The First Moments of the Day

hands forming a heart shape

Every morning is a chance to begin anew. Each day brings new opportunities and experiences. What we do in the first moments of each day can set the tone for what we perceive, experience and accomplish throughout that day.

The suggestions that follow may sound simplistic (or even Pollyannish to some), but the longer I live, the more I realize that the most profound things are pretty simple. It’s the consistent living of these simple things that can be a challenge, but SO worth it! Evidence-based scientific research in the field of neurocardiology shows these suggestions below help build resilience, reduce stress, improve decision-making and self-regulation, and lead to more perceptual balance.*

Here are some ways to start the day that can be helpful:

Before even getting out of bed (or right after getting out of bed), set the tone for your day. I would recommend first doing the HeartMath Quick Coherence® Technique with authentic appreciation and gratitude for the new day. It can effectively get you started in a positive, balanced perspective and facilitates brain function before getting up and becoming active. The Quick Coherence® technique is very simple and only takes a few minutes. Here are the steps:

Step 1: Focus your attention in the area of your heart. Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your heart or chest area, breathing a little slower and deeper than usual.
Suggestion: Inhale five seconds, exhale five seconds (or whatever rhythm is comfortable).

Step 2: Make a sincere attempt to experience a regenerative feeling such as appreciation or gratitude for someone or something in your life.
Suggestion: Try to re-experience the feeling you have for someone you love, a pet, a special place, an accomplishment, etc. or focus on a feeling of calm and ease.

Five to ten minutes doing this technique first thing in the morning (and throughout the day) can help replace draining, stressful emotions like frustration, irritation, anxiety, worry, and anger with more renewing states of mind like appreciation and inner ease, creating more balanced heart rhythms and facilitating mental clarity and perceptual balance.

Consciously anchor your intent for the day. An example could be:

“My intent is to function in balance and focus on the positive throughout my day. I intend to be aware or mindful in the moment, be productive, express appreciation and be of service.”

Suggestion: To empower your intent, it helps to murmur it aloud so you can hear it.

Go outside, if you can, and for a few moments breathe in deeply a few times and greet the day, the plants and sunshine.

Try these suggestions or come up with your own morning ritual that works for you to set the tone for a positive, fulfilling day.

 

Mary Claire O’Neal is the author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World. She is a certified coach, communication and leadership consultant and is a Certified HeartMath® Trainer and Coach.

© Copyright, Mary Claire O’Neal

Quick Coherence is a registered trademark of Doc Childre.

*Article in Harvard Business Review: Pull the Plug on Stress: https://hbr.org/2003/07/pull-the-plug-on-stress

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Fitting Balance into Life

Having balance in one’s life and work is not about spending equal measures of time for all the areas of your life. That’s never been a possibility for most people. For those of us who have to work, there will probably always be more time spent in earning a living than in the other areas of life. Creating balance is about finding ways to fit quality time in–not equal time– for the various parts of our lives. It’s even about being in a place of balance while at work.

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In the U.S., it’s easy to become consumed by working so many hours per week that we are too tired to spend quality time with loved ones or quality time for ourselves–reading for pleasure, taking a walk, or going to a movie. In the past, I have been one of those people and have learned some needlessly hard lessons in either getting sick or multi-tasking myself into overwhelm.  I love to work because I love my work. But I also love and need to play and relax.

When was the last time you played cards, a board game, worked a puzzle or danced? When was the last time you laughed till you cried? When was the last time you took a whole day off to just do the things that refresh your mind, body or spirit (or all of the above)? When was the last time you looked back on your week and saw with wonder what an amazing, joyful week it was?

I don’t think there are many people who on their deathbeds say to themselves or others, “Gosh, I wish I could have worked one more day.” Instead, many people wish they had expressed more love to others, laughed and smiled more, or enriched more moments with the awareness of joy.

Life is short. It’s true. Look to create joy and balance in the fleeting moments of each day.

Mary Claire O’Neal is a communication consultant, speaker and certified life-change coach. For more informationwww.maryclaireoneal.com

© Copyright, Mary Claire O’Neal

A Free, Easy Way to Bring More Balance into Busy Lives

When asked, most people say that taking a walk out in nature is a very effective way to bring more balance and health into a busy life. Time outside, away from activity and technology, can bring more clarity of mind when you are stressed or facing situations beyond your control. Taking a walk in the sunlight, feeling the breeze, and enjoying the beauty around you is very refreshing for the mind and spirit with the added benefit of healthy exercise for the body.

Find a place to walk that is accessible and easy to get to from your home or place of work.  A city park with pathways or a local arboretum can be convenient but still offer the balancing, healing effects of green space: trees, grass, plants and animals.

Here are some tips to keep in mind while taking a break outside to gain more balance and health:

1. Give yourself enough time so you don’t have to hurry. A 40 minute walk is really enough time to refresh the mind and get some good exercise. Brown bagging your lunch at a picnic table before your walk can even give you enough time on your lunch hour. If you have the luxury of more time, that’s even better!

2. Try to take your walk in silence. Instead of listening to music with earphones (which can draw your attention away from the experience around you), try to focus on the sights and sounds in the environment–the plants and flowers, the wind in the trees, birds chirping, or the rushing of water in a stream or fountain. This will help to keep you in the present moment.

3. Have an intent for your walk. Examples of intents can be:  “To bring more balance into my life” or “To give my mind and body a break for pure enjoyment and health.” Having a clear intent can help you get the greatest benefit from your walk.

© Copyright Mary Claire O’Neal

Mary Claire O’Neal is a communication consultant, coach and author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World:  The Art of Joyful Living. www.maryclaireoneal.com


The Speed of Life

This article by Mary Claire O’Neal was chosen as one of the Intent.com articles of the week, 8/7/09.

M. K. Gandhi said, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” One of the things Gandhi may be referring to is slowing down enough to listen.  Really listen.  “Slow down to listen to what?” you may ask. My answer would be many voices and yet one voice: That still, small voice within, or the same situation that presents itself over and over, or doors opening or closing, or what a child is saying with his behavior.

Slowing down to the speed of life can mean slowing down enough to pull myself out of autopilot—out of a routine, out of behaviors and ways of thinking that no longer work for me, out of reactions that can create separation instead of unity.

Slowing down to the speed of life can mean waking up, being fully alive right now, knowing that in every moment resides that choice to be awake.  I have found that what I need to know is within me and also spoken through life all around me, if I’m paying attention. Life is filled with miracles and magic, but unless I am listening and watching, even the miracles will be missed.

Something I’ve found refreshing is to just sit quietly for a few minutes, away from the seduction of technology (stripped of my computer or phone) and listen to the silence or just to my heart beating. Contemplative walks can be a wonderful time for me to get creative ideas. Being out in nature is a way that many people find the silence and peace to listen.

Slowing down can also mean waking up to the wonder of life again. Listening to my heart when it says, “Take a break, play, be silly!”  But it’s so easy to say, “ I don’t have the time.” And it’s so easy to see another day fly by without that joy. Having stuff coming at us all the time is a common way not to listen. Daily routines can become ruts that can distract us from the promptings of our hearts or the still, small voice within.

When slowing down, one can more clearly see things that need attention in life.  It might be that a relationship or friendship needs some quality time. What might need attention is the physical part of me—needing more exercise or healthy eating.  I might be reminded of a letter or phone call that’s been put off for later or a creative project that needs my attention.

When people have regrets at the end of their lives, it’s usually not that they would have liked to have worked one more day (even if their work was a joy for them). It’s usually, “I wish I had said, ‘I love you’ more” or  “I wish I had been kinder, more compassionate.” When one really listens, promptings can become fulfilling action instead of regrets.

© Mary Claire O’Neal

Mary Claire O’Neal has been a nationally known communication consultant for over 15 years, speaker, certified coach and author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World. For more information: www.maryclaireoneal.com

Being the change through choices

I’ve had to make some big changes in my life over the past year–changes that needed to be made in order for me to function at my highest and best.  I’ve been a vegetarian for over 25 years, but even with that kind of healthy diet, there were things that were creating difficulty with my health.  I discovered that salt was a big problem, creating edema, headaches and other aches and pains.  I know this now because when I have taken just the salt out of my diet, many of those symptoms fade or go away.  There are other things in my diet I’ve had to say “bye, bye” to lately, as well.

Being a vegetarian all of these years has not been hard for me at all, but taking the salt out was my personal kryptonite. It has not been easy, mainly because I was addicted to it.  I always preferred salty over sweet, and so sugar was not something that I craved or wanted. I CRAVED salt and didn’t know how much until I took it away. And it is in almost every prepared vegetarian whole food that I’ve found–except things like canned beans or tomatoes (no salt added).  While I’ve always loved fresh veggies, fruits and grains, that’s my diet now. Pretty much, I have no prepared sauces or foods (when I say prepared foods, I mean prepared whole foods), salad dressings, or eating out. I loved eating Asian, Indian, Italian and Middle Eastern food out, and that’s gone now. I order a salad when I find myself out or at a meeting and put lemon juice and olive oil on it.  I was a vegetarian foodie (gourmet vegetarian cook and loved eating out), and I’ve gone through the stages of letting go, discomfort, even some grief, and a bit of whining. But I’ve come to the simple understanding that it is what it is.

Why am I writing about something as mundane as this? Because the human being of me is letting go of the things she loves–letting go of things that brought much pleasure–not really wanting those choices but having to make them. Newer and clearer awareness of my body being a temple and making choices that are best for me out of that awareness is an important part of it. It’s true, I’m healthier. I feel better. I’ve lost weight (almost 45 lbs. to date). My mind is clearer.  A very big gift is the empowerment within me of the awareness that I’m bigger than this is, or the very wise words that are thousands of years old,  greater is that which is within me than that which is without.

This is all about communication.  Lots of communication with myself and some communication with others. What I’ve found drives all of this is love. I didn’t make these choices because I didn’t like what I looked like or because I wanted to fix myself–which seems to be the biggest motivating factor for many in our culture for making changes like this. The deepest and most sustaining force in this change for me was love for my life and to be functioning at my highest, best, healthiest and strongest.

The world changes by us changing ourselves, and what I’ve found in my life to be the most lasting change for the highest is always and ever the change made because of and with love.

© Mary Claire  O’Neal

Take a snapshot of the big picture of your life

When we are faced with a challenge or difficulty in our lives, it’s good to give it focus so we can find solutions. However, it’s easy to slip down the slippery slope of giving the challenge too much attention so that it is amplified and magnified, appearing bigger in our perception. When that happens, it can lead to overwhelm or even fear. One really quick, easy way to regain a balance in perspective is what I call, Taking a Snapshot of the Big Picture of Your Life©.  You simply start writing down everything that is good, that is working, that is joyful. Write down all the things you are grateful for in your life.  Make the list as long as you can.  Soon you will have a very long list. When you look at all these things, you can see more of the “big picture” of your life and then see the challenge as only one thing or area in the very large picture.  This can immediately help create a balance in perspective, giving the area of challenge a more realistic proportion. This balance in perception will bring more clarity, and one can more easily find solutions, options and choices in dealing with the challenge.

© Mary Claire O’Neal

Mary Claire O’Neal is a communication consultant, coach, speaker and author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World.  For more information:  www.maryclaireoneal.com

Hello world!

Becoming What You Want to See More of in the World by Mary Claire O’Neal will be a series of articles on how to be a bridge of understanding, happiness, fulfillment and inspired leadership  in the world. Live in accordance with you highest values and dreams.Welcome!