Category: self-help

Age is Just a Number

I was meditating recently when I had an incredible realization – I am ten years younger than I actually am. Of course, this realization was unusual. It’s not as though I have the ability to turn back time, or to jump back ten years to relive the past decade. But still, the thought came over me and I couldn’t shake it. And you know what? The oddest thing happened.

I felt amazing for the rest of the day. There was a renewed energy in my thoughts and actions. I felt physically and emotionally better. It almost felt like, well, I was ten years younger.

That’s when it occurred to me – lately I have been dwelling on the idea of my best years being behind me. During my meditation, I realized this doesn’t have to be true. Age is just a number.

Society often assigns negative or positive connotations to our age. We take
these societal ideas to heart – feeling hurt or somehow less than we once were as the years go by. As this isn’t a positive way of looking at things, realize that; you are as youthful, joyful, and content as you believe you are. You are in full control of how you feel – both about your body, your mind, and your life. Your physical age doesn’t need to have an impact on how you view yourself.

Many people use their age to measure themselves, or their success in life. Instead, we should reframe how we view ourselves (and our win’s – big and small). If we are content with ourselves, with where we’re at in life, our age has no bearing on that. If we’re not content with where we’re at – whether we’re young or old – we have the power to change things.

No matter how many years we have behind or ahead of us, they’re all equally wonderful. Let’s celebrate each one.


Hope

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.            

                                                                             ….Martin Luther King Jr.

As 2017 is coming to a close, you may recall the highs and lows of the year and wonder where on earth the time went.  During the hectic holiday season, it is easy to get swooped up by the current of celebrations that can at times feel overwhelming, but perhaps take a moment to step back to the banks of what this all represents.  What do all of the ceremonies and traditions mean to you?  Obviously, that answer is unique and personal, but regardless of different perspectives the current of hope connects us all.  

Whether you participate in Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, or simply enjoy the seasonal lights, trees and decorations, the concept of hope resounds. One of the reasons many people participate in traditions is because they believe they’re important for renewing a sense of belonging and restoring hope for the future.  Many traditions are meant to be a respite for the modern world, to step back and reconnect with loved ones.  But what if you don’t feel hopeful despite the festivities?  Maybe you are burned out from a stressful career, a break up, or an aging parent who now needs you? It is possible to renew your sense of hope amid despair or challenges.

First of all, hope is essential to human beings for survival.  Hope is blind to difference it is not dependent on social status or income, it is not reserved for the few–it is a birthright.  One-way to jumpstart your hope is to set simple achievable goals.   Rather than laboring over a grandiose list, take baby steps.  Maybe you want to take the holiday celebrations down a notch or two, you want to switch out the pressure of gift giving for volunteering or getting together for a pot luck and a silly gift exchange or you want to reemphasize the spiritual.  Find a step-by-step way to achieve the goal. Invite friends, keep it simple and let others contribute.  You will probably be surprised how many people are happy and grateful, this in turn gives you hope that change is always possible.  You can revise the status quo.

Perhaps you want to go back to college in the next year or find a new job.  Begin to talk to the counselors or department heads, learn everything you can about different programs that appeal to you and set a date to start the application process.  If change in career is what you’re after, take a step in that direction, talk to others find out what you need to get started.  Hope will revive when you picture your possibilities, then as you begin to do things towards that goal, hope like oxygen to a fire, will fuel itself.  

In the book “The Anatomy of Hope.” Dr. Jerome Groopman, found that researchers discovered the power of hope to change the chemistry of your brain. “Belief and expectation are the key elements of hope. When people experience hope, they can block pain by releasing the brain’s endorphins.”

Surround yourself with people that believe in you, that give you hope and sincere positive reinforcement. Stay clear of chronic naysayers, particularly if you are on the mend to building your hope back up. Repeat hope mantras such as, “I can” daily.  Post sticky notes that restate your right to hope, to become, to believe in whatever you want.  Words and thoughts are powerful, by surrounding your psyche with positive people and mental images, hope will bloom and cheer you to the finish line.

As the holiday season continues, take a moment to remember that with each setting sun comes a sunrise and we are reminded that with hope, all things are possible.   


Small Acts of Self-Care

Starting to incorporate self-care into your routine can positively impact your outlook, productivity, self-perception, and interactions with others. But during busy seasons of life it may feel like a challenge to set aside time in your days to practice self-care. Luckily, there are many small ways to weave self-care into your schedule – some of which you may not have considered before!

#1: Read a Book

Turn off your phone, step away from your laptop, and crack a book you’ve been wanting to read for a while.

#2: Take Yourself to a Show

Whether you prefer live music, or you want to see the latest movie in theaters, take yourself out on the town. Work can always wait – and you’ll appreciate getting out of the house to decompress.

#3: Take a 5-Minute Break

Short on time? Try a 5-minute meditation break. Take deep breaths, clear your mind, and pull yourself out of stress and into the present moment.

#4: Eat Well

When you’re in a busy season of life, eating habits can slip. Try to prepare healthy snacks and meals for yourself ahead of time or at the beginning of the week. You deserve to eat healthy, filling food to fuel you through your day.

#5: Dance

Relaxed breaks can be calming, but the endorphins released during movement can be equally beneficial. Take a few minutes at the end of your day and sway to your favorite song.

Self-care doesn’t have to be the stereotyped examples you read about in magazines. You can find a system that works for you – whatever that looks like. Care for yourself in a way that brings joy and peace to your mind, body, and soul.


How to Unplug

In today’s world, we often get caught in a social media comparison trap. No matter how engaged we are with our own lives, or how content we are in our day-to-day, we see the highlight reel that friends and family share online and feel inadequate. This comparison can lead to increased anxiety, frustration, and overwhelming dissatisfaction.

Though social media can be beneficial when it comes to reconnecting with distant friends or family members and staying up-to-date, it can be beneficial to unplug.

“Unplugging” may be harder than it sounds. We tend to develop a reliance on technology, and our social media feeds are no exception. If it helps you, start small.

Start by leaving your phone in your bag or pocket while you go on a walk. Or turn it off before you go to bed – filling your pre-sleep time with book reading or listening to music instead of scrolling through Facebook.

As time goes on, challenge yourself to let go even more. Enjoy an event without taking photos to post online. Or take a weekend away – and send all social media apps to ‘the cloud’ for that weekend; to truly connect with your experiences. After the weekend you can download them from ‘the cloud’ as you wish.

Unplugging can be a healthy practice that has a colossal positive impact on your life. When you do choose to “plug in” you’ll be much more likely to enjoy social media the way it was intended – to appreciate and celebrate the highlights of life and to connect with those you love.  


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.


The Positive Psychological Effects of Exercise

Exercise, or simply movement, has a wide range of positive effects. Physically, moving your body throughout the day, rather than sitting sedentary, can help you tremendously. Movement increases blood flow, improves breathing, supplements heart health, and more. But what about the psychological effects of exercise?

Studies have shown that exercise, or low-impact movement, can improve your mental health as well as your physical. Exercise can be used to supplement treatment of mild to moderate depression. It can be used to counteract anxiety, and it can greatly reduce stress.

Additionally, regular movement can help reduce the symptoms of ADHD and PTSD. Even if your life isn’t greatly impacted by any of these things, exercise can still result in stronger emotional resilience, sharper memory, higher self-worth, a better night’s sleep, and more energy throughout your day.

I don’t want you to think that I’m advocating that you set out to run a marathon tomorrow! If you’re just getting started incorporating exercise into your life – start small. Twenty to thirty minutes of movement a day is often enough to reap the physical benefits of exercise and release the endorphins that help you sleep better, overcome feelings of anxiety or depression, build emotional resilience, and more.

Most importantly, I encourage you to find a form of movement that brings you joy. The easiest way to incorporate movement into your life is to look forward to the activity. Schedule time out of your busy day for a bike ride to the park, or walk to work in the morning and enjoy the sunrise. If you enjoy cardio work, try signing up for a 5k that benefits a charity that’s near and dear to your heart. If you prefer low-impact exercise, consider yoga or tai chi.

The exercise you choose needs to speak to you and fill you with a sense of accomplishment and joy. Your options are endless, so don’t be afraid to try new things. Take a class, practice a new form of exercise in your home, or simply have a dance in your kitchen while you cook yourself dinner. You never know when you’ll stumble upon a form of movement that positively impacts your life and your mental health! Embrace the experience!


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.

 


Finding Light After Loss

The blog this week deals with devastation, loss, and ways to cope and recover.  After the horrific damage caused by this year’s hurricane season, many find their homes ravaged or completely destroyed, pets lost or knee deep in wreckage that may take years to repair. How do we cope with such loss?  How do we go on?   

Grief is inevitable with loss of any kind and it comes in hundreds of colors, shapes and sizes and looks different on everyone. One thing that may help is the concept of impermanence.  In Buddhism, (you don’t have to be Buddhist to embrace this), everything both happy and sad are malleable.  As a good friend of mine has said to me, “one thing we can count on is change.”  When going through bereavement, knowing that you won’t always feel this horrible, or helpless, does help…eventually.  It takes time to heal and it is important to your recovery to acknowledge your feelings.

Allow yourself time to collect your thoughts, try not to make any hasty decisions until after the fog has lifted.  When you are in the throes of emotions, you may feel like running away or starting over somewhere far away, unfortunately your feelings will follow you.  Wait to make life-changing decisions until you feel stronger and clear to exam the pros and cons. Give yourself permission to put things on the back burner and focus on what is essential in the moment.

Start slow and chunk out tasks.  If you have to start over from a natural disaster, you may begin to feel the light poking through as soon as essentials are dealt with. Don’t take on everything at once.  Prioritize, what you need first and foremost, then work from there.  In other words, don’t put all of your worries and concerns in the same basket, it will be way too heavy a burden.  Take care of your basic needs for shelter, food, safety first. Everything else can wait. Take help when it is offered, people often want to contribute in some way, be it bringing meals or watching your children.  Let them.

Know when you are incapable of dealing with the loss and ask for help.  If you find yourself unable to function or to get out of bed, reach out to a professional.  There is a huge difference between profound depression and grief.  The latter is temporary and may simply need time to fade the other requires treatment.  If you are prone to depression, a significant loss may trigger symptoms, reach out to those around you, tell them your true feelings and get help.

Understand though that in reality, you need to give grief time and space to dissipate. You may begin to notice less sadness in three months, but don’t be surprised if you’re still glum, at least some of the time, months after your loss. For most of us, it takes about a year before we have consistent grief free days.  

Let the light of laughter in when it shows up.  Although there may be a string of dismal days allow the curtains to open and set aside your worries.  Perhaps a laugh with friends over funny memories or a dinner you’ve been invited to.  It is okay to give your grief a time out, to find joy again.


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.