My yoga instructor gave my class the best piece of advice recently when she told us the story of how her normally short commute to work was made long by an accident on the side of the road. Traffic didn’t move for an hour. She was going to be late for work. Instead of asking herself—Why is this happening to me?—she chose to avoid that agitation and instead remembered a more empowering, peaceful question: Why is this happening for me? Changing that one phrase, from "to me" to "for me," quieted her mind. Instead of feeling anxious, she let herself relax for the rest of the slow drive.
During challenging moments, such as being stuck in traffic, she told us, if we can focus on what we gain from the experience rather than on what we lose, we become less reactive and more proactive. Our mindset can instantly change from negative to positive, an empowering awareness. But you don’t have to know yoga to empower yourself with awareness. You can connect with daily reminders that you are strong and capable, both emotionally and physically, in many ways. Read on for eight simple things you can try:
1. Do nothing. Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills psychotherapist, author, and expert panelist on WE TV's series, Sex Box premiering early 2015, says we all need a timeout. Giving yourself short, undivided, positive attention each day is nourishing and fortifying. She recommends “10-15 minutes each day to be with yourself and chill.” Taking this timeout to be alone allows you time to disconnect from all the other voices around you, including your spouse, children, in-laws, employers, co-workers, and friends. We are so busy listening to their feelings, wants and needs, she says, that we neglect to take care of our own. Chill time gives you the "opportunity to tune in, regroup, and connect with yourself." It doesn't matter what you do—lie down, meditate or take a walk around the block. The key is to give yourself time to listen to your own voice for change. "Knowing what you need to take care of yourself is extremely empowering," she says.
2. Focus on others. “Focusing on yourself all the time, on your problems, your worries, is disempowering,” says Scottsdale, Arizona grandmother and retired therapist Sharon Cotter, whose grandson Ryan Cotter inspired the creation of Ryan House, a non-profit organization that provides respite, palliative and end-of-life care to children with life-threatening conditions. “People do better if they focus on others,” she says. “Take a moment each day to think about what you’ve done to make others feel better, even if it’s something as simple as sending a text of encouragement to a friend.” If you focus on strengthening your relationships, she says, you feel better about yourself and more connected to the world.
3. Use your imagination. Dr. Simon Rego, director of psychology training, Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York City, says you can simply use your imagination to boost confidence. “Think of someone you admire for his or her self-confidence and imagine being that person in situations in which you want to be more self-confident,” he says, “Over time and practice, you may not need to imagine anymore.” You’ll have picked up the patterns and habits of this person’s confident manner and claim them for yourself automatically.
4. Make a to-do list. Learning martial arts is the No. 1 piece of advice martial arts instructor Mary Clare Bland would offer, believing it to be the “single best system” for self-empowerment, “because it harnesses the concept that the best way to boost self-confidence is to set and achieve attainable goals.” But she knows that might seem daunting. She suggests, instead, that you make a To-Do list every day, or at the beginning of every week. Completing the tasks on the list is the same as achieving a new goal, she says, “Done repeatedly, this will build confidence and self-esteem.”
5. Use your natural talents. Holistic health coach Georgianne Holland says, as a confidence-building strategy, she encourages her coaching clients to recognize their inherent talents and to take advantage of those natural skills or those things you’ve always been good at and complimented on, such as organizing, singing or cooking. "Adults are notorious for playing down their natural strengths, rather than using them to the fullest [in a new career]." If something is easy for us, she says, we think it has less value, when, in fact, it's the opposite. We can use our natural talents not only to forge a new career (organizing coach), but also to help a non-profit (sing at a benefit), or for a friend in need (cook a hot meal for a bereaved friend). “When we flex our natural strengths, we can feel empowered on a dragging day, as well as support others…This exchange of energy is uplifting for everyone,” she says.
6. Change your passwords. Another easy strategy, says personal fitness trainer Kusha Karvandi, is to change your computer passwords to a motivational mantra, for example, Better3veryD@y. “The repetition of typing this password in for various things throughout the day will influence your subconscious mind to take more positive action,” Karvandi says.
7. Give yourself a massage. Borrow from the healing practice of India, Ayurveda, and take 10 minutes every day to give yourself a body massage, suggests Merel Martens, a yoga instructor from India. Stroke your head, face, shoulders, arms, body, legs, and feet. “So often we want to change something about ourselves: gain or lose weight, have longer or shorter legs. By giving yourself a massage, you are giving attention to yourself and your body, learning to appreciate it as it is…Loving yourself is highly empowering,” she says.
8. Exercise daily. Take a daily walk or bike ride. Exercise, says Dr. Jennifer Burns of the Bienetre Center in Phoenix, Arizona, “helps raise the good endorphins naturally.” Pick something you will enjoy so you will want to do it regularly and clearly see progress from your efforts. “When you know that you can do something well, this also helps boost confidence,” she says.