by Jenny Leigh Hodgins. Photos, music, video content by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
We know the importance of balancing our lives with self-care. There are research-based blogs, news, videos and magazine articles stressing this point everywhere you look.
The benefits of taking time for yourself to do something you enjoy, play, relax, rest, or simply do nothing are powerful. Studies prove that doing nothing or taking time to play games or just relax leads to better productivity, inspired creativity, and greater wellness overall.
How To Change Your Old Habits With New Proof
However, getting more accustomed to taking a break for yourself takes practice for those of us who aren't used to it. For people like me, changing old thought processes can feel counterproductive. But I am challenging my mindset habits like thinking, "doing nothing is lazy" or "will cause me to fall behind", because science proves the opposite is true.
Proactively Look For Easy Self-Care Opportunities
Both the success of my entrepreneurial life and my mother's health depend on me being in the best shape. So I'm becoming more proactive toward finding more opportunities to take care of myself.
The truth is that when I feel good, I have more positive energy, take better action and am more compassionate for others. So self-care is becoming more of a priority.
5 Self-Care Ideas To Try
I've found several things work for me. Perhaps some of these suggestions will be helpful for you to embrace a bit of self-care in your life, too.
1. Pool or Garden. When I lived in Florida, I found relaxing in my saltwater pool while enjoying my tropical garden of flowers, fruits, plants, butterflies, bumblebees and dragonflies brought me great relief. Now that I've moved back to my Kentucky hometown as caregiver for Mom, I enjoy the pool here only during summer months.
If you have a chance to swim, whether in your backyard, at your condo or apartment, a local YMCA or gym, take advantage of it. Swimming is great exercise, and even better if you have your own oasis to enjoy while floating in your pool.
2. Cycle. Here in beautiful Lexington, I have found cycling on the Legacy Trail to be another self-care practice. If you are able to ride a bicycle, find a local trail or even just cycle around your neighborhood to refresh your energy.
Pedaling gets your heart rate up, and the fresh air against you while rolling forward feels great. If you're lucky enough to have a beautiful greenway like Legacy Trail, or Tarpon Springs and Dunedin, Florida's Pinellas Trail, take advantage of the adventure.
3. Take A Walk. During cold winter months (when there is no ice or snow on the sidewalks), taking a walk outdoors has become my short, meditative practice. It's tempting to avoid going out into the cold weather, but every time I take a short walk I come back invigorated.
4. Be Still With Yourself. Meditation is another form of self-care and can include anything from watching the sun set, listening to a guided audio meditation, reading upon first waking up, sitting silently with your thoughts, or chanting. For me, just being in nature is meditative.
When I lived in Florida, meandering through my tropical private garden, looking for Monarch eggs or caterpillars, weeding, harvesting pineapples, squash, lettuce or kale, or planting new wildflowers was my meditation.
The quiet of the morning, with the sun just rising, surrounded by greenery and colorful plants eased me into the day. Nature's abundance and life cycles never ceased to encourage me.
5. Explore Creativity. Nature or meditation often may lead to self-expression through a creative outlet. Creative expression is good for the soul and often considered another form of 'play.' Creative play boosts wellness, cognitive function and productivity.
Time in nature inspires me to create. Nature walks and my cycling adventures led me to start taking nature photos with the simplicity of an iPhone button push.
Explore creative outlets like playing a musical instrument, composing music, drumming, taking photos, painting, knitting, writing a poem or a journal entry. Taking an acting class or experimenting with stand-up comedy, or a dance class are all fun options for tapping new creative paths.
Standing Still With Yourself Inspires New Creative Energy
When I take time for nature's beauty, I'm inspired to create music and take photos. Initially, I gratefully absorb the textures, sizes, colors, lighting, shapes, silences, and sounds from the wind, animals, and in the environment.
Being still with my spiritual core while experiencing fresh air and taking in nature's vibrations and visual stimulation, fills me with appreciation and calms my thoughts. This does wonders for stress relief.
Take A Moment To Relax With Nature And Music
Below is a nature video I made as a kind of self-care meditation for you. Even in the coldest of wintry elements, nature is abundant with pleasing, meditative, healing force. Take a moment to relax while watching my nature music video below.
Click on the play button below to enjoy my winter scene nature video and hear my original music, "Moonlight In My Heart".
If you enjoyed this blog, please share or let me know in the comments below!
My Pinterest spiritual wellness and caregiver boards have more self-care ideas. Please check them out and let me know if you've found any of my ideas helpful.
You may also find some lovely nature photos at my Instagram account here.
For a list of self-care resources and products I recommend, click here.
For a list of music resources and products I recommend, click here.
by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
This week, I’ve had some unpleasant experiences with people. It prompted me to reflect on how I responded. Despite realizing intellectually that people are negative because they are unhappy or suffering, I discovered I tend to take things personally, absorb outer ugliness internally, and dwell on that negativity.
AWAKENING TO HABITS
Wow, what an eye-opener for my personal growth. Even when it is obvious that the issue is coming from the other party’s corner, my tendency is to allow their negativity to overwhelm me. This has shed light on some of my deeper, connected habits.
I found that, amid multiple positive things or situations or people, I gravitate toward finding that one negative thing. I find it, spotlight it, analyze it, speculate on it and generally mope about it. UGH.
ADDRESSING OLD PATTERNS
This is directly tied to those old, well-ingrained thought patterns to doubt or slander myself. As I’m currently on a major personal campaign to change my Debby Downer self-talk patterns, having these uncomfortable experiences with others recently has pushed a button. It’s the button I thought I was getting under control.
Working on my thought processes is a major endeavor of itself. I have been consciously working to replace habitual self-slander with the most opposite, positive, affirmative statements possible.
MOVING TOWARD POSITIVITY
When I experience fear or doubt, I practice replacing those feelings with immediate, positive action based on my goals. This is hard, internal work for me, in the darkest, most vulnerable places of my heart. It requires a strategic, bold effort, sometimes from moment to moment, to overcome my critical self-talk and move myself in a positive direction.
I’ve made incremental progress with having a better outlook, and with appreciating versus belittling myself. I became acutely aware that treasuring myself does not come naturally to me, and I have to actively work on self-care.
I’m doing this emotional and psychological challenge while juggling with major financial and business aspects. My plate is full all the time as a single woman entrepreneur launching a second career in her mid-fifties. I’m learning to both swim as a new business owner and balance my life with being a caregiver for my mother.
I’m transitioning from having lived my entire adult life independently, to having downsized to a roommate in a smaller space at my mother’s condo. It’s a work in progress. But I’m adjusting myself to keep growing professionally, as a creator (composer/writer), and as a caregiver, with all its adjoining issues.
DOING THE WORK
I sometimes feel I’m climbing a steep mountain alone, while the air gets thinner, and the terrain grows more difficult. But that’s life, I tell myself. Armed with my daily Buddhist chanting, a kind of active meditation that boosts my spiritual optimism, I forge ahead, step by step.
I re-determine my determinations daily. I take action and knock things off my to-do list. I’ve learned the importance of working through issues with my mother to be a better daughter. I’ve started being more productive with my work-life by prioritizing to allow some downtime for myself.
Ah. Just when I felt I was getting into the groove of riding the waves, a few people with their baggage of problems, knocked me down. I know better than to take on other people’s baggage, and yet, somehow, my old habits resurface lickety-split. I wasn’t quite as stable on that wave as I thought, eh?
TRANSFORMING NEGATIVE INTO POSITIVE
This has boosted my soul-search to find that I have to do three things to generate a positive outcome from this:
The first thing is that I must regularly prepare my life-condition. When I have taken care of myself, I’m in a much better place when sh*$ hits the fan. I can dodge it better.
When I’m strong internally, the external things and people don’t have the power to sway me as easily. That’s a real key to handling difficult situations for me. Empowering myself so that I’m in such a positive, strong state that I influence my environment. Not the other way around.
LET GO OF NEGATIVITY
The second thing I must practice is letting go. I must let go of that magnetic pull that darkness has with my heart, and instead turn toward the light. If there is one negative thing, I must learn to ignore that and use all my focus to appreciate the good things and people.
FIND THE GOOD THERE
Finding the good is a scavenger hunt in the dark, but it leads to brilliant, beautiful treasures of the heart. When I keep my mind clear of the unpleasant, and look instead at what is useful or valuable there, I have the power to transform myself and the situation.
It’s probably one of the hardest struggles for me to simply look away from the negative. But as I’ve begun working on my personal affirmations and using my fears as fuel for action, I’ve already experienced positive results. So now I must expand my attention beyond my internal work, to my environment…
PRAY FOR THE SUFFERING
The third thing I have to do is pray for the happiness of the people spewing negativity in my environment. Happy people don’t dish out crap to others. Suffering people are the ones who stain the pot with corruption. When I take enough care of myself, I’m better equipped to open my heart toward relieving others’ misery.
I don’t necessarily need to do anything or say anything to those suffering. Everyone has their own journey and creates awareness on their own timetable.
PRAYER = POSITIVE CHANGE
But I know that prayer for others’ happiness is effective at developing my empathy. Prayer also has the strength to diffuse a tense situation. People can feel what comes from my heart, even if I don’t express it.
TAKE CHARGE OF WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL
This brings me full circle back to myself. I can only control myself. I can only change myself, not others. If I take care of myself, pray for myself and others, and practice appreciation, eventually, I make the situation better. I either improve myself, or find the good or value in the person or situation.
CELEBRATE YOUR GREATEST WIN
Being able to create value--especially in the darkest situation or most difficult relationships, is a huge accomplishment. Being positive in easy circumstances is no biggie. Forging my inner life to be strong, wise, joyful and compassionate, regardless of my environment, is the real victory.
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by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
People think I have a large life. My energy commands a room, but it’s not intentional. In fact, sometimes I think I have two personalities. And, no, I'm not schizophrenic.
I developed my exterior confidence through my job as a music educator, and my role as a Buddhist facilitator. Directing, leading and teaching large groups of people performing music, and facilitating faith-based activities with diverse groups provided abundant training.
When I’ve had the opportunity to lead, there was no room for ego or attention to myself. There was a task to do. I’ve honed a skill to focus on the task at hand without regard to my personal feelings. I appreciate this skill. It enabled me to achieve more as a teacher, chorus conductor, faith leader and performing musician. It allowed me to see beyond myself and do more than I would have otherwise envisioned had I stopped to ponder my capability.
ATTACK OF DOUBT
On the flip side, my alter-ego is debilitatingly shy and constantly fighting doubt. Through sheer life experience and in particular debt to my SGI-USA Buddhist philosophy, I’ve managed to function well—beyond my insecurity.
But it relentlessly attacked me when least expected with insomnia. Even when I thought I’d confronted my inner demons, fear and doubt insidiously assaulted my thoughts until the wee hours of morning.
I’d combat it with my intellect, of course. I spoke to myself with a voice of calmness about reality and fool-proof strategies to turn away my inner demons. I distracted myself with reading, deep breathing and imagery of relaxed, happy visions. I chanted my Buddhist mantra while attempting to empty the barrage of negativity swirling in my brain. I got out of bed and stretched. I wrote my thoughts in my journal. I fought the battle until 3am, despite exhaustion. Finally, I’d drift off for about three hours of rest.
In the morning it would all seem perfectly stupid. In the light of day, my evening struggle seemed like a mirage. Except that I was depleted for two days afterwards.
This darkness has beat at my inner doors my entire life. I’ve dramatically lessened the effects of it. It used to cause such stomach-upset agony I couldn’t function beyond bed-rest. It caused me to develop respiratory issues. I had no stamina against this demon. I continued consistently battling it from the inside out with my determined prayer. I forged directly through it until I incrementally gained strength over it.
I no longer have those anxiety attacks that shook my whole body with nausea or stomach pain. I no longer get respiratory illness or stage fright. I have no qualms about public speaking, performing, or facilitating. I don’t worry about what people think of me anymore.
All those battles forged my strength and grew my confidence. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'
When I’m striving to reach a personal goal, or break through to a new level of success in any aspect of my life, my doubts rear their ugliness to challenge me. But that’s how I know I’m on the right track.
VICTORY OVER A STRONG OPPONENT
My Buddhist practice confirms this is a sign of my inner growth; I’m pushing myself beyond comfort and growing my capacity larger than before. There should be some fear or doubt because I’m human. I’m tackling new and bold territory.
I’m on to these twin evils (fear and doubt). They appear so I may open the path to my future with my true essence—my inner power fueled by belief in the human heart. My heart.
There’s resistance so I may develop spiritual muscle. These most powerful opponents enable me to forge my full potential. Anything easy would not warrant a victory celebration.
I wage on—with a resolute vow to never give up until I win absolute victory over every new challenge. I know it is a always a test of my faith. A chance for me to see how my determined prayer—starting from the inner realm—manifests in tangible, conspicuous external proof, based on the interconnectedness of life.
I just have to do the inner work first. Take that, doubt and fear. Take THAT.
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