5 Ways to Add Beauty to Your Life

5 ways to add beauty to your life

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but don’t let that chestnut fool you into thinking beauty is meaningless–a nice, optional garnish to add to your plate at the buffet of life. Appreciating beauty is essential to living a meaningful life–a life you actually want to live.

There’s a quote from the movie Dead Poets Society that really sticks with you, because it’s true. Robin Williams plays an English teacher instructing his prep school students the importance of beauty in their lives.

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race, and the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

What enriching beauty is, and what it isn’t
When we try to enrich our lives with beautiful things, we might be easily distracted. We’re a distracted generation. So many things draw our attention, or even pose as things of beauty designed to enrich your life. Be mindful: don’t mistake mere sensation or stimulation for beauty.

And don’t be fooled with the idea that appreciating beauty has to involve commercial consumption. You can buy art. But you can’t buy taste.

Stop and smell the roses
Have you ever paused to see the beauty in the world around you? Sometimes all it takes is the initiative to look around and appreciate what’s right in front of you. If you’re into journaling, try writing down one beautiful or awe-inspiring thing you noticed or are grateful for each day.

This is really about deepening your mindfulness and the connection to your senses. Habits like meditation, exercise, regular massage, and getting plenty of sleep can help you open and tune your senses to beauty and wonder.

Read poetry
“I don’t like poetry” I hear you saying, probably because you were force-fed it somewhere in your education. But if you write it off because of that experience, you’re walking away from a gold mine of enrichment, passion, depth, and thought.

A poet’s job is to teach you to see the world in a different way. So let them! See the world through new eyes. Try different poets until you find what you like. You can read a massive library of poems from both classic and modern poets for free at your local library, or at http://www.poetryfoundation.com

Listen to music. No really listen.
You may be used to putting music on in the background of this or that activity in your life–work, driving, getting a massage–but when was the last time you stopped to do nothing but listen?

Is your collection kind of tired? Stream something new, branch out, take a chance on something new. But do it for it’s own sake and really appreciate what’s there.

While you’re at it, go see some live performances once in a while. If you know the rock club scene, try the symphony sometime, or vice-versa.

A little more high, a little less low
Challenge yourself! Push your boundaries. Engage with music or art that’s difficult to grasp, that challenges what you know and dares you to learn more.

Whether it’s music, art, literature, earth sciences, or just about any other subject, there’s a whole world of educational resources out there, some for a fee, many for nothing. Most are online, but don’t forget about your local library. It’s never been easier to catch yourself up and fill in the gaps in your education.

“With what time?” I hear you asking. Try turning off the TV! Your Mom agrees with me on this, and we both know it.

Invest in art
As you’ve built your taste and grown your appreciation for beauty, you may find that you’re ready to take the step of buying some art. Don’t buy for status or prestige. Buy something that speaks to you personally, that you’ll delight in every day, that will remind you of the magnificence to be found in the human spirit.

So roll up that Miley Cyrus poster, put it in the rec room, and put an object of true beauty in the center of your life.

Choose to live the good life!

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to grow your social media presence or build your brand by contacting him at tomgunn@gmail.com

 

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How To Recognize and Handle Toxic Anger

Toxic Anger

Are you feeling angry? How often? Every time you drive home from work? Every time you have a conflict with a family member? Every time you read the news or scroll through social media? Understandable. Common, even.

But today I hope you’ll stop and consider whether all the anger you experience in your life is really necessary. In fact, not only might your level of anger be unnecessary, it might be making everything in your life worse.

What is anger, exactly?
We tend to think of emotions as good or bad, positive or negative. Anger is one of those feelings that’s often labeled bad or negative. Looking at feelings that way is not always useful, though. Here’s why. If someone invaded your home and started taking your things, you’d be angry, right? Is that a negative feeling? Not if it motivates you to do what you have to do to protect yourself, your family, or your property. In that case, your anger is a very good feeling for you to have.

Anger’s primary function is to protect us–to get our hormones into gear so we’re ready to put up a fight that might be necessary to our survival. Fair enough. So let’s apply a little test, shall we?

Think about the last time you were angry.

What happened?

How did you react?

How did it feel in your body to feel that way?

Most importantly:
Was your life actually in danger?

Chances are, no. If so, the anger you felt was toxic. You’re using it to hide from your feelings, deny your own vulnerability, or to run from a challenge. If so, your anger isn’t really protecting you–it’s harming you and the people around you.

What are you yelling about?
It’s often been said that anger is a secondary emotion, and to some extent, that’s true. We tend to slip from a more difficult emotion into anger because anger is simple. It’s kill or be killed! It doesn’t get much simpler than that. You may find, though, that it doesn’t exactly help you with complex problems that aren’t life or death.

Confirmation bias
Anger can also rise when you feel your grip on the world is slipping away from you. It can arise from beliefs that, when carefully examined, really make no sense, or at least don’t amount to a life and death struggle. See if these common, but silly ideas that tend to cause anger sound familiar:

“Life should be fair,” for instance. Or “this person should be able to anticipate my wants and needs!” or everyone’s favorite “They should drive exactly the way I would.”

What to do with it?
Practicing more mindfulness helps. Check in with yourself. Get curious about what you’re feeling and why. If you lash out in anger and don’t know why, ask yourself. Talk to a friend, or write about it in your journal. Are you passing over a challenging feeling you’d rather not confront, but which needs your attention?

This sounds hard, but even a toddler can do it.

Children’s Advocate and Entertainer Fred Rogers wrote a song you might remember from your own childhood, but it outlines with crystal clarity the best way to handle and subvert toxic anger.

Watch, and think about what these words mean. How could you put them to work in your own life?

Choose to live the good life.

The staff of The Good Life Massage are not psychologists, psychiatrists, or mental health professionals. This article is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only, and should not be construed in any way as professional counseling or advice. People with severe mental and emotional problems should seek help from trained professionals and physicians.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to build your brand or enlarge your online presence by contacting him at tomgunn@gmail.com

How Heat Can Work Muscle Pain Miracles

How Heat Can Work Muscle Pain Miracles

Heat has long been understood to be a great way to ease muscle pain, but how exactly does that work?

To begin with, let’s understand how muscle pain and strain manifests itself.

As you work your muscles throughout the day, you’re putting them through stress. Even if your lifestyle is relatively sedentary, modern life is still hard on your muscles and soft tissues. Repetitive motion, bad posture, lack of exercise, over-exertion–all these can cause muscle tension that restricts blood and oxygen flow. As this happens–you guessed it–the muscles send pain signals to the brain.

The resulting pain can range widely–from mild discomfort to intense, crippling agony.

What heat can do
Adding heat to muscles and soft tissue dilates the blood vessels to increase circulation. This activates your body’s natural healing process, sending vital resources to the distressed area.

Intense heat also has the benefit of soothing and relaxing the surrounding muscles and tissues. You may feel an instant sense of ease and well being wash over you.

Stop! Don’t heat that!
Is the painful area red or swollen? Is the pain you’re feeling the result of some kind of trauma? You better use ice instead. In fact, applying heat can make things worse.

A treatment, not a cure
Heat has tremendous benefits in the short term, but it can’t fix anything permanently, especially if the tension you’re trying to relieve is due to repetitive motion or poor posture. You’ll want to treat the proverbial disease here, not the symptom.

If your muscle strain is due to repetitive motion due to work conditions, you can keep on treating the symptom, but you may need to change the circumstances of your work somehow. This might mean something as simple as an ergonomic appliance. It could also mean a change of jobs. Whatever you choose, keep in mind that not changing anything will take a toll on your body in the long term, no matter how much heat you apply or how often you receive massage.

As for posture, that is something that can be corrected. Mindfulness is key here. Strengthening your mind-body connection will make you more aware of the subtle pain signals your body is sending. You may find that your body is full of aggravating muscle tension you’re not even aware of.

You can work on this yourself, doing regular mindfulness check-ins to ensure you’re standing or sitting in a way that’s natural. You may find, though, that the plasticity of your muscles has been working against you. Your bad posture habits may have trained your muscles to hold themselves in the wrong shape, trapping you in poor posture that’s difficult to correct. Regular massage and a daily stretching regimen may be called for as you try to loosen your muscles and help them conform to a new, healthier posture.

Heat, a key component of massage
We use heat regularly as a tool in massage therapy, sometimes with simple friction on the skin to warm things up. But we may also employ hot towels to help relax particularly tense areas.

Did you know? Hot towels are a session enhancement that’s absolutely free. Just ask!

We also use hot stones as a specialty treatment or enhancement to help break down adhesions and deepen your relaxation.

Book your next massage today!

As with everything on this blog, none of this information should be construed as medical advice or care. The employees of The Good Life Massage, including the writers of this blog, are not medical doctors. Consult with your physician before making any changes to improve your health.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to help build your brand and expand your digital presence by contacting him at tomgunn@gmail.com

Swim Into The Wave: How Hiding From Your Emotions Can Destroy You

Swim Into The Wave

For experienced ocean swimmers, waves are just part of the challenge. So it is with life. Waves of emotions can throw us for a loop disorient us, and confuse us before we even have time to process what we’re going through. Unfortunately, our cultural biases have taught us to handle our feelings in exactly the wrong way.

Quick fix
What do you do when you’re hungry? Grab a bite (whether it’s nutritious or not). What do you do when you have a headache or some other kind of pain? Pop a pill. The tendency to want to avoid pain and discomfort is not only understandable, it’s completely natural. But it’s not always the best way to handle things, particularly your feelings.

What’s the quick fix for bad feelings? Take your pick! Food. TV. Pornography. Alcohol. Drugs. Everyone seems to have a favorite. You may feel good temporarily, but put off your self care indefinitely and you’re in for a world of hurt.

Here there be dragons
Think you have total contol over your feelings? Think again. You can control how you respond to what you’re feeling to some extent. But the stronger the feeling is, the more difficult it is to control your response in a given moment. You may soon find that you’re repsonses to things are way out of proportion and make no sense. This is often because of emotional problems you’re refusing to address properly.

So, guess what happens when you try to ignore, cover-up, or otherwise run from what you’re feeling? It gets strong. Your feelings are like a monster that feeds on your resistance. The more you ignore it or deny it’s there, the bigger it gets.

It’s like the dragon in this excellent children’s story:

The more the child bought into the mom’s argument that the dragon didn’t exist, the bigger it got. Before long, it was carrying their whole lives away from them.

Keep going
Winston Churchill said “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.” The only way out of an unpleasant feeling is through it. This is true for even serious emotional trauma and grief. Mental health professionals are trained in guiding their clients and patients through the process of feeling and re-living their trauma in the most vivid and detailed way possible. It’s not pleasant at all. But neither is surgery.

Even a massage, when used for treatment, can be very uncomfortable. There seems to be a principle at work that dictates that in order to overcome physical or emotional pain and to heal, one must feel it completely.

Ride into the wave, or risk drowning in it.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to assist with your brand development and marketing my emailing him at tomgunn@gmail.com

The Enemy Within – Hidden Muscle Tension That’s Making You Miserable

The Enemy Within

What is muscle rigidity?
Your body is a miraculous machine for coping with stress. But, like any machine, it occasionally manifests a bug–a bug that can turn into a serious problem.

When you face stress, your trusty allies, your muscles, contract and tense. They become rigid as your body prepares to fight or flee whatever stressor you’re facing. In this way, your body is trying to keep you alive. You may not be facing a threat to your life when a client or your boss yells at you, but your body doesn’t know the difference. When that stressor passes, your muscles are supposed to relax, because everything is fine.

But what if everything isn’t fine? Suppose, after being yelled at by a client, you start to drive home and almost get into an accident? Or find that you’re overdrawn in your bank account? Suddenly, your muscles are tensing up yet again. If this level of stress keeps up, your body will get the message to always be ready to defend itself, keeping your muscles rigid and tense. While many of your muscles may relax as the stressor passes, some of them may stay rigid in an effort to keep you alive.

This can happen whether the stress is unexpected, or if you intentionally inflict stress on your body through exercise.

Mindfulness
Suddenly the friendly muscles that have been trying to keep you alive have become your enemy. Not only are they not really helping you survive, they’re making everything worse. As the stress continues, more and more of your muscles become tense and rigid. This can develop into debilitating chronic pain. It can affect your posture and create a chain reaction of tension as your body twists itself into a knot trying to stay ready for whatever fresh hell you might be in for.

What’s even more insidious is that you may not even notice this happening until it manifests as a persistent pain. This rigidity and tension can build up in your body, filling your senses with a kind of tense “noise” you eventually stop noticing. After all, you’re too busy pleasing your boss, avoiding car accidents, and balancing the checkbook, right? The busyness of life can easily make you ignore the stress and tension that’s mounting in your body until it manifests as some pain or disease that won’t be ignored. Unless you do something about it.

Those of you who have received massages before may understand this from personal experience. As your massage therapist releases tension throughout your body, may help you discover mucles you didn’t even know were there. As rigid muscles are gently encouraged to become soft and smooth, little pains that have become like background noise are suddenly, blessedly silenced.

Book your next massage when you’re done reading this.

The cure
There are several ways to prevent a build up of muscle rigidity caused by stress. Our favorite, of course, is regular massage, but even that isn’t a complete solution. In any case, not everyone can afford regular massage (though it might not be as out-of-reach as you might think).

Mindfulness is key. Do things that will strengthen your mind-body connection. You can start with something as simple as turning off all distractions during your meals. The point is to help yourself become more aware of your body and what messages it’s sending you, to tune in enough so that you can detect persistent tension and small pain signals coming from your muscles and connective tissues.

Exercise, however moderate, can dramatically reduce muscle rigidity and tension. Yes, exercise can be stressful on your body. It’s supposed to be! Inflicting moderate stress on your joints, muscles, and heart in this way helps your body be more agile in coping with the every-day stressors and hassles that come your way. Remember, though, to consciously and deliberately relax your muscles after tensing them in that systematic way. Stretching is a great way to do this, but there are other methods you can do any time.

Progressive relaxation
Progressive relaxation is a guided meditation practice that helps you turn your attention to each muscle group in turn, breathing deeply. Your guide talks you through putting each muscle group through a slight tension and then relaxation, literally from head to toe. Many of these exercises can be found for free on YouTube. There are several excellent recordings done by psychiatrists and other professionals available for sale at a very reasonable price. It usually only takes 10 to 30 minutes, and is well worth the effort. It’s almost as good as getting a massage, and can even be a great way to help you sleep better.

Massage, exercise, and progressive relaxation are the primary ways to cope with stress-induced muscle rigidity, but more important than these is to try to manage the amount of stress in your life. This might entail some dramatic lifestyle changes as you try to slow your pace and live your more deliberately and with a stronger mind-body connection. If you’ve recently experienced a series of dramatic or traumatic life events, the psychological component may also need to be addressed with the help of mental health professionals.

But why bother? You feel fine, right? Do you, though? Check in with your body regularly. What does it need? What do you feel from day to day? Nobody lives in bliss all the time, but you’re not supposed to be totally miserable all the time, either. Emotional pain, like physical pain, is sending you signals to make a change in order to help you survive. Listen to that, and take to heart some of the suggestions above.

As with everything on this blog, none of this information should be construed as medical advice or care. The employees of The Good Life Massage, including the writers and editor of this blog, are not medical doctors. Consult with your physician before making any changes to improve your health.

Note: stress is not the only cause of muscle rigidity. It can be a symptom of a number of diseases including Parkinson’s, tetanus, multiple sclerosis, and many more. This post refers only to muscle rigidity caused by stress. You may need to consult your doctor for chronic pain or stress that won’t go away through some of the means described in this post.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to help develop your brand, logo, and content marketing strategy by contacting him at tomgunn@gmail.com