Tag: happiness

The Paradox of Pursuing Happiness

Many people spend a large portion of their lives actively pursuing happiness. Thousands of books have been written on the subject. Movies have been made. Countless articles and blog posts address thousands of different ways that you can be happy. But what these documents don’t account for is that happiness is a fleeting emotion – and so the pursuit of it will always feel equally fleeting and not very satisfying.

The thought propelling the pursuit of happiness is actually very positive. We all deserve to find moments of happiness in our lives – and those moments are wonderful to enjoy fully. However, if we focus our energy on always pursuing the euphoric feeling of happiness, we’ll often be left feeling quite the opposite – unhappy with the results. We run the risk of setting ourselves up for emotional negativity and let down.

Instead, it’s often more productive to focus ourselves on the practice of contentment. Feeling generally positive about our lives – or even feeling centered and calm – leaves us feeling much “happier” overall. Focusing on contentment means that we’re staying mindful and fully present in our day-to-day lives. If we focus on the pursuit of happiness instead, we’re often not in the moment: we’re focusing on a constant chase of an emotional state. By embracing contentedness, we’re developing a sense of peace and calm within ourselves.

Today, I suggest that you release the notion of actively pursuing happiness. Instead, focus yourself on staying content. Focus on staying in the moment. Focus on being mindful and remaining centered despite the ups and downs that will inevitably happen within our days. This is much more likely to lead to many more happy moments.


Connect Within

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The unfolding of a new year gives us a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with ourselves, that part within we perhaps call spirit or essence. As we take stock of our physical health, it is equally as valuable to get a psyche check-up, to quietly enter that realm of your being that is unique authentic, unspoiled. You may ask the questions: Where am I on my journey? Does the direction I am moving in match my intention? You may also contemplate your life’s purpose, which may be many folds. To realize yourself more fully takes courage and reflection.

Once you take the time to travel inward, stay for a bit. Clear away all of the stresses and influences that don’t really represent your true feelings or passions. How can you simplify? What practices can you begin that will move you closer to the vision of your best self?

Science tells us it takes twenty-one days to create a habit. What positive habit do you want to implement into your life? For example, maybe you want to stop reaching for your phone or device first thing in the morning. You would prefer to start your day reading reflective material to set an encouraging tone for you day. Place the materiel you want to read where your phone would have been, do this for 21 days and reap the rewards. Connecting within will help you realize these missing bits of your life that can have a profoundly positive impact.

Begin to listen to your inner voices, those aspects of you that may feel neglected. The artist, the writer, the reader, the contemplative. Modern society has most of us conditioned to keep moving, we are sold the idea that stopping for an inner break costs too much time and money. Saadi of Shiraz one of the major Persian poets and influential literary men of the medieval period wrote: 

Things that come easy don’t last long

In China it took forty years to make a porcelain bowl,

while a hundred a day pour out of a kiln in Baghdad.

Which is worth more?

A chick fresh out of the egg pecks its own food,

while an infant remains helpless for many years.

The first never raises its gaze from the ground,

while the second can find stars and galaxies within.

In other words, exploring your values in your inner life takes time; there is no app to click or short cut, which is why we often call life a journey. By checking in, you see how your navigation is going. Have you gotten off course or has your desired destination changed, altered with the wisdom of time? Similar to a marriage or relationship with a partner, to keep it healthy you need to hear one another. It is the same with the self.

How then do you go about connecting within? How do we practice presence from that heart space all of us have? One simple suggestion is to carve out time for stillness. Rather than pile more on your daily to do list, take something off and replace it with meditation. If you are allergic to the word meditation, you can talk a walk, without your headphones. Or if you live in the city, walk with quiet lulling thoughtful music that beckons your inner thoughts. Listen a little less to news. A fifteen-minute reflection can refuel your commitment to living a life that you yearn for rather than feeling as though your destiny is in the hands of others. Read reflective books and let the works marinate into your psyche. We often over expose ourselves to harsh corrosive stimuli, how about swapping that out for books, podcasts or CD’s that support our inner growth?

As 2017 evolves, give yourself the gift of time. Time for inner perspective to hug that person waving from the vista of your true self and enjoy the delightful discoveries that shape your life’s happiness and purpose.

 


On Being Single during the Holidays

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The holidays, while they may bring joy, also bring certain people who we do not see much other times of the year. Those relatives, acquaintances and sometimes friends who ask the inevitable question, “Why isn’t a nice girl like you married?” – or some variant of that inquiry.

You are good with yourself and you know it. You like yourself, you like your independence. But sometimes deep inside you may wonder the same thing. Every Holiday Season is another marker of the passage of time. “Will it ever happen?” you ask yourself. Innocent questions by often loving and well meaning relatives make us wonder the same thing. “Why am I alone?” and with that question comes doubts. “Maybe there is something wrong with me. Maybe I will never meet the right person.” The most important thing is to keep this thought from running rampant in your head.

The fact is you may not find the “right” person, at this moment in time. The “right” person may be in your life now, but you have to see him through a different lens, perhaps you can become more open to meeting people who may not look on the outside the way you had envisioned them. Perhaps, like my friend Lori, you will meet your soul mate when you are 47 after completing your PhD and working for years at a successful career.

Or, you could be a Florence Nightingale, Jane Austen, Coco Chanel, Clara Barton, Mary Cassatt, Luisa May Alcott, DNA Pioneer Rosalind Franklin, or Queen Latifah … to name just a few strong, talented women who have made their mark on the world living as independent, fulfilled, single women.

We really can choose the way we perceive our lives, and our perception changes the way the world around us reacts to us. Many people are unhappily married – many have wonderful relationships, just as there are many folks who are happily single and others unhappily single. One thing we can control is choosing to be happy, regardless of our relationship status.

Being single during the holidays, you join the majority of the population of the United States. In 2014, 50.2% of the population 16 and older were single as compared with 37.4% in 1976. You are not alone!

How can you shake those single holiday blues?

  • Say yes to every invitation! Even if you stay for 30 minutes, get moving and get out. You never know whom you will meet. It could be a guy, it could be a new best friend, a lead on a cool apartment or job for the New Year.
  • Whether serving meals at a shelter or collecting used coats among friends and coworkers for the needy, or helping your next-door neighbor shovel his walk, you can make a difference. Look around, you will see opportunities large and small. Do something … even if it’s just sharing a smile.
  • Contact old friends or reach out to someone new. Sharing a cup of coffee or glass of wine is a great way to feel socially connected. 20101231_0744

Whether the questions about your relationship status from that friend or relative is “well meaning” or not, if you don’t want to share, switch the topic of conversation back to them. Everyone likes to talk about themselves … now is the time to capitalize on that!


Slipping Mindfulness in and Anxiety Out

When you begin to feel anxious, recognize that anxiety is just a feeling and like all feelings, it is temporary. Consider what you were thinking right before you felt the anxiety, as thoughts create your feelings, not the other way around. Once you know what you were thinking dispute your thought by changing it’s language so that you feel calm. This is the first step in eliminating your anxiety and will allow for practicing mindfulness. Being in the present deliberately is the practice of mindfulness.

Mindfulness involves being actively in present time, being in the moment, paying attention to your thoughts and feelings without judgment. Focusing your full attention on your breath will allow you to see your thoughts (positive and negative) as fleeting or transient. Thoughts come and go, they do not define you. Just as anxiety comes and goes, it can be as temporary as the thoughts that created it.

Practice a moment of mindfulness. Here is an easy technique to bring yourself into present time: Use all of your senses and notice what you see, hear, smell, taste, feel what your hands are touching. By doing this simple technique you will immediately be in present time.

Suggestions to fit mindfulness moments into your day:

Start your day right: while drinking your first cup of coffee or tea, focus on the smells, the color, the taste. Think about all of the people who are responsible for you enjoying this warm beverage – the coffee bean farmers, the roasters, the packagers, the shippers, the store clerks and so on. Send them a quiet nod of gratitude.

A doorknob: Every time you put your hand on a doorknob or handle, take a moment to center yourself and breathe. Get yourself in the present moment for even just a few seconds think about where you are, as opposed to where you will be.

Driving: Turn the radio and phone off. Breathe deeply. Enjoy the quiet and experience the moment consciously.

Shopping: Mindfully shop. Whether at the grocery store or at the mall; ask yourself, where was the product made? Choose colors and textures that make you happy. Don’t just buy to buy. Thoughtfully choose your purchase.

Silence your phone: When you are with others, keep your phone on silent or better yet, have it in another room. Be present with other people by giving them your full attention. This will show them they are important to you.

Use mindfulness to quiet anxiety. Mindfulness is simply attention to the here and now. Rather than letting life in thoughts that create negative futures, awaken to the gifts of each moment.


Notice the Little Things

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As October ushers itself in, the subtle shifts of one season surrendering to another become apparent. Do you ever wonder where the time goes? You may ask, “How did September sneak by and leave without warning?” Often the rapid pace of life creates a whirlwind of perpetual motion and we forget to take the time to notice leaves hinting of autumn or the harbingers of rain on its way. Learning to notice the little things in our lives, in nature, and in others can slow time in its tracks and give us those fleeting moments we may have missed had we not paid attention.

George Bemanos, a well-known French author and WWI soldier once said; “Little things mean nothing but they give peace, like those meadow flowers which individually seem odorless but altogether perfume the air.” How many times when you are in a hurry have you overlooked the setting sun as it paints the sky purple and pink? The majestic colors lost in the moment as you text your friend that you are running late. One way to slow down and take it all in is to have a silent conversation with yourself and breathe. Gently remind yourself that you can take the time to smell those infamous roses or listen to the chirping of a mocking bird; the “to-do” list isn’t going anywhere. Gaining a deeper sense of peace is one of the many benefits of noting the little things Mother Earth has generously given us.

Taking in the nuances of life, such as the leaves dancing on a wall when the sun shines through the window or the ripple of water as the wind grazes over it, brings beauty and connection into our lives. Listen to the pitter-patter of rain on the roof and allow yourself time to reflect, to smile within. Waking up to little things beckons us back to childhood, when noticing was instinctive. Reflect back to the first time you smelled the earthy scent of moist dirt either in a garden or a forest. Close your eyes and harken back to gazing at the stars as a child, marveling at finding the big dipper or seeing a harvest moon. By creating a practice of noticing we can reconnect with that child-like imagination that dares us to dive into our creativity. When you take time to truly see the little things, you begin to appreciate the abundant beauty that has perhaps been invisible in the past.

Noticing the little things, like sadness on a strangers’ face or the look of wonderment in a child’s eyes gives you a peek into the heart of another. Cultivating this practice of paying attention, allows you to be present in your own emotional life as well. When you are present, you live more in the moment, less in fear of the future or regret of the past. Being aware of your posture and body language polishes your intuitive skills and plugs you into the currents of the here and now. Developing sensitivity to the understated signals we receive from others, fosters empathy and positive communication.
By taking note of the small things in your life, you develop a sense of appreciation for all that went un-noticed before. Try watching the quality of your breath. If you pay attention—you can slow it down, which in turn physically provides you with a way to ease stress and calm the nervous system. For example, if you notice that your breathing is shallow and your shoulders are up around your ears; pause and breathe slowly to the count of five. Then exhale slowly to the count of five. Allow your shoulders to slide down the back, the neck elongates as the crown of the head lifts and the sitz bones root.

By noticing the little things in life, the sun on your face on a lazy afternoon, sharing a chat with a friend, creates a life filled with contentment and joy that is not dependent on how much money you have or what you own. .
Perhaps in the upcoming week notice the little things in your life and maybe even write them down. If you live in the middle of a bustling city, find a park or a street where there are lots of trees to admire. Notice your inner feelings and how often you smile. Listen for the sounds of children playing or smell the familiar rich scent of your coffee or tea. Noticing wakes you up to the moments of your life and gives you permission to slow it down. Not all pleasures in life have to be bought. Simply sitting under a tree for a few moments can give you back the freedom to daydream and to reconnect with the many gifts in your life. Noticing the little things gives value to what has been surrounding you all along.


Valuing Traditions in Life

With the passing of Labor Day, we are reminded of the pleasures traditions offer us. How they are a rich fabric of our lives, if we pay homage to them. Have you ever stopped for a moment and reflected on the value of your own traditions? Perhaps the grind of modern life has caused you to let go of cherished familial, cultural, or holiday customs. Carving out time for a tradition can restore your sense of connection while providing opportunities to create new memories.

Traditions are a wonderful way to catch up with people you love. They can be as simple as a once a month coffee or as extravagant as meeting for a vacation each year. Maybe your neighborhood has an annual potluck supper? By taking the time to participate, you build and strengthen relationships. You also develop a sense of belonging, which combats feelings of isolation or loneliness.

Honoring tradition helps you establish your own personal identity. When you choose to celebrate with others, whether they are family or friends, this is a beautiful expression of what values you hold dear. Often out of respect for the deeper meaning behind the tradition, you may re-arrange a work-week or forgo a routine. Maybe you and your spouse decide that every Wednesday you have a date night away from the children. Or you commit to a spiritual practice. These micro adjustments can be powerful testimonies to what you value in life. Traditions are often examples or inspirations for others to follow their belief systems.

Children adore traditions. Think back to your own family traditions; my great aunt Rose would make honey cake and my mom would make a chocolate cake with a chocolate cream cheese frosting that to this day when I think of either I feel warm and fuzzy inside. Celebrating with your children can help build bonds while giving them a glimpse of their ancestral heritage. Traditions connect children to their cultural and familial past and paint a picture they can carry with them. They give them a safe sense of belonging and security in a changing world.

Traditions can be modified or adapted to better serve those participating. Perhaps your family doesn’t eat meat, rather than turkey for Thanksgiving you gather over a scrumptious vegetarian meal. All the essential elements are still there; the preparation, the togetherness, the laughter, the breaking bread. New traditions can be initiated as well at any time. They can be serious or silly. I had a friend who started a tradition of “birthday elves” for her children. She would decorate with balloons and streamers the night before her children’s birthdays. In the morning the kids would be delighted to find the elves once again had remembered them. The interesting thing was, even when the children grew to teenagers they still wanted a visit from the birthday elves!
When traditions come from the heart, they allow us time to express our emotions. To commemorate a passed loved one with an annual ceremony gives expression of the love and life of that person. Traditions give us permission to step off life’s merry-go-round and to reflect. By keeping relished traditions we create a haven for ourselves and our children; a place where we recognize the relevance of our past and the importance of our future.

As the fall season fast approaches, perhaps allow yourself time to renew the gift of celebrating traditions. Evaluate those that have meaning to you and have somehow been neglected. By weaving traditions into your life, the fabric of your life will be richer.
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Are Your Thoughts Making You Sick?

Flu season is upon us, and we are all trying to be as proactive as possible to avoid getting sick. Coming down with the flu, a cold, or any kind of illness is not pleasant, nor convenient in our busy lives…especially with all the holidays approaching! So we might get a flu vaccine, try to eat right and exercise, get enough sleep, stock up on vitamin C and hand sanitizer, and stay away from people who look sick. We’ve done everything we can. Or have we?

One very important factor we might not have considered as contributing to sickness is…our thoughts! We know from numerous news reports that being in a constant state of stress has negative health consequences, but what about our thoughts in general? Can the way we think make us sick?

Studies show that our thoughts are so powerful they can affect our physical well-being. Try to recall the last time you came down with a cold. What was going on in your life? What was the gist of your inner dialogue the days leading up to your sickness? Were your thoughts focused on worry, fear, anxiety, guilt, anger, or resentment?

Our health can also be compromised when:

  • We keep our feelings locked inside, instead of dealing with or expressing them.
  • We don’t speak up for ourselves and then experience feelings of powerlessness or other energy-depleting emotions.
  • We can’t let go of past experiences that brought us pain, distress, or tension that continue to affect us as we relive the experience in our minds and through retelling the story to others.
  • We think negatively about others, and ourselves focusing on faults and mistakes instead of positive traits or actions.

While thinking negatively or in an unconstructive way will not necessarily make you sick, it can play a part in it. If that kind of thinking can make us sick, then thinking in a way that is positive, loving, and caring toward ourselves and the world around us can contribute to our well-being. So why not add, “wellness thinking” to our regimen of healthy living?

Here are ways to break the cycle of thoughts that can harm our health that you can incorporate into every day:

  • Be aware of the focus of your thoughts. When you bring awareness to what and how you think, you can change or redirect the inner chatter as needed.
  • Think about what the consequences might be to you by continuing to think or feel a certain way. Will they benefit or harm you?
  • Try laughter yoga, meditation, breathing techniques, or other methods to center you emotionally/ spiritually/mentally. Even a few minutes can act as a reset button.

Living in Abundance

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“Everything you are seeking is seeking you in return. Therefore, everything you want is already yours. It is simply a matter of becoming more aware of what you already possess.” ~ Bob Proctor

What is abundance? Abundance can mean different things to different people. Having more than enough of money, material things, happiness, success, friends, free time. It can be all these things, but a simpler way to look at abundance is…feeling satisfaction NOW.

Why is that so important? Like attracts like. If we are attempting to manifest abundance without first feeling abundant—if we are coming from a state of scarcity or lack—it is synonymous to trying to attract hummingbirds to your bird house with vinegar instead of nectar.

Enjoying abundance comes from first being in a state of gratitude. Enjoy what you have…right now. What is going well in your life? What are you grateful for? It could be gratitude for the relationship you have with your kids; your ability to love and receive love; the feeling you get when you open your eyes to a sunny day. It could be gratitude for your comfortable bed, the perfectly al dente pasta at lunch, the outfit that makes you feel like a million bucks. Whenever it’s difficult to get into a place of gratitude—we all have rough days—be even more basic: be thankful for clean water, electricity, the roof over your head…things we take for granted that are not universal givens.

Once we are in a state of gratitude, we realize our life is ALREADY abundant. Know it as a fact. Tell yourself daily that you enjoy a life of abundance that will always be abundant. How does that make you feel? Joyful? Peaceful? Excited? Honor that feeling.

If stepping into a state of gratitude is a challenge, or you don’t often do so, don’t worry. Gratitude is a habit we can learn by practicing it every day. Pick a time each day that you will be able to carry out your practice. Think of what is most reasonable and realistic for you. Perhaps you can awaken a few minutes earlier to sit quietly and think of all that you are grateful for in that moment. Or maybe you can use the commute to work as an opportunity to appreciate your abundance. Maybe a few minutes dedicated to writing down your gratitudes before bedtime works better for you. You could set reminders on your phone to prompt you throughout the day to think of one gratitude. Choose the method that’s right for you and make it a daily practice.

If you create abundance in your inner life, you will experience abundance in your outer life. Developing a constant awareness for the things that are good will lead to positive thinking, which has the power to attract more positivity. There is an unending supply of abundance for everyone. The first step toward an abundant life is knowing you already have one.


Understanding Wellness

Emotional
wellness is not emphasized in our social, professional, educational or family
systems. If you think about it for a moment, wouldn’t it be great if mental
health were part of the main curriculum at schools? After all this is the 21st
century! And when was the last time you asked a friend or family member about
their emotional wellness? 

Throughout
my professional life, I have encountered many people who dislike themselves
because they are not emotionally healthy. They perceive themselves as “damaged
goods"; allowing people to neglect them, as their self-esteem is low. For
them, life is often about enduring, rather than thriving because they perceive
themselves as “broken” and some of society does as well. Not
receiving compassion from those around them, they may feel isolated.

Money,
prestige, position, beauty, cannot be enjoyed and appreciated unless paired
with emotional wellness. Therefore, our emotional, mental and
physical well-being is the foundation upon which we can build. Celebrities who
are in the news and unhappy prove this point.

For
decades as an experienced psychotherapist and relationship coach, I have been working
with people so that they can achieve their dreams and goals. I assist people
to let go of feelings of inadequacy and help them to like themselves as they
raise their self-esteem.  A major component of healing is broadening and
educating ourselves in the art of living, particularly when it comes to
wellness.