When we walk into the office or workplace, we are usually with our phone in our hands, looking at a text or video and rush to our desks. Instead, keep the phone in your purse or pocket, walk into your workplace and say hello while looking at that person’s eyes. Make the connection with others in your office in the same way — it only takes a couple of minutes and you will have practiced a mindful connection with others.
As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Miriam Amselem who is the sole owner of Naturally Healthy by Miri. With a passion and focus on helping others live their best lives, she works with corporations and individuals to improve their lives through total wellness, which includes nutrition, mindfulness, meditation and yoga. She has been featured in many media outlets including Self Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Prevention, Apple News, Health Central, Yogapedia, Voyagemiami.com and The Miami Herald. With a bachelor’s degree in Holistic Nutrition and over 20 years of experience, Miriam works with clients to customize a wellness lifestyle program which includes nutrition, stress reduction, disease prevention, alternative approaches to disease, women’s health, detoxification and healing. Miriam specializes in educating and treating the whole individual — taking into account lifestyle needs and setting realistic goals. She’s been successful in helping clients achieve optimum wellbeing and offers solutions to many health issues including chronic fatigue, digestive disorders and hormonal imbalance. Yoga and Meditation has been part of Miriam’s lifestyle for over 25 years and she’s committed to teaching the ancient practice by focusing on the mind, body and soul. Her passion for Yoga and Meditation is contagious and she loves sharing her practice with the perfect blend of balance, strength, flexibility and relaxation. Miriam has combined her knowledge with her ability to connect to others and offers mindfulness workshops, wellness retreats, corporate wellness programs as well as speaking engagements. Her latest business idea is creating a supplement line for women only and eco-friendly yoga products. Her hobbies are working out (she’s also a personal trainer), reading, going to the beach, traveling and spending time with her husband and son.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
Certainly! When I was in college in the 80’s, I worked at a Chiropractor’s office and the doctor introduced me to Holistic Health through nutrition that set me on the path for leading a Holistic Lifestyle. A few years later while working for a local television station, I walked into a yoga and meditation class to help me alleviate stress from my job and that first class changed my life! I was newly married at the time and my husband and I were told that we could not have children due to infertility — meditation literally saved me from depression. On a lighter note I like to say that in the late 80’s, I was considered a “freak” for being a vegan practicing yoga and meditation and now I’m “cool” since this has become mainstream. Living a holistic lifestyle led me to my career path. I got certified in yoga and meditation in the early 90’s and acquired a bachelor’s degree in Holistic Nutrition which was a five-year program that included courses in Disease Prevention, Ayurvedic Medicine, Herbology, Hormone Balancing, Weight Loss and Homeopathy.
According to a 2006 Pew Research Report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?
We live in a society (the American culture) that believes that being busy while multitasking is a sign of success, therefore, it is not a surprise that women and men feel that they are always rushed. I believe that this “always rushed” state started in the 80’s and has been escalating through the decades for several reasons: there’s a strong push for monetary success and “keeping up with the Joneses” and most people don’t know the difference between needs and wants; After a full day of work and commuting, parents are driving their children for a ridiculous amount of extracurricular activities then rush home to prepare dinner, help with homework, etc. and they repeat this day after day. And then we have to add technology to this mix which most studies show a direct correlation between the fast tech advancements with increased levels of stress. We used to work from “9–5” and then went home to our family but now we are always connected — checking emails, texts, Whats App, messenger and social media through the evening and into the night. There is no “downtime” and it is no wonder American women and men feel rushed.
Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?
I believe that being rushed equals being stressed and overwhelmed which are feelings that may lead to anxiety and even depression that is harmful to our emotional health. Mental health is finally being acknowledged and a lot of it is due to feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, and isolation. When we are rushing through life, we don’t have the time to connect with others and focus on self-care. The stress that is associated with being rushed tears us down physically harming our health because high levels of stress are associated with heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and other degenerative diseases. Productivity and the quality of the work decline because too many things are being done at once and a rushed person will usually procrastinate the work as close as possible to the deadline and will produce mediocre work. Studios show that those who feel rushed are usually unmotivated and unhappy at their jobs. Happiness? Who can be happy living this way — physically and emotionally harmed? You are more like a machine than a human being.
On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?
Absolutely! First let’s define that slowing down doesn’t mean that we are not doing anything — it means that we are still doing what needs to get done but in a slower and more focused manner. And the key word is focused.
I believe that we have to start by focusing and figuring out which area of our life is producing that “rushed” stressed out feeling and seeing what we can do to change that. For example, if we are feeling rushed because we are trying to maintain a certain lifestyle that may cause financial burdens, we have to reassess and see how we can remove that unnecessary stress. A good way to start is to list our needs vs. our wants — for example, we need food, clothing and a roof over our heads. We want the latest phone, newest car model and fashion accessory. By defining our needs and wants, we can make better financial decisions which can help us improve our lifestyle. Our lives and more accurately the quality of life will improve, allowing us to enjoy life instead of rushing through it. Since stress will be reduced, our physical, mental and emotional health will improve and in turn we will live happier lives.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?
Sure! Here are a few strategies that will help you slow down to do more:
1. The first step of action is to take an hour every Sunday to map out the week. Create a list by writing down everything that needs to get done in no particular order. Once you have the list, start prioritizing it and write the days/dates that these items need to get accomplished. The second step is when you are checking off items from your list, make sure you are doing one task at a time! We will not receive a trophy for multitasking — as a matter of fact, studies show that multitasking is not healthy for our minds because the mind can only focus on one thing at a time. When we multitask, it is as if we are opening and shutting windows on a computer screen. Focusing on one task at a time helps you accomplish it accurately and faster.
2. Shift your busyness mindset! Our society has taught us to believe that more work, more extracurricular activities for the kids, more friends and likes on social media are better and what define success. However, all this “more” is not better because it causes us to feel rushed. In order to slow down, we have to first change our mindset and understand that more is not better, it is just more. Shift your mindset to the realization that you are still successful even if you are not rushed or busy every single minute of the day. Become aware that the definition of success is also about cultivating relationships, investing time for wellness and self-care that can only be achieved by slowing down. Once you do come to that realization create a list of what you can do to reclaim time by dropping a few activities.
3. Learn to say NO! I learned that lesson 15 years ago when I was president of the PTA at my son’s school. With all of life’s demands, I took on this position for three years which with all of life’s other demands had me working non-stop! After that experience, I reassessed and came to the realization that it is OK to say no when you know your time will be compromised.
4. Give yourself a buffer zone so you won’t get stressed or anxious from slowing down. No joke — some people are afraid that if they slow down, they won’t live up to their obligations or stick to their schedules. Here’s a tip: if you normally schedule 15 minutes to get from one place to the other, allow yourself 20 minutes instead — that includes appointments with clients. This will give you the time to get to places or hold meetings in a more relaxed manner instead of feeling that you are racing against the clock.
5. Participate in a workshop such as the ones I offer like Overcoming Chaos or a Life Wheel Workshop. These workshops are wonderful because they offer a time for introspection and the ability to focus on your life from a different perspective allowing you to make changes.
6. Lastly but just as important, schedule unstructured time also known as downtime. How? Start by switching off all technology! You choose the time that works for you such as dinnertime or an hour before going to bed. Personally, I switch off technology at dinnertime and an hour before bedtime. I do this at dinnertime because it gives me the ability to connect with my family who I value above all else and it helps me eat mindfully. My bedtime ritual is reading a magazine or novel with a warm cup of tea which helps me relax and sleep restfully. Additionally, you can choose an activity that encourages slowing down. I teach yoga and meditation every evening and the participants walk into the session feeling rushed and breathless and leave relaxed and “stress free” saying that it is the best hour of their day. Slowing down is an act of self-care and has become their reward.
How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?
The simple basic definition of mindfulness is the ability to observe your thoughts and feelings without reacting to them automatically. I like to add to that definition by stating it allows us to step back and pause into a moment by moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, mental state and surroundings. The key to mindfulness is to focus on WHAT you are doing and not HOW you’re doing it.
An example is tuning into the present moment instead of focusing on the past or the future. One of my favorite mindfulness stories is taking a nature walk with my son. We would walk on our block for 15 minutes and look at the trees, birds, squirrels, flowers, butterflies while listening to the sounds around us. That “forced” us to be in the present moment and it helped me teach him from a young age how to practice mindfulness and connect with nature.
Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?
I love this question because there are so many examples to choose from:
1. In the morning, after your alarm rings, instead of grabbing your phone and scrolling through messages, take just 3–5 minutes to practice gratitude. Think of three thoughts of gratitude and focus on them, even seeing the thoughts in your mind. Once you are done, set an intention for your day — meaning: how do you want to go through your day. An example is one word like balanced or peaceful. This short and easy practice sets the tone for the entire day. If you think you have no time, set your alarm 10 minutes earlier. J
2. Instead of grabbing a cup of coffee on the run, take 60 seconds to drink it mindfully! Before you take that first sip, take a deep inhalation and then exhale, allowing yourself to enjoy the aroma and taste. Trust me, that coffee will be so much more delicious.
3. On your commute to work, put that phone away!! Don’t look at it even at red lights. Turn on the radio and listen to your favorite music and sing along to your favorite songs.
4. When you arrive at work, connect with people. Smile. Look into their eyes. Make a mindful connection.
5. Whenever you are eating, practice mindful eating. Once again, shut off technology! And before you take your first bite, take a few inhalations and exhalations — then look at your food and eat one bite at a time. I promise, no one will pull your plate away because you are eating a bit slower. I recommend mindful eating to ALL my clients because it is the total opposite of emotional eating, you will feel satiated and digestion will be easier.
6. Introduce a meditation practice to your daily life. If you want to start a yoga practice, start with Yin which focuses on awareness through slow moving poses and meditation. It is excellent for everyone that wants to learn how to slow down and bring relaxation into their lives. You can also download an app like Calm for meditation only.
7. Just breathe! Set a timer for three minutes and just breathe. Place one hand on your heart and the other hand on your belly and focus on taking in slow inhalations and long exhalations. This mindful breathing technique has been proven to lower stress, blood pressure and cortisol levels.
8. Keep a gratitude journal! Every evening list, in detail, three things that you are grateful for. On days that you feel stressed or rushed, refer to the journal — you will notice yourself becoming calmer and slowing down.
Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?
Of course! Let’s elaborate on example number four from the past question. When we walk into the office or workplace, we are usually with our phone in our hands, looking at a text or video and rush to our desks. Instead, keep the phone in your purse or pocket, walk into your workplace and say hello while looking at that person’s eyes. Make the connection with others in your office in the same way — it only takes a couple of minutes and you will have practiced a mindful connection with others.
Another excellent tool is to take a break from your desk or computer every hour for only two minutes. My suggestion to corporate clients is to set an alarm on the hour and then choose from one of the following: stand up and stretch; practice mindful breathing by focusing only on your inhalations and exhalations; practice a body scan in your chair — focus on your head, neck, shoulders, arms, fingers, spine, legs and feet — scanning and bringing awareness to your body increases relaxation.
Place a diffuser at your office and use essential oils such as lavender that promotes relaxation or lemongrass that improves concentration and focus. Aromatherapy is a great mindfulness tool because the scent does have an effect on the mind.
When you get a work assignment with a deadline, outline the steps that will get you to the finish line and don’t procrastinate. Focus on accomplishing each step and aim to finish two days before the deadline — that will give you a time buffer just in case something else “pops” up.
Another tool for those with a “racing mind”, is to be a thought catcher — meaning notice that your mind is racing and instead of getting stressed allow yourself to become an observer and bring your awareness to the pattern of the thoughts. A great visualization technique is to see the thoughts as passing clouds while focusing on breath. This will help you slow down through the day and you will be able to accomplish much more!
If your boss walks into your office and dumps another project on your desk, instead of freaking out and getting palpitations, take 60 seconds to meditate on a simple thought or mantra such as “I allow my mind to relax and be at ease”. This simple meditation of focusing on one thought over and over will ease your mind from feeling stressed and rushed.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices?
I have several books about mindfulness that I enjoy including anything by Depak Chopra which is excellent and inspiring. I recommend signing up to the Chopra Center since it is an excellent resource for books, meditations and podcasts — it’s a one stop shop for mindfulness! One of my favorite books is “The Art of Stopping Time” by Pedram Shojai — the title says it all and it is divided into daily exercises that encourage mindfulness and how to value the time we have.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Certainly! My life lesson quote is really a mantra that has resonated with me for the past 28 years. It is “I allow myself to trust in the process of life”. This mantra was “given” to me by my Yogi Master 28 years ago after I was diagnosed with infertility issues. Being diagnosed with infertility is a challenge and having to go through procedures, endless hormone injections, IVF, blood tests and negative results caused me to go through anxiety and days of depression. This mantra literally lifted the depression and helped me cope with whatever came my way. By saying the words “I allow”, I learned that I had a life choice to make that gave me control over my emotional state. Trusting the process of life is a deep concept. The human condition is to realize that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. By understanding the concept of trusting the process of life, the anxiety and suffering was no longer a part of my life. I’ve been teaching meditation for several years and at some sessions I share this mantra with the participants. At the end of each session, one by one, they say how this mantra resonates with whatever they are going through in life. In today’s world of uncertainty, stress and anxiety, allowing ourselves to trust in the process of life is healing.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to inspire others with a total wellness movement which includes proper nutrition, physical movement, mindfulness and meditation. I believe that we are responsible for our physical and emotional wellness, health, and self-care. My dream is to share total wellness including mindfulness with children, teens and teachers. I believe that if we can teach mindfulness techniques to children and teens, they will lead vibrant fulfilled lives full of physical and emotional health and will pass the knowledge along to their children. I have volunteered to share mindfulness and wellness presentations at schools with students and teachers and the benefits are amazing! I also hold mindfulness workshops and wellness retreats for women because I believe that women are more open to self-care, wellness, meditation and mindfulness plus they share it with others whether at work or at home. This wellness movement will help future generations lead healthier and happier lives.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!
About the author:
Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.