SKY TRIPPING: NOW ON IPAD

We’re excited to announce that our latest version of Sky Tripping is available in the Apple App Store for immediate download.  This update brings all of our glorious aerial views to the iPad, and also makes our app fully compatible with both the 9.7″ iPad and 12″ iPad Pro.  Set your iPad on a stand and let yourself relax to the beautiful oceans, vibrant desert, winter snow, or any of the other views available in the app!

Best of all, the app is now universal, so you can download it on all of your devices and enjoy stunning views of Earth wherever your breaks happen throughout your day. Let Sky Tripping on the new Apple TV help you unwind, relax, and meditate at home; or enjoy the sights and sounds of nature on the go with your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch.

We’ve also added support for iOS 8 and above, and fixed a few minor bugs. Happy Tripping!

NO, BUT SERIOUSLY — I DON’T HAVE TIME TO MEDITATE!

Do you ever find yourself wishing you had more time in your day?  Are there habits you want to make room for — healthy things like reading more books, engaging in exercise, taking up a hobby, or practicing regular meditation — but feel there isn’t enough time to spare?  Welcome to the club; you’re not alone. In fact, half of all Americans today self-identify as feeling like they have too little time in their day.  (At the risk of being a nuisance, I’ll remind you that this means the other half of Americans feel they have time aplenty).

So what separates these two groups: those who feel they have the time they need and those who don’t? Is one half of society really more pushed for time than the other half, or is the old maxim that says, “We all have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyonce” true?

And anyway, is there anything you can actually do if you are constantly fighting the clock?

There’s a fairly simple answer to that question, and probably thousands more covering how you can go about beating your schedule into submission. But today we’re going to explore just one sure-fire solution that anyone can use (but relatively few attempt), and as a bonus we’ll explore the reasons why you’re not already using this simple but powerful tool on a daily basis.

At this point you may be asking, “What’s this magic bullet, this golden goose that has the power to transform my life day in and day out?”  The answer is meditation. That’s right: it’s free, it’s simple, and it’s instantly gratifying. Best of all, you can experience the benefits by doing a simple meditation right this minute.

Really.

OUR FIRST 37-SECOND MEDITATION STARTS NOW

Rather than trying to sell you on the incredible benefits of meditation, I would prefer instead to let you experience them for yourself. Right now. Does this scare you? That’s ok! Uncertainty (or even anxiety) is a very common reaction when someone first considers actually exploring meditation. We’ll get into some of the reasons for this common but irrational reaction, but first let’s spend a moment so we can see for ourselves why meditation is a much-needed addition to our day.

37-SECOND MEDITATION:  (five measured breaths in and out)

1. Sit in an upright position, stretch and then relax your back and neck, rest your arms and legs (no need to move anywhere, simply stretch and then get into a comfortable but alert position)

2. Exhale, then take a deep, calm breath at an unhurried rate.

3. Once you have filled yourself with breath, calmly exhale and feel the breath leave your body, and allow yourself (mentally and physically) to let it go.

4. Count each inhaled breath, and repeat this process until you have five full inhale/exhale cycles (these will probably take 10-15 seconds each for a full cycle). While you breathe, allow your mind to focus on your breathing. Keep it focused there. If/when your mind wanders, gently bring your concentration back to your breath. You’re not here to solve a problem with your mind, to think about what you need to accomplish, or to tell yourself how you might be able to feel better. You’re here to assist your mind in clearing out some of the excess. You do this by training your mind to stay where you decide it should stay, and right now that means focusing on your breathing. As you slowly inhale and exhale, pay attention to how your body and mind respond to the deliberate slow down, and how it helps you to literally shed the stress and anxiety of the moment. You are taking a moment to heal; it really does work.

How did it go? Pay attention to how your body and mind feel now, and ask yourself, “How did that change my mental and physical state from just a minute or two ago?” Keep in mind that any effects you feel now are likely to be amplified and prolonged the more you practice simple meditations. I’ve found the power and calmness my meditations bring tend to get stronger with time.

YOU NEED MEDITATION.  SO WHY ARE YOU LIVING WITHOUT IT?

It’s easy to get carried away on the urgent things in life while at the same time neglecting the important ones.  And sometimes things come up that require us to put everything else on hold. But how often do you choose to spend your time on something good at the expense of something better?

Our brains are tricky. We can want (or even want to want) to do something that’s good for ourselves, and yet our own brain can derail our best intentions as if our will were nothing more than an eyelash in a monsoon. It almost seems like we’re helpless prey in the sights of our most dangerous saboteur.

The secret to true, lasting change comes from understanding that the brain is not a single organ, but really two separate parts working in tandem to keep “you” on the right track. Keep in mind, this doesn’t always mean our brain will make the best decisions on our behalf if left unchecked.

There is the autonomic brain, the brain of instinct; and then there’s the intentional brain, the brain of reason. Once you understand that these two parts exist (mostly) independent of each other, then you can start to identify which part of your brain is responsible for your daily decisions — and it’s that “mostly” that is the secret to taking control of your life. I promise, if this isn’t a concept you’ve understood before today, this one piece of information alone will give you incredible power over your life.

Your subconscious brain wants to make sure you feel ok.  This means it does really great things for us like making sure we keep breathing, keeping our heart pumping, and setting off automatic alarms when we get hungry. But it also turns dastardly when stresses appear, getting you intoxicated for a quick escape, becoming angry so you get a buzz from the release of adrenaline, or pushing you to tear down others in order to feel superior or “in control”.

Once you recognize that these natural impulses are nothing more than simple means intended to extinguish your discomfort, pain, or even exposure to danger, you can begin to train your mind to anticipate healthier, more positive outlets for relief. Listening to your brain is an important key in this process, as is regularly reminding your subconscious brain that the conscious you is now in charge.

So if you’ve known that meditation brings benefits that can help you be happier (you likely have) and perhaps if you’ve even wanted to start practicing it regularly, why have you failed to make it a habit in your life up to now?  Let’s explore some of the most common lies your subconscious might be telling you to keep you back from this healthy change.

LIE #1: YOU CAN HANDLE EVERYTHING THE WAY IT IS NOW

This is a common lie the ego tells us: we can handle our life just the way it is. We don’t need any help.  But let’s think about the depth of that illogic for a moment. For example, what attracted you to this article? What kept you reading? I don’t believe in coincidences, but even if they do happen from time to time I’ll be hard-pressed to believe they’re a common occurrence.  Something led you to keep reading these words on this post on this day. Is there a reason for that?

Let’s say you do have a perfect handle on everything going on in your life right now, even with zero reflection, meditation, or inner exploration. I would hazard to guess that you sense something is missing — something more. Today is the best time to find out what that is. You may not need it now (I’d challenge that notion), but that doesn’t mean you won’t benefit now.  And certainly the regular practice of gentle inward repose will benefit you later in whatever unexpected moment catches you by surprise.

LIE #2: YOU’RE UNCOMFORTABLE WITH THE “YOU” YOU MIGHT DISCOVER

You are the most important person in your life.  You have incredible insights that only you can discover within yourself.  That’s right, only you will bring the kind of light into the world that you can uniquely offer, but your individuality won’t simply uncover itself — and your best qualities certainly can’t be revealed by others around you, no matter how much they care for you. Are there parts of yourself which you’d rather not acknowledge or face right now?  Congratulations! You’ve just discovered that you’re human like all the rest of us! But when you start to accept yourself for who you are — right now — you’ll find it easier than ever to tap into the parts of yourself that you love the most, and learn to accentuate those qualities as you grow into the best person you can be.

We all struggle and falter.  That’s part of life.  Be gentle with yourself and accept the best you have to offer while acknowledging the other parts that will provide you the opportunity to improve and develop further.

LIE #3: YOU DON’T FEEL WORTHY OF PEACEFULNESS/YOU DON’T HAVE TIME

Let’s be brutally honest for a moment: if you don’t think you’re able to spare thirty-seven measly seconds out of your day to allow calmness to enter into your mind and body, then your schedule isn’t the problem.  Perhaps the question you should be asking yourself is, why don’t you want to feel calm?  After all, if a few observed breaths can have a measurable impact on your stress levels, then why wouldn’t you take that small moment (or longer) every single day? You’ve already spent 5+ minutes reading this article.  In that amount of time, you could have practiced eight meditations like the one we practiced above. If you think time is your problem then you need to think again.

But there’s good news: you’ve already proven that you do have time, and that you are worthy of that care and attention.  Set a reminder and commit to yourself now that you will take time every day (even if that means spending 20 seconds to focus on 3 breaths) to help yourself become more centered.

LIE #4: YOU DON’T DIDN’T KNOW HOW

Ta-da! If you’ve read the post up to this point (and exchanged less than a minute of your time to participate in the above meditation), then you know how to meditate.  It’s easy to hear the word “meditation” and immediately assume you’re out of your depth.  But the reality is, meditation is both a very broad and an insanely simple concept. An effective meditation can take many forms; but at its core, meditation is simply the art of practicing focus. As the dictionary explains,

“Meditation is the act of thinking deeply or focusing one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.” 

You don’t need to have any special gadgets, you need zero experience, and it doesn’t even require that you have a specific place set aside for it.  As Eckhart Tolle once said, “One conscious breath in and out is a meditation.” If meditation can be something as simple as breathing, then you’ve been practicing your whole life! This can be done literally anywhere, anytime, by anybody.

Of course there are countless things you can do to tailor a meditation to your specific needs, but it should calm your mind to know that getting started — and experiencing powerful, real benefits in the process — requires nothing more than deciding to do it now.

LIE #5: YOU DON’T BELIEVE THERE ARE ANY REAL BENEFITS

This last one seems like it would be reserved for the most skeptical among us, but knowing that the animal brain works so hard to regulate our priorities without us even knowing it, it seems at least reasonable that we show some patience toward the cynic’s hesitation. Hopefully you’ve spent half a minute (or longer!) today trying it for yourself, and have seen that a short moment clearing your mind and relaxing your body can have powerful, lasting effects on your day. But even a skeptic can be dubious of anecdotes, so the logical question we need to answer is whether or not these claimed benefits can be measured and backed by science.

I’m glad you asked. 🙂 A meta-analysis of 163 different studies on the effects of meditation found that meditation has a real, measurable, positive impact on practitioners of meditation. Other studies show that mindfulness meditation can rival pharmaceuticals in effectiveness for treating depression, anxiety, and pain. There are countless other studies that show what a powerful benefit meditation is to the mind and body for those who take the time to practice it.  And that’s the catch: you have to do it to tap into these immense benefits.

SEE STUNNING
VIEWS OF EARTH
FROM THE COMFORT
OF YOUR COUCH.

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MY PERSONAL TAKEAWAYS

I am no meditation guru by any measure. Like, if we’re being honest, I’m as likely to benefit from writing this article as you are from reading it. I have learned to love and believe in the power of meditation, and have practiced it just enough to know I don’t do it nearly as often as I should. As a result of this article, the Sky Tripping team has started talking about a 30-day challenge to meditate every day and report back with our thoughts and experiences (expect to see a blogpost or 5 about this in the next month or so). But at the end of the day, having the opportunity to explore why I have kept myself from fully enjoying the benefits of meditation on a daily basis has been extremely valuable. I want to meditate.  I want to want to meditate. Now I have a better idea of why, despite my desires, I’ve allowed myself to be what holds me back from this powerful tool, and what I can do to overcome that roadblock.

MY CHALLENGE TO YOU

1. Take time for yourself.  Recognize that you deserve to take care of your own needs first. Only when you accept that truth will you be fully enabled to help those around you.

2. Personal meditation is just that: personal. Find out what works for you by practicing, exploring, and — when you desire more knowledge — researching what has worked for others. But most importantly, practice! Commit to spending a certain amount of time every day: twenty seconds, two minutes, twenty minutes; one session every morning or two every day — these details don’t matter nearly as much as the fact that you’re actually doing it. You can always improve, refine, and increase. But as they say, starting is half the battle. So start. It really is that simple.

3. Share your experiences with others (including us)! Keeping people in the loop will serve both to help you re-inforce your commitment to yourself, and will also allow you to share something meaningful and helpful with those you care about. The more you discover your own center, the more you’ll find the desire — and the capacity — to help others.

So here’s to increased mindfulness! Sounds off in the comments and let us know how you plan to treat yourself more kindly starting today!

MEDITATION AS A MEDICATION?

When my husband and I planned on having kids I was excited for the future. I worried a little about all the things parents worry about, like whether they would have friends, whether they’d make good choices, or how best to protect our relationship and keep it alive through our children’s tumultuous teenage years. What I didn’t even consider worrying about was whether or not my children would struggle with depression.

Many of my friends now have children in their teenage years, and for some of them this isn’t merely a concern — it’s a reality. The love they have for their kids is undeniable.

As observant parents they were quick to recognize the depression. They took their kids into the doctor hoping to help them avoid any of the dangerous effects that might follow from the unexpected mental or emotional struggle their children were facing. These sweet children were put into therapy and given medications to stop the sadness.

For some it “worked”. They take their pills and attend therapy regularly and that became the new normal for them.

For others, it didn’t work out so well. I’m saddened when I consider that I have two different friends with a child who has committed suicide. I knew these kids as happy kids, full of life and excitement. When they were younger they were joyful, and it showed in their scampers and their smiles. I still remember each day when I heard the news: the reality that these bright young kids had ended their lives crippled me. These were normal, happy, carefree kids!

How did this happen?

STRIKING AT THE ROOT OF THE ISSUE

These parents did everything that they were supposed to do. The doctors followed protocol. And they were given all the help that was available. And still, it failed them.

As a mom I see that same joy in my kids, and in the rarest moments it terrifies me. What if their joy turns to darkness? Is medication and therapy our only option? What if the “normal” route ends up being the wrong path for us, too?

I have no doubt that for some conditions, medication is the best option. But I can’t help but wonder if our “one size fits all” view on treating depression is the only (or best) approach to consider.

I came across this story recently and it gives me hope — hope for my family; hope for my friends; and hope for any that are battling difficult emotional challenges, who maybe wonder if there’s an option that doesn’t involve surrendering their future to pharmaceuticals or physicians.

Julia Bowyer spent a decade on antidepressants and anxiety medications. She lived those ten years without sadness, but sadly she also functioned without many emotions at all.

“Every time I went in with a new problem, my doctors…were less concerned with digging into the root of the issue, which I was unsure of and would have liked to explore, and more apt to reach for their prescription pad for a quick fix. I started to feel like I was regulating my daily activities with pills, especially my sleep. The scary part is that I felt just fine on all of these medications––not particularly happy, but also not particularly sad.

By 23, I was working at my dream job for a magazine that I loved. Things were going well; my life was headed in the direction I had always hoped for. I knew I should feel happy, proud, satisfied––but I didn’t. I didn’t feel much of anything. As I saw how my peers reacted to their individual successes and failures, I began to realize my usual emotional cocktail of numbness and detachment wasn’t normal. I got promoted, broke up with my boyfriend, watched a sibling go to rehab…I knew I should react to these major life moments, but nothing seemed to really make me feel anything.” (emphasis added)

Julia’s retelling of this trying time really struck a chord with me, and made me question whether perhaps we are so worried about masking the symptoms and possible effects of the depression that we don’t allow ourselves to get to the root of what’s causing it.

“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” – Henry David Thoreau

The most common motivators for someone to stop taking their antidepressant medication is a desire to eliminate the side effects of the medication, followed by a fear of dependency. After reading the pharmaceutical warning labels, I can see why. The list of side effects is daunting. It includes symptoms such as an increase in suicidal thoughts in children, adolescents, and young adultschronic trouble sleeping; involuntary quivering; tachycardia; hair loss; bleeding of the stomach or intestines; mania; and a high risk of chemical dependency to the medications themselves.

Perhaps it’s misplaced to ask if the risks outweigh the benefits, but one must at least wonder whether there isn’t a safer way to treat these conditions without having to accept the treacherous side effects that accompany the chemical course of action.

Julia explains how she was able to get off antidepressants and break the dependency to a medication by naturally using mindfulness, meditation, and a healthy lifestyle. Her article is a must read to anyone who has experienced depression, and a valuable insight into the struggle for anyone who hasn’t. Despite the fact that her article was written from the perspective of one dealing with mental illness, I believe that these are healthy tips that can benefit all of us.

Like Julia, I have observed three common areas of focus for those who set out to conquer their depression or anxiety naturally:

MINDFULNESS

“Every few months, I ask myself, Is this still working for me? Do I feel okay? If I confirm that I feel alright, I stick to my daily routine of meditation and exercise. If the answer is “no”, it’s time to call my doctor to discuss. The ability to identify my feelings is, in large part, thanks to my meditation practice.” -Julia Bowyer

Mindfulness is a state where you are awake and aware and focused on the present; where you observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad.

Focus on you, listen to your body, and notice your stress levels and where they are coming from.

Over time you will be able to identify your feelings. When you gently acknowledge the negative thoughts and address them they lose their ability to control you.

MEDITATION

My son has a home health service. For nearly two years we had the same nurse who came in and out of our home, sometimes twice a day. We loved her for the sweetness she brought into our home while helping to care for my son.

One day she slipped on the ice and took a traumatic hit to her head. She had a concussion and some bruising on the brain. In the weeks following her injury, it was clear that something was different about her. She was more quiet. We had grown to think of her as family, and it hurt to see her countenance suddenly lose the sparkle we loved so much. She finally confided in us that she had almost completely lost the ability to feel…she would have brief moments of happiness, but they were gone as quickly as they came. She was left with the fear that this emptiness might become her new normal.

She finally set up an appointment to see a doctor. Twenty minutes later she walked out of his office with a prescription. It didn’t help. She went back, and the doctor raised the dose and added a second medication. Again, it didn’t work. Not finding relief left her feeling hopeless. She admitted to having destructive thoughts — not exactly suicide, but feelings that she didn’t want to live any longer. She hoped for an accident that would take her life and relieve her family of the burden of worrying about her.

One day she mentioned that everyone had some piece of advice for her, and that most would tell her to go out and get some exercise. She shared with me how that comment hurt more than it helped: “I have to force myself to get dressed. I cry the whole time I get ready for work, because I know I don’t have the strength. I don’t know how much longer I can fake my normal routine…how am I supposed to find the desire to go running?”

She knew they meant well, but that didn’t help when her tank was on empty. The expression on her face, day in and day out, told the whole story: she had nothing left. She would go home after work and sit for hours doing nothing.

Instead of pushing herself to do more, a wise friend told her to listen to her body’s need to be quiet and still. She suggested that instead of idleness she should start doing Mindful Meditation.

It didn’t happen overnight, but during the next couple of months the change was obvious. She returned to starting her day with a smile and, ironically, she developed the energy and mental strength to begin exercising again. She still says that she can feel the “darkness creeping up” but now she knows what it is and how to stay in control of her thoughts.

HEALTHY LIFESTYLE

You can’t expect to feel good if you aren’t feeding your body the proper fuel. We all recognize that a good diet can help protect you from a wide range of disease such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. But your diet can also impact your mental health as well.

Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. from the mayo clinic wrote about studies that show that those who consume a diet with highly refined foods such as processed meat, sugary desserts, fried food, or refined cereals were more likely to report a struggle with depression than “people who follow the Mediterranean diet — which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and fish.”

If you are making good food choices you will feel better and have more energy to do the things your body needs to do in order to heal.

SEE STUNNING
VIEWS OF EARTH
FROM THE COMFORT
OF YOUR COUCH.

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Download Sky Tripping today and experience the peace and tranquility of immersive aerial videos in nature.  DOWNLOAD TODAY»

MY PERSONAL TAKEAWAYS

As a mother I was so thankful to find this story of Julia’s journey. Treating Depression naturally may not be the answer for everyone, but after reading her account I believe more than ever that this is a discussion that is long overdue. I am relieved to learn my children can benefit from powerful meditative tools if they discover they are one of the many kids/adults that struggle with depression.

If you struggle with depression we would love to join you on your journey of testing a more natural approach, and we would love to hear about your experiences along the way!

Even if you do not have symptoms of depression, these are great tips for everyone. I challenge you to take time today to make healthy choices, meditate, and be mindful of your body and emotions.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” – Benjamin Franklin

ASK NOT IF YOU CAN DO YOGA, BUT WHAT YOGA CAN DO FOR YOU

When I was a kid I could do just about anything with my body, I could do flips, back bends, any kind of split, and tricks that all of the other kids were doing. We moved and ran and jumped all day. As an adult I watch my kids do those same things and I’m certain in saying these once-simple activities would put me in my grave. Not only do I not have the energy to keep up, but my body just doesn’t move, stretch, and bend like that anymore.

I can’t help but wonder what happened.

There is no question that kids move more (and have more energy) than their adult counterparts. The fact is that we were once kids too.  But throughout the years we became adults, and in the process we stopped moving and wriggling and squirming from Point A to Point B. Jumping on the trampoline for hours isn’t deemed a worthwhile activity for college students, and I have never seen a group of adults challenging their friends to try a trick they just learned. Like me, you may be thinking, “yeah, because we would break every bone in our bodies, and our joints can’t handle it anymore!” High impact acrobatics may induce winces and groans the older we get, but there are things that we can do to maintain strength, flexibility, and boost our energy as adults without beating our bodies up.

One of my favorite low-impact activities is yoga.

THE PHYSICAL BENEFITS OF YOGA

Yoga has many physical benefits that you might not even know about. Yoga improves your flexibility and muscle strength, helps with bones and joints, and it helps your circulatory system.

Have you ever observed the frame of the typical yogi (a person who practices yoga)? They are generally thin, but have noticeable muscle strength. That’s the difference between other strength training exercises and Yoga: when a person does yoga they don’t trade in their flexibility for muscle strength; they work on both at the same time. Yoga allows you to build muscle while you also stretch, giving you that coveted ‘long and lean’ look.

Yoga also gets your heart pumping and your blood flowing more freely, which helps circulation, especially in your hands and feet. As blood starts to flow freely, the oxygenated blood allows all of your systems to function better overall.

But for me, yoga carries an even more exciting benefit. While you are changing positions and stretching your body in ways you otherwise wouldn’t move, your organs are moving and being stretched as well, a process that has been shown to drain your lymphatic system! This system is primarily responsible for fighting infection and destroying cancerous cells by flushing out the toxic waste stored in the lymph nodes. That benefit alone should make yoga appealing to anybody!

P.S. You can learn some of the lymph draining stretches in this video:

MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL BENEFITS OF YOGA

As if the many physical benefits of yoga aren’t enough, there are some incredible mental benefits as well!

Three major victories yogis experience include improved focus; long-lasting stress relief; and deeper, more fulfilling sleep. As you work through each individual exercise and movement transition, yoga naturally strengthens your brain’s ability to slip into deep focus. Yoga offers you a short but powerful opportunity to withdraw from the stress in day to day life, relaxing your nervous system and allowing your mind and body to go into a deeper more comfortable sleep.

PRACTICE YOGA AS
YOU MEDITATE TO
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OF EARTH.

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Like any healthy, positive trend you adopt, yoga offers you a way to develop coping skills and form a more positive outlook on life. Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness, increases body awareness, relieves chronic stress patterns, relaxes the mind, centers attention, and sharpens concentration.

If yoga isn’t something you do regularly already, you can start by adding some basic stretches (like the ones in the above video) a couple times a week. As you do, be sure to pay attention to the changes you experience, and ask yourself if you notice increased balance in body, mind, or both.

Have you thought about taking up yoga? Are you a seasoned yogi already? Share your thoughts, questions, and tips with us in the comments!

3 TIPS TO INSTANTLY IMPROVE MENTAL FOCUS

Imagine this: You wake up early on a Saturday morning so you can accomplish those really important tasks you’ve been putting off for months.  You zip through your morning routine like a champ, and you’re feeling optimistic — today is the day you conquer the world.

You’re clothed, fed, and ready to squash those projects that have been nagging at the back of your brain when suddenly you get broadsided by the unexpected, and before you know it your plan is unraveling like a cheap rug.

First you’re interrupted by your youngest child who’s up early demanding an order of your world-famous Dino Pancake Special™. While mixing up her favorite flapjacks, you look out the window and notice the sprinkler head has exploded.  Before you can rush outside, your nose guides you to the sloppy surprise that little Fluffy has left for you on the couch.  In a matter of minutes your plans have been obliterated and your productivity has been decimated. If you’re a human, you can probably relate.

Daily distractions, workplace stress, lack of sleep; there are countless things that can dull our focus. Sure, there are pharmaceuticals or even natural remedies you can purchase to help you focus, and it can seem daunting when trying to find an effective method to increase daily focus. But there’s good news: the science shows that the simplest, most natural, and most accessible options are best. Keep reading for some quick tips to maximize your effectiveness on a daily basis.

MEDITATE, OR JUST TAKE A QUIET BREAK

Before you start a new project (or if you are struggling to focus on the current task) stop what you are doing and take a 5-minute break. It may seem counter-productive to stop working when you’re in a hurry, but a short “reset period” has actually been shown to improve focus and increase productivity.

This is an ideal time to clear your mind, meditate, and regain your focus. Meditation can seem like a daunting or complex concept, but as Eckhart Tolle said, “One conscious breath in and out is a meditation”. You don’t have to wear a monastic robe or go by the name of Gandhi to enjoy the tremendous benefits mediation has to offer.  Concentrate on your body and mind. Simply controlling your breathing and listening as you slowly inhale and exhale can help you remove mental distractions and bring your focus back.

GET MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY COMFORTABLE

Get organized. If you are like me, it can take more than a few moments to get back to my same thoughts after I do something small like taking a call or answering an email or text. Our brains struggle when they don’t have a clear idea what we need to work on. Consciously deciding to postpone many of these smaller, common tasks may be difficult at first, but you can experience massive productivity gains by momentarily saying no to the outside distractions.

Notice anything that is calling your attention, mentally or physically, and clear these distractions out of your way. Put the loudly-ticking clock in a drawer or an adjacent room.  Remove the restrictive suit coat.  Power off your phone (the world won’t end if you’re off the grid for a few minutes). Listen to your body and remove things that are distracting to you.

Many beginner and veteran meditators alike report that listening to music, nature sounds, or white noise is a helpful meditation tool. I’ve even learned that these audio tools not only improve my personal meditation, but they help me stay focused and reduce outside distractions while I’m working as well.

Even the simplest meditations offer tremendous benefits to your daily focus, but you probably wouldn’t be reading this if you were perfect at controlling your attention. Soon you’ll be a master at shutting out distractions and commanding immersive focus at-will, but in the meantime you may find yourself yearning to empty your proverbial plate before feeling like you can sit quietly long enough to meditate. If you have some papers to shuffle, a pending phone call, or a few odds & ends that will bring big relief and can be done quickly, do those first.

 Getting as those pesky little distractions off your to do list is a great way to clear your mind and focus on what is in front of you — just be sure you don’t forget what you’re working toward.  Set a time limit if you have to, and be sure to follow through on your quiet time.

EXERCISE MIND AND BODY

Exercise and nature can drastically improve your focus. If you can go for a quick walk outside or just do some stretches in your office it will help to wake up your body and brain and get them working together.

Don’t let your mind or body be idle. Sometimes just going dormant can seem like a good idea when you are under a lot of stress but that is like feeding your body junk food to prepare to run a marathon. Instead of brainlessly surfing social media in-between projects or letting your mind and body sit idle while waiting for a meeting, try instead using that time to do some light exercise or even a crossword puzzle to keep your body and mind ready and engaged.

SEE STUNNING
VIEWS OF EARTH
FROM THE COMFORT
OF YOUR COUCH.

Calming Aerial Videos

Download Sky Tripping today and experience the peace and tranquility of immersive aerial videos in nature.  DOWNLOAD TODAY»

MY PERSONAL TAKEAWAYS

Getting focused and staying there can be a challenge for any of us. There are many ways that you can keep distractions from derailing your plans, but the area where I can get the most gains right now is taking a couple extra minutes to focus on me. In the long run, taking time out to re-center myself saves me from time I would have spent stressed or distracted, and I’m always more productive in the end.

What do you do to stay focused and sharp?  Leave your thoughts in the comments!

2 THINGS YOU SHOULD TRY RIGHT NOW TO REDUCE STRESS AND IMPROVE WELLNESS

NATURE — WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?

reduce stress and improve wellness by spending time in nature

As a modern society, we have experienced incredible advancements in our daily lives. Many of the advancements we enjoy today are nothing if not miraculous, and it’s not hard to see how we are better off and happier for our contemporary lifestyles. However, not all of these changes come without a cost. For example, according to a recent study by the National Academy of Sciences, the average person has experienced a 25% reduction in “nature-based recreation” over the last 50 years. This can have significant impacts on our short-term mental and physical health, which can in turn have serious effects on our quality of life in the long-run. But the good news is that with a few simple hacks (which you’ll be reading about within the next five minutes), you can negate these ill-effects and greatly increase your daily sense of peacefulness.

YOU’RE NOT CRAZY, YOU’RE JUST HUMAN.

We have long winters where I come from. This isn’t just your regular three months off-and-on, snowy, crisp-aired, stock-photography weather that makes you want to snuggle up in a sweater and drink cocoa. I could handle that.

The Farmers Almanac says that the winter season starts December 21st and goes to march 20th. I am not exactly sure where that farmer lives, but around here our winters go from October to May; the temperature regularly bottoms out at -20°F and rarely (if ever) goes above 30°F.

Sure, that first snow is lovely, but for me it leaves a pit in my stomach — almost as if I just found myself stranded on a desert island — because I know what is to come.

I don’t do well inside for months on end, and I loathe being cold. My body looks forward to that first warm day as winter wanes, when I can go outside and feel the sun. This is not a want, mind you — it’s a need. If you’re nodding your head in agreement, you’ve no doubt had the same yearning. But even if you have a higher tolerance for being continually cooped up, you might be missing out on the benefits that come with immersing yourself in nature every now and again.

BUT WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?

Countless studies exploring the effect of nature on health have been performed, and the results are striking. Whether it’s a boost in vitamin D from a little sunlight or the chance to improve lung health from a dose of fresh air, the combination of “all things nature” has measurable, positive effects. And there are dozens or more measured outcomes, too.

We’ve all heard the term ‘cabin fever’, and I can tell you it is a real thing. But there’s something about just getting outside or enjoying nature that helps so much with my personal overall wellness.

And Dr. Daphne Miller agrees with me. A professor of family and community medicine, Dr. Miller calls the all-too-common ailments of hypertension, anxiety, depression, and diabetes the diseases of indoor living.

reduce stress and improve wellness by spending time in nature

Many other studies have proven that being outside helps in a wide range of areas including improved attention spans, emotional stability, empathy, love, and even your immune system. Spending time in nature has even been shown as a powerful way to reduce stress.  The Tokyo’s Nippon medical School found that men and women who spent just a few hours in the woods over the span of two days had an increase in virus- and tumor-fighting white blood cells. The boost even lasted at least seven days after they returned from their visit to the woods. This is incredible!

Bonus! You can still reap many of the benefits of spending time in nature even if you can’t get outside today. According to a study in the Korean Journal of Radiology, pictures of scenic, natural landscapes activate the same area of the brain that get activated when someone remembers a happy memory.

MY PERSONAL TAKEAWAY

Whether it’s a long, cold winter or just a couple mid-summer days working indoors, it doesn’t take long for the cravings for the outdoors to creep up on me. Working in the garden, going for a walk, or just sitting outside and meditating — I’ve learned that being outside (or at minimum finding some calming videos or sounds of nature) on a regular basis is a pre-requisite for my well-being.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO ABOUT IT

Get out, go for a walk, enjoy nature, meditate, and strengthen you body and mind! Do it today! But what if a short love-affair with nature is incompatible with your schedule or location? No need to get blue about it. Pull up some outdoor pictures on your phone or play nature sounds in your office and relax as your reconnection with nature elevates your mind and calms your body. But don’t take our word for it. Give it a try now and see for yourself!

SEE STUNNING
VIEWS OF EARTH
FROM THE COMFORT
OF YOUR COUCH.

Calming Aerial Videos

Download Sky Tripping today and experience the peace and tranquility of immersive aerial videos in nature.  DOWNLOAD TODAY»

WHO WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS BLOG POST TO?

We all know someone that’s stressing out a little (or a lot). But how often do we take stock of our emotional state and identify our own need to step away, take a breath, and re-center ourselves? If you’re a regular meditator, an avid outdoorsman or woman, or one who enjoys abundant moments alone in your own thoughts, then this post probably isn’t going to be an epiphany. However, if you find yourself regularly feeling the effects of stress or overwhelm, then you’re bound to benefit from adding some nature to your day. And if you know someone who could make time to consciously seek peacefulness in their life, then remember to share this post with them!