Tag: positive thinking

Harmonizing Your Emotions & Intentions

As February ends and March begins, you may be considering commitments to positive changes in your life; get more exercise, eat less sugar, have less screen time. With all of these healthy resolutions, another you may consider; reprogramming knee jerk reactions or emotions that set up a negative domino effect on your life. Do you tend to get upset about reoccurring issues? Are there triggers that put a bee in your bonnet, or perhaps family members that seem to have an emotional power over you? If you struggle to keep calm and clear during particular stressors, resetting your emotional reactions can be a way to move your life in a different direction.

Let’s face it, you can have the best intentions to carry through with changing your behavior, but if your emotions are on autopilot (which for many of us they are), it can be a constant battle of wills. What you know to be true may differ greatly from the scenario your emotions are trying to convince you of. For example, your mother or long distant boyfriend calls and you hear irritation in their voice about your upcoming visit. Immediately you assume the person is irritated with you and become defensive. Communication breaks down, feelings are hurt, and you end up feeling terrible about the mix up.

Sound familiar? An effective way to reprogram those automatic emotional reactions is to immediately, think differently about it. Don’t mull it over or stew, begin to implement going within and breathing, relaxing, rather than jumping to conclusions. This takes a lot of practice because the trick is to do this right away while in the midst of the emotional crisis or challenge.

Start with small efforts to change your emotional patterns rather than tackling the deeply embedded ones that typically are related to your childhood. For example, reassure yourself of your abilities to change. Read affirmations on a regular basis. Without making a big announcement, begin to react differently when challenge presents itself, which it will, that is life. Begin to choose to not get hysterical or upset when someone is rude, or cuts you off in line. Remember, you are in control; you don’t have to imitate bad behavior. Rather than gravitating towards the negative behavior, do an about face. Collect yourself, breathe, and walk away.

Begin to be present in your life; this will help with your resolve to reset your emotional responses. Spend time paying attention to the underlying issue you are reacting to. What are the big triggers for you? Feeling powerless, unlovable, frightened? Work on healing those deep-underlying emotions that keep you from reaching your fullest potential. Facing your fears with a counselor, through meditations, and/or spirituality will empower you to be less reactive. Developing emotional courage will reprogram your responses. Emotional courage, like all courage comes with practice and awareness. It doesn’t mean that you will never feel fear.

When you have learned new emotional behaviors, you are ready to tackle those long lasting emotional trigger people, mothers, fathers, siblings, spouses, and friends. It will be a leap of faith, but trust your new self to pull through. Go back to the basics, retreat within, breathe, remember that you are not a slave to your emotions; you can choose a different path. Again, remember it is important to immediately turn to the new response, don’t dally, that will give your auto response a chance to kick in. Breathe, recite a positive mantra, refuse to let the old emotional baggage drag you down, let it go.

Living in negative emotions such as fear, jealousy, judgmental attitudes accomplishes nothing but depleting you of your light within. And living on high alert, will eventually lead to physical illness. The brain, the mind, and the heart are all interconnected, one impacts the other. It is possible to reprogram your emotional responses; just like it is possible to learn new things, to open your mind, or to lose weight, it is a choice. Life does not have to be a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows. You can choose to liberate yourself through love, presence, and letting go.


The Magic of Music

There are times in life when challenges on our time and resources exceed our ability to satisfy them. This affects our moods and feelings and often we do not realize that we have a choice over what we feel. We know that our thoughts are the wellspring of both. However, there is another way to change our moods and feelings. Music. Music has the power to restore your body, mind, and spirit. It is mystical, spiritual and has extraordinary effects on the brain.

You don’t have to go to music therapy to reap the benefits of music. Author and composer, Elena Mannes, found that “scientists have discovered that music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function.”   Think about when you hear a particular song or score that takes you back in time or generates a strong emotion. When you feel deprived of time to reflect or need a haven to slip away to, turn on the tunes and rekindle the magic of music.

Music works on the autonomic nervous system – the part of the nervous system that regulates blood pressure, heartbeat and brain function. When you listen to soothing sounds, there is a physical reaction, your blood pressure drops and your heart rate slows. Music also influences the limbic system, the center that controls emotions. When you play slow rhythmic music, your muscles release tension, you breathe easier and your mind relaxes; a no side effect prescription for creating a sense of calm.

There are a plethora of benefits music provides; scientists found that when people listen to slow musical beats their brain waves mimic that of a person meditating. Using music as a therapy for quieting the mind also works on children. As parents, you may feel exasperated at times by the barrage of stimuli your children endure. Try playing soft soothing tunes to your child when they are doing their homework or are acting out. You may find playing this type of music with your child also helps both of you focus. With the calming effect of music, your mind can zone in on completing a task, without getting frustrated or anxious.

When your energy is depleted and you need a boost or if you are feeling overcome from the doldrums of daily living, try playing music. Music is multifaceted, in that it also has the power to ease depression and to elevate your mood. It increases the release of dopamine in the brain (the feel good hormone) that produces a sense of happiness and well-being. Researchers have found that the genre of music that you listen to does matter. Classical and meditative songs were the most beneficial; heavy metal and techno music can actually make depression worse. Only twenty minutes of listening can uplift your mood and help give you a new, lighter perspective on life.

Cultural music is another way to reconnect with the world around you. Often it matters little that you may not understand the words. The tempo and lure of the emotions behind a song can set you soaring. It stimulates the imagination and contributes to creativity. For children, this can be a wonderful lesson of the universal language of music or a reminder of their own unique heritage.

There are wonderful new ways to discover music now. Pandora, Spotify, even YouTube all offer free listening and you can select a genre that suits your needs. Perhaps this is the day you re-discover your love of music. Play a favorite song and sing along or let go; dance in the living room and revel in music’s beautiful ability to connect us to others and ourselves.music 2


Making & Keeping Resolutions

As we round the corner to 2017, you may be formulating a list of resolutions, changes you want to implement for your life in the New Year. In January, gyms and yoga studios are stampeded with new clients eager to forge a healthier lifestyle and by February the throngs subside. What is it that stops you from keeping promises to yourself? Are there tools that can help you swap out a bad habit for a more life affirming one? The answer is a resounding yes! Let’s take a look at a few ideas that may help you stay on course to keeping resolutions.

Abraham Lincoln was once quoted as saying; “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.”  In other words, don’t be deterred by the road bumps. When the excitement of creating the resolutions fades and you have to face the day-to-day commitment, think about the idea of succeeding rather than the tasks. Each small step towards achieving your goals is a leap in the fulfillment of your personal promises to yourself.

Examine areas in your life you want to change. Are you unhappy in a relationship, are you harboring resentments for choosing the path you are on? Clearly identify what it is in your life that you want to change. Explore with yourself if it is spiritual, emotional, or physical as the more specific you are the easier it is to follow through. Imagine a person presenting a business plan to you without explaining how to get from point A to B to C: their message will be muddled and unclear. Specificity allows us to better create steps that will carry us closer to our success. If being a writer is your goal, important first steps are defining what kind of writing fiction or non-fiction and whom your target audience will be. The more you hone in on the particulars, the easier it is achieve your goal.

Remember the Chinese proverb that to climb a mountain you take one step at a time. Set reasonable resolutions that you can reinforce with positive incremental achievements. Create measurable ways to reward yourself for the small goals you attain along the way. Think back to all of the accomplishments in your life, most of them happened over time. Be patient with yourself and keep moving along in the desired direction. Before you know it, you’ll be at the top of the mountain relishing your successes!snowflake57th_edited-2-1 

Try to keep your resolution list limited in order to ensure success. Many times in our quest for positive change we pile unrealistic expectations on ourselves. Set realistic timelines for yourself. For example if one of your resolutions is to find a new job, you may start by establishing a set date to complete or revise your resume. The next step may be to increase your contacts by joining affiliations or groups that have a common interest.

Often when one year ends and another begins, we reflect back on the positives as well as the challenges. All of these experiences leave us better prepared to move forward. The New Year symbolically lets us wipe the slate clean and begin anew with verve and renewed hope. These simple suggestions give you concrete ways to make and keep those 2017 resolutions. May the New Year bring you joy and happiness!
 

 

 

 


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.

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!


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!

 


Respecting Differences

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I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Presidential Election and how to respectfully handle the opinions of people in our world. The American Psychological Association’s study shows that a little more than half of people surveyed say that the election “is a very or somewhat significant” source of stress for them. From New York to California, fearful, frustrated and anxious clients are expressing their concerns about the campaign and the candidates to their therapists. The prospect of either Trump or Clinton winning the election has spurred contentious debate. By Wednesday morning, we will know who our President-Elect is; and while many will be rejoicing, others will be quite upset. It has been an election unlike any other – filled with tension and anger.

This is a really big deal to most of us, so, no matter what the outcome, avoid inflammatory statements and behaviors. Respect those around you who may not feel the same way that you feel, and in fact, will likely be very disappointed. Remember a recent post about there being more than one “right”? We all feel that we are “right”. The person that you are sitting next to at work or at the dinner table would appreciate the same level of respect that you would like if you were in their shoes.

We can show who we are as individuals when we disagree. Author Bryant McGill wrote, “grace in conflict is a study in love.” We have the ability to be that person – to be graceful, to be who we are and not let anything get the best of us. We can’t expect any one else to change, but we can. By our changing, we will change the environment. I often say, “Our actions are the way we define ourselves to others.” How do we want to affect the environment?

“Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers. But first they have to understand that their neighbour is, in the end, just like them, with the same problems, the same questions.”  ~ Paulo Coelho


Finding the Positive

Author Wayne Dyer wrote, “Every time I see a coin on the street, I stop, pick it up, put it into my pocket, and say out loud, ‘Thank you …for this symbol of abundance that keeps flowing into my life.’ Never once have I asked, ‘Why only a penny…? You know I need a lot more than that.”

It’s really that simple. Day after day train yourself to say thank-you. We all know that the more we practice something, the more natural it becomes. Change the negative self-talk into positive, even if at first you don’t believe yourself. “I can’t believe I am late to work again, I am always late.” can be, “It was a tough morning, but I am glad to be at work and will adjust myself to what is. It’s a gorgeous day and I am happy to be a part of it!” Or, “I am so resentful that I have to work late, I wanted to go to the gym and now I won’t even be having dinner until 9:00” can be, “I’ll grab a healthy snack to keep myself nourished until I can have dinner. I’m lucky to have a job and I love so many things about it!” Even if you don’t feel like you love it at the moment, tell yourself you do. You can find something positive when you look for it. It sounds simple and it is. We often make life a lot harder than it needs to be.

It can take several months to make a shift, but changing the way that you talk to yourself every day will eventually have profound effects on your day to day attitude and even your physical health. You may be having a tough minute, but you don’t have to have a tough day.


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!


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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How to Create Affirmations for Attracting Your Best Life

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An affirmation is a declaration about what we want to manifest in our lives. When stated in its most supportive form, it vibrates truth from within your heart. Affirmations are an effective tool for mental, physical, and spiritual wellness, personal growth, and attracting what we desire.

While affirmations appear simple, there are several important components to be aware of in creating a powerful affirmation that will work for you:

Make your affirmation positively positive. If your goal is to be out of debt and therefore want to create an affirmation that will support you in that mission, take care not to use the word “debt” in your statement. While getting out of debt is a positive idea, the word debt isn’t. Our brains naturally focus on the main subject, which in this case, would be debt. You’ll start thinking about all the bills you owe and before you know it, an affirmation that was meant to inspire you is stressing you out instead! A better stated affirmation would be: Every day I am attracting more wealth and abundance or I am moving towards financial independence! See how these affirmations focus on what you DO want, instead of what you don’t?

State your affirmation as if it has already happened or been resolved. Your unconscious mind will agree with everything you say. So if you declare, “I will soon have plenty of free time to spend with my family,” your unconscious will pipe up enthusiastically and agree with you. However, what is being agreed upon is that you WILL have that freedom sometime in the future…but not now. Avoid using wish, might, will, going to, try, and want in your affirmations. These types of words (future tense), will keep what you desire in the future instead of manifesting it in your present. By saying “ I am in the process of creating plenty of free time in the next week to spend with my family” you are allowing your unconscious mind to have a boundary to work within and assist you in getting what you desire in present time.

Make it believable. If you don’t believe your affirmation, it’s of no use to you. For example, if you say “I am a millionaire” and then your inner critic has a lot of things to say in response—Yeah, right. How’s that going to happen? Maybe you’ll be a millionaire in a million years!—this affirmation isn’t going to do you any good. This is a great time to use a transitional statement, which means you are in the process of getting there. For example, instead of:

I easily trust people. –> Each day, I am getting better at trusting people.

I have my soul mate. –> I am in the process of attracting my soul mate into my life.

I am financially solvent. –> I am in the process of increasing my income 30% over the next 3 months.

Using these “in the process of” affirmations can be more believable when “happening right now” doesn’t sit right with you.

Go for emotional impact. The whole point of an affirmation is that it makes you feel good and will assist you to create change in your life! Therefore, check in with how your affirmation makes you feel. You want to experience emotions such as excitement, joy, optimism, love, peace, and gratitude. What you think creates what you feel and what you feel creates what you believe and what you believe creates vibrational energy. This vibrational energy is what assists you in creating the life you desire.

Want to know more? Read one of my previous posts about affirmations.