Dallas Clayton artwork image

10 Life Hacks That Will Change Your Life (Or Positively Affect It)

Drinks, Gratefulness, Meditation, Psychology
Meditate

You can start with as little as a minute or 10 breaths, then gradually move your way up. Over the years, a great number of studies have shown numerous benefits to meditation: a sense of calmness, better sleep, more self-confidence, less anxiety etc. The best thing about meditation is that all you need is you, no books or retreats or teachers to nourish the most important relationship of your life: the one with your inner self. As Nayyirah Waheed said:

I love myself is the quietest. simplest. most powerful. revolution. ever.

Drink water

Especially first thing when you wake up. After sleep, we’re all dehydrated and that glass of water may seem meaningless, but it really starts the day on the right foot for your body, mind, digestion… You can flavor it with fruits, lemon, mint or whatever strikes your fancy for some extra tastiness. Yes, I’m one of the people that think water has taste and a great one for that matter. Fight me and my superior taste buds.

Skip breakfast

No matter how much of a breakfast-dreader you might be, you knew that couldn’t be a real hack. Breakfast is important- you know it, I know it, the people at Dunkin Donuts know it… Your brain works better, your body responds faster, you’re prone to make healthier food choices, you won’t have any crashes afterward. Win win win. Extra hack: My friend who works ungodly hours for KLM, the Royal Dutch Airlines, makes a batch of pancakes to go through the week, so she has something to look forward to. 10/10 recommended.

Moving

Yes, working out releases endorphins, the happiness hormone, but even just moving around your house/office, or taking a walk outside is enough to trigger a similar response. It’s extremely beneficial to your productivity, mental clarity and mood.

Simple, effective gratefulness method

I’m as wary as the next person when it comes to studies found online, seeing as you’re in the dark about who might have sponsored the research, how scientific the methods used are and whether the actual findings are actually applicable and/or beneficial in real life. However, I’m always on the lookout for claims that certain behaviors will make us lead a happier life. I came across happiness researcher Shawn Achor, who’s worked with Google, large financial companies, conducted studies in Harvard, UPS, etc., aka trustworthy, who shared his findings on 5 non-time-consuming happiness habits.

My favorite was writing down three (different) things you’re grateful for, 21 days in a row. I shared my own three things I’m grateful for a while back. Why it works you’re ~actively~ training your brain to look for positives. You’ll be a ray of sunshine in no time (your friends might get worried at first).

Adjust accordingly
Make a conscious effort to include activities you enjoy in your everyday life. Cliché as it sounds, you do only live once. Rules do not apply if you’re a cat or believe in reincarnation.
Image result for what you like what you don't change accordingly dallas clayton

 

Compliment others
Kind words cost nothing. Kind words cost nothing. Nothing. This “hack” is low cost- little to no effort/time; high reward- you might put a smile on someone’s face, make them feel more confident, make their day…
More purposefully directed attention
Only a small percentage of our time online is spent mindfully and purposefully. See how checking the news/social media frequently makes you feel and whether it adds any real value to your life. This is an important read.
Say yes/no more often

Advice at its finest. Some quotes I’ve come across often lately:

  1. all advice is a form of nostalgia
  2. all advice is autobiographical

Indian food? Spanish literature? Jazz music? You might be missing out because you refuse to give new things a try. On the other hand, you might be finding yourself agreeing to go to that Jazz club you strongly dislike, for the 3rd weekend in a row, just because you can’t say no to your friends. Boundaries are your friend. While stepping outside your comfort zone is crucial for growth, treat your needs and desires and time and self with the respect they deserve.

Look on the bright side
Is there anything remotely positive about your fucked up situation? Any lesson you’ve learned that you’ll cherish forever? Aren’t you proud of at least one thing you did during the stressful situation? Last night The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (5/5) was on tv, and I’ll close with one of my favorite quotes that it reminded me of:
“For what it’s worth… it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Photo by J-S Romeo on Unsplash

Never Fail to Put a Smile on My Face

Gratefulness, Meditation

I heard the following sentences during a guided meditation some time ago, and I wrote them down in my notebook. The teacher (I can’t remember who it was for the life of me, but I’ll link them once I do) used a pretty simplistic language, but I felt so deeply affected by these words and their power of me. They inspired me to do better and more and trust the process and myself. I’ve read them at different times of my life and they never fail to bring joy and a smile to my face, hope they do the same to you.

The more you give attention to what you don’t want, the more you get what you don’t want.

The Universe has at its disposal powers that we can’t begin to understand.

The Universe has no schedule.

No prayer, no desire goes undone.

What you want, will come to you.

Sometimes you beat the postcard home from vacation, but it always arrives. This is what manifestation is all about.

What you want is speeding towards you.

Our Universe is truly magical. How blessed you feel to be part of something so magical.

Gratitude fills your being for all the lessons you’ve learned.

Routine Optimization

Meditation, Psychology

Every time I’m inspired to take on a writing project, be it write x amount of words a day/pitch x publications a day/write every single day, especially that last one, I talk myself out of it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done those things, at different times, for extended periods of time too, based on what I had to do or wanted to achieve. I’ve regularly relied on the permanence and continuity of numbers and crossing things off my to-do list to GSD.

I’m proud I’ve built a regular exercise routine, made waking up early a habit, as well as getting enough rest, and peut-être the best thing I’ve ever done for myself: keeping up a daily meditation practice.

Photo by Peter Hershey

I’ve written a bunch about meditation and its benefits (73.2% of the writing community be like), but a piece on meditation misconceptions is the only one that can be found on the interwebs. Only partly my fault, but I’ll make up for it sooner rather than later.

If you’re not familiar with or sold on meditation *yet*, this piece by Mark Manson is simple, concise and will make you want to at least give it a try.

I did and it changed my life, or if that’s too woo-woo for you, it ~positively affected~ my life.

Enough strangers I find trustworthy, esp Austin Kleon- recently discovered and I’m completely IN LOVE with his work already- have me believing writing (and publishing) every day will positively affect my life. This is from Something small, every day:

Every day, no matter what, I make a poem and post it online. Most days they’re mediocre, some days they’re great, and some days they’re awful. (Jerry Garcia: “You go diving for pearls every night but sometimes you end up with clams.”) But it doesn’t matter to me whether the day’s poem was good or not, what matters is that it got done. I did the work. I didn’t break the chain. If I have a shitty day, I go to sleep and know that tomorrow I get to take another whack at it.

What matters is that it got done. I’ve probably mentioned Facebook’s done is better than perfect to everyone I’ve ever met, yet as any creative, I struggle with applying the concept, even though on paper it sounds like #wordstoliveby.

I posted this a few months ago, captioned it with practicing non-attachment, but I can’t say I’m not feeling proud. Insight Timer is my practice facilitator. I’m not saying this is the easy way out, but I’d be lying if I said accountability and being notified of new milestones, and stars (that come in different colors!!!), hasn’t been tremendously helpful and motivating. Why would I want to break that streak?! Non-attachment who?

 

So that’s the plan, tricking my mind the same way about writing for the world, every day. Day 1: check ✓

P.S. I started writing a post scriptum, it started with When I said I talk myself out of it, I meant it, but it became too long for a P.S. so I’ll be making a separate post. Not considered cheating, right?

Meditation misconceptions

Meditation

This post originally appeared at Literal Shyft. You can also read what inspires me here.

This weekend, I attended a meditation event and once again found it magical how so many people can come together to learn and share such a life-altering, yet deeply personal experience like meditation. However, the more you learn, the more you might see certain patterns. These are some of the myths I come across frequently, which perhaps raise the stigma attached to meditation. Here are a few of the more common misconceptions I have encountered:

20-30 minutes a day, twice a day. If you’re gonna remember ONE thing from this article, let it be this. You don’t have to meditate for 20-30 minutes a day, twice a day. Just like you wouldn’t tell someone who just started working out to do so for an hour a day, 5 days a week.  Similarly, we shouldn’t tell people who are trying to get into meditation the equivalent of that. Or anyone, for that matter. Start with 1 minute. Then try 2, then 3, then 4. Decide what works for you. Do that. As my favorite therapist says: “It’s a process, not perfection.”

Regular meditators don’t get sick. Meditation lowers stress hormones, therefore, making us less susceptible to illness. However, this study shows us that while non-meditators call in sick more often(missing 67 days from work), meditators still occasionally call in sick (they missed 16).

All regular meditators have a strict food regimen. Actually, meditating makes you more mindful of your surroundings and choices in general and food choices are no exception. However, eating “unhealthy” doesn’t make you more or less of a meditator. Especially now, where it’s not just monks in Asia (cliché, I know) who practice meditation, but people of all ages, professions, descents, skepticism and cynicism levels. You can meditate regularly your entire life without ever having to change your eating habits. You can have all the cake and the mindfulness too.

There is a difference between thinking and meditating. We’re still, our eyes closed, just us and our brains…so why aren’t the thoughts that cross our mind before we fall asleep considered meditative? Or when we’re brushing our teeth? According to the Laboratory of Neuroimaging at the University of Southern California, we think 48.6 thoughts per minute or 70,000 thoughts per day. Meditation, on the other hand, is cultivating an awareness of our thoughts, or learning how to not engage with our thoughts.  In other words, meditation helps with that brain noise. Which brings me to…

Meditation = eliminating our thoughts. This is a pretty common one.  However, eliminating our thoughts isn’t an attainable goal (nor one we should be striving for). Our thoughts become the elephant in the room and the more you try not to think, the more you do. Meditation is about being mindful and non-judgmental of your thoughts, and not labeling them as good or bad.  Your meditation practice isn’t ruined if you find yourself thinking of what you’re gonna have for breakfast. You just kindly return to your breath/ mantra/ visualization…

There’s literally nothing bad about meditation. If used excessively, even elixir can turn into poison. In 1992, Shapiro, a professor at UCLA, conducted a study and found some people experienced bad side effects like anxiety, panic, confusion when meditating. Eastern practitioners suggest that these issues might arise when beginning meditators try to go too far too soon.   As with any new practice, starting slow and easy is the way to begin, and then building from there.

There’s only one (right) way to do it.  Some family, friends or teachers might praise their way as the best and the only one that “really works” while diminishing the importance of other types of meditation. However, there are many ways to meditate.  For example, When I was in Sri Lanka I meditated with a monk who taught every kind of meditation to beginners so they could compare and contrast their experiences. For example, mantra meditation doesn’t work for me, and that’s okay. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to meditation.

You need a teacher/retreat/book/… To me, the most wonderful thing about meditation is that to do it, all you need is you. Being mindful of your breath and thoughts is only up to you. Of course, teachers and books help, but they’re not necessary nor essential. What it all comes down to is how willing you are to deepen your relationship with your quietest, truest, most authentic self.

Keep calm and meditate on.