Engage Your Senses for a Good Night’s Sleep

Is your busy mind keeping you awake at night? By shifting your attention to what you’re experiencing with your senses, you can begin to loosen the grip of cycling thoughts.

What you see

Color: Consider decorating your bedroom with water colors and soft pastels. Select paint colors, bedding colors, and pillow colors that will help make your room an oasis of tranquility. Unlike vibrant primary colors which can be energizing, these soft colors can be soothing and calming—and help prepare you for a good night’s sleep. 

Screen time: In addition to what you see, it’s also important to consider what you don’t see. Try to get in the habit of refraining from screen time for at least an hour prior to bedtime. When you’re in front of a screen your body may think it’s daytime and this can interfere with the release of hormones that help you sleep.

What you hear

Sound machine: Nature sounds or continual sound like white noise can offer you a resting place for your attention. Any time you’re distracted by cycling thoughts, simply shift your attention to what you hear—even if you have to make this attention shift every second or two.  

What you smell

Aromatherapy: Scents can help you relax, and lavender is known for its soothing aroma. When you have trouble falling asleep, adding lavender essential oil to an aromatherapy diffuser can send you off to dreamland, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz as she entered the poppy fields. 

What you feel

Weighted blanket: Sleeping with a weighted blanket on top of you can help relax your muscles. If you tend to get warm when you sleep, consider using a “cooling” style of weighted blanket. It’s typically recommended to use a blanket that’s no heavier than 10% of your body weight.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation Exercise: Practicing a progressive muscle relaxation helps to release physical tension. This exercise consists of a gentle tightening and releasing of each muscle group to help you differentiate between what a muscle feels like when it’s tensed versus what it feels like when it’s relaxed. Any time your mind wanders, gently shift your attention back to how your body feels. You can listen to a guided progressive muscle relaxation meditation on the Mindful 180 podcast, episode 51 (on most popular apps) or listen on: https://joyrains.com/episode-51/.

 

Hello 2021!

On January 1, 2021, I threw out my page-a-day calendar, with the last page, December 31, 2020, still clinging to the adhesive. Unlike years past, this year I felt a sense of relief—a sense of “good riddance 2020!”—as I tossed out the old. A sense of anticipation arose as I cut the plastic wrap from the new calendar.

Viktor Frankl talks about this sense of anticipation in his book,“Man’s Search For Meaning,” one of my pandemic reads. Frankl emphasizes the importance of living by looking to the future in the most difficult moments of existence. He writes about gaining inner strength by focusing on future outcomes, no matter how hard it is to shift your focus from the present. 

I’m a mindfulness trainer, teaching present moment awareness. This awareness doesn’t mean you have to continually focus on the difficulties of the present situation. Certainly, it means to acknowledge the challenges. Pushing them away would create resistance. But looking at challenges as part of a whole—rather than seeing them as if they’re all that exists—can help give you perspective. Part of that whole is looking to the future. As Frankl would say, this looking forward can help fortify you.

Remember, you are at choice about where you focus your attention. Consider focusing on what you want to create in the new year. What are you looking forward to in 2021?

I’m now offering Mindful Stress Management programs for organizations and one-on-one sales training for entrepreneurs and small business owners. For more information please reach out! Wishing you a happy, healthy, and mindful new year.

Being Comfortable with the Unknown

Like millions of people throughout the world, I woke up this morning to an unknown election result. Darn! I wanted to know what was in store for the next four years and I wanted to know NOW!

People like predictability. People like to know what’s next. Living in the unknown can be uncomfortable, yet that’s where we are at this moment in time. 

So, if you want to get more comfortable with the unknown—whether it’s the unknown of an election result or the unknown of everyday life—here are some tips:

Stay present in your body. When your mind starts to spin, shift your attention to your body and breath. Notice the coolness of the air when you breathe in and its warmth when you breathe out. Notice the connection of your feet with the ground beneath you. Whenever your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath or your feet.

Realize that this, too, shall pass. Everything changes. At some point we’ll all know the outcome of the election. And then in four years another election will take place and we’ll go through  uncertainty once again. We’re in the midst of an event in the timeline of history. 

See if you can let go of the need for a predictable result, realizing that “knowing” can be an illusion, anyway. Consider the times when you thought you know how everything was going to go, then something came out of left field and completely surprised you. Even when you think you know, life is full of unpredictable twists and turns.

Which leads me to the last point. It’s okay not to know. Can you let go of the need for a predictable result and instead, bring your awareness to the present moment? Remember, you can bring your attention to your feet connected to the ground anytime. Because one thing you do know is that as long as you’re on this earth, gravity will hold you close.

Here’s a link to my latest Mindful 180 podcast episode where I discuss this topic. Listen here or on your favorite app. I hope it serves you today and in the weeks to come.

For added support, I’m offering Mindful Stress Management Workshops for workplace teams over Zoom. I have limited availability, so please send me a direct message on LinkedIn or email me at for booking inquiries.

 

Reduce Anxiety by Practicing “Not Knowing”

With the uncertainty about the coronavirus comes a tremendous amount of stress. Many questions about the virus and its implications remain unanswered—and may continue to be unanswered for the weeks and months ahead. Immediate challenges from the virus, such as illness or loss of work, bring stress. This stress is often compounded by worries about the future. Even if someone isn’t experiencing challenges at this moment, anxiety can still ensue by worrying about what’s next.

From a mindfulness standpoint, an effective technique to help reduce stress is to practice “not knowing.” By not imagining outcomes based on fears, you can remain open and present to what is. To practice, try to notice when you worry about the future and then remind yourself that you don’t know. Will this last for months? I don’t know. Will I get sick, or will my loved ones get sick? I don’t know. Will life return to the way it was? I don’t know. This practice can help your anxieties lose some of their power, as you realize that your mind may be creating stories about what’s to come— when in reality, you simply don’t know.

It can be freeing to notice your thoughts without getting lost in them—and instead, live in the immediacy of the present moment. As of today, the present moment reveals that the coronavirus issue is upon us and life as we know it is changed. Beyond that, we simply don’t know what’s next. 

All we know is that we’re all in this together, since we’re all part of the interconnected web of life. And we can only hope that it’s our interconnectedness, rather than our social distancing, that helps pull us through this crisis. Meanwhile, reminding yourself “I don’t know” may help ease anxieties about the future, as you bring your awareness to the present moment.

If you’d like to try a meditation to help you release stories about the future that can create stress, check out my latest podcast episode here: https://joyrains.com/episode-8/.

 

Responding vs. Reacting

The practice of meditation helps you respond to life’s events consciously, rather than react unconsciously. This can go a long way towards reducing stress. For example, if you’re waiting in line to pay for your purchases and someone cuts in front of you, rather than going into an immediate stress-related reaction (such as shouting “How dare you cut in front of me! I’ve been waiting 20 minutes!), meditation can help you notice events without having such a strong emotional reaction. You may be able to calmly say to the encroacher, “Excuse me please, people are waiting in line here. Please step to the back of the line.”

Practicing meditation doesn’t have to take long; simply sit in a quiet place for a few minutes, close your eyes and bring all your attention to your breath, noticing your chest rising and falling, or noticing the coolness of the air when you inhale and its warmth when you exhale. Any time your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath. This practice, even if done for a few minutes a day, can help recharge and center you.

If you’d like to listen to guided meditations, check out my new podcast, Mindful 180. https://joyrains.com/category/mindful-180-podcast/

3 Simple Tips to Reduce Stress

Got stress? Here are three tips to help you center and find balance.

Tip #1: Create a Stress-Free Zone at Home

Have a “stress-free zone” in your home. You can learn to associate a dedicated place with quieting your mind, a place where you sit for a few minutes each day and focus on your breathing. You could devote an entire room to this practice, or just a corner of a room—or even a favorite chair. One busy professional carved out a small space next to the dryer in her basement laundry room. Installing a sliding translucent screen for an outer wall transformed this basement nook into a quiet meditation space. Another person transformed a bedroom corner into a private space by using a sheer curtain as a divider. Your “stress-free zone” should include a dedicated place to sit, such as a chair or meditation cushion, and could also include inspirational items, such as books of short readings, music, or artwork. Taking the time to pause—even for a few minutes a day—can go a long way towards managing stress.

Tip #2: Weave Mindful Moments Into Your Day

Consider weaving “mindful moments” into your day-times when you quiet the chatter in your mind and bring your focus into the present moment. For example, when you walk to the coffee machine in the office, bring all your attention to the soles of your feet as they touch the ground. Any time your mind wanders, gently bring your awareness back to your feet. Or when you eat lunch, bring all your awareness to the process of eating: the pace of your eating, the taste of the food, the colors of the food on your plate. When your attention wanders, gently bring it back. This process of bringing all your attention to what’s happening in the present moment can also go a long way towards managing stress.

Tip #3: Do a body relaxation meditation.

Sit in a quiet place and gently lower your eyelids to a soft gaze or a full close. Slowly move your awareness throughout your entire body, either starting with your feet and working your way up, or starting with your head and working your way down. Pause at each muscle group and see if you can release any tension. You may want to silently say to yourself “relax” with each inhale, and “release” with each exhale. Or you may want to imagine a muscle group getting warmer and warmer until the tension melts away. If you find that you’re more relaxed, see if you can develop a muscle memory of what your body feels like when it’s relaxed, so you can tap into that memory in times of stress.

These three tips are simple to practice, and best of all, they’re free! They don’t require any special equipment or training. All they require is remembering to stop and pause—if only for a few moments.

Three Tips to Reducing Stress in Traffic

#1: Change expectations. One reason people get stressed in traffic is that their expectation for the amount of traffic they’re expecting is often different than the reality of the volume of traffic. By approaching the driving time with an open mind and without expectations for the way things “should be,” people are less likely to get stressed.

#2: “Be” in the traffic. If you’re stuck in traffic, accept that this is where you are right now. And not only are you “in” the traffic, you’re part of the traffic! You’re in a community of people who are all stuck in this same situation, all wanting to get to where they’re going. 

#3: Notice negative thinking. Negative thinking can amplify stress. If you notice negative thoughts about being in traffic, see if you can focus on something positive about the situation instead, like being grateful for having a car, or having a cell phone to let someone know you’re running late. 

Managing your mindset can go a long way to reducing stress levels. Remember, you can’t change external events—you can only change your response to them.

How to Develop a Compassion Habit

Since studies show that behaving more compassionately toward yourself and others can make you happier, why not develop a compassion habit? The brain has neuroplasticity, or the ability to form new neural pathways and new ways of being. You can actually train your brain to operate from a center of compassion. Here are some tips on how to develop a compassion habit:

Start with yourself. Unless you practice self-compassion, it can be difficult to bring compassion to others. Every day, take time to be compassionate toward yourself, whether you pamper yourself with a bubble bath, practice a type of meditation designed to cultivate feelings of compassion, or simply pause for a few minutes to rest.

Notice your thinking. If you become aware of thoughts that are less than compassionate, see if you can shift to a more positive attitude. Although this can be especially challenging in some situations and with some people, the more you practice, the more natural a compassionate mindset can become.

Ask your inner critic to retire. Many people have developed an inner voice that freely offers negative judgments about their actions, such as “That was such a ridiculous thing to say!” or “You really messed up that presentation.” Ask this inner critic to step down, telling it that the job is no longer available. Replace internal criticism with internal encouragement, such as 19th century psychologist Emile Coue’s famous phrase, “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.”

Look for commonalities. When you’re with people around a dinner table, notice everyone eating together. When you’re at a music venue, notice everyone listening to melodies together. Even when you’re sitting in traffic, you’re all here together, in this shared experience, as frustrating as it can be. The more you notice the common bonds between you and those around you, the more you’ll realize how interconnected we all are, and the more accessible a mindset of compassion can become.

Bring a compassionate approach to those around you—friends, family, colleagues, clients, and even those you don’t know. Take small steps, such as smiling at the cashier in the grocery store, or holding the door open for someone. You don’t have to make grandiose gestures to bring compassion into the world. As the activist Marian Wright Edelman said, “Be a flea for justice. Together all the fleas can move the big dog.”

Let operating from a center of compassion become a habit. When you consider that the first seven letters of the word compassion form the word “compass,” this can remind you to allow a mindset of compassion to guide your actions in the world.

Mindful Sales: Stress or Strategy?

Most sales professionals hope to know at the end of their presentation whether the customer wants to move forward. Yet, the timing doesn’t always work out that way due to reasons beyond the rep’s control, i.e., although they’d prefer to be the last vendor presenting, there might be presentations following theirs—or although they’d like to be the one to present to the board for final approval, they don’t always get the opportunity to do so.

In that waiting period between presentation and customer response, the sales representative can still reach out to the customer with a thank you note, with additional supporting material, or with anything else that makes sense. Yet, there still may be a short period of time where they’ll simply need to wait for an answer. Some sales professionals find that their minds fill with worried thoughts during this waiting period. They may think: What if they don’t accept my proposal? I need this sale to make my quota this month. If I don’t get this sale, my job is on the line. All these thoughts will do is cause stress; they won’t change the outcome of the sale. Sales professionals can only control their own actions and put their best foot forward. After they’ve explored the customer’s needs, wants and challenges—and offered their best solution—the next move is the customer’s.

Instead of stressing while waiting for an answer—remember, worrying won’t change the outcome— try strategizing instead. Consider that your customer will have a finite number of responses. Let’s take a look at four likely categories of responses.

1. The customer will say let’s move forward.
2. The customer will have an objection.
3. The customer will decide not to make a decision now, as they’re not ready.
4. The customer will tell you they’re going with someone else.

What would you do in each case?
Number one is easy: Process the sale.
Number two: Can you address the objection?
Number three: Can you explore the reasons for not being ready? If the customer is truly not ready, make sure you cycle back at a later date.
Number four: Did you miss something in the discovery process? Is there still time to go back? If not, are there other opportunities either now or in the future? Are there other departments or individuals within the organization that may have a need for your product or service?

Once you have your strategies in place, it’s time to sit back, let go of your stress, and contact a new prospect during this waiting period. Keep your energy moving, and keep your sales pipeline full.

Identify Customer Needs with Mindful Listening

Listening closely to your prospects and customers can be challenging, especially since the mind can process words at a rate of approximately 500 words per minute, but people talk at a rate of approximately 150 words per minute. Perhaps you’ve had the experience of listening to a customer and realizing your attention has been pulled away by distracting thoughts. You can use mindful listening skills to help you focus on customers, encourage them to talk, and identify their needs and challenges.

One effective mindful listening skill is the technique of paraphrasing what your customers say. I learned about this important skill while in college, working on a telephone crisis intervention hotline. During my training for the job, the supervisor’s instruction to “repeat what the callers say back to them” was confusing. I said, “You want me to repeat what the callers say back to them? Wouldn’t that be awkward?” The supervisor looked at me with a twinkle in her eye. “You think it would be awkward to repeat what the callers say back to them?” I nodded emphatically. “Yes, I do! (pause) Oooh. Now I get it.”

When you repeat your customer’s messages back, it creates understanding and shows the customer you’re listening. It also leaves room for a customer to say, “I didn’t exactly mean that, what I really meant was this.” You can either paraphrase the customer’s words throughout your conversation, or when your customer is finished answering your questions, by saying, “Just so I can make sure I understand . . .,” and then summarize what you just heard.

People love to have someone take an interest in what they say. The more you listen, the more you can learn, and the more you learn, the greater the probability of uncovering a need your product or service can fulfill. You can even practice mindful listening skills with family and friends—they’ll likely appreciate your attention to them!

Focusing on the Task at Hand

One of the divers in the Thai cave rescue of 12 soccer players and their coach spoke of the importance of focus, saying, “You cannot let your mind slip out of focus, because when you start thinking, ‘I’m going to get stuck,’ that’s when you panic. You cannot think about anything else besides the task at hand.” The whole world watched the skill and focus these divers brought to the task at hand—and let out a collective sigh of relief as the last boys were rescued.

While few, if any, people reading this post have the experience of cave diving, most people still need to bring focus to their tasks at hand. A proven way to develop this focus is through the practice of meditation. Contrary to what some might believe, meditation is not a practice of suppressing thoughts, but it’s a process of coming into awareness of them—and then shifting your attention to a neutral object of awareness (such as your breath) each time another thought grabs your attention. Essentially, it’s like you’re taking your mind out of drive and shifting it to neutral–again and again and again, sometimes as often as every second or two. Just as the repetitive motion of doing abdominal crunches builds core strength, this continual shifting of awareness helps build your mind’s muscle—and develop your ability to focus.

People often tell me they can’t meditate, saying that their minds won’t settle down. Like starting any new practice, be patient and give yourself time to learn. It’s best to start small until you get used to meditating, and then you can gradually increase your practice time. You can find a selection of free, three-minute guided meditations here: https://soundcloud.com/joyrains.

You can also weave “mindful moments” into your day to help develop focus. For instance, try a walking meditation by bringing all your attention to the soles of your feet as they connect with the ground. Any time your mind wanders, simply bring it back to the feeling of the soles of your feet. Meditation practice doesn’t have to take a long time; sometimes it can be as simple as remembering to pause—if only for a few moments.

Tips for Turbulence

Whether you experience turbulence on an airplane, in your work life, or in your home life—meditation can help see you through times that are challenging. You can practice meditating by shifting your attention from your thoughts to something neutral, such as your breath or the feeling of your feet on the ground.

If you’re traveling in an airplane that starts to pitch and shake—your imagination may kick into high gear. The scenarios you imagine are dire: the plane dropping thousands of feet, crashing into the ocean, and your family members grieving your demise. Pretty soon you are in a full-blown stress response.

WAIT. Consider that your stress response is more in response to your thoughts than in response to what’s actually happening with the plane. You don’t know that the plane is going to drop, or that you’ll crash into the ocean, or that this will be the end of life as you know it.

CONSIDER. All you know is that you are experiencing turbulence. That’s it. See if you can stop making predictions about a dire future outcome.

CONNECT. Plant your feet on the floor beneath your seat. Feel the connection between the soles of your feet and the carpet. This will help keep your attention in your body, rather than lost in anxious thoughts.

BREATHE. Bring your attention to your breath moving in and out of your body. Perhaps you can notice the coolness of the air when you breathe in and its warmth when you breathe out. Notice your chest rising and falling. You can even silently say to yourself, “rising, falling” with each inhale and exhale to help keep your attention on your breath.

Every time you notice another anxious thought arising, see if you can release it, and gently bring your attention back to your feet and your breath. Bring your attention back as often as needed, even if it’s every second or two.

Remember, turbulence is not a permanent condition, and this, too, shall pass.

Power Your Sales with Awareness

Developing your power of awareness can help power your sales results.

Awareness can help you recognize your internal experiences, such as negative thoughts that could impede your success. For instance, if you hear the economy is in a slump, do you tell yourself a story that your sales will collapse as well? Once you realize you might be harboring a negative thought, you can release it—and replace it with a positive thought, such as “My sales remain strong in all economic conditions.”

Awareness can also help you clear your mind, so you can focus on your external experience—in a sales situation, that would be what your customers are communicating. As your customers talk, pay close attention to verbal and non-verbal cues to help you build rapport, identify needs, and recognize opportunities.

A great way to develop your power of awareness is through practicing meditation, even for short periods of time. Meditation is like taking time out from chopping the tree to sharpen the axe. Your mind is your main selling tool, so it’s vital to keep it sharp, whether through meditation or other techniques. You can find a variety of 3-minute meditations on: https://soundcloud.com/joyrains. Hope you enjoy!

Meditation at Work

managing stress at work

Nine-to-five jobs are no longer the norm. Employees send and receive work-related texts and emails around the clock, as work life spills over into home life. The two aren’t as separate as they used to be.

Since employees spend more hours working, proactive employers give a high priority to employees’ well-being to help prevent job burnout. Companies who want to remain competitive and attract talent are putting practices in place that help create happy, healthy employees.

Take Google, for example. They offer many perks to keep employees happy and healthy: free gourmet cafeterias, nap pods, onsite doctors for free employee checkups—and since 2007, meditation programs. Google management realizes that meditation not only reduces employee stress, but it also improves the company’s bottom line.

This makes perfect sense when you consider the costs of stress in the workplace. The World Health Organization estimates that stress costs American businesses up to $300 billion a year in job turnover costs, healthcare expenditures, and absenteeism.

Companies are wise to take measures to reduce stress. One practice that’s simple to put into place is the ancient practice of meditation. The benefits of meditation can be profound: increased awareness and focus, reduced stress, and enhanced well-being.

Even the scientific journals are weighing in, publishing studies that show meditation in the workplace makes employees more resilient in the face of challenges—and decreases reactivity to stress and the risk of burnout.

If you search online for companies that provide employee meditation programs, you’ll find companies such as Google, Target, General Mills, Intel, and Etsy. These programs show a shift in corporate cultures to more employee-friendly models. For instance, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh places a high value on employee happiness, a model that’s helped his company achieve great success.

Hsieh and other CEO’s realize that a happy, healthy employee is a productive employee. That’s why meditation in the workplace is catching on. Not only is the practice a proven path to happiness and well-being, it’s accessible to anyone, it can be done most anywhere, and best of all, it’s free!

Finding Freedom with “Not Knowing”

One of the reasons people like to micro-manage everything is because they are worried about outcomes. And yes, I easily fall into this category, which is why I took up the practice of meditation almost 30 years ago!

One day at the local post office, I was worrying about the label on a package, as it didn’t look as if it was affixed properly. The best words of advice came from a mailman, who said, “The things you worry about generally don’t happen. It’s the things that come out of left field that cause you difficulty—things you never even dreamed of.”

Approaching life with this mailman’s wise words in mind, one can enter a state of “not knowing,” where you let go of predicting outcomes and instead, live in the present moment.

“Not knowing” is different than “not planning”

Entering the space of not knowing is different than not planning. One can plan for the future without getting lost in anxiety about imagined future outcomes and without trying to “control” the future. People can control their actions, but they cannot control the results.

The practice of “not knowing”

“Not knowing is most intimate” is an important concept in meditation practice. Intimacy in this sense means the direct awareness that brings you closer to both the immediacy of the present moment and to your true self. By not imagining outcomes based on fears, judgments, memories, and the like, you can remain open and present to what is.

Consider the following scenario: A woman takes a taxi to the airport in near-blizzard conditions. Snow falls steadily, and cars spin out of control, yet she remains in a space of “not knowing” and remains calm about what will happen next. Will the car spin out? Will they get into an accident? Will she miss her flight? As each anxious thought begins to arise, she reminds herself that she doesn’t know, and the thought loses its power.

She only knows for certain that snow is falling and accumulating, and drivers are struggling with poor road conditions. She finds it freeing to notice her stories without getting lost in them—and instead, live in the immediacy of the present moment.

She simply notices when she wants to make an assumption about the future, and then she reminds herself that she doesn’t know. If you could listen to her thoughts, you might hear: Will I get to the airport? I don’t know. Will the weather be ok to fly? I don’t know.

Being comfortable with not knowing can bring enormous freedom and with it, awareness of the moment as it really is.

Mindfulness for Sales: How to Use Mindfulness to Accelerate your Sales Success

mindful sales skills training

Mindfulness can help you clear your mind—and increase your sales.

Have you ever been fully engaged with the present moment? Perhaps you’ve experienced present moment awareness when taking a morning jog, or playing fetch with your dog, or watching the ebb and flow of ocean waves. Bringing this quality of awareness to your sales efforts can help you understand your clients and their buying processes—and increase your sales.

Yet, developing present moment awareness can be challenging. People are often pulled away from the present with thoughts that cycle through their minds. Regrets about the past. Worries about the future. Planning. Reminiscing. Ruminating. It’s widely reported that the human mind thinks 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day!

STUFF

I call this mental content “STUFF,” which is an acronym for Stories, Thoughts, Urges, Frustrations, and Feelings. People don’t always realize this STUFF is present. It works in the background of the mind like a silent partner, informing and influencing behavior. Although STUFF helps people navigate through life, it can also cloud their thinking.

How STUFF Can Sabotage Sales Success

Imagine a sales call where you’re distracted by thoughts. Maybe you’re worried about meeting your sales quota or landing the account. If your attention is momentarily pulled away, it might be at the moment your client says, “If your software could save us time, that would make a big difference to management.” You could miss this important buying signal if you weren’t fully focused on the present.

Or, imagine being on a call where you have negative preconceived notions, such as I’m probably wasting my time since they don’t have the budget, or I doubt I’ll close this sale. These thoughts won’t serve you. If you’re not conscious of them, they may become a self-fulfilling prophecy, since people will unconsciously match their behavior to their beliefs to create consistency between thought and action.

Even positive preconceived notions can cloud your thinking. For instance, if you’re certain of closing the sale, you could miss important steps in the selling process. Let’s say a client has asked you to stop by their office and it sounds like they’re ready to buy. If you think this sale is a sure thing, you might skip asking important qualifying questions—such as finding out who else is involved in the purchasing decision.

How Mindfulness Helps the Selling Process

Alternatively, imagine approaching the call with present moment awareness. This quality of awareness can help you notice distracting thoughts and refocus your attention. It can also help you notice any preconceived notions, so you can recognize stories you may be telling yourself that aren’t necessarily true. As the old saying goes, “Don’t believe everything you think.” Becoming aware of your STUFF can be a reminder to focus on the present, with a clear, open mind, ready to explore your client’s needs and concerns.

Present moment awareness will also help you notice cues to your client’s thinking. You may become more aware of your client’s body language, such as posture changes, that can signal likes or dislikes. You may become more aware of your client’s audio cues, such as shifts in voice inflection, that can help guide your responses. You may become more aware of subtle, underlying issues as you listen closely to your client’s words.

Simple Ways to Become More Mindful

Clearing the STUFF in your mind will help you develop present moment awareness—also called mindfulness. One effective way to practice being mindful is through the practice of meditation. Meditation is a mental training that is akin to taking your mind out of drive and resting it in neutral, if only for a moment. This training allows you to become aware of your STUFF, so you can respond to situations consciously, rather than react unconsciously.

In meditation, you continually interrupt your STUFF by focusing on a neutral object (called an anchor) that doesn’t stimulate your mind. Examples of commonly used anchors are: your breath; your body’s sensations; a word repeated silently, such as peace; sounds, such as ocean waves; or an object to hold, such as a smooth stone. Every time your mind wanders, gently refocus on your anchor.

Beginning meditators may be surprised at the amount of STUFF they notice. The intent of meditation isn’t to suppress thoughts and feelings. Consider anything that draws attention from your anchor to be like a cloud passing, or like a boat floating by as you watch from the riverbank. Allow it to pass without judgment, and gently refocus on your anchor. The repetitive action of refocusing builds your mind’s muscle and your power of awareness—and trains you to focus on the here and now.

Mindful Prepping for your Sales Meeting

Consider taking time to meditate before your sales call. For example, once your car is parked, sit comfortably and gently lower your eyelids. (Note: don’t attempt meditation while driving!) Start by sitting up straight, without being rigid. Try to release any physical tension, and keep your body relaxed but your mind alert.

Rest your attention on your breathing, without changing anything—just notice. You may notice the pace of your breathing, or the coolness of the air as you inhale and its warmth as you exhale, or the rising and falling of your chest. You could even silently say “rising, falling” with each breath to help you focus. Each time your attention wanders, often each second or two for beginners, gently refocus on your breath. Continue with this practice for a few minutes or more. You may want to set a timer, since it’s not uncommon for beginning meditators to fall asleep when their bodies and minds relax.

Now, imagine going into your client’s office. As you begin your meeting, become aware of the quality of your attention. Notice if you’re able to focus on your client, or if your thoughts are elsewhere. Any time you notice your thoughts wandering away from your client, gently bring them back. Consider your client to be your anchor. Keep your attention on your client’s words, actions, and body language.

A Clear Path to Sales Success

Bringing present moment awareness to your meeting can help you uncover needs, understand objections, and recognize buying signals. Having a clear, open mind will serve both you and your client, as it helps build understanding and can lead to long-term relationships. Instead of focusing on closing the sale, consider focusing on the present moment for a clear path to sales success.

How to Reduce Stress

When thimindful stress management techniquesngs don’t go the way you want, stress can arise. Much of the stress comes from ruminating about the past or creating imagined stories about the future.

To reduce stress, see if you can rest your mind in the immediacy of the present moment. Upon entering this moment, let go of past stories and imagined future stories—both of which give the illusion of a sense of control—and enter a space of not knowing. By not imagining outcomes based on fears and judgments, you can remain open and present to what is.

We simply don’t know what the future holds. Staying in the immediacy of the present moment can be challenging, but it can be realized with practice. Sometimes the practice is simply one of remembering to focus on just this next breath. And then the next one. And so on…

Here’s a link to some meditations that can help reduce stress:
https://joyrains.com/meditation/guided-meditations/

Hope you enjoy!

 

Creative Wellness Ideas for Meetings

Here’s an out-of-the-box idea that caiStock_000003108132XSmalln be used for team-building, creativity, problem-solving, walking meditation, and more: bring a portable labyrinth in to your next meeting. The ancient practice of labyrinth walking is perfect for modern times.

No special training is needed. If a person is able to walk, than they can walk a labyrinth.  All one needs to do is start at the beginning and follow the circuitous path to the middle, and then take the same path out again. The twists and turns on the path can help balance left and right sides of the brain and allow for more creativity and well-being, among other great benefits.

Portable labyrinths are often made from heavy canvas and can range from 20 feet to 36 feet in diameter. Permanent labyrinths can be found in parks, medical centers and many more locations. More information on labyrinths and their uses can be found on: https://joyrains.com/workplace-programs/walking-meditation/

 

Just 2 minutes (and 12 seconds) a day

reducing stressJust meditating for two minutes a day can help train your mind. Regular practice is the key to learning any new skill. It’s important to approach meditation in a way that you will feel successful, so you don’t get discouraged and give up. Two minutes is a small enough time commitment to be manageable for many people. Once a daily habit of meditating is developed, even if it’s only for a couple of minutes a day, people often can realize many of the scientifically proven benefits of meditation: reduced stress, increased focus and enhanced positive emotion. Here’s a link to a free two minute (and 12 second) audio meditation:  https://joyrains.com/meditation/guided-meditations/

 

Meditation Myths – Part I

Although somreduce stresse people think the practice of meditation involves stopping all thoughts and feelings, this is not so. Just as it’s the nature of the heart to beat, it’s the nature of the mind to think. Expect that thoughts and feelings will continue to arise. Meditation is about returning to your immediate experience in the present moment. Notice when your attention wanders, and then gently return your attention to a focal point for your awareness, such as your breath. Again and again and again. This process is key to the practice of meditation, since it exercises your minds’s “muscle.” Just as the repetitive motion of abdominal exercises can build your core strength, the repetition of noticing when your mind wanders and returning your attention to your focal point can build your power of awareness.

 

Visualizing Healthy Eating

How can ymindful eating programou make healthy food choices more visible? See healthy choices in your “mind’s eye!” Research shows that what people visualize is more powerful than what is actually in front of them. Instead of visions of sugar-plums dancing in your head, try visions of plums, apples, or other whole foods. Visualize the foods you will prepare, eat, or purchase before you arise in the morning and prior to mealtime, snack time, or food shopping. People’s thoughts have an enormous amount of power that can be harnessed. Instead of planning what you are going to eat, try planning what you are going to imagine eating!

 

 

Bringing Vacation Relaxation Back Home

 

reduce stress

It’s time for that summer vacation. Ahh. Lying on the beach, listening to the sound of the waves … there’s nothing like it. All your muscles relax and you forget all the stressors of daily life. But how can you take this feeling of relaxation back home with you?

See if you can develop a mind/body memory. At the time that you are most relaxed on your vacation, notice how you feel. What is the state of your mind? How does your body feel? Try to develop a memory of this experience to call upon when you get back home.

When you get home and are faced with the stressors of everyday life, have realistic expectations. If you resist these stressors and think “this shouldn’t be happening!” or “I don’t want to be back home!” you can create even more stress. See if you can call on that mind/body memory of relaxation—and incorporate that feeling into your daily life, simply by using your imagination.

Creating a “stress-free zone” at home can help you relax. You can learn to associate a dedicated place with quieting your mind, a place where you sit for a few minutes each day and focus on your breathing. You could devote an entire room to this practice, or just a corner of a room. Your “stress-free zone” should include a dedicated place to sit, such as a chair or meditation cushion, and could also include inspirational items, such as books of short readings, candles, or music. If you’d like to listen to a short guided meditation, you can find one on this page: https://joyrains.com/meditation/guided-meditations/

 

Many Ways to Meditate

 

how to meditate for beginners

Although many people think of meditating as sitting still and noticing the breath, there are countless variations on this ancient practice. Don’t like to sit still? Try a walking meditation. (Each time you take a step bring all your attention to the soles of your feet touching the ground.) Have a stuffy nose? Try a meditation using a smooth stone as your focal point. (Each time your mind wanders bring your attention back to the smooth stone in the palm of your hand.) Bothered by negative thoughts? Try a gratitude meditation. (Each time you notice another thought arising, silently say to yourself “thank you”.) Only have two minutes? No problem! Meditating for two minutes is better than not meditating at all.

The great part about these practices is that they can be done most anywhere, anytime!

Have a Retreat at Home!

Imagine coming home to a personal retreat space. A space where you can sink into the quiet of soft music, soft lighting, soft being. Away from the noise of the office, or the kids, or everything else in your life that cries loudly for your attention. Imagine a personal retreat space that is just about you.

All is takes is intention and a bit of creativity to create a place where you can regularly take a break from the business of your life. You can learn to associate this dedicated space with quieting your mind. Include a place to sit, such as a chair or cushion, and also inspirational items, such as books of short readings, candles, or audio recordings. You could devote an entire room to your personal retreat space, or just a corner of a room. One busy mom carved out a small space next to the dryer in her basement laundry room. Installing a sliding translucent screen for an outer wall transformed this basement nook into a sacred space away from the kids. Another transformed a bedroom corner into a sacred space by using a sheer curtain as a divider. What to do in this sacred space? Meditate, do yoga, read inspirational books, listen to soothing music, or just breathe. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to go to a fancy spa in an exotic location (although that would be nice!). All you need to do is to enter your retreat place, take a deep breath and simply be.

reduce stress

Change your awareness, change your physical response

Changing your awareness can change your physical response. Consider this: your body doesn’t know the difference between stress you imagine and real stress. If you are watching a suspenseful movie, your heartbeat may quicken and you may even find that beads of sweat are forming on your forehead. Your body is reacting to your mind’s cues.

But by bringing awareness to the content of your mind through meditation, you may be able to release tension in your body. If a woman is at the dentist thinking “I hate being here,” her body may be tensed up as a result of her thoughts. But by bringing awareness to her thoughts and to her body’s tension, she may be able to untangle mental and physical stress and bring her body to a more relaxed state – even though she doesn’t like being where she is.

Just as pulling aside the curtain in “The Wizard of Oz” revealed that the Wizard wasn’t so powerful, pulling aside the curtain on what the mind is thinking can help reduce the power of thoughts, and the related physical stress.

reduce stress

The Irony of Getting Help for Anxiety

It’s ironic, isn’t it? Your anxiety may be getting in the way of getting help for your anxiety! Perhaps you are worried if you ask your doctor about it you will be perceived as abnormal, or weak, or any number of other negative connotations.

Consider taking up the practice of meditation as a starting point in dealing with anxiety. Meditation allows you to see more clearly, so that you can become aware of the stories you are telling yourself. If you can see that you are telling yourself a story about your doctor judging you negatively when you request help, ask yourself: What’s more important to me – what I believe about my doctor’s perceptions, or getting help for my anxiety? Another question to consider is this: If I feel so uncomfortable discussing issues with this doctor, can I find a different health-care professional that I feel comfortable with?

The practice of meditation can be as simple as sitting and noticing your breath for a couple minutes a day. Any time your mind wanders, gently bring your awareness back to your breath, even if it’s every few seconds. Meditation doesn’t require any special equipment or training, and best of all, it’s free!

reduce stress

Finding Happiness Within

If only (fill in the blank), then I’d be happy. Maybe your “blank” is making more money, shedding extra pounds, or having a different job. Yet, it’s a common myth to think that if these “if only” scenarios come true, then you’ll find happiness.

Here are some facts to debunk the “if only” myth:

1-The future is unknown. Who knows if more money, weight loss, or changing jobs will really create happiness? Although each of these has the potential to bring happiness, they also have the potential to create new stressors.

2-Everything is impermanent. Just because outside circumstances change, does not mean they will stay that way. Situations are not static; they are fluid.

3-Outside events are often beyond your control. Although you can control your actions, you cannot control the results.

Consider turning within to find happiness, as opposed to looking outside yourself. Meditation is one great way to begin this process. It’s accessible to most anyone, no special equipment is needed, and best of all, it’s free!

meditation

Quiet Your Mind for a Good Night’s Sleep

A great way to shut off your brain and relax your body to prepare for sleep is to do a progressive muscle relaxation exercise. Here are the directions:

Lie on your back and bring all your attention to your body. Begin a process of gently tightening and releasing each muscle group, starting with your feet and working your way upwards to the top of your head. Hold each muscle as tightly as you can for about 5 seconds, then release it completely and see if you can notice the difference between the muscle tightened and the muscle relaxed. Move onto the next muscle until you’ve relaxed your entire body.

Anytime your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to the tightening and releasing of each muscle group.

This technique was developed by American physician Dr. Edmund Jacobson in the early 1920’s

reduce stress

Shift to Positive Thinking!

Thinking negatively is often due to a narrow perspective. Just by widening your perspective and focusing on positive aspects of a situation, you can change negative thoughts to positive thoughts!

Consider Suzie. She hates putting utensils away once the dishwasher finishes its clean cycle. Every day she is annoyed  as she sorts the knives, forks, and spoons into their slots in the silverware drawer. One day she decides she doesn’t like feeling annoyed. She widens her perspective to one of gratitude for the hands that enable her to complete this task. Unlike her aunt who is debilitated with arthritis, Suzie recognizes she has dexterity in her fingers. Now, when she sorts the silverware she does so with a spirit of gratitude for the flexibility in her hands.

Whether you don’t like doing household chores, writing that monthly report, or doing any other number of tasks, thinking positively can simply be a matter of shifting where you place your attention.

the power of positive thinking

Mindfulness at Work: Take Time to Sharpen the Axe!

As the old saying goes, you have to take time out from chopping the tree to sharpen the axe. Since your mind is one of your main tools, it’s vital to keep it sharp. By pausing to take 2 minute mini-meditation breaks throughout the day, you are doing the axe-sharpening work. Yet, often the most difficult part is remembering to pause for your break.

Hang a reminder in your office space: Hang a picture of nature, or a beautiful sunset, or anything that reminds you to take a moment and pause. You could even schedule your breaks into your calendar.

Take a break. Here are three short practices to do at work:

1-Walk mindfully. Bring all your attention to the soles of your feet as they touch the ground. Anytime your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your feet. You can do this while walking in the hallway, walking to the elevator, or anywhere else you have space to walk.
2-Breathe mindfully. Bring all your attention to your breath as it moves in and out of your body. You may want to notice the coolness of the air as you breathe in, and its warmth as you breath out – or you may want to notice your chest rising and falling. Anytime your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath. Count with each breath until you reach 40. (Or 50, or 60 …)
3-Listen to a short guided meditation. You can find a 2:11 audiio meditation on https://joyrains.com/meditation/guided-meditations/

By doing this axe-sharpening work, you are clearing your mind, and improving your focus for the tasks that lie ahead. Walking and breathing meditations are available to you anywhere and anytime. It just takes intention – and remembering!

managing stress at work

Walking Meditation at Work

Many people find that managing stress at work can be helped with regular meditation. One effective tool to use in the workplace is a walking meditation. Here’s a situation where a busy executive uses walking meditation to deal with a challenging situation:

While this executive is getting ready for a big presentation in her workplace, her top client calls and says he’s taking his business to another company. The executive is overcome with a whirlwind of emotion. Yet, knowing that she needs to focus for her upcoming presentation, she decides to practice a walking meditation. She knows that walking from one point to the next offers her an opportunity to take a meditation break.

She begins a process of walking mindfully down the corridor of her office building, noticing where her feet connect with the ground. She becomes aware of feelings each time they arise, then shifts her awareness back to her feet. She still has many mixed emotions, but the practice of shifting her awareness to her feet helps her feel more balanced and centered.

She uses a process of walking while silently repeating the words lifting, moving, placing, shifting to help keep her focused in the present moment. As she lifts her right leg, she silently says to herself, “lifting.” As she moves her right leg forward, she silently says, “moving,” as she places her foot on the ground she silently says, “placing,” and as she shifts all her weight to her right foot, she silently says, “shifting.” Then she begins the process again with her left leg: lifting, moving, placing, shifting. She continues silently repeating these words to herself as she continues to walk.

A walking meditation can be done most anywhere, anytime, even for just a couple of minutes. By using simple techniques to help manage stress at work, employee well-being and productivity can dramatically increase.

managing stress at work

Meditation Tips for Beginners

Here are three simple tips for the beginning meditator:

1-Just as it’s the nature of the heart to beat, it’s the nature of the mind to think. Meditation isn’t about stopping thoughts; rather, it’s about becoming aware of thoughts so you can choose to respond to life’s events consciously instead of reacting unconsciously.

2-Start small. Rather than trying to meditate for 20 minutes a day, start with 5 minutes, or even a couple of minutes. You can find a free two minute audio mediation here: https://joyrains.com/meditation/guided-meditations/

3-Regularity is key. Try to meditate every day so it becomes a habit. If you can, meditate in the same place in your home or office, such as a favorite chair, or favorite room. You may want to include inspirational items in that space, such as candles, smooth stones, or books with readings for before or after your meditation time. Once you get used to meditating there, simply by entering that space your mind may begin to settle.

meditation for beginners

Build Your Mind’s Muscle

Meditation is a wonderful way to build mental strength!

Consider this: Just as it’s the nature of the heart to beat, it’s the nature of the mind to generate thoughts. Meditation is not a practice of suppressing these thoughts, but it’s a process of coming into awareness of them–by shifting attention to a neutral object of awareness (such as the breath) each time you notice another thought arise. Essentially, it’s like you’re taking your mind out of drive and shifting it to neutral–again and again and again, sometimes as often as every second or two. Just as the repetitive motion of doing abdominal crunches builds core strength, this continual shift of awareness helps build your mind’s muscle.

mindfulness at work

Retraining the Anxious Mind

Meditation may not make your anxiety disappear if you are wired to have anxiety. What it can do, however, is to allow you to make a conscious choice about how to respond to the anxiety so you can manage it. The practice of meditation can be completely transformative, as it can actually retrain your brain!

Imagine noticing an anxious thought, such as “My boss will be upset with me,” and then having the awareness to say “Wait a minute . . . I’m making up a story. I don’t even know if my boss will really be upset.” The awareness to discern thoughts (and release those that do not serve) often comes with a regular meditation practice.

Want to start meditating? You can find free guided meditations on https://joyrains.com/meditation/guided-meditations/

reducing stress

Change Your Awareness, Reduce Your Stress

Changing your awareness can reduce your stress. Consider this: your body doesn’t know the difference between stress you imagine and real stress. If you are watching a suspenseful movie, your heartbeat may quicken and you may even find that beads of sweat are forming on your forehead. Your body is reacting to your mind’s cues.

But by bringing awareness to the content of your mind through meditation, you may be able to release tension in your body. If a woman is at the dentist thinking “I hate being here,” her body may be tensed up as a result of her thoughts. But by bringing awareness to her thoughts and to her body’s tension, she may be able to untangle mental and physical stress and bring her body to a more relaxed state – even though she doesn’t like being where she is.

Just as pulling aside the curtain in “The Wizard of Oz” revealed that the Wizard wasn’t so powerful, pulling aside the curtain on what the mind is thinking can help reduce the power of thoughts, and the related physical stress.

pexels-photo

Reducing Stress with Ancient Practices

Want to reduce stress? Consider this: Stress is most often a response to the content of the mind. Imagine you’re watching a movie. When the heroine in the movie tries to escape from the villain, you may find that your heart beats faster and you begin to perspire. You are having a real physical stress response to a fictional story. The same phenomenon happens in “real life”. People tell themselves stories and then experience real life stress responses; responses which can wreak havoc upon mind and body.

A great way to reduce stress is with the ancient practice of meditation. It allows you to witness the stories you tell yourself and decide if they’re true. Mark Twain’s famous quote aptly describes the tendency to create stress through anxious thoughts. “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, most of which never happened.”

Another ancient practice is the first of the “Five Tibetan Rites,” a series of five exercises similar to yoga. Here’s a modification:

Stand straight with feet hip distance apart. Lift your arms straight out to the sides at shoulder level, palms down, so your body is in the shape of a lower case “t”. Start turning very slowly to the right, keeping your focus at eye-level the as you turn. Make a complete circle and then continue circling anywhere from 3-10 times. Discontinue if you become dizzy or if you experience discomfort.

Why this works:
The mental content that cycles through the mind can be a significant cause of stress. This exercise engages the mind and keeps it busy by trying to keep focusing at eye-level, all while turning the body in a circle and trying to stay balanced. The effect of this is to quiet the mind. The beauty of this exercise is that it can be practiced most anywhere to help reduce stress, and best of all, it’s free!

guided meditation sitting