Being Present

 

Credit: Pinterest

Last week I came across the above quote and it really spoke to me. Being physically present and being mentally present have two completely different definitions. Lately I have been feeling the absence of deep, meaningful conversations in my life and I yearn for that void to be filled.

I cannot remember the last time a phone wasn’t pulled out at some point during a conversation. When hanging out with a group of friends all it takes is one person to pick up their phone and everyone feels obligated to check theirs too. We have grown accustomed to the presence of technology and it is getting harder and harder to be fully present in day to day life. The truth about technology is saddening because no one my age knows how to entertain themselves without a screen. Someone whip out Yahtzee or Pictionary, PLEASE.

It may seem ridiculous to live without technology but pulling back from constant screen use is a great way to slow down your brain. Lock your phone and instead pass some time by reading, journaling or drawing…unleash the creativity! Once enough time is focused in a more constructive place than the depths of someone’s Instagram page a feeling of relaxation arises. There will always be time to be engrossed in social media but I hope more than anything that young people can learn to stay present in the more simple joys of life.

When having a conversation, I try to remind myself to continuously look someone in the eye and ask questions about what they are saying. That is the best way to show your true interest in another person. It is just too easy to get lost behind a screen when the world is going by around us. We walk around engrossed in the latest Tasty video or Snapchat story, completely oblivious to the beauty passing by with every step.

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It may seem impossible to go a full day without your phone but the experience will allow you to see the world a little differently. You don’t need that perfectly staged Snapchat video or Instagram story to show that you are having fun with your friends. There is definitely pressure in our world today about posting constantly to ensure that your followers know you are maintaining an interesting life. Your friends that you are hanging out with already know how much fun you are. Pictures and videos are great, but soaking in the memories with your eyes and ears is more organic and fulfilling.

It is always great to snap some pics of a new place or some cool food, but save the editing and posting until after in order to enjoy the rest of the day. People always seemed surprised when I say I left my phone at home for the day or night; it’s like a security blanket that is thought to be a necessity when I can function just as well without it.

Right now you are looking at a screen, as are billions of people around the world. Try taking a breather from all the screens and pay attention to the beautiful details all around you because the world is a lot more interesting than the Instagram popular page.

I snapped this pic before embarking on a beautiful walk down the beach a few weeks ago. Left my phone in the car (:

 

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Why Yoga is the Key

Exercising doesn’t necessarily mean running ten miles to feel good about yourself. Why run when you can do yoga to feel just as good physically and mentally? Yoga is one of the greatest forms of exercise because it is both physically and mentally satisfying. The intense focus on mentality is why I love yoga so much. I feel rejuvenated after, not exhausted. I want to go to yoga, I don’t dread this type of exercise. Mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise and yoga is a wonderful outlet to strengthen your brain.

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You may only be at downward dog right now, but pretty soon you could be bending like a pretzel.

Yoga is all about focus. Forgetting about work, relationships and any other responsibilities to focus on your body and mind. Yoga is the only time I am allowed to focus on just myself, how my body is moving and allowing my mind to focus on keeping my breathing deep and steady to relax my mind. It is also a great technique to help sleeping problems because the breathing techniques can be implied if there is trouble falling asleep. Yoga breathing has helped me many,many times with sleep when my mind is too cluttered to think about resting.

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Yoga allows you to relax your body and mind to create a better you. What I love about yoga is how breathing is a centric part of all classes. Deep breathing is an amazing tool to use in times of stress, pain, anger, fear…the list goes on. Once I began practicing yoga regularly, it became easier to apply the breathing techniques and notice a change in how I handled tense situations. You don’t realize how many benefits there are to yoga until you find yourself in public stretching out your shoulders or letting out a deep breath.

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Another great aspect of yoga is stress relief. The breathing paired with stretching will wash all the stress away and allow you to relax your body and mind. Yoga moves tend to focus on relieving tension from the shoulders and back, which is where stress builds up in your body. Stress can build up quickly in your body without you even realizing it. This can lead to pulled muscles and other health complications like chronic stress which is more serious. Yoga allows you to stretch out all of your muscles and replace any pain caused by stress with soothing relief and comfort.

 

More experienced yogis can do intense backbends and splits but don’t feel pressured to match their expertise right away. It takes time to increase flexibility, but it is possible for you to get there! Dancers tend to have impeccable posture because they are stretching and increasing their flexibility constantly. Yoga can have the same results!! Weekly stretches and poses will strengthen the muscles in your back and shoulders, which will lead to better posture. This could take a few weeks, or maybe a couple of months. The benefits of breathing techniques will be present almost immediately, but don’t give up on the physical benefits which will take some more time. Consistency is key! Whether that means five minutes of breathing everyday, or 20 minutes of new poses and stretching, it is all positive for your mind and soul. Letting out stress while increasing flexibility…double benefit!

The BEST part about yoga?? You can be your own teacher! There are dozens of YouTube tutorials and apps you can download that will guide you through stretches and breathing techniques to get you started. Once you get the hang of it, you can start doing it alone! Just 10-15 minutes every day can do a world of difference for your body and mind. I can say all I want about yoga, but you have to try it yourself to experience the benefits.

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Good luck and namaste!

Find Your Zen and Destress Your Life

It’s the middle of the semester and stress is abound. Work is always piling up, whether it be midterms, projects, papers or just your good old fashioned deadline. To our brains, it all means the same thing: stress. When stress has its clutches around us, we can turn into knotted up wads of bad energy. Luckily, there are ways to combat this. All you need is a healthy dose of willpower and a place to start!

It Begins With Your Environment

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I don’t know about you, but I often find that the root of my stress lies in the state of my living space. One of my friends always says that when her room is a mess, so is she. If you’re the type whose emotions are linked with your surroundings, then this should be your first step. For me, it happens like this: one or two articles of clothing get tossed on the floor, and in a week’s time my space has descended into anarchy.  Empty bottles and discarded wrappers litter the floor. Makeup is strewn across my desk.

The first thing we do everyday when we get out of bed is touch our feet to the floor. When there’s no floor to touch because it’s covered in junk, you know you have a problem. By de-cluttering your room, you will in turn begin to de-clutter your mind. I find it rather therapeutic to clean my room in one fell swoop, but others disagree. Marie Kondo, the author of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, insists that the best way to keep a space clean is to work on it a little bit every day. Letting your clothes pile up is a metaphor for how you deal with your problems. The good news is that anyone can be clean–it doesn’t take any special skills or superpowers. Once you get a taste of the harmonious feeling that comes with a clean living space, you’ll never want to go back to your old ways.

Embrace the Antioxidants!

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When Kermit said, “It’s not easy being green,” he was lying, assuming he was talking about eating green things! As long as you have access to healthy, organic fresh fruits and vegetables, you can be like Kermit, too. My favorite green thing (besides Shrek) is green tea. The benefits of this drink have been touted by health gurus and nutritionists alike. It all comes down to polyphenols, which are the antioxidants found in green tea. Antioxidants are known for fighting “free-radicals” which cause inflammation, weaken cell structures and otherwise wreak havoc on our insides. By eating antioxidant rich foods like blueberries, avocados, walnuts, fresh brewed coffee (and of course green tea,) we can boost our body’s defenses against ever-present environmental pollutants. When our bodies feel cleansed, so do our minds. This in turn gives us a sense of control over our lives, which leads to lower levels of stress.

And Now For The Fun Part

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It’s time for arts and crafts! Don your smocks and tie your hair back, it’s about to get messy (but this time in a good way). In the spirit of zen with the yin of harmony comes the yang of chaos. As great as it feels to tidy up, it can feel just as calming to make a big mess.

One of my favorite ways to achieve this effect is to make a collage. It can follow a specific theme, like pictures of your best friends or a memorable vacation, or it can just be anything that makes you happy. I am a notorious hoarder of magazines, so to make good use of them I like to grab a stack and start ripping out pages of pretty things. If you’re the scrapbooking type, using washi tape, stickers and other craft store staples can really liven up your piece–but sticking to good old scissors and glue is just as good. 

Drawing a heart map is another easy and effective way to take stock of what matters to you and what doesn’t. You don’t have to be an artist to create something beautiful. Just draw a big heart, then fill it in with things you love like a patchwork quilt. If your heart is big enough, you can write or draw those things inside the spaces. If your canvas is smaller, try drawing lines outside of the heart to label the things you love like a web.