Doing Life Together
Doing Life Together
By Cherie Faus Smith
I have always considered myself a strong woman. After all, I’ve survived three abusive relationships involving intimate partners, am a melanoma cancer survivor, and clawed myself out of the trenches of depression and anxiety that left me with dirty fingernails.
Do I feel sorry for myself? NO!
Why don’t I? Because I have a strong woman in my life who has shown me what it takes to be a survivor, I call her mom.
Looking back on my childhood, I realize that my strength came from watching her persevere.
As a teenager, it was a tough transition. I left my friends and moved to a neighborhood full of strangers.
My brother and I made the best of it even though we found trouble or trouble found us (shh…that’s a secret).
There is a saying that my parents often repeated, "If things aren't going your way, punt. It's not the end of the world." That has stuck with me my entire life because life isn’t always easy – there are lots of lessons to be learned along the way.
Thanks to her, I’ve grown into a strong and confident woman. But what happens when that woman breaks?
Recently, we said goodbye to our precious dog, Sadie. It was unexpected, and she has left an enormous hole in our hearts.
When I found her, she was standing on the side of the road, eating pebbles. I wasn't supposed to be on that road that day. The path that I usually take was under construction, and there was a large orange detour sign. I was annoyed knowing I was already late, but then I saw her - this beautiful creature with black fur, cream paws, and tan markings above her eyes.
I stopped and opened the van door. She immediately hopped inside, walked to the front, and plopped herself on the passenger seat, looking at me as if to say, "Hey, let's go! Floor it, lady."
We did everything we could to find her owner, but after a month of no luck, we made her part of our family.
She instantly became my shadow and was by my side during my cancer diagnosis and recovery, depression, and anxiety bouts. Most importantly, she was there day in and day out for the last nine years to provide constant companionship. She was the best dog ever, and I miss her every day.
The day after we said goodbye, I sat on the sofa, bawling my eyes out while my body shook. I was inconsolable, and even my husband couldn’t help. I’m sure he felt extremely helpless, watching me fall apart.
I distinctly remember saying, "I'm breaking."
She was going to be my riding partner once I bought that Jeep that I’ve had my eyes on for the past year.
She was going to fill that void when our son moves into his place this fall.
I had so many plans for the two of us. Life isn't fair, and I wanted more time with her.
I’m a fighter.
I'm a survivor.
I'm a tough cookie.
But even strong women break.
I have a passion for supporting women and created a Facebook Group called Sisterhood of Fabulous and Fearless Women. Would love for you to join.
By Holly Miller
Our brains are amazingly powerful. That brain power can do some astonishing things to our bodies. It has caused me to shake uncontrollably for weeks, make me feel dizzy for days on end, overwhelm my body to the point of passing out, and pack on weight. When harnessed for good, my brain helped me to calm myself, clear my skin, and lose weight. There is this chemical in our brain called cortisol that can change your life for better or worse. If you want to read more about it, here is a quick guide: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-cortisol
If you don’t believe in what our brains can do to our bodies, take a look at the picture that accompanies this blog post. That picture is of the same woman, in the same classroom, 4 years apart. Look at the lady on the left. Blotchy red skin, round face, glassy eyes, defeated expression. She looks nothing like the lady on the right who looks bright, happy, and ready to tackle life! But both are me! After I got some medical help from my doctor, I began to re-evaluate how I let my brain speak to me. “You are worthless.” “You always fail at everything you do.” “You will never truly feel happy.” Would you let anyone say these things to your best friend? No? Then why do we say them to ourselves?! The way we speak to ourselves (self-talk) can affect our cortisol levels. Your brain has that kind of power. Look at that photo again! The woman on the left was not kind to herself in the least. The woman on the right looks like someone I would want to give me a pep-talk. We cannot allow ourselves to speak in a way that we NEVER would to someone else.
I was struggling to write a blog this month. I realized it was because I was slipping back into negative self-talk. I think so many of us don’t even realize we are doing it. We need to be more aware of how we talk to ourselves. Our brains can be re-wired for our benefit. I love this article: https://brainspeak.com/how-negative-self-talk-sabotages-your-health-happiness/ It talks about how we can literally change our brains to affect our bodies for good health. It seems so cliché to hear, “Just think positive!”, but our brains depend on it for our health, mentally AND physically.
Next time you have a negative thought about yourself, I challenge you to change it. Whenever I find a bad thought coming into my head, I picture a loved one in my mind and make myself say that thought aloud to that person. I immediately come to that person’s defense. “You can’t talk to her like that!” “She is an AMAZING person.” “BACK OFF! Why are you being so mean?!” Why do we not champion ourselves like that? YOU are the most influential person in your life. It’s time to take back that powerful brain of yours and use it for good!
While Holly Miller has eclectic passions, interests, and hobbies, she is easily summed up as a high school mathematics teacher who found a way to thrive despite her anxiety and depression. Her goal is to spread awareness about mental health, inspire those who struggle to see that they are not alone and show them that they can find light in even the darkest of places. She enjoys spending time with her husband Luke, their two dogs, two cats, and Russian tortoise. While she may not have many impressive credentials, Holly believes there is magic in the ordinary every day and that a simple life is a good life. Holly can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
A lot has happened in the past couple of weeks and we are all impacted at one level or another. Dealing with the emotional (and other) toll of corona was hard enough and now the issues of social injustice, racism, and safety are front and center. Many have lost their lives in the past week and beyond.
In the past few days, I have had many courageous conversations in diverse circles. I talked with my church small group on what the church can do to be the solution. I have also had friends who asked me what they could do to help. Emotions are high and so is helplessness.
And I understand both but I want to remind each of us that we need to have faith and hold on to hope. We also need to remember thatchange starts with each one of us. In order to change the world around us, we need to first change ourselves.
Furthermore, I want to tell you personally that I see you. I see you wanting to do your best and feeling like it's not enough. I see you having so much to say and not sure if it's the "right" thing to say. I see you wanting to make a difference and not sure where to begin.
I see you being filled with anger, frustration, sadness, confusion and even despair at times. And I see you. I see you because I too, am dealing with similar emotions and I have been working hard at recentering myself.
I see you and I want you to know that you are not alone in what you think and feel.
I see you and I'm only a click away if you need a safe place to be heard.
I see you and I want to hold space for you!
The recent events have been affecting my emotions big time and I needed to center myself in prayer this morning, maybe you need this as well. If you would like to pray with us on a regular basis, join us at https://www.facebook.com/groups/PrayWithChou/
BY Holly Miller
I have prayed for things that have miraculously, against all odds, have come to be. The moment of answered prayer is truly extraordinary. I have experienced overwhelming joy as an impossible prayer has been answered. It affirms your faith and gives you confidence that there is good in this dark world. But has God ever answered a constant prayer with a gentle but firm “no”? What then? I have prayed for many things that God has tenderly turned down. Miracle denied. These moments can rattle your faith to your core. Mourning with loved ones over a miscarriage, watching a dear family member deteriorate and die from a terrible illness, finding out a student lost his battle with depression and having to attend his funeral, saying goodbye to someone who left us far too young. These moments shatter hearts and turn even the most faithful to doubt. How can a supposed ‘loving God’ allow so much suffering, sadness, and, and pain?
One thing I have prayed for most of my life is for God to lift my anxiety and depression. Just completely wipe it from my life. Some days it is such a heavy burden and I would love to set it down for good and never have these disorders show their ugly faces in my life ever again. I have prayed numerous times for this cup to pass from me. And I have been met with an answer to that prayer. It is a definite and heart-breaking “no”. It has been made abundantly clear to me that God intends me to carry my anxiety and depression all of the days of my life. And at one point (and I am sure there will be many similar times to come) I was so sad and angry about it. I even walked completely away from my faith for a few years because I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t granted relief from my torturous brain.
When I was younger, under my anxiety ran a river of rage. It was silent, pushed deep down inside my heart. Many people would probably be surprised to know how angry I sometimes got; that I felt the way I did. Even now, my anxiety and depression is sometimes too much to bear. There are days when all I can do is cry and yell “why have you made me this way?!” over and over to God. Sometimes I am too numb and calloused to even argue with Him. I just sit in stunned silence while my brain attacks me. But as I started feeling a gentle nudge to tell my story, my struggles, my triumphs, and my gritty life of living with General Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Major Depressive Disorder, I have found encouragement as well. When someone pulls me aside to talk about mental health or sends me a message saying “me too”, the solidarity and love I feel for that person outweighs all of the pain. People who have thanked me for being so open and sharing my story have touched my life more than they know. Many who share their lives with me have given me the strength to carry on; to keep writing my story no matter how ugly or painful it can sometimes be. In sharing my struggle, I have found that I am spreading awareness and saving lives. That alone makes the battle worth it (most days). Being able to reach out and show others that they are not alone in the sometimes-scary thoughts that reside in our heads helps me carry on and fight my fight.
I have always loved the Lord of the Rings series with its themes of bearing burdens. If you are not familiar with the series, a young hobbit named Frodo is tasked with the burden of carrying an evil ring on a long journey to its destruction. The effect the ring has on Frodo often makes it too difficult for him to move forward. He finds encouragement from his friends along the way, one being a wise wizard named Gandalf.
Frodo: 'I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.'
Gandalf: 'So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides that of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, in which case you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.”
I always loved this conversation and it has helped me to carry on as well. While I would never ask for anxiety and depression disorders that often debilitate me, it is encouraging (as strange as that sounds) that I was chosen to bear this load. I was granted this journey, whether I want to take it or not, to show the world that one CAN stand up under these diagnoses. I don’t claim to know the inner-workings of God or understand why the world is sometimes in the sorry state it is. I don’t know your struggle, your pain, your life. I can’t explain away every instance of “why would You let this happen God?” But I do know for me, He will not let this cup pass from me no matter how earnestly and endlessly I ask him to take my mental health struggles away. And I truly believe that is because I am meant to bear this burden, to show others it can be done, and help light the way for those who struggle like I do.
In Matthew 11:28-30, it says “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” We are not promised a burden-free life. In this scripture, we are granted rest in the Lord, but if you read it carefully, there is still a burden to bear. “My burden is light”, yes, but it is still a burden. Even light loads can get heavy when you don’t take time to put them down and rest. We all have burdens we carry. Mine is my anxiety and depression. Although I asked God to take them away, He said “no”. And sometimes a “no” to our prayers isn’t a slammed door or an abrupt end to hope. It is a re-direction into a new, albeit still challenging journey.
If we don’t have darkness, we can’t see the light. I was meant to carry this darkness inside of me so I can show my light to the world. And as Gandalf says to Frodo, “that is an encouraging thought.”
By Julia Morrissey
In addition to the normal stressors in life, quarantine also has psychological impacts. This is why it is more important than ever to check in with ourselves. The pandemic has left many of us feeling isolated, less productive, and disconnected. Some people may also be experiencing new or increased feelings of anxiety or depression as well as patterns of negative thinking. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to strengthen and improve mental health. It is possible that some of us may even have more time now to spend practicing self-care. This extra time can also be an opportunity to seek out new self-care tools that work well for you. One practice that has been shown to be effective for improving mental health is self-discovery.
In addition to eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep, working to improve self-awareness is an important part of self-care. Practicing self-discovery by taking the time to answer specific questions honestly and without judgement can really help individuals gain a better understanding of themselves and cope better with stressful situations. This ultimately helps to reduce the mental and physical toll of stress on the body.
By practicing self-discovery we can improve our emotional intelligence, assess our strengths and weaknesses, improve communication, and make better decisions. This practice can also help us create action plans, which will allow us to solve problems and get closer to achieving our goals.
Depending on what you are looking to address in your life, there are specific questions you can ask yourself. These questions can help you find clarification, grow, and ultimately succeed. Below are some sample questions you can use when you are looking to learn more about yourself and your relationship with your family. At the end of this article you can also download printable personal and family self-discovery questions to start practicing now.
Questions like these can help you learn more about your relationship with yourself:
Questions like the following can help you learn more about your relationship with your family:
Julia Morrissey is a content creator for University of St. Augustine Health Sciences and she works to develop helpful guides and compelling stories. Her passion for creative writing has led her to cover unique topics ranging from business to lifestyle. She calls New York City home and enjoys spending time with her rescue dog, running in Central Park, and finding new vegan dining options around the city.
By Holly Miller
Everywhere you look in the past weeks has been the same coverage in the media. And I struggled whether to acknowledge the same thing on everyone’s mind for this month’s blog. But I feel I have some insight when it comes to anxiety. I know it well. I’ve battled it for years. Anyone who knows me knows I am open about my anxiety, and during this uncertain time, many people checked up on me out of concern, hoping I am dealing ok. Many of these people were very surprised to have found a calm and certain person on the other end of the call. While others have been feeling extreme anxiety for perhaps the first time in their lives, I have found that others like me who have struggled with anxiety most of their lives are actually doing well! I believe this is because I have coping mechanisms in place when experiencing feelings of fear, uncertainty, and stress. There are times where I do feel overwhelmed and hopeless. But I have ways of dealing with these feelings, practiced over years and years of dealing with anxiety, that may be helpful. So if you are new to uncertainty and are struggling right now, here are some ways I have been coping.
1. Get dressed
Yes, even if you are not going anywhere. I promise you will feel better. Even if you change from pajamas to yoga pants, changing your clothes and getting ready for the day can change your whole outlook.
2. Stick to a schedule
You don’t have to have every minute planned out and you can keep it relatively loose, but have a general plan for each day. Chunk off time to eat, clean up, get work done, and also time for leisurely activities. Having a plan will help keep you going.
3. Lower your expectationsI know this sounds negative, but this is more about granting yourself (and others in your household) some grace. This is a stressful time. There is so much unease. It’s ok for things to take longer than normal. Put in a good effort every day to accomplish what you need to get done and then let the rest go for another day.
4. Set and keep boundaries
If you are working from home, have a set time you will start and stop work and hold yourself to that. Have a specific place where you do work and leave the rest of your house for your life outside of work. It is easy to blur the lines between work and leisure when you are stuck at home. Eventually, you will be “on” all of the time and will sacrifice the rest you desperately need (mentally and physically). If you are stopping work at 5 PM, shut down email, close down all work-related tasks, and physically leave your workspace for the rest of the night.
5. Do some type of physical activity / go outside
When I am feeling particularly anxious, taking a quick walk around the block can do wonders. Find a yoga video on Youtube and follow along. Put on your favorite song and dance! It doesn’t have to be long or strenuous, but getting up and moving around every day helps. Some days the weather isn’t great, but getting outside, even for a few minutes, is proven to help your mentality.
6. Keep a list of hobbies and activities that are ‘screen-less’
Most of us are using technology to stay connected and to complete work. When you aren’t working, take a break from your computer, tablet, and phone. I personally like cross-stitch, painting with diamonds (you can order these kits off of Amazon), reading, and puzzles. If you have an ongoing project to work on, you can pick that up when you are feeling restless.
7. Stay connected with loved ones
Call or better yet, video chat with friends and family outside of your house. It raises everyone’s spirits to hear and/or see a friendly face. If you don’t have a lot to talk about because you don’t have a lot going on right now, have a theme night! Make yourself a cocktail or mocktail, make up funny toasts to each other, and have a happy hour. Have everyone paint along with Bob Ross and show your masterpieces when you are done. Read trivia questions to each other. Play charades. Start a book club - agree on a book, and discuss it when everyone finishes it. With video chat, the possibilities are endless! We may be socially distancing, but that doesn’t mean we have to be socially distant.
It’s ok not to be ok right now. It’s ok to feel lost, uneasy, and even disappointed. Acknowledge these feelings and know that you are not alone. So many of us are feeling unease. What we considered normal are now things we can no longer do (for now). And that is hard. And this lifestyle may have to go on longer than we want. But realize that this will eventually end. When life returns to normal, take time to appreciate all of the little things we once took for granted.
“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed. And in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.” - Kitty O’Meara
By Karima Leslie
Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay
The Problem: Science Says We’re Kind of Suckers for Pain
Our brains are wired to seek out- and pay more attention to- unpleasant news. Termed “Negativity Bias” in Psychology, this pursuit of knowledge of negative things has helped us survive life threatening situations for generations.
But as our society evolves and the accessibility of information grows, we become bombarded by everything that’s going wrong in the world which can leave us thinking that the world is an awful place.
But I Have Good News:
In reality, the world is filled with just as much beauty & compassion as it is with ugliness & hate. It’s all a matter of what we pay attention to and what we’re fed. Reporting on positive news is rare in occurrence because bad news sells, not because there’s less of it. The world is still a wonderful place, the end is not nigh, and our planet is not past the point of saving.
Step 1: Be Realistic
If we want to be informed, then we have to open ourselves up to the good as much as we do the bad.
Having a “realistic” view of the world does not equal cynicism or skepticism but a balanced understanding that both good and bad events occur all the time. Be mindful of your thoughts this week and be honest about acknowledging if you’re biased towards negativity.
Try This Exercise to Find Out If You Have A Bias
Read the following scenarios and close your eyes as you think about your reaction. Really envision each scenario and go through possible thoughts & emotions that you would have:
How did the above scenarios make you feel? Were your thoughts & emotions mostly negative, positive, or neutral?
The happiness, love, & beauty in the world can be overshadowed by the anger, darkness, & sadness which has a bigger platform. Because of this we must be diligent in seeking out joy. Below are some great resources to get you started and remember that for every bad news, there is good. Check in again next month for the next step you can take to make 2020 your best year yet!
By Holly Miller
As someone who lives with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), there are some days I have to convince myself that I do indeed know how to be a person. If you don’t suffer from an anxiety disorder, I acknowledge how strange that sounds. When I open my eyes, many days I have to convince myself that I am physically able to get out of bed, brush my teeth, shower, make a breakfast (that I usually feel too sick to eat), drive to work, and function at my job. I force myself to stand in front of large groups of teenagers and teach math. I grit my teeth and lesson plan, grade papers, and drive home. And the whole time, there is a voice that whispers or sometimes screams “you can’t do this.”
GAD is something that I have learned how to live with. I have learned techniques to quiet this nay-saying voice and strong-arm that voice into submission. But some days, I’m just too tired to fight it. Sometimes these wrestling matches only last a few hours but they can go on for days or even weeks. And unfortunately, the only way out of these anxious spells is to push through them. I just have to “keep on keeping on”, armed with the knowledge that I won’t feel this way forever. It will eventually pass.
In the meantime, I just have to fake it until I make it. Navigating the terrifying voids of anxiety and grappling with your own mind can be so isolating. You are convinced you will never feel normal again. The ordinary is confusing and the normal-every day functions that others seem to be able to perform are somehow impossible for you to carry out.
I, however, am very lucky because I have an amazing husband who helps me through every terrifying episode as well as family and friends who strengthen my will and help me push through. This month’s blog is dedicated to all who support me when my world doesn’t make sense, when I must wrestle myself. These are tips that you can use when someone you love is struggling through a rough anxiety-induced patch.
Most people tend to do this naturally with those they love. When I feel anxious, it helps SO MUCH to hear someone else tell me “everything is going to be ok.” My husband is really good at recognizing my anxiety patterns. When my grades come due four times a year, he will remind me that “You feel this way at the end of EVERY marking period. It’s normal for you to feel anxious around this time of year”, and knowing that my anxiety has a pattern is somehow comforting to me. It helps me understand my anxious feelings that don’t make logical sense to me. I KNOW everything is going to be ok, but when my brain is waging war against me, it helps to have someone else on my side reassuring me of this.
2. Listen/don’t be dismissive
I am the FIRST to admit that when I get anxious, it doesn’t make logical sense. And that is what is so maddening about it all! But my friends listen to me when I am having a hard day. They don’t make me feel invalid for having illogical feelings. They do all they can to make me feel accepted and listen to me when I want to talk about my anxiety. My husband has the patience of a saint. He will solve my illogical problems with no judgement and a sense of ease. Here is an example of a recent conversation - Me: “I know we don’t have food in the house right now, but I feel like I will actually die if I go grocery shopping.” Him: “How about I pick up stuff to make dinner tonight?” He doesn’t tell me that I sound crazy. He will just solve the problem. My husband makes me feel like a valid part of our team. There are days when I just can’t seem to function. He understands that and the leadership shifts to him that day on decisions. We share all errands, chores, and housework and he helps out even more when my brain convinced me that I can’t do something simple, like cook dinner or wash the dishes that day.
3. Help set and keep boundaries
I tend to give too much of myself to others in my life. Before I learned how to set and keep boundaries, I would go into work at 6 AM and stay until 9 PM. Friends who needed me for one thing or another would call at all hours of the night and I was always available to talk. I would say yes to every social obligation, not wanting to let others down. Most of my family lives over 2 hours away from me, so I would drive every single weekend to ensure I didn’t miss time with them. And then I started getting really sick. After many tests and doctor visits, I found I was having panic attacks. I was giving too much of myself and I was getting physically and mentally ill from it. After years of experience, I have learned to set boundaries to keep my mental health in check. I’ve made these boundaries much clearer to others over the years, and my loved ones know and respect these boundaries. Learning to say “No” to loved ones was so hard for me. But when they let me know they understand and respect my boundaries, it is much easier to keep myself healthy.
4. Let them feel what they feel and don’t try to fix it
When I am having a hard time with my anxiety, well-meaning people who don’t know me well often try to solve my problems for me. “Aw, cheer up. It could be worse.” “Go for a run, you’ll feel better.” “Make a to-do list and accomplish it! It helps ease your mind.” While these are all great suggestions, I know my anxiety best and I know what I need to do to feel better. Those who offer to just listen or ask me what I need to do to feel better and offer to keep me company until I feel more myself are the ones who help me the most with my anxiety.
Every time I make it through a rough patch, I cling to the gratefulness I feel for my support system; people who love me despite my GAD. I am so thankful for my husband, family, and friends who love me unconditionally. There were points in my life where my anxiety felt too unbearable to live. But my loved ones helped shoulder my burden and got me the help I needed. I know there will be rough times in my future, but knowing I have people in my life who ‘get it’ helps me carry on.
If you are reading this blog right now, know you have the ability to help those you love who may suffer from any kind of anxiety condition. Just educating yourself about mental wellness is the first step. There is a wealth of information out there. Although anxiety disorders are the most common of mental health conditions in the United States, many people are unwilling to talk about it. I am hoping that people who are telling their stories just like me are helping break that silence. We need to normalize anxiety conditions because each year, we lose too many people who are too exhausted to keep wrestling themselves. Being there for someone who is wrestling with themselves is a priceless, life-saving act.
While Holly Miller has eclectic passions, interests, and hobbies, she is easily summed up as a high school mathematics teacher who found a way to thrive despite her anxiety and depression. Her goal is to spread awareness about mental health, inspire those who struggle to see that they are not alone and show them that they can find light in even the darkest of places. She enjoys spending time with her husband Luke, their two dogs, two cats, and Russian tortoise. While she may not have many impressive credentials, Holly believes there is magic in the ordinary every day and that a simple life is a good life.
Holly can be reached email@example.com
It' easy to be grateful when things are going well, but do you keep that gratitude going when things get tough? Here are 3 ways to be grateful for the hard stuff. I also have a gratitude journal to help you cultivate an attitude of gratitude no matter what you're going through. Get it at http://bit.ly/gratitudejournal2019
We’ve come to the end of our mini-challenge, and we’ve covered quite a bit of information. You’ve learned why acknowledging, embracing and expressing gratitude is so important. You’ve also learned a few specific ways to begin a practice of gratitude in your own life. I’d like to expand on that as we end our challenge to provide you with a more in-depth list of helpful tips to tap into the power of being grateful. You can use these ideas as you move forward in creating your own routine.
Take a Gratitude Walk
Going for a walk is a great way to relieve stress and gain perspective. It offers a number of advantages. You leave your regular environment, get out in the fresh air and move away from distractions. It’s a form of physical exercise that comes with all sorts of health benefits. Walking can even be considered a form of meditation. It’s a fabulous way to focus on gratitude. During this particular jaunt, pay special attention to the things you encounter along the way. Chances are, you’ll discover plenty to be thankful for during your walk.
Make a Gratitude Collage
A fun way to acknowledge your gratefulness in a visual way is to create a gratitude collage. This process works in a similar way as a vision board. You can cut out pictures from a magazine or add personal photos. Your collage can simply be laid out on a poster board or you can get more creative and decorative. You can even keep your board electronically on Pinterest or some other app. The point is to collect images that move you to consider your good fortune. It’s a good idea to put your board in a place where you can see it or access it daily. You might even want to add to it to keep its momentum going.
Hold a Friendsgiving
Friendsgiving is like Thanksgiving, only with friends and chosen family instead of biological family. This special occasion is often held in place of traditional Thanksgiving for those who don’t have family physically nearby or who aren’t emotionally close with their relatives. Sometimes it takes place near the actual holiday. You can get creative, though, and hold your own special gathering, customized to your needs, any time you wish. A gratitude party or get-together can remind you of the people who are most important in your life and enhance existing bonds.
Look for Gratitude in Challenges
Let’s turn things around a bit. You probably know how easy it is to focus on the bad stuff. Sometimes we get stuck in the negative and allow it to weigh us down. That’s natural, but you can interrupt that cycle by consciously working to find the gratitude in life’s challenges. Look for the lessons or the silver linings. Be sure to write them down in your gratitude journal or make a note of them in some formalized way so that you can look back and remember the good that came from adversity.
One of the most impactful ways to gain perspective and be grateful for what you have is to help others in need. This can be through a formal volunteer effort with a philanthropic organization or it can simply be something like helping a neighbor you see who could use a hand with his lawn. No matter what the effort, you’ll reap the rewards when you pitch in to give to others. Try to do something to help someone else at least once a week, and you’re sure to experience a boost in gratitude.
Give these ideas a try. Research or brainstorm some additional ones on your own. Just get started so you can see just what a difference embracing a mindset of gratitude can have on your entire life.
We’ve talked about the process of writing in a gratitude journal and the kinds of benefits that activity can offer. Writing is a powerful process. Sharing your written words of appreciation with others can have an even bigger impact than journaling privately. Personal notes can really brighten a person’s day, and make many positive impacts in the lives of those receiving them and those giving them.
Writing Has Power
In a busy world, we can get caught up in ourselves and the things we absolutely must accomplish each day. It’s easy to forget to acknowledge the important people in our lives. It’s for precisely this reason that receiving a note of thanks or appreciation is so very meaningful. People simply don’t receive these spontaneous offerings on a regular basis. That’s why setting aside the time and taking the effort to write such a message is so powerful, for both you and the receiver.
Sharing Gratitude Strengthens Bonds
A personal note or message goes far to show you care. Words have meaning, but it’s often said that actions speak louder. The recipient of your note will be surprised to receive it. A positive surprise almost always improves someone’s day and mood. This can be especially impactful if you intentionally send your message to someone you know is going through a rough patch. Regardless, this small gesture will go far to strengthen existing bonds because it’s such a customized act. When people feel a personal attachment, they tend to experience feelings of closeness and meaning. Your written acknowledgement of their importance in your life will surely affect your relationship in a positive way.
Ideas to Get You Started
Your words of gratitude don’t have to be in hand-written form, though it truly is a nice touch that’s a rarity these days. You can send electronic correspondence, if you prefer. Your message doesn’t have to be long, either. Any written words of appreciation will be a start and can be quite meaningful.
Here are some examples:
***Grab my new gratitude journal and start cultivating an attitude of gratitude.
If you’re still on the fence about starting a practice of gratitude for yourself, I’d like to issue you a simple challenge. Just for today, find just one random thing in your environment to be grateful for. This is a low-stakes activity that can be a great way to jumpstart your pursuit of gratitude
What to Look For
It’s easy, really. There are things to be grateful for, even on the difficult days. In fact, it’s even more impactful when you discover little rays of light in the darkest times. You can look for anything within your daily routine that inspires you. If you don’t leave your home that day due to sadness or inability, perhaps the very roof over your head could be your source of gratitude. Even a beautiful flower out your window might be enough to influence your mood for the better. Find just one thing and focus on that.
What You Can Expect
Let’s be realistic. Taking a minute to notice one thing you’re grateful for in your day probably isn’t going to completely change your life. However, it could be a significant jumpstart toward moving you in the right direction. This is especially true when you’re going through a difficult period. Turning a long-standing low mood around even slightly by acknowledging one small good thing can be quite meaningful. Remember, our thoughts influence our feelings and behaviors.
Sometimes all it takes is one small catalyst to spark major change. Some consider this the “baby steps” philosophy. Every habit or practice begins with one small step. Taking a moment to be grateful for just one thing in your environment today can improve your mood, even just a little bit. You may notice a weight is lifted from your chest or that some of your anxiety has eased. Hold onto that feeling. Notice whether your perspective improves after reflecting on gratitude just once today. This lift in your mood and brightened outlook can lead you to feeling better, which then influences your actions in a positive manner. You might just notice it’s a bit easier to find that one thing to be grateful for tomorrow.
Give it a try. Find one tiny spark to light the flame of gratitude today. Be intentional in noticing the effect it has on you. You may find it’s simpler and more rewarding than you realized to begin your gratitude practice.
*** Are you keeping track of what you are grateful for? Here is a journal to help you do that!
You’ve probably heard of both meditations and affirmations, though you may be uncertain of just what they are and how they work. These two practices are actually quite simple to add to your routine or even to use in a particularly stressful moment to gain perspective. Let’s take a look at how to use gratitude meditations and affirmations to boost your spirit anytime.
What Are Meditations?
A meditation is really just a practice of taking some quiet time to be mindful and focus your attention on a particular thought or issue. It’s a moment of silent reflection that focuses you on the here and now. Gratitude meditations involve focusing your thoughts on being grateful for the particulars of your life or situation, even the ones that may not seem so positive. Your gratitude journaling can be considered a meditation, even. Any contemplative, purposeful time spent focused on being grateful can fall into this category.
What Are Affirmations?
Affirmations are short, concise and positive sentences that are meant to purposefully affect the ways in which we think and feel. These can be in both conscious and unconscious ways. What we think greatly influences how we feel and behave. Introducing these positive messages into your life on a regular basis can help you to internalize them and begin living accordingly. Gratitude affirmations focus specifically on being grateful and appreciative.
How to Use Them
Both meditation and affirmation are easy to put into practice. They can be used almost any time and anywhere. When you think of meditation, a long, intensive ritual may come to mind. In actuality, you don’t need to spend a lot of time meditating in order to reap the benefits. Simply sitting quietly for a few minutes and contemplating on what you’re grateful for can help to center you and to provide new perspective, which often will lead to feeling better. If you want something more structure or have more time, you can look up guided gratitude meditations online or grab a meditation app to try. I personally use Abide and Headspace.
When it comes to affirmations, a good practice might be to combine them with your gratitude journal. Write down positive messages that apply to your life and help to inspire or motivate you. Perhaps you want to keep them in a separate journal or store them online. Then you can pull out your collection of affirmations for a pick-me-up when you need one.
Gratitude meditations and affirmations are simple tools that offer a big return. They take only a few minutes to practice, and you really don’t need any special equipment. Give them a try when you feel you could use an injection of gratitude in your life.
***You can write you affirmations in your gratitude journal.
Once you get into the habit of contemplating what you’re grateful for each day, it’s time to consider making it a written activity. This can be intimidating for people who don’t like to write or who feel they may not have time to dedicate to such a practice. In all honestly, it really doesn’t take much more time to write it down than to simply think on what you appreciate, and you don’t need strong writing skills in order to jot down three sentences. Let’s see if we can’t make the process seem less stressful. There truly are some amazing benefits that come from the physical process of creating a record of gratefulness.
More About Gratitude Journals
While it’s called a “gratitude journal”, it’s actually a tool or a record. You don’t have to write in a paper journal. The important part is that you take the time each day to record a few things that make you feel fortunate. Doing so can actually help to manifest more positive things. Writing down what you’re appreciative of each day brings that sense of gratefulness to the forefront. It allows you to focus on the positive, helping you to spot opportunities you might otherwise have missed. Keeping a gratitude journal gives you a written record to pull out and look back on any time you’re feeling less than fortunate. It can provide you with motivation in the toughest of times.
Benefits of a Gratitude Journal
There are many benefits to keeping a gratitude journal. Instilling a writing practice in this way ensures that you maintain a focus on positivity. Sure, sometimes bad things may happen, but this overall emphasis on finding the good can help to provide you with the resilience to keep going. Your stress levels will decrease as you begin embracing an attitude of gratitude. Plus, the act of writing can be therapeutic in itself. Writing also helps to give you a different perspective on things that you might not see as readily without engaging in the process. You can identify patterns and insight into your life that might help you to find opportunities and to grow.
Tips for Using Your Journal
The most important thing when it comes to a gratitude journal is consistency of practice. Some journal twice daily. Others prefer once. Regardless, it will only be effective if you use it regularly. One of the best ways to help yourself want to use your journal is to choose a format you enjoy.
Don’t force yourself to write in a journal by hand if you prefer to use electronic methods. You can keep your records in a simple word processing spreadsheet or use one of many apps that are available for this purpose. On the other hand, if you are inspired by a beautifully-bound paper journal, find one that speaks to you and start writing your thoughts down immediately. No matter what you use, keep it handy by your bedside or on easily accessed devices.
Turn your routine into a ritual. Make it a process that feeds your soul. Incorporate your morning coffee into your journal writing or light a candle with a lovely aroma to accompany your routine. Just make it yours.
A gratitude journal can be an insightful and life-changing tool. Remember, you only have to write three simple things you’re grateful for. There’s no need to make it complicated. Start your record keeping practice today and see what it can do for you.
One really easy way to get started on a gratitude practice is to make a habit of counting your blessings both morning and night. You don’t even have to write them down, as in a gratitude journal, if that seems too overwhelming. Simply taking a few minutes when you wake up and before you go to bed is enough to begin cementing this new practice into your routine. Before long, you’ll be easily noticing that blessing abound. Here are some tips to help you begin.
Easing into any habit is usually the best approach. By making it easier on yourself, you’ll be more inclined to continue moving forward. So, try not to put too much pressure on yourself to come up with grand examples of gratitude when you’re just starting out. Just appreciating the bed where you’re starting and ending the day can be something to add to your initial list. Sometimes simply recognizing a tiny blessing can have a big impact.
Add It On
A helpful method for remembering your new gratitude habit is to add it on to your existing routine. Whatever you normally do in the morning and night, be sure to include a few minutes to think of what makes you feel fortunate. For example, if you have tea every morning, this would be a good connection to make. Sitting down for tea will soon become a reminder to contemplate on your three things.
Create Visual Reminders
If you find yourself forgetting to do it or skipping out on your new task, add some visual cues to your environment. Post-it notes are great for this. Stick one on your nightstand. Add another to your bathroom mirror. Technology comes in handy for reminders, as well. Set an alarm on your phone so that you don’t leave the house or fall asleep without taking time to consider what makes you feel thankful.
Turn It Around
You can also try the opposite. Turn complaints around into something positive. Maybe you wake up with a sore back and don’t want to get out of bed. It may seem obvious, but reminding yourself that you’re in overall good health and that you have a safe place to sleep can do wonders for your outlook. Try to find the silver lining. It really works.
A good habit can be jotting things down during the day as they happen. It only takes a few seconds to make a note of what you feel grateful for in that moment. You can reflect on it later during your quiet bedtime routine.
Hopefully, you now see how getting into the habit of recognizing the good thing in life really isn’t all that difficult. A few small changes to your routine and you’ll find it’s actually quite easy to implement this practice.
Gratitude can be simply broken down to appreciating the good things in your life. It doesn’t always seem simple, though. When things are hectic or stressful, finding the silver lining can be challenging. However, learning how to embrace gratitude can significantly boost your happiness. Being grateful offers a host of other benefits you’re probably not aware of, too. Let’s take a closer look at the concept, ways it can improve your life and how to practice it.
There are many definitions of gratitude. Some people believe it’s a feeling or emotion. Others look at it as more of a mood. Still, some folks believe gratitude is a personality trait a person exhibits. These can all be correct. In essence, gratitude elicits satisfaction and appreciation in a person through feelings, actions or even inherent qualities. However, even those of us who may be more inclined to feel grateful on a regular basis through our glass-half-full-optimism likely need to work on evoking such an outlook. Gratitude can be viewed as a practice or something you perform regularly. Most people practice something because it benefits them. This is true of gratitude. As with other practices, you’ll get better at demonstrating gratitude the more you work at it.
Benefits of Embracing Gratitude
There are many benefits of gratitude; many of them have been scientifically proven. Once you begin to understand these, chances are good that you’ll see why it’s so important to develop a grateful mindset. Gratitude can have a positive effect on both physical and mental health. Research has shown it to improve relaxation, sleep quality and energy levels. Being thankful for your blessings can enhance your emotional wellness. You’ll deal better in crisis situations and find you’re more resilient when you’re able to look on the bright side. This can contribute to better relationships, too. Appreciating the positives in life can simply make you feel happier.
Ways to Practice Gratitude
Recognizing your blessings may not come easily at first, but there are some ways to help make it a habit and a regular part of your routine. One of the most convenient and impactful methods for cultivating appreciation is through keeping a gratitude journal. In this practice, you’ll write down three things each day that you’re grateful for, which makes it easier to notice and recognize those good things. Meditation has also been shown to help. Also, making an effort to thank someone each day, for even the smallest thing, opens your eyes and heart to abundance. Giving back and doing good for others can provide tremendous perspective, as well.
Now you have a better idea of just what making a concerted effort to count your blessings can do for your life. Embracing and expressing gratitude are more important than many of us realize.
What gratitude strategy will you practice today?
Do you find yourself looking at a glass as half empty instead of full? Do you tend to look at the things in your life that are going wrong instead of those going right? You can train your brain to go from negative to positive. This video is all about helping you change negative thoughts into positive ones and create positive pathways in the process.
Need help in this area? Then email firstname.lastname@example.org.
**This video was initially recorded in our women group.
Anxiety is something many of us deal with on a daily basis. However, there are individuals who are debilitated by constant thoughts of anxiety; so much that the daily activities of life are impacted.
While medication is available to help with anxiety, it doesn’t have to be the first line of treatment you seek out. Some medications come with lots of adverse effects and cause the user to build up a dependence. If you are seeking out natural ways to calm your anxiety- those without lingering negative effects and which are likely to help you cope better in the long run, then let’s explore some options.
Sleep Enough At Night
Lack of sleep causes your brain to go haywire- playing all sorts of tricks on you and decreasing your emotional tolerance as a whole. You may find that following even just one night of sleep loss your performance will decrease, and you will be prone to anger and agitation. Strive for a minimum of 7 hours nightly to keep your brain chemistry on point.
In our house, we use Melatonin and Lavender essential oil to help us fall asleep and stay asleep.
Exercise is one of the best medicines we have at our disposal, as there are few things that are comparable to the range of health benefits it offers. Exercise, similar to sleep, helps to naturally manage anxiety and depression, by increasing levels of feel good and stress busting chemicals known as endorphins.
Anxiety if partially worsened by high levels of adrenalin, and even though exercise does temporarily increase these levels, the endorphins temper its effects and leave your mood on a high for hours afterwards.
Earlier this year, I bought myself a full-body vibration platform and it has been one of the best investment I ever made. It’s perfect for me, especially due to my limited mobility, and get this: 10 minutes on this thing equals to 1hr of jogging!!! I can’t jog but I can stand or sit on this thing for half an hr. I even have my walker around it for stability. You can check it out here.
Eat Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate has numerous benefits on health, and is not your typical sugar laden variety. Dark chocolate is particularly effective in reducing the impact that the stress hormone cortisol has on our body, including precipitating anxiety.
Its mode of action is unique, as it relays relaxation from the stomach to the brain. Similar to the way that you feel nervousness in your stomach, the vagus nerve gets activated when you eat dark chocolate.
Try To Get Sunlight Daily
People in colder climates have been observed to develop a condition known as SAD (seasonal affective disorder), which comes on during the winter months when sun exposure is limited.
Symptoms of SAD include depression, irritability and increased anxiety, all of which resolve upon exposure to sunlight. If you do live in such a climate, and are unable to get exposure to the sun when winter comes, artificial light therapy also helps improve symptoms.
Consume More Omega-3
Omega-3 fatty acids are strong anti-oxidants, and may help to stem the cause of your anxiety. Typically, the two hormones that are elevated during anxious moments are cortisol and adrenalin, both of which respond negatively to the influence of oxidation.
Omega-3 fats combat excessive oxidation and are anti-inflammatory, helping boost production of serotonin and dopamine, and helping keep your anxiety response normal. I like THIS brand of Omega-3 supplements.
These are just a few natural ways you can combat anxiety. Start with one or two of these and add more as you are able.
We need to create a safe place for men to share their feelings and seek help for mental health when needed. Our physical health affects our mental health. We need to seek help for all of us, not just part of us. We need to do a better job at supporting caregivers. If you are a caregiver, we are here for you. Reach out to us today!
Here are the websites I mentioned:
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Like most things, building your self-worth is best done in small, incremental steps. If you have low self-esteem, trying to feel better about yourself might seem impossible. Trying to do everything at once will be exhausting, will scatter your energy, and will most likely lead to less progress than you’d like. You risk feeling worse than when you started.
Sometimes even the thought of building your self-worth can feel like an insuperable task. Where should you start? It can help if you approach it like a project and break it down into small achievable steps. Take it one step at a time, and before you know it, you’ll be feeling better about yourself.
Make the positive decision not to try to change everything at once. Trying to change everything at once will only set you up for failure, and that’s not what we want. But by making this a conscious decision, you’re setting out on a positive path of doing things calmly and building yourself a sure foundation, foundation built on self-care and kindness.
And you’re off to a great start already! The fact that you’re reading this means you’re self-aware and want to do the best version of yourself.
Positive self-worth builds on self-care and kindness. Here are five small, but significant things you can do to be kind to yourself, today and throughout the coming weeks.
1. Build in little regular treats to make yourself feel good. A bubble bath, a monthly massage or manicure perhaps, or a walk in the park a few times a week.
2. Acknowledge your weaknesses and think of a positive action you can take to help yourself. Apps for time or money management perhaps, a personal coach, or taking a class. Remember to tackle one at a time.
3. Journaling can be helpful in identifying, challenging and turning around negative self-perceptions. Try writing down every positive thing you can think of about yourself. Think of things that are just about you, not things where you compare yourself to someone else. Are you a good writer? Are you kind? Do you have a good sense of humor? Do people love your pancakes? I have a free resource that can help you Journal Your Way To self-Worth.
4. Start a daily gratitude journal where you list all the things for which you’re grateful. You might be grateful for clean air, water, enough food to eat and a house to live in for starters. Living in a place of gratitude keeps your brain looking for things to be grateful for, so you’ll begin seeing things all around you. I personally use the 365 Gratitude: Daily Prompts, Grateful Journal by UofHappy, LLC
5. End each day by thinking of at least one good thing that happened that day, and on waking think of a positive affirmation to take you through the day. Making this a daily habit can boost your self-worth, emotional wellness, and mental health.
If you need more support in boosting your self-worth, my self-study course Starting Loving Yourself From The Inside Out can help you get there.
Until next time,
6 Key Benefits of Reinventing Yourself
We often make our way to the idea of reinvention after experiencing frustration and discontentment with our lives.
Sometimes there’s a sense of longing to do something different, to find a new way to live and to be. This kind of reinvention evolves from the human need to grow and to change. Change comes about because there has to be more to human existence than simply existing and most people sense that over time.
Sometimes in the early stages of reinvention, we think about what benefits we might receive from building a new self. Perhaps we just want to be free of a stale, confining and suffocating way of life, but that might not seem enough to us right then.
Other than liberating yourself from a life with no change and no growth, what other benefits does reinvention offer?
Of course, a huge benefit is a more authentic and fulfilling life. After all, that’s the first purpose of going through this transformation process. More importantly, you learn how to be adaptable in the face of new challenges and that is a life skill that is useful in many ways.
You learn how to cope with new problems and new situations. Once you've been through one reinvention cycle, you’ll be ready to do it again when you feel the need.
You may never decide to reinvent yourself again, but that’s a matter of choice. You’ll know how to do it . That’s a life-changing benefit all on its own!
How will you #ReinventYourself this year?
Chou is a best-selling Author, a Transformational Speaker, Certified Life Coach, Counselor and Consultant on a mission to inspire people to rise above their circumstances. She is passionate about helping others achieve emotional wellness, reach their full potential, and live fulfilling lives. You can contact Chou at firstname.lastname@example.org