6 Tips for Building Stronger Friendships

friendship

Friendship is one of the most common human experiences, and it’s also responsible for feelings of greater belonging and connectedness. Many of us have had close friends with whom we have talked about life’s mysteries and joys. But, maintaining a friendship is never easy. If you want to keep the bonds of friendship strong, then it’s important to actively work on the relationship. Here are a few tips for strengthening that friendship bond:

  1. Spend Time with One Another

This may seem self-explanatory, but spending time with friends is one of the keys to creating stronger bonds. It’s also important to shake things up every once in a while. Don’t simply go to your usual café, order your usual cup of coffee, and engage in your usual hour-long conversation. Make memories. Travel together. Attend concerts. Experience nature. Spending more time in with your friend in new places will improve your bond and increase your spiritual connection.

  1. Think Positively

If you’re constantly worried about angering your friend or making a fool of yourself, then you’re relationship will never progress. It’s important to think positive thoughts about the friendship. Instead of worrying that your friend won’t like an experience, try to imagine all the fun you’ll have. If you’re feelings are shrouded in fear, then you will not be able to open yourself up to greater possibilities. Use the Law of Attraction to your advantage and manifest positive results in your life.

  1. Understand and Accept

Trying to maintain a friendship with someone you don’t attempt to understand is a recipe for failure. The only way for mutual understanding to come about is if each of you put in the effort. Your friend might do something that doesn’t make sense to you, but try to understand it from their perspective instead of berating them or asking them a barrage of accusatory questions. Understanding your friends is the key to a healthy relationship.

  1. Listen, Listen, Listen

More often than not, people are queuing up what they want to say next in a conversation instead of listening to the person who is talking. Truly listening to a friend is an act of love that will bring you closer together. It also puts you in a state of mindfulness because you’re focusing on only one thing—the words coming out of your friend’s mouth. It is relaxing, empowering, and considerate. Give listening a try!

  1. Honesty is the Best Policy

Honesty comes in many shapes and sizes. Being honest about yourself is just as important as being honest about your friend. You have to open yourself up to your friend if you want to create a strong bond. Hiding things about yourself from your friend is a recipe for disaster. It prohibits you from truly being you, and you will never be able to strengthen your friendship bond without being honest.

  1. Be Supportive

If you feel yourself constantly criticizing your friend, then you’re not being a supportive pal. You don’t always have to agree with your friend’s actions, but you never have to be hypercritical. In most cases, criticism stems from your own insecurities and fears. If you’re going to be critical, make sure it comes from a place of love and is constructive. Don’t put your friends down for the sake of putting them down.

Finding Tranquility in the Hubbub

Stress is an all-encompassing feeling that affects every aspect of our lives. If you feel stressed-out, then you’re certainly not alone. Stress can arise from any number of factors including financial troubles, work problems, family issues, relationship difficulties, and even simple occurrences of everyday life. Many people use spirituality in its myriad forms to combat these feelings of stress and anxiety. Of course, spirituality doesn’t necessarily have to be associated with theology. It is, more or less, a feeling of mindful interconnectedness with yourself, others, nature, the Divine, the universe, or all of the above.

Many people who describe themselves as spiritual are often better able to deal with stress. The key is to become connected with everything around you and stop living entirely inside the stress in your mind and body. Spirituality allows you to relinquish control and reduce stress in the process. But, utilizing spirituality to mitigate stress doesn’t have to be a long, arduous process. In fact, it can be quite easy.

multitask

Stop Multi-Tasking!

One of the most prominent causes of stress is our inability to simply stop doing multiple things at once. It may seem like multi-tasking increases your productivity, but, more often than not, it just means you’re doing lots of things in a mediocre fashion. Try talking on the phone, cooking dinner, and washing dishes all at the same time. You’ll start to notice that the conversation will be mindless, the dinner will be subpar, and the dishes will still be dirty. You’ll also notice that you’ll be more stressed because your mind is thinking about a million things at once.

If you’re going to do something, do it well. Do it mindfully. Investing in a task is an act of love. Talking to your friend or family member is an act of love. Making dinner for your family is an act of love. Ensuring that the dinner is served on clean dishes is also an act of love. You don’t want to invest your energy into those things halfheartedly. Doing one thing at a time also allows you to be more mindful of the task at hand. And, as we all know, mindfulness mitigates stress.

walking

Go On More Walks

Many people avoid walks because they associate walking with exercise. But, walking is just about getting the blood pumping and the legs moving. It’s also a great way to clear your head and parse out why you’ve been feeling stress. A walk in nature with a friend can be even more relaxing and even spiritual. You will be able to reduce stress, foster a deeper relationship with your loved one, and create a greater connection to nature in the process.

You don’t even have to engage in walks to become more mindful. Anytime you’re alone, take your mind off your stresses and worries by seeking out connections. If you’re driving, don’t think about everything you need to do. Driving on your own can be a relaxing, tranquil time to clear your mind. Feel everything around you (the steering wheel, the air coming from the vents, the soft noises of the world passing by). When you get to wherever you’re going, you’ll be infinitely more relaxed and your stresses won’t seem as big.

Should I Try Yoga?

For centuries, yoga has been practiced by Buddhists, monks, and others as a way to access higher spiritual realms and improve physical health. People who practice and really invest their time into yoga report a feeling of greater fulfillment, happiness, and balance in their lives. Even modern incarnations of yoga have proven to be beneficial for a wide variety of individuals. But, is yoga really for everyone? Or is it just a practice reserved for the spiritual elite?

yoga

Anyone Can Practice Yoga

Yoga does not discriminate. Anyone can practice yoga regardless of age, race, religion, or any other factor. There are not gatekeepers when it comes to yoga. You can practice yoga in the comfort of your own home or with the most advanced yogis in the world and still experience a profound and unique benefit to your mind and body.

Is There a “Right” Way to Do Yoga?

Some long-term practitioners of yoga might tell you that you can only really get noticeable benefits after years of practice and training. Others will tell you that the benefits of yoga come about as a result of your openness to it. Like anything else, yoga is only as effective as you want it to be. For example, a person can get more out of yoga than a traditional exercise regimen if they desire the change. You can lift weights and run around a track, but if you don’t put your full effort into it, you’re not going to see a big change. The same concept applies to yoga.

There are many different types of yoga, each of which ranges in difficulty. Hatha yoga is generally reserved for beginners and is a great primer for anyone looking to invest time in the practice of yoga.

What Benefits Does Yoga Produce?

Again, the benefits of yoga are practically innumerable. There are the obvious, noticeable benefits to your physical body. But, yoga is about much more than strength training. Many of the poses are designed to align your “chakras,” the seven inner energies that are located up and down the spine. The chakras are meant to regulate both your physical and spiritual health. Many long-term yoga practitioners have reported increased spiritual enlightenment, happiness, and physical health. Yoga is a holistic training routine that can help you become more fulfilled in every aspect of your life.

That being said, many people simply use yoga as a relaxing substitute for traditional exercise. It is a great exercise for strengthening muscles, improving posture, building your core, and eliminating harmful toxins from the body. Likewise, many people practice yoga simply for its relaxing properties. Improved moods, increased mental acuity, and fulfillment are common experiences for those who practice yoga.

In the end, the most important thing that anyone can do with yoga is to take it seriously. If you take yoga seriously, then you will be more likely to experience its benefits.

5 Habits for Improving Your Spiritual Journey

spiritual journey

Improving your spiritual wellbeing is not an easy task, but it’s something that many of us strive for. Spirituality is a unique way to feel a budding interconnectedness with yourself, others, and the universe around you. Even so, most of our schedules don’t allow us to take the time to strengthen our spiritual connectedness.

Some spiritual individuals (and, more recently, scientists) believe that achieving new levels of spirituality is all about performing new habits. It’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of work, family, friends, and paying bills, but if you take on a few small habit changes, then you’ll be able experience a more holistic spiritual shift.

  1. Disconnect Yourself

This doesn’t mean that you have to take yourself away from society and hide out in the woods for a few weeks. Spiritual problems can arise as a result of a lack of mindfulness, and there are numerous distractions that keep us from experiencing all the universe has to offer. But, becoming more in tune with your spirituality may be as simple as turning off your laptop and your smartphone for an hour or two. You don’t need to respond to every email or see every social media notification as they come to you. Just take a break from the electronics and see where it can take you.

  1. Start an Herbal Garden

Herbs can be used for their medicinal or culinary effects, and you can purchase them from almost any grocery store. But, growing an herb garden is far more rewarding and can actually bring you closer to the interconnectedness you desire. Caring for and tending to an herb garden is a great way to attune yourself to nature. It also gives you a great sense of fulfillment to use your own herbs in medicinal or culinary recipes.

  1. Take Deep Breaths

Breathing might not seem like it has any spiritual properties, but you’d be surprised. Taking deep belly breaths can actually calm your nervous system and help you become more mindful. That’s why breathing exercises are a common practice when it comes to yoga and meditation. Even if you’re not engaging in yoga or meditation, you can still employ the use of deep breathing techniques in your everyday life. If you’re feeling stressed, take some time out of each day to take in some restorative deep breaths.

  1. Show Gratitude

Gratitude comes in many shapes and sizes. It can be a small “thank you” for a meal or a profound appreciation for the breath in your lungs. If you show gratitude in the small things, then you will reap a big spiritual reward. Your thoughts will be more positive and you’ll be able to manifest more goodwill into your life.

  1. Write Stuff Down

Journaling is a great way to gain access to your innermost thoughts and dreams. With a pen and paper, you can create insights that you didn’t even know existed. Don’t stop writing and don’t ponder each word while you’re journaling. Getting your most intimate thoughts onto paper can work wonders for your spiritual journey.

Understanding Chakras and How They Can Affect You

Chakras

Chakras are essentially internal energy centers that are responsible for regulating the physical and spiritual aspects of the human body. Yoga is a practice that deals intensively with aligning each individual’s chakras. Various poses are designed to strengthen chakras to provide a more holistic wellbeing for the practitioner. But, what exactly are chakras and how can you use them properly?

The human body has 7 different chakras, each of which is located at a different location on the spine. Yoga gives you the opportunity to balance each of these 7 internal energy centers for a more enlightened body and spirit. Each of the 7 chakras also serves a different purpose both in your physical health and spiritual wellbeing. Below, you’ll find a basic guide to understanding the 7 chakras.

Chakra One

The first chakra (or Muladhara) is often referred to as the “root” chakra and is located at the base of the spine. This chakra is responsible for “grounding” us in reality and the reality of our existence. It is said to maintain the basics of human nature, familial bonds, and personal relationships. A balanced first chakra is important for feeling connected to both human society and the natural world.

Chakra Two

The second chakra (or Svadisthana) is often a source for creativity, pleasure, and relationship harmony. It is located near the genitals and is frequently associated with sexuality and sexual pleasure. It is also associated with the bladder and kidneys. Although sexuality does play a role in the balancing of the second chakra, this energy is also very nurturing. It is often associated with motherhood and the womb.

Chakra Three

The third chakra (or Manipura) is located on the spine near the stomach. It is thought to be associated with a “gut” response or wisdom, and is often linked to one’s self-confidence, ambition, and self-worth. An imbalanced third chakra leads to low self-esteem and often bouts with depression. A balanced third chakra opens you up to a sense of belonging and value, understanding that your ideas are worthy of being heard.

Chakra Four

The fourth chakra (or Anahata) is located near the heart and is often considered the “love chakra.” It is also considered the median of sorts between the spirit body and the physical body. It envelopes numerous levels of love and compassion, including love for others and self-acceptance.

Chakra Five

The fifth chakra (or Visuddha) is located near the throat and is often associated with speaking or communication. A balanced fifth chakra results in better communication, honesty, and personal expression. Many people who want to balance their fifth chakra employ the use of chants, mantras, or devotional singing.

Chakra Six

The sixth chakra (or Ajna) is located near the “third eye” on the head and is often linked to perception, intuition, and sight (whether physical or mental). A balanced sixth chakra promotes a clear understanding of one’s own personal development. An unbalanced sixth chakra, however, leads to physical pain in the neck, headaches, and general feelings of aimlessness and wandering.

Chakra Seven

The seventh chakra (or Sahasrara) is often referred to as the “crown chakra” because it is located at the top of the head. It is thought to be the apex of spiritual development and enlightened thought. A balanced crown chakra produces spiritual awareness and physical health. Its place at the top of the body is meant to indicate a connection to the Divine.

4 Steps for Reducing the Intensity of Negative Thoughts

be positive

Negative thoughts are almost impossible to eliminate from your cognition. Fear, doubt, anxiety, anger, and inadequacy are all emotions that we experience regularly. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to ending these negative thoughts, but there are steps that you can take in order to mitigate and sometimes excise these negative emotions from your thought patterns. It’s very easy to walk down a path of negativity, but here are a few ways to ensure that you always focus your energy back on the positive.

  1. Don’t Beat Yourself Up

If you make a mistake in any area in your life, it’s easy to place an enormous amount of blame squarely on your own shoulders. This, of course, can cause you to feel anxious, inadequate, and depressed. But, it’s important to understand that we all make mistakes. Mistakes are a natural part of life. It’s up to you to focus on the present and keep moving forward. You can’t let past mistakes drag you down. All you can do is keep going and pledge to do better next time.

  1. Change Your Vocabulary

You might not realize it, but the words you use to refer to yourself and your past behaviors or actions can have a marked effect on your state of being. If you say things like, “I’ll never be able to run a mile,” then that may sentiment may come true. But, if you say things like “I can run a mile” or even “I will run a mile,” then you’ll be surprised by just what you can accomplish. This runs parallel to the Law of Attraction. You have to speak what you want into existence. It’s also important to excise phrases like “I should have…” from your daily lexicon. Worrying about what you should have done will get you nowhere. It’s important to focus on what you can do now.

  1. Always Be Encouraging

Even if no one around supports you or gives you praise for a job well done, you should still be your own biggest cheerleader. Encouragement doesn’t have to come from external sources to be effective. Even if you didn’t get everything done how you wanted to, there are still instances in which encouragement is the best option. Say to yourself, “I didn’t get everything done, but I did get a lot done and I did it well.” You should also encourage those around you. Always find something that can be uplifting and constructive about a situation. Then you won’t focus as much on what went wrong.

  1. Accept Compliments Freely

If someone compliments you, don’t wave it away or trivialize its importance. It’s easy to drown yourself so far in a negative self-image that you can’t even accept praise from other people as legitimate. If someone is complimenting you, they mean it. It’s important to learn how to accept compliments as the legitimate gestures of goodwill that they are. Accepting compliments freely also improves your self-image and negates a lot of negativity.

Again, negative thoughts are a common facet of life, but they don’t have to take over your consciousness. Just apply these simple tips to your everyday life and you’ll start noticing a big change.

The Science Behind the Practice of Meditation

meditation

Meditation is one of the oldest spiritual and mind-altering practices known to man. It has been practiced for literal millennia by yogis, Buddhists, and spiritual individuals of all types. The effects of meditation are innumerable. The practice is said to provide peace of mind and relaxation in your body. It can open you up to new feelings and experiences while also helping you understand yourself and your place in the universe.

The benefits of meditation are well-documented by its practitioners, but the realm of modern science has taken a while to catch up. Studies on the benefits of meditation are still in their infancy. Clinical studies, however, have proven surprising to many scientific skeptics. The spiritual journey of meditation may offer some tangible benefits after all.

Reduced Negativity

In two clinical studies by doctors at UCLA, meditation and overall mindfulness were said to reduce an individual’s general negativity. The doctors used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to take a look at the brain patterns of various subjects. One study indicated that simply by naming a negative emotion, the subjects were able to reduce the effects of that emotion.

The doctors studied the amygdala, which is a section of the brain that is responsible for the intensity of strong emotions like fear, anger, or sadness. Activity in the amygdala skyrockets when you feel any of these emotions. Doctors noticed, however, that when the subjects ascribed a name to the emotion they felt (rather than just feeling the emotion), activity in the amygdala slowed down considerably.

In meditation, you are effectively identifying stressors and emotions and becoming more attuned to your inner thought processes. Ascribing a name to your emotions is very similar to becoming mindful of those same emotions. Thus, when you become mindful of your state, you are more willing to work through your issues instead of just wallowing in the emotions.

Promoting Relaxation

As part of those same studies, doctors also found that an overall sense of mindfulness was responsible for the promotion of calmness in one’s life. Doctors asked their subjects to identify themselves as more or less mindful of the inner-workings of their emotional state. Subjects who identified themselves as more mindful showed a surprising increase in activity in the prefrontal cortex when presented with stress-inducing factors. The prefrontal cortex is known for its ability to mitigate strong emotional responses. Subjects who identified themselves as less mindful, on the other hand, were more apt to show activity in their amygdala when exposed to stress-inducing factors.

What this all means, of course, is that if you can identify the emotions you’re experiencing, then you are more capable of producing a positive and calm response. If you practice meditation, then you probably already understand the power the practice has on your well-being. Fostering happiness isn’t easy and negative emotions are always going to be present in some capacity. But having the ability to be tied into your internal state of mind offers proven (and now scientific) benefits.