Mind Your ABCs: Three Building Blocks for Whole Life Well-being

The end of 2020 is finally in sight! Normally I am digging in my heels trying to slow the carousel of time. This year, however, 2021 cannot get here soon enough! I know things will not be drastically different just because a ball drops somewhere and the date on the calendar changes. Psychologically though, it just feels like things are possible again, like maybe I can once more have some control over my world.

In the meantime, I've been wondering... what do we have control over now? Certainly not the pandemic, the election, social justice, or even where and how we spend time with family and friends. We do, however, have control over the most important things - things we always have control over - what I like to call our ABC's: our Actions, our Breath, and our Character. How you mind your ABCs will determine your experience not only of the upcoming holidays, but also how you choose to experience your life.

Mind your ABCs

Actions: Regardless of what we are feeling or thinking, we can always control what we do. Sometimes we give that power away and blame others or our circumstances for "making" us react in a certain way. I call bull! We are 100% responsible for remaining "response-able". In other words, how we respond or react in a situation is totally our responsibility. That's not to say that we won't feel angry or upset sometimes, but how we behave while experiencing those feelings is a choice. If it doesn't feel like that's the case, try meditating.

Breath: When we are stressed our body responds before our minds even begin to figure out what we are experiencing. One of the first signals is that we start breathing more shallowly than normal. This causes a flurry of negative hormonal and physical reactions in our body. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “Shallow breathing hobbles the diaphragm's range of motion. The lowest portion of the lungs — which is where many small blood vessels instrumental in carrying oxygen to cells reside — never gets a full share of oxygenated air. That can make you feel short of breath and anxious.” The Zen masters say, with every moment we can begin again, and that opportunity exists with every breath. As you become aware that you are shallow breathing you can choose to pause, breathe deeply into your abdomen, and exhale slowly. After just a few minutes you will begin to feel much better. While it takes practice, taking back control of your breath is a fantastic place to start feeling calmer and more centered. (Click the above link for detailed instructions on deep breathing)

Character: Our character consists of our attitude and whether we keep our promises – to ourselves and others. It is how we define ourselves in the world. Who do you want to be? How do you want to feel? How do you want other people to perceive you? This too is under your control. A positive attitude can be cultivated. Do you see your glass as half full or half empty? With intention and determination, you can learn to see your world through smiling eyes. It changes everything; your enjoyment, your experience of the world, it even helps you live longer. Making and keeping the promise to yourself to work on your ABCs is a fantastic place to start. It’s never about perfection, just about setting the intention to do better.

Take a few moments to really think about how you want to feel during this holiday season. You know there will be forces at work to test your merry making abilities, and all manner of things will try to take you from HO HO HO to HUMBUG, but setting an intention about how YOU want to experience this season will help you keep on track.

Mind Your ABCs and Make Them Work for You

1. Write down how you want to feel and stick it somewhere you will see it every day. For example, do you want to feel loving, calm, energetic, positive...?

2. Spend just 2 minutes in the morning to take a few deep, belly expanding breaths.

3. Think of 3 things for which you are grateful and why. Gratitude is magic.

4. Note your intention for who you want to be and how you want to show up. This allows you to be proactive.

Whether you are trying to get through the holidays with equanimity or want to feel great about how you approach every day, key into what your body is trying to tell you. Try to be aware of feelings that arise that are threatening to knock you off your planned intentions. DON'T RESPOND! Mind your ABCs! Take a few deep breaths and revisit how YOU want to feel. Then move forward from there. Intentional mindful awareness is the key to maintaining control over your feelings and will help you experience the holidays, and your life, on your terms.

Happy Holidays!