Personal Growth

Being Appreciative

Steven Covey wrote in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” that “Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival: to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.” 

Research suggests, in fact, that the most successful relationships have a ratio of at least 5 appreciations to every 1 criticism. The prevailing parenting advice when my kids were little included the suggestion to “catch” your kids being “good.” We are quick to reprimand and correct when we observe them doing something inappropriate; but are we a bit less likely to give them praise for any of the million things they do well?

In fact, criticism can do real damage to a relationship, but appreciations benefit everyone—kids, significant others, friends, co-workers, even strangers. Imagine giving (and receiving) five spoken positive pieces of feedback for every one critical message! 

In their article, “3 Ingredients to Mastering Appreciations,” Heath and Nicole Reed suggest that this practice is life changing, and recommend these three tips for making your mindful positive attention more effective:

  1. Keep it Brief. A one-sentence appreciation is more impactful than gushing on and on. 
  2. Speak Unarguably. Avoid hyperbole and focus instead on how you were impacted by the other person. For example, someone telling me, “That was the best massage ever!” is not as helpful as “I have less pain and so much more range of motion since you worked on my shoulder.”
  3. Be specific. Overgeneralizing is ambiguous—what does “You saved the day!” really mean? It’s better to say “I’m so relieved and happy that you’re helping me with this.”

The best appreciations, the Reeds say, “Focus on the inner nature, or essence of a person, like their integrity, patience, kindness, honesty, and how you were positively impacted.”

And there’s one person you must not forget to appreciate—YOU! We are usually our own worst critic, and that self-criticism is just as damaging as anything we might say to someone else. How much better to share appreciations with ourselves, at the same 5:1 ratio?!

Here’s the Reeds’ challenge: for one week, choose to start your day with appreciations about yourself. Say them out loud, maybe standing in front of a mirror. They have these suggestions for each day:

Day 1. Make contact with yourself and say, “I appreciate me.” Literally touch your face or give yourself a hug or put your hands over your heart and say “I appreciate ME” out loud.

Day 2. I appreciate my skill in ____________ (feel free to mention more than one skill!)

Day 3. Qualities I see and appreciate about me are __________ (this can be anything—be generous with yourself!)

Day 4. I appreciate how much I enjoy ____________ (what are your interests and hobbies and favorite things?)

Day 5. I see and appreciate my body, especially my ___________ (even if our body isn’t perfect, we can appreciate some aspect[s] of our physical selves)

Day 6. I appreciate how I love to discover _____________ .

Day 7. I appreciate how I easily communicate about _____________ .

This challenge is for one week, but the greater challenge is to switch gears when our inner critic shows up, and use appreciations to focus on what is “right” with us, rather than what is “wrong.” 

Your inner child is still in there. Catch her or him doing something “good,” just like I was advised to do with my old children 20+ years ago. I then tell yourself, “I appreciate you!” 

Source: “3 Ingredients to Mastering Apprications,” by Heath and Nicole Reed, “Massage & Bodywork” Magazine, November/December 2018

Category : Blog &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth

Speaking Up

“First They Came” by Pastor Martin Niemoller

First they came for the Communists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me

And there was no one left

To speak out for me

If some group, some race or ethnic or religious group—of which you were not a member—was being mistreated, would you speak out?

It can be hard to do, especially if we’re non-confrontational by nature. And there are certainly times when NOT speaking up might be the appropriate choice.

But if you were in the group that was being wronged in some way, especially if you felt like you didn’t have a voice, wouldn’t you want someone to speak for you?

Last Saturday, I went to a large hardware store to get mulch. They have a staging area set up in the parking lot so that all you have to do is drive in, show your receipt, and the attendants load the mulch into your vehicle for you.

As I handed my receipt to the staff person that day, he asked “What can I Jew you out of today?” I was so taken aback that I couldn’t speak in that moment. (Which is probably a good thing, because he and his co-worker loaded the mulch cheerfully, and this gave me time to process.)

He approached my open window to confirm that I was all set and I seized the moment. “You know,” I said in a very neutral voice, “I have family and friends who are Jewish, and it’s really not OK to talk about them in such a disparaging way. It’s insulting.”

He looked completely confused. I reminded him of what he had said when I pulled up. “I just like to joke with people,” he explained, “to kill the monotony.”

“Well, maybe you could do it in a more positive way,” I suggested.

“Will do!” he replied in an overly sing-songy way that seemed dismissive to me.

I don’t know if my speaking out will have any effect on his thinking or behavior. I just know that in that moment, it felt like letting his comment go was nearly as unacceptable as the comment itself. I needed to do the right thing, even though its impact was uncertain.

When I got home, I called the store and asked to talk with the manager. I relayed what had happened, and he apologized and agreed that it was completely unacceptable. He asked who had made the comment. 

My hope is that he won’t just reprimand one employee, but will give every staff member a lesson in sensitivity training. There are many ways to make a joke or break up monotony. We don’t ever need to be disrespectful!

I posted about it on Facebook and, as I had hoped, a wonderful stream of comments followed. My goal was to encourage friends to speak out. If you see something, say something!

One of my Facebook contacts was heading to a hardware store the very moment his wife, who was in the car with him, saw my post on her phone. They went to a different shop, and called the original store manager to explain what they had done and why. 

I wasn’t trying to get friends to boycott the store, but this is a great example of how words do have consequences!

We need to support each other. Anti-semitism, along with other racist or ethnic slurs, cannot be tolerated. May we all do for others as we would have others do for us.

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

Aging Happily

Do you associate aging with pain/discomfort and a loss of mobility? I hear lots of comments like “my ____ hurts all the time but, let’s face it, I’m getting old,” or “Growing older is hell!” (Or, “not for sissies!”)

But does it have to be that way? Certainly our tissues do deteriorate as we age—they’re just not made to last forever. But what if we changed the way we THINK about aging—could it help us hurt less and move better?

Clinical psychologist and cultural anthropologist Mary Pipher says yes! In fact, she says, it is possible to age with joy. Here are 5 ways she recommends for beginning to shift our thinking and cultivate happiness:

  1. Accentuate the positive. Attitude is almost everything, and we can control how we react to the hand we’ve been dealt. Pipher says a good support network is critical—friends and family are like an emotional health insurance policy. Whether you have a book club, travel buddies, lunch group, or time with grandchildren, reaching out and spending time with people close to us can help us cope with challenges.
  2. Take action. Sometimes people with a terminal diagnosis are the ones most committed to living life to the fullest. Sometimes surviving something difficult makes us that much more resilient. Pipher states, “Part of what allows us to deeply appreciate our lives and savor our time is our past despair.” Finding purpose in our lives is beneficial, like volunteering or becoming an activist. But, it’s important to be realistic. “Our goals can be greater than our energy level,” Pipher acknowledges, and we shouldn’t let them become a burden.
  3. Reframe your story. We can get stuck re-telling tales of woe: difficult surgeries or illnesses, loss of loved ones, children moving away or relatives becoming distant. Rather than focusing on pain, tragedy and loss, Pipher says we can “train ourselves to think in stories that allow us to flourish.” Rather than rehashing the challenges, we can reflect on what we’ve learned and how we’ve grown from the experiences.
  4. Make peace with death. Pipher refers to a “death positive movement” which includes making hospice more accessible, and speaking more honestly to the dying about what is happening to them. The more prepared and informed we are, the better equipped we feel to deal with reality. Fear doesn’t help! Like dealing with a bad storm or other challenges, when faced with death and loss “often we discover surprising reserves of strength and courage,” Pipher writes.
  5. Be kind to yourself. We need to be true to ourselves, say no when we need to, and say yes to our own needs. With age comes the wisdom of self-awareness, and we can embrace being more authentic. “As we age, we gain perspective,” says Pipher, “hopefully a forgiving one of ourselves.” We can appreciate who we are, decide what we really desire and go for it!” We can also choose to help others let their light shine.

I learned that in Traditional Chinese Medicine, they believe that everything starts with an idea. We put energy toward the idea, and manifest it into reality. If you think you are hurting and stiff and there’s nothing you can do about it because it is simply a part of aging, you will probably continue to hurt and feel stiff. But, if you can work on coping skills—focusing on the positives like wisdom/perspective and your support network—and enjoy whatever activities are still realistic for you, you will very likely be motivated to move a little more, and you will hurt a little less. 

“And while we are reframing our own stories, we can also reframe the story of aging that society enforces and that minimizes everyone of a certain age.”

Source: https://considerable.com/5-things-to-be-happier-as-you-age/

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

A Step Backward in Boosting Memory

 

The next time you can’t quite remember something, try walking backwards.

Not retracing your steps, but literally taking backward steps!

Multiple studies have shown that backward motion, imagining backward motion, or even watching a video simulating backward motion helped people remember past events compared to test subjects who walked forward or sat still.

No one really understands why (yet), but it may be that we simply associate moving backwards with the past, and it triggers a memory response.

Law enforcement may begin adding this technique to their interview protocol to help witnesses recall details of a crime. More research is being done to see if movement can help persons with specific memory challenges like dementia. 

But for now, we can all employ this simple technique to jog our memories. And you don’t have to jog! Just walk. Backwards!

Source: 

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/can-you-boost-your-memory-by-walking-backward?

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Your Bucket List, Revisited

 

Do you have a bucket list?

It’s fun to have things to look forward to! The planning and anticipation can help make life enjoyable.

Still, I think it’s possible to get so caught up in things we want, things we haven’t gotten to yet, that we might forget to reflect on all the wonderful things we’ve already done.

I was struck by a comic I saw, in a strip called “Between Friends.” One of the characters thought about some of the bucket list items she’d already accomplished. While we tend to focus on trips we’d like to take, or activities we’d like to try (skydiving anyone?), this character realized that even more important to her was finding her soul mate and life partner, and adopting the best daughter she could ever hope to have.

Wow. Those are pretty amazing bucket list items!

What a pleasure, to pause for a few moments and recount in all the “bucket list” items we’ve already enjoyed! The trips we’ve already taken that give us wonderful memories. The devoted friends we’ve made. The successful careers we’ve built. Any financial security we’ve been able to establish. The supportive family we created (either by birth or by other bonds). The lovely home(s) we’ve designed. The thrilling (or funny!) adventures we’ve taken. The devoted pets we’ve adopted. The hobbies we’ve delighted in and new skills we’ve amassed.

Looking forward is great, but sometimes looking back is very worthwhile! Think about all the things you’ve done to get to where you are today. My heart feels full when I think about it—I feel gratitude and love, and pride and happiness.

What bucket list items have you already accomplished? How does that make you feel?

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

The Importance of Self Care

 

I caught up with a friend over coffee this morning (something I HIGHLY recommend for soul nourishment!) and, knowing that I’ve been going through some challenges lately with my family and ex-family, she asked, “What have you been doing to take care of YOU?”

Here’s what I told her. Even as a busy self-employed person and advocate/caregiver for an adult child with a disability, I nurture myself with:

  1. Regular massage therapy, reflexology, and acupuncture. I’m lucky to have great relationships with colleagues in alternative care, and I enlist their help in staying healthy. Between 2 LMTs, 2 certified reflexologists, and a wonderful acupuncturist, I receive some kinds of bodywork almost every week. And I add chiropractic adjustments and sessions with a physical therapist when I need them to keep me going as well.
  2. Eating healthy. I now give myself permission to supplement what I have time to fix each week with a food service that delivers fresh plant-based meals and snacks to the house, all beautifully prepared and ready to eat. It costs a little more than making all my own meals, but it’s a huge time saver. And it’s very healthy. And at least I’m not throwing produce away because I can’t prepare and eat it all before it goes bad.
  3. Daily exercise. I got a dog. Six months ago I rescued an older lab mix who was so depressed and out of shape from being in the kennel for too long, that she couldn’t take long or brisk walks. I took her to obedience school where we had fun while learning and bonding. I gradually increased her walks and added run/walk/run intervals 2-3 times/week. Now she is healthy and happy and so full of energy we’re questioning if she’s really as old as we thought she was! She makes me laugh and makes me exercise and gives me tons of love and good protection.
  4. Classes for enrichment. Right now I’m taking a class at Flagler College called “World Geography.” It is “world geography,” but it explores the globe in a way that is of particular interest to people who like to travel: a little history, a little culture, a few travel tips. It’s easy, fun and interesting. Sometimes it’s good to open ourselves up to new experiences and challenges! I’ve also taken continuing education classes for my licenses, Spanish and American Sign Language, art workshops, writing seminars—there’s so much to choose from, it’s easy to be a lifelong learner.
  5. Creating art and crafts. When my younger son asked if he could move back home, I wanted to support his quest to save money and continue his education. It’s worked out well because he offers valuable emotional and logistical help as well. The only drawback was that I had to relinquish my craft studio. I moved all the supplies into my office and created a tiny workspace there. It’s a bit cramped, but actually, it’s great because I can work on projects little by little when I have gaps between client appointments. I don’t have as much time to work on this as I would like, but it’s a good example of doing the best you can with what you’ve got to work with.
  6. Rest. I have to remind myself sometimes that “a good day” is not necessarily defined by how much I accomplish. I need downtime, especially on weekends, and I honor that. Even if it means saying no to some social things that might be enjoyable in order to stay home on a nice day and look at a magazine out on my swing with a cup of tea or glass of wine. I simply can’t cram non-stop activities into every available moment. In that way, I’m kind of not as much fun as I used to be. But I am at peace.
  7. Cutting myself some slack. The house is a mess. Seriously, I would be pretty embarrassed if someone stopped by unannounced and saw how we really live. It’s not dirty, but it’s cluttered from multiple projects that seem to never end, and from being generally very, very lived in. There are lots of things I don’t do that I would like to. For example, one of my New Year goals was to meditate, journal and stretch each day, even for just 5 minutes each. I don’t do it, not even close to every day. 

But every day is a balancing act. As I contemplated the things I do to take care of myself to answer my friend’s question, I realized this was a pretty good list. As I do love to travel, I’m planning to see my sister in Phoenix in May, and finally visiting Italy in October (a bucket list item!). It’s good to have things to look forward to. I also discussed with my friend my vision and plans for growing the reflexology side of my business, and for helping my son achieve more independence and a better quality of life. We’re slowly chipping away at long-term goals while juggling work and some fun stuff and all the necessary chores and errands.

Do I feel overwhelmed some days—yes! Do I have trouble sleeping some nights—yes! But that’s all the more reason to take care of myself with the 7 things outlined here!!

What do you do to take care of YOU? Your list might be very different from mine, but I hope you do make self-care a priority.

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Healing Is a Collaboration

 

I recently read the most marvelous quote: “When ‘I’ is replaced by ‘We,’ even ‘Illness’ becomes ‘Wellness.’” (It’s been attributed to different speakers, most often Malcolm X.)

It made me think of my own profession immediately. People sometimes ask if I think of myself as a “healer.” I don’t. 

I believe that our bodies know how to heal themselves. But sometimes they need a little help because we have more stressors in our modern world than our bodies can handle. And also because we’ve lost touch a little bit with our intuitiveness and somatic sense.

So professionals like me can help. I’m not a healer, but a facilitator. I hope to be part of the “we” in “wellness”!

As I like to tell people: “Your body is trying to tell you something; I’ll help you listen.”

In his book, “In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness,” Dr. Peter A. Levine describes how our typical western medical model of seeing a doctor for “treatment” just doesn’t work in the case of healing from trauma. 

Of course, there are times when it makes sense for a doctor to stand as the authority figure, holding all the knowledge and “treating” the patient.

But in the case of stress, (trauma, PTSD), this power differential and sterile separation between doctor and patient tend to disempower and marginalize the sufferer, adding to their sense of despair. “Missing,” Levine writes, “will be the crucial collaboration in containing, processing and integrating the patient’s horrible sensations, images, and emotions. The sufferer will remain starkly alone, holding the very horrors that have overwhelmed him and broken down his capacity to self-regulate and grow.”

I like to think that massage therapy and reflexology both involve a lot of collaboration. There’s definitely trust. And there’s definitely communication that happens, both spoken and unspoken. People ask me, “How did you know that that was a problem area for me?” “Your body tells me,” I answer. I can feel tension and “knots” and heat in tissues, and “congestion” in the hands and feet that indicate an area is stressed.

I’m not suggesting that I can help people resolve horrible sensations, images, and emotions. That is way out of my scope of practice. But, the healing power of touch is a fantastic way to get back in touch with our bodies, replace tissue memories of hurtful events with supportive touch, and begin to heal mind, body, and spirit. It can help us self-regulate, as we calm stressed-out systems and restore balance (homeostasis).

Levine writes, “Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence. It is possible to learn from mythology, from clinical observations, from neuroscience, from embracing the ‘living’ experiential body, and from the behavior of animals; and then, rather than brace against our instincts, embrace them.”

Hm, healing involving neuroscience AND instincts—sounds amazing! Bodyworkers like me endeavor to effect change in the “living, experiential body,” and hold space for clients dealing with challenges, without judgment. I learned in meditation to be unconditionally present with whatever comes up, and I try to bring this to each therapeutic session.

If you’d like to learn more, here are some resources for you:

http://www.dailygood.org/story/2231/in-an-unspoken-voice-the-changing-face-of-trauma-peter-levine/

https://theconnection.tv/the-proven-healing-power-of-touch/

https://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug02/massage

https://www.himalayaninstitute.org/amrit-blog/vibrant-health/wired-touch-connecting-others/

http://pediatrics.med.miami.edu/touch-research

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth

Healthy Communication


 

It seems harder than ever to have a pleasant and meaningful conversation these days, especially with someone of an opposing viewpoint.

Since each of us is only half of the equation, there’s only so much we can do. But we CAN use some techniques—and encourage others to do the same—to improve communication. 

Here are five, based on compassion and mindfulness:

  1. Be fully present. This is not a good time for multitasking. Put devices away, put other conversations and issues out of your mind for now. Focus for a second on your weight on your feet, or sensations in your hands. Try to slow down the pace of your speech—choose your words carefully for clarity, and think about your tone and how you are coming across. Give this present engagement your full attention.
  2. Be a good listener. This is harder than it sounds! We usually start to think about how we’ll respond before the other person finishes, and we miss some of what’s being said. Try to listen with your complete attention. Make a quick mental note of your questions or responses, and then shift fully back into listening. (Even if you forget a question or response, that’s probably OK in the grand scheme of things!) We all want to be heard. Maybe a good extension of the Golden Rule would be: listen to others as you would have others listen to you!
  3. Seek to understand. Oren Jay Sofer, author of “Say What You Mean: A Mindful Approach to Nonviolent Communication,” says that “The foundation for productive discussion and skillful negotiation is in the quality of connection and understanding we create. When our interactions are driven by an agenda, by getting our way, wanting to win, being right or making a point, we limit the possibilities for mutual understanding and creative outcomes.” Come to every conversation with curiosity, compassion, and respect.
  4. Focus on what matters. As we listen well and seek to understand the person we’re conversing with, we need to ask ourselves, “what really matters” about whatever the other person is saying. Why is it important? Sofer writes, “Listening with this kind of attention helps us get beyond surface positions to the underlying values in a situation, thereby creating more room for understanding, collaboration, and creative problem-solving.” How much more powerful and productive will our communication be if we can make a meaningful connection with someone—even someone we don’t seem to have anything in common with?
  5. Pause. Remember the sage advice about counting to ten? Rather than shooting back at our counterpart with rapid-fire points of our own, it can be very powerful to pause and think. Nod, ask the person to repeat themselves or repeat what you think they said in your own words. Then ask yourself, will what you’re about to say increase connection and understanding? If not…sometimes holding our tongue is the best response! We have to choose the right timing in order for speaking our truth to have the most impact.

Most of us learn communication skills in the most informal ways, often from people who aren’t skilled communicators themselves. We develop bad habits. But with practice, we can create healthy new habits!

Source: http://www.dailygood.org/story/2193/5-core-practices-for-more-meaningful-conversations-oren-jay-sofer/

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Happy Valentine’s Day!

“You yourself,

as much as anybody in the entire universe, 

deserve your love  and affection”

 – Buddha

 

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

Making Exercise Fun!

 

Several people have told me recently that they find this wintery after-holiday time of year rather de-motivating. It seems especially when it comes to exercise, folks have gotten out of their routines and are having a hard time getting back to it.

Sound familiar? Or maybe you’re the kind of person who always finds exercise more of a chore than a joy. Here are some ideas for making exercise fun.

Take a hike. Walking is great exercise, and being outside is best. Go to one of our local parks and explore a trail. Walk with a friend and have a nice chat. You can load apps onto your phone like Runkeeper to find routes that others have mapped out in your area for specific distances. If you’re local, you could walk around downtown St. Augustine and/or Lincolnville and check out the historic markers along the way. (Google “self-guided walking tours” for ideas!)

Dance like no one is watching. Put on some of your favorite music, or find some new tunes on YouTube, and go wild! Be as traditional or as silly as you want to be. This is a great way to uplift your spirits as you burn some calories.

Try something new. If dancing doesn’t do it for you, look up instructional videos on YouTube—yoga, Tai Chi, kickboxing, etc. You can find almost anything of interest without leaving the comfort of home.
Play video games. If you know someone with a video game console, you can play active games like bowling, golfing, fencing, tennis, boxing, dancing, etc. It’s surprisingly fun to play virtually! If you don’t have access to a video game console, you can pick a used one up inexpensively at a pawn shop, flea market or online.

Be a kid again. When was the last time you jumped rope? Or played tag or duck-duck-goose? Or hopscotch? Get a little group together and recreate some of your favorite childhood games—what a hoot!
Join a club or take a class. Maybe trying something different will ignite new interest in being active. Join a sports league. Take a self-defense class. Sign up for a 5K and join a group that’s training for it. (Lots of people walk them, or do a slow pace of run-walk-run-walk intervals.

Tackle a household chore. Have you been putting off cleaning out the garage? Or organizing a closet or pantry? Put on some peppy music and get to it! Plan ahead for what your reward will be for getting it done. This can be a great motivator!

Don’t just sit there—stretch! If you like to watch some TV in the evening, get up out of your seat and do a few stretches as you’re relaxing. Some people even do a few more challenging moves during commercials (a couple of push-ups, or crunches, or a plank). As long as you don’t overdo it, having a nice stretch and some deep breathing might even help you sleep.

Just remember, exercise doesn’t have to be drudgery, and you don’t have to commit to hours and hours of activity to benefit from it. Every little bit helps improve fitness. Sneak in a little bit of movement, change your routine, and keep it fun!

If you can’t find a group that shares your interest but you want to connect to others, look on a website called MeetUp. If you still can’t find your tribe, you can start a new group and let others find you!

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth