Common Sense vs. Common Practice

I recently came across the concept of Common Sense vs Common Practice by the brilliant Andy Cope & Andy Whittaker (Be Brilliant Everyday) in the context of pursuit of happiness. Often most of us are clued on enough to know what will make us happy in the long run; eating healthy; exercising regularly; give up smoking; give up drinking excessively; spending money within our budget; spending time with our loved ones etc. This list can go on forever, but essentially most of what we need to do is common sense, but why do many of us struggle to put it into practice?! Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest things to do.

Even from a law of attraction point of view, we know that we must be in happy place in order to attract more of the things we want and less likely to think and feel all the negative things we don’t want. So question is if lot of things we need to do are essentially common sense, why are they not common practice? It seems for most of us, even for the seasoned self-help junkie like me, knowing is not the same as doing!

Let’s look at this biologically; our emotional centres in the brain are one of the oldest parts of the brain in evolutionary terms and emotions hard wired within us and therefore thinking differently does not necessarily mean that we will behave differently, especially if those behaviours are emotionally driven. Let’s take exercising as an example. I know I want to exercise more often that I am doing right now which is currently closer to zero times in a week! I know exercising will add to my happiness not just by improving my health, but also will improve my flagging self-esteem especially when I find my clothes are becoming a tad bit tighter than usual. I know exactly what needs to be done, but at the given times when I could exercise, I rather sit and watch TV and go for a run. I know at this point my emotions are driving me; my feeling of inertia is far more powerful than my thoughts around the benefits of exercise.

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Psychologist may describe this as a ‘cognitive bias’; a term that describes many of the human irrationality in making judgement or decisions. Although most of us will think of ourselves as rational and logical creatures, there is a part of us that are influenced by wide variety of biases, including emotionally driven biases leading to errors in judgement. In the example above, I have a ‘current moment’ bias; i.e. I am choosing to experience pleasure in the current moment, while leaving the pain for later.

So are we always destined to make irrational choices to the detriment to our long term happiness? Perhaps the only way for common sense to prevail is to make changes to our habits. Habits are things we do often and changes to our habits over time can have a big impact on our happiness.  The key is perhaps making small positive changes starting now and putting those changes into practice more often. So for me in the example above I should start with walking up the stairs or walk to the shops and do this as often as possible rather than embarking on a gruelling exercise regime in my first attempt. Chances are small changes are likely to lead to habit formation than big changes which are often more difficult to maintain in the long run.

We may struggle to overcome our irrational judgements all of the time, but building positive habits will increase the sense of ‘doing the right thing most of the time’ we can reach a happiness-medium and being in a ‘happiness-medium’ place is a great place to start when you want to use the law of attraction to attract the life you want.

“Happiness is a habit – cultivate it” – Elbert Hubbard

CHANGE AHEAD

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Practice makes Perfect…Should I say practice makes profound changes….

Since I have started writing this blog, I have noticed quite profound changes in my life. Yet if you ask those around me what has changed for me, well, answer is likely to be Nothing! At least nothing physically profound anyway. My changes have been more internal, I am happier and more than that I know that being happy inside comes first, and external happiness such as wealth, relationships, successes are BY-PRODUCTS of my inner happiness!

So what has bought about this change for me? For a start, there is the concept of practicing what you preach! By writing down these positive psychology and law of attraction principles, I am putting more of the theories into practice than I have done so. In the past, all the self-help theories and ideas I have read has remained as theories and ideas in MY HEAD!

The thing about self-help and all of those self-improvement theories is that the most effective ones are the most simplest and often nothing new, just a bit of a common sense! In most cases, its something we were aware of, but being put to us in a slightly different context. For example, I always knew having a positive attitude equates to being more happier (pre-LOA belief!) and I think most of you guys would agree with that. Yet, knowing the theory does not mean that we always carry a positive attitude with us, in most cases, we park the theory somewhere in the back of our mind and just get on with it! Fall back to our fail-safe attitude, our set-point, whatever that may be.

So how does a theory or an idea become part of our lives? especially when we are talking about workings of the mind,  I really think a lot is to do with putting theory into practice and by practicing often, it becomes habitual, part of a routine. Classic example for me is the theory of mindfulness. I have been aware of people taking about mindfulness for a long time now, from psychology to spirituality, mindfulness seems to be everywhere. I still remember reading Paul McKenna’s ‘I can make you thin’ where he talks about mindful eating (and how that will make you thin!) and here we are 10 years down line, I still haven’t mastered mindful eating. Actually I think my mind is in a place where I see food, I sense a 5 minute timer where I need to scoffle down my food or I will die of starvation! ( okay slight exaggeration, but you get my point)

Mindfulness is probably the one of the most easiest theory to understand, it is simply being mindful or paying attention to your mind, yet it is one of the most difficult theory to put into practice! Try sitting quietly for 5 minutes and paying attention to thoughts and feelings, without judgement and accepting whatever sensation that comes to you. Chances are, unless of course, you are a master meditator, your attention will waver after the first 2 minutes. Afterall, according to Buddha, we all have monkey minds, untamed and running around wildly.

As time goes by and I do practice mindfulness more and more, it does get easier, I have my ‘off’ moments, but overall it is much easier than when I started. For me, rather than practice makes perfect, its more of a practice makes changes, SLOWLY. I think I am far from perfect  in terms of getting to grips with mindfulness, but I am better! Over the months, I have  come to pay  better attention to  what thoughts  my monkey mind is running away with! And this in turn has helped me to be a happier person and making law of attraction work in my favor by attracting the things I want.

In the ether of internet and social media and even in books, the law of attraction is sold as a magic formula, to fix everything in your life, almost in an instant, just by understanding the ‘secret’.  The reality is that understanding and believing in law of attraction is one thing, but controlling your mind is the real ‘secret’ and from my experience, controlling your mind comes with practice and changing your habits! And yes, I do believe in the magic of law of attraction, but it is a magic that only works when the main magician is working, your mind!

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Practical Mind Tools: Vision Board

So what is a vision board, I hear you ask. Well, perhaps not those of you who are well versed in the law of attraction and the techniques that goes with it. Perhaps there are some of you guys out there who are experts at this and I would love to hear from you on how you create your vision boards.

For the novices, vision board is simply a board where you capture your visions for your future, aspirations and desires all in one place.  This is perhaps one of the most basic and effective way of putting law of attraction into practice. After all, we are all visual creatures and what we see is more likely to affect us than having just abstract pictures in our head.

Creating a vision board is really easy:

  1. Find a suitable board, whatever size you require. I always find the blank art canvases are great for my vision board purposes, but you can use anything from cardboard to plywood.
  2. Find suitable images to fill your board with. You can use magazine clippings, writings, quotes, print outs from the internet, whatever works for you and whatever that captures your vision. It doesn’t have to be an exact match of your vision, it can be abstract or represent you vision indirectly, but as long as you can relate to it, that is the main thing. I tend to use words and pictures in my vision boards and I often like quotes that resonate with me.
  3. Then use the visions to fill the board up and stick them on securely.
  4. Main thing is put the vision board somewhere where you will look at it regularly, perhaps on your bedroom wall.

The more you look at your vision board, the more your brain gets reminded of what you want. The more you are reminded, the more you think about it. But like any law of attraction tool, you need to frame your thoughts and feelings positively. You may subconsciously create resistance by looking at it and thinking ‘oh I am never going to achieve that!’ Instead, every time you see your vision, imagine you have achieved it and how would it feel like? Bring that feeling into the present and close your eyes and feel it for few minutes.

Nowadays there is a wealth of online tools available to create vision boards; there are even apps for vision boards. So you can go crazy and go overboard with the whole thing! So my suggestion is focus on one board at a time. If your vision changes, then change the board or change the images, after all our visions are rather fluid and that is a good thing as that how we move forward and evolve.

Practical Mind Tools: Create Box

I am a great believer in writing down your goals, whether they are career related or personal goals. By putting it in writing or representing it in other visual formats will help to clarify what you want in life and ultimately help you to achieve your goals. One of the tools I have used in recent years is a goal ‘Create Box’; a box which contains all my goals and visions for the future. I also have a gratitude stone in my box as part of my goal attainment and training my mind to practice gratitude.

So what is a create box? It’s a technique that I picked up from Susie Pearl’s ‘Instructions for Happiness and success’ book and it is a very simple idea; a bit like having a vision board in a box! Get a nice looking box (a gift box, small storage box etc.) and put your goals, wishes and visions in it so that you have everything you want in a box. Idea is that you regularly pick up the box and go through the contents on a weekly, monthly, whenever-you feel-like-it basis and remind yourself of the goals therefore keeping your thoughts focused on them. The point here is that when you do go through the items, visualise and feel as though you have already attained these goals so that in a ‘thought becomes things’ universe you will attract them into your life. Health warning here is that don’t think about NOT having the goal yet, as this would lead to the opposite effect of NOT attaining the goal!

Susie also suggests writing a label on the top that you read out every time before you open it and after you close it so that you asking the universe what you want. i.e.

 “Whatever is contained in this box I have already created in my mind and welcome into my life now. Everything in this box is already present. I receive all of this with abundance and flow. All for the best. Thank you. It’s done. Show me.”

My simpler version of the label as follows:

“Whatever is contained in this box I have already created in my mind and I welcome it into my life. Thank you and I am grateful for everything I have in my life”.

I am very much of visual person and truly believe pictures can speak a thousand words so my box contains a lot of magazine clippings, pictures, printouts of things that I really want in my life. For example, I have pictures of my ideal house, holidays, lifestyle and even my ideal job. It doesn’t have to exactly what you want, but a representation of what you want and something that resonates with you. For me, I always wanted to have an influential role in an animal charity or an animal related organisation, so I have a picture of Michaela Strachan (UK TV presenter who does a lot of animal shows) from a magazine article with the title “Women of Influence” above it. For me this is the perfect vision when it comes to my career goals, working with animals and having an influential role!

Along with this, I do have written goals and even memorabilia to remember good times like spending time with my husband, in form of souvenirs from a holiday or a photo of us having a good time, so that I am reminded of the good times we had and the good times we will have going forward. My gratitude stone (a stone I picked up on a beach in Maldives) is a stone which every time I pick up, I think of all the things I am grateful for in my life from my job to the people in my life and special events in my life (including my holiday to Maldives!).

You don’t have to be an avid believer in law of attraction to try this out; actually some of the tools and techniques I have come across as part of the law of attraction movement has been somewhat simple, practical and nothing new, and has been part of self-improvement techniques in one form or another.

To feel or not to feel, that is the question!

Feelings are wonderful abstract things and where would we be without them? How could we experience happiness, joy or pleasure? Yes, there is the other side to it, the feelings of pain, anger, sadness, but doesn’t these negative feelings also shape who we are? If I take my daughter as an example, she is one and half years old and her mood and feelings change quite quickly within space of few minutes. One minute she may be sad because she is missing her comforter toy and the next minute her favourite music comes on or she discovers a new toy and she is overjoyed. How can I tell that she is happy without knowing what her sadness looks like? Even for myself, how do I know I am really happy without having experienced what sadness feels like?

As adults our feelings and the emotions that they evoke are very complex. Not only we experience a range of emotions from utter joy to despair, but our feelings differ towards the same set of circumstances at different times! Our feelings are very subjective experience and its very person dependent; my feelings may evoke a completely different set of emotional response to someone who is standing next me going through the same experience, whatever it may be, may respond completely differently, depending on their beliefs, values, life experiences and personality.

It was a bad, mad, sad day!

So what has got me thinking about feelings today? Well, for a start, I had a bad day few days back; I had a day where I felt annoyed, sad and drained and I attracted situations that gave me more reasons to be annoyed, sad or feel drained. I tried to shake it off several times by thinking positively, visualising how I want things to go and even practicing gratitude.  But alas, things didn’t change and the negative circumstances just kept on coming and by the end of the day, I just really wanted to go to bed and forget about the whole day.

According to law of attraction, we attract what we are thinking into our lives and therefore, at least at a subconscious level, I have chosen to have a bad day or attracted set of circumstances in my life that led to this particular bad day. In hindsight, this was true for me. I was travelling by air that day and I was rather anxious as this was only few days after Germanwings flight went down in France. I couldn’t shake off the sadness that I felt for those involved or the feelings of paranoia that I had over getting on a plane, however mild. Also the holiday I had high hopes for didn’t pan out the way I wanted it to as the holiday destination had bad weather for the whole week and I rather spent way too  much time cooped up in the hotel room feeling rather bored.

So as I sat in the airport on our way back home, I knew I am on a verge of starting a bad day and I knew I had to change my thoughts and feelings to more of a positive vibe but I just couldn’t do it. I was trying to think and feel positive, but it really felt like swimming upstream (see below), not natural and very hard work. I just couldn’t shake off my feelings quick enough to make a difference to my day.

Looking back, perhaps this can be explained by Ester Hicks and Jerry Hicks (The Astonishing Power of Emotions):

‘The most common misunderstanding that prevents people from getting control of a situation and gaining their personal balance is the belief that I need to get to where I want to be right now or as quickly as possible. We certainly understand your desire to find the answers to your questions quickly or to solve your problems as fast as you can, but still, that urge works against you. When you feel an urgency to be somewhere else, you are pushing hard against where you are. That is upstream.’

Best thing I could have done that day was to accept my feelings for what they were and what I was feeling at that point in time does not define me as a person. I know ‘this too shall pass’ and I know I will have a better day tomorrow because a good night sleep always does wonders. Besides, now that I have been reminded what a bad day feels like, I can perhaps appreciate the next good day when I see it come up!

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Feelings and law of attraction

Feelings play an important part in law of attraction; you cannot feel bad and expect to attract good things. The more pro-longed the negative feelings, the more difficult it would be change them. For example, if you feel you don’t have enough money, chances are you will attract situations where you will not have enough money, it doesn’t matter how you earn. Same also goes for health. If you always felt unhappy about your body for example, how can you attract the body you want? In order for law of attraction to work for you, you must change your feelings towards your body first; you must learn to be happy with it in the first place.

Now, I know this from first-hand experience, this is easily said than done and you cannot instantly change your feelings. Your programming about self-image perhaps took good few years to achieve, so it’s unrealistic to think these feelings will disappear overnight, unlike my bad day. Changes to feelings take time, especially if they are strongly rooted feelings, but the good thing is once our feelings are in tune with what we want, and then changing our thoughts become matter of fact. Feelings can be strong enablers to make law of attraction work for you, but changing feelings and associated emotions can be hard work and with practice, feelings too, in time, can be changed and mastered.

Personal experiment….Pear-drop pendent!

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On holiday, I had a perfect example of how law of attraction worked for me which I wanted to share. I would describe myself as a careless person when it comes to my personal possessions, which I have always been okay with, because I had learned at a very early age, whatever material things I loose, it can always be replaced. So on holiday, I managed to lose a gold pear-drop pendent that I had on a chain. I looked around everywhere for it and since I had walked around a lot on that particular day; I could only go back to some of the places to look for it.

That night, I visualised finding the pendent. Then I didn’t think much about it after that and certainly did not stress about it, as I know it can be replaced if need to be.  I held it very lightly in my mind and that’s about it. The last day, as we were leaving the hotel, I was tidying up and as I looked under my daughter’s cot, there it was I had found the pendent.

This is a very small example, and some people may just describe it as a coincidence or even lucky, but for me, when it was meant to work out, it felt right, almost like swimming downstream rather than upstream. This may sound contradictory, but if I really wanted to find it and I was stressed in my search for it, then it’s very likely that negative thoughts and feelings would have kicked in. ‘What if I can’t find it? It’s lost forever.’ Chances are once the urgency for finding the pendent and the fear of losing it forever kicks in I would have attracted the pendent to be lost forever. That is the simple fact of law of attraction; whatever you think or feel the most that is what you will attract into your life. So there is a case for holding whatever you want lightly in your mind, rather than wanting it so badly you start feeling the fear of not getting what you want.

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Me, Myself and the Law of Attraction

I think it is about time that I shared my personal story and my experiences with law of attraction. Let me start by making a very optimistic statement first. I live a healthy, wealthy and happy life and I know I have a bright future ahead of me. Those around me with a critical eye may not agree, but for me this is my truth and my view of life. In the past I have been described as ‘seeing the world though rose tinted glasses’ and more often than not, I would describe myself as an optimist.  However, there have been many cross roads in my life, reflecting back, that were challenging to say the least, but the future, in my view, is always bright.

Optimism does have a role in the law of attraction. In a world where ‘like attracts like’, positive attitudes will attract positive results. If you are always expecting things to go wrong or can spot the flaws in events more readily than appreciating the merits, then chances are that there will always be more flaws in the world around you. Being an optimist doesn’t mean that you go through life oblivious to unhappiness, but you are more likely to accept the unhappiness and know that it will pass and things will get better.

Although genetics have a part in play in someone being an optimist or pessimist, large parts of being optimist is learning though life and life situations that have shaped you. Being optimistic is an attitude and like any attitude, you can change it, all it takes is a bit of work on your mind and state of being.

My beginnings…

My early childhood was spent in the midst of a civil war. Looking back, there are several points in my childhood where I was in real danger, hiding in bunkers, being caught in aerial assaults, and being exposed to death and destruction very early on. I remember one particular incident, when I was around eight years old; we were hiding in a school, in the ground floor toilets no less, as it was the most concrete covered area of a school.  That night, due to particular bought of heavy fighting and cross fire, 27 people lost their lives on the floor above us and this memory is particularly etched into my head as I had to walk past the 27 bodies the following morning to be moved to another part of the building for safety. The reason I am sharing this is that I can see in many points in my life, where things could have gone horribly wrong for me, not just in terms of physical injury, but mentally.

In the 1990s, my family moved to the UK to get away from the war and my teenage years were spent in council accommodation, with my parents working 2 more jobs at a time.  In comparison to some of those around me now, my work colleagues in the banking sector to some of my privately educated friends, my upbringing is rather modest. But for me I knew that I am living a very privilege life, from a very early age because of my experiences in childhood and this is important part of my learned optimism.

My journey and law of attraction

There have been times in my life when negativity would overcome me, lasting days and months, but the inner voice in me, always knows that ‘this too shall pass’ and eventually my life would return to normal. First few months of my marriage and when my husband and I started living together were a prime example of turbulent times in my life. When I did come across the law of attraction, a year or so after marriage, everything made sense to me. I have attracted the negativity in my life and in my relationship by the way I was thinking, feeling and acting. Knowing Law of attraction is one thing, but putting it into action can be difficult, especially when you have been conditioned to think logically though out your life. I was able to practice the law of attraction little by little and when I started seeing positive results, it reinforced my beliefs.

Over the years, my husband and I have built a strong relationship because we were able to overcome our initial differences and I often put this down to my attitude change and renewed optimism.  In the last few years, I often find that it’s my optimism towards my personal relationships that need the most work, especially when coupled with arrival of a new baby and sleepless nights. Often when you suffer from sleep deprivation, it is difficult to be optimistic, let alone having time to think about the law of attraction. But the optimist in me knew that even the sleepless nights, ‘that too shall pass’.

Now a days, even if I am fully versed in the law of attraction, I have days of negativity, often when dealing with difficult people in work place or social situations, but I snap out of it relatively quickly so that I don’t attract too many of the negative fears that were running though my head. I know that one of the basic facts of life is that you cannot change others; you can only change the way your react to others. The two pieces of thoughts that have really helped me with maintaining relationships is that (a) treat others the way you want to be treated; (b) loving yourself – filling yourself with love in order to attract more love in your life.

I know I have a lot more to learn in this journey though law of attraction and I am grateful for myself to have taken the first steps towards it.

“the only journey is the journey within” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Those who are reading this blog, thank you! I am truly grateful to share my journey with you.

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The Science of Gratitude

“It is not happy people who are thankful, it is thankful people who are happy” – author unknown

What is gratitude?

Gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness; an expression of appreciation or it can even be described as an emotion, a feeling of happiness that comes from appreciation. Some may describe gratitude as an attitude, a mood or even a personality trait, often those who practice gratitude regularly having better resilience to adversity, increased well-being and increased general happiness.

In Law of Attraction, it’s one of the key enablers of happiness and a powerful process in purposefully creating the life you want. Gratitude features in most world religions, from Christianity to Islam and even features heavily on most self-improvement books. It is generally accepted in the field of positive psychology that being thankful to what you have is one of the top enablers to lead a happy and fulfilling life. Many studies have linked practicing gratitude to increased well-being and reduced states such as stress and depression. This is not really much of a surprise. Knowing what you have, and appreciating it, helps to acknowledge how fortunate you are. It gives you a different perspective than always wanting more and more. Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting more, but starting that process from a place of gratitude will set you up on a more positive point.

Gratitude and Positive psychology studies

One of the popular ways to practice gratitude, and to really enjoy the benefits of gratitude this should be an on-going practice, is to keep a ‘Gratitude Journal’; writing down the things you are grateful on a regular basis. A research study by Emmons & McCullough found that keeping “counting one’s blessings” journal, a conscious focus on blessings, can lead to improved psychological and physical functioning. In this particular study, they examined the practice of gratitude by asking participants to keep weekly or daily journals and had control groups who kept journals of hassles and events of the week / day. Those who participated in gratitude journal writing had substantial and consistent improvement to well-being and general feeling of life satisfaction.

Studies such as the one conducted by Dr Martin Seligman, where the participants in his studies embarked on writing a gratitude letter to someone who they never really thanked properly for their kindness and delivering the letters personally, led to huge increases in happiness scores and effects lasted as long as a month. Other studies have focused on relationships and how gratitude can impact on them. A study by Sara Algoe (University of North Carolina) found that grateful couples not only had more satisfaction in their relationships, but more likely to be in their relationships nine months later.

Gratitude and Law of Attraction

When you have a universe that is responding not just to your actions, but also your thoughts and feelings, gratitude can play a powerful part in creating a fulfilling life. But how does Law of attraction respond to gratitude? Essentially it comes down to having higher energy levels and being in positive frame of mind. So in a ‘like attract like’ universe, you will attract higher energy situations leading to more happiness. Gratitude creates abundance as gratitude is a thought or feeling of having ‘enough’ as opposed to ‘not having enough’. In law of attraction, a mind-set of not having enough will lead to attracting a life of not having enough, a life of scarcity.

One of the tools in ASK; BELIEVE and RECEIVE process is to write each of your wish or intension as thanks as though you have already received what you have wished for (‘I am so grateful for …….’). This creates a positive feeling and a higher energy point for the universe to respond to. The catch here is that you really have to BELIEVE what you are ASKING for will be RECEIVED or manifested.

“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.” ― Meister Eckhart

Gratitude: Practice makes it perfect!

How do you practice gratitude? There are many tools and techniques that so many researchers and great thinkers have come up with and here are my favourite few.

  1. Gratitude journal – writing down what you are grateful for on a daily / weekly basis. 3 to 5 points is often enough but the key is to keep it up regularly.
  2. Thank you note or letter – just like in Dr Seligman’s experiment, writing a note to someone for their kindness. Studies have shown you don’t even have to deliver the letter, but writing it in the first place has benefits.
  3. Showing your appreciation and saying thank you (and meaning it!) – The word ‘thank you’ can go a long way in cultivating positive relationships, whether that is with your partner or your colleagues. How about telling a loved one why you are thankful for having them in your life.
  4. Being Mindful – noticing and appreciating the small things in life; a beautiful sunny day or a smile from a stranger. When you become mindful and take notice of moments, you get a profound appreciation for the bigger picture, which is often your life in general.
  5. Gratitude prayer – for those who are religious as well as those who haven’t quite made up their mind, a prayer or counting your blessing intrinsically can help to practice gratitude.

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