Tag: friends

FINDING GRATITUDE UNDER EVERY NOOK & CRANNY

 

 

With Thanksgiving nipping at our heels, it’s a natural time of year to take stock of all we can be thankful for. When you appreciate the little things in life, a profound transformation occurs that can lift you out of the doldrums & help you to find more profound pleasure & meaning in your life.

In modern society, we’re bombarded with ads insisting we need the newest version of a gadget or device, the latest styles, & that more is better. We’ve become a throwaway society, but the good news is, we don’t have to subscribe to that persuasion.  In this newsletter, I highlight a few ways to find gratitude under every nook and cranny of your life.

Set a Positive Tone. Rather than reaching for your phone or computer first thing in the morning, take a few moments to say thank you for the morning itself. Sit up in bed, close your eyes, and breathe. Take a moment to notice the light of dawn or the pitter-patter of rain on the roof.  Perhaps when you get up, you enjoy making a delicious cup of coffee or tea, then sit in a comfy chair & inhale the aroma brewing. If you prefer yoga, do a few sun salutes honoring the gift of a new day. In other words, create a five-minute ritual that kicks your day off with the mantra, “Today, I will be grateful for my life.” After a few days of doing this, you’ll notice a difference, as it begins to set the tone for the rest of your day in a positive light.

Adopt A Less is More Attitude. Replacing the redundant “hole in the bucket,” “nothing is enough” syndrome with the idea that you have all you need is liberating. It affords you more time to take a walk, read a book, or indulge in an activity that costs nothing. Nature is such a giver, & it asks little from us. It provides us with glorious sunsets, the drama of cloud formations, the changing of seasons, & the sounds of waves crashing on the shore. If you begin to re-direct your focus on what you already have, you can let go of the constant need for more. Perhaps de-clutter & give away things you don’t use or need. When we open up the space we live in, we open our minds to clarity & widen our perspectives. If you struggle with clinging to stuff, try packing it away out of sight, knowing it’s not gone forever. With the holiday season on the horizon, practicing less is more can help curb overindulging in fatty foods. It can also help with perspective to gift-giving, maybe try homemade presents or gather without gifts.

Cultivate Simplicity. Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the art of sophistication.” We don’t have to rely on riches to be wealthy. Finding joy in spending time with friends or being content to be alone are both ways to practice gratitude for the small things in life. Breaking bread together or cooking a meal can be a simple task that renders quality, not quantity. By simplifying your day to day routine, you allow yourself more time to let go of stress. Rather than packing each day with more things on the “to do” list, see if you can allow yourself time to just be. Try sitting in silence for a few moments in the middle of the day to tune out demands, real or imagined. We don’t always have to make a profit in order to profit.  Giving value to the small incidentals in our life helps create a sense of contentedness. Rather than filling every moment with work or the need for a result, try carving out time to daydream, to remember fond memories, to call a person you love and say hi or let them know you appreciate them.

Embrace the Difficult Things. Being grateful for the difficult times is probably the biggest challenge we all face. Much like the terrains of the world, life has its peaks & valleys, its ebbs & flows. There are those moments in life that we’re in emotional or pain, & being thankful is as easy as walking across the Sahara without water. Think back to the times in your life that you did pull through & came out stronger. Realizing situations are temporary & there are people to help you through can be a powerful acknowledgment. It’s a commonality we share with others, a bond that lets us know we’re not alone – & for that, let’s be grateful.

As you make choices & plans for these next few months, perhaps keep these thoughts in mind, & you may find yourself having a less stressful, more enjoyable holiday season. Remember to thank yourself as well for the gifts & talents you bring to the world; smile in the discovery of all the positive energy you donate.


The Art of Giving without Attachment

Have you ever done a kind deed simply for the sake of giving without any strings attached or payback considered?  Have you given away something of value to a stranger or given of your time without expecting any financial reward?  These are just a few examples of practicing the art of giving without attachment. What does giving without attachment really mean and why should you cultivate this practice?

The very definition of giving, freely transfer the possession of (something) to (someone) has an inherently detached quality. There is an innate sense of letting go, the opposite of hoarding or holding on. But how often is our giving calculated?  Well if I babysit for a friend, she/he will do the same for me.  Giving without any expectation of outcome or praise is tough, but that is the essence of giving without attachment. Giving to grow your heart, to release your grip, to become liberated from that which you hold on to.

How does giving without strings liberate and grow your ability to love and to live a more meaningful life?  It connects you to your humanity, to your empathy, to your ability to see the suffering in others and feel something.  Giving also helps you to step outside your sphere and to connect with others on a visceral level.

Giving without attachment is a wonderful way to help you accept when others give to you.  Often, our childhood dictates a message of receiving that it’s better to give than receive, but if everyone is clamoring to give, who is receiving?  That message sends a negative image that receiving is for the poor, the needy, the weak, and the unsuccessful.  We all have times in our life when we want to receive.  Giving without attachment helps us to receive without feeling guilty or shamed.

Anne Frank, a diarist and one of the most talked about victims of the Holocaust once said, “No one has ever become poor by giving.”  It is often difficult in the modern world to remember this.  When you give, it does not have to be a thing or financial, (you can give of your time, your silent presence, a smile) you reap the internal rewards of connection, joy, and self esteem.  Giving builds character and helps you get outside of your own needs and desires and consider others.  When you give freely, you teach yourself a lesson in being unconditional.

Giving without attachment does not mean giving everything away and doing without.  It may entail digging a little deeper than merely skimming off the top. If you only give away your excess, you may want to look at other ways you can give. Become a mentor. Take a friend to lunch, just because or send a card without an occasion. Bake a dinner for a charity event, make an anonymous donation to a cultural or educational organization or slip a bill to a homeless person.

Think of all the people in your life that have given something to you without any expectation.  There are countless ways to pass on that giving tradition, and when you begin to drop the attachments and expected outcomes, you send a ripple of hope into the world, while expanding your ability to be a loving considerate human being.


Shedding Toxic Friends in the New Year

Life happens in seasons. The New Year tends to be a time when we evaluate our lives and make big decisions or changes. While this is a positive thing, it can also be confusing when the things we decide need changing are our friends.

Sometimes the people who have stayed in our life as friends become toxic over time. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they themselves are toxic individuals – just that they no longer serve a positive purpose in our life. Just as life happens in seasons, friendships happen in seasons, too.

A friend who may have been very close to you in a season when you needed them and they needed you is someone to cherish. But that relationship can sour for any number of reasons. Maybe you two just aren’t in the same place anymore. Maybe they aren’t being supportive as you try to make positive changes in your life or to break bad habits. Maybe they feel intimidated by you as you move forward with other positive, supportive friendships and romantic relationships.

Whatever your reason for feeling that a person may not be the friend they once were, “breaking up” with them is never going to be easy. Still, it’s important to remember there is only one you, and YOU, are the only one in charge of taking care of yourself. It may seem as though these friends need you, or you may feel an overwhelming sense of guilt for distancing yourself from the relationship. If you’ve carefully evaluated the relationship and deemed it hurtful or unhealthy, there is no reason to continue feel guilty.

A few symptoms of a toxic friend are:

  • They regularly and repeatedly tear you down with actions or words.
  • They don’t support the positive changes you’re making.
  • They encourage negative or destructive behavior.
  • They lack empathy.
  • They take advantage of your kindness.
  • They lie or act in an untrustworthy manner.

If you feel your friend fits these characteristics, or if the relationship is consistently one-sided, it’s okay to act in your best interest and shed the relationship. By doing this you give yourself permission to start fresh this year. You give yourself time to grow valuable relationships that positively contribute to your life. You never know when you’re going to find a wonderful new friendship in someone who is kind, encouraging, and supportive.


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.


Holiday Blues?

20101231_0693It’s not unusual to feel stressed, blue and overwhelmed during the holidays. Ken Duckworth, MD, mental director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness says, “A lot of people would say that the holidays are the worst time of the year. They’re just straight up miserable.”

It’s like Facebook on steroids… reminders of other people’s happiness can be particularly difficult when we are feeling lonely or sad, or if we are dealing with any sort of loss or family conflict. The holidays hold an expectation of joy, from music on the radio, to TV and movies, to decorations everywhere we go. Many people have a fantasy vision of what their holiday ‘should’ look like, and it’s usually doesn’t turn out exactly as they anticipate. Disappointment occurs. Many people feel pressure to be happy and social. Trying to be someone they are not exacerbates the problem as well.

Loneliness and depression can be very painful, and it can help you to realize that you are not alone.

Knowing this brings me to my second point. Helping others is one of the best ways to lift yourself out of the blues. This can be thought of as the giving aspect of the holiday season. There are always folks who could benefit from your assistance and good will. Whether it’s a smile on the other side of a soup kitchen serving station or visiting a senior citizen housing complex, volunteering at an animal shelter, working at a homeless shelter or even just a show of compassion by giving the clerk at Macy’s a bottle of water to recognize that she doesn’t have the easiest job during this time of year, you can change someone else’s day.

What else can we do to help ease us through this holiday season?

  • Lower or better yet, eliminate your expectations
  • Plan ahead… be selective with how you spend your time.
  • Do something every day that you love to do. What makes you happy? Painting, reading, yoga, cooking, Tennis … Nurture that part of you that fuels your spirit.
  • Limit alcohol, sugar and carbohydrates. Too much alcohol can be the catalyst for problems where there might otherwise be none. Sugar, caffeine, and refined carbohydrates elevate cortisol, the stress hormone, leading to feelings of anxiety.
  • Relax … even if it’s 10 minutes a day. Shut your eyes and breathe slowly.

The holiday season seems to accentuate for many people the shortcomings they perceive in their life. Keep in mind that feelings are temporary and they will pass, as will the holidays. Be kind to yourself!

 


Friends and Relationships – Making It Work

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You’ve met someone and decide to start dating. You have been telling your best friend about this person and can’t wait for these two special people in your life to meet. The highly anticipated day comes, and it doesn’t go as planned. Their interaction is lukewarm, or one person is friendly while the other is not. How do you balance your two relationships and keep the peace?

Consider all sides.

The first thing to do is to consider each side’s perspective. Being the new person trying to fit into a relationship triangle can be challenging, as can being the long-time friend who has to make room for someone new.

Examine how you might be adding to the fray.

Without being aware of it, you could be making the situation more complicated. Are you setting unrealistic expectations? Do you want them to interact with each other in a certain way, and are disappointed because they aren’t? Be prepared for the possibility that they may never interact the way you’d hoped. However, it is also possible that in time, they will grow closer, or at least more cordial to each other.

Also, consider your dating history and how it may be impacting your friend’s perspective. If you’ve introduced a number of boyfriends or girlfriends to your best friend, your friend may just be staying cautious until s/he knows this new person is here to stay. You might not be the only one who gets broken hearted by breakups…friends who have invested their feelings on your behalf can also experience a loss.

Have an honest conversation with your best friend and romantic interest, separately.

Your friend may be worried that your new relationship will change the status quo or even jeopardize what you’ve had together. Your friend may be protective, wanting to make sure this new person is “good enough” for you.

Ask your friend what it is about the person you are dating that they don’t like: Is it the person’s personality? Does s/he think you’re incompatible with this new person? Do they see a change in you? Does your friend feel neglected or are they worried that you will no longer have time for them? Getting to the core issue can clear up misunderstandings and clarify expectations.

It may help to let your friend know that s/he is still valuable to you, and that you will make a concerted effort to spend quality time with him or her.

In your sit-down with your significant other, communicate why your best friend is important to you. He or she may not understand your friend, the type of friendship you have, or your history together. If your friend is overtly expressing dislike, it can be understandable that your boyfriend or girlfriend might react to the animosity, or be overly protective of you because of misconstrued interaction between friends.

Some more points to keep in mind:

  • If you are having a disagreement with one of them, be aware that telling the other one about it can reinforce the wedge already between them.
  • Invite your best friend and romantic partner to events you would normally invite both of them to. Give them the chance to get to know each other.
  • Allow them to have the feelings they have, which may or may not change with time.
  • Try to have a positive attitude about the interactions. Expressing anxiety will not promote harmony.
  • These two people you care about don’t have to be best friends with each other. They don’t even have to like each other. However, what will work is for each of them to respect your decision to have the other person in your life and for you to accept their relationship as it is.

While it is can be initially painful to see discord between your friend and significant other, the situation can be successfully managed, and even repaired, with everyone’s best efforts.

 


Showing Compassion in Times of Conflict

_528A relationship breakup, workplace conflict, a feud with a family member or friend…these experiences can be difficult and may involve tense communications and stress. Most of us can recall a time when we felt that someone was causing us suffering, either intentionally or unintentionally. It can be challenging to see past the situation and the other person’s actions, which can color your view of them. It is easy to blame others for our feelings.

While some of us are content with being swept up in a drama, others would rather apply a higher-self perspective to conflict. For those of us who desire the latter, how can we show compassion to people we perceive as causing us suffering?

Try a perspective shift. Keep in mind that people who are hurting tend to hurt other people. However, it is up to us how we perceive our reality. We create our own hurt by what we say to ourselves about the other person. If we change our thoughts, our feelings will change.

Be aware of what you’re feeling about the situation with this person. When you feel anger, anxiety, fear, or any kind of stress, mentally say, “Stop!” and then visualize a stop sign. This will halt the body and mind from continuing to circulate non-constructive thoughts and feelings. Take a few deep breaths while you ask your body to release any tension. Then ask yourself:

  • What are the facts about this situation? We usually have a story attached to what the other person is doing or not doing. We guess what they are thinking and what their intentions are. Think of how a lawyer might present the facts of a case in court. Hearsay, inner dialogue, feelings, and predictions aren’t useful there, and neither are they to you. Separating fact from story is helpful in avoiding emotionally charged thinking.
  • How significant is this problem in the grand scheme of my life? How significant is this in relation to the timeline of the universe?While you may not prefer that someone is talking about you, being antagonistic, giving you the cold shoulder, etc., what are they really doing to you in this moment? Recognize that your thoughts about the other person are what are causing the feelings you don’t like. Shrinking the perceived enormity of your situation can allow you to regain perspective.

Focus in on the present. Usually, nothing “bad” is happening to us in the moment. We are thinking about the past or the future, which is causing us discomfort. Take a deep breath, let it out, and tell yourself, “All is well. Right here, right now.”

Show yourself love. In times of stress, it is even more important to practice self-love. Whether it’s walking in nature, getting a massage, losing yourself in a great book, taking a yoga class…Take time for yourself doing things that are enjoyable and nurturing. Here are some of my videos explaining how to use meditation, breathing techniques, and laughter yoga to de-stress and re-center.

Although you can’t control what someone else does, you can control how you process the experience and interact. I hope these points help you to release unsupportive feelings, as well a see the conflict from a more neutral standpoint. It is much easier to deal with these types of challenges when you are coming from a calm, clear place.

 


Confusing Marital Statistics

The latest statistics on marriage in the United States say that 41% of first marriages end in divorce, 60% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages. This can be misleading.

They initially might make one want to work in couples’ therapy on their first marriage as it has a higher possibility of success. While this may be true, I wondered at what cost to the couple and the family. Please do not misunderstand me; I think it is wonderful for people to be in healthy working marriages. What I do not think is that staying together out of fear of being alone, ‘for the sake of the children’, or for financial insecurities is healthy. After reading these statistics I began to wonder why first marriages last longer.

Most first marriages occur when we are young and do not yet know who we are. As we mature sometimes we grow apart from our partners; developing different interests, values change too. It is not that we do not love or care for each other anymore, it is just that we would prefer a partner that shares our values and interests. Moreover, one’s sex drive does change as we age. It does not necessarily slow down but desires and tastes change.

Many first marriages are held together by a common goal of wanting, and having children. Parents want to be in the same home with their offspring. As children grow, the need for the parents to stay together may shift: the couple may notice that they have little in common. For some this is a time of re-kindling the relationship and developing new-shared interests.

Another thought I have had is that during a first marriage many people care more greatly for what their families and friends will think if they divorce. They themselves have a negative view of divorce and so assume that their family and friends will too. Sometimes this is so, but not always. Having no experience in leaving one life and creating another, divorce is very hard and scary for most people, especially for those whom have never done it before.

If a couple does choose to get a divorce they live through the initial hardship of it then grow and learn that they can build a new life. Often the new life can be more satisfying for them.

With age and the experience of a divorce most people will become less afraid of moving on and less tolerant of behaviors in others that they do not appreciate. So, a second divorce although equally challenging is easier as the fears that you will not be able to build a new satisfying life is no longer present.

If you are in a good marriage, whether it is your first or your fifth, and you are having a challenge; than a great couples therapist can be a catalyst in working out the knots.

Just make certain that this therapist is actually trained as a couple’s therapist and not an individual therapist that calls themselves a couple’s therapist. Individual therapists working with couples can actually do harm to your relationship as they do not understand that your relationship has a voice of it’s own.