Category: Relationships

Choose Your Best Self

Do you ever feel as if your life has come to a grinding halt, as if stuck in the mud with no idea how to get out?  Are you working a job you dislike but are afraid to leave, or in a dead end relationship? If the answer is yes, you are not alone.  Even in these modern times where choices abound, many of us are too fearful or complacent to bust a move, to take a risk.  The good news is you don’t have to stay stuck; by taking a few steps at a time you can begin living the life you envision.

First, get very clear what you want to let go of and what you want to take on.  Ignore listening to the nagging thoughts that say, “you can’t”. Simply write down all of your ideas regardless of obstacles that you perceive    Pauline Kael, a film critic who wrote for the New Yorker magazine once said, “If there is a chance in a million that you can do something, anything, to keep what you want from ending, do it.  Pry the door open or, if need be, wedge your foot in that door to keep it open.”  In other words, don’t allow limiting thoughts to stop you from achieving, and moving forward.  Often the obstacles we imagine are simply self-imposed restrictions.

Start where you’re at, challenges and all.  If traveling is your goal, save money work a little extra, if it’s going back to college, start with perquisites online, if it’s a new job, make a new resume and send out five a week.  Invest in yourself, human beings are dynamic, our cells are in constant movement, we can create change and free ourselves from those habits and thoughts or behaviors that limit our life.  Take scissor and cut the cords that keep you stuck.  Perhaps that means letting go of perfectionism by allowing yourself to stop being afraid of making a mistake.  Mistakes can be our greatest teachers.

Post positive encouragement around you, make “I can do this” sticky notes and put them everywhere.  We all need positive feedback, but when there’s no one there to give it, seek it out for yourself.  Listen to guided meditations and read articles that inspire you. And most important, protect yourself from naysayers.  Family and friends can unintentionally sabotage our desires by expressing their own fears and judgements, but they have nothing to do with you. Find like-minded folks who have made the trek from fear to freedom.  Share your doubts and ask for advice, not that you have to take it, but useful insight is fantastic for it can fuel you when you’re feeling low or depleted.

Even if you take baby steps, they are steps towards changing your life.  Do an inquiry on yourself, ask why is it difficult to take risks, what in your life taught you to play it safe?  Once we become aware of the source of patterns, we can begin to revise the script.  Put the old tapes in the garage and see yourselves as the writer, doctor, mother, that you want to be.  Dare to dream, and make your dreams come true.  Face the fear head on, shake hands with it and bid it on its way.  When fear sneaks back at your mind’s doorstep, remind yourself that you no longer have to let it in.  Acknowledge it, then dismiss it.

Live your way into life, sitting around thinking about change doesn’t bring it on action does, whether it’s about exercise, eating healthy, or finding a new career.  You deserve to be the person that you are meant to be.  Everyone has gifts to share and once you acknowledge yours, put pursuing your dreams on top of your priority list.


Don’t Hide Your Feelings

Fake it till you make it. We’ve all heard this advice at some point in our lives. While there’s a time and a place for putting on a positive outlook to muscle through a situation – or until you genuinely feel better – it’s not healthy to do all the time.

I advocate being honest in your relationships and with yourself about how you’re feeling. Acknowledging your emotional state is the first step to improving it, and accepting yourself where you are does your mental health a world of good. While feigning positivity until you begin to stabilize your emotional state can be a useful tool, living your life while constantly denying your feelings is emotionally harmful.

If you’ve been masquerading as content, or pretending that you feel wonderful to hide feelings of depression, anxiety, anger, or resentment for too long – you have the potential to truly do yourself a disservice.

Being honest with yourself when you’re experiencing depression, grief, anxiety, anger, or resentment isn’t easy. Any unpleasant emotion can be difficult to face, especially if you’re doing it on your own. It may feel easier to hide, or to pretend that you’re happy. But you deserve true happiness – whatever that looks like for you. Acknowledging what you’re going through and how you’re feeling can help you move past those unpleasant feelings or to find ways of managing them.

That’s not to say that you’ll never experience unpleasant emotions. Our emotional changes are a part of our life, and that’s okay. They’re nothing to be ashamed of.

If you’re feeling unpleasant emotions for any length of time, it’s best to be honest with yourself and others about them. If you experience these intense and unpleasant emotions for an extended period it’s even more critical that you reach out to somebody. A loved one or a trusted professional can assist you in seeking help. You are not alone, and you deserve to feel true contentedness.

 


Speaking Truth in Our Relationships

When I work with couples, I always advocate for one thing consistently – always stay honest with one another. Regardless of the problem you’re experiencing in your relationship, it can likely be traced back to a moment when you weren’t entirely truthful either with yourself or your partner. It’s easy to want to hide our truth sometimes. We may be afraid of rejection. We may be afraid of hurting our partner. We may be afraid that our truth is selfish, or negative in some way.

But the honest truth is that hiding how you feel or what you think from your partner does far more harm than good. If you hide your truth, you may experience feelings of resentment. And from their perspective, they may experience resentment, as well.

I believe that honesty is the best policy – whether that’s in your romantic relationship, with family, with friends, or with colleagues. Expressing how you feel and what you think helps to open up a productive dialogue. You may be surprised to find the listening party is incredibly receptive – maybe they’ve been feeling the same way or having similar thoughts. You may be equally surprised to find that they disagree with you – but are willing to openly discuss the disagreement.

The more open you are about your experience and your truth, the less likely negative interactions are. Your openness draws in openness. Your energy attracts similar energy. If you are open and honest and someone disagrees with you, there may be a moment of tension. But by accepting their honesty in kind, you move forward in productivity and understanding rather than in negativity and bitterness.

Of course, there are ways to ineffectively communicate your truth. You may be feeling negative emotions – like anger or sadness. These may lead to you lashing out and being brutally honest in a way that’s intended to hurt or offend your partner. It’s important to understand that speaking your truth comes from a place of self-respect and of respecting others – not from a place of anger, fear, or desire to be hurtful. If your words are rooted in good intentions, they will likely be received as such.

Communicating honestly and openly by speaking your truth can lead to great things within your relationship. You will find yourself being more open to hearing the truth of your partner. You will find that your partner truly hears you and empathizes with your experience. Most importantly, you will no longer feel a masked bitterness within your relationship that results from you (and your partner) not being honest with one another (or yourselves) when resolving conflict.


The Danger of Social Media Comparison

Social media is a part of our lives in today’s day and age, for better or worse. There are many parts of social media that are very good. It’s wonderful to connect with new friends and reconnect with old friends. It’s fantastic to be able to stay in touch with loved ones from across states, countries, and continents – all by logging in to our Facebook or Twitter. There’s a plethora of information available to us as a result of social media, as well. It’s easier to stay informed – not just about personal things, but about world events and breaking news. More than that, though, the driving need to post positive aspects of our lives on social media forces us to notice and capture what is good about our lives. As a result, we might push ourselves to be better, or we might feel more consistently content.

However, social media also has a dangerous side – the side of comparison. Being able to see all of the happy, shining moments of our friends’, families’, and colleagues’ lives can make us doubt the positivity of our own life. This is dangerous because, of course, it puts us in an unhealthy cycle of self doubt. It’s also dangerous because the “moments” we see that other people post about aren’t their whole reality. Everyone has ups and downs, and just as many moments of mundane day-to-day activity. But when we believe that everyone around us is only experiencing the utmost joy and happiness, it’s easy to wonder why we aren’t experiencing those things, too?

These thoughts can be dangerous – we end up spending too much time comparing. We spend too much of our time taking careful notice of the negative emotions in life. We are lacking balance.

This is unhealthy. And it leads to profound anxiety, and an inability to be mindful or to live in the moment. That is why it’s very important for people to be aware of social media’s negative impact on our lives. When we catch ourselves falling into the trap of comparison. When we find that the addiction to this comparison is becoming overwhelming, it’s critical that we unplug. This is so much more than turning off our phones, or leaving them in the other room (although that’s a start!).

It’s healthy to take social media sabbaticals from time to time. It’s also healthy to schedule meetings with our loved ones outside of social media – meeting for a cup of coffee, for example. When we take a trip, it’s healthy to wait until we return to post our photos or gush over our experiences with friends. Taking more time to focus on what we experience in the moment, and fully immersing ourselves in those connections, sometimes means turning away from being “connected” on social media. It’s okay to not constantly be accessible, or constantly be connected. Taking care of ourselves and our emotional, social, and mental well-being is always more important than being accessible and connected.


Validate, Empathize and Acknowledge Your Partner’s Experience

It’s not uncommon to have a disagreement in your relationship. It’s to be expected. Any time two unique people with differing backgrounds, priorities, and emotional attachments come together to try and make a decision or work to improve their relationship they’re bound to clash every once in awhile. That being said, there are ways that you can disagree – even when emotions are running high – that keep communication lines open and maintain your relationship as a safe space for one another. There is no one-size-fits-all plan for solving relationship arguments or disagreements, but there is one step that you can take to help ease tensions and improve communication to reach an effective resolution to you and your partner’s problem.

Acknowledge, Validate and Empathize with your partner.

It simple yet many couples don’t do this. When you’re arguing with your partner or with anyone in general, you may feel defensive. You may feel angry or hurt. Maybe you feel that your feelings aren’t being heard. You are completely entitled to these feelings. You’re always entitled to your feelings and I encourage all of my clients to fully acknowledge and accept what they’re feeling – whether it’s positive or negative – before choosing to focus on the moment and what is best for that situation. However, while you are entitled to these unpleasant feelings that are a result of an argument, your partner is likely experiencing many of those same feelings. They, like you, are entitled to their feelings, as well.

When you’re trying to work through a problem as a unit, it can help to acknowledge and validate your partner. Acknowledge and validate their experience. You may not agree, and I’m not implying that in order to make up agreement is necessary – it often isn’t, and it’s unreasonable to force any parties to agree to something they inherently disagree with. Acknowledging and agreeing with your partner without validation and empathy will not make the problem go away.

An Exercise in Validation and Empathy

Validating and empathizing with them is sometimes as simple as saying, “I see and understand what you’re feeling, it makes sense to me and if I were in your shoes I might feel the same way.”

It may be saying, “I hear what you are saying, it makes sense to me and I imagine that if I were in your shoes I would feel hurt.”

This relates to a process I encourage – the mirroring exercise. The mirroring exercise works like this:

Sender: Speak slowly about a given topic, using short sentences.

Receiver: Repeats back to sender everything that is being said, word-for-word.

Maintain eye contact at all times.

Receiver: May hold up a hand to signal to the sender that they’re moving too fast.

When the sender is finished speaking…

Receiver validates and empathizes by saying: I hear what you are saying and it makes sense to me. If I were in your shoes I might feel the same way (list the emotions they’ve expressed to you). Did I get that correct? Did I miss anything?

During this exercise, partners aren’t permitted to ask each other questions about their feelings or distract from what their partner is sending. Partners will likely feel uncomfortable. That’s normal! The point of this is to practice daily, for about 20 minutes (10 minutes each) to regularly validate and empathize with your partner.

By acknowledging your partner’s experience – their emotions, thoughts, and reactions – you open the door to allowing your relationship to remain a source of comfort despite the disagreement you’re having. Empathizing with your partner by saying “ If I were in your shoes I also might be feeling the way you are feeling” will help you and your partner to connect. Opening that connection can help you move forward in a safe space with love.


Saying Yes, Saying No: Assertiveness in your Relationship

The word “assertive” is often confused with aggressive and therefore considered a negative trait. Nobody wants to be viewed as aggressive, rude, or pushy. But I’m challenging you to look at an assertive personality trait as something that’s incredibly positive. In fact, I encourage clients to use the Assertiveness Method to attract their best life and act with self-confidence. Being assertive can help you make the best decisions for you and to respond to others in a balanced way. Learning the Assertiveness Method is simple – say “no” three times a day. It’s very possible that you find yourself saying “yes,” even to requests that you’re not wild about. Choose three small things a day that you don’t want to do, and instead of saying, “yes,” say, “no.”

You can say, “no,” to something big – maybe a relative wants you to pet sit for them while they’re out of town and you have other plans. You can also say, “no,” to something small – maybe your significant other asks you to grab them a cup of coffee while you’re reading your book, and you don’t want to.

Saying, “No, I have plans that weekend so I can’t watch your pets,” or, “No, I’m reading, would you get the cup of coffee yourself?” may sound impossible. You may have to force yourself to do it at first, and it will be uncomfortable for everyone involved. But over time, about 3-6 months, you’ll start to feel more capable and balanced. You’ll say yes when you’re invested and want to do something and no when you don’t. You’ll feel more connected to yourself, like you’re taking better care of yourself, and that you’re setting yourself up for your best life.

The Assertiveness Method can also work positively in your relationship. When you’re committed to your significant other, there’s a willingness to sacrifice for them. You may want to say, “yes,” to help them, make their life easier, go to events with them, etc. This is a positive thing! However, when you start saying, “yes,” to requests even when you don’t want to, a level of resentment starts to build. To keep your relationship happy and healthy, practice saying, “no,” to requests you don’t want to fulfill. Though you may both be surprised at first, you will both appreciate the honesty and openness in the long run. And, of course, you’ll each individually appreciate the fact that you’re caring for yourself – and therefore bringing your best self to the relationship.

For more about the Assertiveness Method, watch my video here. 


“You Complete Me” ???

We’ve all heard the saying, “You complete me.” We may have even said it ourselves when we meet a significant other who feels like they just click into our lives like a missing puzzle piece. People who use this phrase feel like their partner is the missing component of their lives they never knew they needed. Their lives feel happier, healthier, and more fulfilling with their partner – so, naturally, they believe that their partner has completed their life. This thought pattern is accepted, and often encouraged in the media. The idea that you aren’t complete until you’ve found love or committed to a serious relationship is perpetuated as a societal norm.

Wanting to find love and maintain a happy, healthy relationship is positive. As humans, we are born to interact and connect with others on that deeper emotional level. However, the concept that your significant other completes you isn’t necessarily healthy. First, let’s look at the pressure that puts on a potential romantic partner.

While a partner may feel cherished at the thought of being your other half, or that you view them in that light, it can also cause some stress or anxiety that you didn’t intend. Being tasked with completing somebody is no small thing. It means you are relying on them to somehow make up for your mistakes or flaws. It means that it’s their job to better you and push you to be your very best, shining self. This is probably not what you meant when you thought or voiced that they completed you. You probably just wanted to say something sweet! Still, keeping in mind that your words have a deeper meaning and a greater impact than you realize is important.

Second, let’s look at how this phrase reflects onto you. You do not need another human or a relationship to complete you. On your own, you are an amazing, beautiful, independent being. You have hobbies, interests, goals, dreams, and desires. You have a favorite restaurant on the corner, a group of friends and family members who you enjoy spending time with, and a book club you joined last year. You are constantly growing, each day, just through the small experiences that you live through. You make choices, you make mistakes, and you have exciting success stories.

Having a partner may fulfill a goal, desire, interest, or dream you have. Having a healthy, loving romantic relationship may make you feel content, happy, and like you’re having more success stories than mistakes. But that does not mean this wonderful person in your life completes you. You are not half of a person, you are whole and you are unique. When you start viewing your partner as just that – a partner – instead of the other half of yourself, you give both of you permission to be fully who you are and to fully love and appreciate every aspect of each other. Together, you create something exciting and new that involves both of you.


Preparing for Summer with Your Family: Prioritizing Your Relationship

Summer is an exciting time for families. Your kids are home, family vacations are planned, and you may often feel like you’re connecting more with one another. However, summer can also present challenges. If you work full or part time, having kids home may bring up issues with finding childcare or summer camps and activities for them to participate in. Even if you work from home or stay at home full time, this change in how you’ll be spending and organizing your time can feel like a disruption. One important thing to keep in mind is that even though your kids are home for the summer, your romantic relationship still is a priority. Here are a few ways to prioritize your relationship during family time or catering to the summertime activities that your kids are participating in:

Date Night

Date night doesn’t have to mean getting out of the house, and it doesn’t have to mean a fancy dinner or a show. Instead, tap into your creativity to create a “date night” that focuses on your significant other and still accommodates your summer schedule. Maybe you share a special dessert and watch a movie in your pajamas after the kids go to bed, or maybe you meet for lunch in the middle of your work day. The key is setting aside focused time for one another.

Vocalize Your Feelings

When we feel like we have plenty of time for our significant other and for ourselves, we might fall into a habit of not sharing how much that focused time means to us. This can evolve into forgetting to vocalize how much we appreciate one another and ourselves. When your life gets busy with kids being home for the summer, remember to tell your significant other that they matter to you. It doesn’t have to be a great speech, just a simple, “I love you and you’re important to me,” in the morning before your day starts can often be enough.

Make Family Plans Together

When your schedule shifts to accommodate your kids being home for summer break, it’s easy to have one person in your relationship take on all aspects of the planning. Instead, sit down together before school lets out and make plans. Whether that’s signing all of the little ones up for summer sports or deciding you’d like to take a week-long trip as a family, staying organized and unified before schedules get hectic is a great way to start things off on the right foot.

Approach Everything with Gratitude

Cherish the time you have during the summer with your family. It certainly isn’t the usual pace and schedule that everyone is used to, but change can be beneficial for the soul. Find gratitude for having your kids home, and for those special moments you share with your significant other as you continue to prioritize your relationship. The more gratitude you feel and express, the more you’ll enjoy all aspects of your season.


Expanding the Heart

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Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie” William Shakespeare

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” This quote from the children’s story, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, bears a universal truth. Love, connection to self and others, and a deeper understanding of life, creates peace and happiness. Last week, we looked at how life long learning benefits your body, mind, and spirit. Knowledge is like love; it springs from a sundry of sources and is obtained only when we are open to it. Schools and colleges provide fodder for your mind what about your heart; the seat of seeing the unseen, the understated, the unspoken. When you grow in wisdom, you learn how to see the world through the eyes of your heart center.

In modern society, you are encouraged to pursue an education and this is sound positive advice. There is a freedom in learning, but equally important is to not fall into spiritual complacency. When is the last time you let go of fear and danced into the day or stopped to admire the cloud formations? Perhaps you have everything you could possibly ask for and still find yourself disgruntled or hungry for more meaning and inspiration in your life.

Like the brain, our heart is an organ but it also literally and figuratively, transports the life force that courses through us. How do we learn to access and increase these subtle energies? First, by being mindful, present in each moment. Naturally this takes time and practice as well as learning ancient and contemporary philosophies that offer guidance and insights. There are thousands of books and websites that can help enlighten us.

Other ways to enhance your spirituality are to tune inward to the energetic fields within. Perhaps read about the chakras, the seven subtle energy centers that when working together create a sense of balance and harmony. Take an active role in raising your consciousness through meditation, positive affirmations, and healing therapies such as acupuncture, sound vibration, and Reiki. By educating our inner selves we begin to peel the layers of fear or negativity away. When we learn to empower our hearts we toss out the stories that keep us paralyzed and separate from our true self. The self that is not influenced by social expectations or age or status in life.

Learning how the lattice work of invisible energies influence your life, can raise your awareness and help you heal the heart. Trying cultivating a mindful attitude towards the inner selves that are at play within you. Respectfully acknowledge these varying energies and explore the many ways that offer healing. For example, if you feel chronically tired, perhaps the fatigue stems not from the physical but rather from a sense of spiritual depletion. Your heart feels heavy, maybe try taking quiet moments throughout the day to acknowledge your spirit, to let it feast on a positive mantra or reading.

Let go of the kinetic call of multi-tasking, look at how you can simplify your life to carve out more time for sitting in stillness or to pray or meditate, to literally reconnect with the energies/spirit within. To listen to the inner voices calling for more love and less anger. Look for the answers by going inward. Yoga is a wonderful practice that combines the healing of mind, body, spirit. There are hundreds of different styles to choose from. Or maybe read a book on energy medicine or the Tibetan healing through sound. Explore the different spiritual practices that may resonate with you.

Whatever route calls you home to your heart, follow it to find the bliss that comes from learning the language of love, which over and over again will guide you to a more fulfilling life.


Truly Celebrating Valentine’s Day

Pink Flowers

It’s the time of year where stores are covered in displays of hearts, sales on gifts for that special someone takes over advertising, and expectations for romance are at an all-time high. But are these expectations healthy? Getting involved in Valentine’s Day is overwhelming for some as they focus themselves on what they “should” be doing to express love for their partner, or what they “should” expect from their significant other, but there is a healthier approach. Focusing on the “shoulds” of life and love is always a recipe for negativity.

Valentine’s Day is fraught with expectations – many of which are implied by companies looking to make an extra few dollars on a dozen roses, a box of chocolates, or a sweet card. These things themselves aren’t inherently negative, but the pressure surrounding them certainly causes plenty of individuals to be discontented. If you’re in a relationship, there’s an expectation to make it a day that fully celebrates your significant other, more so than every other day that you love and cherish them. If you’re not in a relationship, there’s an expectation that you’re searching for love and will be thrilled if it magically comes together by Valentine’s (and crushed if you’re alone without a date).

However, these expectations are fully under our control. You have the power to shift your expectations to something more positive, and frankly, more in line with the holiday’s true intent – celebrating love. This Valentine’s Day, the choice is yours. Your day does not need to center on this notion of the romantic ideal. Wouldn’t it be better to spend that energy on truly celebrating those you love, however you prefer to do so?

Rather than focusing on what societal expectations are for Valentine’s Day this year, empower yourself to celebrate the many kinds of fulfilling loves in your life. Maybe that love is shared with a significant other, or between you and your family, or with your closest friends, or maybe it’s just the love you have for yourself and who you have grown into as a person. Love is not exclusive, and Valentine’s Day doesn’t belong only to the bouquet of roses you’re expecting from your partner.

This is a time to embrace the love you have in your life right now and joyfully revel in all the positivity it brings you. Whatever your love life looks like, take Valentine’s Day to celebrate these meaningful connections and relationships rather than dwelling on what material gifts or displays of love you expect out of your current or desired romantic relationship. This could mean reconnecting with an old friend, meeting a beloved family member for lunch to catch up, enjoying time to yourself with your favorite cup of coffee, or, yes, taking focused time to appreciate your romantic partner for all that they are to you.

Don’t get lost in the desires for romantic overtures and the pressure of expectations this season. Instead, this Valentine’s Day, allow positive energy and the powerful existence of all the many kinds of love in your life be celebrated without expectation – only deep appreciation and contentment.