Tag: self-help

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.

 


Moving Forward

traintracks

“Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value.” Albert Einstein.

For most of us, the onset of a new year brings a renewed sense of starting over, clearing the slate, recommitting to change. You may revel in the accomplishments of the bygone year while lamenting over losses or achievements left unfulfilled. Perhaps you are experiencing a lingering weariness from the holidays and getting back on track seems a bit arduous. How do we find that balance of relishing what has passed while keeping the faith for what is yet to come? In other words, how can we refuel our ability to move forward?

Take an honest look at all the challenges you have faced thus far and give yourself an enormous pat on the back. We do this for others with ease, but when it comes to acknowledging our own successes, the list is often skimpy. Recall the days you were tired but cared for your family despite the fatigue or the extra efforts you made for a friend or a colleague. Remember your new habit of drinking more water or eating less sugar or breathing before reacting. Success is the sum of all the small steps you take along the way. Honor yourself for the courage it took to overcome life’s hurdles. When we remind ourselves of our unique victories, no matter how large or small, we renew our conviction to infinite potential and possibility.

Evaluate your definition of what constitutes being a successful person. Are integrity and kindness factored in? Moving forward sometimes means taking some time to examine your values and goals. Do you yearn for more meditative time or a less hectic lifestyle? Then moving forward may mean subtracting; and taking out the tedious nonessentials that keep you from achieving that goal. As the saying goes, less is more. Substituting the urge to acquire more things for the desire to simplify or de-clutter may free up time for creative endeavors. Perhaps moving forward means loosening the reins of controlling a loved one. The side effect is more time to be present in your own life to be free from judgements and expectations that don’t belong to you.

Believe that change can happen. Human beings are dynamic, our cells are continually rejuvenating themselves. If you took a MRI of your body today and another in a few months, they would look different. A close friend of mine has a favored quote “the one thing we can rely on is change.” It happens whether we want it or not. Choose to be an active participant in the kind of change that shapes your life in the way you envision it.

Moving forward means developing patience and steadfastness. When you read about a writer celebrating their award winning novel or a teacher being rewarded for their contributions, what lies under the surface is the years of plodding ahead with no reward in sight. There is no such thing as an overnight sensation, despite what the tabloids may have us believe. Every stride towards being a whole individual is a step towards creating a meaningful life.

Remember, it is never too late to hop on the train and travel to your next destination. No matter your age or circumstance, you have the innate ability to change, to move forward. Each day we are given a new opportunity to start again. And although you may have setbacks, perhaps they are simply necessary rest stops to peer back over the terrain you’ve crossed until that next whistle blows and onward you go.


Self-Care

Winter for many is a time when colds and flus become a menace in our lives. If this is true for you then finding ways to stay conscious of what your body is telling you is paramount. Notice things like if you feel more tired than usual, or a tiny tickle in your throat, as such observations and treating them can be the difference between having a cold and it developing into flu.

Many of us are taught not to trust our bodies. If you listen, your body will tell you when it is time to slow down. Often we wait until someone of authority such as a doctor or our mother tells us to rest or to take a preventative homeopathic remedy, rather than thinking of it ourselves. By listening to our bodies and trusting in them we begin to take better care of ourselves. By being more aware of our bodies we may prevent or lessen the impact of the colds and flus we encounter during the winter season or any season.

Self-care is a lifestyle; it incorporates daily habits to ensure that you are taking time for yourself in the best possible ways – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Some ideas on how to enrich your practice of self-care on a daily basis:

  • Every morning set your alarm early to allow for 10-20 minutes of meditation.
  • Following your meditation do a quick body scan. This will allow you to hear what your body has to say.
  • Mindfulness will help you slow down and notice the details around you and within you. Once you are more aware, you might notice that tickle in your throat before it becomes a cough. For example: Every time you touch your phone, think about that phone. What color is it, what is the shape, how does it feel against your hand? Doing this will help you be in the moment every time you touch your phone. Eventually this will begin to occur naturally with other things or events as well.
  • Unplug! Sleep better and leave your devices outside of the bedroom at night.
  • Exercise in whatever way appeals to you. Walk, dance, swim, yoga, the gym. Do something, even if it’s for 10 minutes in your living room. Exercise increases blood flow.
  • Make small changes to create a healthy diet. Establish a routine for meals. Drink more water.
  • Take power naps. 10 to 20 minutes once or twice a day.
  • Establish a regular bedtime routine in the evening and plan for 7-8 hours of sleep. Your body will tell you how many hours you need, listen to it.

               catcleaning“Make yourself a priority in your life. Afterall, it’s your life.” Akiroq Brost


It’s Not Fair!

balance

 

When I was young, I remember complaining about something to my mother. “It’s just not fair!” I cried. She stopped what she was doing and looked at me – a quizzical expression in her eyes and in her voice. “What ever made you think life was fair?” she asked.

The statue of Lady Justice, often found near courthouses, stands blindfolded while holding two scales in one hand. This is meant to show impartiality, divine order and law. As a society, we have an expectation of fairness. As youngsters, we were taught to be fair and to respect fairness. But fairness is in the eye of the beholder.

Studies have shown that when we recognize fairness, parts of the brain thought to be involved in how we perceive rewards activate. When we witness unfairness, our amygdala is triggered. The amygdala controls fear and anger and activates our emotions faster than our conscious awareness. This means that when we feel like we’ve been treated unfairly, we go into “fight or flight” mode, entering a space of agitation, anxiety and emotion.

When real life happens, the tough stuff of real life, do we expect it to be fair? What makes our version of fair better than someone else’s? When we are winning, we don’t think life is unfair. When we learn to release our expectations of fairness, we will find ourselves happier with what is.

We all know that life is not fair. We have seen examples of unfairness locally and globally. Physical and emotional hurts happen every day to the most innocent of people. The question, as Arthur Ashe asked when he was diagnosed with AIDS after a receiving infected blood during heart surgery in 1983, was not “Why me”, but “Why not me?”

Once you accept that life is not fair, we can get on with the business of living it.

We do this by choosing to do things that you enjoy and treating others the way you want to be treated.

* Enjoying a walk in nature to reconnect with life.

* Keep in mind that although we like to believe we have control over things, usually we do not.

* Remember to be grateful for what we have.

* Change our perceptions of reality, recognizing that everyone has their own perception.


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.


Letting Go of Negative Narratives

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“In the process of letting go you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself.” – Deepak Chopra
All of us have a past, a history that we cherish, warm memories that makes us smile inside. But have you ever found yourself stuck in a story that you no longer want to play a part in? An old narrative that family or friends have cast you in? There are several ways to replace the worn out tapes of negativity with positive messages that will strengthen your ability to walk the plank. By walking the plank, I mean leaving behind the familiar and taking a leap into the ocean of possibility.
Letting go asks you to stop listening to stories that spout off negative messages of “you can’t or you shouldn’t.” Abandoning these narratives, gives you permission to step or leap over obstacles into the pasture of prospects and opportunity. The body responds to stories the mind spins whether they are true or not. By creating positive mental images and narratives, the body and psyche begin to shift; to believe that there are options and alternatives. Try replacing the “I can’t do this because I’m not…” with I can and see how the borders of your life expand.
Try to define yourself with what you can do rather than what eludes you. A friend was diagnosed with Type I diabetes at a young age and was given a list of do’s and don’ts. When she became an adult she began to study yoga and meditation empowering herself with new ideas that led her to realize her full potentiality. She released the story that had sold her limitations. Physically she grew strong and mentally she let go of fear.
How though do we step by step revise the stories that chain us to feelings of inadequacies? Here are a few ideas that may encourage you:
• Sit in stillness. Give yourself time to unravel the day’s “to do” list. This allows your mind to rest and recharge. It is difficult to re-write a negative narrative when your mind is exhausted. Sitting in stillness also allows you time to identify those narrative that don’t serve your best interest any longer. Stillness (even ten minutes) provides a sanctuary to go within a safe haven to observe your inner feelings and desires.

• Once you have honed in on a story you want to change, start small and steer clear of shame and blame. The Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Take one story or thought at a time and gently re-write the scenario.

• Practice re-directing your thoughts and stories. Imagine batting them away or see them float past like a cloud out of your mind and body.

• Replace I can’t language with I can and I will. When revising a new story make yourself the hero. Whatever it is that you want to change or let go of imagine doing just that and say it out loud to yourself.

• Write it down. A good story or book tantalizes our imaginations; we see in our minds eye what the printed words suggest. Do the same for yourself. Write your story. Maybe you want to be an artist but were told by your parents that isn’t practical. Now is the time to erase that advice and pick up a paintbrush. Call yourself an artist, put notes around the house to remind yourself that you are worthy of following a dream or passion. Recall that person that loved your sketch or photograph.

By taking the time to let go of stories that hold you back, your load will be light enough to move forward into the horizon of change. Enjoy the revisions and writing the new version, the updated edition of you!


Pursue Your Passions No Matter What

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“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

 

Thomas
Edison

Do you harbor unfulfilled dreams or yearn
to begin a new career at forty, fifty, sixty, seventy or beyond?  Becoming a
flourishing artist, entrepreneur, or even homeowner is not limited to one
particular age or career.  The truth is
that many successful people embark on their passions later in life. Along the
way they overcome disappointment and failed attempts yet with a hefty dose of tenacity
press on.  My grandfather opened
his own designing shop at 87 years old. He had always wanted to be in business
for himself and decided it was time.
Ignoring age stigmas, he was an inspiration and source of strength to
others.  Elizabeth Jolley, a famous
Australian novelist, was first published at 56.
In one year she had thirty-nine rejections, then went on to have fifteen
novels and several short story collections published.  Ricardo Montalban, a well-known actor, built
his dream house at 68 and performed voice-over work in his eighties. What then,
is the recipe for living out dreams no matter your age or circumstance?

·        
Debunk the age myths and break loose from stifling stereotypes.  Dr. Mario Martinez, a clinical neuropsychologist,
has studied centenarians (people who live into their 100’s) for over thirty
years and found that we learn to value or limit ourselves based on what he
calls “cultural editors” (parents, teachers, clergy, physicians etc.). He goes on to explain that when we learn
to let go of debilitating belief systems that keep us stuck, we learn to live
with passion.  What wonderful news!  You
don’t have to subscribe to the stories that surround ageism.

·        
Learn to appreciate failure; it can be our greatest teacher. Think
back to when you had to take a test in school.
Most of us remember the questions we got wrong. Then after going back
over the material and finding the right answer, it sticks with you.  When you try and don’t succeed at something,
you have the opportunity to investigate where you need to improve.  Like learning any new skill, you practice over
and over again to become proficient.
Re-defining failure as a tool for success alleviates self-defeating
thoughts and provides a fresh perspective. It is part of the refining process
to getting it right. When that “a ha” moment comes, you can relish in the
tremendous sense of satisfaction for your hard work.

·        
Cultivate tenacity and positive
persistence.  
Developing confidence in your ability to
climb a mountain (achieve a goal) can be the impetus that gets you to the top.  A healthy refusal to never give up on
yourself differs from being stubborn.  Persistence
and tenacity help us break through doubt.
Being stubborn simply stops progress.  Anyone who has pursued a passion, no matter
the magnitude, knows that dusting yourself off and getting back on that
proverbial horse is what it takes to be successful.  Reflect back at the accomplishments in your
life (from learning to ride a bike to landing a job).  They all required persistence.  Persistence has no expiration date and knows
no boundaries.  It can be cultivated at
any time in your life when you need it.  

·        
Create clarity around what you want and don’t look
back, head out on your journey. Remember that along the way, you can’t please
everyone. Seek counsel or advice from experts or those who have traveled in a
similar direction, but others’ opinions may not always be supportive of your dream. Sift through suggestions
that propel you from the advice that derails you. Stay clear of the doom and
gloom folks; surround yourself with people who are not afraid to embark on a
new chapter in their lives and don’t succumb to stereotypes.  

·        
Think beyond your immediate situation.  The
adage “the one thing we can count on is change” is a positive mantra,
particularly when you feel discouraged or in a slump.  The wildly successful author, JK Rowling (Harry Potter), was on the
brink of homelessness but she had a vision.
No matter how large or small your dream is, it’s yours.  Being happy and accomplished doesn’t have to
involve being famous. Suffering and turmoil aren’t requirements
for success, but stepping out of your comfort zone is. Transitioning from your
present reality, toward that dream, is like going on a long vacation — packing
and sorting through what you don’t need isn’t fun, but necessary. 

·        
Keep Dreaming. The power of the human
imagination remains an unsolved mystery to scientists. Visualization exercises
used by elite athletes produce incredible results and it is never too late to
visualize a dream. 
Imagination is ageless, it may get a little rusty at times from under
use but it is always available to you.  

No matter what age or
point you are at in your life, know that you are always allowed to reach for
your dreams and ambitions.  Make your aspirations
come true one step at a time and enjoy the victories and defeats along the
way.  Before long, you will be in the
midst of those who dared to dream.


Liberating Yourself from Negative Energy

 

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habit.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny
― Lao Tzu

Do you ever find yourself overwhelmed, confused or even fearful
and not exactly sure why?  With the hustle and bustle of modern life,
negative thoughts and energy can creep into our psyche but that doesn’t mean
they have to stay. As the summer slowly winds down this is a wonderful time to
take a trip inward to exam feelings of negativity that may be keeping you from
living a more vibrant life.  Accumulating negative energy can be as subtle
as the changing of seasons and you may not notice it until you stop for a
moment to reflect on your inner feelings.  The good news is that once you
become aware of negative energy you can uproot it with five simple steps that
will put you back on a positive path and keep you there.

Becoming Aware of negative influences is the first step to eliminating them. Are
there toxic people in your life those chronic complainers that are unwilling to
entertain change?  Have you stopped doing the things you enjoy such as
dancing, biking, strolling on the beach or simply reading a book?  Take
stock of what you listen to on the radio and television.  Do you overload
on news or jarring music or watch T.V. series laden with violence?  Have
you taken on too much work limiting your down-time?  All of these questions
can help identify potential sources of draining negative energy. Once you have
taken inventory you can create a plan to implement change.

Reclaim your creativity. Hush the naysayers (real or imaginary) by getting back to the
things you love, those innate gifts that have always been there.  Burying
or neglecting these precious parts of yourself can causes a sense of un-fulfillment
or a vague uneasiness.  Negative energy often feeds on the fears imposed
by others. By taking action, such as picking up that dusty paint brush, or
joining a poetry class or learning to play an instrument (creativity is
limitless) you will refuel your imagination.  You don’t have to be a
Picasso or the next great novelist to enjoy things you are passionate about.
 By carving out time for your creative self, you will liberate your true
nature, which ultimately douses negativity.  Joseph Chilton Pearce, the
renowned author and lecturer on human development says, “To live a creative
life; we must lose our fear of being wrong.”  Let yourself go and be a student
of life again.

Take a walk, ride
a bike, practice yoga or Pilates.  The body is meant to move, too much
hunching over devices causes your posture to slump and your spine to shrink and
with it your spirits spiral. Giving your joints and muscles a workout
stimulates endorphins (positive chemicals in the brain) that motivate and
uplift negative moods  The side effects of exercise are feeling stronger
and more empowered, which then seeps into all aspects of your life.  One
very useful yoga philosophy is change your actions; change your minds. In
other words, by getting the body in motion, we get out of the thinking mind and
the stories it has created.  By releasing pent up stress, you free up
space for positive thoughts.  If time is an issue, exercise during lunch
or snag an early morning class or put on music in the privacy of your home and
dance.  Making exercise a priority is a powerful way to combat fatigue and
stress while paying homage to your body.  

Walking can also be an opportunity to re-commune with nature.
 Smelling the seasonal scents, whatever they may be, reminds us of our
connection to the earth and one another. Feeling a soft breeze or the warmth of
the sun renews and refreshes our sense of well-being.  

Swap out negative language for words of encouragement and support.  Write down
affirmations to remind yourself to fold positive vocabulary into
everyday conversations.  Observe your remarks and gently replace negative
ones with positives—find that proverbial silver lining. Try finding something
to be grateful for every day.  Perhaps tune into inspirational music (and
by this I don’t mean religious) rather than music with negative words or
messages.  Find a favorite guided meditation or motivational speaker that
you relate to.  Play them when you feel bombarded with negative news or
feedback.  Enlisting your sense of hearing is another way to entice
positive energy and this includes the language we use.  Soon, exchanging a
negative for a positive phrase will become habit and you’ll find yourself
smiling more and worrying less.

Breathe! Slow
rhythmic breathing melts away anxiety and revives the nervous system, stamping
out negative energy. Experiment with counting to four as you inhale, pause, and
then count to four as you exhale. Do this for several minutes, maybe close your
eyes and visualize a comforting place; the ocean or a favorite park.
 Listen to sounds of nature (either live or on your phone or CD player).
Seeking out solitary moments to breathe with awareness quiets the mind.  Traveling
inward is like taking a mini vacation from daily demands. Before long those
negative impulses will float away leaving space for a calm mindset that you can
access anytime.

These are but a few suggestions to help you reclaim a positive,
vivacious life that serves your truest self as you enjoy the remaining August
sun.  

  

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The Freedom of Forgiveness

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“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
― Nelson Mandela

 

“True forgiveness is when you can say, “Thank you for that experience.”
― Oprah Winfrey

Forgiveness is not about pretending something didn’t happen, surrendering, accepting injustice, or being weak. It is about acknowledging what happened and moving past it, hopefully with more wisdom and enlightenment.

When we hold onto the feelings caused by a wrongdoing—anger, resentment, fear, hurt, shame—we keep ourselves imprisoned in that story. We relive the injustice and its effects on us, which prolongs the pain and can even cause it to grow. Releasing our feelings through forgiveness releases us from the story.

The following are some ways to facilitate the process of forgiveness:

Try to separate the facts from the story. Think of how your situation would be presented in a scientific journal. Only things that could be proven would be included, and anything not directly observed would be considered a hypothesis or prediction. Anything related to emotions, feelings, and hearsay would be useless to a scientist. This exercise can help untangle emotions from events to provide a more objective view of what happened.

Remember that this involves another human being. We all make mistakes. While being human doesn’t excuse us when we do something that is considered “wrong,” it is helpful to remember we all have faults, weaknesses, and errors in judgment.

Examine why you feel the way you do. Perhaps your feelings are tied to a previous betrayal, or the person’s actions brought up issues with which you are struggling but have nothing to do with this person. Knowing specifically what you are upset about and why can shed light on the real issue. It can also allow you to have a clear conversation with the person you want to forgive, if you decide to talk with them about it.

Make a commitment to forgiveness. Sometimes we say we want something, but don’t really want it or aren’t ready for it. To forgive someone and move on, we have to truly want to forgive that person. Give the same kind of focus and energy to forgiveness as you would a meaningful goal or intention. Imagine your desired future relationship with that person, or if dissolution of that relationship is in order, imagine yourself making peace with that decision and moving on in a way that is supportive to you. You may want to try Loving-Kindness Meditation.

Be gentle with yourself. Forgiveness can be difficult when the wounds are fresh. If you do not understand the reasons behind the injustice, or you can’t find any positive light from the experience, you may not be ready or willing to forgive. It often does not happen overnight, and it is also not something you master like a learned skill. Forgiveness is the subject of many spiritual teachings and can be viewed as a daily spiritual practice. Therefore, allow yourself to see forgiveness as a journey, not a destination you must reach. Try to release any self-judgment in the process. Forgiveness starts with you.


Understanding Wellness

“Cosmic humor, especially about your own predicament, is an important part of your journey.” -Ram Dass

“Take it easy.” We’ve all heard that directive in many forms. Sometimes, it’s out of loving concern, a friend or family member notices that we’re pushing ourselves beyond our capacity and they want us to be OK.

Sometimes, the phrase is a snap reaction out of frustration. We, or someone we know, are agitated and we utilize that directive to calm them down and persuade them to come back to center; to take control of the situation.

Now look at it from Dass’s perspective from his beginning quote, finding the ‘cosmic humor’ in our predicament. His words are simple yet mean so much, another form of  ‘take it easy’… especially on yourself.

Let’s start with the ‘why’ of practicing this: Life isn’t always as serious as it seems. We bind ourselves to the negative, we enslave ourselves to it, instead of focusing on the positive that almost-assuredly exists.  In doing this, we only see the bad, which over time, can warp our perception or keep us living in negativity.

If we never learn to ‘let go’ and relinquish our restrictions on what it means to have control just a bit, we’re sure to suffer. If we let the universe unfold as it will, we can find peace in its plan.

Life will happen each and every day. Some moments tragic, other times full of joy, whether we approve it or not, it’s happening, and will continue to do so.

The next time you find yourself at odds with life; frustrated, lonely or the like: try a smile, a chuckle or even just a sigh of cleansing breath. Find the joy in the humor that is this incredible and wondrous journey we call life.