Tag Archives: mindfulness

The Secret To Achieving Inner Peace and Satisfaction

Would you like to achieve more satisfaction with life and experience more inner peace?  We all do, don’t we? To some degree or another we want to feel more inner peace and overall satisfaction, but we don’t know how to go about it.  We spend hours, days, months, even years trying to figure out how to make that happen.  Teacher after teacher has spoken on this subject and has revealed the key that unlocks the door to these most-sought after treasures, personal satisfaction and inner peace.  The key to which I refer is Gratitude, and now we even have scientific research to back it up.

Studies conducted by Professor Robert Emmons at the University of California at Davis found a direct link between gratitude and a deep sense of satisfaction with life.  He found that people who practiced gratitude through the use of journals on a regular basis exercised more regularly, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who wrote about negative or even neutral life events. In addition, participants who kept the gratitude journals were more likely to make progress towards their personal goals in life.  Here are some of his conclusions based on his findings:

  1. People with a strong disposition toward gratitude have the capacity to be empathic and to take the perspective of others.
  2. Grateful individuals place less importance on material goods.
  3. They are less likely to judge their own and others success in terms of possessions accumulated.
  4. They are less envious of wealthy persons, and are more likely to share their possessions with others.
  5. They reported higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy.
  6. Participants were more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or having offered emotional support to another.

 How can we learn to cultivate gratitude? 

Focusing on what we do have versus what we don’t have seems to be the key. Reminding ourselves on a daily basis of all the things that come our way keeps us grounded in gratitude instead of want.  At any given moment during the day we can stop and look for something to be thankful for.  It is during these moments that we can become truly attuned to the feeling of gratitude.  There are hundreds of such things in any given day if we choose to be mindful of them.  They add up and build upon one another to create a more centered, content and positive perspective on life.

Professor Emmons recommends keeping a record of these moments in the form of journaling.  When we feel overwhelmed and down in the dumps, we can look back at our notes and remind ourselves of just how fortunate we really are.

Also, the act of giving back compounds the effects of gratitude.  Emmons found that the act of gratitude and the act of giving back reinforce each other and lead to the inevitable: more fulfilling, meaningful and happy lives.

The research conducted also showed something else that was interesting:  grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life.  Gratitude does not mean turning a blind eye towards the misfortunes that befall us or the challenges we encounter.  However, given the perspective that gratitude gives us, we are undoubtedly more equipped to handle life’s challenges in a more positive way.

Our attitude determines how effective we are in coping with what life throws in our direction.  As we have said time and time again, our perspective on life determines our reality.  If we approach things with a perspective based on the belief that life is unfair, everything that turns up will look unfair to us.   On the other hand, the practice of gratitude will bring with it the optimism and drive necessary to handle disappointment and push past any obstacles that we may encounter.

How can we start to practice gratitude?  

We must begin with the art of mindfulness, being totally present in the moment.  This will allow us to notice all the little things that surround us, things we might take for granted if we hadn’t stopped to appreciate them.

We must acknowledge these gifts and write them down in a gratitude journal.  These little things make up the fabric of our days, our months, and our years.  We tend to not notice them because we are so caught up in the task of living.  But as they say, we must stop and smell the roses to really appreciate their beautiful fragrance.

Consider what you have been given in life.  Are you blessed with financial security?  Do you have loving children, a supportive family, a nice home?  Are you in good health?  Do you enjoy your work?  Do you have wonderful friends?  Do you have a supportive and loving companion? What does nature give to you?

Start practicing gratitude today.  Pull out a notebook and for just one minute write down anything that comes to mind that you are grateful for.  One minute is not a long time, and you’ll find that the more you do it the easier it will get.  You’re training your mind to look for things to be grateful for, and as you go through the day you’ll be collecting moment after moment and thing after thing to add to your gratitude journal.

Commit to adding to this journal every day.  A good time might be before bedtime when you have time to reflect back on your day.  Think of all the good things that occurred.  Nothing is off limits. Anything that improved your life experience in any way counts. Even the things that you may initially have considered as bad, you may have realized that in the end, they really helped you in some way.

Regardless of what it may look like, life is always working in your favor.  Anytime you find yourself in a situation that seems bad or negative, ask yourself: “Is there good for me in this situation?”  You may not immediately be able to answer in the affirmative, but as a result of you posing this question to your mind it will be looking for the good in it.

For instance, on one occasion my car would not start due to a dead battery and my first reaction was one of irritation because I was going to be late.  However, I reminded myself of the good in everything, and let go of the irritation.  It took me no more than 10 minutes to jump my battery and get on the road; as I was driving I noticed that a car accident had just occurred.  Who knows? Had I been on the road just 10 minutes earlier, I might have been involved in that accident.  The thought of that possibility caused me to feel grateful for my dead battery. I don’t know about you, but I’ll pick a dead battery any day instead of a car accident.

Rhonda Byrne, author of the book “The Magic,” offers another very useful tip to really cultivate the emotion of gratitude.  She recommends that next to every item that you add to your gratitude list you also add the reason why you’re grateful for it.  This prompts your whole being to truly get into the act of appreciating the things that you have listed, rather than just making a list of those things.

Again, journaling at night just before you go to sleep may be ideal for you.  You may just find out that once you’re done writing in your gratitude journal, you’ll be able to sleep better.  And isn’t that something else to be grateful for?

Do you have any questions or comments you’d like to share?  Drop me a line in the comment box below, or email me directly at jc@effect180.com.  I’d love to hear from you.

To your success!


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Remember This The Next Time You Feel Like You’ve Lost Your Way In Life

A few days ago I was driving to a store to which I had never been before located in a different city.  I wasn’t very familiar with the area where it was located so I plugged the address into my GPS, turned up the speaker volume and prepared to be navigated to my destination.

I was following directions as they were spoken to me and driving right along when I went into one of those autopilot moments and didn’t realize that my turn was coming up in less than 100 feet.

Unfortunately I was driving in the middle lane and there were cars on the lane next to me so there was no way I was going to be able to make my turn.  I had no choice but to continue driving straight.  Needless to say, I was frustrated.

I started beating on myself for getting distracted.  I should have been paying attention to the directions, what was I thinking?  If only I had been paying attention this would not have happened.  Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

In the meantime, my GPS went about its job and in a few seconds I heard it say, “Re-routing;” a few seconds later it said in its usual calm and matter-of-fact tone, “In 500 feet make a legal u-turn”.

I finally made it to my destination with no further incident (I was focused on the directions this time), but on my way back I had time to think about what had transpired earlier.  It occurred to me that while I was sitting in my car frustrated and beating on myself for not paying attention to the directions, my GPS simply re-calculated the route and continued guiding me towards my destination.

I then started thinking of how often this happens to us in everyday life, and how often we get distracted and stop listening to our internal GPS.  We all have one, you know. And if we know how to use it, it can help us get to our destination using the shortest route possible.  It can re-route us if we missed our turn or had to take a detour for whatever reason, and it can set us back on course.

But like an electronic GPS, we must make use of it in order for it to work.  Here are a few suggestions I thought of on how we can make the best use of our internal GPS.  I will compare each suggestion to an electronic GPS for illustration purposes:

We must use it
I’m sure you would agree that it would make no sense whatsoever to have a GPS in the car but not turn it on and not plug in the address, but expect it to direct us to our destination.  That would be illogical, wouldn’t it?  We know that in order for the electronic GPS to guide us to where we want to go we must  turn it on and plug in the address of our destination.

So it is with our internal GPS.  We must decide what we want to accomplish in life, what goals we want to achieve, what dreams we want to fulfill, and set them as our destination by thinking about them often and visualizing the end result, so that they become plugged into our internal GPS.

We must be clear
What would happen if instead of plugging in an exact address into our electronic GPS we entered a “general location?”  The GPS would still do its job of guiding us towards the general location, but it would not know how to get us to the exact place where we want to go, because it has no clarity.

Similarly, when we are unclear about where we want to go with our lives, or what specific goals we want to accomplish, our internal GPS will fail to guide us towards them.  It is not enough to have “a general idea” of where we want to go.  We must be clear about our goals so that our internal GPS can do its job of guiding us directly to them and not just in their general direction.

We must listen to it
The electronic GPS will do its job of guiding us towards our destination following the shortest route.  But this will not do us any good if we decide to do whatever we want to do anyways.  If the GPS says to turn right but instead we turn left, we may never get to our destination.  Or we may get there eventually, but it will take us longer.  For as long as the address is plugged in and the GPS is on, it will continue to try to re-route us to get us back on course using the shortest route, but if we don’t pay any attention to it and do what it’s telling us to do, it won’t do us any good.

Our internal GPS works the same way.  It is always on, but the trouble is we are not always listening to it.  We become distracted by our daily chores, or we just decide to do the opposite of what our internal GPS is telling us.  This will only cause unnecessary delays or keep us from reaching our goals altogether.

We must not panic
Imagine that as we are driving to our destination we missed our turn like I did that day, and since we missed our turn we blame and curse the GPS, and turn it off (yeah, that’ll teach it!).  I’m sure we can all agree that this is not the right thing to do.  We must remember that our GPS will kick right in and re-route us to get us back on course, so there is no need to panic.

Similarly, if we end up getting off course from our goals for whatever reason we must not blame our internal GPS and we must certainly not stop listening to it!  We must remember that it has the ability to re-route us and get back on track towards our goals.  That is the time to shut off all distractions and tune in to our internal GPS, paying close attention to it so that we can hear the “re-routing” cue.

Later on I will be talking more about our internal GPS, what it is and how we can use it, but for now see if you agree with my conclusion the next time you use your electronic one, and let me know what you think!

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How Our Thoughts Affect Our Reality

When I began my self-improvement journey several years ago I came across a book that inspired me and gave me much needed clarity about how to change my life for the better.  In my opinion this book is a must-have for anyone looking to understand how our thoughts affect our world and shape our reality.  It is written in plain English without the jargon commonly associated with the study of the mind, so it’s easy enough for anyone to understand.

I still revisit this book now and then because from time to time I need a reminder of how important it is to be mindful of what we entertain in our minds.   The book is a very short read, and it can be found in audio form as well.  The audio version of the book is less than an hour long, so I can easily listen to the entire recording in a day just driving to and from work.

The book I’m referring to is “The Strangest Secret” by Earl Nightingale.  There is great information in the entire book but there is one segment in particular that always grabs my attention for its truthfulness and simplicity.  The segment begins by stating this:

Let me tell you something which if you really understand it, will alter your life immediately…Here’s the key to success and the key to failure: We become what we think about.

The author then proceeds to explain exactly how this works, and gives the analogy of a situation that parallels the human mind using a farmer and fertile soil.  In his example, Earl asks us imagine that a farmer has a piece of fertile land in which he plants a seed of corn and a seed of poison.  The land, being impartial to what is being planted, will invariably return to the farmer exactly the “fruits” of what he has planted, a plant of corn and a plant of poison. He compares this fertile land to the human mind and the seeds to our thoughts because the mind – like the land – does not care what you plant in it; it will return what you plant, but it doesn’t care what you plant.

While it’s true that the mind is far more complex and mysterious than the land, the principle is the same.  Whether we plant thoughts (seeds) of success (corn) or thoughts (seeds) of failure (poison) the mind (land) will return to us exactly what we plant in it in the form of our experiences in all areas our lives such as work, family, love, finances, etc.

For me this was a wake-up call.  If this was true (and I had no reason to believe that it wasn’t) it meant that I needed to become aware of my thoughts throughout the day.  I needed to make sure that whatever thoughts I was entertaining were seeds that would produce the type of experiences I wanted to have in my life.

This proved to be easier said than done.  It was easy at the beginning of the day because I would start off with a clean slate and a positive attitude, but as I gradually got busy and distracted with my daily activities, I found myself repeating old thought patterns that were sure to produce unwanted results if left unattended.

At first I would get bummed up about it, because I thought that no matter how hard I tried I somehow managed to end up back at square one.  This would only cause me to feel more like a failure and, you guessed it, negative tapes to start playing again.

But I later learned that it is impossible to watch what we are thinking 24 hours a day (or however many hours we spend awake), so getting temporarily distracted was perfectly normal.  In fact, a recent study revealed that, astonishingly, humans are on autopilot nearly half of their waking hours!

Our mind is designed to jump on autopilot whenever possible in order to automate mundane tasks.  You do something long enough and it eventually becomes a habit, making it a task that you no longer have to think about.  If you’ve ever driven from one place to another and had no recollection of how you got there, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  I can certainly relate to that.  There were times when I suddenly realized I had arrived, and thanked God I was alive and prayed that I hadn’t committed any violations while driving.  Yikes!

Whenever I think of this I realize what a wonderful design the mind is.  I’m speechless when I think of all the intricate wiring and programs that are running to ensure that we follow all the traffic laws and make critical decisions almost unconsciously!  Of course this works to our advantage when our mind is engaged in something positive or uplifting, but it can just as well work against us when it’s engaged in something negative or undesirable.

But the good news is that we can change our thought habits just like we change any other habit: with repetition and persistence.  How do we know this?  Because that’s how our negative or pessimistic thinking became so natural to begin with.  It all started with thoughts that we entertained, then entertained some more, then recalled and entertained again, until now those thoughts just seem to naturally come to us on their own, and when we least expect it we find ourselves on a train to Looserville.

Like everything else, making a change in thought patterns takes practice and persistence, but it all begins with awareness.  If you’ve determined that you want to change the thought seeds that you’re planting in your mind, make it a point to become more aware of your thoughts throughout the day; whenever you catch yourself thinking less than favorable thoughts, don’t beat yourself up for it.  Instead, be glad that you caught yourself and reach for a better thought.

But if you are feeling a strong negative emotion associated with the thoughts you’re thinking, remember our river analogy from a previous post and make the jump gradually so that you don’t end up in the river.  With practice and persistence you’ll soon turn your new thought patters into a habit, and the less than desirable thoughts will fade away.

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Breathe and Realize That All Is Well…


On a gorgeous Saturday evening I was sitting with my wife outside a beach front coffee shop watching in awe as the sun set behind the calm, blue ocean.  A moment prior to that, we had been engrossed in a lively conversation about our plans, our goals and our future.

We talked about needing to move to a bigger house, needing to earn more money, needing to expand her business; but somehow as soon as the sun began to set, our lively conversation was replaced by a contemplative silence.

Everything around me faded away; the sounds, the street, the cars, the people, the buildings, even the beach and the sun disappeared and I was left with nothing but emotions.  I was instantly submerged into a deep appreciation for the countless blessings that I have in my life.

I realized that at that very moment I was truly happy.  At that very moment there was nothing else that I wanted or needed in order to experience the emotions that I believed a bigger house, more money, or more success could bring me.

I felt peace, love, appreciation, gratitude, exhilaration and immense joy.  I felt as if I was in a different realm, finally being able to see and understand the reality of things.  I did not want to come out from that trance. I wanted to remain there, experiencing this indescribable beauty.

A few moments later the hustle and bustle of the street began to gain volume, and I became aware once again of my surroundings.  I immediately turned to my wife and shared my experience with her; I expressed my longing for that feeling to come back, and my disappointment that it had been short lived.  Could I bring it back? It felt like it was gone forever.

But then I realized that nothing seemingly out of the ordinary had happened to take me there.  While it was true that I had entered this peaceful state while appreciating the gorgeous sunset at the beach, it wasn’t the sunset itself that took me there. I had certainly seen many sunsets at the beach before.  Moreover, if the sunset itself had been the cause, everyone experiencing it would have been likewise hypnotized.

Then it hit me. It was my contemplation and appreciation of the sunset that got me into that state. And this…this was something I could certainly repeat. A sunset was not the only beautiful or awe-inspiring thing around me.

There are thousands, even millions of such things around me every single day. The sound of a bird’s chirping in the morning, the butterfly that lands on a rose, the flowers that grow outside my house, the millions of stars in the sky, the smile on a friend’s face, the look in my wife’s eyes, my child’s voice calling me daddy.  All of these and countless more are things that could help me get to that state of pure bliss, if I only decide to contemplate and appreciate them.

Since that day, it has been my intention to re-live that experience at every chance I get.  It’s no small task because it requires focus, and one can easily get distracted by the endless pile of things to do.  But this is why I found it’s important to at least once a day take a break and breathe slowly for a few minutes, uninterrupted, and allow myself to enter into a state of contemplation and gratitude.

I invite you to do so now, as you finish reading this post.  Take a deep breath in and relax your body as you exhale. Close your eyes and think about something that elicits feelings of love, peace or gratitude. Bask in those feelings for a few minutes or for as long as you can, and let them permeate every cell in your body.  Smile as you do so, and know that at this very moment, all-is-well.

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