Tag: positive thinking

RELIEVING LONELINESS THROUGH CONNECTION

 

Feeling lonely & being alone are polar opposites. Spending time alone affords you enormous benefits like the opportunity to contemplate, sort through thoughts, & calm your mind from the daily barrage of stimuli, which in turn settles the nervous system. Loneliness involves a sense of isolation regardless if there are hundreds of people around you. Think the tips below can be helpful to someone else? Pass it along!

Try out these six techniques & discover how to feel less alone

  • LOG OFF & TUNE OUT – Get out of the house & see people face to face rather than on Facebook or Instagram. Studies show that too many hours on our computers & phones are detrimental to our mental & physical health, if not tempered with real-time contact with others. So next time you go for a walk, turn your phone off & notice all that is swirling around you. Get out of your head & dive in with your five senses. Refresh your ability to feel alive & notice the people around you.

 

  • TALK TO PEOPLE – Yes, that means strangers as well. You’d surprised how many other people feel as much as you do. Take a risk & say hello to the woman at the park who is also alone with her kids in the morning. When taking public transit, strike up a conversation. I’ve met incredible people with inspiring stories while riding the subway. Had I been on my phone, I would have never made the connection. When you’re standing in a line at the store, chat with the person behind you, say hello to the cashier. All of these interactions build your sense of community & allows you to feel a part of something. Get to know the names of the people who work at the places you frequent. If the thought of talking to strangers is terrifying, a simple hello with a smile will erode awkwardness over time & leave you feeling less bashful.

 

  • GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS – This may be a real tough one for many, but studies have suggested, getting to know people in your immediate community provides a feeling of safety * can bring new friendships as well. Rather than running in the house double-locking the door and shutting the blinds, take time to say hi to the guy next door or the woman across the street. Before long, you will be enjoying a newfound sense of community. Getting to know even the annoying neighbors, may pave the way for negotiations.

 

  • CALL PEOPLE & MAKE PLANS – Be an instigator for getting together even if it’s simply for coffee or a glass of wine. Rather than feeling lonely, reach out to people & perhaps invite them over or suggest doing something together. Go on a hike or walk or anything that builds a connection with the other person. Adopt more of a dolce vita attitude, in other words, live as if you’re in Italy where there are no to-go cups. Take time to indulge your relationships, they’re as important to living a healthy life as breathing clean air. It’s not a waste of time to sit with a friend & simply catch up or indulge in conversation. Just like a job, you want to invest time into relationships to make them fulfilling.

 

  • BE HONEST WITH OTHERS – Let people know when you’re feeling lonely. You’d be shocked at how many are right there with you!  Drag your loneliness into the light of day & talk about it openly. Many of us feel lonely at different stages of life. Perhaps you’re a new mother & on maternity leave. Your partner & friends are at work all day so you begin to feel isolated. Be honest with yourself & seek other women in the same boat. If you just moved to a different country or state or switched jobs, take the time to introduce yourself & explain that you’re new. Begin to see where you can fit in, chat with co-workers ask about local spots that deserve checking out. Over time, you’ll build mutual camaraderie. Whenever we’re honest about our emotions, we sow the seeds of sincere relationships that leave you with a true confidant as well as a friend.

 

  • GET INVOLVED – Join a group of moms & kids at the park for playdates or even a political cause or enroll in an Improv class. Look to your interests as a source for finding meaningful relationships. Maybe you’re seeking spiritual insight, search for a church, synagogue or temple that speaks your spiritual language. Investigate how you can become involved. Volunteering is another excellent way to make lasting connections by surrounding yourself with others who are also passionate about the same issue.

 

Implement a few of these suggestions to reduce feelings of loneliness & begin to give yourself the gift of connecting with others—you deserve it!

 


Thoughts of Giving & Receiving

The act of giving is a challenge for many people, & often around the holidays, it seems to be on the minds of everyone I speak with. 

“Am I giving enough?” 

“Am I giving the right thing?” 

“Who do I want to give to?”

“Who do I have to give to?”

“Can I afford to give enough?”

At the heart of these questions is usually fear & what each person is afraid of may be different. It’s as if by giving, in some way, we believe that we may be disappointing others or letting them down. 

One thought I have about this is there are many ways we give of ourselves to others & you can find a way that makes you feel good in your heart so that you can feel safe, loving, & positive about who you are & the choices that you make.

Receiving from others is also on people’s minds during the holiday season more than any other time of year. You may be looking forward to receiving gifts, yet the act of accepting the presents in your heart can be a bit difficult for you.

Feelings of vulnerability are often present when we receive. We may feel that our friends/family are not sensitive to our taste or that they did not take the time to plan for our gifts, which can create feelings of hurt, resentment, being unimportant. 

Many of us are uncomfortable with receiving, much more so than with giving because receiving taps into our own feelings of being loved. For some people, it can be much more challenging to allow love in & receiving does just that.

A lovely ritual you can do to assist yourself in allowing to both give & receive with ease is the following:

  1. Light a white candle.
  2. Sit in front of it for 5 minutes, watching it, letting your mind float.
  3. Wonder about the first three times you received something. Notice how you felt, what you saw/heard?
  4.  Now notice what you feel/think about those three times now.
  5. What are your challenges with giving & receiving?

 

 


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!