Being Mindful With Animals

According to the Oxford Dictionary, “mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” It is important to remember that we can implement mindfulness in all of the areas of our lives. Everything is an invitation to be mindful, even with our furry companions. Animals respond to humans in a million different ways. For obvious reasons, animals cannot communicate through verbal language so they have had to learn how to understand us in a more complicated way. Animals respond to body language, tones in your voice, facial expressions, and even scent (Simmonds, 2021). It is important to remain calm around new animals as some may not be as friendly as others and can put you into dangerous situations. By practicing mindfulness, you can watch and learn about an animal’s behavior, which will increase the level of trust and intimacy between you and the animal and even promote effective communication between them and others around you. 

In order to earn an animal’s trust, the animal must see you as non-threatening, which can be difficult without comforting words or verbal language. It is important to stay calm and be present to be able to understand what an animal is trying to communicate. Animals respond to emotional and physical behaviors of humans. If someone is shouting and flailing their arms in erratic patterns, the animal may react with fear and even hostility.. It is crucial to pay attention to your physical environment as well as your physical presence when around new animals. 

Humans give off different scents depending on their emotions. If you had a stressful day or just went through a heated argument with a coworker right before meeting a new animal, they will be able to sense your mood based on the smell you are naturally emitting. This can lead to a miscommunication between you and the animal and can put you into a dangerous situation. By using our 5 senses, we can learn about an animal’s behaviors which will allow us to assess the situation before approaching. Practicing mindfulness can allow you to collect yourself and bring you back to the present moment so you can enter the room stress free in a welcoming environment. 

You also need to be aware of your reactions. It is important to stay present when handling animals as it is crucial to pay attention to them at all times as some can behave unpredictably. Animals read humans a lot better than we think and if you react out of impulse or fear, the animal may feel threatened. A couple ways to practice mindfulness before or after meeting an animal would include belly breathing, body scanning, or quick 30-second meditation (Katz, 2015).. We can practice mindfulness while around animals by using our five senses. Observe and listen mindfully. Do they look scared? Does this animal make vocalizations? What can you tell about their vocalizations? Touch the animal and observe reactions. Some animals consider staring a sign of aggression. Focus on looking at them kindly, blinking softly and slowly (Potiker, 2019). Being aware of your physical surroundings and physical presence is crucial for creating a safe environment for you and the animal.

As we practice being in a mindful state of mind around animals, we can learn a lot about mindfulness from the animals themselves. Animals are the perfect teachers for mindfulness. They are always living in the present moment and only ever concerned about what is happening right now. When we interact with them, we can experience that same sense of presence. Animals have even proven to relieve stress. Having an animal around brings your focus and attention to the present moment, decreasing worry and anxiety. (Williams, 2019). Learning to recognize subtle cues from an animal naturally attunes your mind, making it easier to connect and gain a deeper understanding of your interpersonal relationships. 

There are many benefits to practicing mindfulness around animals. Whether it is your first time meeting them or your best furry friend from home, you can always learn something new about yourself and them. As I mentioned before, everything is an invitation to practice mindfulness and as we dig deeper into our spiritual consciousness, we can form deeper connections with the Earth and be one with the world.  We are a huge part of our pet’s lives and yet, sometimes we are in and out the door without a proper goodbye. It is important to have gratitude for all of the wonderful joy and love that animals bring into our lives and it all starts with mindfulness. 

“Mindfulness With Animals” from The Self-Help Guide

Katz, A. (2015, April 29). 5 Mini Meditations You Can Do In 1 Minute. Retrieved from 

Potiker, J. (2019, September 15). Practice mindfulness with animals. Retrieved from 

Simmonds, C. (2021, March 9). How and Why Animals Respond to Humans. Retrieved from 

Williams, L. (2019, September 19). How pets can sharpen your mindfulness skills. Retrieved from

Get Outside!

As I have mentioned in some of my previous posts, my spiritual journey began after taking a mindfulness class at my university. In one of our classes, my professor had us do an exercise outside where we all walked slowly around the campus, focusing our attention on everything that was happening around us in that present moment. We watched the clouds as they passed by, gazed at the trees swaying in the wind, but during that exercise, I had a realization that changed the way I live my life. As I looked around, I was astonished  by the beauty standing right in front of me that I have blindly ignored for so long. I asked myself, “has this been here the whole time?” I have been living on this planet for over 22 years and yet, it was as if I was seeing it for the first time. 

We spend so much time in our lives rushing to get from point A to point B; so much  that we forget to stop and take in our surroundings. I used to wake up in the mornings, drive to work, maybe do a little grocery shopping, then head right back home and spend the rest of my evening indoors. Without even noticing, I created a pattern of blocking myself from the outside world. Since then, I have made it part of my daily routine to get outside more, even if it’s only for 30 minutes a day.  

Not only will you be able to enjoy some beautiful sights, but spending time outdoors has many benefits to both the mind and body. Many studies have shown that being outside can lift your mood, decrease stress, and help with depression. Plants produce phytoncides that have been proven to boost natural killer cells. In addition, exposure to the sun boosts infection-fighting T cells which is great for improving your immune system. Natural sunlight also increases your vitamin D intake. Vitamin D deficiency affects about 40% of men and women in the United States which can lead to serious health problems. Being exposed to natural sunlight can also increase the quality of your sleep (Sing, 2021). Understanding nature’s many benefits will help you spend more time outside, so try to incorporate it into your daily routine and remember to enjoy it!

If you live in a rural area with limited access to nature or simply don’t have the time to, use these 8 tips on how to spend more time outdoors with a busy schedule!

  1. Ride a bike or take a walk. If you live close to your desired destination, take the scenic route and enjoy the view.
  2. Visit your local park. If you got some work to do, instead of doing it at your desk, take it to a bench at the park! Not only will you be able to spend more time outdoors, you will be able to get your work done in a relaxing environment. 
  3. Drink your coffee outside. If you have a backyard or porch area, try having your morning coffee and reading your daily newspaper outside.
  4. Find an outdoor hobby. Whether it’s gardening, photography, skateboarding, try finding an activity you enjoy that requires you to be outdoors.
  5. Plan a picnic. Want to meet up with some old friends but not sure what to do? Plan a picnic! Picnics are a fun way to do something different while also getting some vitamin D.
  6. Watch the sunset. Instead of watching from the couch, go get a closer look! Maybe grab your friends and family and enjoy the view together. 
  7. Eat outside. Try taking your meal on the porch. If the option is available, sit outside at  a restaurant. We tend to be more present when spending time outside, which also encourages for a mindful eating meditation: the practice of being mindful of the how, why, and what food you are eating.  
  8. Take your meditation and yoga outside! If you have started practicing meditation and/or practice yoga, try taking it outside! Meditating outside awakens our senses, allowing for a more alert and attentive session.

Singh, J. (2021, August 30). 13 remarkable health benefits of getting outdoors. TripOutside.

Create Your Own Reality

This week, we will be discussing how to speak your desired reality into existence. When reading along, remember to keep an open mind as this is all open to interpretation and you may take as you please. 

Humans are powerful beings and are capable of so much more than meets the eye. We have the ability to change and re-create reality through our own determination and willpower. From the wise words of Buddha, “What you dwell upon, you become.” Dwelling on positive thoughts can lead to happy and fulfilling results, whereas dwelling on negative thoughts can cause failure and frustration. You are in control of your destiny–all you need is the right mindset to obtain it. 

Our entire universe is made up of energy;  we are made up of energy. The law of vibration states that everything in the universe is in a constant state of movement, vibrating a specific frequency. The rate of vibration is the only distinction between objects.. The phrase “create your own reality,” refers to the various ways in which the energy of your thoughts, perspectives, and actions can be used to co-create your life. The best way to do this is by speaking your desired outcome into existence by manifesting. Manifesting is described as the public display of emotion or feeling, or something theoretical made real. 

Sarah Regan from Mind Body Green describes how you can use your energy to create a desired reality:

“In order to manifest anything, we must first match the vibration of what it is we’re looking for. As spiritual author Shannon Kaiser explains, “You will only attract to yourself energy that matches up with your energy. You will only attract vibrations that match up with your vibration.” Say you want to manifest more wealth, but you constantly think about how you need more money. Remember that your thoughts also have vibrational energy; the thought “I need more money” actually holds a vibration of lack and could lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. “We have the power to dictate the frequency of our being by directing our own thoughts,” Kaiser notes.” (Regan, 2021)

I decided to choose this excerpt from Mind Body Green because I believe Regan does a great job of explaining the importance of aligning your thoughts with your desired outcome. Speaking into existence is not just saying random words out loud and just waiting for them to come true–you must believe in what you say. This is where creating the right mindset comes into play; your inner dialogue must be aligned with the words you speak out-loud. 

When creating the right mindset, it is beneficial to pay attention to the kind of language you use when speaking to yourself. Most of the time, we are completely unaware of how the vocabulary we use influences our lives and the energy we attract. When we speak about ourselves in a negative way, not only are we attracting negative energy, we are also subconsciously limiting ourselves to that reality that we have created. For example, when saying something along the lines of “I am terrible at math,” our mind will subconsciously process information in such a way as if you are terrible at math. For example, let’s say a difficult problem arises at work and you are asked to solve it; if you already have a preconceived belief that you are unable to solve it, you will subconsciously limit your ability. You may even quit in the process or not even try to. Saying, “I can’t solve that because I am horrible at solving math equations” rather than, “I can do anything I put my mind to,” allows your brain to process the information differently and find a way to solve it. Remember, the way we perceive ourselves holds so much power without us even thinking about it.

Manifesting can be done in many ways but some even take it a step further by living in the belief of their manifestations to truly match their vibrations to their desired outcome. It is believed that you can co-create the life you want by aligning your vibrations with the frequency of the life that you want–this means believing that you already have it. 

Once you have created a positive inner dialogue, you are ready to speak your desired outcome into existence. When manifesting, it is best to speak in terms of the present tense–you must believe in what you are saying and speak as if it is already in motion. For example, if you are manifesting a job promotion, you must align your thoughts and live in the reality of which the promotion is already yours. Saying phrases along the lines of “I am ready for that promotion,” or “I am excited about my new promotion,” aligns your vibration with the frequency of that desired outcome. 

To start your manifestation journey, try these daily affirmations by Yogi Approved to manifest abundance in all areas of your life:

  1. I Am Present 
  2. I Am Strong
  3. I Will Make My Dreams Come True
  4. I Am Worthy of Love and Fulfillment
  5. My Body is Perfect Just the Way It is
  6. My Intuition is Strong
  7. My Mind is Clear and Focused
  8. I Am Successful In All That I Do
  9. I Am Love
  10. I Am Enough

Adele, T. (2019, July 28). Power of Manifestation. Yogi Approved. 

Regan, S. (2021, June 17). Law of Vibration. Mind Body Green.

“Create Your Own Reality” by the Self-Help Guide

Listening Hours

In my previous posts, we discussed how to become self-aware of our thoughts and attention. Now, we can start learning how to bring that information into practice and use it to improve our relationships. Mindfulness is not only about focusing on your own emotions, but it also involves being mindful of your surroundings and others around you. 

Imagine a situation in which you are telling an exciting story to all your friends; you look around the room and your peers are on their phones, distracted, and when you try to grab their attention, they are interrupting your every sentence. Most people in this scenario would feel unvalued because no one is truly listening to something that they care about enough to share. This also may lead to them reciprocating that same energy when others are speaking, creating a cycle of poor communication and stunted growth.

Effective communication is one of the most important aspects of maintaining a mutually satisfying relationship. When we think about what communication means, we often only think about the speech or dialogue, but effective communication is a two-way street and there are many levels to understand in order to truly effectively communicate. For example, when communicating something, whether that may be an issue or an idea, the other person must be willing to listen. Listening is a major part of what makes communication effective and poor listening skills are one of the biggest reasons for poor communication and the falling out of relationships. 

In one of my previous posts, “The Wandering Mind,” we discussed how our minds are constantly running and the commonality of getting distracted by our own thoughts. When listening to others speak, we tend to jump to conclusions in effort to anticipate what they are going to say next. By the time they are done speaking, “the listener” has already come up with three different endings and responses. By recognizing this habit, you have already taken the first step in learning how to practice mindful listening. 

To truly listen to another person, you must be willing to let go of whatever preconceived beliefs or judgements you may have. Creating a space for listening without responding is crucial when practicing active listening. While your mind may wander, try bringing your attention back by focusing on your breath. Repeating the words, “inhale, exhale,” can quiet the mind and help bring your focus and attention back to the person who is speaking. 

When listening, remember to give them your undivided attention. Try sitting right in front of them with your arms uncrossed and your body open. Non-verbal communication is a quick determiner of whether a person is engaged in the conversation, so being mindful of your body language is a great way to let the speaker know you are interested in what they have to say.

Remember not to think ahead; when others are speaking, listen to every word they have to say as if it is the first time you are hearing them. Mindful listening is a learned skill that takes patience and consistency, but the more you practice, the better your relationships will be because of it. 

When we choose to practice mindful listening, we are able to create deep and personal connections with others in which we can share meaningful stories and feel valued and cared for.

Try this listening exercise from “The 10 Minute Leader”  with a friend:

Listen, Listen, Listen

  1. Each person in their respective group must talk about something that is important to them, for a period of 3-4 minutes. The other person cannot speak during this time. 
  2. At the end of the speaking time, the listener has to paraphrase what the speaker said, in their own words.
  3. The speaker then clarifies, corrects or confirms what the listener paraphrased.


  • This activity helps to build patience. It reinforces the skill of not interrupting while someone is speaking
  • This also helps to boost reflective capabilities. It trains the participants to stop thinking about what they would say next and instead focus on what the speaker is saying”

10 Minute Leader. (2021, March 10). “Active Listening Exercises.” ALG.

Listening Hours by The Self Help Guide in a new tab)

Creating the Right Mindset for Meditation

My mindfulness journey began when I took a class at my University. I knew a little bit about the concept and I have tried meditating before but was unsure if I was doing it correctly. I originally thought meditation was about clearing your mind, which was really difficult for me to do because my mind is very hyperactive. This preconception of a “clear mind” is made by many, but as I continued to practice, I was able to understand the true purpose behind meditation and exercise its true benefits.

While meditation often entails forms of quieting the mind, the intention is not to leave the mind blank; it involves developing the capacity to observe one’s inner thoughts and emotions by pausing-not reacting. The practice of meditation comes in many forms. Many assume the practice involves taking chunk out of your day to set out a yoga mat and essentially “do nothing,” but as you start out your journey, you quickly realize it is a slow learning practice that takes patience and consistency. Setting aside even a few minutes out of your day can have a huge impact and is also extremely important for developing a routine and becoming comfortable with the practice. There is also a misconception that meditating in the morning is the best way to experience its benefits because mediation allows for a healthy and mindful mindset to start your day; however, mediating throughout any part of your day can be equally beneficial and it is crucially important to find the right time for you. When we practice mindfulness meditation, the purpose is not to “empty the mind,” but to pay attentive attention to whatever is going on in the present moment–particularly our own thoughts, feelings, and sensations.

When I first started my journey, I found it best to start off by practicing little exercises throughout the day. I used to jump straight into meditating instead of preparing myself and I felt as if I did not quite have the hang of it–as if I was missing the fundamentals. I began utilizing quick mindfulness techniques by asking myself a series of questions to get my mind in the right place. Throughout the day, I would repeatedly ask myself, “Where am I focusing my attention right now? Past, present, or future? How does that make me feel?” Asking myself these questions allowed me to understand exactly how my brain has been processing information over the years and figure out what I spend most of my day thinking about. Through this process, I found that I often focus my attention on the past, but with these simple questions, I was able to quickly bring my attention back to the present moment while also giving me more reason to continue this pattern, especially after realizing how these past-tense thoughts were affecting my mood. When you start asking yourself these questions, remember not to judge where your mind is. Present-moment thinking takes practice as and there are many ways you can think about the past or future proactively, as I discussed in my last post, “The Mind as a Wandering Tool.” The next step after identifying where your mind is focusing is to bring your attention to where you need it to be. You can bring your attention to the present moment by using your five senses. What do you see? Hear? Smell? Try to keep your attention on what is going on around you for as long as you can and then ask yourself the same question again. You will quickly see that once your mind is focusing on the present moment, you will start to see a positive change in your mood.

Once you master this quick and easy technique, meditating will be a lot easier to grasp and will help you create a more beneficial experience. Next week, I will be creating my very first podcast and taking you through a short mindfulness meditation. Hit the follow button in the sidebar or at the bottom of my page to ensure you are able to participate in the very first interactive mindfulness practice from the Self Help Guide 4 U!

“Creating the Right Mindset for Meditation” by The Self-Help Guide

The Wandering Mind As A Tool

Living in a fast paced world, we are almost conditioned to always be on the go. From waking up in the morning until you rest your head at night, our days are filled with tasks and chores all while  our minds are being misled in every direction possible by our thoughts. As we practice mindfulness, we must remember that the present moment is the only moment that is truly ours. As we go throughout the day, our mind will take us through our to-do lists, our past, our future–anywhere but where you are now. Although the wandering mind is inevitable, it allows for a change of focus. As our minds wander, we are given the magical moment–the most essential part of mindfulness: the moment we realize our mind is anywhere else rather than where it needs to be. 

Mindfulness is a practice, meaning it will get easier and easier the more you do it. When we bring our attention back to the present moment, it is only a matter of time before you will find yourself having to repeat the same cycle again. As long as you are able to recognize and locate your consciousness, you will always have the power of bringing it where you want it to be. 

In today’s complex world, it would be nearly impossible to only be a present-moment thinker. It is almost seen as counterintuitive to our society as we are taught to be forward thinkers. Ever since we were young, we have always been asked about our plans for the future. When I first started out my mindfulness journey, I would often find myself confused about where I should be focusing my mind. If mindfulness is about living in the present, how will I truly move forward if I do not think about the future? As I continued to practice, I quickly learned that it is okay to think about other things that are not happening as we speak–I mean after all, how can we judge the inevitable wandering mind? However, we can be mindfully present when thinking about the past or future. Mindfulness is about using our mind as a tool; once we detach ourselves from our thoughts and act as a witness, we are able to control our way of thinking. We can be forward thinkers while also being mindfully present by recognizing how we attach ourselves to our thoughts.

The past and future only hold power when we allow them to affect our present, and it can have a huge impact on our lives when we choose to use them proactively. When you find yourself thinking about the past or present, try to remember these helpful guidelines for a healthy mind: when thinking about the past, make sure you are doing so for a productive reason–to figure out where you went wrong, what you would do differently. The same applies when thinking about the future: spend enough time to prepare yourself for it. When you do spend your time thinking about the past or future, remember to bring what you learned to the present. I’ve said it once and I will say it again: the present moment is the only moment that is truly ours! Take advantage of the opportunities we have and make a change.

Try this meditation exercise from Positive Psychology when you find yourself stuck thinking about the past or future

  1. Try this meditation exercise from Positive Psychology when you find yourself stuck thinking about the past or future
  2. Get in a comfortable position. Sitting upright may be the best posture.
  3. Set up an “inner gatekeeper” to control what comes in and what must stay out of the mind. Instruct the gatekeeper to keep out any thoughts of the past or the future for the rest of your current practice.
  4. Repeat this phrase silently to yourself three times: “Now is the time to be aware of the present moment. I let go of the past and the future.”
  5. Turn your attention towards the sounds you hear. Allow them to wash over you and focus only on the current sound you are hearing, not the one you just heard or any sound you may hear next.
  6. Focus on your bodily sensations: your arms resting on the arms of a chair or on your lap, your legs on the chair or folded up underneath you, the feel of your clothing on your skin, any pain or muscle aches, any twitches or flutterings, and any other sensations you might be feeling.
  7. Turn your focus to the thoughts going through your head. Observe them as they enter your mind, swirl around your consciousness, then exit your mind. Let each thought pass, labeling them as they go (e.g., “hurt” or “happy”) and keeping your mind open for the next thought to arise.
  8. Finally, focus on your breathing. Notice your natural breathing pattern and take note of how your chest rises and falls with each breath

Ackerman, Courtney. “How to Live in the Moment.” Positive Psychology. (2021, Jan 30)

The Wandering Mind as a Tool by Lexi Houk

Count Your Senses

When we live in such a fast-paced world, it is kind of hard to not succumb to the millions of distractions that get shoved into our faces. We now live in such a place where reality is almost impossible to be found unless given effort. We are constantly surrounded by technology that takes our awareness into this state of somewhat hypnosis. Have you ever noticed your behavior when you sit down to watch an episode of tv? There have been times where I will watch twelve episodes without blinking an eye, meanwhile having no sense of time and a brand new empty bag of chips by my side. When I come back to “reality,” it is almost as if I was not even present–like I was in auto-pilot mode.

We have all heard the saying, ‘Life is short,” but how short is it really?

Let’s be generous and say you live until you are 70 years. Now, I did the math: 31,536,000 seconds a year for 70 years, leaves you a little over 2 billion seconds to live your life on Earth. Now, I am not sure about you, but 2 billion seems kind of an insignificant number to me when thinking about my entire existence. When we practice mindfulness, we aim to bring our attention to the present moment–the only moment that is truly ours. Every millisecond, a new moment comes, and then another, and then another. What you do with this moment, affects how you feel in the next moment and so on. We have 2 billion seconds–2 billion present moments. How many of those moments do you want to spend in auto-pilot mode?

When we spend our moments worrying about the past or daydreaming about the future, we are wasting our power and privilege of life. Claim back what is yours. When you catch yourself distracted from reality, it becomes easy to bring back your awareness by using your 5 senses. If you are blessed enough to have all 5, use them all. Look around the room. Notice objects that aren’t normally there. Listen to the sounds around you. Touch the surfaces around you, feel the surfaces touching you. Smell the air, take a deep breath. Taste your mouth, notice any sensations in your mouth. When we use our senses, we are introduced to something new. Every time you look around, you are seeing each object for the first time in that moment. Every time you smell around your room, you are smelling it as it is in that exact moment, and each time is brand new.

Using your senses is a great way to bring your attention back to the present moment. It can be tempting to get lost in our phones and even our own thoughts. We lose so much time worrying about things that cannot be changed or are not in our control. Next time you catch yourself in a fantasy world or fixated on the past, try to remember that each moment is affected by the one before it. We are in control of how we choose to spend the next moments to come. Use your senses to truly experience the moments as they are, you might catch something you have never noticed before.

Count your senses by Lexi Houk

The Observer

When going about your day, a million thoughts must cross your mind. Our minds act as the control center of everything that goes on around us. New information is being processed every second whether you notice it or not. When a thought crosses our mind, it is not really you who is creating that thought. Whether it is an objective thought or a more personal thought; for example, “there is a flower over there” vs “that sweater is unfashionable,” both are ways of our brain processing information that has been derived from what we have been taught. You may be asking, if I am not the one creating these thoughts, who am I? To put it into simple terms, you are the observer of your thoughts. How we choose to react to these thoughts is where we hold all the power. This is extremely important to remember when negative thoughts arise. When they come, and they will, it is key to remember that you are not your thoughts. When you start to categorize yourself, you are limiting your ability to be who you really are. Notice how you feel when a negative thought appears. I imagine it doesn’t feel good. Now, think of a positive thought; how does that make you feel?

Thoughts can always be redirected; you can always turn a negative into a positive. They come and go, and you should allow them to with little to no attachment. When starting your mindfulness journey, the first thing we learn is to watch our mind objectively. Thoughts are self-arising. They come out of nowhere, with no warning, then disappear after a moment or two. There is no way to tell what your next thought will be and most of the time, we play no part in their appearance or disappearance. Thoughts alone are not the cause for unhappiness, it is when we choose to categorize and attach ourselves to those thoughts that causes an issue. 

Our goal in mindfulness is to acknowledge when these thoughts arise and change the story. We should try to reduce the density of these thoughts by taking on the role of the observer, therefore identifying with them less. Mindfulness becomes useful when trying to contain your thoughts. When we are able to place our thoughts into awareness instead of becoming invested in them, we gain control. Use your negative thoughts as an invitation to practice being in the present moment. Use your senses; look at your surroundings. Next time a negative thought arises, try just letting it go. Let it pass and let a new one come. 

Here is an excerpt from a book by Eckhart Tolle that I found useful when starting my mindfulness journey:

”The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.” 

― Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (2005)

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The observer by Lexi Houk