Mindfulness Meditation: Essential Ritual #3

Woman meditating

Man in a suit performing mindfulness meditation

By Sam Makhoul

This article contains a very special video presentation of the meditation session presented by Tom Sullivan from our Upgrade Your Life event. Never-seen-before footage and compelling viewing.

But first, this article is third in a series about the four rituals, five habits and six life-hacks. If you have not read the first two essential rituals here are the links:

Essential Ritual #1: Journaling

Essential Ritual #2: Movement

Diagram of the four-five-six methodology

All the research shows that these rituals, habits and hacks work. Living by these protocols helps get back on track every single day.

The sceptic inside of you may tell you that these rituals, habits and life-hacks will not make a difference in your life. The cynic inside will also tell you that you can’t change.

We all have those voices. But we are asking you to dismiss them because how you live your life is totally within your control.

Forget about the outcome. We are asking you to own your greatness. Show courage. Be motivated by love for yourself and honour the potential you were born with.

Although this series of articles are written in what we consider to be the order of importance, the sequence in which they should be performed every morning and every night is as follows:

  1. Movement
  2. Meditation
  3. Journaling

The fourth ritual of learning can be performed anytime throughout the day.

Why Meditate?

We are now all competing with a new breed of high achievers across all industries. They eat like athletes, train religiously and meditate like monks.

In today’s world, success no longer belongs to the smartest or the most knowledgeable. It belongs to the most effective.

And that’s what meditation delivers. Effectiveness. It’s the new secret weapon.

Mindfulness meditation is a practice that should be infused in your day much like eating and sleeping. It is that important.

So, don’t quit because you get impatient or find it irritating to sit there. You might have a bad meal or a bad night’s sleep, but you still eat and sleep, right?

Meditation is not about perfect practice. It is about doing it no matter what, whether you are stressed, on business travel, on holidays or whatever.

Mindfulness Meditation is Like Fitness:

You see, meditation is like fitness. You really do not know how physically unfit you are until you get really fit and look back on your old self.

Once you practice mindfulness meditation it will become your daily detox for your mind. One of the life-hacks we will talk about in this series of articles is a unique way of fasting from food, otherwise known as going hungry by our ancestors.

Well, you can think of meditation as fasting from thought. And when you fast from thought daily, you will be amazed at how fit your brain will become.

You will be amazed at how much clarity and creativity you will achieve. You will be amazed at how mentally sharp you will be in your job and how attractive you will become in social gatherings.

Mindfulness meditation also de-clutters the brain and gives you clarity in a world full of noise. We could ask you to cancel your social media accounts, disable notifications and stop listening to the news but you probably would not do that. So, you need meditation to quieten the mind from all these daily distractions.

What Type of Meditation?

There are two types of Meditation that we encourage at A Higher Branch:

  1. Visualisation meditation in the morning
  2. Relaxation meditation in the evening.

We find this to be a practical and realistic approach to meditation. More on that below but first we would like to share with you the power of group meditation.

At Upgrade Your Life, Tom Sullivan, meditation coach, rocked the room with stillness when he performed group meditation for over 200 people at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Sydney. It was incredible – see it for yourself.

Morning – Power Of Eight Visualisation Meditation:

This type of meditation should be done in the morning after exercise (for the reasons stated in the last article on Ritual #2 Movement). Visualisation meditation in the morning is all about preparing and priming you to take daily, decisive, and deliberate action in each of the eight areas of life depicted below.

It is about visualising your best day in each of the eight areas. Humans are all born with the innate ability to visualise.

This faculty known as creative imagination was not given to us by some evolutionary accident. It is there to help us materialise what we visualise.

It triggers the mind’s reticular activation system (RAS), which has been described as a manifestation superpower. Your mind starts seeking out the actions, solutions, and opportunities for you to achieve your goals for the day.

For example, if one of your visualisations is to start a new exercise regime, you may see or hear an advert or billboard of that gym you drive or walk by every day. If another visualisation is of you and your partner on a perfect date, you might notice a lifestyle article of a new restaurant that just opened featuring your partners favourite food. In both cases, your RAS serves as a prompt.

You still have to take the action. Cycling through, your morning visualisation can look like this:

Health:

Visualise yourself with strong posture, smiling, and full of energy.

  • What will you nourish your body with today?
  • How will you feel sitting and soaking up the sun?
  • How powerful will your body feel while exercising?
  • How relaxed will you be for sleep tonight?
  • Is your body soft and supple?
  • Is your skin glowing?
  • Is your hair shiny?
  • Are your eyes bright?
  • Is your heart beating calmly?

Love:

Visualise smiling at your partner with love. Touching their hand. Kissing them goodbye and hello again. Cooking with them. Eating with them. Reading together. Hugging and anything else you want to visualise that brings you closer.

If you are single, then imagine meeting someone with all the qualities you desire in another person. How will they look? Act? Are they affectionate? Are they witty? Imagine yourself loved and loving. Wanted. Desired.

Now continue visualising for each of the eight areas of life.

Evening – Review And Relaxation Meditation:

Your evening meditation should be performed in the same order as your morning rituals: movement, meditation, and journaling. It is important you perform these before your dinner.

All three will neutralise the impact of daily stress that builds up. All three will activate your parasympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as the rest and digest system.

This will ensure you enjoy your food and engage with your family in a loving, calm manner. Meditation in the evening is all about relaxation.

It is about healing any rejections and failures that may have happened to you during the day. It is about the breath. It is about calm. It is about forgiveness.

It is about acceptance. It is about acknowledging your humanity and reminding yourself that you will always be a work in progress.

Our mindfulness meditation coach and faculty member, Tom kindly prepared this guided audio practice for your personal use.  Listen to his Nightly Guided Meditation now.

Want to read the rest of this series? You can find them here:

Journaling: Essential Daily Rituals #1

Lady journaling

By Sam Makhoul

The Foundation for Identity Change

In the last article I, wrote about defining your identity clearly by asking yourself, “who do I want to become in each of the eight areas of life?”

I write to start you on the journey for identity change using the four rituals, five habits and six life-hacks, which we use in our Higher Branch workshops. Today I start with the first most important ritual – journaling.

I will share with you the simple techniques for journaling that I use in my one-on-one coaching. There are so many journals out there for sale that make it too complicated and frankly too airy-fairy. 

All you need is a simple blank journal and a system for journaling that I will teach you. So, let’s start.

Why Change is Hard:

Most people don’t realise that they spend up to 85% of their day, living in their subconscious in cruise-control, thinking, doing and feeling the same way they did yesterday and the day before that; effectively living in the past. This is fine if this 85% is filled with positive stuff that serves your growth.

After all, the subconscious is there as an automation tool for us to do things without thinking. This frees up the conscious mind to focus on high impact, high return, high reward activities like creativity, strategy, and meaningful connection with others.

But what if that 85% is filled with a lot of unwanted behaviour that just gets repeated without thinking? Stuff like procrastinating, eating too much, binge-watching TV, mindlessly scrolling through social media, shopping online for stuff you don’t need, or picking fights with your family. It is difficult to erase these behaviours, but you can replace them with better behaviours that serve the identity you want to create.

You cannot stack the habits and hacks without mastering these four rituals first. The reason will become clear.

Infusing these four4 rituals daily is difficult at first, but know this, rarely does anything good in life come easy. You will feel the need to skip them because you are just too busy.

You need to stay committed to them until you cross, what scientists call the line of automaticity. This simply means that when you repeat something enough it becomes second nature and easier.

Some scientists say it takes two lunar cycles to cross this line but in my experience, it all depends on the difficulty of the ritual and the frequency in which you repeat it. The former is subjective for all of us.

What is extremely difficult for some can be lightly challenging for others. What is difficult may take you many months.

What is easy may only take you a few weeks. Either way, I will outline a method that works for me and I trust it will work for you.

Journaling:

Image of a blank journal

Journaling is the most important ritual out of the four. It is also the most difficult to stick with because it can be confronting when done right.

Mainly because this ritual is all about self-accountability. Ignoring it or skipping it is a big mistake because it has been the single most important success factor in my life.

Most people don’t journal because they don’t know how, or they underestimate how beneficial it is. The other reason why people don’t journal is because they wake up late and hurry to get to work on time, so they skip this ritual and the three other rituals because they don’t have time.

Know this. Time is the great leveller. We all have the same 24 hours in the day so the difference between us can only be our discipline and the systems we follow (i.e. our rituals, habits and hacks).

You may have heard the phrase “win the morning, win your day”, which is so true, but the bigger truth is that winning your morning starts the night before. Getting organised the night before is the real secret to your morning success.

Getting a night of deep sleep is the second biggest secret to winning your morning. So, ask yourself, how do you spend your nights?

This is where most people (even some high performers) waste their time because they feel like they’ve earned the right to flop in front of Netflix, scroll social media and snack. When rather it should be the time to hit repeat on the four-morning rituals and get ready for the following day, by packing your workout gear, your work bag, your lunch, turning off all technology and socialising in person with your family or by phone with a friend.

Why Is Journaling So Important?

Journaling is important for many reasons:

  • It is a conscious conversation you have with yourself.
  • It helps you notice any negative self-talk.
  • It keeps you focused on your priorities.
  • It helps you take stock of your life, so you don’t drift aimlessly.
  • It helps you notice whether you are neglecting parts of your life.
  • It holds you accountable to the promises you make to yourself.
  • It helps you process and review any negative or hurt feelings.

All these reasons will become apparent when you start to journal properly.

How do You Journal Properly?

Pen sitting on paper ahead of journaling

At A Higher Branch, we developed a unique journaling technique that shows you how to become your own life architect. We do not like the idea of an accountability coach.

People need to hold themselves accountable and journaling is the ultimate accountability tool. The template below gives you a guide.

You need to devote two pages every day. Once you use this template a few times, you will remember it.

Morning Journaling – Action Page:

The left page of your journal is for your morning ritual. It is for the mind. The right page is for your heart.

In the morning you need to focus on your actions for the day. So, it is future-focused.

It is all about visualising as you write what you need to do for the day in each of the eight areas of life depicted in the diagram below.

If this is your first time journaling, I suggest you devote the first few pages of your journal to write your long term goals and dreams in each of the eight areas of life. That way, the front of your journal becomes your big picture reminder to reference from time to time.

Nothing is too trivial or too small to write. Once it is written, it can be reviewed throughout the day to see how you are tracking.

I always keep my journal in my bag and check-in throughout the day to see if I have forgotten to action anything. I do one final check before I leave work and do a brain dump at the end of the day.

If I have missed anything I write it on the next day’s action page to get it out of my head and onto paper so I can shut down when I get home. As a guide, see below a few examples of daily action items I have written in my journal in the last week.

You will notice that nothing is too trivial to write. You will also notice that there is an action item for each of the eight elements of my life. We often make the mistake of thinking that our wellbeing is fuelled solely by diet and exercise.

In truth, it is all eight elements that make us whole and complete us mentally, emotionally and spiritually. And so we cannot neglect them.

Health:

  • Do F45 today at 12 noon.
  • Stretch for 10 minutes afterwards.
  • Book a massage for Saturday.
  • Use the stand-up desk between 8:30 am – 11:30 am.
  • Buy blue-light blocking glasses.
  • Fast till 1 pm today. Have a no-protein day today.
  • Order more turmeric & ashwagandha.
  • Go to bed at 10 pm.
  • Rest day, do brisk walk after work.
  • Go out in the sunshine at lunch.

Love:

  • Book a surprise dinner date for Saturday night.
  • Light candles tonight and read together.
  • Go for a hike together.
  • Go home early today and cook her favourite pasta.

Family:

  • Play backgammon with my daughter.
  • Share chapter eight of David Goggins with my oldest son.
  • Book lunch at a Lebanese restaurant on Sunday for the whole family.
  • Check-in on my nephew who is studying for HSC.
  • Call mum.

Work:

  • Keep a separate diary for your work to do.

Friendship:

  • Organise tickets to the footy this Sunday with mates.
  • Call mates to organise run on Saturday around the bay.
  • Have breakfast after.
  • Help a mate with his wedding prep.

Learning:

  • Listen to latest episodes of Dr Rhonda Patrick and Jim Kwik.
  • Research whether autophagy accelerates with exercise.
  • Research whether coffee breaks a fast.
  • Re-listen to chapter 11 in David Goggins book, You Can’t Hurt Me.

Wealth:

  • Assess the UBER IPO.
  • Look into solar panels and going off the grid.

Charity:

  • Help son with setting up his new website.
  • Spend 9 am-12-noon training new recruits.
  • Write the next article for A Higher Branch community.
  • Write cards to my World Vision sponsored children.
  • Give legal advice and business strategy to a friend who is starting a new business.

Journaling in this way helps you keep track of your commitment to each of the eight areas of life otherwise you will end up focusing all of your time on work. I do a stock-take on Sunday night for the week in review to see if I have neglected any area.

This helps me pivot for the next week. There is so much more I can write about morning journaling.

Evening Journaling – Reflection Page:

Man sitting on the side walk journaling

The right page is for your heart. It is to review and reflect on what happened during the day.

So it is best done in the last hour of the day before bed. This nightly journaling is extremely powerful and useful for three reasons:

  1. To heal any hurt feelings, rejections, failures, disappointments that you had during the day.
  2. To list everything that happened in the day you are grateful for.
  3. To list all your achievements for the day.

Processing Feelings:

Processing your feelings is all about acknowledging them. The worst thing you can do with hurt feelings is to deny them and sweep them under the metaphorical carpet of your subconscious, only to manifest itself in headaches, poor sleep and irritability.

You cannot hide from your feelings. If you do they will haunt you. If you confront them head-on you will neutralise them. You need to feel to heal.

  • Did someone reject you today?
  • How did that make you feel?

You need to process it by stepping into their shoes and forgiving them. Did you make a mistake that made you feel like a failure? You need to process it by writing down what you learned from that mistake.

Gratitude:

If this is your first time journaling then I want you to go to the front of your journal and just like you listed your goals and dreams in each of the eight areas of life. I want you to devote some of those first few pages to list everything you are for in the eight areas of life to date.

Then every night you should write down what you should be grateful for that happened to you on that day. Simple, powerful and effective.

Achievements:

You may have heard of the power of gratitude but heard little about the equally powerful task of listing your achievements in the eight areas of your life. It will surprise how much you have achieved.

We live in an era of over-achievement and most of us can be too hard on ourselves and fall into the trap of feeling like we are, that we do not have enough, do enough. The reality is that we have achieved a lot and continue to achieve so much daily.

Listing your achievements daily reminds you of your self-worth, builds your confidence and neutralises the anxiety that lives in the gap between where you are now in life and where you want to be.

Want to read the rest of this series? You can find them here:

Why Breathing Techniques Need To Be One Of Your Daily Rituals

Is Poor Breathing Making You Sick?

Is Poor Breathing Making You Sick?

By Sam Makhoul

This is the last of the six life-hacks, one that is easy to apply, will not take time from your day but will have a huge impact on your physical, mental and emotional health. It is the ultimate detox, the ultimate stress buster, immune booster and the best performance enhancer second to sleep, but in turn, impacts the quality of your sleep.

It is the conscious use of the breath (commonly known as prana or chi), associated with spirit, passion, life, power and magnetism. It is important that you understand what is going on with the breath and its impact on the chemical and physiological activities of the body which includes the mind.

Knowing this gives you ultimate control so you can put yourself in any desired state depending on what you want to achieve at the moment. There are two types of breathing:

  • Subconscious natural breathing. This is controlled by what is going on in your heart and mind.
  • Conscious breathing where you bring your awareness to the breath. This conversely controls your heart and mind. And there are two states or outcomes from your breathing. 

They either step you into your:

  • The parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) – usually associated with nose breathing.
  • Sympathetic (fight or flight) – associated with mouth breathing.

Both states serve a purpose so there is no such thing as good or bad but rather, a natural state or unnatural state. If you are running a race, engaging the sympathetic with mouth breathing is important, but the same mouth breathing sitting at a desk fretting is unnatural.

The breath is a gateway to multiple states and the purpose of this article is to teach you the different techniques so you can use the breath as a very powerful tool. Stressed?

No problem you will know what to do. Needing energy? No problem again. Needing creativity? 

Whatever technique you choose below, there is one powerful element that is common to all awareness! Awareness is the magic ingredient.

I will now share with you the techniques I have learned over the years and read about from pioneers like Dan Brule. His book Just Breathe was life-changing.

Breathing For Stress Relief Or Sleep: 

This is a technique I created for myself that is a combination of diaphragmatic and box breathing. It is the quickest way to interrupt the fight or flight stress response and trigger the body’s normal relaxation response.

The added benefit to this technique is that it strengthens the diaphragm and trains the body to breathe from the belly subconsciously.

“When the breath is shallow, the mind is unsteady but when the breath is calmed the mind is still; therefore, when you control the breath, you control your mind” – Swatmarama Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

The Technique:

Lie flat on your back with your knees bent. Put one hand on your belly and the other on your heart.

Breath in for four seconds, hold for four, out for 4 four and hold for four. Your belly should rise and fall with each breath in and out.

Repeat 10 times or for as long as you require to notice your body relax. You will know it. When you are in an anxious state the first four reps are difficult but if you persist, you will literally change your body chemistry in a few minutes. Mentally counting will help.

Breathing For Detox:

Use this technique if you feel like you are coming down with something or if you are stuck in air-conditioning all day. Do it outside in the fresh air.

Did you know that 70% of detox happens by the lungs through the breath? So, if you are shallow breathing throughout the day, you are not detoxing efficiently.

We typically shallow breath when we are driving, on devices or in meetings. You will get tired, get brain fog and impact your immune system.

That’s why this life-hack is so important! Especially if you are an office worker like me.

The following breathing technique takes 63 seconds twice a day. That’s all.

A lot of people don’t believe that something so simple will have any effect, so they will not do it. Science has proven that this simple breathing technique, will trigger the release of endorphins, stimulates the lymphatic system and expels carbon monoxide.

The Technique:

Place your tongue against the ridge behind your upper teeth. Close your mouth and inhale deeply through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath for seven and exhale through your mouth for a count of eight.

Repeat three times. It may feel weird, but it will feel natural after a few goes.

Breathing For Creativity:

Creativity comes from the heart, not the mind. The heart is where the seat of passion is.

It is no coincidence that the lungs wrap around the heart. And when you take a deep breath, the heart expands and this takes you out of the head and into your heart.

Only then can you tap into your creativity. Try this simple technique to help you get creative.

I do this every morning after meditation. It only takes a few minutes and makes me super sharp throughout the day.

Alternate Nostril Breathing:

While sitting, close your right nostril with your right thumb. Exhale and then inhale through your left nostril.

Release your right nostril and close your left nostril with your ring finger. Exhale and then inhale through your right nostril.

And repeat for a few minutes. I do this for five minutes. You can use your left hand. Breath naturally.

Once you get the hang of it, it will start to flow naturally. This technique is also popular with Aussie health researcher and ayurvedic medicine practitioner, Mark Bunn.

Breathing for Performance Enhancement & Depression Relief:

There are many benefits claimed to what is now known as the Wim Hoff breathing method, made famous by the endurance athlete Wim Hoff. Anything from asthma management, Lyme disease treatment, arthritis and fibromyalgia relief, boosting concentration and increasing willpower.

The only well-documented benefits are performance enhancement from boosting energy and significantly relieving depression. I will not list the science here because if you Google it you will find a tonne of info on this method from multiple research universities.

I will also note for the sake of mention that this method is very similar to a technique invented by Leonard Orr.

The Technique:

Take 30 quick and deep breaths inhaling consciously through the nose and exhaling naturally through your mouth. Don’t try and control the out-breath.

Just let it go. After 30 deep breaths exhale the last breath and then hold until you are gasping to breathe in.

Inhale again as deep as you can and hold it for 10 seconds. As a variation, I like to drop to the floor and do as many push-ups whilst holding my breath until I am gasping to take a breath again.

Repeat this as many times as you like but I find that my whole system is well oxygenated after just one set and I am pumped with energy and feeling great! I promise you will too.

Read more from this series:

Life Hack #1: Grounding & Sun Gazing

Life-Hack #2: Eating Properly And Maximising Nutritional Absorption

Life-Hack #3: Oil Pulling & Your Amazing Saliva

Life Hack #4: The Power Of Laughter

Life Hack #5: Your Sixth Sense

Why You Should Trust Your Sixth Sense

Child with glasses

Young man brainstorming

By Sam Makhoul

Are You Genetically Gifted:

You could possibly have a gene that gives you a competitive edge in harnessing the power of visualisation. Nobody ever thinks of their five senses as superpowers but all the science shows that it is our five senses that determine how we experience the world, how long we live and the quality of our living.

Now science is discovering a sixth sense that can create everything we ever wanted out of life. Whether you believe in creation or evolution, you have to accept that we are never given a faculty by accident.

Our taste buds are there for the sense of taste and smell for avoiding toxic food, eyes for seeing and finding food and water; ears for hearing your child cry at night and as an alarm for predators; and touch for intimacy and tactile creation. Every sense serves a purpose.

So why are humans the only living creatures on the planet to also have a creative imagination? Why do we have the ability to envision goals and dreams and hold them as emotions?

Before you dismiss this as an article on nonsense such as the secret, I want you to know that I have a bias for action. I believe in hard work. I believe that hope without habit is futile.

I don’t believe in motivation. I believe it is our actions that define our identity and hence our future behaviours.

But what precedes our actions? Visions and thoughts.

We need to have a vision and clarity on where we are going and why we are taking action.

Creative imagination is a faculty just like our five physical senses… but this sixth sense is by far the most powerful.

Most people use it to imagine the worst that can happen in life (I know this all too well. As a trained lawyer I am trained to pre-empt the worst-case scenario and draft contracts to help my clients avert it).

But for those who know how to harness the power of imagination and visualise the best things in life (a healthy body, great relationships, material abundance to name the typical) then this is a faculty you need to know how to use. Please don’t waste it.

It holds the key to a whole dimension so few know how to step into.

Child with glasses

Imagine it. Done:

Creative imagination or emotional visualisation as I call it has helped me manifest just about everything in my life. The person I am married to, the house I live in, my body and mind, the friends I hang with, etc… this is all a manifestation of the future visual I hold deep in my emotions.

If you walk into my Sydney office at MSA National where we have over 100 people and look at every detail from floor to walls to furniture to layout, the smiles on people’s faces, the culture, the innovation, that was once and remains all in my creative imagination. During meditation, I visualised it so clearly and held gratitude in advance that my heart and mind believed it to be true ahead of time.

The first-ever event of Upgrade Your Life is another example of that manifestation. Watch the highlights here and note that every smile, every tear, every experience, every speaker, every aha moment, every dance, was all once in my head. People asked me after the event: did you ever in your wildest dreams imagine that the event could be so beautiful?

A smile always appears on my face, because I visualised it in my heart and mind so clearly. I just had to show up every day and watch the magic of the universe reveal the path I needed to take.

Sure, I did have to overcome all my doubts and fears. Who doesn’t have them? We all do. But if you trust this emotional visualisation you can’t go wrong.

I call it emotional because you have to have that gratitude in your heart in advance. What does that mean?

A beautiful thing happens when you fall in love with your future. When you feel like your future has already happened there is a synchronisation between your energy and that potential in the quantum field.

You start to draw experiences (or synchronicities) that help you manifest that visual because you are connected to that future energy. I am not proposing anything radical here.

Dr Joe Dispenza recently wrote multiple books about this phenomenon and his events, attracting hundreds of people, sell out within minutes of release. People have healed themselves from auto-immune diseases to arteriosclerosis using creative visualisation.

Do You Have A Genetic Competitive Edge?

I was extremely sceptical about this field of epigenetic for many years until I learned that science had discovered a gene that is unique to some humans that gives them the ability to tap into creative imagination at will, to manifest whatever is possible in the quantum field. This genotype known as rs4680(A; A) is in the coding region of the COMT gene.

People with this genotype are associated with higher levels of dopamine in the pre-frontal cortex, a region implicated in the placebo and nocebo response. This phenomenon occurs when a person experiences a physiological response to what he or she thinks is happening.

This is nothing new. People who use their creative imagination to imagine an illness have a psychosomatic response.

The expectation elicits a response. Whether that response is positive or negative all depends on the individual using their imagination.

People who use it to imagine the worst, end up attracting what they fear. People who know how to use it for good, usually are people who enjoy amazing success in their life.

Does this mean that people who don’t have this genotype, cannot tap into their sixth sense? No. It’s just harder.

Just like you have some people who are gifted at running long distances or swimming or whatever, this does not mean you cannot do what they do; it just means you have to train harder (Exhibit A = David Goggins – he was negative buoyant and went on to complete navy seal hell week three times – the most in history). So please do not give up on this faculty just because you discover you don’t have this gene.

I know this life-hack in the series is not as sexy and as easy as the usual diet and lifestyle hacks out there but just because it is a little difficult to understand it does not mean you should dismiss it. It is extremely powerful.

Read more from this series:

Life Hack #1: Grounding & Sun Gazing

Life-Hack #2: Eating Properly And Maximising Nutritional Absorption

Life-Hack #3: Oil Pulling & Your Amazing Saliva

Life Hack #4: The Power Of Laughter

Life-Hack #6: Let There Be Breath

The Power of Laughter

Three people running

Three people running

By Sam Makhoul

Firstly, I need to clarify what a life-hack is. It is a lifestyle protocol that will boost your energy, help you sleep better, boost your immune system and ultimately make you live longer.

Why is laughter a life-hack that is in my top six? Just like a bodybuilder will focus on compounding exercises such as squats, the six life-hacks, including this one on laughter, all have a compounding effect on your health. 

In other words, the impact is far-reaching inside the body. Let me explain why laughter is so important to your health by explaining its impact on your physical, mental and emotional health.

Physically:

  • Decreases the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin
  • Lowers blood pressure because it boosts nitric oxide and dilates the inner lining of blood vessels. It even increases HDL.
  • Increases the circulation of antibodies that boosts resistance to infections
  • 60 seconds of hearty laughter relieves tension in your muscles for up to 45 minutes. That makes it more potent than Valium without the side-effects
  • It relieves depression

Thoughts (Mind):

  • Laughter (or even ‘humour’ without having to laugh out loud) boosts dopamine to the brain and thus increases the sense of pleasure and reward.
  • It changes brain wave activity towards what’s called a “gamma frequency” and this amps up memory and recall. 

Ultimately the combination of mind and body benefits lead your mood to greener pastures. You have peace of mind and sleep better at night.

Suddenly everything seems manageable, even pain or loss or failure. You smile more.

You have an air of self-confidence and you start attracting good things and good people into your life, including customers. Most importantly it will improve your relationships with family, friends and your partner.

I coached one client who said that until he learned how to laugh, his kids found him too serious and scary. When he learned to let go and laugh more he was getting more hugs at home.

In fact, research shows that people who are fun, witty and smile often are voted as more attractive. Not bad for a life-hack aye? Which is why it comes in at number four in our series.

How To Increase Laughter In Your Daily Life:

  • Surround yourself with people who feel like sunshine – in other words, who make you laugh and are easy going. Physically, we do feel warmer from laughter.
  • Listen to or watch, comedy – preferably at a live comedy show. One of my nightly rituals is to listen to comedy every night before I go to sleep.
  • Read our article Yes But Are You Having Fun? There are many spiritual teachers who believe that our highest purpose in life is to play, have fun and spread happiness.

Read more from this series:

Life Hack #1: Grounding & Sun Gazing

Life-Hack #2: Eating Properly And Maximising Nutritional Absorption

Life-Hack #3: Oil Pulling & Your Amazing Saliva

Life Hack #5: Your Sixth Sense

Life-Hack #6: Let There Be Breath

Essential Habit #2: Situational Gratitude

By Sam Makhoul

Did you know that every time you focus on what you don’t have and take what you have for granted you enter into a state of systemic lack of gratitude that leads you down the path of unhappiness; and for some, misery and depression. Did you also know that in this negative state, your mind sends a message to your physical cells to die? 

That’s right. This accelerates your ageing and shortens telomere length that makes you look and feel older. In this article, I will provide you with the antidote – and it’s NOT gratitude as you know it.

Last week I brought you habit one as part of the series in our academy’s daily system for living – featuring four rituals, five habits and six life-hacks. We have already covered the four essential Daily Rituals.

(Incidentally, the difference between rituals and habits is in the timing. Rituals are scheduled so you show up at the same time every day. Habits are something you do throughout the day)

For now, I want you to focus on what I call the battle between 1% and 99%. 99% wins hands down right?

1% vs 99%:

Most people know of the power of journaling gratitude. This is where you sit at the end of the day and write down everything you are grateful for in life.

This way of practising gratitude is mediocre at best (I will admit however that it is better than nothing). Plus you will find it difficult to persist because you can end up writing the same thing every day and will quickly get bored.

I call it mediocre because the rest of your day is unaccounted for. You have on average 16 waking hours.

That is 960 minutes. If you practice gratitude for 10 minutes it means you have spent a miserly 1% of your day focused on being grateful.

The question is, what are you focusing on the rest of your 950 minutes? The other 99% of the time?

What is going on in your thoughts and feelings? What is inhibiting your heart and mind?

Are you truly living in ‘a state’ of constant gratitude? 1% can never defeat 99%.

In the 21st century, we are constantly bombarded with media and material wants designed to keep us on the hedonic treadmill. Which means we are constantly not happy with who we are or what we have.

This is a sad state to be in – literally. If you are spending 99% of your day in that sad state, you are continuously sending signals to your cells to die.

We call it going after our goals or progress or winning or achieving, but in reality, it is discontentment with our life. When we are stuck in this cycle we cannot really be giving thanks for each and every powerful fulfilling moment.

Instead, we are constantly focused on what we do NOT have and this causes us to take what we have for granted. So can 1% of gratitude override 99% of discontentment?

Clearly not. There is a rule in this universe.

If you consistently take what you have for granted, it will either abandon you or be taken from you. Be it the people in your life: your family, your partner, your friends, your staff, your colleagues or your customers.

Or your health, your wealth and your peace of mind. In this 99% state, you are also more inclined to be irritated throughout the day and this puts you more and more in the zone where you are constantly blaming and complaining about the state of your life and how you are wanting change. Pardon the cliche: Change is within.

“You will never materialise a magnificent future if you are not in love with the present”

 

Habit #2: Situational Gratitude

The Powerful Habit I learned from My Grandmother Rose

When you are in a constant state of gratitude throughout the day, you become innately happy without effort. You will not have to write anything down.

I grew up in a peaceful little village at the foothills of Mount Lebanon. As a boy, I was always shadowing my grandmother as she harvested seasonal produce, milked cows and sheep, fetched eggs, cooked slow meals and baked bread.

My role was to run and pick herbs for her as she stirred her old warped but deliciously coated pots that had the scent of fennel seeds, thyme and ghee. But most of the time I was listening to her speak.

She was the type of person who verbalised just about everything she was thinking and feeling. So I grew up hearing her declarations of gratitude.

​What she said:Summer has done its job and autumn will bring figs”.
How it made me feel:There is no good or bad season. Every season is exciting in its own way.”

What she said: “Enjoy these spinach pies, Samuel, our precious neighbour made them with her gifted hands. Look at the perfect way she has shaped them.”
How it made me feel: “People matter. People have special talents and gifts. and I am so grateful to have them in my life.”

What she said: “Don’t worry Samuel, God will make you feel better. He always takes care of you.”
How it made me feel: “Someone in this universe has my back. I cannot lose, even when I fail”

Over time I too developed the habit of being grateful for the little things that happened to me each and every day. I would give thanks quietly and inwardly, whether I am in traffic, sitting in a cafe or in a business meeting.

How to Practice Situational Gratitude

​Simply, whenever you mindfully experience something that engages one or more of your five senses.

Touch:

When you touch your warm furry pet you are flooded with feelings of happiness and gratitude for their constant loyalty, playful energy and cuddles and muzzles. The warmth of the summer sun. The freshness of a cool winter breeze.

Taste:

When you have a delicious cup of coffee or tea be grateful and give thanks to the hands that harvested the beans or leaves, the sun that ripened the plant, the water that nourished it. Give thanks to a meal that you can eat in a cafe or restaurant that has been grown by a farmer, transported by a truck driver and prepared by a cook. You can enjoy all of this at a fraction of the cost of your time.

Smell:

When you inhale the scent of a bouquet of flowers, be grateful for the bees pollinating the plants, the growers, the florists who go to the markets at 3 am every morning to select and then creatively arrange them. The smell of freshly cut grass usually instantly brings happy childhood memories of playing outside and of warm weather.

Hear:

When you hear a beautiful song, give thanks to the musicians who took the time to labour over the music and lyrics. For the engineer that set up the board. Not to mention the radio producer that cues the song. I know they are all getting paid for their work but that does not mean you cannot appreciate all the effort behind the scenes. All so you can enjoy it in a few minutes.

Sight:

The beauty of the sunrise or sunset, the beach, the clouds, the flowers, natures art in the sky, the beauty of eyes, the design of clothes, cars, furniture, food and all things that are created by passionate creative humans. It is truly miraculous when you think about it.

Gratitude When You Have An Irritating Moment

We all experience irritating moments on any given day; sometimes multiple times a day, but when you get into the habit of slipping into gratitude in that irritating moment, you neutralise the irritation. The practice of flipping an irritating moment is extremely powerful. It is simply practised by reminding yourself of all the things you should be grateful for in each of the eight areas of your life.

The roof over your head, your health, your loved ones, the safe and secure country you live in, the clean air and water, the books, the courses, the people, the food, the friendships and the mere fact of being alive. ​So next time you have an irritating moment, let a smile fill your face.

I say to myself: “Sam you are getting irritated, slip into gratitude.” I start to list all the things in my mind and sure enough, the irritation subsides and disintegrates. Incidentally, your high-level gratitude list should be written at the very front of your journal. Click here to read all about the journaling ritual.

I hope this article has made you think of gratitude in a different way. I write with pure love and my ultimate aim is for you to sow the habits that will bring you happiness and joy.