Maria Connolly, LPC

Category: Mindfulness

Mindfulness provides access to powerful inner resources so we can change the way we see and ultimately experience difficult situations. We’re empowered to participate in these situations – and interact with the world at large – as we work with what arises instead of trying to escape.

15 Highly Organized Characteristics of a Leader to Create a Lifestyle You Love

Find 15 characteristics highly organized leaders cultivate in support of a busy lifestyle and learn 7 reasons why you’ll want to use them in your life too “Good order is the foundation of all things.” ~ Edmund Burke

People who focus on excellence, like leaders and business coaches, know that their best performance starts with becoming highly organized and that “Clutter is a state of mind.” A cluttered space begets a muddled mind and vice-versa.

I have a confession: I’m unusually organized. Not only do I make my bed every morning, I also find a way to tidy up and declutter as I go. I partly inherited this from my mother. I suspect her neatness was a way to cope with stress and anxiety. I’m so glad this gave me a model for creating a simpler, clutter-free environment.

Being highly organized is not only a way to create pleasant spaces but also a strategy for doing anything in life. It means being clear about what you want, being able to prioritize, setting outcomes and the respective steps to make your way to the goal.

We can’t run around stressed all the time with a million things on our mind and expect to perform at our best. So…how are you going to change your lifestyle to one that’s more organized?

Take a look at the following highly organized characteristics that leaders cultivate. (You can do the same with daily, mindful attention.)

1. Be undistracted by uncluttering your mind. Learn to work through the daily stress in a way that let’s you forget it and move on. For some, the best method is a vigorous workout. Others like yoga, walking, or talking with a friend or professional. Personally, I love Crossfit, Archery, and Aikido.

2. Be proactive. If a task takes fewer than five minutes, do it! Pick it up, wipe it down, put it away. That way work doesn’t frustratingly pile up.

3. Be goal oriented. Create an environment that makes it easy to achieve your goals. It’s easier to let things go when they’re not attached to your goals.

4. Be optimistic. The can-do attitude keeps you on track. Focus on filling your mind with the positive things you can do, even if they seem small.

5. Be decisive. Wishy-washy gets you nowhere. Consider your options, pick the best one and work it to the best of your ability without looking back.

6. Be imperfect. Don’t become immobilized in the minutia of the details. It’s never going to be perfect, so determine when it’s good enough and move on.

7. Be list, calendar, and container oriented. Make a place for everything, and put everything in its place. This applies to physical items and routinely scheduled events. You’ll know where it is when you need it and you’ll know if you have a slot open in your schedule for invitations and requests. Capturing your ideas in a detailed list of tasks frees up your mental energy. Referring to your list and calendar often keeps you on-task. This helps you foresee any potential conflicts that might interfere with your goals.

8. Be able to say, “No.” When you know exactly what you want, it’s easier to turn down invitations and requests that don’t fit into your goals.

9. Be prepared. Know how much time you have to complete a project and leave enough time, including a cushion for unexpected occurrences, to do it.

10. Be focused. Avoid multi-tasking. It’s better to protect your time by shutting out distractions and focusing on doing one task at a time.

11. Be aware of your strengths and play to them. Define how you want to live your life such as how you want your home to look, how you want to dress, how you spend your time. This makes it easier to set goals and accomplish them. Do your most taxing work when you’re alert and energized.

12. Be willing to ask for help. Trying do it all yourself only causes more stress. Respect your most valued resource – time – and use it wisely.

13. Be content. Just because you see something beautiful you don’t need to possess it. Just because it’s on sale, it’s not a good deal if you don’t really need it.

14. Be in love with what you own and do. Everything need to be cared for and maintained whether these are relationships, skills, or possessions. Streamline your focus to the place where you can thrive.

15. Be choosy. Don’t attach sentimental value to everything you own. For example, just because you inherit your parents’ furniture, it’s okay to pass it on to someone else if it doesn’t fit your lifestyle.

What I love about being highly organized is that it:

      1. Saves time in the long run,
      2. Lessens your stress because you’re not “playing catch-up”,
      3. Makes you feel better about yourself,
      4. Prepares you for everything,
      5. Empowers you to say NO to excess and say YES to what you really want,
      6. Energizes you as you stop procrastinating, and
      7. Shifts your focus from quantity to quality.

Being organized is about striving for optimal effectiveness and maximum efficiency in any task. It is about feeling more in control, about the thrill of setting things up for success. Wouldn’t you love the freedom to be exactly who you’re meant to be as you enjoy each moment of life? Becoming organized can get you there! Contact me and let’s work together on ways that empower you to make lasting change. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Take Charge of Your Life and Make this the Best Year Yet

Take Charge of Your Life in 2016“Make New Year’s goals. Dig within, and discover what you would like to have happen in your life this year. This helps you do your part. It is an affirmation that you’re interested in fully living life in the year to come.” ~ Melody Beattie

If you could just blink your eyes and change something in your life, what would it be? Perhaps one of these top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for 2015 is something you want in order to take charge of your life for 2016…

  • Lose Weight
  • Getting Organized
  • Spend Less, Save More
  • Enjoy Life to the Fullest
  • Stay Fit and Healthy
  • Learn Something Exciting
  • Quit Smoking
  • Help Others in Their Dreams
  • Fall in Love
  • Spend More Time with Family

The truth is that the lifestyle you have today is a result of a lifetime of choices that can’t be changed in a blink of the eye. If you’re expecting instant results, you will end up frustrated and discouraged. That’s why, of the 45% of the U.S. population who make resolutions every year, only 8% of them achieve their resolutions.

Now that January is almost gone, has your resolve dwindled too? Or are you among the 38% who don’t even bother to make a resolution because you know it’s not going to work any way?

Why don’t New Year’s Resolutions work? Because they’re usually desires that have no structure, plan or steps and rely solely on willpower. Real change involves being willing to be quiet with yourself, think deeply and prepare yourself internally before you ever think about setting a goal. Then when your internal self creates a supportive environment, the goal you want to work on for 2016 will become evident and you’ll be set to make it succeed.

To take charge of your life and create lasting change, it’s important to be:

  • Methodical
  • Consistent
  • Realistic while Dreaming Big

Rather than resolutions, I’ve found an approach that has been working for me for a number of years now. It focuses on creating the best year yet. (A great resource is Jinny Ditzler’s book: Your Best Year Yet!: Ten Questions for Making the Next Twelve Months Your Most Successful Ever.) I use a similar process of thinking, planning, and executing a realistic plan in a systematic way. I start thinking about it in October of every year. Then during the months of November and December, I start to get new ideas for the following year and by January I have reviewed the previous year and created new goals along with the steps to get me there. Don’t worry, if you haven’t given it much thought you still have time to set yourself up for wonderful success in 2016.

How can this process for the best year yet help you take charge of your life? Here are the steps…

  1. Use the Walt Disney Strategy to creating workable goals for next year. This model involves exploring new ideas from three different perceptual positions. Click on the link to read more.
  2. Set up measurable steps. So for example, rather than just deciding to exercise more, give yourself a week to join a gym and then schedule how often you will workout each week.
  3. Get the right support or buddy system. Don’t just tell anybody about your plans. Only share your plans with the yea-sayers. Avoid the downers and nay-sayers. Look for people that are already mastering the skill or have similar motivation to succeed.
  4. Set up a daily or weekly routine to work on the steps.
  5. Adjust as new information comes in. You may need to modify your goals to get the results that are important to you.
  6. Most importantly, stay connected to your purpose and mission. It will continue to reignite the passion and keep you on task.

So, what’s standing in the way of your dream? Your answer will either be an internal or external obstacle. For instance, thinking “there’s no way I can do thisis an internal block. Not having enough money is an external barrier. However neither one can stop you, if you take charge of your life. 

  • Are you ready to slow down and reflect so you can be intentional about what you really want?
  • Do you want to be focused rather than reacting to whatever happens?
  • Are you tired of settling and making do with what you have?
  • Do you want to direct your energy to what’s most important to you?
  • Do you want to make sure you’re not missing out on the best life ever?
  • Do you want to live up to your fullest potential?

If you answered “Yes!” to these questions, I’d love to work with you so you can achieve your best year yet. Contact me and we’ll work out a plan that lets you take charge of your life and puts you on the path to the best year yet.

Achieve Deep Relaxation through Progressive Muscle Relaxation Techniques

Deep relaxation can be achieved no matter where you are or what you’re doing if you learn these Progressive Muscle Relaxation and NLP anchoring techniques.It feels so good to deeply relax! Do you find that these moments are all too rare for you? Does the idea of relaxing at a deeper level seem illusive?

While there are no specific guidelines for how much relaxation a person should incorporate into their lifestyle, making time to unwind and enjoy life is an important part of maintaining good health. 

To get the most benefit from your periods of relaxation, strive to achieve deep relaxation via the body, via the mind, and via the soul.

1. Deep Relaxation via the Body:

Deep relaxation, like meditation, exercise and deep breathing, when practiced regularly, is shown to have many potential benefits, such as, improved mood, decreased blood pressure, alleviated stress, anxiety and pain, and improved immune and cardiovascular systems.

You can achieve deep relaxation of the body by practicing Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Here’s how:

Create a relaxed, uninterrupted atmosphere by putting on loose clothing, playing soft music, dimming the lights, and shutting off the world around you.

Sit in a comfortable chair that supports your head and back. You can also do this exercise lying down if you’re trying to get to sleep.

Taking a few deep breaths, close your eyes and clear your mind. As you breathe in slowly, visualize what’s making you tense. As you slowly breathe out, visualize that you’re releasing those feelings. Imagine that all intruding thoughts are clouds sailing over you, so they move on and don’t fill your mind.

Progressively tense and relax every area of your body. As you proceed, think about how you would describe the relaxed state. If you can associate the relaxed state with a color, word, or image, you’ll attain deep relaxation more quickly in the future.

  • Make a fist with your right hand, tightening the muscles of your hand and forearm. Count 10 seconds. Then allow your hand to open and your arm to relax as you count 10 seconds. Do the same with your left hand and arm. Feel the difference between the relaxed state and the tense state. Repeat.
  • Make a fist with your right hand, and bring it up to your shoulder, tightening your upper arm. Hold for 10 seconds. Release. Repeat with your left arm. Allow tension to flow out through your fingertips. Repeat both arms.
  • Now focus on your head. Raise your eyebrows as high as you can, hold for 10 seconds. Relax. Allow your forehead to become smooth. Repeat. Next bring your eyebrows together, as you frown deeply. Hold for 10 seconds. Relax. Repeat. Next, purse your lips into an ooh (like a monkey sounds). Hold for 10 seconds. Fully relax until your mouth falls slightly open. Next, clench your jaw tightly. Hold 10 seconds. Release. Relax fully. Repeat. 
  • Raise your shoulders toward your ears, allowing your shoulder and neck muscles to tighten. Hold for 10 seconds. Allow your shoulders to drop. Feel the tension flow down and out fingertips. Relax for 10 seconds. Repeat. Next, press the back of your head against the chair, tightening the muscles in the back of your neck. Hold 10 seconds. Relax 10 seconds. Focus on the relaxed feeling and allow it to spread throughout your neck. Repeat.
  • Move your focus to your upper back, mid-back, and abdomen. Begin by pressing your shoulder blades together. Hold for 10 seconds. Release 10 seconds. Repeat. Take a couple of deep breaths in and out, releasing any remaining tension. Next arch your lower back just enough to tense the lower back muscles. Hold 10 seconds. Release 10 seconds. Repeat. Tuck your abdomen in tightly. Hold for 10 seconds. Release 10 seconds. Repeat. Breathe deeply a couple of times to release any remaining tension.
  • Finally, focus on your buttocks and legs. First, squeeze your buttocks together, hold for 10 seconds. Release for 10 seconds. You can choose to work on your legs separately or together. Bring your legs straight out in front of you and point your toes toward your face. Tighten your calves and thighs. Hold for 10 seconds. Release for 10 seconds. Repeat. Allow tension to flow down your legs and out the bottom of your feet.

Once you complete the Progressive Muscle Relaxation routine, scan your body for areas that still feel tense. Repeat the tensing and relaxing for that muscle group. Allow yourself to stay in the relaxed state for a few moments. Open your eyes. How do you feel?

Note: When tensing the muscles, don’t over tighten a muscle to the point of pain. If you have an injury, consult your doctor or therapist to determining the best method of tensing and relaxing that muscle group.

2. Deep Relaxation via the Mind:

Making time to find enjoyment is also an important element of relaxation. Get out of your mind often and distract yourself from your worries by making room for leisure and play. After all, laughter is good medicine! It decreases pain, helps your heart and lungs, promotes muscle relaxation and reduces anxiety.

We’ll discuss Deep Relaxation via the Soul in an upcoming blog post. Many people have found that they relax more fully if a coach guides them through the steps, rather than trying to do them from written instructions. If this is true for you, contact me and we can arrange a session that works for you.

Improve Your Personal and Business Communication through Touch

Improve personal and business communication through touchAren’t you drawn to warm, affectionate people? We feel immediately comfortable with them. What is it that makes them so approachable? It might be the warmth of their smile or their eye contact with you.

However, if you pay attention, you might be surprised to find how often warm people touch others. They shake hands with firm, full palm contact…not a limp-fish handshake. They may even pat you on the shoulder as they shake your hand. Or they let their hand rest just for a moment on your forearm. Or they greet you with a side hug, knowing that a full hug seems too intimate and may make you uncomfortable. All during the conversation, they continue to communicate through touch.

Touch is our primary language of compassion. Maybe you can remember a time when you were hurting, and a trusted confidante or parent enveloped you in their arms. Your heartbeat slowed, your sobs subsided, and you were able to breathe again. Touch changed your life at that moment. You knew you were not alone. Someone was there for you.

Communication through touch is fundamental to human bonding and health. At Berkeley University of California they studied whether people can communicate compassion through touch. They built a barrier in the lab that separated two strangers. One person stuck his or her arm through the barrier and waited. The other person was given a list of emotions. He or she had to try to convey each emotion through a one-second touch to the stranger’s forearm. The person whose arm was being touched had to guess the emotion.

Remarkably, the guesses were correct nearly 60 percent of the time. They got the emotions – gratitude, anger, love, and fear – right more than 50 percent of the time. Gender seems to have a bearing on the results. Interestingly, when a woman tried to communicate anger to a man, he had no idea what she was doing. And when a man tried to communicate compassion to a woman, she didn’t understand it.

In another study these researchers found, “People can not only identify love, gratitude, and compassion from touches but can differentiate between those kinds of touch, something people haven’t done as well in studies of facial and vocal communication.”

People understand your words better if you touch them. No that doesn’t mean if you’re angry you should punch someone. However, when you’re working to keep the line of communication open enough so that you can touch them, you’ll be more mindful about controlling your emotions. As you touch them, it reminds you that you love and appreciate this person and you want to mend the rift in your relationship, which helps you calm down. And they will feel that intention despite the hurt or anger and will be more open to listening to you.

Do you see how powerful touch can become in your communication? Which do you think will have more success? Yelling at your daughter to “get in here” then standing with your hands on your hips glaring at her? Or putting your hand on her shoulder, guiding her to the couch where you can sit closely as you look her in the eye and discuss the problem earnestly?

In the office, which will create greater team spirit and employee loyalty? Sitting behind your desk, writing on a notepad as you talk with an employee? Or greeting the employee at the door with a handshake and pat on the shoulder as you guide them to chairs that are next to each other?

Remember, to pay close attention to the signals that someone might be uncomfortable with being touched. You want to respect their boundaries so you don’t unwittingly increase their stress. Also, because of your background and upbringing, you may not feel comfortable with touching or being touched. But you can choose to make changes in an effort to improve your communication skills. It’s a basic human need. Not only will it make you healthier, it will make your relationships thrive.

Somatic coaching and therapy is an excellent way to create subtle shifts in how you use your body to influence, listen, and communicate. If you’re ready to make real and lasting changes in how you relate to others, contact me to learn how in a way that leaves you feeling wonderful and at peace.

Touch is just one of the indicators of a healthy life. Take the 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment to see how you measure up. Click here to download your free copy. And don’t forget that January 21, 2016 is National Hugging Day. Who will you hug?

Five Breathing Exercises for Balancing Your Life, Your Mood and Your Relationships

Five Breathing Exercises for Balancing Your Life, Your Mood and Your RelationshipsDid you know that how you breathe reveals how you’re living your life? The ebb and flow of life consists of taking in and giving out or controlling and letting go. Isn’t that what breathing is like too?

How would you describe your quality of life? Smooth, balanced and rhythmic? Or is it a wild up and down rollercoaster ride? Perhaps you fall somewhere in between? Science has proven that there’s a definite link between tension or relaxation and the rate and depth of your breathing.

Do you carry an excessive amount of tension without even realizing it? Do you commonly have cold hands and feet even when you’re in a room-temperature environment? Do you have clammy hands because of an adrenaline release? Are you stiff in the morning and do you have excess wrinkles on your face because you’re always tense? Do you chronically feel tired? Have headaches, stomachaches and backaches? Do you always strive for perfection? Are you accident-prone? All of these are indicators that your body is too stressed.

Your body is not designed to always be uptight, to be out of balance. This excess tension will, in time, break down your health and spirit. Consciously using breathing techniques can break this pattern of stress. When you feel foggy and tired, use the following breathing exercises to clear your head, until you feel energetic yet calm.

Breathing Exercise 1

  • Stand up. Relax your knees.
  • Place your hands on your upper thighs.
  • Bend from the crease between your legs and torso.
  • Inhale deeply through your nose.
  • Exhale forcefully through your mouth while pulling your navel back toward your spine.
  • Push all the air out of your lungs.
  • Repeat.

Breathing Exercise 2

  • Stand up with your arms above your head.
  • Rhythmically jump up and down like you’re jumping rope.
  • As you jump up, inhale quickly.
  • As you land, expel your breath with a “huh.”
  • Start with a half-minute session.
  • Gradually increase the duration for each session until you achieve five minutes.
  • Stop and return to breathing normally.

Breathing Exercise 3

  • Stand up.
  • Inhale through your mouth as you raise your arms above your head, stretching for the ceiling.
  • Go up on your tiptoes.
  • Reach even higher, inhaling all the way.
  • Release.
  • Go limp, bend from the waist and let your head and arms dangle at your side as you exhale vigorously.
  • Stop and return to normal breathing.

Breathing Exercise 4

  • Take three long deep breaths.
  • Keep your focus by saying, “breathe in slowly, deeply”.
  • Exhale thoroughly.
  • Keep your focus by saying, “Breathe out fully, smile, feel peace”.
  • Repeat.

Breathing Exercise 5

Do the yoga alternate nostril breathing exercise.

  • Exhale completely, using both nostrils.
  • Press your finger against your right nostril, closing it completely.
  • Inhale slowly and smoothly through the left nostril only.
  • Hold that inhaled breath for a few comfortable seconds.
  • Then close the left nostril and exhale through the right nostril.
  • Hold while comfortable.
  • Inhale through the right nostril only.
  • Release your left nostril and close off the right.
  • Exhale through the left nostril. Hold.
  • Keep switching between left and right nostrils as you inhale and exhale rhythmically for a total of 10 to 15 sets.
  • Go back to breathing through both nostrils.

 

Do you feel like you’ve created a new awareness by increasing your ability to breathe mindfully? I’d love it if you’d come to my Facebook Page and tell us your wins so we can encourage each other to keep going.

As a heads up, there are still other wellness indicators that we’ll discuss in the future. But why wait? Take the 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment today and get a jumpstart on making the coming New Year the best one yet. Click here to download your free copy.


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