Amanda Johnson

Love the life you have and have the life you want


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10 Simple Ways to Truly Love the Life You Have

One of my favorite things to do is read people’s “top 10” lists.

It feels like I’m receiving a ridiculously short “how to” guide on life.

I wanted to create my own and share how I put some of what I’ve learned into practice to honestly love the life I have and have more of the life I want.

I’ve gone from feeling depressed, anxious, constantly stressed and worried to feeling way more calm, compassionate, at peace and in love with myself just the way I am.

Don’t get me wrong. It took more than just doing these 10 things, but each of these now contribute to a much happier and more joyful experience.

Here’s how I practice what I preach on a regular basis to truly love the life I have.

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1. Attitude of gratitude

Whether this is journaled, shared with a friend, acknowledged in my mind or as part of a Gratitude Circle, regular gratitude is a key component to me being good with being me.

2. Daily meditation

Spending just 5-10 minutes a day in meditation makes a world of difference. Typically done first thing in the morning, this creates space to appreciate where I am now and learn how to be more at ease with my thoughts throughout the rest of the day.

3. Simple morning ritual

Along with meditation, I implement a very simple morning ritual that consists of drinking a glass of warm lemon water and spending a few moments journaling or writing. Whatever the ritual, it is a great opportunity to have a reliable way to do something for ourselves each and every day.

4. Take it all in

As often as possible I take time to look around and appreciate what is all around me. That might be while walking down the street or sitting at a desk or at a favorite restaurant. This is a great way to get back in the moment and out of any pesky thoughts, fears or worries.

5. Be selfish

Sometimes to love the life I have requires being a little selfish. Maybe that’s spending more time with friends. Having a night in on the couch. Being more mindful about what I commit myself to. Whatever it is, it’s important to check in with our needs on a regular basis and ensure that they are being met as often as possible.

6. Set intentions

One of the greatest things I did was set intentions for the year ahead. Having more clarity on my true desires and how to cultivate more of that on a regular basis helps reduce the “should-ing” and self-doubt.

7. Connect with others

It is amazing what happens when I make eye contact with strangers on the street or give a compliment to my barista. As humans, we need connection and it is one of the quickest ways to experience more joy and spread that joy to others.

8. Smile more often

I make a conscious effort to smile at people. It is such a small gesture that makes a world of difference. It’s also fun to smile at myself more often—whether that’s in the mirror when I’m getting ready in the morning or simply when lost in my own thoughts.

9. Celebrate on a regular basis

Acknowledging what I do (even in a small way) makes it a whole lot easier to love myself and the life I have created. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in what else there is to do or what hasn’t yet been done but it is so important to take some time to celebrate what is happening right now.

10. Be 100% present (as much as possible)

There will always be a million things that want my attention but the more often I give one thing my full presence, the more joy I experience. Whether that’s choosing to do the dishes or talk to a friend or go for a walk.

We all know that there is no magic pill or get-(fill-in-the-blank)-quick fix. The most important thing is that whatever we choose to do, we do it from a place of love and acceptance.

We can’t get what we want until we love what we have. {Tweet it out!}

What are some of your favorite ways to practice what you preach and love the life you have? Leave a comment below and inspire others!

P.S. If you are interested in better understanding what you have and how to love it, I invite you to join me for a complimentary Inner Essence Discovery Session. I have 3 spots left and would love to be your guide to discovering what makes you you.

P.P.S. If you enjoyed what you read today, sign up to receive my weekly blogs and other insights delivered directly to your inbox. Doesn’t get much easier than that!

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The #1 Reason We Don’t Experience Unconditional Love

Unconditional love.

You know, the kind we see in the movies. The kind where the person can do no wrong and are loved fully and truly as they are. Ah, so beautiful.

I must admit, I’m one of those sappy romantics who believe it’s possible and wants nothing more than to experience it in my own life.

And, boy, do I try. I want nothing more than to love my partner unconditionally — so why is it so hard sometimes?

I’m not suggesting that to give unconditional love is easy but I wondered if I might be missing something. I realized I was going about it in the wrong order. I was focusing all of my efforts on loving him unconditionally. And when I found myself feeling frustrated when I couldn’t seem to muster up the ability to do it, I couldn’t quite understand why.

What does it even mean to love unconditionally? According to one article I read, it means releasing judgment and accepting others as they are and choosing to act in a loving manner always.

Have you ever wanted unconditional love?

Or maybe you’re one of those people who believe it doesn’t exist. I don’t blame you. It’s hard to believe it exists when we experience it so seldom and when most of us have been going about it all wrong.

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If we want to experience unconditional love, we have to start by giving it to ourselves.

This was my big “ah-ha” moment. Maybe it’s painfully clear to everyone else but it just recently clicked for me. I began to realize that if we can’t love ourselves unconditionally we’ll never be able to experience unconditional love elsewhere.

Why?

Well, because the way we see ourselves is how we see the world. So, if there is something I don’t like about myself, it’s going to become a sore spot for me when I see it another.

How can we have unconditional love for someone who possesses the qualities or does things that we don’t like about ourselves? We can’t.

Before we can even begin to love someone else fully and truly for who they are, we first must love ourselves that way.

How?

Stop judging ourselves.

That voice that says “I can’t believe you just did that” or “That was so stupid” or “Why am I always so needy?” needs to go. Judgment is a total joy kill and it makes loving ourselves unconditionally impossible. When we judge ourselves we are placing a condition on ourselves that says “If only I were better, then I could love myself.”

Accept ourselves for who we are.

Yup, despite the number on the scale or what others say about us or how much money we have in the bank. Life is cyclical. It ebbs and flows. We have ups and downs. We need to remember that in this moment we accept where we are. It might not be where we “want to be” but that doesn’t matter. When we are unwilling to accept who we are we are placing a condition on ourselves that says, “If only I were different, then I could love myself.”

Choose to act in a loving manner with ourselves — always.

This shows up in how we talk to ourselves and how we take care of ourselves. Do we say kind things? Do we get enough sleep? Do we fuel our bodies with healthy foods? Do we care for ourselves the way we would care for another? Do we put our needs first? When we choose not to act in a loving manner we are placing a condition on ourselves that says, “When I feel good about myself, then I can treat myself better.”

If we are unwilling to love ourselves in this way, we can’t expect to show it to others.

Because each time they do something that irks us or triggers us, it will be so much harder for us to accept it and not judge it if we haven’t first developed that same kind of compassion within ourselves.

It’s a heck of a lot easier to accept someone for being late when we have already done the work to accept ourselves those times when we did the same thing.

Let’s do the work ourselves first. Then, we can think about extending this type of love to others.

And once we’ve learned how to love ourselves unconditionally and begin to extend that to those around us, we create space for them to do the same thing.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

What is one way you can show yourself more unconditional love? Share below and inspire others by leading the charge and providing some food for thought.


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3 Paths to Get What We Want — Which One Do You Choose?

A few months ago, I challenged myself to eliminate caffeine from my diet for 2 weeks. The 2 weeks turned into almost 2 months. Initially, I started exploring alternatives like herbal teas and even decaf espresso at times. Then, I started to notice how in my search to expand my possibilities and remove my need for something I actually started to institute a new limitation. All of sudden, I couldn’t drink caffeine. I was afraid to drink it as it might reignite my addiction.

This became its own limitation. Just another extreme. When I noticed this, I consciously ordered a cup of coffee. While I didn’t enjoy it as much as I used to, I appreciated the fact that I permitted myself to know what I do and do not want at any given time.

When we are about to do something or not do something it is because we are going for something we want in life — to relax, fit into our jeans or just feel better.

This may come in the form of making resolutions and choosing to restrict certain things from our lives. Or perhaps by indulging in anything and everything that we want.

Either way, these both limit us from making mindful, purposeful choices in each moment.

There is a third — and much more empowering — way to get what we want in life.

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The Buddha once said that “a path of moderation, between the extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification … was the path of wisdom.”

When we are about to do something to get closer to what we want, there are three ways we typically come to this conclusion.

“I can’t so I guess I won’t”

When I eliminated caffeine from my diet, I initially did so from a conscious place — choosing not to drink it mainly for health reasons. Then, it became an “I can’t so I guess I won’t” decision which was very limiting and no longer based on the few specific reasons I had originally identified.

When we make decisions based out of self-denial, we lose an opportunity to get to know ourselves and get really clear on why we choose not to do something. We also end up making decisions out of fear, judgement, resistance or attachment.

“I can so of course I will”

Before I gave up caffeine for those few weeks, I had gotten into a habit of having one or two cups of coffee each morning not because I actually wanted it but because I could … and I always had. It had become just as limiting because I was no longer checking in and making a conscious decision to have it.

When we permit ourselves to indulge in whatever we want just because we can, we miss an opportunity to really check in and see if that is what we want in this moment. We become a slave to ourselves and lose a chance to actively guide our life in the direction we want it to go.

“I can and I choose …”

… to do it or not. In either case, I empower myself to choose what serves me best in that moment. We can still choose not to do something in which case it is done from a place of knowledge and acceptance of oneself and not out of fear, laziness or greed.

When we realize we can do something and choose not to, we demonstrate our strength and power in the world. When we realize we can do something and choose to do it, we honor ourselves and have a chance to practice acceptance and letting go.

Living at the extremes of life can ultimately be quite limiting. The joy comes when we live somewhere in the balance of it all.

Striving to live a life in moderation is more than saying “yes” to some things and “no” to others — it is about getting quiet and making mindful decisions in each moment that reflect and uphold our values and principles in the world.

That is how we can ultimately get what we want out of life.

Think of one thing you consistently deny yourself of or indulge in. Is that based in a value or principle and, if so, what is it? If not, think about what it would feel like to empower yourself to no longer live by this limitation and instead consciously choose in each moment what you want to do.


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How to Move from Comparison to Self-Acceptance

A friend and I were chatting the other day and she mentioned that she felt discouraged about her yoga practice because she had been comparing herself to how often I was going. I giggled when she said this because I had just that morning felt discouraged when I couldn’t get myself out of bed thinking how she always gets up early and accomplishes so much in the morning.

It was so funny to me that both of us saw the other as being better or doing more when in reality we both are amazing and wonderful in our own, unique way.

Have you ever gone on Facebook or Instagram and thought to yourself, “everyone’s life seems so happy and amazing … why isn’t mine like that all the time?”

When we compare ourselves to others, we deny all the beautiful, authentic qualities we possess and think that who we are in this moment is not good enough.

So how do we move from comparison to self-acceptance?

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The practice of mindfulness is about celebrating and cultivating our authentic self in each and every moment. By practicing a few simple techniques, we create more space and opportunity to feel compassion, acceptance and love the person we are in this moment.

When we are about to compare ourselves with others, it is a great opportunity to check in and try a few simple things.

    • Take a moment or two and observe what is going on inside. Is there a feeling or a thought? Just check in with non-judgmental awareness and allow the feeling or thought to exist.
    • Gently remind yourself that every time we look at someone else as being more or having more, someone is most likely saying the same thing about us. This can help us experience more compassion for ourself and for others.
    • Shift the thought from “what others have or do” to “what do I have or do” and celebrate who you are even if in that particular moment there is doubt or anger or fear or frustration. Allow yourself to be reminded of the things you do well.

Especially with social media, it can seem nearly impossible to avoid comparing ourselves with others. It is something I struggle with on an ongoing basis. But, the more often I practice mindfulness, the more often I am aware of when I start to go down that path and how to navigate back out and into my beautiful, amazing, unique self.

When we accept and celebrate who we are in each moment, we experience so much more peace and joy in our lives. Of course, this won’t happen overnight and is an ongoing practice — but each time we remind ourselves to check in and have more self-love, it gets a little bit easier.

What are three wonderful, unique qualities you can celebrate today? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.


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How to Live a Soulful Existence by Setting Intentions for the New Year

On the last day of the year, it is a great opportunity to set aside some time and come up with our intentions for the year to come.

Resolutions are the more common list we each make as we approach the first of the year. However, these firm decisions do not seem to support a mindful existence as well as an intention which allows for the ebb and flow that life most certainly will bring.

As we embark on a new year — another 365 days of possibility — let’s do so in an intentional way, creating a guide from which we can make mindful, soulful decisions in each and every moment that support and uphold the life we want.

embracing the ocean

I have tried many things in the past from resolutions to goals to simply remaining open to what life may bring — each with varying levels of success. This year I wanted to try something new.

A friend of mine challenged me to come up with my intentions for 2015. It was a beautiful exercise of sitting with myself and getting in touch with not just what I want to do next year but how I want to live.

With her challenge in mind, I sat down and thought about how a person might identify one’s intentions. These are more than just a list of goals or a list of things to start or stop doing. They are how we want to experience life in each moment. They serve as a guide that directs each of our decisions and helps us manifest that which we want to see more of in the world.

To identify one’s intentions — and not just a list of resolutions — I suggest trying the following things:

Get quiet

Whether this is through meditation or simply observing the thoughts in our head and letting them be, getting quiet allows us to get in touch with our deeper, inner self — the wisdom within.

Reflect on the past year

When we make a list of our accomplishments, we can celebrate all that we already possess and how powerful we can be. To do this, a mentor of mine encourages us to close our eyes and visualize the person we were on January 1, 2014 (physically, emotionally, spiritually). Then, step out of that person and take a “mental walk” towards the person we are today (physically, emotionally, spiritually), identifying all of the accomplishments along the way.

It is equally important to identify any areas where we didn’t necessarily hit the mark — not so that we can judge or experience any self-hate (see #3) but rather so that we can realistically accept where we are currently.

Avoid judgement of self, others and situations

It is inevitable that things on our to-do list never got checked off or we didn’t reach some of our goals. That is okay. It is important to remember that life is a journey, not a destination. Instead of judging our current situation, simply observe it. Equally it is helpful not to compare ourselves with others. We are all on our own path and are exactly where we need to be at this very moment.

Get in touch with what we want to have more of in life

Once we have identified what we experienced as accomplishments and areas where we still want to improve, we can ask ourselves what feeling or experience we want to have more of in life. These will most likely start showing up as themes as we look at each accomplishment and ask “what was I going for here?” or “what did I experience/feel when I accomplished this?” We can ask the same of those areas where we want to improve by asking ourselves “if I did (more of) this, what do I expect to feel/experience?” These feelings or experiences can serve as our intentions — our inner wisdom and guide — from which we hang everything else.

We can still set goals that uphold our intentions and are illustrative of what we plan to experience. Just remember that goals — like life — change and need to be continuously reexamined and modified to fit current situations. So long as our decisions uphold and illustrate our intentions, we can live a mindful, soulful, intentional existence.

When you think about what you have accomplished and what you still want to improve upon, what feeling or experience are you looking to have more of in your life? 


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’Tis the Season to Unwrap Your Inner Wisdom

As we approach the end of the year, it is a great time for self-reflection and looking ahead — a time to acknowledge all of our accomplishments and any areas where we have more room to grow.

So many of us spend a lot of time and energy looking outside of ourselves for permission or “the answer.” And there is benefit to doing this. There is a lot to learn from others and from the wealth of human experience.

However, sometimes this can go too far and beyond supporting ourselves to do and be what we want in the world.

If, like me, you find yourself more often than not seeking the advice or expertise of others, take some time to tap into that source of wisdom and experience that each and every one of us possess.

Each of us can find an infinite source of wisdom to make our dreams come true by looking within.

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For me, this year has been filled with taking time to discover, learn and grow and it has been an incredible journey. And with the help of many mentors and teachers, one of my greatest accomplishments was getting a clearer sense of who I am and what I want.

I learned (over and over again) that happiness is not found anywhere but within and that we possess all that we can ever imagine or desire.

It is time to put to use all of the amazing tools and lessons I have received over the past year.

As we look ahead at our goals and intentions, consider this: the main difference between people who are living out their goals and people who wish they were is those who are living them are doing it. It’s that simple.

They aren’t sitting around saying “I don’t possibly have what it takes” or “Others obviously know better than I do” or any other reason or excuse not to do it.

Now I’m not saying there is no value in learning from others. This is part of the process. However, sometimes this can become an excuse to hold back from offering one’s unique gifts and talents to the world.

We are all on a journey and continuously growing and learning and becoming more of an expert in whatever it is we do. But all of that requires doing the very thing we want to get better at.

After all, the best way to learn is by doing.

As we enter the New Year, it is a great time to think about where we held ourselves back this year and our intentions for the next. If there is something you have wanted to do but find yourself making excuses or putting it off, ask yourself:

“Do I currently have the skills or abilities?”

If the answer is no, find a class or work with a mentor or read a book that can help you with this. If the answer is yes (and be honest with yourself here), ask yourself:

“How can I tap into what I already possess and apply it towards reaching my goal?”

You may find that there are a number of things you can do right now by tapping into your inner wisdom and experience.

Remember that reaching out to others and receiving support is part of the process. Just be mindful that it is used to support that which we already possess and not because everyone else knows better.

We all have our own unique gifts and it is through the exchange of giving to and receiving these from others where we can build and accomplish beautiful things in this world.

Improving oneself is a lifelong journey and something I am extremely passionate about. And, it is good to remain aware that sometimes even this can become an excuse or hindrance if it keeps us from applying all that we have learned and relying on the wisdom within.

What is one thing you have been wanting to do but fear you don’t have enough knowledge or skill? What abilities or experience do you have that can move you towards this goal right now?

Join the conversation by commenting below or take some time to reflect on your own.


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Being Grateful Can Happen Without the Turkey

In the spirit of Thanksgiving this week, I am reposting my blog on gratitude and its benefits. Enjoy the holiday season and remember that being grateful can be a daily practice — even when there is no turkey.

There are plenty of things to complain about in this world. But there are also a ton of amazing (and not-so-amazing, quite ordinary) things that are worthy of our acknowledgment on a daily — if not hourly — basis.

Practicing gratitude has a number of benefits. And who wants to be a “Negative Nancy” all the time?

Curious what these benefits are and how to cultivate them on a regular basis?

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I admit, I have said many a negative thing in my life. But I don’t like the way I feel when I say those things. When those negative thoughts start to emerge — which they still do — I immediately try to interrupt them and ask “what are you grateful for?”

Then I list off three or five things that I am grateful for in this very moment.

It is amazing how much better I feel and how quickly those terrible things don’t seem so terrible anymore.

Expressing gratitude can sometimes slip our minds. But the benefits far outweigh the effort required to implement a regular gratitude practice.

There is a growing body of knowledge in this area led by highly esteemed researchers such as Robert Emmons, Ph.D. Check out some of the benefits found during this gratitude research.

  • In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).
  • A related benefit was observed in the realm of personal goal attainment: Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.
  • daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison (ways in which participants thought they were better off than others). There was no difference in levels of unpleasant emotions reported in the three groups.
  • In a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in greater amounts of high energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one’s life, and better sleep duration and sleep quality, relative to a control group.

“So, how do I go about doing this more often?” you might ask.

Establish a system that works for you. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Keep a gratitude journal and list a few things in it each day before going to bed that made you smile or that you were grateful for.
  • Participate in or create a gratitude challenge on Facebook with your friends to post 3 “grate” things on a daily basis.
  • Ask a friend to be your “Gratitude Buddy” and send each other one thing you are grateful for each day — not only does it reap the benefits, it helps you develop a deeper connection with a friend you might not otherwise connect with as often.
    Next time you find yourself saying something negative, try the gratitude treatment. I bet you’ll have an easier time finding things to be grateful for than having to complain about.

What are 3-5 things you are grateful for right now? Spread the gratitude bug by sharing your thoughts below.