Personal Growth

Happy Independence Day!!

This 4th of July, may we remember our love of country and love our fellow Americans. 

What I think would “make America great again” is civility, compromise, cooperation with respect and compassion.

John F. Kennedy said: “So let us begin anew-remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate. Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.”

Maybe today he would say, “Let us never negotiate out of anger, and let us never be too angry to negotiate.” I hope we can truly remain the UNITED States of America, with liberty and justice for ALL. 

I wish everyone a safe and happy holiday!

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

Where Does the Time Go?

 

While June 21st marked the first official day of summer, school has been out locally for almost a month. We’ve blown through Memorial Day and are looking squarely at 4th of July. And just like every year, it feels like yesterday when we were saying “I can’t believe it’s 2018!”

Within the past few years, I’ve let go of some of my extracurricular commitments. I’m no longer in Rotary; my jewelry is not in a local gallery. I’ve said “no” to a good number of opportunities for socializing, I don’t do as much volunteer work as I’d like, I’ve decided not to adopt a dog at this time—all in an attempt to make life simpler.

I guess I’m hoping that if I slow down the pace of my life, it will feel like time itself is slowing down as well. That I can savor my un-busy moments and stretch out my days just a little bit more. 

But in the blink of an eye, the year is almost half over.

One day recently, 2 time-related headlines popped up on my Facebook feed. The first one said, “Stop saying you don’t have enough time. We have time for things we make time for.” And the second one said, “We’re almost halfway through the year. Are you ahead of your goals?”

I felt almost anxious! Am I ahead of my goals? No? Why am I NOT ahead of my goals? What ARE my goals? 

Well, some of my goals are health related. They seem very important to me, so I really “ought” to be able to make time for them. For example, I schedule time for exercise—goals that I think are very achievable. Just 30 minutes of cardio at least 3 time a week, daily stretching, and weights/resistance other days “as able.” But many weeks I fail to meet that goal.

I intend to make time to meditate every day, or at least “nearly” every day—even if it’s only for 5 minutes! But, I find I’m not consistently making time for that either.

I endeavor to eat healthy—carve out the necessary time to shop for fresh ingredients, do the necessary food prep and cooking, and sit down to eat with utensils at every meal. It is challenging to make the time for this, even though I know it is really important.

And in a good week, when I’m eating healthy and exercising and meditating and business is good, when the family is functioning well and there are no emergencies, I still don’t make enough time to read, journal, create art, spend time with friends, call relatives, and other things that I consider to be quite important. Can you relate?

The days, the weeks, the months fly by, and I am not ahead of my goals. I am barely keeping up, and I am often tired.

So, perhaps the most important “goals” are to try to strike a livable balance, and to embrace the imperfection. To accept that I am doing the best I can and that my best effort is enough. I am enough. You are enough, too!

Some weekends I even add “rest” to my to-do list. I make time to sit outside and enjoy my butterfly garden, looking at a magazine or simply daydreaming. I guess even in those moments, I am accomplishing something that’s important to me.

Because once a while, doing nothing is a virtuous goal, and worth devoting some time to.

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Why You Need to Learn CPR

Do you know how to administer CPR?

You should! The more people who know CPR the better, and here’s why.

CPR stands for Cardiopulmonary resuscitation. According to the Better Health Channel, “if the heart stops pumping, it is known as a cardiac arrest. CPR is a combination of techniques, including chest compressions, designed to pump the heart to get blood circulating and deliver oxygen to the brain until definitive treatment can stimulate the heart to start working again.”

We never know who might need emergency help. The American Heart Association says cardiac arrest “disrupts the flow of blood to the brain, lungs and other organs [and] is a leading cause of death. Each year, more than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the United States.

“When a person has a cardiac arrest, survival depends on immediately getting CPR from someone nearby. Almost 90 percent of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests die. CPR, especially if performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.”

A new technique has been developed called “hands-only CPR.” Doing chest compressions, even without mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, keeps blood flowing through the body. It’s less off-putting to the average person willing to help a stranger, and it’s far better than doing nothing! 

Chest compressions take over pumping blood when the heart cannot. But here’s the thing—it is very tiring work. CPR is most effective if it is done continuously until an ambulance arrives. But one person may not be able to keep it up for more than a few minutes.

We all need to be trained so we can help each other out. If you see someone administering CPR and you know how to do it, you can offer to take over for a few minutes. Then, the original person, or someone else with training, can take a turn. 

Hands-only CPR is easy to learn. Classes are offered locally through the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross. You can even arrange to have a class taught onsite at a civic organization or community club.

Please consider learning CPR. We always hope we’ll never have to use it. But I know if I needed help, I’d be eternally grateful for any Good Samaritan who helped save my life!

Resources: St. Johns County offers classes through the First Coast Technical College. For a link to that and other courses simply go to www.google.com and search for learn CPR near me.

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Acknowledging Our Positive Influencers

 

Many years ago I worked for a publishing company, and my boss—the best boss I ever had—was a British fellow named David.

David and I reconnected some time ago via Facebook. Today he posted about the anniversary of his moving to the US with his wife. He wrote, “If you are reading this, thank YOU for what you have done to create this magic existence we all share together. Because of you, our lives are loaded with rich relationships and experiences, and we are extraordinarily lucky.”

Back in the day, David was accused of being a “cheerleader,” insinuating that he lacked discernment in being unrelentingly positive when it came to fighting for something he felt his staff needed (getting a project approved, allocating more money to cover expenses, buying more time when needed, etc.). He was definitely our champion. He was the most genuinely cheerful person I have ever known. He and I used to get completely off track at work talking about music and life, and abstract ideas like what would the color blue sound like.

In life, David would do things like rent a lake cottage each summer and welcome guests with little kids, helping them catch their first fish and showing them how to make a fish print with it on a T-shirt to keep as a souvenir. As I’ve followed him on Facebook, I’ve enjoyed his perspective even more as he’s retired to live in lake country full-time, still with his wife hosting friends and their kids and their kids—still catching fish and going for hikes or giving tractor rides, and absolutely loving the simple pleasures in life and the insights they provide.

I commented on his post today that I was so grateful to have met him, that in being even a small part of his journey my life has been enriched as well.

It felt so nice to be able to tell him I appreciate him. It almost brought a tear to my eye as I reminisced and reflected on how much this person has meant to me.

I hope as he reads all the comments on his post, he realizes what a truly positive influence he’s been on a great number of people.

And I realized that it takes very little to reach out and tell someone how much they mean to us! And yet, how often do we make the effort? I would not have told David about my gratitude and affection if he hadn’t initiated the opportunity with his post.

I challenge myself and anyone reading this blog to make more opportunities to tell people thank you, I love you, you mean more to me than you know, your kindness made a world of difference in my world, your influence is greater than you think.

Cheerfulness and positivity come so naturally to David—even in his post about his own anniversary, he turned it around to thank others for their contributions to his time here. The world could benefit from more of us being cheerleaders and champions for others, don’t you think? At the very least, we can let people know that we appreciate them.

 

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

Writing Therapy

 

Have you ever engaged in writing for healing? Psychologists have long known that writing can help clients sort through and process their emotions. Now researchers are finding that writing can provide insights that help us do better physically, from boosting our immune system to functioning better with things like asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. [More info here: http://www.apa.org/monitor/jun02/writing.aspx]

Writing as therapy is great because it’s accessible to us all the time, and it doesn’t cost anything! Whether you like to write longhand (and for some this more tactile approach is especially beneficial—for example, it’s been proven that writing things down helps us remember them!) or using a computer keyboard, there are many types of writing that can be therapeutic.

Free writing. This is a very open-ended style of journaling—you can literally write about whatever comes to mind. I do this mostly when something is bothering me and I need to spend some time and energy quietly processing what is really going on or what I’m supposed to learn from the experience. Don’t edit yourself; just write what comes to mind. Sometimes you’ll get great insights!

Expressive writing. This is more of an exercise in which you pick a specific event, usually something troubling or traumatic, and you deliberately write about deeper and negative feelings to find meaning in them. It can be difficult, but this process has helped people stop ruminating about things that bother them. It can yield real healing, both mentally and physically. We can look for a therapist to help us with this type of healing process if we need to.

Reflective journaling. This is when we write about a specific experience or event, like a class we took or a project we participated in, and we write about what happened, how we feel about it, and what we learned. How did it help you grow as a person? It’s best to write shortly after the activity, and it’s fun to look back at previous entries to see how far we’ve come!

Keeping a gratitude journal. At the end of each day, or at least once or twice a week, it’s a good practice to write down what we’re grateful for. Research has shown that counting our blessings has a positive effect on our subjective well-being (reducing depression, for example). It also helps us sleep better and generally take better care of ourselves.

Letter writing. If you have unfinished business with a someone hanging over your head, writing everything you want to say in a letter can be extremely cathartic, even if you never send it.

Writing poetry. When we write a poem, we draw from our life experiences to really express ourselves in a creative way. Sometimes people have been able to use poetry to find meaning and perspective when dealing with a serious illness at the end of their lives. I imagine that it could be therapeutic to write a song or a short story based on our life experiences and viewpoints as well.

These are some of the ways to use composing to heal. Do you have other ways to use writing to sort things out, let things go, or reflect on the meaning of your experiences?

Source:https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/can-you-really-use-writing-as-therapy

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

Reflecting Before Sleeping

Much has been written on the benefits of contemplation first thing in the morning—setting intentions for the new day ahead and enjoying a calming ritual before rushing into the demands of the waking hours.

But what about introspection at bedtime—could we set the stage to have a wonderful night as well? 

Consider this 3-2-1 countdown strategy by Krista O’Reilly Davi-Digui, who writes for ALifeInProgress.ca.

3. Think of three things you are grateful for today. Even if we had a challenging day, we can find three things to be thankful for, however small. If you need help, there are many books on developing a practice of gratitude, including “A Simple Act of Gratitude,” by John Kralik. Here’s a link to the top 5 recommended by the Positive Psychology Program: https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/gratitude-books-oliver-sachs/)

2. Remember two things you did well today. Most of us have no problem identifying our shortcomings or “areas needing improvement.” It really is important to counter self-criticism by giving ourselves credit for our strengths and acknowledging where we shine! The benefits of self-love include building confidence and resilience.

1. Ask yourself, “what is one thing I would’ve done differently?” Some nights, our answer might be “nothing.” But sometimes, if we acknowledge with self-compassion that we could’ve handled something better, we can encourage ourselves to make that choice next time. This is not meant to be self-condemning; but rather, a step toward living the best version of ourselves.

In this way, we get to choose who we want to be, and how we want to live fully according to our goals and values. Taking a few minutes to think purposefully before we retire can bring clarity and peace that will not only help us sleep well, but set us up to have a better day tomorrow.

Source: “Pillow Self-Talk: Three Questions to Ponder Before Sleeping,” by Krista O’Reilly Davi-Digui, “natural awakenings” magazine May 2018.

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Is Tidying Up Really a Joy?

I read a funny, but also kind of defensive, article by Jennifer McCartney, the author of a book entitled, “The Joy of Leaving Your Sh-t All Over the Place.” She feels that the bestseller “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” is ruining us by commanding that we maintain impossible standards of minimalism. 

McCartney feels that being messy is humans’ organic state and that by honoring our true nature, we actually enjoy more benefits than we would achieve by struggling to preserve a perfect, zen-like order. 

There is some research that confirms messy people are more creative. People in a white, sterile environment were more likely to order familiar menu items, while people in a disorderly environment were more likely to be adventurous and try something new. Similarly, when asked to come up with ways to use ping pong balls, people in an uncluttered room listed conventional uses, while people in a messy space came up with more ingenious ideas (like using them as ice cube trays, or on the bottoms of chair legs to protect floors).

McCartney also asserts that disorderly people are actually more organized than they appear. According to David Freedman’s “A Perfect Mess,” the piles of things we have lying around can be a pretty efficient storage system. They have a chronologic order to them—we know how far down we have to dig to find just what we’re looking for.

And perhaps most importantly, being a bit messy is just more authentic. Is it sustainable to keep everything photo-ready at all times? Or, does trying to keep everything impeccably tidy add stress to already stressful lives?

I think for most of us, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I had a friend who used to justify her, um, “authentically comfortable” home, and say, “Well, it’s all right—the photographers from ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ aren’t coming today.”

And it’s true, no one’s home needs to be “picture perfect” all the time. If minimalism isn’t your thing and it doesn’t bring you joy, isn’t it OK to let go of trying to achieve that particular life-changing magic?

Having said that, I can admit that I am a pile maker, and it doesn’t always serve me well. I do file some stuff and store things in an orderly fashion when I can, but there’s a lot of junk that I’m not sure what to do with—piles of it. Each pile is temporary, but whenever one is resolved, another pops up to take its place. I set things down to deal with “later,” and they stay there somewhat indefinitely. Sometimes I can put my finger on what I need immediately, but I have to confess that I waste way too much time searching for things because I can’t remember where I put them.

What McCarthy doesn’t mention in her article is that there are benefits to being tidy, too. Those folks who were in a clean room were almost twice as generous in giving money to charity, and they were more than THREE TIMES as likely to choose an apple for a snack over a chocolate bar. And while a messy environment might help us feel creative, a tidy environment might help us do tasks that require “adherence to rules and a conservative approach,” such as filling out an expense report. In that way, experts think we might be able to “engineer” our productivity by creating the right setting.

I also believe that our individual preference is pretty deep-seated in our basic personality profile—whether we’re more visual or more tactile; whether our Chinese element is earth, water, fire, wood or metal; where we fall on the DISC or Meyers Briggs Assessment tools. I hired a consultant to do a color analysis for me years ago. It was fascinating! I learned that I’m a “winter.” I was in her home looking around at all the accessories and layers of curtains and fabric and decorations she had everywhere. She saw me scanning and she said, “This room is probably too busy for you, isn’t it? Winters don’t like having this much stuff around.” And it was true! It almost made me a little bit uncomfortable. The room seemed “fussy” to me.

But for her it was perfect. For some of us, simplicity is bliss. For others, a having our sh-t all over the place is the good life. I say, to each his own! One person’s mess is another one’s magic.

Sources: https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/why-minimalism-is-bs

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/heres-something-neat-being-messy-has-its-benefits/article14485250/

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

What’s Your Story?

 

During a mindfulness meditation class at the Council on Aging in January, we were encouraged to let go of our storyline.

This is a very powerful exercise! The instructor used her own story as an example. Her son had been killed in a tragic accident. She was so consumed by grief that she told herself, “I’ll never be happy again.” She really believed that she would never, ever be happy again, so completely devastating was her loss. And, for a while, she did manage to never feel happy.

One day she was talking to a seriously ill cancer patient who was trying in spite of everything to live as full a life as possible. The patient said, “I am not my disease,” meaning that there was more to her than the cancer.

Our instructor thought about that for a moment, and it resonated—she was not her condition, either. As much as she missed her son, there was more to her than her grief. 

That’s when she took up meditation, and she learned that in letting go of that story she was telling herself (“I will never be happy again”) and being fully present in the moment with whatever came up—even when what came up was absolute gut-wrenching pain—she could, in fact, find a way to make peace with her new reality. She could allow the grief to happen in some moments, but also allow happiness to happen in other moments.

I see people in my practice every day who cling to a storyline that interferes with their ability to be truly healthy and vibrant. A common one is, “I’m just getting old and falling apart with age.” Another one is, “I can’t relax. I’ve always been stressed out and I don’t know how to be any other way.” Some people own their condition so fully, it’s almost the first thing they want people to know about them. “I have __________ (a bad back, high blood pressure, etc.). It runs in my family. It is what it is.”

Sometimes we have conditions that do run in families and progress despite our best efforts. Still, I would argue that there’s always SOMETHING we can do to improve our situation. By contrast, if we allow our storyline to inform our behavior, it becomes self-limiting and reinforces a negative outcome. Imagine a person who says, “I have arthritis in my back and hips and there’s nothing I can do about it,” compared to a person who says, “I experience pain, and some days are worse than others, but I know I can moderate it by maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding foods that cause inflammation, and doing appropriate exercise.”

It can be hard to let go of our storyline. The first story I had to let go of in my meditation class was, “I’m so bad at meditating!” I have to re-let go of that one almost every time I sit down to practice!! It’s OK if we have to remind ourselves and make many attempts to release our negative self-talk.

During mindfulness meditation, it’s particularly important to detach from all our preconceived ideas and just be fully present without judgment. But there are other times when telling ourselves a story actually can be beneficial! How much better will a presentation go if a person’s storyline is: “I’ve got this, I know my stuff!” 

I often tell myself, “I move through the world with ease and grace,” because of the wonderful, late Louise Hay and her book, “You Can Heal Your Life,” and her adamant belief in positive affirmations. (In this case, if I remember correctly, she had some kind of pain but she didn’t want a limp to exacerbate it. So if she felt herself favoring one side, she straightened up and simply said, “I move through the world with ease and grace”—and it did lessen the discomfort.) I think of it as I’m driving as well—“I move through the world with ease and grace,” and therefore I will not be involved in an accident or be bothered by a bit of unexpected congestion. 

I once met a law enforcement officer who worked in SWAT, and he told me that every day, every time he faced a potentially dangerous situation, he repeated to himself again and again: “I will survive no matter what. I will survive no matter what.” That was his storyline, and his mindset of determination probably saved his life many times.

Every day we can choose to let go of storylines that are holding us back, and choose positive affirmations instead. Like these, again from Louise Hay: “Life supports me in every possible way. I now choose to release all hurt and resentment. I am welcoming happiness into my life. I am surrounded by love. All is well.”

May all be truly well in your world!

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Why I Love to Travel

 

As I write this, I’m recovering from a day of travel. I guess we need to be careful when wishing for more hours in the day, because yesterday—with the time change from Ireland to the US—we added five hours, and spent most of them laying over in JFK. We were awake for almost 24 hours straight!

So, I’m tired and my body is not sure what to make of all this messing around with circadian rhythm. My work schedule was crazy before my trip, and it will be crazy for a few weeks after. Similarly, it’s challenging to get the household ready for me to be gone, and to restore some semblance of order upon my return.

Still, I think it’s totally worth it. I visited southwest Ireland with a friend who really knows how to pick interesting places to stay and sites to see and doesn’t mind driving on the “wrong” side of very narrow, twisty roads.

We saw some of the most amazing wonders. Ireland is hilly and rocky, and green and full of sheep and ancient ruins. There are beautiful beaches and dramatic cliffs and glacial lakes and quaint little towns, and innumerable pubs filled with the friendliest people, the warmest fires, and the tastiest soup you’ll ever encounter.

And seeing and experiencing all of that is phenomenal. But I think what I like equally is the opportunity to expand my perspective. To step away from what is familiar, give myself a chance to reflect—and just be—and allow myself to absorb whatever a conversation or a cultural escapade might reveal.

Here are just a few of the takeaways from my latest adventure:

Many, many people of the world live in very humble abodes, and they are grateful to have them. I am embarrassed by the times I have felt shame for not “keeping up with the Joneses” who have big, fancy houses. There’s definitely something to be said for keeping things simple, living within our means, and not being greedy with resources. Many Americans live excessively it seems to me.

In general, people in other countries have a better grasp of what is going on in the world than we do. They don’t have the arrogance of believing that the only stuff that matters is what’s going on in their own country.

Ireland seems like it is not an easy place to live. The terrain is rugged, the weather is punishing. There are only so many jobs. It’s not easy to grow food there. One tour guide suggested that while Ireland enjoyed a brief period of great prosperity, it did not last; and that he was glad actually because Ireland is at its best when it’s poor. That’s when people pull together and enjoy the most camaraderie. I think we have lost that in our country, that sense of shared experience.

When you visit a place with many days of cold wind, overcast skies, and drizzle, it really makes you appreciate our many days of warmth and abundant sunshine.

Travel reinforces for me an attitude of gratitude. I’m grateful for a safe journey. I’m grateful to be home—both in my own dwelling and in my beautiful hometown. I’m grateful to be returning to a happy life—seeing my garden again, and family, and clients and friends. I’m grateful to be able to add this voyage and this viewpoint to the resumé of being me.

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

Healthy Communication

 

If there’s one thing virtually everyone can agree on these days, it’s that our country feels very angry. We are not only divided in our views, but we are at each others’ throats.

I saw a headline the other day that read, “Can Democracy Survive the Internet?” How ironic that we live in this information age, when almost all the world’s knowledge is literally at our fingertips, and yet we are acting less enlightened than ever. People seem to use this magnificent resource to further bolster whatever view they already hold. We dig in with emotional attachment rather than being truly open to new ideas.

How can we ever hope to solve the challenges we face if we won’t even listen to each other with open minds? How can we heal if we won’t give the “other side” any credit for having intelligence, for having values, for wanting to solve the same problems we want to solve (just with a vastly different strategy perhaps)?

It feels like we all need to collectively take a deep breath (get out of fight-or-flight mode!), and assess whether being at odds all the time is really working for us. Maybe it’s time we revisit cooperation, respect, compassion if not understanding, and—at the very least—demand that both/all parties be reasonable.

How? Here are some ideas.

We must let go of all-or-nothing, black-or-white thinking. It’s very limiting. Consider this: are you a good person or a bad person? How about the person you’re “debating”—are they are a good person (genius) or a bad person (idiot)? We all can drive each other nuts, and we ALL also have some redeeming qualities. Liberals don’t all think alike, conservatives aren’t all insane, immigrants/minorities/religious people aren’t all _____. We’re all individuals.

Appreciate the value of different points of view. How much are you exposed to people who stand on the opposite side of social issues? How much do you allow (or encourage!) a range of ideas on your social media or in social situations? Is everyone free to express their views? We gain from the open sharing of opinions, and it helps us feel connected. Everyone wants a chance to be heard.

Listen with an open mind. Listen as you’d like to be listened to. Building relationships require the verb “relate,” and this is necessary to compromise and achieve consensus.

Don’t bring others into the argument. Stay focused on the conversation you’re currently having. Trying to build a coalition can escalate bad feelings, and other people may not appreciate being dragged into a debate that’s not their own.

Think before you speak. Is your argument well thought out? Are you being defensive? Are you attacking? Would you appreciate being spoken to in the manner you’re using? Are you setting yourself up to be shot down? Sometimes we just have to recognize that nothing fruitful will come from this particular conversation, and move on.

Keep your composure. I love this quote, “If you let your emotions get in the way of your logic, you’ll not only lose the argument but further contribute to animosity in the room” (see sources, below). Also, insist that the person you’re conversing with stay calm as well.
Keep your sense of humor. Laughter can be a great way to diffuse tension.

Try to find common ground. You might define “freedom” differently, for example, but you probably both value freedom. What else do you have in common? Reinforce positive feelings you have for each other, despite your differences. Remember what you respect and appreciate about each other—there’s always something to love!!

Licensed marriage and family counselor Ashley Thorn suggests asking ourselves these questions:
What are the facts, and what are our assumptions?
What are my values? How do those values fit into my thoughts, questions, and decisions? (Then also consider the other persons’ values, and how they inform their thoughts, questions, and decisions. Don’t they want the economy to thrive? Don’t they want to keep our kids and our communities safe? Don’t they want other countries to see ours as honorable? And so forth.)
What are the pros and cons to BOTH sides of the argument?

The more we try to appreciate what’s good about other people (even those we vehemently disagree with), treat them with respect and foster compassion, the more peaceful and productive our communication can be. Then maybe we can really start talking to—and listening to—each other, and solve some of the problems we face, together.

Sources:

https://psychcentral.com/blog/5-ways-to-expand-all-or-nothing-thinking/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201611/10-tips-talking-people-you-cant-agree

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth