The Simplest Ways to Make the Best Advent Calendar

Christmas? Yuppy!

Chocolate Advent Calendar? Oh no…

I have reached the stage in my life a few years ago that  I wanted to make a change in how we, as a young family, count days to Christmas, how we celebrate it and what meaning do we add to Christmas.

Most of you will probably agree that Christmas has gone so far to the material side that we all forgot what this time of the year is all about. I read somewhere earlier that Christmas calls us to be for others. It is the time of the year for spreading love, compassion, and understanding, bringing peace and light to someone’s life.

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Nevertheless, many of us have forgotten this. A lot of kids are not even aware of the real meaning of Christmas. It is a lot of the times about the presents under the tree, the lights in the windows, front yards and all around the house, the cards in the post, snow in the yard (sometimes 🙂 ), stockings hanging in the living room, and shouts of “Merry Christmas” to those who pass us in the streets!

And, of course… lots and lots of chocolates…

The Advent Calendars are getting bigger, fancier and more extravagant every year. So a few years ago I said ‘no’. We will STOP buying Advent Calendars and feeding this marketing dragon. The more we all do that, the more it gets out of control. Let’s stop and think what Christmas is all about…

Christmas is about sharing and caring.

And it is our responsibility to show the example to our kids on the daily basis but especially around Christmas. Christmas should be every day (sharing and caring) but let’s start taking small steps and work from December 😉

Christmas is about joy! It can be a very joyful time of the year. But joy finding the gifts under the Christmas tree does fade out very quickly. Therefore, I decided we need to celebrate every day in December leading up to Christmas. By doing the good deeds, sharing love, spending the time together, bringing joy to others.

Hence, I created a homemade Advent Calendar with various tasks and ideas so kids could do some good deeds, spent time together, use creativity and imagination, talk to others and focus on others as well as bring some joy to own home. This is very new but beautiful tradition in our house and everyone enjoys it so much!

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So in this blog post, I will give you lots of different ideas what you can use if you would like to start this new tradition in your family. Make it simple. The main essential for the Advent Calendar is 24 bags/boxes/socks where you could place your tasks. We simply asked dad to make this tree for us from a few wooden pieces, kids painted in green and then dad hammered 24 needles to hang our bags. I got the granny to make those simple small cotton bags but you could easily use the small gift bags 😉 Simple and so easy but does the job perfectly.

Here are some other ideas for your DIY Advent Calendar.

I have now noticed that you can get similar Advent Calendars at the Stores like Lidl and Aldi (I believe there are many more): paper ones where you only need to stick them together, the wooden ones and so on. It is getting easier and easier to get it sorted. But make it fun and even involve kids in the tree preparation.

And now is the best part – what will you hide in those secret bags or boxes!? Oh my, oh my – you can go crazy here! What is important in your family? What is missing? What would you like more of? Can be good deeds for others, activities for kids, some spoiling moments for the kids, experiences with the family etc. I usually do a combination and change slightly every year to keep the excitement and surprise. But some of them stays there consistently 😉 Few of the ideas are simply essential 🙂

So here are my suggested Advent calendar activities.

SERVING OTHERS:

  • Shop for a gift to put under the Tree of Joy (or another charity).
  • Fill a shoe box for a selected Christmas Child.
  • Visit an elderly home and hand out homemade cookies.
  • Take a few small gifts to a shelter for women and children.
  • Write a letter or a card to a family member or a friend.
  • Buy a small gift for a child in the long-term care wing of the children’s ward, and bring a bouquet of flowers for his/her mother.
  • Serve a meal together as a family at a local homeless shelter.
  • Clean out your toy boxes and donate good quality items to a charity store.
  • Clear canned goods from your cupboards and to donate to the selected charity.
  • Take homemade cookies to the fire station, police station, your doctor’s office, library, church office, dentist etc.
  • Anonymously pay for the person behind you in line at the shop.
  • Pay for someone’s coffee.
  • Pay for the tolls for the car behind you.
  • Wear Santa hats and take some doggie treats to your dog (or animal) shelter.
  • Leave a Thank You note to garbage collectors.
  • Let someone go ahead of you in a line.

  • Make a coupon for a hug to give to someone you love.

  • Do a chore for someone in your family.

  • Give compliments all day today to various friends, family, even strangers.

  • Pick some flowers and leave them at your neighbours doorstep anonymously.

  • Leave a post-it note on a mirror that says ‘You are Beautiful/Awesome/Amazing’ etc.

  • Let 5 people you know how thankful you are that they are in your life.

  • Leave a beautiful homemade bookmark in your library book and give one to the Librarian.

  • Hold the door open for people all day.
  • Smile all day.

IN THE KITCHEN:

  • Make Christmas cookies.
  • Make chocolate-dipped pretzels with red and green sprinkles.
  • Eat “reindeer droppings” for breakfast (Cheerios!).
  • Make gingerbread cookies or gingerbread house.
  • Make edible Christmas trees out of upside-down ice cream cones, green frosting, and sprinkles.
  • Decorate a gingerbread house.
  • Invite a few friends over for a cookie decorating party.
  • Melt chocolate into Christmas molds.
  • Have chocolate dip with fruit, berries, and marshmallows for lunch (instead of soup! My kids LOVE this)
  • Make s’mores.
  • Make and have Christmas pancakes for lunch (with cookie cutters and sprinkles).
  • Host a Christmas tea party.
  • Have a red and green dinner.

DECORATING:

  • Decorate the tree.
  • String a popcorn garland for the tree.
  • Make origami ornaments for the tree.
  • Decorate a wreath together for the doors.
  • Hang some mistletoe and give out kisses.
  • Make a paper garland to hang on the tree, over a door, or in the kids’ bedroom.
  • Decorate the windows with spray snow or window stickers.
  • Sprinkle the yard with reindeer food (dry oatmeal & glitter)

OUTINGS:

  • Visit neighbours’ houses to sing Christmas carols and hand out homemade cookies.
  • Hop in the car in your jammies and drive around to look at the Christmas lights.
  • Visit Santa for photos.
  • Attend a Christmas Market.
  • Watch the Nutcracker ballet (in theatre or TV).
  • Go to a tree-lighting ceremony.
  • Attend a Christmas concert.
  • Check out books from the library about how people celebrate Christmas in other nations and talk about it together as a family.
  • Shop for a new Christmas ornament.

CRAFT AND CREATE:

  • Write (or color in) Christmas cards.
  • Decorate a Christmas card for your teacher.
  • Make a handmade Christmas ornament for someone else in the family.
  • Colour a Christmas picture or make a Christmas craft.
  • Make paper snowflakes to hang from the kids’ bedroom ceiling.
  • Write letters to Santa.
  • Make and post a Christmas card to a family member or friend who lives in another state or country.
  • Make a silly Christmas video to email to friends.
  • Create a mini family movie of the best things that happened that year.
  • Make homemade play dough in red and green.
  • Make a video of each family member saying why do you love them, appreciate them, why they are special. Watch it all together.
  • Make glitter snow globes out of small food jars. (Secure the lids with a hot glue gun!)
  • Paint pinecones to make a centerpiece for the table.
  • Make a pinecone bird feeder and attach a little note that says, “Merry Christmas birdies!”

FAMILY TIME

  • Read a Christmas book.
  • Do a Christmas Wordsearch and see who will get it done first.
  • Watch a Christmas movie together while having hot chocolate.
  • Game night – play a board game together.
  • Play ‘Go Noodle’ together or active XBox/Playstation game in teams.
  • Have an indoor snowball fight (with styrofoam or newspaper).
  • Bundle up and watch for shooting stars.
  • Camp out/have a slumber party in the living room.
  • Dress up for dinner.
  • Host a Christmas Scavenger Hunt.
  • Dance to Christmas music.
  • Watch The Polar Express in your pajamas while having s’mores.
  • Let everyone in the family choose a country and then google to see how they celebrate Christmas there.

  • Snuggle up in mom and dad’s bed and read The Night Before Christmas.

  • Choose your favorite photos for a family yearbook.

  • Make some personal and family New Years goals.

  • Make a bubble bath for the kids by candlelight and with Christmas tunes playing.

  • Interview each family member on video asking a short list of questions (favourite memory from the year, etc.) and make a family movie of the year.

  • Draw names and write a love note for a family member. Leave them out on Christmas Eve for Santa to distribute into their stocking.

  • Have breakfast for dinner.

And there could be many more!

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Hope you’ll enjoy this and maybe even try the idea. If not this year, maybe next! Let’s bring back the Christmas spirit and the real meaning of Christmas!

Have an amazing one!

Lots of love,

Agne Jonele

 

 

18 Ways Gratitude Can Make You Rich

‘Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty.’ (Christian Science Hymnal)

When we think about being rich, we think about money. But richness is so much more than finances! Be rich from the inside, rich of all positive feelings, rich of generosity, rich in love… Believe in magic, admire things around you, share the love.

Remember when you were a child and you believed that life was magical? Full of richness and spark?  Life was magical and exciting, and the smallest things were utterly thrilling? Children see everything as magic, breathtaking,  astonishing, magnificent. And then life experiences, elder siblings, parents, teachers, aunts, and uncles slowly but surely plant that doubt seed, we become disillusioned and the magic disappears…

But does it really? Rhonda Byrne in her book ‘The Magic’ says that ‘the magic of life is real, and it’s far more breathtaking, awe-inspiring, and exciting than you ever imagined as a child. You can live your dreams, you can have anything you want, and your life can touch the stars!’

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So how to keep that magic alive?

Believe in it. Don’t question, don’t analyze, don’t try to figure out if it is going to happen and how is it going to happen. Just believe…

‘Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.’ (Roald Dahl)

I have read R. Byrne book ‘The Magic’ a few years ago and I was blown away. That was the time that everything changed for me. And by everything I mean my view of life. I started actively working on self-development and this book was the best starting point. Why? Because it reminded me what is important…

Gratitude

The answer to riches is only one – gratitude. And no, gratitude does not mean saying ‘thank you’ when someone opens the door to you or brings you a present. This is simply good ethics. Gratitude is feeling thankful for the things around you, people in your life, opportunities in your day and every small detail, feeling, possibility… It’s a Universal law.

‘Whoever has gratitude will be given more, and he or she will have an abundance. Whoever does not have gratitude, even what he or she has will be taken from him or her.

Therefore, if we don’t take time to appreciate things around us, within us, for us, if we don’t take time and express our gratitude, you will never have more. We tend to wish for more and talk about it daily, but do we actually stop and think how much we already do have? Take time and acknowledge it and you will see the magic happen. The amazing fulfilling feeling will pervade you.

Rhonda Byrne ‘The Magic’

Back to the book. This is the one I have recommended to a number of people. I had such joy after reading the book, it was the best gift choice for many of my friends and family for at least a year 😀

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Why did I like it so much?

  • It’s practical – you need to do daily tasks
  • Easy to read and understand
  • Gives you very clear instructions
  • Helps to gain a new habit
  • Makes you think
  • Expands your view to gratefulness and magic in our life

Daily ‘Magic’ Tasks

‘Knowledge is a treasure, but practice is the key to it.’ (Ibn Khaldoun Al Muqaddima)

We have so much information these days and access to even more of it. But knowing makes no difference unless you use it and implement the knowledge, so practice what you’ve learned. And R. Byrne’s book is doing exactly that. The book is designed to practice gratitude mindfully daily for the 28 consecutive days. Every day you need to write 10 things you are grateful for and say genuine ‘thank you’ for them all – say it, write it down, feel it! Gratitude is a feeling and a very positive one that attracts even warmer and positive feelings.

‘When you sincerely feel the gratitude, the law of attraction says you must attract more of those things into your life. Your gratitude is magnetic, and the more gratitude you have, the more abundance you magnetize.’ (Rhonda Byrne)

When I read the instructions of the book I was shocked by the difficulty of the task! 10 gratitudes a day for 28 days? That is like 280 things I need to ‘come up’ with to be grateful for. I thought this was simply IMPOSSIBLE! ‘No wonder the magic happens to only a few of us – those who have 280 different things they are grateful for’, – I thought to myself. I am grateful for my mum, dad, my kids, my house, my car… Maybe another few things, but this is nowhere close to 280!

Familiar?

Let me reveal this for you – we ALL have 280 things we are grateful for and many MORE!

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18 Gratefulness Categories

There are 18 different categories and subjects discussed in the book and can and should be considered expressing gratitude. It all helps to think about the past, the present, and the future.

  1. Health and body
  2. Senses & feelings
  3. Work and success
  4. Money
  5. Relationships
  6. Passions
  7. Happiness
  8. Love
  9. Life
  10. Nature: planet Earth, water, air, and the sun
  11. Material goods and services
  12. Out of negativity
  13. Food
  14. Dreams and desires
  15. Outcomes
  16. Surroundings
  17. Mistakes
  18. Any subject of your choosing

‘Life is playfulness… We need to play so we can rediscover the magic all around us’ (Flora Colao)

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So really, when you start working on counting your blessings in each step of the way… man, you see how much we take for granted. Gratitude can help you fix the broken relationship, learn from mistakes, reveal positive out of the negative experience, cure lack of health OR money. It gives that satisfactory feeling that life is actually great! And we need to help reprogram our brain to think positively, abundantly and happily 😉

Have a magical life full of abundance and happiness!

Lots of love,

Agne Jonele

 

From Worries to Wonders

Happy or not so happy, joyful or not, we all know what worry is. And sadly enough I feel that worry is really taking over the world and humanity nowadays… People are busy, always running around, rushing and worrying… So what causes worries, what effect it has on our body and how can we overcome it? Let me reveal some reasons for worrying and 10 ways to deal with it.

So what is worry?

An actual definition of the word is this:
Worry refers to the thoughts, images, and emotions of a negative nature in a repetitive, uncontrollable manner that results from a proactive cognitive risk analysis made to avoid or solve anticipated potential threats and their potential consequences (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worry).

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Worry is something that eats us up – literally. Worry gives you sickness and anxiety. According to WebMD the fight or flight response causes the body’s sympathetic nervous system to release stress hormones such as cortisol. These hormones can boost blood sugar levels and triglycerides (blood fats) that can be used by the body for fuel. The hormones also cause physical reactions such as:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Irritability
  • Muscle aches
  • Muscle tension
  • Nausea
  • Nervous energy
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Trembling and twitching

And this is only the beginning. If you worry a lot and do not deal with it or learn how to overcome worries, it may progress and become an anxiety or depression.

What ‘If’

All the what ‘ifs’ only happen in our head. We overthink things and when an idea pops into our head, we react and pay attention to it. Why? Is it a genuine concern? Is it needed? Is it going to affect your life? Is it really happening? We constantly worry about things that NEVER happened and possibly WILL NOT happen.

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Don’t get me wrong, you don’t need to be ignorant, of course. All this ‘laxy daisy’ can be too much sometimes. So I will refer back to my mantra – ‘it’s all about the balance’ 😉

Worry vs Concern

You may have a concern about your child. Or your friend. Or maybe a partner. This is ok. As Dr. Sala said: ‘concern should be a positive force resulting in our enrichment and betterment’. Having a concern is actually using your knowledge and working towards doing something about it with a decision of choice.

But worrying makes no difference. It’s your mind messing with you. Just like the body craves calories, the mind craves control. We may not be able to actually do anything about a problem, but worrying about it makes us feel like we’re doing something. We fool our minds into thinking we’re actually solving a problem by running it over and over and over and over and over and over and over again in our minds (Nick Wignall). You cannot worry about all possible what if’s because you will simply go crazy! So don’t forget what Van Walder said:

Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.

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‘People worry in attempt to control their problems’ (Irving Schattner).

Worries come from the past experiences. Or overthinking the future events. But it creates a lot of stress and fills our mind with unnecessary thoughts.

‘It’s hard to be genuinely productive and creative (much less happy and content) when we’re worrying all the time’ (Nick Wignall)

Worry will never change the outcome. It won’t stop the bad stuff from happening, it just stops YOU from enjoying the good.

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And I know it is easier said than done sometimes. All those phrases ‘don’t worry, be happy’, ‘there’s nothing to worry about’ really doesn’t help when you are feeling agitated. But you can do something about it and I recommend to really work on it if you worry a lot. At the end of the day, you would really need to deal with a challenge (NOT a problem 😉 – I believe using the words accordingly can add to or reduce the worry) ONLY when and IF it happens, so worry about it beforehand makes no difference.

What could be done?

Here are the 12 tips I have gathered and discovered in dealing with worry:

  1. Exercise daily – we all very clear on that 🙂
  2. Eat a healthy and balanced diet. reduce sugars, carbs, eat your greens, fruit, and veg – you get the gist.
  3. Postpone your worries. Set aside 15 minutes a day – ‘worry period’ – where you allow yourself to focus on problems and fears. See if there is anything you can do about it 😉 But the main thing is not to respond to the worry anytime it crosses your mind – push it away, tell your worry to wait 😉
  4. Talk to someone. Let your emotions out and be honest with yourself. Don’t keep it inside you.
  5. Learn to relax – find what works for you. Relaxation music, hot bath, yoga, mindful breathing, going for a walk, reading etc.
  6. Meditate. I spoke quite a bit about it in my previous post The Unconventional Guide to Meditation.
  7. Have a strong social network. Surround yourself with amazing people. Positive, happy, inspiring people. I am delighted to say I have a lovely bunch around me. Find yours too. Or connect with me 🙂
  8. Live in the present.
  9. Face your fears. Worry is intended to protect us from our fear, and yet it can lead to dwelling on things that will never happen. When we face our fears head-on, they tend to diminish. Rather than worrying uselessly, we can practice deliberately accepting that what we’re afraid of could happen: “It’s possible I’ll miss my flight.” “I can’t know for sure that this sniffle won’t turn into a nasty cold.” (Seth J. Gillihan, Ph.D.)
  10. Start a journal. Just putting it all down on paper. It makes an enormous difference.

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Worrying doesn’t mean you love someone more. Parents, in particular, tend to use this phrase with their children. You worry because you worry. It helps no one nor it shows more love. Trust the person. trust circumstances. Trust the World.

Few of my thoughts. Hope this helps.

Lots of love,

Agne Jonele

The Unconventional Guide to Meditation

Meditation is another popular word these days and many of us have no or very little understanding of what this thing is all about. Also, there is a lot of misconception out there about meditation and, therefore, I will share my experience, point of view to reveal what I have discovered in a few years.

Once again – I am no expert in meditation and not claiming to be one. But I had a very interesting experience in the last few years and decided to share my own insights.

Firstly, for quite some time now I work a lot on my self-development and educate myself as often as I can. Therefore, I have learned from so many successful people that one of their main practices is morning meditation. And I was like ‘uh’… I never thought I could do something like. But I tried. For a few years – on and off – to start a meditation practice. But what usually happened?

  • I fell asleep
  • My mind wandered away
  • I had no time to stick with it consistently
  • I felt no difference

More and more people around me were doing meditation practices. More and more of them were giving phenomenal feedback on how it is changing their life, how good they feel etc. And I felt like an outsider who simply doesn’t get it! But the only thing that happened during these few years was that I had a complete misconception about meditation!

  1. Meditation is a complete stillness.
    Nope! Actually, I found out that meditation is all about mindfulness, could be doing some ordinary daily activity mindfully, e.g. mindful eating, mindful walking, mindful floor mopping etc. Meditation does not necessarily mean sitting quietly with the legs crossed, but it can be with movement, saying mantras, focused and directed thinking and probably more.
  2. Meditation is staying quiet.
    Nope! As I revealed in the previous point, meditation can be repeating mantras, affirmations, letting signs out, breathing loudly. There are 7 types of meditation:

    • Mindfulness Meditation
    •  Transcendental Meditation
    •  Guided Meditation
    •  Vipassana Meditation
    •  Loving Kindness Meditation
    •  Chakra Meditation
    •  Yoga Meditation
  3. Meditation is about ’emptying your mind’
    Nope! ‘Meditation isn’t about stopping our thoughts or trying to empty our mind – both of these approaches only create stress and noisier internal chatter. We can’t stop or control our thoughts, but we can decide how much attention to give them.’ (The Chopra Centre) You can enjoy guided meditation (and this is the one I do mainly to be fair) and have an amazing effect. And I am never mad at me for having thoughts!
  4. Results from day 1 OR it takes years of practice.
    Both are incorrect! It is a new habit you’re trying to learn, to muscle to train. The mind is the biggest muscle and it is a great way to learn to manage it a bit better 😉
  5. Meditation is only for reducing anxiety and stress.
    Once again – nope. Meditation has many benefits but mainly it is learning how you can control your mind and your life. meditation-2.png
  6. Meditation is difficult.
    It doesn’t have to be. It was REALLY difficult for me until I found the way and learn a bit more about it. The one thing that worked for me is when I set up a 30-day meditation challenge for myself and announced it on Facebook… Then I kinda had to stick with it 😀 I don’t just drop things, I have to win all the time even if it is against myself 😀 So I tricked myself! Did the challenge (missed only 1 day) and this way I simply gained a habit! Now when I wake up the first thing I do is put the meditation on and follow the flow…
  7. Meditation is a spiritual or religious practice.
    ‘It doesn’t require a specific spiritual belief, and many people of many different religions practice meditation without any conflict with their current religious beliefs. Some meditators have no particular religious beliefs or are atheist or agnostic’ (Deepak Chopra, M.D.)

So you probably now wonder ‘what is meditation’? It was explained perfectly in this article of How to be Happy:

Meditation is an ancient practice that helps to control our own mind and consequently our own life and discover ourselves. Meditating helps us to control our mind and thoughts and turn off our mind when we do not need it anymore

And for this reason, I recommend looking into it. We live such a busy life now! Everyone is running like in a rat race. Everything has to be done here and now, we don’t stop, we have no time… We listen to the chatter in our head constantly! So let’s stop for a moment. Let’s do things mindfully. Let’s breathe…

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Lots of love,

Agne Jonele

 

‘I hate mornings’ vs ‘I love mornings’

So how many times you’ve heard a saying ‘Oh, I’m a night owl, I can not wake up early in the morning’. I used to say the same thing myself. And I still enjoy the morning snooze 🙂 Nevertheless, about a year and a half ago I found out that it is not a ‘condition’, it’s not set in stone and it can be changed. Waking up early in the morning or last minute in the morning is simply a habit and habits can be gained or changed.

A lot of people hate mornings. And even though ‘hate’ is a very strong word, many of us struggle with the early mornings and wake up moaning, complaining and, of course, rushing afterwards. Well, this is some set-up for the new day… Great start one could say 😉

The ‘night owls’ (including me) would follow the pattern above. And would press on that snooze button continuously. I even had a system – I would set up my alarm precisely the last minute I NEEDED to wake up to be able to get ready on time. I was not up for pressing the snooze button, I had a better way (ha ha ha). You can only imagine how stressful it was each and every morning running around, rushing and stressing about any unpacked school bags, unprepared clothes or lunches etc. When I started my days like this it was not easy then to rewind and switch on the positive gear. So why I kept doing this? A simple bad habit…

“Considering that our habits create our life, there is arguably no single skill that is more important for you to learn and master than controlling your habits. You must identify, implement, and maintain the habits necessary for creating the results you want in your life while learning how to let go of any negative habits which are holding you back from achieving your true potential.” (Hal Elrod)

I’ve heard so many times that in order to be successful you simply need to watch what successful people are doing and repeat their steps. Interestingly enough majority of my idols (Tony Robbins, Tim Ferris, Jim Rohn and many more) would have a set early morning routine. They would never jump into their day before taking their time to set their mind and prepare mentally, physically and spiritually. And even though I love them all dearly, I would always give myself an excuse that ‘I am a night owl and cannot do that’.

Until one day in January 2017, I was introduced to an amazing book called ‘The Miracle Morning’ by Hal Elrod. And THAT changed my perception and had a great positive effect on my life.

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“How you wake up each day and your morning routine (or lack thereof) dramatically affects your levels of success in every single area of your life. Focused, productive, successful mornings generate focused, productive, successful days—which inevitably create a successful life—in the same way, that unfocused, unproductive, and mediocre mornings generate unfocused, unproductive, and mediocre days, and ultimately a mediocre quality of life. By simply changing the way you wake up in the morning, you can transform any area of your life, faster than you ever thought possible.” (Hal Elrod)

According to Hal the sleeping in, and not being able to wake up, is simply having a lack of purpose in life or running away from life and troubles. And I was just like ‘whaaatttt?’. It really made me think. And start taking action. I never really thought I could do anything like that. I loved my comfy bed and pillow early in the morning. But after reading ‘My Miracle Morning’ book something shifted. I think Hal Elrod is simply very influential 😀 But it made sense!

“Remember, the moment you accept total responsibility for *everything* in your life is the moment you claim the power to change *anything* in your life.” ~ Hal Elrod

I’ll give you a quick review of what Hal talks about in this book. In simple terms, he suggests the One-hour a day formula. Powerful!

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The Miracle Morning book reveals Life S.A.V.E.R.S. — a set of six simple, life-enhancing, life-changing daily practices, each of which develops one or more of the physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual aspects of your life so that you can become who you need to be to create the life you want.

Life S.A.V.E.R.S. – a set of six simple daily practices that helps me rock it!
They are:

  • Silence
  • Affirmations
  • Visualization
  • Exercise
  • Reading
  • Scribing (journaling)

What does Hal mean by this and what do I do?

Silence

‘When there are peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt’ (St. Frances de Sales)

Time for meditation. This is a biggy for me 🙂 Our minds work so much all the time and I sincerely believe that my mind is twice or three times more busy than anyone else’s… Not kidding. I feel I cannot switch off and it is a real challenge for me to sit quietly and stay centred. But again – that is another habit. So for me, tools are important. I found an amazing free app that I use for meditation called ‘Insight Timer’.

Affirmations

‘You can use affirmations to start programming yourself to be confident and successful in everything you do, simply by repeatedly telling yourself who you want to be, what you want to accomplish and how you are going to accomplish it. With enough repetition, your subconscious mind will begin to believe what you tell it, act upon it, and eventually, manifest it in your reality.’ (Hal Elrod) Not sure if you are aware how much we talk to ourselves. Which is simply talking to your mind and responding to the thoughts. Interestingly enough those thoughts naturally are somewhat negative: ‘you cannot do it’, ‘what are you thinking’, ‘how stupid was that’, ‘why did you do that’ etc. Our mind never encourages us, actually quite the opposite. That’s where affirmations help to reprogram our mind and change the direction.

“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. Once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” ~ Muhammad Ali

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I simply write them down and read them over every morning. Later I found an amazing app called ‘Think Up’ where you can record your own affirmations and then play them and listen to them anytime anywhere. You can have a few different types: affirmations for your health, money, career, self-esteem etc. Whatever you are lacking and need to work on. Listening to your own affirmations on the go recorded with your own voice works powerfully.

Visualizations

We all heard about creating vision boards, right? I hope you tried it before because it’s actually a very fun exercise. We did that with the kiddies some time ago and it’s an amazing and fun way of spending an afternoon.

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We created our vision board at least 5 years ago and in the meantime, we grew out of some wishes and desires, some have already happened and others will happen. According to Hal Elrod ‘Visualization, also known as creative visualization or mental rehearsal, refers to the practice of seeking to generate positive results in your outer world by using your imagination to create mental pictures of specific behaviours and outcomes occurring in your life.’ As human beings what we tend to do is focus on negative or things that have not happened more so than what we desire and work towards.

“Ordinary people believe only in the possible. Extraordinary people visualize not what is possible or probable, but rather what is impossible. And by visualizing the impossible, they begin to see it as possible.” ~ Cheri Carter-Scott

So why not try it? No harm, right? 😉

Exercise

We all know we need to exercise in order to stay healthy, fit and full of energy. But how can I have time for the exercise? Do it first thing in the morning. Get it out of your way! ‘Eat that frog’ – as Brian Tracey would say 😀

“If you don’t take time for exercise, you’ll probably have to make time for illness.” ~ Robin Sharma

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What exercise do you like? Exercise doesn’t mean it has to be a 100k cycle or half marathon. Sometimes it can simply be some yoga or pilates, a walk around a block. What about a swim? Just move that body! There is so much focus on the exercise lately because most of us are sitting in the office, at the computers the big part of the day and then move to the sofa in front of the TV…

Understandably this was not an issue 50 years ago when people were working in the fields, doing a lot of physical work, heavy lifting, carrying and much more. But what happened now? We don’t move that much. We use the car to bring kids to school, go shopping, travel to work, use the lift instead of the staircase and find any other possible shortcut. This is normal and we all do that unless we are very aware of the lack of physical activity. ‘When you exercise for even a few minutes every morning it significantly boosts your energy, enhances your health, improves self-confidence and emotional well-being, and enables you to think better and concentrate longer.’ (Hal Elrod)

Reading

My favourite part… 🙂 I love books. I LOVE reading. But… I used to go for the easy read, the reading for pleasure, anything from the fiction section. After reading ‘The Miracle Morning’ I started to gear more towards educational or motivational reads. My mornings are now dedicated to educational material and evening time I read a novel. I never thought I have time for different books nut now reading 10 pages every morning I finish a self-development or other type of educational book in a month or so. How cool is that?

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“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body and prayer is to the soul. We become the books we read.” ~ Matthew Kelly

The key is to learn from the experts—those who have already done what you want to do. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. The fastest way to achieve anything you want is to model successful people who have already achieved it. And we can do that by reading their books.

Tim Ferris once said that evening time should be for helping to settle and calm your mind, therefore, evenings should be for an easy read. So I keep enjoying my novels in the evening but now also have time for the important literature 😉

Scribing

Hal uses this name for journaling. It’s simply writing down your thoughts and feelings to understand them more clearly. And if you struggle with stress, depression, or anxiety, keeping a journal can help you gain control of your emotions and improve your mental health. As well as your positive ideas: gratitudes, achievements, desires and plans. This exercise is simply for putting everything on paper. I find that helps me clarify my thoughts. No matter how far technologies have progressed, pen and paper is still an amazing exercise for the mental well-being. Don’t make it complicated – get a journal, start writing and keep writing. It’s your thoughts, your ideas, your emotions. No one needs to read it or see it.

“Paper is to write things down that we need to remember. Our brains are used to think.” ~ Albert Einstein

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Simple, right? As Jim Rohn would say: ‘simple, but not easy’ 🙂

I am still working on these habits. I start and I drop it. I do few things and I ignore the others. It takes time and practise. But what I love the most is the clarity and simplicity of this practice. Having an hour for myself in the morning before I start the day and jump into mummy duties is the most enjoyable and satisfying practice. This time is really precious. I would highly recommend to try it 🙂

Lots of love,

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Phones out – it’s a selfie time!

You didn’t expect that, right? Knowing me you would probably think I would say to keep the phones away. And I do. Most of the time 🙂 But times are changing and we need to adapt accordingly. This blog is about phones, selfies and how to use technologies and help interact with each other so we wouldn’t lose that connection with each other! You will find downloadable Selfie Scavenger hunt in this blog too!

I am all about having restrictions with phones and other gadgets, especially for kids. It is really frightening to me how people are addicted to their phones and tablets nowadays. People sitting next to each other and congratulating on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with the birthday! I’m like – seriously? Or wife and husband living in the same house and wishing happy birthday via Facebook… I at least hope they gave a hug also for the loved one and not leave it for the Facebook interaction only.

Does it sound harsh? Maybe…

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But would you agree we are all losing social connection because of these technologies? Would you agree that smartphones are killing conversations? According to MIT professor Sherry Turkle:

‘Even something as simple as going to lunch and putting a cell phone on the table decreases the emotional importance of what people are willing to talk about, and it decreases the connection that the two people feel toward one another’. Sherry Turkle

I believe we lose our ability to have deeper, more spontaneous conversations with others because a lot of the times our focus is somewhere else. We get distracted easily with all the notifications popping up and phone buzzing. We are having an attention span of a goldfish and it is frightening to me. We are getting more and more isolated.

BUT…

Can we ignore the technologies? Every adult, teenager and even a lot of children are having phones or tablets these days. There are a lot of benefits, of course, to using the technologies. So how can we use them to our advantage and still interact with each other?

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Here is an idea! My daughter was celebrating her 12th birthday last week and while planning it I found this idea and I loved it! Selfie scavenger hunt! Young people in particular love taking pictures especially selfies. According to Emerald publishing these are the 3 reasons why people love taking selfies:

  1. To convey happiness
  2. To show beauty
  3. To enhance self-esteem

So if people enjoy taking selfies, why not make it a game with more interaction? At the end of the day, life is evolving and we have to change the things we do accordingly 😉

There are tons of options and ways on how to use this game but I will attach the one that my daughter and I came up with and gathered together. Feel free to download it and try it out!

Selfie Scavenger Hunt

How to play it

A Photo Scavenger Hunt is an activity that involves groups finding interesting things and capturing them using a camera.  A simple yet fun way to promote teamwork and bonding.

  1. Prepare sheets of paper with the items that need to be photographed. Be creative and make it fun.
  2. Divide kids into teams or at least pairs.
  3. The team always stays together.
  4. Check that camera or phone is working and is fully charged.
  5. Set a time limit.
  6. Depending on the age you might want to set the limits of how far the kids can go.
  7. Do not take a photo of two items together. They must be in separate pictures.
  8. Check off any found items in order to keep track.

To make it even more fun, take pictures using Snapchat, Instagram and add descriptions/taglines on the photo. Post them if agreed using the hashtag for the birthday or other important events/occasions.

Our girls had a blast at the party! It kept them entertained for a while as well as they were using their creativity, were running outside and playing together as a team! This is all that every happy mum needs!

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After such a huge success I created a video scavenger hunt that you can download below. It is the exact same principle only it takes longer and it is even more interactive!

Video Scavenger Hunt

How to play it

  1. Prepare the printed out sheets of the list of things that have to be recorded.
  2. Players split up into teams. (A minimum of 2 teams is all you need!)
  3. Players set out to complete specific tasks on a list in a most creative way.
  4. Use a camera or phone to record short videos of at least 10 seconds.
  5. Make sure the phone or camera is fully charged.
  6.  Check off any found items in order to keep track.
  7.  Agree on the time limit to complete the scavenger hunt.

So here – not bad, hey? You can use these games or similar ideas for family gatherings and different occasions. Sunday is usually our family day and I am planning to use it as a family activity – girls against boys! Having adults as part of this game gives an even broader spectrum of where you can go and pictures or video you can take. Also, you can put all short clips together and create your own movie! This is an amazing treasure that can be kept for the future.

Hope you will try it and if you have more ideas or suggestions, feel free to comment below! I always love to hear from my followers 🙂

Lots of love,

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