Ways to Communicate without Anger

In 2014 I wrote this post based around a client of mine going through a holiday get-together that most of us are all too familiar with experiencing.

I was recently was asked to re-publish this post and as I went through it I thought about how relevant this particular issue is today more so due to the presidential election coming up and the emotional state of  our country as a whole. So now I wonder…

If there was truly a way to work through  this post issue, anger, how would you want to learn to manage it and use what you learn in your small corner of the world? Maybe this will spark some ideas…..

Key West

There are times when the ocean is not the ocean – not blue, not even water, but some violent explosion of energy and danger: ferocity on a scale only gods can summon. It hurls itself at the island, sending spray right over the top of the lighthouse, biting pieces off the cliff. And the sound is a roaring of a beast whose anger knows no limits. Those are the nights the light is needed most.” M. L. Stedman – The Light Between Oceans

What I’m learning is that the light is in the asking of the questions and the heart of every human being. The answering is the communication where peace can begin. But I think it matters to go back a little step and start by asking:

Why do people get angry?

Why does anger live so long within us?

Are anger and communication based only on defending, judging, criticizing and/or withdrawing?

Are there rules to communication so that anger can be lessened?

“Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” Aristotle

On a coaching call this week my client talked about wanting to better understand and get control of her anger toward her in-laws each and every time they all get together. She started out our session absolutely dreading the upcoming holiday. Her dilemma revolved around the criticism and judgments thrown at her by her in-laws and her own sensitivity to it all. She did not grow up with this kind of self-centeredness and judgment. Logically she knows that people bring their own pasts and life experiences to the table (no pun intended) but she just felt helpless to look at their way of communicating in a non-judgmental way. The overall feeling of anger toward her in-laws was coupled with the knowledge that this was driving a wedge between her and her husband and creating more problems than they both knew what to do with.

So why do people get angry?

Ryan Martin, Ph.D. wrote an article for Psychology Today about the scientific study of anger. In his article he references Dr. Jerry Deffenbacher’s 1996 model of anger by defining what Dr. Deffenbacher calls the trigger event; the event that happens right before someone gets angry for example, perceiving an insult or being cut off in traffic.

“The implication is that those kinds of events caused the person to get angry directly. If that were true then we would all react the same way to such situations.”

There are more than trigger events at play when anger sets in. Individual characteristics such as personality traits and the individual’s pre-anger state are 2 things that matter.

“Competitiveness and low-frustration tolerance are some ways in which a person’s personality characteristics play into anger. As for the pre-anger state of a person just before the trigger event, physiological and psychological situations play heavily into this arena. Feelings of being tired, anxious, stressed out, nervous are considered to be pre-anger triggers. A nervous person already has an elevated heart rate so he/she doesn’t have far to go to become angry.”

Ryan goes on to explain:

“Dr. Deffenbacher’s model of anger is mainly based on the appraisal of the situation by the person on the receiving end. When a person appraises a situation as blameworthy, unjustified, punishable, etc. it pushes buttons with in that person to react with anger. If the person interpreted the situation a little differently he/she wouldn’t have become so angry. The important thing to remember about appraisal isn’t necessarily that the person’s reaction is inaccurate but there are always 2 sides to every story.”

The next question then is how do we communicate effectively so that anger doesn’t show up or take over?

In his outstanding and amazingly insightful book, Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life, Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph. D and author tells of his preoccupation with 2 questions and his attempt to find the answers:

“What happens to disconnect us from our compassionate nature, leading us to behave violently and exploitatively and what allows some people to stay connected to their compassionate nature under even the most trying circumstances?”

“When we give from the heart, we do so out of the joy that springs forth whenever we willingly enrich another person’s life. This kind of giving benefits both the giver and the receiver.”

While getting deeper into the coaching session my client started to become aware of her own compassionate nature and how she deeply desired to live on that plane and not engage in anger and despair. She is by nature a giving, loving, and curious person and realized that she always wanted her marriage to be one of love out loud and as an example to others of what real love looks like. That realization turned the whole session around. But how to get through the inevitable anger she will feel at some point during the holiday visit?

Dr. Rosenberg says:

“There are 4 steps to express anger: (1) Stop and breathe, (2) identify our judgmental thoughts, (3) connect with our needs, and (4) express our feelings and unmet needs. The key to all of the anger is empathy. Empathize with the other person so that he/she will be better able to hear us when we express ourselves.”

The coaching session concluded with awareness that although my client can’t change how other people behave and communicate she can change how she behaves and communicates. By showing up fully for her husband and not giving in to her personal feelings she will be able to create an ally in her husband. More than anything she wants him to know how much he means to her and how much she understands that the holiday get together is equally difficult for him. “Living out loud the loving, caring and supportive marriage I always imagined having is so much more powerful than giving in to the anger and judgments of others.” She now has a plan of action and tools to help her achieve her ultimate goal of making this family holiday one in which she will cherish and not regret. My client says:

“I can’t believe how I am feeling at this moment realizing that it is so much easier to love not only myself but my husband and our child. It feels freeing to know that I can choose love rather than defensiveness and anger toward difficult people. I don’t know for sure if love will bring about a more positive atmosphere all around us but it will bring about more connectedness and compassion in my marriage and therefore to my child.”

Whether we are face to face or in communication through email or text messages or any other social media venue we are always in a position to respond with empathy and heart.

I often find myself wondering when I read the comments section of other blog posts or I read text messages or I witness a negative conversation what was going on in the responder’s mind at the time of a negative comment. What life circumstances pushed that person over the edge?

All of this leads me to take a stronger, more open-minded approach to reader responses whether it be to a blog post, a comment to someone else’s writing or a face to face exchange.

Here is what I’ve learned so far:

Communicating needs and feelings without creating defensiveness and anger can be successfully accomplished by using “I” messages. For example: “I feel taken for granted when the laundry isn’t put away” or “I am having trouble managing my worry around our finances and as a result I am not sleeping very well.” These messages are to the point and simple; they are not blaming or accusing.

“Reflect your thoughts and watch others mirror them back to you.” Stephen Richards

Don’t respond immediately to the comment or letter. Take a deep breath, re-read the response or think through the exchange and think about how it truly applies to what was originally said. Time can be your ally. Take your time to respond. Be thoughtful.

“In quiet places, reason abounds.” Adlai E. Stevenson II

People are not bad inherently. Sometimes their life circumstances have caused them to form habits that are difficult to deal with. It’s not personal.

“The sound of the words as they’re said is always different from the sound they make when they’re heard, because the speaker hears some of the sound from the inside”David Levithan, Every Day

A really great coaching tool that has worked for many of my clients is when I have them do an exercise called purging. In the case of an email or text or letter, sit in a quiet space and hand write every single feeling you are experiencing and use every single word that will make you feel justified if you were going to be utterly, no-holds-barred honest. DO NOT SEND THE WRITTEN RESPONSE. Save it. Wait a few days and re-read your own response. Be aware of how you are feeling as you re-read. Are you still so enraged? Has your own anger or shock lessened? How would you like to communicate now? The point is to not meet on the impulse level of the reader. Rise above by getting out of your system all that you are feeling and let those feelings go. As a final step, rip your letter to pieces or stomp on it or just throw it away.

“Transferring my anger and pain onto paper turns it into something tangible, something that can be shredded or burned, or at the very least, sealed shut in a box. ~Call Me Tuesday”Leigh Byrne

If you were seeing the anger from face to face interaction how would you respond in that moment? Would you want to also be seen as someone losing his cool? Think about your own tone of voice and how you would like to sound or how you would like someone to talk to you about their concerns.

“We do not have control over what happens to us in life, but we do have control over how we chose to respond.”
Bryant McGill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life    

If it is important that the other person hear from you right away simply send a follow-up email or text or comment right in that face to face moment by stating that you will respond more fully when you are in a better frame of mind.

Your life mainly consists of 3 things! What you think,  What you say and  What you do! So always be very conscious of what you are co-creating!”
Allan Rufus, The Master’s Sacred Knowledge    

If your response is only in the form of writing then before your response goes out to anyone have someone you trust, someone who knows your heart and intentions, read your response before you send it out. The objective person will be able to stay out of the emotional end of this negative situation.

Merely because you have got something to say that may be of interest to others does not free you from making all due effort to express that something in the best possible medium and form.” [Letter to Max E. Feckler, Oct. 26, 1914]” ― Jack London

Here is where curiosity comes into play: If you sense that your colleague is angry or accusatory ask that person if you are interpreting their response correctly. Don’t assume to know for sure what you are reading or hearing.

“Every man, it seems, interprets the world in the light of his habits and desires.” Richard Wright, The Outsider

Whenever possible don’t write but talk, face to face, person to person. Effective communication is most achievable when we are in the present moment. Stay clear of bringing up the past. Stick to what is happening right now.

“When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time.” Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak

There is no substitute for real, live interaction. Your body uses every emoticon there is. Effective communication keeps anger at bay when we remain as calm as possible. Body language can have the same anger inducing affects as something we write. Create breathing space between the parties speaking, reframe when possible for better understanding, keeping advice and opinions to ourselves unless asked to offer that input. These steps all aid in a successful communication process.

We never can completely know what is going on in someone’s life to help us fully understand why they react the way they do. Everyone has something going on that feels overwhelming. Whenever possible put yourself in their shoes and summon a more compassionate you.

Call to Action

How can you begin to speak with your heart so that anger is kept at bay?

Words Are Windows

(or They’re Walls)

I feel so sentenced by your words,

I feel so judged and sent away,

Before I go I’ve got to know,

Is that what you mean to say?

 

Before I rise to my defense,

Before I speak in hurt or fear,

Before I build that wall of words,

Tell me, did I really hear?

 

Words are windows, or they’re walls,

They sentence us, or set us free.

When I speak and when I hear,

Let the love light shine through me.

 

There are things I need to say,

Things that mean so much to me,

If my words don’t make me clear,

Will you help me to be free?

 

If I seemed to put you down,

If you felt I didn’t care,

Try to listen through my words,

To the feelings that we share.

–Ruth Bebermeyer

Who Told you That?

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“Understand: people will constantly attack you in life. One of their main weapons will be to instill in you doubts about yourself – your worth, your abilities, your potential. They will often disguise this as their objective opinion, but invariably it has a political purpose – they want to keep you down.”

― Robert Greene, The 50th Law

When I was little my dad used to play at rough-housing with me and my siblings. There was a game he called “King of the Mountain” and the object of the game was to knock off whoever tried to get to the top of the pillow mountain first. We loved this game because first we got to play with dad, always a great time, then we got to make a huge mess of all the pillows we could find in the house and then make a humungous mountain as tall as we could possibly reach. I have to say that to 3, 4, and 5-year-old eyes this was the tallest structure ever created. We then would clear away all manner of hurtful hard objects and proceed to strategize as to just how to climb this monumental structure without getting caught and tackled to the ground. There was a hysterical amount of tickling involved in this game designed specifically to weaken our little bodies enough that we couldn’t find the strength to climb anything at all, all while trying to prevent dad from reaching the top of the mountain and declare himself King.

One could argue that this was a life lesson in how to overcome impossible obstacles that life will inevitably throw at us; how to overcome those demons that are designed and determined to keep us down physically and mentally, philosophically and psychologically whether in words or deeds and life lessons in how to get creative in problem solving all while laughing out loud. Blah, blah, blah; we just thought it was so fun to spend undivided time with dad. But wait, now I’m curious…..

What keeps you feeling down? What mountains are in front of you that need to be climbed? What motivates you to climb those mountains?

There are many important questions that come along in our lifetime. Questions that create angst, change, upheaval, awareness, peace, etc. Of all the questions that I have come across as a life coach, the one question that seems to have the most impact is the one question that attacks the essence of who my client is at any given moment. This question seems to evolve and keeps evolving as we learn and grow and become. This question has the potential of becoming habit forming; a reminder to always check my sources and resources in order to keep fear at bay and inner strength at the ready.

The questions I ask myself on a daily basis are, for the most part, always in helpful surrender to aid in making me the best possible version of who I strive to become. Who I am today is in no way who I will be later in life and although who I was yesterday may carry over into who I am right this moment, my “yesterday” self always has the ability to be better tomorrow. What is this incredible question?

Who told you that?

This question falls under the auspices of false beliefs or limiting beliefs and carries a tremendous amount of weight inside our heads and hearts. Most of us allow that the things we choose to believe, whether we realize it as our choice or not, are the things that hold us back from a fulfilling, productive, purposeful life. For a lot of people, believing the limiting beliefs we cling to holds a lot of fear in preventing us from exploring all kinds of fearless possibilities.

This question has been a constant companion for me for many years. It takes on many faces such as, who told you that you are not worthy of a better life, a better job, or a better outcome? Who told you that you have to compromise on what means the most to you? Who told you that if you experience happiness of any kind you are only allowed that one-time experience and then doomed to misery thereafter? Who told you that the love you have in your life is all you are allotted in one lifetime? Who told you that brown and pink don’t go well together? Who told you that if your children are not successful in their own right that means that you are not a successful parent?

More importantly when did you start believing all of this?

For as long as we live there will be life moments that test our inner strength; that make life feel as if this one time experience is the most impossible mountain to climb. Questions like this one help to keep us grounded and present and focused on being and becoming our best selves. The fear factor here might be, “what if I can’t answer this question or what if I stay stuck in my limiting beliefs?” I suggest taking time to unpack the question step by slow moving step until you come to understand how you got here.

Family therapist, author, marathon runner and professor Cami Ostman teaches an incredible workshop on how to successfully put the “Who told you that” question to the test and how to successfully answer it and use the question and answer to your advantage. When we feel stuck in our fear of not being enough and believing that we are truly not enough Ms. Ostman says that “we are not aligning with our true nature; we are not aligning with our core selves.” She goes on to say, “Our true nature, our core selves, are calm, joyful and centered. Most of our limiting beliefs start in childhood based on what we perceived as a need to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable or hurt or shameful or weak. Our true nature thrives on genuine support from others and uses 4 qualities to help us thrive.” Those 4 qualities are:

*Clarity of purpose: Who does it benefit to take the road less traveled? Who does it benefit to follow the leader?

“People who lack the clarity, courage, or determination to follow their own dreams will often find ways to discourage yours. Live your truth and don’t EVER stop!” Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

*Faith: Enjoy each step along the way and know that whatever choice you make; all will be okay.

“Realize that if a door closed, it’s because what was behind it wasn’t meant for you.” Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass

*Commitment to ourselves and our purposes: What is one tiny step you can take each morning to bring you closer to where you want to be?

“If you had started doing anything two weeks ago, by today you would have been two weeks better at it.” John Mayer

*Sovereignty: The unshakable knowledge that we are the supreme rulers of our own minds and choices and decisions. Who has given you permission to question your own self- worth, in other words, who told you that and why are you believing it? When we truly believe that we are sovereign over our hearts, minds and bodies then we are free to come and go, to explore and choose wisely and be impactful in all we do.

“Peggy is a sovereign nation. She governs herself and those around her by her own laws.” Katlyn Charlesworth, The Patriot’s Daughter

According to Ms. Ostman, bringing forth your true nature is a practice of letting go of fear; letting go of limiting beliefs, letting go of those things that were told to you whether to protect you or to scare you to stand still. Ms. Ostman suggests respectfully thanking all the parts of us that tried to protect us from the fears that are holding us back, wishing those parts well and firmly telling those parts that it is now time to take the reins and face the fears and the adventure that awaits.

As If….

A great way to begin your journey of shedding those limiting beliefs, of shedding fear is to take these 4 qualities and start with the end in mind. Let’s play….

Kari always wanted to be an artist. Her talents have been recognized by the obvious people in her life, her art teachers, her friends, her classmates, etc. but for some reason Kari has not taken all of those accolades and turned it into the art studio/gallery that she has always imagined. Kari doesn’t believe within herself that her art work is good enough to sell or that strangers would want to buy what she is creating. She is beginning to feel like doing art of any kind is a waste of time and that she needs to start getting serious about her life and start to make a living. “It feels like there is just too much wasted time in art and I need to pay my bills and just get on with my life at this point.” Who told Kari that art is too much of wasted time? Who told Kari that being an artist isn’t a serious pursuit of making a life? Who told Kari that she isn’t good enough to make art her career? When did those limiting beliefs start to take deep roots in her heart and mind?

There are a few choices Kari can make: She can give up her art completely and get a “real” job, she can only do her artwork for her own pleasure and joy, she can give her artwork away to friends and colleagues as gifts so that at least her art will be “out there” even if it hangs in someone else’s house or office or she can imagine one last time what it would be like to have the art studio/gallery she always dreamed about.

Kari chooses to imagine one last time about her art studio. Kari chose the “as if” option and she lets her imagination run wild with the end in mind, “as if” she made her dream come true and opened her art studio and became the successful artist she always dreamed of becoming. Out loud Kari imagines it is opening night at her art studio and the walls are full of her artwork in every medium. There are lots of people at the opening tonight including people that came as guests of those that received an invitation and the biggest surprise of all is that the media are here tonight to interview Kari and get her story. Kari imagines the gorgeous outfit she is wearing and imagines that her parents are there and feel so proud of her for sticking with her dream and making it come true. Kari imagines the food and drinks being passed around, she imagines the pockets of conversation going on around her studio, she imagines the music playing in the background and how great everyone looks tonight because they came to this special event. At the end of the night Kari imagines her most sacred piece of art being sold to an art collector and Kari being commissioned to do work for businesses in and around her art studio.

The greatest take away for Kari in playing the “as if” game is that she just thought about even more ideas on how to make her studio/gallery a great success. By opening herself up to the possibilities and by letting herself feel the happiness in her core-self, by freeing her mind and heart from limiting beliefs, Kari has experienced more joy in these few minutes than in the past year of struggling to be “practical” about her future.

Call to Action

Find a friend, mentor, coach, or use your own reflection in the mirror and play the “as if” game with your dreams. No limiting beliefs allowed. Dress the part, play the music, set the scene and have at it. Notice everything, the way you look, the way you feel, the way your thoughts expand. Who told you that you can’t make this vision your reality?

One of Ms. Ostman’s most successful practices is to interview fear and listen to what comes up in that discussion. If you are interested in trying this interview with fear, please give me a call. You will be changed from this experience.

On a piece of paper make a list down one side of the paper of all the things that you believe today. On the other side of the paper make a list of how you came to have each belief; in other words, who told you that? On a new piece of paper make a list of all the new things you are now going to believe that will help move you toward the person you want to be. Keep in mind on this new list, that YOU are giving yourself permission to believe these new things, act on these new things, dream these new things and become these new things.

Write a good-bye letter to your old self letting go of the fearful things that you have told to yourself or have been told to you that you are currently believing; letting go of the limiting beliefs that are holding you back from becoming your true self. Before you end the good-bye to old self letter start to write about all the new things your new, free self will be experiencing from now on. What successful, happy, expansive experiences will you be adding to your new life? How much can you honestly feel inside of your core-self that you believe you honestly, courageously, and wholeheartedly will experience in all the amazing life moments that are destined to come to you?

The Busyness of Boredom

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“Boredom is the inner conflict we suffer when we lose desire, when we lack a lacking.” –Robert McKee

It wasn’t for a lack of desire that I found myself bored at work. I mean who can ever say that they are bored at work with truly no work to do and mean it? I can but I also understand the temptation that some people might fall prey to where they do have actual work to do but they are not motivated to get it done so they feel bored.

In my case I had actually finished the project I was hired to do and there was no other work for me to do even when I asked if I could be of help to anyone in the office. I had no choice but to wait out the next phase of work to begin. I felt quite guilty getting paid to just show up so I told one of my supervisors I wouldn’t be in one day so that they weren’t wasting their money on me not producing an end result. Who does that?

It was quite an interesting scene for me to not only feel bored but to use the resources that were in limited supply around me and fill my time. I finished reading a book, I caught up on correspondence, and I made some phone calls and doctor appointments. This article is a result of the research I did while I was bored at work. The take away for me is that boredom is a choice and when presented with a list of options on how to fill your open space of time in most cases we will usually choose to do as little as possible. I’m no different really but for the most part I think I am strange in that I hate down time unless I’m sleeping and even then I usually wake up the next day feeling very tired because I must have been working hard in my dream state. I can sit still and I can sit for hours at a time but I don’t like it very much so having a host of things to do is always a thrill for me. So as a result of my boredom I created a list of ways on how not to be bored within the down time I suddenly found. See if you can find yourself in just one of the items on the list. Please let me know if you have any options to add to the list. Okay, here we go:

Create avenues of interest: Conversation cues or prompts are one avenue of interest for me. I was on vacation with my daughter one summer and I found a conversation starter kit called a Chatbox. In the box are rectangle cards that ask questions to prompt conversation. I used the box recently when I got hired as a way to try to meet people from all around the office. Where I work is a big facility but most people have to pass my area to get to the kitchen so I set out some candy in a dish and put the cards next to the candy in the hopes that someone would be intrigued to read the questions and make conversation. Not many takers but there were some. Most people are very shy and closed to meeting new people so I’m not surprised but the candy worked out really well in terms of a quick hello or thank you but again not much in the way of conversation and introductions. Just so you know, I keep trying and in case you are curious Peanut M&M’s , Mini Snickers bars and Tootsie Rolls are the popular candy grab among adults indulging in their little kid candy cravings and chocolate fix. It’s the smiles that really do it for me.

“Even the most routine tasks become more rewarding if we approach them with the care it would take to make a work of art.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Stay in touch: Taking an interest in someone else’s day or life moments means a whole lot to that person. Though I was on company time the company had no work for me so I used the technology available to me and got in touch with clients, family members and friends. Getting out of my own head and situation helped to pass the time. I learned things about each person that I may have missed out on if I were too busy to connect with them. I found that I was listening deeper because I wanted to bury myself in their thoughts and words and feelings.

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh!” he whispered. “Yes, Piglet?” “Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.” ~A.A. Milne

Learn Something: In my case, write something. I learn something new every time I write for my clients and the coaching community. Keeping my mind active is very important to me so I write and read a lot. I play word games and I doodle all the time. If you find a moment in your day where you just need to fill a transition spot of time why not learn a quick fact that you can share with someone right away. You never know where that fact will lead you or if it will benefit someone else.

“It is not that I am so smart. I just stay with the questions much longer.” Albert Einstein

Make Plans: Having something to look forward to is a great boredom buster. Add to or create a bucket list. Your list could be a lifelong list or a weekly list or daily list. What would you choose to do or accomplish today when you thought, “Oh, if I only had the time.” This might be a good time to schedule doctor appointments or schedule that much needed massage you’ve been putting off.

“There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” Bill Watterson

Problem Solve: Do you want to learn how to make big changes in your life? Take this downtime to get to know yourself better and create solutions to those life challenges that are getting in your way of moving forward in other areas of your life.

“Like most astronauts, I’m pretty sure I can deal with what life throws at me because I’ve thought about what to do if things go wrong, as well as right. That’s the power of negative thinking.” Chris Hadfield

Go Within: Listen to music, meditate, pray. Get deep inside of you and let the person you are too busy to get to know, come out. Ask for spiritual guidance, put hard to answer questions out to the universe and be patient for the answer back. An answer always comes around. What is your truth and how are you honoring it? What makes you happy and how are you choosing it?

“There is a difference between the facts of a person and the truth of him.” Alix Ohlin

Play mental games: While trying to appreciate the slow time I was experiencing I tried to practice and possibly enhance my listening skills. I listened to voice patterns in conversations going on around me and I listened to office noises and tried to identify them. I listened to my own inner thoughts and wondered how best to use them. In some instances I was able to go deeper into the project I was assigned to work on and I was able to expand on the job requirement and learn the software more thoroughly.

“The ancestor of every action is a thought .” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Volunteer: Ask people around you if they need help with a project. Join committees or short term project groups that would benefit from your expertise and willingness to help. Perhaps volunteering outside of what you do all day will enhance what you do in your job.

“Wherever you turn, you can find someone who needs you. Even if it is a little thing, do something for which there is no pay but the privilege of doing it. Remember, you don’t live in a world all of your own.” –Albert Schweitzer

Boredom has roots in the feeling of being too comfortable in life. According to authors Robert Biswas Diener and Todd Kashdan, Ph.D, and their book “The Upside of Your Dark Side”, “We feel bored when the current situation is monotonous, low intensity, and rather meaningless. As we become more comfortable in our lives, researchers observed a drop in our psychological health.” In this case the authors mention the invention of memory foam mattresses. “While people were getting better sleep, enjoying more convenience and expecting greater happiness, they were also adjusting to a life without too many trials or hardships.” I think of it in comparison to Purell. We are so anti germs that we are denying our bodies the chance to build immunities to the germs and so our bodies get weaker making us more susceptible to illnesses. Our psyche is ill prepared to handle many kind of hardship these days that our ancestors had to face that they would probably look at us and say, “Are you kidding me, you are upset about that?”

Our growing discomfort with boredom for instance, among other things like uncertainty, doubt and negative emotions lead us to escape and not face these uncomfortable states of being, by, for example, watching a lot of television. T.V. takes us away from our cares and our daily lives. We are not training ourselves to deal with the adversity of something simple like boredom. The authors agree on this point, “Both change and predictability are necessary for a good life.”

The authors ask this question: “So how can boredom be beneficial?” Their answer? “In Hindu and Buddhist traditions, boredom is described as a precursor to insight and discovery.”

I have to agree with this thought because sometimes being bored allows for my creativity to sky rocket. In some instances when I feel bored it’s because I’m procrastinating about doing something specific or I’m day dreaming about a life I wish I was living however there are a lot of times when feeling bored has led me to try something new or be more spontaneous in my life or get a project done that has been waiting for the availability of time. When there was no work to do at my job I felt torn between trying to be resourceful and find work to do while knowing all the work I could be doing if I were home and running the business of my family. Guilt is very powerful but is it also a great motivator.

Here are the authors:

“…..something special happens during periods of boredom. When the brain is left to wander, at best it’s a springboard to creativity and growth, and at worst it encounters a brief period of discomfort. Boredom can also be a state of low energy, signaling that work is complete and acceptable. That is, nothing is left to do so a person feels aimless, but this lack of direction is association with the satisfactory completion of tasks. Last, boredom can have motivational impact, pushing a person toward novelty, providing the mental gun to the head that helps people shift out of complacency into the uncertain, challenging zone where safety and success are not guaranteed.”

As with most experiences whether it is external such as having fun all the time or internal such as the foods we eat to nourish our bodies, everything in moderation. Too much boredom and too much novelty can cause anxiety.

I remember plenty of times as a child telling my mom how bored I was. Her answer was to go outside. Without doubt I always found something to do. In fact using my boredom and just letting the day unfold outside was where I discovered my love of archaeology. If the day didn’t allow for playing and exploring outside then my friends and I would clean my mom’s basement where all my toys and games were solely for the reward of a trip to the ice cream parlor for a job well done. Sneaky witches.

As a mom I fell into the trap of trying to keep my kids busy as they were growing up. Sure, there were times of boredom but not many. I wanted to feed their interests with matching activities or help them maybe discover interests they didn’t know they had. It wasn’t long at all before I noticed the health benefits of letting them NOT be so scheduled and busy. My daughter didn’t get as sick and the boys truly got pleasure in sitting around and just playing with Legos or their Matchbox cars. I have noticed however that my daughter, now a college student, finds it hard to say no to any new experience or interest feeding event. Even when she knows her body could use the rest she makes plans to go and do and be. Could it be the high activity level of her early growing up years or could it be that this is just who she is? I’m so grateful for the times I was able to not have anything scheduled.

There is something so magical about just hanging out at home with no purpose other than to do “whatever.” For example, when my kids were “bored” and they couldn’t go outside one day during the winter months we dressed in our summer clothes, decorated the house as if it were summer time and pretended we were at the beach and we had a picnic in the living room. When they were not tired yet and couldn’t fall asleep we pretended my bed was a boat and we went sailing around the world. Another time we made one whole day all about movies. It’s okay to be bored from time to time. It is the time that helps create the busyness of boredom.

“A good dose of fantasy is exercise for your sensibilities; it keeps your avatar strong.”Richelle E. Goodrich, Smile Anyway: Quotes, Verse, & Grumblings for Every Day of the Year

Call to Action

Whatever down time looks like to you, and whatever novelty you can come up with to beat back the feeling of aimlessness and boredom why not grab hold of those life moments when they show up and just be in it?

What does boredom open up for you?

When does boredom show up?

How do you make the most of boredom?

5 Ideas To Help Power Your Fears Away

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Do you believe in signs? Do you believe that the universe tries to talk to us all the time but we can only hear the messages when we are ready? I do.

So my theme this year seems to be revolving around the multitude of times God has said “Don’t be afraid”. Ever since realizing that theme I have been so aware of my life moments when I know for sure I would have been too afraid to do something or say something but I purposefully now choose the path of bravery . This year it feels like the words “Don’t be afraid” have been like a shield of armor around me keeping fear at bay.

My attempts at living a life of “don’t be afraid” first played out in my wanting to volunteer. It was as if I had a calling from deep inside my soul to just do it; just put myself in the thick of where someone else had a need.

A year ago I was made aware that people only volunteer where they feel most comfortable; that it is rare that people will volunteer in places and activities they no nothing about or feel is too much away from people and a life they are accustomed to. So I thought about that and realized that I didn’t want to be that kind of person so I signed up to be a volunteer in the cancer center of a hospital. Too many scary, uncomfortable scenes played out in my head and that is how I knew it was the right thing to do. Choosing this particular quest met all of my criteria:

The idea was way outside of my comfort zone.

The idea was challenging both in time and location.

The idea was making me feel nervous and scared.

When you volunteer at a hospital you have to be tested for TB. That is a process in itself but for someone like me who hates pain of any kind and especially needles of any kind this was quite an undertaking; constantly forcing me to ask myself if volunteering at a hospital was really worth it, I mean after all I was also at this point volunteering to put myself through this pain and discomfort. A lot of deep breaths of courage later I made it through and couldn’t be happier to be doing what I’m doing.

I wanted most of all to be helpful and useful and purposeful to someone else; to get out of my own self. I got that.

I wanted to learn new skills and be challenged mentally and emotionally. I got that.

I wanted to see and feel how it would be to reach out to other people in a way that had no obligation back to me. I got that.

I wanted to see if I could get along with strangers purely because I wanted to be there and not be forced into a relationship because I “worked” there. I got that.

I wanted to learn what it would feel like to give of myself wholeheartedly, end of sentence. I got that.

What I got beyond what I was needing to explore and discover was priceless. If I were to get paid to do what I volunteer to do then what I do would become a job and it would lose it’s shine and power and magic. I don’t want that to happen.

Not long after I started volunteering I was called to interview with a temp agency; a job placement company that would help me build more of my skill sets and help me pull my financial weight for my family. I have been out of work part time or full time for too long of a time and getting the call for this interview seemed heaven sent. I accomplished the initial interview and 2 weeks later they found something for me. I quickly realized that I would have to stop volunteering. No way. I took the temp job and worked it out so that one day a week I could still volunteer and make up the work day I was missing on a Saturday. It meant going from no work days to working 6 days a week but I didn’t care. What I like about temping is that the temp job will end but the volunteering will last for however long I can last.

The one thing I noticed right away as a difference between a job and a volunteer position is how people respond to me. I am welcome with smiles and open arms as a volunteer and anything I do as a volunteer is appreciated with a multitude of “thank yous” but as a temp employee I am looked at as an interference in the work flow relationship and with a stand offish attitude. Not one thank you is ever uttered. The universe first warned me and then reminded me this past week to not take things personally and to not make assumptions about anything or anyone. The warning came just before the new work week started:

“Many people are really just sad people. They hurt others because they are hurting. Every person is born beautiful, and much of the ugliness in others was put inside of them by other hurting people.” Bryant McGill

I had to wonder if my personal silent thoughts really can be heard by God or was this just a freaky coincidence…..

And then came the reminder 2 days into the new work week:

“When someone is vicious toward you they are giving you a glimpse of the pain they carry in themselves. Viciousness is suffering.” Bryant McGill

Was my attention to these words more heightened because of my new circumstance? Maybe. The thing is, now that I have so much attention directed at “don’t be afraid” I see the things that naturally frighten me as a call to action through bravery and my new found shield of armor.

I sit in a cubicle (so not me) at this temp job and in the cubicle next to me is a guy who is just not friendly. He barely looks me in the eye or says hello when I say good morning, he rarely smiles and he makes every effort to be too busy to allow me to ask him any questions knowing full well that if I have a question he is the one I should go to. So, I avoid him at all costs except when I have absolutely no choice. My fear lies in the fact that I hate confrontation on every level. My palms sweat, my body shakes, and my mind goes blank. This week I had one moment where I had absolutely no choice and had to ask him a question. In my attempt at not being afraid I used as much humor as possible in communicating with him while remembering the quotes that were purposefully placed in my mind. You know, I actually made him laugh out loud for a tiny fraction of a second. It was monumental to me and it can’t be taken back. It happened and then it was gone.

“Remember this: Sometimes meeting someone has nothing to do with what you can provide for him or her and everything to do with what God needs you to recognize in that person. If you didn’t understand the message, God will keep sending the same person or situation into your life.” Shannon L. Alder

What I have learned is that possibly this is all in support of my “don’t be afraid” theme; all in support of helping me be a better me and helping me understand others better as well. I am trying everyday to understand the messages that are being sent to me and what it means to not be afraid. What I learned about myself was that I don’t really care what he thinks of me or my skill set. This job is temporary, he is temporary in my life because I saw a part of me handle his negativity with humor and a sense of whole being from my heart and I am changed. I am here to do a specific job and do it well and then move on. He’s stuck, I’m not. “Don’t be afraid” truly is my sword and shield. I truly believe that by my concentrating on what I want this year to mean for me the universe is supporting my endeavors.

Here are a few ideas that could help you get started on not being afraid:

Imagine your superhero self: Do you ever fantasize about what you would look like, sounds like and behave like if you weren’t afraid? Take out the fantasy from your mind and spirit and put it out there in reality. It will feel funny and uncomfortable at first but the more you try to see yourself as unafraid the more unafraid you will become.

Make fear your friend: Every time I give in to a fear that holds me back from experiencing a more meaningful life I hate myself for it. I find that I retreat deeper into a self protective shell and I never prove my bravery by letting fear hold me back. I decided that if I believe in teaching my children not be afraid of what life hands to them then I had better start being an example of overcoming the fears that I face in my life. The energy generated around facing a fear can be used to empower the actions necessary to jump into the fearful situation and make a success out of the experience.

Don’t procrastinate: If you find yourself in a confrontational situation and know for sure that you are afraid to deal with situations like that then that is all the more reason to deal with it right then and there. Sure you might not say or behave exactly fearless or supreme but the fact that you faced the fear and got through it is the beginning of more and more confidence to handle this and other fearful situations the next time it comes along. Don’t put off the life moments that are calling you to be in it. Face it, deal with it, move on from it. Procrastination breeds  fear. Bravery and courage breed confidence.

Choose your weapon: How do you want to arm yourself when confronted with fear? Do you want bible verses, do you want physical strength, do you want moral support, do you want an awesome wardrobe, do you want small experiences to help you build on toward the more challenging experiences? You get to decide how you arm yourself when facing fearful situations. Remember to practice with these weapons of choice and believe that all of your efforts are for a peaceful and purposeful outcome. Life is not meant to be run away from. We won’t learn anything if we run away. Meet life where it stands and arm yourself to be the best of yourself.

Stay in the light: Darkness of any kind whether it be darkness (lack) of education or darkness of faith or true darkness as the absence of light can be scary and make us feel unsure and fearful. Learn all you can about the fears you are wanting to deal with. Keep a light on in some form if true darkness zaps your moral courage. Know that you can always do something to help aid in your quest to not be afraid.

“Don’t be afraid of your fears. They’re not there to scare you. They’re there to let you know that something is worth it.” C. JoyBell C.

Call to Action

What are the signs you are not ready to read?

How can you pay more attention to intention?

Where do you want to change something in your life but are too afraid to do so?

When is the right time to face your fears and challenge your courage?

5 Ways to Find your Piece of Peace

 

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“World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not just mere absence of violence. Peace is, I think, the manifestation of human compassion.” Dalai Lama XIV

The dictionary defines the word peace first by 3 definitions relating to war:

  • A state in which there is no war or fighting
  • An agreement to end a war
  • A period of time when there is no war or fighting

The rest of the definitions are:

  • A state of tranquility or quiet
  • Freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions
  • Harmony in personal relations

No matter how we each define peace at any particular time of our lives it seems that harmony and tranquility are the overarching states of mind, body and soul that we all look to achieve.

When you hear the word peace what images come to mind for you? If I were to create a vision board of peace these are the images I would include:

Blue sky, meditation, smiles everywhere, calm, soft music with a saxophone, walking on the beach, hot chocolate and a great book, candlelight dinners, hugs, hearts and flowers, and helpfulness. I’m absolutely sure I can come up with more to add to this list of peaceful visions but then this would get ridiculous.

For me, a piece of peace comes from cherished family moments and time spent with my children. I’m made more and more aware of this sense of peace now that the kids are living their own lives between working and going to college and being with their friends. They just are not home as much as they used to be.

Everything I knew about peace while the kids were home all the time included sports games, practice schedules, carpooling, community participation, time marked by seasons and school breaks; in essence the very much anticipated “routine” of raising a family. My personal piece of peace was in the doing and the busyness of a blessed life.

It was organized chaos and I thrived on the craziness of it. Now life has become unreliable and un-routine and un-peaceful for me because I find it hard to define my role as a parent. My routine and boundaries have been narrowed considerably now that the children are taking over their own lives. I can’t get lost in the management of the family anymore. However, there is a new piece of peace I have found and I found it in a very unlikely place; within me.

While being the very active, very attentive parent I was and while burying myself in my children and the running of the business of our family, I always put my needs and wants dead last and did not spend any time getting to know me as I was getting older alongside my children getting older. I paid way more attention to their changes and who they were becoming but not to my own changes. Time has been a friend and an enemy all along but I’m finding that it is for the children’s benefit now for me to become active and attentive and in search of my own needs and wants. I have a piece of peace within my own soul that I never expected to find simply by changing my mindset along with the changing of their lives. These personal peaceful steps that I take for my own well-being will help them become more empowered adults by watching me be empowered outside of my role as their mom 24/7. I want that for them. I want to be a good role model, still.

So now I get a piece of peace when the house is quiet and I can coach a client as if the entire house is my office. I get a piece of peace when my day transitions from work to home responsibilities like cooking dinner while I play my favorite music and dance around the kitchen. I get a piece of peace when everyone is home but doing their own thing to catch up on their life’s responsibilities and we come together at odd intervals  in passing in the hallway or at dinner time. I get a piece of peace having an adult conversation with these people who, just a few short years ago, were nowhere near adulthood. I can peacefully enjoy their growing up process from a new perspective.

I often hear how my clients wish they could know a peaceful existence 24/7 but truly, what fun would that be? We need the bad to remind us of the sweetness of good, we need the downs to make the ups so much brighter and we need the chaos to help us really understand peace.

Where do you find your piece of peace during your day or week or month?

Turns out there are so many things a person can do to create their own piece(s) of peace:

As best you can stop worrying. Worry zaps necessary energy from peaceful thinking and peaceful actions. Worry makes drama and negatives more important than smiling and solutions. When you find yourself worrying about anything, stop right in that moment and ask yourself, “How will my worry change the way this situation is going?” “When has my worrying ever created a positive outcome?” Then take a deep breath and let it go. Let go of the worry, trust that the universe is always spinning and changing and that what you think you know for sure at this most worrisome moment will not be like it is in another 15 minutes or 2 hours or one day.

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” Corrie ten Boom

Grab onto a piece of peace. What does your vision of peace look like, sound like, feel like, and taste like? Is it fear of the unknown that creates a feeling of having no peace? You can affect a more realistic outcome of peace if you first allow yourself to feel all of the emotions that come with living a life away from peace but then, when the storm of emotions calms down, come from a peaceful place within your heart and mind. Grab onto those resources within you that help you start to create a peaceful atmosphere. Get peaceful in just one area of your life right in the thick of things and you will be amazed at how regenerative and empowering it can be to let the fear come and then go.

“There is peace even in the storm” Vincent van Gogh, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

Give up control. As human beings we want to always have the answers, we want to always be the go-to person, and we want to call the shots. Well, I hate to break it to you but in most cases the only control we ever truly have is the control we summon over our perspective and attitude. By giving up control around worrisome situations we are acknowledging that we don’t know everything and this allows for curiosity to be born. How can this drama be looked at differently? What do you know for sure right now? What suggestions might be helpful, especially ones that you haven’t thought of on your own?

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” Viktor E. Frankl

Get going. Action is the most empowering of ways to combat the feeling of being out of control and being so far detached from peace. Take a walk to clear your head and to get those happy endorphins flowing. Meditate by doing deep breathing exercises or talking to God. Write in a journal to get the helpless feelings out or write a letter to the person or situation that is causing so much grief but don’t mail it. Clean the house or the garage or the car or the attic or the bathroom. This is my favorite “get going” exercise because tackling a room in the house that needs cleaning is an instant gratification boost; what was messy is not orderly and clean all in the same day plus it physically gets my body moving. Call a friend or clergy, a coach or your mom. Vent and release your worry to someone who can and wants to take the burden from you if only for a little while. My second favorite way to distance myself from worry and drama is to give to someone in need. I volunteer because I am always in the right place at the right time giving what I have to someone who will be most thankful for my existence. What is better than that to help create a sense of inner peace?

“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. ”William James

Be kind to yourself. For every awful, demeaning, self-loathing thought you have about your part in a worrisome situation, instantly think of its opposite. For example I thought I was a horrible mom for not equipping my boys to handle their life’s drama with more courage and a better sense of self. For every ugly thought I had about myself I would think of all the ways in which my boys still loved me, still relied on me, still listened to what I had to offer, and still get up each day to face the next thing. It took me a long time to realize that I am not responsible for the habits they each create. God created us to have free will and in that we make decisions that will have consequences, good and bad. I can only say and do the best I can. It is up to each person to act according to the information they receive and are exposed to.

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” Lao Tzu

Call to Action

What is one thing you can do right this minute to create a piece of peace for yourself?

Make a pact with yourself and decide:

If I feel myself start to worry then I will _____________________. Think of something that is calming and pleasant for you to experience. Having a game plan to immediately implement in times of high stress and worry helps your body be able to handle the chaotic moments with more resolve.

When do you notice yourself feeling stress, worry or not being at peace?

 

 

7 Tricks to Ease the Melancholy of the Holiday Season

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“Your heart’s strength is measured by how hard it holds on. Your self-worth and faith is measured by finally letting go. However, your peace is measured by how long you don’t look back.” Shannon L. Alder

It’s hard to not look back on your life or certain memories especially during the holiday season. Thanksgiving is right around the corner and it always gets me to thinking about the past even if I think only about the year that is almost ending. I think about family, the people I can still share the holiday with and the people that are no longer part of that tradition. I’m grateful for the memories of past family gatherings during the holiday season and I get a bit emotional when I dwell too long there but I find that as I get older I long for the new experiences to start so that I can add them to the list of things I’m grateful for.

A few times in my life I’ve been the host for Thanksgiving dinner, the most I’ve entertained at one time was for 23 people. Our family really isn’t that big but I never believed in putting a limit on how many were welcome to our table. We lived in a condo at the time and although it was a 3 bedroom unit the living space was small and so it was quite a feat to figure out how to seat 23 people for such a huge dinner. Funny that I was more concerned with how to seat everyone comfortably and not worried about what to serve and how to serve. My children were all under the age of 10 at the time so it took probably close to 2 weeks to prepare not only the menu and the seating plan but to prepare the house comfortably for those guests that were staying for an overnight .

The anticipation building in those 2 weeks was volatile. The kids were excited every day to count down to family coming over to their house. The smells in the kitchen radiated throughout the entire house for days on end. To this day my daughter associates certain foods that I cook throughout the year with Thanksgiving such as caramelized onions, sautéed apples, homemade bread, anything made with nutmeg, etc. Mmmmm…my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

“Hunger of the heart is much stronger than hunger for food.” Amanda Comer

I can’t help but think back to the craziness of preparing for Thanksgiving because the celebration is so different now. I definitely have a hunger in my heart to relive those crazy holiday times. I was busy, I felt purposeful and I felt needed and important. That is the magic and the power of family.

I have to admit right here that although it was a lot of work and I enjoyed the anticipation as much as the kids did not every ounce of it went smoothly or happily. I felt stress and I’m sure at one time I murmured to myself how I would like it if just one year we could be the guests and just show up to eat and schmooze.

“Family isn’t something that’s supposed to be static, or set. People marry in, divorce out. They’re born, they die. It’s always evolving, turning into something else.” Sarah Dessen, Lock and Key

Many years later, kids mostly grown, family moved away and/or defected I find myself melancholy about the holiday season for different reasons entirely. My soul feels alone. On the one hand I’m not alone because I am blessed to have my husband and almost all of my children still living at home to share in the celebrations of the season but the enthusiasm and anticipation is tempered to an extreme and I feel the emptiness of that. I don’t know, there is just something magical in cooking for more than just my immediate family; listening to different kinds of conversation; getting lost in someone else’s life for a while; listening to the children get involved around the table and really noticing them blossom into adulthood. It’s just the 4 of us now, no friends, no family and oh how I wish I could cook and bake and fuss over a house full of family now that I actually have the living space for them all to come over and spread out. Even with all the family members and their issues it would still be nice to fuss.

“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” George Burns

Life is funny that way. It is my “life is backwards” theory. The theory is that things that should be obvious and make sense, don’t. When we had hardly any space to entertain, people came over in droves to spend time. Now that we moved up a bit I hear crickets. When I felt overwhelmed at entertaining I wished it would not be so stressful and now I’d give almost anything to have just one stressed out, manic, family crazy, I-hate-you-but-I-love-you Thanksgiving. I’m sure you can think of a few examples of life being backwards for you as well.

But what I’m realizing as time goes by is that we are in a transition phase. I will have family to cook and fuss for again someday because the children will bring new people to my table and one day I might even become a grandma and then not only will I have someone to fuss over but I’ll have someone to teach and play with and pass on a part of me to. I can look forward with anticipation to that.

In the years since the “great big Thanksgiving” we have enjoyed a few Thanksgiving meals away from home like the time we spent Thanksgiving in Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. It was cold and it was a beautiful grayish day with the smell of snow in the air. If you have never been there in any season, please try to go around Thanksgiving time. The village encases you in the past and helps you feel what it was like to live around the time when the pilgrims came to America. During our day long tour, before our dinner reservations, it did indeed start to snow. It was probably the most beautiful snowfall I have ever experienced. The snow blanketed the outdoor sounds and made me feel more intimate and connected to my surroundings. As the snow was falling it seemed like it was just for effect. The roads home stayed clear but the village was awash in seasonal holiday cheer made ever more magical by the snowfall. I let myself get so caught up in the holiday lights and spirit, the smells in the air and the historic feeling of it all and the snow just brought more coziness to the village and the warmth of a good meal waiting for us by the open fire.

We have created new traditions within our little clan. I have enjoyed experiencing Thanksgiving in many different ways with our children. I try to find new ways to anticipate the holiday season and to try to hold on to the magic of it all. For example we started watching the movie Scrooge and also the movie Elf as after dinner family time entertainment; and while cleaning up from our large holiday meal we get ready for the winter holidays by playing seasonal music and singing out loud. That’s always fun because not all of us have a singing voice. I’m happy for having had the experiences of holidays of the past but I consciously now choose to look forward to what could be. I try not to let my heart get too heavy for what is missing.

If this holiday season finds you with a melancholy heart or a yearning for what used to be, here are some tricks that might help ease the pain:

Make sure you are getting plenty of sleep at least 2 weeks before the holiday. Sleep keeps your body regulated not only in its basic functioning but also emotionally.

“Also, I could finally sleep. And this was the real gift, because when you cannot sleep, you cannot get yourself out of the ditch–there’s not a chance.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Follow a healthy eating plan. While this is something you need to do all year long, at least one month before the holiday reset your stomach and hormones by eating better before the emotional stress sets in.

“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.” David Mamet, Boston Marriage

As best as you can, try to do some physical exercise even if you go for a walk for 30 minutes every day before the holiday. Physical activity just for yourself is soothing, refreshing and empowering. It naturally reduces stress and sets your brain to a more positive way of thinking. Exercise increases creativity.

“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.” Ellen DeGeneres

At least one month before the holiday purposefully allow yourself to enjoy activities that make you happy. Enlist some friends if you can but it is okay if you go alone. Having happy experiences to bring to the conversation at dinner time will be a big boost for you and the people around the table.

“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.” Anne Frank

If, like me, your table will be short a few more people than you would like perhaps setting their pictures around the table as decoration would help. Include photos from holidays past and let the reminiscing begin. Before you know it laughter will take over and the trip down memory lane will feel like you traveled somewhere for a little while.

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, and the people you have loved.”Ansel Adams

Reach out to a trusted friend, mentor, coach, clergy or family member and talk through the melancholy you are feeling. Maybe ideas will pop up and help ease the pain and infuse hope. If talking to someone is not comfortable for you then consider writing out your thoughts just for yourself. Twenty minutes for 4 consecutive days does wonders for the soul.

“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” Albert Camus

Take time to force yourself to do relaxing things leading up to the holiday. Go to a spa for a massage, sit in a steam room or Jacuzzi, play soothing music while falling asleep, light candles around your space instead of turning on lights, burn some incense, meditate, anything to help create an air of relaxation and peace.

“A massage is just like a movie, really relaxing and a total escape, except in a massage you’re the star. And you don’t miss anything by falling asleep!” Elizabeth Jane Howard, Mr. Wrong

perspective change

I know it can be a tough situation at holiday time for many reasons but in the whole of each person’s situation is the truth that our own attitude and perspective can make or break the moments we experience. The undisputable truth is that when things get really dark in my life I always have the choice to be afraid and sad or I can choose to see the stars more clearly. I am trying to train my perception of what appears to be a negative and find the hope that lives in the positive.

I wish you all peace, happiness, renewal, and an abundance of reasons to be filled with gratitude this year. Thank you all for your support and friendship. Happy Holiday Season!!!

Call to Action

What are your Thanksgiving traditions?

How do you bring newness to the holiday?

Where can you try to see the good in the perception of bad?

If you are disconnected as a family this year, why and what does the disconnect mean for you?

Images by afieldofblessings.blogspot.com and simplereminders.com

3 Questions to Help you Get Your Happiness On…

The Pursuit of Happiness….You Thought this Would be Easy?

capt underpants

What does happiness mean to you? Is it having everything you want or does happiness live inside of something else like good health, good relationships, or goodness itself?

Maybe it should be called the pursuit of goodness?

“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” Dalai Lama XIV

There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t see an article or a book or news report about the pursuit of happiness. It’s an epidemic of global proportions that everyone wants to be happy. We all go about finding our own happiness levels in various ways, ways that are as unique as our fingerprints. There are so many books written about happiness because each author has found his/her own slice of the happiness equation and has something to say about it. I have in my library 11 books on this specific genre and I’m sure I am not done yet and this doesn’t include articles I have found on the internet that I have saved in a folder somewhere or the countless quotes that I use to inspire me every day from my wallpaper.

I, like you, want to be happy. In his book, Happier, author and Harvard professor Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D, doesn’t waste much time in his writing to pinpoint what happiness means and what we instinctually need in order to be happy (page 33, 36).

“I define happiness as the ‘overall experience of pleasure and meaning.’ To be happy, we have to feel that, on the whole, whatever sorrows, trials, and tribulations we may encounter, we still experience the joy of being alive.”

Following that statement he then asks you to make a list of things, from trivial to meaningful, of all the things that provide you pleasure.

Here is my list in no particular order: Good food, meaningful friendships, feeling completely loved and cherished, reading, learning new things, a good night’s sleep, cooking and baking great tasting foods for my family and friends, taking great photographs, writing, walking, cycling, vacationing, hugging, family time, not working outside my home.

I’m sure there are many more items I could add to this list but this is a good start I think. In this list there are items that just exist to add to my peace of mind and overall happiness but there are also a lot of items that are experiencing items. The things we do that add to our happiness mostly come from the experience that created the feeling of happiness. In that experience lays meaning. In the experience and meaning is the action of the pursuit.

“Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.” Guillaume Apollinaire

I’d like to take a moment and focus on one of the items I listed. I mentioned not working outside of my home. I have always been a home body. I can’t remember a time in my whole life where I didn’t get great pleasure from being home. I love to take vacations and see new places and experience new things but it’s the pleasure of being able to come home that allows me the freedom of spirit to go out into the world and fulfill those other needs. My life energy comes from the strength I get from where I call home.

I am in between jobs right now and to be quite honest, even though I know I have to go out to work and I am actively seeking new employment I am thoroughly enjoying being home, working with my coaching clients, writing my blog posts, taking classes at night, and taking care of my family and my home. In the spaces between not working for someone else and doing what I love doing as a coach, I volunteer. Where I can’t give to my family financially I give to those in need spiritually and organically. Volunteering is very spiritual for me because it gives me a sense of significance; it is important to me and is priceless in terms of helping to define my own pursuit of happiness. I truly believe that happiness is contagious and if I am happy then I am without fail going to be able to affect the happiness level of someone else. As the Buddha says, “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

“Sometimes life knocks you on your ass… get up, get up, get up!!! Happiness is not the absence of problems, it’s the ability to deal with them.” Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

Author Tal Ben-Shahar writes:

“We should also remember that going through difficult times augments our capacity for pleasure: it keeps us from taking pleasure for granted, reminds us to be grateful for all the large and small pleasures in our lives. Being grateful in this way can itself be a source of real meaning and pleasure.”

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” –James 1:2

Not everything about my working from home is perfect and happy all the time. We are struggling financially and have to face some really tough decisions in the very near future. I am also quite lonely sometimes while the house is that quiet for so many hours. I think it is an impossibility to appreciate the things that help us feel happy without the struggles of what makes us feel unhappy. The happiness level we reset ourselves to helps determine how we know when we are more happy or less happy than most days. Author and researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky wrote in her book, The How of Happiness, that each of us is born with a happiness set point:

“It appears that each of us is born with a happiness set point, a characteristic potential for happiness throughout our lives. Although you may be temporarily ecstatic or miserable by what comes to pass, it seems that you can’t help eventually returning to your set point.”

“But just because your happiness set point cannot be changed doesn’t mean that your happiness level cannot be changed.”

I read a blog post recently in which the author writes about a course she took about miracles. She listed 3 miracles that we could practice every day but the one that really stood out for me was that “a miracle is a shift in perception.” I apply this idea to happiness.

Happiness is a shift in perception.

Getting truly, bitterly, vulnerably honest within ourselves is the first step toward happiness. By my truth of admitting how happy I feel working from home I am that much closer and in touch with all of the implications of that truth and of my happiness. If my perception of my own happiness is going to change for the better, here are some questions that will help get me there:

Are the things I am doing meaningful to me?

What is my mind telling me I should be doing differently with my time?

What is my heart telling me I must change?

What do I value most about myself and my life?

My children grew up hearing me constantly say to them to have patience and tolerance. It’s become such a repeated moniker that I now just say to them, “P & T honey, P & T.” This is a reminder and a reset of not only our perception of a situation but also of our heart because after all happiness lives and grows from the heart.

The other miracle that the author spoke about was to remember that infinite patience delivers immediate results. It sounds backwards but…. time becomes a non- issue.

For example, if you got a late start on your day it is not the fault of anyone you will come in contact with throughout your day.

Imagine this: you are at the grocery store and I don’t know about where you live but where I live our grocery store has 3 express check- out lanes as well as 6 self- check-out lanes. I don’t enjoy using self-check-out so I try to stay within the minimum grocery amount and use the express lane. Without fail each and every time I use the express lane I do not make it out the door in any express kind of way. I watch some of the longer regular grocery lanes and those larger orders in most cases are done long before I am even up to my turn. It is so easy to get frustrated and upset because if you are on express you truly are in some kind of hurry to get done quickly.

The next time this happens to you take a deep breath and remind yourself to have P & T and see how that works for you. Did it really matter that you were longer in the store than you wanted to be? How did time slip into oblivion because you decided to not let the long wait negatively affect you? Did you smile at the check-out employee even if you weren’t feeling a true smile? If so, how did that make the employee feel and how did you feel passing along that smile?

How we affect other people makes a great contribution to our happiness or unhappiness.

Hyrum W. Smith is not necessarily someone you might hear a lot about but he is a distinguished author, speaker and businessman. He is the co-founder and former CEO of Franklin Covey, Co., a global company specializing in helping organizations achieve results that require a change in human behavior through performance improvement. It may not sound very interesting to most of us but he has been quite successful in using his gift and wit and enthusiasm in the field of  perception and communications. This week I attended a live webinar about the idea of living happier. Mr. Smith was one of the speakers and gave me what I think is the most important 3 questions in determining each of our personal levels of happiness:

“Pain is inevitable, misery is optional.”

Is this something I have to do?  This is considered the lowest level of happiness. Feeling as if you have to do something puts you in a place of fear. If you are acting from a place of fear you have no chance of being or feeling happy unless fear is such an adrenaline rush that you thrive on its energy.

Is this something I ought to do? This is the medium or middle level of happiness. Feeling as if you ought to do something puts you in a place of duty. When you act out of a sense of duty you are more authentic to your happiness but there is still some fear residing inside. There is never anything wrong with doing the right thing so it’s not a bad place to be in action from.

Is this something I want to do?  This is the highest level of happiness. Feeling as if you want to do something puts you in a place of love. When you act from a place of love you are initiating happiness from within and spreading it outward with every move you make and every word you speak.

From my perspective of life being backward you would think that being happy was easy to achieve but in reality being happy is hard to achieve but it doesn’t have to be if we make a habit of pursuing happiness with perspective, patience, tolerance and heart. Let your life reflect your values in all that you do and happiness will not be hard to find and maintain.

“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself in your way of thinking.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Call to Action

Here are some small ways in which you can live happy today:

Send an encouraging, flattering or loving email to 5 people today, this minute, this week. The way they will feel after reading what you wrote will undoubtedly be passed along to everyone they come in contact with that day. You can change a life today by doing just that one thing.

Ask yourself, what went right today?

Keep a tally this week of all the times your actions fell into the 3 levels of happiness then figure out how you can move up the ladder to the highest level of happiness:

*What were your have to’s?

*What were your ought to’s?

*What were your want to’s?

Please share with me how this action agenda has helped you. I love to hear your feedback.