Will Smith’s Top Tips for Success

Undoubtedly one of the most successful stars in Hollywood, Will Smith is more than an inspirational role model in the movie and music industry. During numerous interviews and talks, he frequently shares motivational and mindfulness advice, and discusses his secrets of how he has achieved success in life. For this reason, Will is now famously known for his powerful speeches around these topics and has become a new icon of inspiration for many.

A few of Will’s top tips for personal motivation and success stem from an inner perspective of mindfulness. I’ll share a few of these below, along with how we can apply these practices to our daily lives.

1. Adapt an inevitability mindset

Will Smith shares that hard work and seeking out the right people and situations have been key to his success. As much as we’d like to think that success comes from talent, he explains that a strong work ethic and determination will take you further.

“I’ve viewed myself as slightly above average in talent. And where I excel is ridiculous, sickening work ethic.” – Will Smith

To create the outcome you are looking for, you must first put yourself in an environment where it is inevitable for you to achieve your goal. For instance, if you want to exercise more, what do you have to change about your environment to make it inevitable to exercise? If you want to eat healthier, what can you change in your environment to inevitably eat better? Simple things like meal prepping, buying whole foods, and having a good pair of running shoes will set you on the right path towards a healthier lifestyle.

In a similar way, you can more likely set yourself up for success by surrounding yourself with successful, hardworking, well-rounded people. You’ve heard the phrase before, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. While this may not be true in all cases, it might be worth making necessary changes in your social circle if you’re constantly surrounded by negativity, tension, or people who bring you down.

2. Make exercise a habit

Will Smith explains that through exercise, he strengthens his motivation for success. Exercise of course strengthens the body, and in turn, it improves brain function. Various studies have confirmed that exercise enhances the brain’s plasticity and increases cell growth in certain regions such as the hippocampus- an area responsible for learning and memory. The stronger you become physically, the more energy you will have to tackle your day, and your mind will be able to favourably grow and adapt to stressors in your life. Will says, :

“When you’re running and you are there, there’s a little person that talks to you and that little person says ‘Oh, I’m tired,’ ‘My lung’s about to pop,’ ‘I’m so hurt,’ ‘I’m so tired,’ ‘There’s no way I can possibly continue.’ And you wanna quit. Right? That person, if you learn how to defeat that person when you’re running you will learn how to not quit when things get hard in your life.”

3. Include daily meditation

Setting aside time for a few minutes of quiet, daily meditation can help with anxiety and bring increased focus and clarity. While doing this practice for yourself is a great starting point, Will Smith stretches the usual definition of meditation to include mindfully improving the world around you. For him, this form of “meditation” has become an integrated ritual in his life. He explains that a happier, more focused person will ultimately be a positive influence for others and the world. Whether your meditation includes reading an inspiring book or volunteering for a local cause, it’s important to live out your meditation and mindfulness practice by paying it forward in your community.

“If you’re not making someone else’s life better, then you’re wasting your time. Your life will become better by making other people’s lives better.” – Will Smith

The more we take time to focus on peace and clarity in our minds, the more content and grateful our hearts will be. This continuous cycle encourages more motivation and mindfulness, and creates a positive effect on others.

If you’re inspired by Will Smith’s advice, start incorporating an inevitability mindset, regular exercise, and meditation in your daily life. Mindfulness sets the foundation to develop motivation, and the opportunity for success.

I highly recommend to watch Will Smith’s full motivational video, please click below!

Always,

Paula

The After-Yoga Effect

Don’t you just love that feel-good ambience after finishing a relaxing yoga class? I always feel so refreshed, rejuvenated, and able to re-focus onto the tasks of my day ahead. I love how I can incorporate self-awareness and mindfulness into a daily yoga practice, eliminating any negativity and judgements of thoughts. Knowing that this ancient practice is in fact a mind-body movement meditation, it allows me to let go of my day thus far, release any tensions and worries I may have, and simply be in the present moment. Personally, I find yoga an excellent tool for self-care and a useful way to de-stress.

Photo by Cedric Lim Ah Tock on Pexels.com

“It’s not about being good at something, it’s about being good to yourself.

Practicing yoga is about tending to your mind, body, and spirit all at once. When you’re setting aside time to care for your mind and body, the focus should not be on perfecting a certain pose, or comparing yourself to the way another person looks during a pose. When you are on your mat, it is your place to embrace the person you are today and appreciate the way your body serves you. Even if you don’t get all the movements quite right and may need to take extra breaks throughout the class, you should still congratulate yourself and be proud for showing up! In the end, it doesn’t matter how you do yoga, it’s the fact that you do it. Yoga allows you to slow down, marry your movement with your breath, and just be. It allows for moments of gratitude, awareness, and self-appreciation.

When we really try to listen to our breath during our day-to-day moments, including during yoga or any kind of meditation, have you ever noticed that our deep inhalations and exhalations sound very much like the ocean? If you haven’t noticed yet, I encourage you to try it! Using your breath as your anchor, close your eyes and bring your mind to focus on your rhythmic belly breathing. Sit for a few minutes at a time and simply listen….every inhale and exhale resembles the waves of the ocean, rising and falling in a continuous cycle. The sound itself is meditative and relaxing. If you add in movement, you will notice that the wave of your breath is still there. It is always present- in good times, in bad, and throughout our entire lives. We can always choose to focus back to our breath, we can use our internal anchor to create a sense of calm and stillness within ourselves.

“You can see yourself as simply a wave in the ocean – or you can see yourself as the ocean.”

The next time you decide to listen to your breath, whether that’s simply taking a mindful couple of deep breaths or while practicing a yoga class, perhaps you can think to yourself…do I see myself as a simple wave, or the entire ocean? I hope you can find the courage, strength, and empowerment in recognizing that you are the ocean. You are wonderfully capable, strong, worthy, and loved. You have everything you need inside you to heal from stress and hardship. You can use your body through yoga and breath for self-healing, nurture, and care.

I encourage and challenge you to see yourself as the ocean, to use your natural breath, and to chase after that wonderful after-yoga feeling of weightlessness, freedom, empowerment, and serenity.

Always,

Paula

Wisdom and Courage

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”

– Reinhold Niebuhr

This serenity prayer has become a mantra for many people struggling with life challenges. It reveals that wisdom and courage are intertwined, and suggests that these qualities are possible for everyone.

Positive psychologists define wisdom as the ways and means of planning, managing, and understanding a good life. It is also described as an expertise in conduct and the meaning of life. It often comes with age, especially with vast experiences and the ability to think more abstractly. As expected, wisdom is associated with many positive traits such as a sense of self, less materialistic pleasure, and more interest in reflection and personal growth. Wise people appear to be more open to experiences in general, more flexible with adapting to the changes of life, and possess greater amounts of gratitude and appreciation for life. Clearly, wisdom is something worth cultivating.

Likewise, courage is a virtue that is well looked upon. It helps people face their challenges despite their present fear. Courage comes in many different forms such as physical (ex. soldiers putting their lives in danger for the greater good), moral (ex. admitting a difficult truth), vital (ex. a patient battling illness through various treatments), psychological (ex. struggling with a mental illness), and civil (ex. standing up against discrimination). In essence, it is taking action even when you feel it’s outside your comfort zone, standing up for something you believe in, having self-confidence, being brave, having the strength to rise up against the norm, facing challenges even if you are not sure about the outcome, being mentally and physically strong, and exemplifying self-less behaviour. If you look back through history, you can find many examples of courageous people, from Rosa Parks to your local firefighter.

Over the journey of our lives, we can instill a mindset to cultivate greater wisdom and courage for a fulfilling life. It is not easy to develop these qualities, but with mindful practice, it is possible. For instance…

To develop Wisdom:

  • Consider learning from successful people you admire. ask questions about their work-life balance so that you can apply them in your own life
  • Practice time management by reflecting on your past week and determining how you worked towards your goals, what went well, what you can improve upon, etc.
  • Share your knowledge, especially to those younger than you, as you can provide them with wisdom and valuable life perspectives

To develop Courage:

  • Face your fears associated with dating and making new friends by introducing yourself to twice as many people today as you did yesterday
  • Stand up for the truth when your rights or the rights of others are violated
  • Pursue your deepest interests with a passion

Wisdom guides our action, and through that wisdom, we make good choices when challenged by the social and physical world. Courage follows suit when prompted by a pressing challenge. Let’s aim to cultivate both of these virtues in hopes of a positive future.

Always,

Paula

Emotion-Focused Coping

Have you ever felt the need to hide your emotions? Or you blame yourself for becoming too emotional? When we think about regulating our emotions, what often comes to mind is suppressing the “bad” ones and trying to feel the “good” ones. What we’re left with is a negative sense of self along with emotional distress and imbalance. Positive psychologist Annette Stanton of University of California thinks we’ve placed too much of a negative connotation on our emotions. Through years of research, she encourages a healthier way of addressing our day-to-day emotions and feelings through an approach called emotion-focused coping.

Emotion-focused coping involves an active movement toward, rather than away from, a stressful encounter. Emotional processing (attempting to understand our emotions) and emotional expression (free and intentional displays of feeling) are encouraged. With this method, it is important to acknowledge and realize your feelings are valid, take time to figure out what you are really feeling and why, and allow yourself to feel and express your emotions without judgement.

In a 3-month study involving women with breast cancer, those who used emotion-focused coping techniques perceived their health status as much better, had lower psychological distress, and fewer medical appointments for cancer-related pain as compared to those who did not use this technique (Stanton et al, 2000). These same results have been replicated in studies involving other cancer types and illnesses, and in different cultural groups.

Another study examined different types of coping as predictors of disease severity of acute coronary syndrome, a cardiac disease. Patients who used emotion-focused coping had less severity overall, as its possible this method may moderate the heart’s reactivity to stress. This has great implications for creating psychological interventions in those who show symptoms of diseases related to stress reactions.

Even with minor daily stressors such as traffic, junk mail, and unexpected change of plans, or more significant issues such as financial shortages and minor illnesses, we have the choice to approach them mindfully or avoid them. Many people, especially those within a Western context, seem to benefit from expressing their emotions in a meaningful way. However, other cultures who are accustomed to suppressing their emotions may find that this coping method does not align with their values.

If we turn our attentions away from unpleasant feelings each time we experience them, we would learn very little about how these feelings influence us and our friends. Emotion-focused coping may foster a better understanding of our experiences, and over time we may develop the tendency to face our stressors directly and repeatedly (instead of avoiding them on occasion). Emotional pain does subside, time heals both psychological and physical wounds, and we can take back some control with effective coping skills.

Always,

Paula

In Search of Mindfulness

How often do you find yourself turning on the TV to “see what’s on” and end up watching it for 3 hrs? Or aimlessly scroll through social media only to realize an hour has passed by? These habitual autopilot experiences may provide short term pleasure, but often distracts us from what’s happening in our own world. This kind of mindlessness may lead us to feeling bored, empty, and unsatisfied with our lives. On the contrary, it is the intentional moment-to-moment experiences that give us joy and fulfillment in our lives.

For the majority of our fast-paced and future-focused society, mindfulness is undervalued. Many of us have our eyes constantly on our phone, we forget to take in our surroundings, and may lose touch with our inner selves. I think it’s time we begin pursuing mindful moments, as these are the experiences that will fill our lives with pleasure and meaning.

I’m sure we can all agree that moments are plentiful in daily life. The potential for each moment is reflected in our thoughts, feelings, and other physiological forces. To add on, a single day can present upwards of 20,000 moments that are opportunities for engagement, for overcoming the negative, and for pursuing the positive. Take, for example, a toddler who plays outside. The typical child will bring attention to everything in vision and will happily share their thoughts of what is being experienced. When something is added to their surroundings (ex. a butterfly flying by), they shift their attention and experience it. By seeing that each moment in our lives has potential, we can learn to actively pursue a more mindful daily life.

A short excerpt from a research paper by Langer (2009), states:

It is important to take at least a brief look at what mindfulness is and is not: It is a flexible state of mind – an openness to novelty, a process of actively drawing novel distinctions. When we are mindful, we become sensitive to context and perspective; we are situated in the present. When we are mindless, we are trapped in rigid mindsets, oblivious to context or perspective”

What if the next time you notice you are feeling bored, or start driving on autopilot, you take that as a nudge to search for novelty in the next few minutes? What if you seek out new experiences with people who are different from you? Practicing mindfulness may have benefits for your psychological and physical health, your academic or work performance, and your socio-cultural well-being. These searches may lead us to a greater appreciation for diversity and a deeper existence filled with meaning.

Always,

Paula

Work, Play, Love.

If you are familiar with the movie Eat, Pray, Love, you would remember that on a life changing journey across the world, a woman discovers the secrets of life happiness to which she categorizes into eat, pray and love. I won’t go into all the details, but I would highly recommend watching this film, as it explores simple aspects of everyday life that provide the greatest happiness and life satisfaction of all.

On a similar note, positive psychology experts agree on several strategies for life enhancement. Simple actions in your daily life can add up to create feelings of happiness, well-being, positivity, and pleasant experiences that reflect a meaningful life. The following tips are easy ways you can increase life satisfaction in three key areas of your life:

Work

During your work day, consider starting a meeting with positive comments about your fellow peers’ contributions. This may raise positive affect, and thereafter generate greater likelihood of creativity and good decision making. You will foster healthy and relationships within your environment, which may also stimulate productivity in the workplace!

Play

Help others to find some time to unwind, have fun, and play! Take a moment to think about someone in your life who may need some down time but has responsibilities that hinder them to do so. For instance, offer to babysit for new parents, take a larger share of a project for someone who is overloaded at work, bring dinner and a board game to an elderly person, and start to play as well so that you can reap these benefits too!

Create time for yourself as well by participating in brief relaxation activities to break up your day…meditations, a nature walk, or yoga are great ideas! Relaxation can make your mind and body more sensitive to pleasurable moments the rest of the day.

Love

Be kind to those you love and those who you have also just met. Research shows that engaging in kind acts on a regular basis increases well-being for yourself and for others. Tell those close to you that you love them. Your sincere expression of love will boost your relationship and produce positive affect in others.

What are your ideas of incorporating more positivity and kindness in your everyday work, play, and love? I’d love to hear from you.

Always,

Paula

Boost your Happiness!

Learning how to increase levels of happiness is by far one of the most searched for things by people all over the world. In attempt to find some answers, David Myers, author of his book The Pursuit of Happiness, provides strategies how you can boost happiness in your daily life. I share some of his suggestions from the book below…

  1. Realize that enduring happiness doesn’t come from success. Just like being wealthy or healthy, its absence creates misery, but having it doesn’t necessarily guarantee happiness.
  2. Take control of your time. Happy people feel in control of their lives, often by mastering the use of their time. Its helpful to set goals and break them up into daily tasks. Although we often times get frustrated by overestimation with how much we will accomplish in a day, we tend to underestimate how much we can truly accomplish with simply small steps towards our goals every day.
  3. Act happy. When we put on a smile (even if we really don’t feel like it), this facial expression triggers signals to our brain that our body must be feeling happy. Talk as if you feel positive, full of self-esteem, optimistic, and outgoing and soon enough your mind may start to believe it.
  4. Seek work and leisure that engage your skills. Happy people are more likely to be in a mental state called “flow” (see my article about flow here). They get engaged in tasks that challenge them without overwhelming them, such as gardening, socializing, or craftwork to name a few.
  5. Start moving! A multitude of research reveals that aerobic exercise not only promotes health and energy, but is also an aide for mild depression and anxiety. A healthy mind begins with a healthy body.
  6. Give your body adequate sleep. Happy people live active, vigorous lives yet reserve time for renewing sleep. Many people suffer from sleep debt, resulting in feelings of fatigue, reduced focus, and gloomy moods.
  7. Prioritize close relationships. Close friendships with those who deeply care about you can help you get through difficult times. Confiding in one another is good for the soul and body, so make sure to nurture your closest relationships. Act lovingly, display kindness, share quality time together, and make room for fun.
  8. Focus beyond yourself. “Those who feel good do good”, as happiness increases helpfulness. Reach out to those in need, and you will also reap the benefits.
  9. Keep a gratitude journal. Take some time each day (morning or evening) to pause and reflect on positive aspects of your life such as your health, friends, family, freedom, education, senses, natural surroundings, etc. For tips on how to start a gratitude journal, read my post on Gratitude Journaling 101.
  10. Nurture your spiritual self. Faith provides a support community, a reason to focus beyond the self, and a sense of purpose and hope. Numerous studies show that actively religious or spiritual people are happier and are able to cope better with crises.

What do you think? Are you ready to incorporate these tips for a happier life? Share in the comments below.

Always,

Paula

The Art of Aging Successfully

It is a known fact that our country’s population is increasingly aging, and is therefore no surprise that more and more people around us will likely be over the age of 65 years. Are you wondering what factors may lead someone to age well, in other words, successful aging, positive aging, or healthy aging? Many scientists are actively conducting research in this field, and this will likely continue to be a “hot topic” in the future years to come.

The phrase “successful aging” was first popularized by researcher Robert Havinghurst in 1961 when he wrote about “adding life to your years”. It is now understood that there are essentially four important components to successful aging:

  1. Avoiding disease and staying healthy
  2. Maintaining an active engagement with life
  3. Maintaining high cognitive and physical functioning
  4. Keeping a positive outlook on life

Naturally, what successful aging means to a 65-year old will look different to an 85-year old. Moreover, one’s environment, gender, race, ethnicity, and other social identity groups may influence the way in which one achieves successful aging.

Social support and productivity, which are both necessary parts of life engagement, fall nicely in line with life pursuits of love, work and play. Social support in particular, is most effective when it’s mutual and balanced and is instrumental for successful aging. Studies have shown that the more social ties one has, the less decline in functioning over time. However, this tends to vary with gender: in most cases, men report to receive emotional support primarily from their spouses, while women often rely heavily on their friends, relatives, and children for emotional support.

Along the lines of productivity, research suggests that the more productive a person is, the more higher-functioning they are. Interestingly, physical activity (an aspect of productive activity), helps to maintain health functioning and therefore prevent declines in overall well-being.

A large Harvard study called “The Adult Development Study” tracked a young cohort of over 250 participants for 80 years. These participants were considered socially advantaged and overall healthy. The results show that more than 80% outlived their 80th birthday and on average seemed to maintain the following lifestyle: not smoking (or stopping smoking while young), coping adaptively, not abusing alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight, some exercise, a stable marriage, and being educated. These variables were attributed to the participants’ longevity.

Another very interesting study in 2001 proposed the theory that longevity may be rooted in experiencing positive emotions in early life. A recollection of many positive memories from one’s early life may be related to a reduced risk of mortality. Other studies have found that resilience may also play an important role in successful aging.

All in all, the immense amount of research in this area suggests that people have more control over the quality of their lives during the aging process than once believed.

I encourage you, readers, to take a few moments and reflect on what aging successfully means to you, and how you can tailor your current lifestyle to create a rewarding future.

Always,

Paula

Yoga as a Moving Meditation

As many of you may know, yoga is a very popular form of exercise in today’s society that is great for strengthening the body and improving flexibility. Additionally, it consists of a mind-body-spirit connection, as many people use yoga to quiet and still their minds. Therefore, along with improving physical fitness, yoga can be used as a tool by connecting more with our spirit so that we can connect more with God. However, since many of the yoga classes typically found in fitness studios are fast-paced, it may be difficult to calm your mind as you are struggling to maintain your balance, hold a pose for several minutes, or keep your arms elevated a certain way. By focusing too much on strenuous poses, you might not have the motivation or energy to focus on other important mindfulness aspects of yoga such as belly breathing, or cultivating a clear mind.

Yoga, in fact, is considered a moving meditation as it was originally created to prepare the body for meditation. Breath and movement gracefully connect, allowing for the opportunity to listen to your mind, body and spirit while maintaining self-awareness. One of the central components of yoga is the breath. When we slow down our breath, we actually slow down our mind. When we slow down our mind, we are able to create inner peace within our spirit. And when we are able to have peace of mind, we open up a greater capacity to hear our inner voice and to feel a stronger connectivity with God.

With its roots in Eastern religions, today yoga may be practiced with a spiritual component or in a purely secular form. Yoga itself is simply a tool to use for whichever purpose you choose, whether that’s simply for physical fitness, mindfulness, or religious practice. What matters is the intention for your yoga practice. Interestingly, Christian yoga – a yoga practice with a Christ-centred focus and scripture meditations – is becoming increasingly popular among those of Christian belief.

Are you interested in trying a yoga class? Find a yoga studio near you, or simply search the web for many free yoga classes online. Many offer classes for a variety of skill levels. Whether you are new to yoga or already an experienced yogi, make sure to experiment and choose a yoga style that works best for you. For instance, one of my favourite online yoga classes is Yoga with Adriene, while The Christian Meditator has an abundance of resources for Christian meditation, mindfulness, and yoga.

Let me know your thoughts on yoga and if you decide to try using yoga as a moving meditation!

Always,

Paula

The Key to Resiliency

To be resilient is to “bounce back” from a significant risk, adversity, or stressor, and return to your relatively normal functioning life. When faced with adversity, safe coping methods are applied, and positive outcomes soon follow.

Research shows that there is no timeline and no set period for finding strength, resilient behaviours, and coping skills. These skills can be developed at any point in life, as there is always room for improvement when reacting and responding to a negative situation. Having faith for the future and the ability to perceive bad times as only temporary is an essential strength for enhancing resiliency.

An important contributing factor to becoming more resilient is having at least one supportive person in your life. This can be a family member, a friend, a teacher, or a guidance counselor to help talk you through the difficult time. One of the standout findings of resiliency research is that people who cope well with adversity, even if they don’t have a strong family support system, are able to recruit others to help them. This goes to show that people are “better together” when striving to overcome a negative situation. It is far better to share your troubles with someone, rather than battling it out on your own.

Setting goals and planning for the future are also strong factors in dealing with adversity. These actions may minimize the aftereffects of a negative occurrence by motivating you to bounce back quicker and come up with a useful plan for overcoming stress. In addition, actively planning and goal setting may minimize the likelihood of adversity itself.

This next point is probably the most important key to achieving resiliency: believing in oneself and recognizing one’s strengths. Psychologist Ernestine Brown (PhD) of the University of Alabama says,

“You pick yourself up, and give yourself value. If you can’t change a bad situation, you can at least nurture yourself. Make yourself a place for intelligence and competence, surround yourself with things that help you stabilize, and remember what you’re trying to do”.

I think many people need to be regularly reminded of this in order to heal, grow, and rise up stronger after experiencing any trauma or adversity. Teaching people such self-recognition should be a priority in our society that aims to help adults build a newly resilient approach to life. If this understanding is incorporated into schools, workplaces, and communities, consider how much better our mindsets, mental health, and life-perspectives would be.

If you’d like more information and practical tips on building resiliency, please read my article on Building Resilience.

Always,

Paula