Anne Hartley
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anne Hartley

Anne Hartley is the founder and CEO of Hart Life Coaching Anne is also the author of several books including Financially Free, Love the Life You Live, Love Your Money - Love Your Life and Life Lessons. www.hartlifecoaching.com.au

How Mindfulness can Change Your Stress Response

Mindfulness is re-training the mind to respond in a different way and this is something we all need to learn as stress affects us all.

Psychologists used to say that the most common causes of stress were major life events such as: the loss of a job, major financial problems, marriage break down, moving house and so on. Today, those events can still cause stress but something really simple can trigger a stress response because we have been hardwired to feel stress by the way we live our lives.

In 1969, 36 per cent of women reported being stressed. In 2009 that figure has more than doubled to 75 per cent. In 1969 washing machines and TVs were just becoming affordable, now the are considered standard items along with dishwashers, microwaves, mobile phones, tablets and computers, adding to the cost of living. Household debt is now four times more than it was in 1988. And in 1969 the average person slept an average of eight hours. In 2009 30% of people get less than seven hours of sleep a night.

Now some interesting research has shown that individuals exposed to stress on a regular basis may build resilience, but people living a more affluent life may not have developed the same coping skills and may be more susceptible.

The stress response

There are differing opinions as to what causes stress today and the information age is definitely a factor. Change is no longer something that happens once in a while, it is a regular occurrence and the speed at which we are expected to learn new skills is greater than ever before.

Positive thinking alone is not enough to change the stress response

Hans Selye divided our stress response into three different stages: alarm, resistance and exhaustion. We don’t always experience all three stages. During the alarm stage your nervous system goes into fight or flight mode. If the stress doesn’t end you move on to the next stage of resistance where your body tries to get your nervous system back to normal as hormones released during this stressful period can damage your cells, the more stress you have experienced your body will automatically move into the exhaustion stage. The problem for many of us is that our stress response never really switches off and our bodies are constantly being bombarded with stress hormones.

Positive thinking alone will not change your stress response. We need to change the way we act.

Relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises work in the moment. Meditation helps to change our response to stress, but that takes time. The most effective technique to use at any time is mindfulness, and it can be done anywhere.

Mini-Mindfulness exercise

As soon as you notice yourself reacting step out of automatic pilot.

  • Pause.
  • Breathe deeply.
  • In your mind see yourself stepping out of your emotions.
  • Focus on your breathing. Breathe in to the count of four, breathe out to the count of four.
  • Observe how your body responds to your breathing.
  • Observe the world around you. Take note of colours and patterns, shapes and sizes. Do all of this without judgement.
  • Continue to do this for a few minutes, then return to what you were doing previously.

Mindfulness is the practice of observing yourself, your emotions and the way you respond. It is standing outside yourself and being the observer, not the judge.

Mindfulness is re-training the mind to respond in a different way.

Practice is what we do when we need to learn a new skill. When you learn to drive a car, play a sport, or learn to paint you do it repeatedly until you feel you have mastered the skill. Mindfulness is much the same. For it to become an automatic response you need to practice being mindful in different situations, on a daily basis.

You could see this practice as one more thing you have to do, so change the way you think about it, link it to something pleasurable, such as enjoying a cup of coffee. Practice being mindful while drinking coffee, savour every sip, really taste and feel the coffee on your tongue, the feeling of relaxation. Step outside your body and observe yourself drinking coffee. It’s an easy way to establish a positive habit and once you find you do this on a regular basis, you can then add another mindful practice into your daily life, such as being mindful when walking.

Don’t let the simplicity of mindfulness fool you, simple changes can lead to a defining moment, one you will most likely miss if you react. Every time you are present in this moment you reinforce an automatic response that will benefit you for years to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Meditation Changed My Life

Meditation has changed my life profoundly, and a part of my calling is to teach others how to practise and grow with mindfulness and meditation.

Why I trust in the healing power of meditation

Meditation is something I’ve practised since the early eighties. In the year following my son’s death I did a number of courses and every one included meditation, this is how I got started and it helped enormously during that difficult time.

By 1985 I started using meditation to help me attain my goals. Every day when I arrived at work the first thing I would do was lock my office door, sit on the floor and meditate for 20 minutes, then I’d start my work day. I can’t say I’ve never missed a day, but my meditation practice has been consistent and I credit it with enabling me to cope with the many challenges I’ve faced in my life.

At 16, my youngest daughter Laura, was admitted to a psychiatric clinic with major depression. Over the following years she was hospitalised a number of times whenever she was at risk of suicide. Meditation got me through that time, and it helped Laura to turn her state around and manage what can be a crippling illness. Because of this Laura has been able to overcome so many fears as she backpacked around the world and had some amazing experiences such as the time spent in the Amazon, searching for the northern lights in Norway and sleeping on the Afghanistan border protected by Turkmenistan army as the Taliban were camped nearby (as a mother I can’t say I was crazy about that one).

More recently my daughter Lisa had a liver transplant and there were times when she was close to death, and whenever I need guidance or my spirits lifted I meditated. I cannot recommend it highly enough because if you practice it consistently it changes your response to stress, and that’s something I can personally attest to.

ask-recieve
Ask and receive

Many years ago I established the habit of asking questions, as a way of seeking guidance, before every meditation and all of my work has evolved from the answers I’ve received.

Some people say, I asked, but I didn’t get an answer. We always get an answer, it’s just that we don’t always listen, or the answer comes in a shape or form we don’t expect or like, and we ignore it. We all know that life doesn’t always go the way we plan but when you stay open and willing life can be so much easier.

How meditation can help you

When we meditate consistently we increase our tolerance to stress. The difference between meditation and relaxation techniques is that meditation changes the structure of our brain and over time the way we respond to stress, whereas relaxation is a more immediate tool that can be used to manage and release stress. There is a place for both.

Mindfulness is a state of experiencing pure awareness.  It helps us to separate our thoughts from who we are. It encourages us to become the observer, which in turn enables us to release negative thoughts and emotions.

MRI Scans show that after eight weeks of mindfulness and/or meditation practice our fight or flight response weakens, while our attention and concentration gets stronger. How much this occurs depends upon how much time we dedicate to this practice. You don’t have to spend hours meditating, 20 minutes a day is enough, but if you can only meditate for 10 minutes, it’s still beneficial.

Meditation is such a simple, easy practice that can be done by anyone. If you don’t know how simply go to YouTube and search for a guided meditation you can listen to, there are hundreds, if not thousands freely available. My favourite is, I am that I am, by Wayne Dyer, and I listen to this most days. Marianne Williamson has some lovely meditations as well.

Mindfulness and meditation aren’t about changing anything, they are tools that allow us to experience inner peace even during the most stressful times. But there is so much more we can gain from using them. Mindfulness and meditation enhance our intuition. I listen to my intuition every day and ask for guidance on simple things from looking for a parking spot to major life decisions. I trust my intuition implicitly to always guide me to the right choice and I can only do that because I am so in tune with it.

The sooner you start using these valuable tools you’ll not only enrich your own life, but you will also become a role model for others, particularly if you have children.

How mindfulness can help children and teens

Like many people’ I’ve been saddened by teen suicide and I wanted to write a course to help prevent this, yet when I did my research I found that what would help children and teenagers most was to learn mindfulness, and that’s how my mindfulness teacher course came about.

Teen suicide is usually something that is an impulsive action when feelings get too much to bear. I even made a half-hearted attempt myself when I was 18 and broken-hearted.  As 95% of all behaviour is habitual, teaching children and teens to develop the habit of pausing and observing before taking any action could save a life. It will also help them to grow up to be better-balanced adults.

Mindfulness is also known to build resilience. It can help us manage pain, make wiser financial choices, communicate better and enjoy life more.

By meditating regularly, and being more mindful we enrich our lives.

Make Your Life Matter

I started Hart Life Coaching in 1999. We are a boutique school that doesn’t rely on hard selling or hype, but instead, we want to make a real difference in the lives of everyone who trains with us. We offer courses to train meditation and mindfulness teachers, but our courses are open to anyone who wants to make their lives better. Contact us, or schedule a free call.

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Why We Need to Connect More

When I moved into my first home, with a 3-year-old, it was scary and a little lonely at first. What helped enormously were the wonderful neighbours I had. I often had coffee, a meal or a chat with one lot of neighbours, while my adjoining neighbours, a young married couple with a daughter the same age as Lisa, were a Godsend. That neighbour often brought my washing in if it looked like it was going to rain, checked up on me if she hadn’t seen me for a few days, and cooked for us when I was sick. We also minded each other’s children for short periods when necessary. That was my first real taste of what is was like to live in a supportive community.

Several years later I moved into another rented home in Lugarno, where I also had two wonderful neighbours. One had a pool which we were invited us to use any time. I often had coffee and a chat in my neighbour’s kitchen on a Saturday afternoon. The other neighbour would ask if I needed anything taken to the tip and told me to call on him if I ever needed any help. When my mother had her first heart attack my father contacted my neighbour who picked up Lisa from school and looked after her so I could go to the hospital. Every Christmas, for six years, we had breakfast at either one of our neighbour’s home, whilst another neighbour, who was a member of the Salvation Army, sang carols outside. I only moved out of that home because the owners, who had been living overseas, decided to return home, otherwise I suspect I’d still be there today. Since then I’ve lived in houses where most of the time I don’t even see my neighbours, let alone talk to them.

I found this statistic interesting. Sarah Pressman, from the University of California discovered that: obesity reduces longevity by 20%, drinking by 30%, smoking by 50% and loneliness by 70%. Social connection is something we are losing and it’s one of the most important ingredients for health and happiness.

Why we’ve lost our connection

A lot of people say we have lost our connection because we are too busy, and while some of that may be true, I don’t believe it’s the only reason. I know that when I lived at Lugarno my career was really taking off and I worked incredibly hard, but I always had time for a coffee and chat, or even to help out my neighbours.

The leading cause of death in Australia, and increasingly throughout the Western world, is heart disease. Of course, a lot of that can be attributed to our diet and way of living, but it can also indicate the impact this lack of connection is having on us. Just look at these statistics:

  •  Depression is the leading cause of disability world wide and an estimated 45% of people will experience a mental health condition (According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics).
  • Between 2011 and 2014 1 in 9 Americans took antidepressants, whereas 30 years ago that number was 1 in 50 (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).
  • Suicide statistics have increased over the past ten years and are now at the highest levels ever.

What’s coincided with these alarming statistics is the introduction of technology. I’m a lover of technology and I run a business that uses a lot of technology, so I am not knocking it, but what we all need to think about is the impact technology has had on the way we connect with others.

The reason we are not connecting the way we once did, in my opinion, is that we fear rejection. When we used to ring people not everyone had time to talk, and we accepted that, we didn’t take those rejections personally. We would knock on the door of a new neighbour. We would walk up to a stranger and start a conversation, and sometimes people would look at us strangely but we survived. Now we take the easier route, we message, text and connect over social media and in doing so a vital skill that once  developed naturally, has gotten weaker.

If we want the world to change, we have to be willing to put ourselves out there. We need to stop worrying about what other people think of us. We need to be prepared to reach out and fail, then pick ourselves up and try again. We need to smile at strangers more. Take a chance and join a group or do something new. And don’t wait for people to talk to you, be the one to start the conversation. Not everyone you meet is going to be someone you’ll want to be friends with, but it’s the act of being open that tends to draw people to us.

I believe that one of the major contributors to depression is a loss of  hope. When we don’t believe that anything will change what is there to look forward to. Hope gives us the courage and is something we all need to hold onto, because without hope we will never develop, or maintain, resilience, the two are inextricably intertwined.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

 

 

Everything will be alright

A couple of weeks ago I was feeling worried about my daughter’s health and her upcoming liver transplant when I received an email from Hay House which I opened on my phone. Instead of opening an email it went straight to an audio of Wayne Dyer’s which I hadn’t heard before. It was only 10 minutes long and his voice sounded slightly different, but very definitely Wayne’s. In this audio he talked about trust and towards the end he said the same sentence over and over again, and that was, “Everything is going to be alright. Everything is being taken care of in every area of your life. Trust. -Everything is going to be alright.”

Later that day I went back to the email to listen to the audio again and I couldn’t find an audio attached. I asked other people to check it out, just in case I missed it, and according to everyone there was no email attached.

I even went so far as to email Hay House and ask, but unfortunately, only got an automatic response. I know I didn’t imagine it, and I don’t have that audio on my phone so I’m taking it as a sign from God.

Whenever I go through a tough time in life, I go back over the ten steps to see if I’m not doing something. Invariably I find there’s some little habit I’ve let slip, recently I noticed how often I complain. That tells me that I am not being congruent. So I’m back to monitoring my thoughts and words.

I also noticed I’ve been feeling resentful, so I’m monitoring that, and doing more to fill my needs. I have only been meditating once a day for a while now, so I’ve returned to twice a day. I’ve changed my values, and I am ensuring that I take 100% responsibility for my life. And I forgive daily and focus on what I’m grateful for.

I wrote my book Love the Life You Live so I would have something I could refer back to any time my life didn’t flow, and I can only say that for me these steps have been invaluable.

Whether you use my work to help you create the life you want, someone else’s, or you have your own routine, it will only work if you embody what you believe in, otherwise it’s just intellectual knowledge. I have had so many people say to me they feel like a fraud, and that happens when we pretend we are something we are not.

None of us are masters. We just have to practise ourselves what we teach and/or believe in and everything will be alright.

happiness heals

Happiness isn’t something you have to wait for. It’s never dependent upon something changing. Happiness is something we choose and allow into our lives by the way we live, but that doesn’t mean we are going to feel joyful every day.

Recently I attended a family constellations workshop, which I discovered is not my thing, but a fascinating process nonetheless. In that workshop there were a lot of people who were in deep emotional pain and I heard many expressions throughout the day such as: It’s too hard, Life’s so painful, I don’t want to be here. The tendency to avoid pain seems to be deeply entrenched in our psyche, and the message I wanted to share with you today is that you can get through anything, yes anything in life, if you don’t resist it.

My life’s been tough. All I ever wanted was to be a mother, it was more important to me than anything else, and I treasure every one of my children. Then, my son died at five. My youngest experienced major depression and was suicidal for many years. And now my eldest, who has always been my rock is suffering. Ten years ago, Lisa was diagnosed with a rare liver disease. Three years ago, she was diagnosed with stage 4 cirrhosis. Recently, she was told that she would be lucky to be alive in two years without a transplant, but there was no guarantee that her liver wouldn’t fail at any time and she could be dead within two weeks.

Right now I feel sad and a little worried but underneath that is a core of peace. I can feel despair on occasions, without losing hope. I can wish my life was easier without complaining about what is. I expect a miracle, yet I know I can accept whatever happens.

The only thing that stands in the way of our happiness is our inability to accept what is. That doesn’t mean we don’t need coping strategies or that we don’t need to express our emotions. Some people cry but I don’t like crying in public, I like to cry alone. I used to talk about my problems all the time, but I’ve learnt that a better way for me to express any pent up emotion is to write it out of me. I’ve spent many hours at my keyboard alone, crying and typing out my feelings.

I used to think that writing was my purpose. I know now it’s just the vehicle through which I express my purpose. My purpose is to share, and that is how I make sense of pain. I share what I learn with others in the hope that it makes their life easier.

I came into this world to experience acceptance. My gift is the sharing of what I learn with others.

I have learnt that forgiveness clears away negative energy and opens doors to opportunity, so on a regular basis, prior to my daily meditation, I often go through the Ho’oponopono forgiveness process. Which is based on accepting responsibility for everything in your life, forgiving everyone no matter what they have done to you, and that includes forgiving ourselves, and the final step is extending love.

Now I know so many will resist this message, and many won’t even have read this far, if you have all I can say is be willing to try it. Resistance of any kind is the cause of all pain. Resistance keeps us stuck.

A question I’ve been asked is, how can we accept what is without resigning ourselves to what is?

The way I do it is I do it is to: forgive, release the pain, and accept. Sometimes it takes a while to accept, but I’m always willing to. Then live your life as if all of your wishes will be fulfilled and it’s just a matter of time until that happens.

Choose happiness today. Not when the miracle occurs. Not when someone changes. Not when your depression or struggle ends. Not when you find someone to love you. And not when the pain ends. All you have to do is make the choice, you may not feel any different for a while but if you keep affirming that you choose to be happy, that you choose to live, one day you’ll find you really do feel happy.

Do at least three things that make you happy every single day. They can be small things like walking in the sunshine. Enjoying a cup of coffee. Talking to someone. Savour these moments.

Then start a list of twenty wishes, these are things you want in your future. These wishes aren’t about material possessions, they are about experiences and can include big things like sharing your life with someone you love or being a mother. They can also include fun things as well such as taking a ride in a hot air balloon or riding a bike.

Today is the only day any of us have, let’s enjoy it, and share that enjoyment with others.

“Pray as if God will take care of all; act as if all is up to you.”
St Ignatius

 

 

 

 

Finding Your Passion

“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” —Oprah Winfrey

When Charlie Albone left school all he wanted to do was go backpacking in Australia, so he took any work he could get that would help him save towards that goal. During the day he worked for a house painter doing mostly grunt work of scraping and sanding. At night he worked in a bar. On his way home one day Charlie witnessed a car crashing into the stately gates of an English manor house, then drive away. The following day Charlie called in to tell the home owner that he had witnessed the accident and what make the car was. The owner asked Charlie if he knew anything about gardening and offered him a job.

For four months Charlie worked alongside the home owner every weekend in his garden and found it was something he really enjoyed. Then Charlie moved to Australia and fell in love with this country. When he asked around for work he was offered a job with a landscaper and before long knew that working in gardens was his passion. Charlie enrolled in a two year course in horticulture and design at TAFE and was only out of college a couple of years when the opportunity to apply for a presenting role as a landscaper on a new TV show arose. He applied, not really expecting to get it. When he got the role he only expected it to last only one season. Eleven years later Selling Houses Australia still going strong and Charlie is well known to many Australian households.

Since then Charlie has won a silver medal for his first garden at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show, as well as two gold medals for other work he has done. As well as filming Selling Houses Australia he now fulfils his passion for garden design by working all over the world, choosing only jobs that really interest him.

Now some people will always think Charlie was just lucky, but the real reason some people are lucky is because the activate the electromagnetic field of their heart. The heart is a tiny organ, weighing just half a kilo, yet it packs a lot of punch. Not only does it keep us alive it generates an electromagnetic field that is 60 times greater than our brain waves. HeartMath believes that, “electromagnetic signals generated by the heart have the capacity to affect others around us”. Some people are ‘luckier’ than others because people are drawn to their electromagnetic field.

When I was younger I experienced quite a few financial crises, and when I couldn’t do any more, I always took time out and did something I enjoyed, then when I’d come back I always found a solution to that crisis. I didn’t know why it worked back then, I just knew that it did. It took me a while to realise that the key to success and happiness is to follow your passion. Passion starts as liking something, and as you consistently add more things you like doing into your daily life you’ll often find that likes evolve into passions.

So, any time you feel confused, or if life doesn’t flow the way you would like it to, go do something that you love. Working harder, searching for answers and talking about problems only helps so much, whereas feeling happy can turn your life around.

Better still make a point of doing at least three things every day that you genuinely enjoy doing, so that you always have something to look forward to. Holidays and special events come and go, and a big mistake many people make is always looking forward to some future event, but it’s not sustainable. If you include simple things that make you happy every single day, then the bigger events are nice bonuses.

If you don’t enjoy your work look for three things you can do at work that will make you happier, this could be as simple as be kind or considerate to a co-worker. I love helping people and making a difference so when I was working in a job I didn’t enjoy I would give flowers to the receptionist, buy someone a cup of coffee, pay someone’s toll. Every week I looked for different ways to brighten someone’s day and those simple actions made that job so much more enjoyable.

By focusing on doing things that make you happy, your energy field changes and this is what other people respond to. Do this consistently and you’ll find that opportunities just gravitate to you. Best-selling author Nora Roberts says, “I don’t have hobbies, I have passions”, and I must admit I can say the same now. You don’t need to search for your passion, just do what makes you happy and you’ll soon recognise it.