Tag: self-help

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!

 


ACTIVE LISTENING

Listening is somewhat an art form, and as in music or dance, you only become proficient with practice. There are countless meanings assigned to the act of listening. You can listen with your heart, you can listen to your intuition, you can listen to mantras of religion or stories you’ve been told since childhood. What I am referring to is how we listen to ourselves and others, which all of the above influence. Without sincere listening, communication breaks down, misunderstandings flare, and a sense of dread and loneliness can cause you to feel frustrated or anxious.

To lessen the problems non-listening creates, here a few ways to develop and enhance your ability to listen. When genuinely listening to another person, find the takeaway. In other words, look to understand what that person is trying to say. Avoid reading into or interpreting, tease away your own biases. If what they’re saying is ambiguous, murky, or makes no sense to you, ask for clarification, or mirror to them what you feel their message is. 

When you are actively listening, you will more than likely have questions, hold them until the person is finished. Often many of us are too eager to spew out our response, or wisdom, or opinion that we forget to hear what the other person is saying entirely. If you find yourself preoccupied with focusing and crafting what you think, you are not listening. If you realize your reply has nothing to do with what the other person is said, you were not paying attention. 

Naturally, it’s easier to listen to people you share common ground with, and it’s difficult and challenging to listen to those you don’t. Let’s put this in the realm of relationships. Your partner may have been raised with strict rules, and there was little wiggle room for self-exploration. You, on the other hand, had a family that encouraged independent thinking. You fall in love, but after the honeymoon phase, you find you are arguing over just about everything. More than likely, it’s a lack of listening to each other – listening without hearing. Whew, that is a tough one. 

However, when you begin to practice real listening, you cannot only muddle through tough conversations, you may actually start to see resolutions. When you let down the defenses and realize it isn’t about you, but about the other, you’ll learn to listen with love, empathy, and a deeper understanding that leads to connection.

Spiritual leader Ram Dass has a plethora of quotes that remind us that listening requires going beyond our ego. “We are fascinated by the words, but where we meet is in the silence behind them.” It is in the quiet recess of your consciousness that the truth or impact of words reverberates. Words themselves are simply nouns, verbs, adverbs, tools with which to communicate. Yet somehow, they can cut us deeply or be profoundly motivating. When you think about how people without hearing communicate, it’s interesting because they still use language, just not necessarily words. 

A huge part of learning to listen to others is listening to yourself. If you fill your mind and energy with some diversion 24/7, you cannot hear your inner thoughts or desires or spiritual guidance. Think about a time that a teacher, a friend, a mentor said something that resonated with you so profoundly it changed your life forever. It was that time you spent meditating or pondering the words or intentions of the person that convinced you there were truth and significance to them. 

Learning active listening will change the way you communicate forever, and it will enhance your relationships and confidence. In my next newsletter, I will expound on different listening techniques and how to listen and trust yourself. Stay tuned!


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?

 

 


Saying Good-bye

Whether it’s saying good-bye to a friend who is moving, a child going off to school, or parents who were visiting for the holidays, regardless of the scenario, saying farewell is hard.  It can elicit feelings of loss, sadness, and melancholy that can stop you in your tracks, at least temporarily. You may experience old feelings of abandonment or separation anxiety. Know that all of these emotions, although uncomfortable, are perfectly normal. Here are a few suggestions that may help.

Let yourself be in the moment with your feelings, acknowledge them knowing you are not alone in coping with good-byes, everyone experiences them.  Give yourself a day or two to notice your emotions and give yourself room to breathe. When we stuff feelings they tend to lasts longer and can fester causing you to feel prolonged grief or sadness. You may choose to lighten your work load for the first day or two giving yourself permission to take it easy. Listen to music that soothes you, talk to friends that are comforting and kind and that can relate to those good-bye blues.  Be honest with yourself and others about how you’re feeling rather than putting on a mask and parading around as if you’re absolutely fine.

Plan how you will stay in touch with the person, you can do this ahead of time. Eventually you’ll look forward to those letters, Skype sessions or phone calls, as they will enrich your sense of connection.  Send cards out on a regular basis, the old fashion snail mail way. Recall the delight you get when receiving something happy in the mail, such as a thinking of you card and start a tradition with the people you said good-bye to.

Take a walk or do a home yoga practice, allowing your body to move can help you process feelings.  Getting outside in nature can lift your spirits and renew your sense of well-being. Breathe and remember all of the joy and happiness you experienced with the person or situation you are missing.  Smile and recognize the value of healthy happy relationships in your life and the gift of change. We could attempt to dodge loss if we never loved or took risks, but what sort of life is that?

Try journaling your feelings.  Sit down and write in a notebook or on the computer (whichever feels right for you) and pour your emotions onto the page, uncensored.  Getting feelings out, literally, can help put them into perspective. Write down all of your feelings, the happy, the sad, the confused, the silly and don’t stop until you have them all out.  If you are saying good-bye to a child going off to college or moving away, compile a list of all of the wonderful things you want to remember. Listing can help you sort through feelings as writing helps you declutter your mind, it lightens the load.

Draft a poem or write a song or draw a painting about your feelings.  Some of our greatest creativity can stem from loss.  You don’t have to be professionally in the arts to create, simply allow your emotions to evoke a piece of art.  It can be a profound process that may open up the artist within.

Give yourself time to readjust.  All of us get into patterns and routines or we take for granted that a particular person (whether at work or home) will always be there, till they’re not.  We are disrupted and forced to deal with a different experience. Set small achievable goals like changing your sheets or cleaning a bathroom—avoid making major decisions or tackling big project until your feelings of sadness have subsided.    

Although you can’t avoid the pain of saying good-bye, you can be proactive in how you cope.  Throughout your life there will be plenty of hellos and good-byes, recognize this is a reflection of the rich tapestry of loving caring relationships that fill your life and those around you.  

 


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

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“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!

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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!