Wednesday, August 31, 2016

5 tips for self-love

Yesterday we talked about self-acceptance and self-love. Recently, the website listed 5 tips for maintaining a healthy relationship with who you are:

1. Practice being grateful for your body. I've written about this several times, too. Rather than complain about our bodies not being perfect, why not thank them for all they have done and continue to do for us? Think of all the things we're able to do with the various parts of our body—and give thanks for that. It's a pretty amazing list when you think about it.

2. Be kind to yourself. Care for your body with rest, exercise, good food, good healthcare and practices such as massages, yoga and other things that contribute to wellness.

3. Let go of your inner perfectionist. That's one I needed to hear. I am a recovering perfectionist but still see more of those tendencies in myself than I'd like. It's so exhausting and really not helpful.

4. Let go of judgment. Oh, yes! The truth is that when we're judging ourselves and being hard on ourselves, we're more likely to be critical of others as well. Compassion and self-compassion with our flaws or perceived flaws is a better way to go.

5. Begin to notice your internal critic. We can actually change the tape running in our heads from our inner critic. Change those negative statements about yourself and others to positive ones. You'll be so much happier.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Embrace who you are

So many of us have a difficult time with self-acceptance and self-love. We can be pretty hard on ourselves. Think it's time to let up a little?

Self-acceptance means just that: accepting ourselves for who we are. It means not trying to change ourselves for others, not changing the way we live our lives so others will approve. It also means allowing ourselves to be seen for who we are. If we are authentic, truly being who we were created to be, we can stand securely in that place knowing we are enough and we are good as we are.

Self-acceptance means letting go of all attempts to be someone we're not. It means not trying to act in ways that aren't natural for us or that don't align with the values we hold dear. It means speaking from our own authentic voice, saying what feels right to us—even if someone else doesn't agree.

It's so easy to think we won't be accepted unless we live by the rules others set. The ad world doesn't help in this regard: It always sets up images of how we should be, what we should buy and to what we should aspire if we want to be successful and popular. Forget all that. You are unique. There's not another on the planet just like you. That's pretty special. So go with that. Embrace who you are and accept that. Then learn to love yourself.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Try slowing down

In his new book A Mindful Morning, author David Dillard-Wright, Ph.D., professor at the University of South Carolina, Aiden, recommends starting the day doing everything we ordinarily do at 2/3 the pace. Drive more slowly, walk more slowly and talk more slowly.

He urges us to notice our reactions to the process, too, including fears that arise from not getting things done. Do other people notice any difference? Are they reacting positively or negatively? Does this change your powers of observation? Your attitude? Your feeling of connection to others?

I remember how intense I was in my career, always pushing hard to meet deadlines (I was a journalist after all!) and feeling stressed much of the time. One time in particular, I recall rushing into my editor's office to discuss something with him. He noticed how stressed and rushed I was and quietly urged me to sit on his couch and take some deep breaths. Whew! I did so ... and we had a calm conversation about the tasks facing us. It was a reminder to me that more can be gained sometimes from simply slowing down. The work still got done, and those deep breaths and that quiet conversation calmed me down.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The beauty in aging

As we age, it's so easy to look at the glass half empty rather than half full. We remember all the things we used to be able to do that we can't any longer. We think of how we used to look without the wrinkles, age spots and added weight. Or we bemoan the fact that we didn't attain the dreams we thought we might.

But how sad is that—to let yesterday steal today? No matter what we're facing at the moment, surely there are things that call us to gratitude and celebration. Even when we've lost some of our capabilities through aging, we've sharpened others. We have more experience now and that brings a wealth of perspective and insight.

The blessings are there, and we'll notice them more if we stop focusing on the burdens and losses. Take time to grieve those losses (small and large) that really matter to you. And then be ready to let go and move on so that you can pay more attention to the positives in your life.

Make a list of all those blessings and positives if that will help you notice them. Don't forget the small things—and the intangibles. Often those are the things we notice more as we age, perhaps because we have more time to smell the roses.

Savor and enjoy. Aging really can have a beauty all its own. It's all in the attitude!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Take a hike. Get creative.

Interestingly, there is research now that shows the positive effects on our brain activity that being outdoors in nature can have. Last year Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study showing the positive effect on participants of a 90-minute walk through a natural environment. Those who did so showed far lower levels of brooding or excessive worry than those who walked through a city.

Another study done by psychologists Ruth Ann Atchley and David L. Strayer showed a 50 percent increase in creativity and problem-solving skills by people after a four-day-long hike in the wilderness with no technology. In addition, being outdoors and active has been shown to reduce the symptoms of ADHD.

Even getting out into nature for five minutes at a time gives your self-esteem a good boost, showed a 2010 report in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology. Being out for the entire day resulted in a huge jump, and walking near water had the biggest effect.

Grab your boots or comfortable shoes—and head out the door. It'll be good for your brain and your body!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The weight of the past

A teacher once asked her class to guess the weight of the water in a glass she had filled half full and held in her hand. The students attempted several guesses. Eventually the teacher said that the weight of the water really didn't matter so much as the length of time she held it.

"If I hold this for just 10 minutes, it's not heavy. If I hold it for an hour or two, it's a lot heavier. If I hold this all day long, my arm will be sore—perhaps it'll even go numb," said the teacher. The length of time you hold the glass matters more than the actual weight of the water in the glass, she reiterated to the students.

The pastor who told this story last Sunday used it to illustrate his point that the same is true for all the old baggage we carry around with us. Old hurts and resentments. Unforgiven comments or actions. Old beliefs and messages that no longer work. They didn't seem so heavy at first, did they? But after we carry them around for a few years—unresolved, unforgiven and unforgotten—they get heavier and heavier.

It was yet another image for me to remind me to let go, let go, let go. It's no good dragging things from the past around with us forever. It holds us back. It prevents our joy. It keeps our hearts closed and sealed off from the love that we could let in and that could be let out to others, too. What do you need to let go? What's heavy for you today?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Live in the present

A friend of mine often reminds me, "Life can change on a dime." Yes, it can.

Last week, my oldest son, who operates his own HVAC business, tore his lower bicep tendon. Just snapped like that when he lifted a water heater. Next stop: surgery, followed by four months of recovery and rehabilitation. For someone whose business depends upon him being there and literally doing the heavy lifting, this is not good news.

It's yet another reminder to me that I need to bring my awareness to the present moment and, as they say, "live in the now." You and I have absolutely no idea what will happen in the next minute or hour or day. So I want to make the best of each moment, to savor the time and give gratitude for everything I have now. Perhaps you already do this well. I try. But I often slip into old habits—either processing the past or thinking about my expectations of what's coming next (or what I hope is coming). Or doing both. That means I'm missing a lot that's right in front of me.

This reminder isn't a downer for me. I hope it isn't for you. It's simply calling my attention to living in the present moment. The past is done. The future isn't yet here ... and could well be different from our expectations anyway. Look around and see what's there for you to savor and enjoy. Notice the people in your life, the beauty, the many gifts and blessings. Give thanks for it all.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Restore order and beauty

I like a neat, relatively clean house—although I'm not quite as fanatical about it as I used to be. Cleaning toilets and floors simply isn't the way I enjoy spending my time now. That said, I can't stand to live in a messy, dirty place either.

So when I read this recently in Melody Beattie's Journey to the Heart: Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing Your Soul, it gave me something to ponder:

"How often we think we don't want to be bothered with laundry, bills, dishes, the lawn. We have other things to do, more important tasks to accomplish on this journey we're on. ... The simple tasks are the microcosm of how our lives work. They keep us grounded in reality, they remind us of what's real, they show us how life works."

She ended with this thought: "Restore and maintain order around you, and you'll feel order in your soul. Create beauty around you, and you'll feel beauty in your soul. The magic will return. The simple tasks will lead you back to it."

Hmmm, perhaps I need to see ordinary tasks from a slightly different angle. This calls for a bit of reframing on my part. Now, please excuse me while I go clean my house and do the laundry.

Friday, August 19, 2016

We don't stand alone

Some people still speak of a "self-made man" or "self-made woman." Really?

Each one of us builds on things that have been done by so many who have gone before us. As a woman, I'm especially conscious of building on the foundation that so many strong women before me laid down, painful brick by painful brick. Women marched in the streets, being attacked, hit, spit upon and turned out of their homes by irate husbands, so that I could have the right to vote. They were jailed and force-fed for that right. Other women spoke out and marched so that I could be in the workplace and could be in the board room (and not just to take notes!). I've been able to build on all that they set in place. And those who follow me will do the same.

My ancestors (and all of ours, unless you're Native American) left family and familiar surroundings to strike out for a new land that they saw held out promise and opportunity. Because of their pluck and courage, my family and I live in America ... and I can build on their accomplishments.

So it is with all of us. We are not islands. We cannot do it all by ourselves. It not only takes a village to raise children. It takes a village to raise all of us and to support our lives.

It's humbling and inspiring to think of all those civilizations and individuals who have contributed to who and what we are today—and to what we're able to do today. Let's stop and be grateful for those infinite rhythms of life. What an amazing support system.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Emotions & neutrality

Have you been guilty of doing what I've done for way too many years—judging my emotions and putting labels on them? Happiness is good. Anger is bad, etc.

Through the years, I've learned that emotions simply are. They're not good or bad. How we feel is how we feel. And yet, some old tapes play every now and again ... and I return to judging my emotions.

If you do that, too, perhaps you'll also want to try learning the power of neutrality. Declare a neutral zone for your emotions. It's OK to feel whatever emotion comes up. It's what we do with those emotions—how we act them out—that can be positive or negative. If, for example, I feel anger at something you say to me, that's real and honest. Not good or bad. Just neutral. However, if I turn around and smack you because I'm angry, I've definitely moved things out of neutral territory. On the other hand, if I can register the anger inside (notice and acknowledge the feeling), stop and then make a decision as to what I'll do about it, I'm much better off. Most likely, I'll then do one of two things: say something right on the spot about how the remark made me feel—or excuse myself because I don't trust what I might say right then. In that case, I'll reflect on what's just happened and then decide how and when to talk about it with you—or even if I need to say anything at all.

Considering what to do with our emotions is a helpful thing to do. Judging the emotion itself is not. Allow yourself that feeling of neutrality and give yourself the space to decide how to act on the emotion, if any action is needed at all. Let go of judging.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A period or a comma?

I've noticed several comments and debates on social media about the use of punctuation. Some among us use little to no punctuation, and some of us are purists and even use proper punctuation while texting!

Today I want to direct your thoughts to the simple comma and the simple period—and this is really more about life than actual punctuation.

Have you ever felt that a particular situation in your life meant the absolute end? The end of a dream? The end of a relationship? The end (in failure) of a hoped-for outcome to a project or goal? And then later, you discovered that it was only a turn in the road—or perhaps even a U-turn. Or maybe even a little hiccup in your plans. It wasn't the end at all. It was only a slight change (or perhaps even more than a slight one).

This is a reminder to put a comma on many life situations rather than a period. It's not always the end. Be ready to just stop and evaluate the situation to see what's needed. Don't be so quick to jump to a conclusion—and put a period on what may only need a comma. The experience may only be a transition to the next phase. Or it may mean tweaking your dreams or plans. Be alert to the difference.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Things to savor

Do you pay attention to life's simple pleasures? Sometimes they can bring as much pure joy as any of life's great, mountain-top experiences. Recently I saw a list of 35 simple pleasures. I'll repeat some of them here for you to consider:

• Your first sip of coffee in the morning.
• A warm bath (perhaps even add some bubbles).
• A beautiful sunset.
• Dinner by candlelight.
• The smell of freshly cut grass.
• Clothes fresh out of the dryer. (Or better yet, fresh off a clothes line—if anyone does that anymore!)
• Sleeping in.
• A hot fudge sundae (or decadent dessert of your choice).
• The sound of a gentle rain falling on leaves.
• Reading a book that resonates.
• A cool breeze on a hot day.
• Hearing children giggle.
• Holding hands with a loved one.
• Blowing bubbles.
• Reminiscing with old friends.

What would you add to this list? Make your own list. Start paying attention. Bring your awareness to life's pleasures—and let go of the cares and heaviness for a while. Savor the good moments.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Apologies aren't always simple

Relationships are so complicated, aren't they? How often has a friend or loved one told you that something you said or did hurt them? And what was your first reaction? Defensiveness? Or perhaps you're always the first to apologize—and then later, you begin to think of ways you've been hurt by that same person's words and never said anything. And you feel a bit resentful. Does that ever happen? What do you do when it does? Just suck it up?

Apologies are difficult. They're also extremely important. And complex. As the above situation implies, there might be more to a situation than a simple apology can provide. Every situation, every relationship is different. And while apologies are important and can help heal and deepen relationships, you do well to think through all the implications of that apology. Will that move your relationship forward, or are there some other underlying currents that need exploring?

If a simple and clear-cut apology is what you need to do (or perhaps what you need to ask for from another), do that. However, if the relationships needs more work before or after the apology happens, don't ignore the red flags that might go up inside you. If it's an important relationship to you, take a deep breath and dive into a deeper discussion about what you're feeling and ask what the other is feeling. Together, explore how you might heal and grow. The key word there is "together"!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Stop wasting time—just be you!

No doubt we've all heard speeches from the time-management folks telling us how we can be more productive and how we can stop wasting time.

I'll bet this is a time-waster you never thought about! I just read that the average person wastes "a whopping 12 percent of their day—every day—comparing themselves to others." Whoa, really?

Now I don't know what kind of research they did to learn that information. But one thing I do know: We all have a tendency to compare ourselves to others when it really isn't helpful to do so. It is detrimental to our relationships, to our sense of self and to our well-being and happiness.

If this is something with which you deal, make a focused effort first on awareness. Notice when you catch yourself comparing to someone else. Stop right there. If you need to ask some questions of yourself when you stop, do so—questions such as: Is it worthwhile to compare to that person? Not really, it won't get you anywhere. Are things as perfect for that person as they appear to be on the outside? Most likely, not. Knowing we're each the only one like us on the planet, why would I want to even try to be like that person? And here's the biggie: What would it look like to be the best me I can be? And what would it take to get there? Now that's more useful! Make the choice to be you—to be authentic.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Chill out!

Have you ever heard of a "chill out competition"? Almost seems like those two things would stand as opposites to one another, doesn't it?

Anyway, recently in Seoul, South Korea, this competition encouraged people to just unplug and space out. That's good, right?

Sixty contestants sat for 90 minutes in a park. They weren't allowed to talk, sleep, eat, use electronic devices, or move around much at all. The person with the most relaxed heart rate came out as the winner in this contest.

How do you think you would fare if such a competition were held in your town, city or community? It does raise the issue again of how fast-paced our lives can be and how it's good for our well-being to learn to slow down—to just chill! Living such high-stress lives is not good for our health. Aim for more calm and serenity.

Don't wait for a competition. Find ways to step back and "just be" for a while. Try doing it on a regular basis. Your heart will thank you. And I'm willing to bet your creativity will take a jump forward. Who knows, you might even be happier?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Learn to savor more

A study of 15,000 people found that those who experienced a lot of adversity in the past appreciate more deeply life's small pleasures in the present. So don't let your past drag you down—use it to savor and appreciate today.

Psychologist Fred Bryant, an expert on savoring at Loyola University in Chicago, suggests ways to savor:

• Share your good feelings with others.
• Take a mental picture of good stuff to remember later.
• Revel in your success.
• Pay attention to your senses.
• Outwardly express good feelings. It's OK to laugh out loud!
• Compare good feelings with unpleasant ones. (Hmmm, which ones feel better?!)
• Stop multitasking. Get absorbed!
• Give thanks for what's good.
• Stop being a killjoy. Focus on the positives.
• Remember that good moments pass, so we'll appreciate them more.

He says it's just as important to stop throwing a wet towel on good feelings.

Let's practice savoring today. Notice what's around you. Notice what you see. What you eat. What others are saying and doing. Reflect on blessings.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Fill up with peace

A question I'm asking myself these days is: How can I keep my peace, my equanimity, amid all the turmoil in this country and around the globe? And for that matter, amid all the concerns and distractions in my own life?

Do you wonder that, too?

Here are some ideas upon which I'm reflecting:

• Stop participating in conversations that include gossip and "ain't it awful" attitudes.
• When my mind is filled with fear and negative thoughts, stop! Stop and take some deep breaths. Focus on one blessing and let that fill my mind. And don't feel that you need to stop with one!
• Quit engaging in "us versus them" thinking. Stop judging.
• Employ compassion more often—including self-compassion.
• Hang out more often with others who want to stay positive.
• Take on a service project that lets you bring love and light into someone's world.

What are you doing these days to counteract all the negativity? I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Stay healthy with your attitude

Recently I read some research outcomes that show the effects of optimism. It was fascinating. We do know that whatever we focus on becomes larger. If we focus on life's negatives, we'll see more of those. If we focus on the positives, that becomes the filter through which we see things.

Research shows that optimism boosts our immune system and that a positive attitude protects against heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular problems. Boosting optimism also can decrease the effects of depression. In addition, it appears that positive people tend to make more and better social connections. And we know that those add deeper meaning to our lives and help us feel less lonely.

It's tough to be an optimist these days, I'll admit it. So much of the news is bad. Apparently bad news sells. So it's good to do whatever you can to stay positive (maybe even quit watching news for a while). Get out in nature. Keep your social connections open and healthy. Do some "as if" thinking if you need to—and think positively about your future even when you're unsure about it. Set small and achievable goals. Celebrate your achievements, even if you think they're small. Every bit helps! Engage in life fully and completely.

If you are having a tough time staying positive these days and wish to discuss that, please contact me for a complimentary strategy session. You don't have to stay stuck!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Traveling light

My reflexologist has this in her working space. And I just saw a poster with it again today: "The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. And the first to forget is the happiest."

I could journal with those thoughts for a long time. Apologizing isn't easy, is it? It takes a lot of courage to say, "I'm sorry." Or "I was wrong." "I made a mistake." "Will you forgive me?"

And forgiving someone? That's really tough. Forgiving ourselves is even more of a challenge. It takes real courage and strength to do the hard work of forgiveness. For it is work. It's a process, not a simple once-and-done thing, depending on what was involved in the offense.

Forgetting and letting go? Oh, yes, that's an incomparable feeling of liberation. That, too, is a process. And we do well to remember that not everything can be forgotten. This saying applies to many life situations. But surely if a beloved family member has been murdered or a parent abused us, that isn't something it's possible to forget. That said, there's so much of which we can let go and be the better for it.

Each of these things is important for relationships and for our well-being. It's always good to do a regular check-in to see whether there are things that require an apology, forgiveness or need some letting go. It helps us to travel more lightly through our days!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Questions to ask before a change

Whether you have a decision to make about your career, a relationship, a move to a new location (whether near or far) or any other change, it's always good to think through the positives and negatives so you don't get blind-sided. Doing so allows you to be better prepared for whatever change you face. And you want to be certain that the outcome of that change truly is something you want.

I just read a list of five questions that can be helpful to consider as you think about a new outcome or a change:

• Why do I want this outcome?
• What do I gain by getting it?
• What do I lose by getting it?
• What if I did nothing?
• What if I succeed?

It's always true that there'll be losses and gains whenever you try for a new goal or make a change. You want to be clear on what you'll gain and what you'll lose. Are you willing to pay whatever price might be attached to this new goal (the subsequent losses)? There are many other questions that might be helpful as you consider change. But these five seemed to be a good start.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Do you have enough?

How often do you either think or say, "I have enough"? Enough time. Enough money. Enough clothes. Enough jewelry. Enough furniture. Enough savings. Enough "stuff." Enough technology. Even enough friends—or enough love.

Our culture seems to encourage us to buy more and more and more. It encourages an attitude of scarcity. I really could use more income. I need a larger house or car or yard. My iPhone is so outdated; I need new and better technology. More, more, more. It's almost an American mantra.

What would it feel like for us to adopt the attitude of "enough"? This is enough for me. I have enough. This is all I need. I'm content with what I have. How would that be?

I confess I get just as caught up as the next person in all this. So I'd like to try living with an attitude of "enough" instead. Perhaps I'll begin with gratitude—gratitude for ALL the blessings I already have. Blessings that are more than enough!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Got questions? Need help?

Sometimes being a life coach is a little like being a teacher. I don't always know what the long-term effect of my work has been. Sometimes at the time of my work with a client, that person will tell me what a difference our work is making or has made—and in specific terms. Many times, however, the work is a process. We begin it ... and the client can take it from there.

Sometimes a client will circle back and tell me how things are going after our work is finished. But most times, that doesn't happen.

So it was fun for me to come across this factoid in my recent AARP magazine: "85—the percentage of life coaching recipients who were somewhat or very satisfied with the experience." All right, then. I am glad to hear that.

I've worked with a life coach myself. And most likely, I will again at some point. I know how effective it can be to have someone with no skin in the game listen to what's going on for me and ask questions that get me to think about things in a new way. It helps me stand back and see things more clearly. It gives me a different perspective. And sometimes it helps me let go of ideas that aren't helpful so I can come up with solutions that fit better where I am now. It helps me bust some myths, too.

Please feel free to contact me if you feel stuck or want help with any issue in your life. I always offer a complimentary strategy session with absolutely no obligation, too.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Most everyone is trying their best

When someone cuts you off in traffic, lets the door slam in your face in a public place or jumps in front of you in line at the airport, do you assume evil intentions on their part? Yes, most of us jump to conclusions in terms of people's motivations or intentions. We assume the worst.

Social scientists will say that stems from self-disgust or a certain amount of self-hatred. We think we deserve it and are quite sure someone is doing it just to anger us. They deliberately jerking our chain or out to get us!

It's better for our anxiety level and our mental health if we can practice this behavior: Rather than jump to the conclusion of evil intent, assume that the vast majority of people are doing their best. One person I heard recently advises looking for the pin—imagine what things might be pricking that person that made them either unaware of what they were doing to you or made them act more rudely than they normally would do.

Next time someone cuts you off or steps in front of you in line, imagine their pin and avoid getting bent out of shape. Your blood pressure will remain lower, and your body will thank you! Practice compassion.