN – Vol. 1
HUMAN – Vol. 2
HUMAN – Vol. 3

Avatar

7 Tipps For Being Alone Without Loneliness

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Man is a social being. Even if you may sometimes long for quiet moments on your own – we need contact with other people, exchange, a feeling of belonging, a sense of attachment.
This is why the last weeks and months are a great challenge, also from a psychological point of view.
Not only because we have to keep our distance and can only perceive a small part of the meaningful facial expressions of the other person because of the masks, but also because for some people a feeling of social detachment can quickly arise in the home office. Those who are missing the feeling of making a contribution because of short-time work and are home alone should be careful not to get into a situation where being alone suddenly turns into a feeling of loneliness.

The following points can help you to maintain confidence and mental well-being despite adverse circumstances:

  1. Regular daily routine: For many people, nothing is the way it used to be; work is done on a smaller scale – or the work is temporarily absent or has to be accomplished in another location. Whatever has changed, try to maintain a regular daily routine. Routines give our soul stability and security – and compensate for the many other imponderables. If you are currently on 100% short-time work, get up at the same time and start the day as usual. As nice as the thought of going with the flow may be at first, avoid “getting bogged down”. Even in home office, a trend has now become established that is supposed to give the brain the signals for “start of work” and “end of day”: fake commuting. Some home office workers leave the house in the morning as usual – as if they were going to work, and then return to their workplace (at home) after a walk around the block. This also makes it easier to switch from work to private mode.
  2. Daily plan and conscious start: Even with no or reduced work: make a daily plan with the most important tasks you want to accomplish that day. For sure there are many things you have always wanted to do: self development, gardening, the sports unit, household repairs … successfully completing tasks gives us the satisfying feeling of contribution and self-efficacy. And then …
  3. Recognize your achievements: When you have completed one task, make a short break before moving on to the next. And in the evening, look back on the day and write down your accomplishments.
  4. Healthy lifestyle: Make sure you get enough sleep, eat healthy food and exercise every day. A balanced and healthy body is a good resource when your mind is out of balance (which is not that often the case when we are physically balanced).
  5. Treat yourself to something special: Take a bath, read your favourite book, do handicrafts or do something else that gives you energy and joy. This also means that you are worth it to perpare regular meals for yourself with joy and care.
  6. Cheat Day: Yes, you can treat yourself to a day now and then when you can the reins relax. Staying in bed for a long time, binge watching of your favourite show, couching, putting pizza in the oven — whatever it looks like to you. Let go.
  7. Stay in touch: Even if we think it’s a bad substitute – phone calls and video calls are still better than no contact! So why not arrange for a virtual coffee or a glass of wine together via Zoom or Skype. Until it is possible again to meet in person, this is a good way to see each other without any risks.

Take care of yourself and be good to yourself! Be your best friend – you are wonderful!

Stay healthy,
Birgit

Let mind wander

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Today I read an article about how important it is to let your thoughts wander from time to time. In today’s world of optimisation and efficiency increase, lost thoughts are rather seen as counterproductive. But far from it.
The corset in which we like to put our mind regarding the many things to be done and with which we want to make it work and work out in a controlled way, might have just the opposite effect.
Yes, focus is good and important. When we devote ourselves to a task, we should be there with full attention. But when focused concentration turns into strained short-sightedness, productivity is quickly dying. Maybe you know this – it feels as if your mind winds into a task. Your gaze becomes narrower and narrower, your mood more and more strained, your neck stiffer and stiffer. You forget to drink, eat and you sit on it for hours. But instead of an exhilarating flow you feel slower and slower.
Sometimes your mind wanders away exactly in such a situation.
But instead of calling it back strictly, let it go. Maybe it is especially important to get you out of your tension in that moment.
Sometimes your thoughts drift away if you give them space to do so. Just take a deep breath and lean back.

“I have never made any of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.”
Albert Einstein

From whatever situation your mind decides to go its own way – release it and follow it with ease and curiously on its (sometimes chaotic) path.
Allow yourself and your mind the mental relaxation exercise and enjoy the mental break like a walk – just for the sake of the walk.

Maybe you will come up with new ideas. The best ideas and solutions are usually found in the most unusual moments (especially when you are not looking for them).
However, it will certainly be easier for you to concentrate and to devote yourself to your tasks again with pleasure afterwards.

Happy drifting and good luck for the coming week!

Birgit