The choice is yours! Really? Yes, really!

Do you want to enjoy 2017 and experience a more abundant life? Do you want to wipe the slate clean and practice a new way of being? Stay with me…

Have you ever wondered how two people experiencing the same thing react very differently? One responds positively, while the other focuses on everything that is wrong with the situation. Have you wished you could be more content and less worried about a circumstance? I have read many resources, from the Bible to the best-selling tomes, and the key answer is pretty simple. Not easy, but simple! Much of what makes the difference in our contentedness is how we CHOOSE to respond and react to our circumstances.

Although our mood levels and general happiness are somewhat shaped by factors like genetics, personality and upbringing, roughly 40 percent of our happiness is within our choice and control. University of California-Riverside psychology professor Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky shares in her book The How of Happiness that as much as 40 percent of our happiness “is left for the intentional activities that we can choose to engage in — the things that we do and think every day of our lives.” 

I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, but I am a fan of having goals, intentional, measurable actions and accountability to ensure goals are achieved. I must admit I am an analytical and a critical thinker. Over the past several years of coaching amazing clients using brain-friendly techniques and seeing them consistently achieve inspiring results, I am a strong believer that we can chose to respond more positively and enjoy a much more fulfilling life. One of my clients just discovered that she has breast cancer and stated adamantly that she is responding in a much different and more positive way than she would have a few years ago. She now has a wonderful tribe to support her and a goal that says, “I am kicking cancer’s a**!” I am privileged and blessed to be a part of her journey! She inspires and encourages me. This is real-life stuff where the rubber meets the road.

I recently worked with my own coach and colleague, Cathy Graham, and we came up with some helpful tips that I will be focusing on this year. As I have shared in other blogs, I have also learned much from my dogs Wonton and Chow Mein about being fully present, enjoying the moment and choosing to react in a positive way. Following are some simple, practical tips to help you choose to respond to situations with a more positive “WonChow” approach to enjoying a great 2017!

1)    Don’t worry, be happy. – Make a choice in the moment to respond more positively. It can be challenging but we can do it and get better at it with practice! I am going to try labeling what I am feeling when something triggers me in a negative way. That car just pulled out in front of me! What? The automated voice just disconnected me after I held for 10 minutes! Take a few seconds to coach yourself during these frustrating moments and ask, “What is happening right now in this moment? What am I feeling physically? Emotionally? Label it and then decide what you choose to do with your response and with your reactions.

2)    Choose to start your day right! – Before you get out of bed, think of three things you are thankful for and say them to yourself. Next, do an intentional practice that helps set your attitude for the day into a more positive focus. For me, it is reading a daily devotional, a scripture, and praying. Set a goal and measure your progress. How often? Five times a week? Wonton and Chow Mein start every day by stretching (Downward Dog yoga-style), wagging their tails and looking very positive and excited to greet the day! What practice will help you?

3)    Mindfulness exercises – I use a body scan, deep breathing and just practice being in the moment. It is very relaxing and helps me calm my thoughts, noticing where I may be feeling tight or achy in my body. Here are some links to great apps that Cathy shared with me: Calm and Whil. I just listened to Calm this morning and I did feel more relaxed. Try it!

4)    Smile and laugh – Do you have things that make you laugh? Wonton makes me smile and laugh almost every day! Tibetan Terriers are known for being “clownish” and whether it is the ridiculous way he shakes his “comb over” hair over his eyes, the unabashed manner in which he sleeps with all four legs sticking straight up, or the loud thump that occurs when he accidentally falls out of bed, he gets me to smile often. A study led by a Michigan State University business scholar suggests customer-service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts — such as a tropical vacation or a child’s recital — improve their mood and withdraw less. Focus on something that helps you to smile and laugh regularly!

5)    Give yourself permission to be happy – Often we aren’t kind and compassionate to ourselves. Have you ever said aloud, “I give you permission to…” What is it that you need to give yourself permission to do? Is there a deep fear that holds you back from changing habits, actions or behaviors? Is there a reason you are holding yourself back from happiness? Is the familiar easier to do than the uncomfortable? Are you being harsh on yourself and critical of your actions? Maybe you need to take a bold step in 2017 and do something differently or more compassionately for yourself. You can make the choice to step up and do it! Go ahead, you’ve got this!

I hope this blog and its tips help you to pause and consider joining me in choosing to respond more positively to circumstances. Remember that it takes intentional actions, practice and compassion for ourselves! Wonton, Chow Mein and I wish you all the best for a very happy New Year!