Well-Being in the Time of Coronavirus

“Nature spontaneously keeps us well. Do not resist her!”

— Henry David Thoreau

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We are being told to wash our hands, frequently; to cover our mouths when sneezing or coughing; and to practice social distancing. This is for the common good, and I support it completely and unflinchingly. We all have to protect those more vulnerable and at risk.

But not a lot is being said about how to support our own well-being in this time of Coronavirus. Reading good books and watching good films and TV series are absolutely on my list of things to do during this time of social distancing. But I am finding that walks in nature and on the beach have become even more crucial to me these days.

A dear friend of mine is staying with me at the moment. We read the news daily, well several times a day to be honest, and wring our hands and weep with helplessness and frustration. How can so many people have lost sight of the common good? And how can so many members of the current U.S. government be so selfish and greedy?

My friend says she finds solace sitting on my couch looking out my window at the big pohutukawa tree growing in my neighbor’s yard. She finds it soothing, and says it brings to her what she can only call a state of awe.

As we sit on the deck and look at the tree, I am reminded that nature heals.   According to Environmental Psychology: “Just a walk in the woods or a stroll by the beach on a sunny morning can awaken the innermost feelings of happiness and peace.”

In this time, where we are told to keep our social distance, we must be mindful of what author Richard Louv calls ‘Nature-Deficit Disorder’.

Nature-deficit disorder is not the presence of an anomaly in the brain; it is the loss of connection of humans to their natural environment. Staying close to nature improves physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. It makes us feel alive from the inside.

Research has shown that spending longer periods of time in nature has huge physical benefits. Some of these benefits include:

  • Optimum nervous system functions, well-balanced heart conditions, and reduced bowel disorders.
  • Reducing the chances of developing eyesight problems like hypermetropia and myopia.
  • Lower BMI; less fatigue and fewer chances of suffering from obesity.
  • Production of anti-cancer proteins and help in fighting terminal diseases.
  • Stronger immune system.

It has been repeatedly stated that we need to keep our immune system strong to fight Covid-19.

Other studies have shown that time in nature improves psychological well-being. This can include:

  • Significant mood improvement for all people, even those suffering from mild to major depressive disorders.
  • Reducing stress by lowering the stress hormone cortisol.

The level of stress and anxiety has skyrocketed since this virus was detected, so anything that offers stress reduction is a gift.

So even if you are doing all the right things – washing your hands frequently, covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough, and being vigilant in your social distancing, you can still take care of your well-being. The evidence is there. The studies have been done. Get out into nature!

As Frank Lloyd Wright so astutely said, “Study Nature, love Nature, stay close to Nature. It will never fail you.

I’d like to close with an inspiring TED Talk – Prescribing Nature for Health.

I’d love to hear how you are looking after your well-being in these challenging times. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

The Secret to Enduring Love

“Love didn’t happen to us. We’re in love because we each made the choice to be.”

— Mandy Len Catron

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What is the secret to enduring love? I thought this was a fitting blog post for February. However, as I started to research this, I realized that for this article to hold any power, to be truly authentic and real, I would have to write about myself, to make this personal.

I have been married for thirty years, and in relationship with Jeff, from friends to lovers, for over forty. I guess that gives me some credentials for enduring love. But it is not straightforward, not a simple dance. After thirty years of marriage, Jeff and I are now once again in therapy; this time working within the model of EFT, Emotionally Focused Therapy. We are reading “Hold Me Tight” by Dr. Sue Johnson in an effort to overcome some really hard patterns we have developed.

Even after all this time, we still rub against each other’s raw spots. Dr. Johnson defines raw spots this way: “A hypersensitivity formed by moments in a person’s past or current relationships when an attachment need has been repeatedly neglected, ignored, or dismissed.”

After so long, you’d think that we would have figured out each other’s raw spots and avoid them. But we seem to pick at them, like a scab, before it can ever heal.

I like this quote:

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”
― Marilyn Monroe

… not that I’m comparing myself to Marilyn Monroe, I promise. But I can relate to it. The problem I face though is, how do we deal with relationship problems, when we are at our worst, when it seems like love is falling through the cracks…

Richard Bach proclaims: the opposite of loneliness is not togetherness, it’s intimacy. So how do we hold on to that intimacy, even in the face of dealing with raw spots and fear of loneliness?

One of my biggest raw spots is fear of abandonment. My father left our family when I was 12 and my mother died when I was 16. I absolutely have a massive fear of abandonment… and my husband keeps leaving! He is about to leave again, this time to work in Bangladesh. For at least six months, perhaps up to a year.

Another quote from Bach, this one from one of his books that I love The Bridge Across Forever:I’m here not because I am supposed to be here, or because I’m trapped here, but because I’d rather be with you than anywhere else in the world.”

I want this to be true for Jeff; I want him to stay by my side because there is nowhere else he’d rather be. Unfortunately though, one of Jeff’s biggest drivers and passions in his life is to be of service and to work with people who are in the most need. This time he is off to work at a refugee camp. And I love him for it, I really do… and I struggle with not wanting him to leave. These two emotions co-exist in me. I love the man I married who has such high ideals and has a willingness to go through self-sacrifice to serve. And I hate the fact that he keeps leaving… I want to be enough to make him stay.

Every time Jeff leaves to work in another country, I feel a sense of abandonment, my attachment needs rubbed raw.

“Attachment needs are our human desires for acceptance, belonging, comfort when we hurt, and safety to be ourselves. From the cradle to the grave we all long to feel understood and accepted by those we love.”

 So we are doing more work, reading and holding each other, and trying to heal some of the raw spots. We are working to keep making our relationship more secure. Dr. Johnson explains “in insecure relationships, we disguise our vulnerabilities so our partner never really sees us.” So in order to keep securing our relationship, we explore these vulnerabilities and work together with hope they will heal a bit more before we scratch at the scab.

I envision us growing old together, hopefully another thirty years. I believe we will. But I know it will continue to take work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want to end this post by altering Mandy Len Catron’s quote I used in the beginning of this article slightly:

We’re in love because we make the choice to be, everyday, even when it is hard.

And I want to close with a TED Talk by Mandy Len Catron: Falling In Love is the Easy Part.

And if you are so inclined to explore the 36 questions that Catron talks about, here’s the link.

I’d love to hear your secret to enduring love. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

 

Rest for the Weary . . . We Need Our Sleep!

“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

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Happy New Year! Happy New Decade! Early January and the holidays are over and most of us are getting back into ‘Real Life.’ For many of us, we’ve burned the candle at both ends and perhaps are feeling the exhaustion of the culmination of doing too much and not getting enough sleep. I’ve heard so many women in the last month or so tiredly grin, (or grimace) and say “No rest for the weary.” As though we all must blithely accept exhaustion.

But No – We cannot accept this lying down, or more likely running around! Sleep is essential and has been described by sleep expert Matthew Walker, as our life-support system and Mother Nature’s best effort yet at immortality.

The decimation of sleep throughout industrialized nations is having a catastrophic impact on our health, our wellness, even the safety and the education of our children. It’s a silent sleep loss epidemic, and it’s fast becoming one of the greatest public health challenges that we face in the 21st century. 

So why do we need sleep? What difference does a good night’s sleep actually make? I think we all know the obvious answers to that – lack of sleep makes us tired, grumpy and not quite able to think properly. But research shows that it’s much more serious than that. Not enough sleep or poor quality sleep impacts our immune system, hormones, heart, learning, memory and even impacts men’s testicles and women’s reproductive organs. Interestingly enough, it also impacts our genetic code.

Lack of sleep hugely impacts our ability to heal as well. In our body we have cells that protect us, sometimes called natural killer cellsYou can think of natural killer cells almost like the secret service agents of your immune system. They are very good at identifying dangerous, unwanted elements and eliminating them. In fact, what they’re doing here is destroying a cancerous tumor mass. So what you wish for is a virile set of these immune assassins at all times, and tragically, that’s what you don’t have if you’re not sleeping enough. 

And as we age, and our memory seems to fade rapidly, all of us over 50 can certainly attest to that, sleep is even more essential. Research is showing that the disruption of deep sleep is an underappreciated factor that is contributing to cognitive decline or memory decline in aging, and most recently discovered in Alzheimer’s disease as well. 

Basically in a nutshell there is nothing positive about not getting enough sleep.

A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures for anything.

– Old Irish Proverb

On the other hand, getting enough sleep positively impacts us in almost every way. We have a stronger immune system, better focus, better memory, and a more optimistic outlook on life.

Walker describes recent research done at UC Berkeley on sleep and learning:

By placing electrodes all over the head, what we’ve discovered is that there are big, powerful brainwaves that happen during the very deepest stages of sleep that have riding on top of them these spectacular bursts of electrical activity that we call sleep spindles. And it’s the combined quality of these deep-sleep brainwaves that acts like a file-transfer mechanism at night, shifting memories from a short-term vulnerable reservoir to a more permanent long-term storage site within the brain, and therefore protecting them, making them safe. And it is important that we understand that during sleep actually transacts these memory benefits, because there are real medical and societal implications.”

 Sleep provides time for our brains to tidy up and make space; this action is called synaptic pruning.

Sleep provides a time when the brain’s synapses — the connections among neurons—shrink back by nearly 20 percent. During this time, the synapses rest and prepare for the next day, when they will grow stronger while receiving new input to learn new things.”

Without this reset, known as “synaptic homeostasis,” synapses could become overloaded and burned out, unable to function at an optimal level. Scientists call this “use-dependent cortical reorganization,” meaning that we strengthen whichever neural pathways we use most often, and lose the ones we use the least.

I am totally in favor of pruning those unused pathways. I usually feel like my brain can use a little Marie Kondo action!

I think we all can agree that getting more and better quality sleep is essential. But what is the best way to do that? Fortunately, Walker does have a few suggestions:

The first is regularity. Go to bed at the same time, wake up at the same time, no matter whether it’s the weekday or the weekend. Regularity is king, and it will anchor your sleep and improve the quantity and the quality of that sleep. The second is keep it cool. Your body needs to drop its core temperature by about two to three degrees Fahrenheit to initiate sleep and then to stay asleep, and it’s the reason you will always find it easier to fall asleep in a room that’s too cold than too hot. So aim for a bedroom temperature of around 65 degrees, or about 18 degrees Celsius. That’s going to be optimal for the sleep of most people. 

One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year is to meditate more often, and the Dalai Lama declares that sleep is the best meditation. And who am I to disagree with the Dalai Lama? So I think I’ll close here and go take a nap. Happy New Year to all of you, and may you have a restful 2020 filled with wonderful deep healing sleep.

Before you go take a nap, you may want to watch a great TED talk by Matt Walker entitled Sleep is Your Superpower.

I’d love to hear about your sleep habits if you have any. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Wishing You Peace this Holiday Season

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”

― Hamilton Wright Mable

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As we all navigate the Holiday Season, remember to hold fast to the Light!

*Gratitude to Bone Sigh Arts

Here is a Holiday Treat – A Gift from an amazing woman that I am happy to call my friend, Jean McCarthy – A Special Episode of

The Bubble Hour

Wish all of you Peace and Joy this Holiday Season!  May 2020 bring peace and harmony to the world.

 

Sending out a warm thanks to all of you who have read or followed my blog this year.
Gratitude to each and every one of you.

 

Doing the work . . moving toward Authentic Self

“Finding your true self is the cure for all suffering.”

― Deepak Chopra

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Deepak Chopra argues that finding and connecting with our true self can end our suffering. Is that true? I’m not sure, but I know I feel a lot more at peace and more grounded when I know I am centred and operating out of a deeper sense of self.

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Recently, I was having coffee and talking to a friend about healing old wounds, about dealing with old, deep trauma and abuse – about doing the deep work – the work to move from being stuck to finding one’s authentic self.  We both agreed that doing one’s personal growth work is essential to one’s well being. I believe that any of us with past emotional scaring, trauma, or abuse need to acknowledge it and do the work.  Staying stuck, staying in denial and pretending that everything is just wonderful is not helpful.   Pasting on a smile and saying I will just be positive when the pain inside is unbearable does not work. Neither does numbing it with drugs and alcohol. And believe me, for years I tried!

But it’s important to note, that when the numbing quit working the pain was still there and I spent many years doing my own work.  I went to one on one counselling, I did psychodrama groups, I did group counselling and I went to more personal growth workshops than I can count.  I did deep, deep work. Most of it was not fun and a lot of the work was very painful, but all of it helped move me forward on my path.  I was and still am committed to growing and not staying stuck.

In order to make changes in the present and not stay stuck, we have to look at our past and understand what led us to our current situation. We need to work through and move through our feelings of pain and loss in order to move on.

Please understand I am absolutely and positively a believer in Positive Psychology and finding happiness.  But it must be Authentic Happiness.  And in my opinion Authentic Happiness can only be obtained when we have done our deep work and touched our Authentic Self. So yes, for me, Deepak Chopra’s words ring true that finding your true self is the cure for all suffering . . . But for many of us, a lot of work has to be done first to get  ready for that trip.

I’ll close with with the video I quoted by Deepak Chopra:

I’d love to hear how you connect with your deepest sense of self.

And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

If you want to be more compassionate, set better boundaries

“Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.”

― Brené Brown

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God I love Brené Brown! She’s sassy and funny and smart. And 23 years clean and sober to top it all off. During a recent interview, Brené Brown and Russel Brand discussed sobriety, vulnerability and compassion among other things. And one of the things that surprised me most was what her research taught her about compassion. When she asked Russel what he thought the most compassionate people had common, I paused the video, I wanted to guess. I guessed empathy, self-love, self-compassion — that all made sense to me. But her research showed that when they analysed the data about what the most compassionate people that they had interviewed had in common, there was one variable that they shared:

Boundaries of steel.

Very compassionate people who were interviewed repeatedly said:

I’m compassionate because I do not subject myself to the abuse of other people.

From this research, Brown and her colleagues developed the idea of BIG:

“What Boundaries need to be in place so that I can be in my Integrity and be Generous toward you”

Wow — I don’t know about you, but from a young age, I learned to people-please; I learned to say yes even when I didn’t want to do something; I learned to smile and laugh things off even when they hurt; I learned to ‘go with the flow and not make waves and get along with people.’ I certainly did not learn to say no.

Most of us who grew up in chaotic and abusive homes learned to survive and/or escape by doing whatever it took, I learned to be a people pleaser and to numb the pain of losing myself.

“We do that by numbing the pain with whatever provides the quickest relief. We can take the edge off emotional pain with a whole bunch of stuff, including alcohol, drugs, food, sex, relationships, money, work, caretaking, gambling, affairs, religion, chaos, shopping, planning, perfectionism, constant change, and the Internet. And just so we don’t miss it in this long list of all the ways we can numb ourselves, there’s always staying busy: living so hard and fast that the truths of our lives can’t catch up with us. We fill every ounce of white space with something so there’s no room or time for emotion to make itself known.” — Brené Brown

It was only when the pain got too much and the numbing out didn’t work anymore that I started to do my own work and learn about boundaries. I learned about boundaries in recovery rooms and in therapy rooms and by reading a lot of books!

Brené Brown’s books have all been instrumental in my healing journey. I love her Ten Guideposts for Whole Hearted Living from Rising Strong:

1. Cultivating authenticity: letting go of what people think

2. Cultivating self-compassion: letting go of perfectionism

3. Cultivating a resilient spirit: letting go of numbing and powerlessness

4. Cultivating gratitude and joy: letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark

5. Cultivating intuition and trusting faith: letting go of the need for certainty

6. Cultivating creativity: letting go of comparison

7. Cultivating play and rest: letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth

8. Cultivating calm and stillness: letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle

9. Cultivating meaningful work: letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”

10. Cultivating laughter, song, and dance: letting go of being cool and “always in control”

And I would add to this:

Cultivating boundaries of steel: letting go of people pleasing and resentment, and developing compassion.

In my on-going desire to grow and be the best person I can be, again I turn to Rising Strong, and take this list to heart. I strive to cultivate these traits:

  • Boundaries — I create clear boundaries and will respect your boundaries; and when I’m not clear about what’s okay and not okay, I’ll ask. And I’m willing to say no.
  • Reliability — I’ll do what I say I will do. I will be aware of my competencies and limitations so I don’t overpromise and am able to deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities.
  • Accountability — I own my mistakes, apologize, and make amends.
  • Vault — I don’t share information or experiences that are not mine to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept, and that others are not sharing with me any information about other people that should be confidential.
  • Integrity — I choose courage over comfort. I choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. And I choose to practice my values rather than simply profess them.
  • Non-judgment — I can ask for what I need, and you can ask for what you need. We can talk about how we feel without judgment.
  • Generosity — I extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.

That’s a potent list, and I know it’s a matter of progress not perfection. I will keep cultivating these traits. And for today, I will choose to be compassionate. And that might mean that I say no, and that might mean that someone is less than pleased with me. And that’s OK.

I’ll Close with that incredible interview between Russel Brand and Brené Brown.  Take time to watch it, it’s really great!

I’d love to hear about how you set and keep boundaries, and does it help you stay more compassionate?

And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Hi I’m Patti and I’m a Rebel

“I realized that my sobriety isn’t a limitation. Sobriety isn’t even a “have to” – it’s a superpower.”

― Brené Brown

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I heard in a meeting once that getting sober and staying sober is one of the most rebellious things you can do in an addictive society. I like that, I like to think of myself as a rebel, I always have.

 

 

Last week, someone messaged me on my blog site and asked me about my ‘back story.’ Thank you for asking. I really enjoy being around curious people. So I looked back over the past several years of blog writing and I realized I haven’t really talked much about who I am and why I’m here writing. So I decided to take the plunge and give my ‘back story’. It’s rather long, and it feels sort of self-indulgent to write it out. I’ll try to keep it succinct, but I can’t guarantee it. Feel free to jump to the end if you get bored.

Most of the people who know me well, know that I don’t drink, that it’s a choice I made many years ago. Being sober isn’t ALL that I am, but it’s a very important piece of who I am. I made the choice for all the right reasons, but it’s not a straight-forward story.

I grew up in a chaotic home, with an alcoholic mother and father. My mother was the identified alcoholic, because she drank at home and got drunk and looked sloppy. My father looked good, drove a good car, had a good job, and also drank a lot, but functioned well. Both were alcoholics, both hugely impacted my childhood obviously. I remember every holiday had massive amounts of booze, family members drank, got drunk, and there was inevitably someone locked in the bathroom crying. There weren’t huge fights often, although they certainly happened. Mostly the drama was sadness, my mother listening to opera records in the kitchen crying, while the ironing piled up next to the ironing board that was always out. The curtains stayed shut at our house, the house remained in perpetual dimness. That’s my memory.

When I was 12 and my sister was 16, my father decided that he didn’t want to live in that dim house anymore and he took off; it was the day before Christmas Eve. The pain was immense. And it became our secret. My mother made us vow not to tell anyone that he had left, it was too shameful. So my sister and I added another shameful secret to our repertoire. Don’t invite friends home; they might see our mother drunk; they might notice our father gone.

I learned early on that booze numbed the pain and helped deal with the shame. I was about 13 the first time I drank and got drunk. It was pretty inevitable. I drank, I felt cool and rebellious and comfortable in my skin. My memories of high school weekends all involve alcohol, usually of me getting sick and passing out somewhere, wherever we were drinking. Somehow I always made it home, often not remembering how.

Then at 16, my world collapsed. My mother died of alcoholism. I didn’t know how I was supposed to carry on. That period is hazy, I remember drinking a lot and smoking a lot of pot. The pain was too big. I didn’t believe there was any alternative but to numb it out.

Fast forward through high school and college, partying a lot, somehow surviving and graduating. The day after graduating from high school, I moved away for the summer and partied most days. And soon after graduating from college, I left CA to drive across country, staying in campsites across the country, always ending the day with a 6 pack of beer. Eventually I moved up to Juneau, Alaska and became a bartender at The Red Dog Saloon, a kid in a candy shop. There was always plenty of booze and the added elixir of cocaine now became prevalent. It felt fun, dangerous, outrageous and oh so rebellious . . . until it didn’t . . . and then it felt scary and like a trap. I remember thinking to myself, if I continue down this path, I am going to die here, either in a car crash or just burning my body out. I remember so clearly imagining standing at a crossroads and having to make a decision: Stay here and continue this life style or get out. Luckily I had the option, an invitation from Jeff, (my friend then who later became my husband) to go travel. So I packed up and left.

We spent the next 4 years travelling and working around Asia and the South Pacific. When we returned to the US in 1987, I started drinking heavily again. And I got scared. Interestingly, it was an astrologist who confronted me. I went to see an astrologist in Ashland, Oregon where we were living at the time to get my chart done. She pointed to an area in my chart and said: “Looks like a lot of addiction in your system” – and I said yeah, my mother died of alcoholism; and she said, yeah but there’s more here, and I said yeah my father is also an alcoholic and she looked me in the eye and said: “Yeah but this looks personal… Are you an alcoholic?” Boom! I collapsed in her little room and sobbed. Confronted, the shame was aired, the secret was out, I couldn’t hide.

That same day as the reading, Jeff and I were driving to Tucson, AZ for Jeff to finish his BA. We got to Tucson in January 1988. Two days before my 30th birthday, I went to my first AA meeting. I walked into a woman’s meeting and I felt love, acceptance and at home. Grateful beyond measure.

I’d love to say I’ve been sober and happy ever since, but as I said earlier, it’s not that straight-forward. I wanted to stay sober because Jeff didn’t like being around me when I was drunk… fair enough, neither did I. And I was committed to being sober for the children that Jeff and I were planning to have; I was fiercely determined not to be my mother.

In 1989, Jeff and I got married, we had a sober wedding; it was beautiful. In 1992, we moved to New Zealand, Jeff got a job teaching and we decided NZ would be a wonderful place to raise a family. We had our two sons in a small town in NZ on the coast of The Coromandel Peninsula. Life was good, I felt content.

I found a very small AA community in our small town and went to meetings. I do not want in anyway to blame anyone in that community… but I began to feel estranged, I felt like I did not belong. It was so different from my women’s meeting in Tucson. It was mostly old men in the rooms, and most of them did not want to talk about emotional sobriety, or talk about much else besides ‘Just don’t pick up and go to meetings!’ When I did talk about feelings and discomfort and didn’t respond well to ‘Just don’t pick up and go to meetings’ – I felt bullied and quit going to meetings. It was about that time that both boys were in school, and my full time motherhood role was diminished. And the social scene I found myself in often consisted of wine on the deck of one of the mother’s houses, while the kids played outside. The wine was alluring, the scene was cool and I felt like I didn’t belong with the sober people in town.

I was also feeling strongly that I understood my drinking habits, that I understood the underlying causes . . . I had done A LOT of therapy at that point!

So in 2000, after 12 years of sobriety, I decided that I could drink a bit and I’d be fine. I made deals with myself; I could have 2 glasses of wine on the deck with the other mothers, but no more. I could have 2 beers at the pizza party with the other families but not more. I was fastidiously ‘controlling’ my drinking behaviour . . . until I wasn’t. After several years, I was hiding how much I was drinking, making sure no one noticed when I refilled my glass, hiding wine bottles at the bottom of recycling, lying to people about how much I was drinking on a regular basis. I wasn’t drinking every day, I wasn’t getting in trouble, I lied about it being all under control, but mostly I was lying to myself and I knew it.

In 2014, just before my youngest son left for college, I had this thought in my head: “Once the kids are out of the house, I can drink as much as I want to!” and I knew that was really sick thinking, terrifying. I journalled and thought about where I was, who I was and who I wanted to be. I wrote about being My Best Self . . . and realized that that best version of myself did not include alcohol. So on the first of November 2014, I gave up alcohol again, this time, hopefully, for good.

And what I’ve come to realize about my sobriety this time is that I have decided not to drink anymore for ME. Not because I want to be a good mother, although obviously that plays into the decision hugely, I do want to be a good mother to my sons. And my decision to not drink was not made to hang on to my husband, although Jeff has said many times that he likes me a lot more when I’m not drinking. No the decision not to drink came because I want to like me, I want to be proud of me, I want to feel good about myself. I was ready …

And I believe that this is an act of rebellion in this day and age.

Just check out the social media groups: Moms Who Need Wine have over 700K likes; Mommy needs a beer over 990K likes; Women and Wine; Women & Wine; Wine Women – several hundred thousand likes, and Mommy Needs Vodka over 3.5 million likes.

Search online, and you’ll find hundreds of memes that joke about why women need a drink to get through the day or week — whether it’s related to their kids or their job. There’s an endless supply of products around this topic — like wine glasses emblazoned with the words “Mommy’s Little Helper.” A Facebook group called “Moms Who Need Wine” has more than 700,000 members. And #WineWednesday is often a trending topic on Twitter by midweek.

After that rebellious decision to quit drinking, I knew I needed to find like-minded people. I joined quite a few ‘sober communities’ online, but I didn’t want to return to the AA rooms here in my small town. But then a wonderful thing happened; I saw a couple my own age that I recognized from past times in the recovery community here. I approached the woman and asked if she was still in recovery and she said yes. And to make a long story a bit less long, we created our own meeting, focusing on emotional sobriety, free of bullying and open to anyone wanting to deal with any kind of addiction. We follow the tenets of NA, but are open to everyone dealing with any addiction. We are focused on love and openness and community.

I guess I did not ‘come out’ completely before now because I am in a small town and it feels like a big deal to lay it all out there. But what I have found, is that almost every time I talk about my recovery and choosing not to drink, someone asks me more about it, and often people reach out to me for help. And that feels important.  And I guess with all the ‘sober influencers’ now, it feels safer to ‘come out’ – Instagram Hashtags like: #SoberCurious, #SoberLife, #SoberAF, and #SoberIsSexy are becoming common in the social media universe. Celebrities are coming out as sober; people are talking about it as a sane choice in an insane world. My mentors like Brené Brown are celebrating their sobriety publically.

Quotes like this one from Mary Karr are found popping up:

“When I got sober, I thought giving up [alcohol] was saying goodbye to all the fun and all the sparkle, and it turned out to be just the opposite. That’s when the sparkle started for me.”

So I decided to ‘come out’. The Instagram Influencers and celebrities made it a bit less intimidating, but to be honest, I really believe that this lifestyle that I’ve chosen is rebellious as hell! To choose not to drink and use in a society where drinking and using is pushed on us continuously feels like a very rebellious act, and as I said I’m Patti and I’m a Rebel.

 

Social Connection: The Key to Well-Being – Why You Need It and How You Can Get It

“We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.”

Brené Brown

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The age old question – What is the Key to Well-Being? What is the Secret to Happiness?

Is it to be rich and famous? To have a successful career? To be admired and respected?

Why are some people happier than others? How can people learn to be happier? Is there a secret to happiness?

Prof. Sonja Lyubomirsky has spent her career exploring these concepts.

1) What makes people happy?

2) Is happiness a good thing?

3) How and why can people learn to lead happier and more flourishing lives?

Professor Lyubomirsky runs a Positive Psychology Lab at University of California, Riverside, and studies people who are happy. After hundreds of hours studying what makes people happy, she has compiled a list of the 6 major components leading to happiness:

  1. Be grateful – Gratitude evokes positive feelings
  2. Look on the bright side – optimism maintains a sunnier disposition. Lyubomirsky explains:

“My students and I have found that truly happy individuals construe life events and daily situations in ways that seem to maintain their happiness, while unhappy individuals construe experiences in ways that seem to reinforce unhappiness.”

  1. Savor the moment – Savoring positive moments offsets our negativity bias
  2. Exercise – Exercise releases chemicals that lead to positive feelings
  3. Meditate – Less stress, more happiness
  4. Cultivate Relationships – Positive Social Connections are considered by many as the most important factor in well-being.

First of all, what is positive social connection?

Brené Brown does it beautifully:

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

Recent research shows that people with good social connections are not only happier overall, but live longer than those with poor social connections.

The probability of dying early is 20% higher for obese people, 30% higher for excessive drinkers, 50% higher for smokers… but an incredible 70% higher for people with poor social relationships.

The need to connect socially with others is as basic as our need for food, water, and shelter.

So if positive social connection is so important, why is it that so many of us struggle with this?

Sharon Salzberg describes this struggle well:

Throughout our lives we long to love ourselves more deeply and to feel connected with others. Instead, we often contract, fear intimacy, and suffer a bewildering sense of separation. We crave love, and yet we are lonely. Our delusion of being separate from one another, of being apart from all that is around us, gives rise to all of this pain.

This contraction and fear that Salzberg describes can often be linked back to infancy, and even pre-natal trauma. In a wonderful interview, Diane Poole Heller explains how we are designed for connection but how experiences in infancy and childhood can cause disconnection. Heller describes the impact of Attachment Trauma and Developmental Trauma:

In terms of the original blueprint that we’ve received, attachment patterns can be described as an unconscious blueprint that is in our body memory.

The ideal patterning is Secure Attachment:

Secure Attachment would be a positive holding environment. That means that people around you are attuned to you. They get a sense of what your needs are. Really attuned parents can eventually understand a baby’s needs, but it’s hanging in there long enough with somebody to get to the real need. And often, good mothers just naturally do that. They just have a sense about it, or they learn it as they’re having an on-going relationship with their children. And most important, of course, in all of our life and all of our situations, it’s to show up and be present. For a Secure Attachment, there is this consistent responsiveness.

According to Heller, only 40% – 50% of us have Secure Attachment patterning. The rest of us however, must learn to overcome Insecure Attachment patterns: Ambivalent, Avoidant and Disorganized.

Very briefly –

  • Avoidant patterning occurs in an environment that is highly neglectful – this Avoidant patterning can lead to a person disconnecting, dissociating and isolating.
  • Ambivalent patterning occurs in an environment that is characterized by inconsistency – parents who are full-on at times and not available at all other times. It creates a lot of anxiety because there is no predictability. Ambivalent patterning can lead to a person becoming clingy and fearful.
  • Disorganized patterning occurs when a child feels threatened, when a child feels a lot of fear and/or anger in response to the way a parent treats them. This often occurs when there is addiction, violence and chaos in a family. Disorganized patterning can lead to hyper-vigilance and/or immobilization and isolation.

(For a full description of these disorders, check out Diane Poole Heller’s website or read more about them in this article on Daily Good.)

Our lack of positive social connection can quite often be traced back to one of these patterning disorders. But there is hope. Heller describes models of trauma resolution and integrative healing techniques. She has even developed her own training series on adult attachment that she calls DARe, Dynamic Attachment Re-patterning experience which she describes in her new book called The Power of Attachment: How to Create Deep and Lasting Intimate Relationships.

Heller describes a simple exercise that can help with re-patterning. This practice originated with Patti Elledge’s Beam Gleam, Heller calls it her “Kind Eyes Exercise.”

Imagine that you’re looking out into the world, and there are kind, loving eyes looking back at you. This can be completely imaginary, or maybe you’ve seen a picture of the Dalai Lama looking beautifully compassionate, or even a picture from your history, one of your family members or your dog or a friend or even a stranger, but that has that “beam gleam” in their eyes that says, “I accept you. I care about you.” It’s kind of like in the olden days, when you used to surprise people at their homes, and drop something off, like a… I don’t know… banana nut bread or something. The person would open the door and go, “Oh my gosh! It’s you. Wow, I’m so glad you’re here,” and you just see them light up when they unexpectedly see you at their door. That would be a ‘beam gleam.’ That would be, you’re totally welcome. You feel completely loved by that person. You feel like they’re happy to see you, and that’s what we’re hoping to stimulate, just in eye contact.

That description is an example of a simple exercise to work on excavating old patterning and re-patterning Secure Attachment. Of course re-patterning takes time, commitment, energy, and usually a good therapist.  But if this will lead to positive social connections, and if these connections are one of the main keys to well-being and possibly a longer life, isn’t it worth it?

 

I’ll Close with a wonderful TED Talk entitled the Power and Science of Social Connection.  It’s an informative and interesting talk.

I’d love to hear about how you stay connected to others.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

The Power of a Pause . . . How a Simple Pause Can Enhance Your Life

“A pause gives you 
breathing space
so listen 
to the whispers
of the real you”
– Tara Estacaan – Poet

Take Time to Pause

I’ve been reading in books and hearing on podcasts and TED Talks that simply by pausing at certain times, we can improve our life.

Honestly though? Can taking time to pause actually enhance my life? Can it make me happier, improve my relationships, and even re-wire my brain?

Some pretty big claims for just stopping whatever I’m doing and breathing for a few seconds!

So I did a bit of research and I discovered three different significant times to pause:

  • In the morning and throughout the day to be intentional
  • During stress and/or conflict
  • At positive moments, to savour the good

The Pause for Intention:

Our intention creates our reality. 
– Wayne Dyer

Every intention is a trigger for Transformation
– Deepak Chopra

Several books I’ve read recently encourage us to live more intentionally; that our intentions can bring transformation; that pausing to be intentional can be transformational.

I always thought of goals and intentions as more or less the same thing. But is setting a goal for the day, the same as setting an intention? What is the difference between goals and intentions?

I’ve discovered that for me, goals feel like I’m pushing toward an external thing, a driving force, like something I push to make happen. Whereas intentions feel more internal, like a spark from within that moves me.

As I explored in a blog post not long ago, when I go through each day – not with a list of goals that have to be ticked off, but with intentions for the day, it makes for a much happier and less stressful day.

Pause for Intention in the Morning

David Emerald, author of TED — The Empowerment Dynamic, beautifully describes the differences between goals and intentions:

  • Goals are focused on the future. Intentions are in the present moment.
  • Goals are a destination or specific achievement. Intentions are lived each day, independent of reaching the goal or destination.
  • Goals are external achievements. Intentions are your inner-relationships with yourself and others.

Wayne Dyer describes intentions like this:

“Intention is not something you do, but rather a force that exists in the universe as an invisible field of energy- a power that can carry us. It’s the difference between motivation and inspiration. Motivation is when you get hold of an idea and don’t let go of it until you make it a reality. Inspiration is the reverse- when an idea gets hold of you and you feel compelled to let that impulse or energy carry you along.”

Deepak Chopra explains that:

“Intention is the starting point of every dream.The sages of India observed thousands of years ago that our destiny is ultimately shaped by our deepest intentions and desires. The classic Vedic text known as the Upanishads declares, ‘You are what your deepest desire is. As your desire is, so is your intention. As your intention is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.’  An intention is a directed impulse of consciousness that contains the seed form of that which you aim to create.”

So by pausing each morning, and indeed throughout the day, to listen to that inspiration, focus on the intention, that impulse of consciousness, I am honouring that trigger for transformation.

The Mindful Pause:

“Practice the pause. Pause before judging. Pause before assuming. Pause before accusing. Pause whenever you’re about to react harshly and you’ll avoid doing and saying things you’ll later regret.” 
– Lori Deschene

Listening to a podcast recently, Tara Brach encouraged us to pause when we are feeling stressed or in conflict.  Brach explains that one of the main keys that mindfulness offers us in times of conflict and stress is time to pause to help us move from reaction, knee jerk response to conflict that occurs in the amygdala (the most primitive part of the brain; when we are operating from the amygdala, we react quickly with fight, flight or freeze), and shift the process to the prefrontal cortex.

Pause in Conflict

Brach explains:

“When we feel threatened, part of our evolutionary design is to go into fight, flight or freeze.  None of which serve so well when it comes to good communication.  Neuroscience research confirms that mindfulness practice improves the brain’s ability to process under stress.  It trains us to shift our response away from our primitive, survival reaction, to access more recently developed parts of the brain, in particular, the prefrontal cortex with it’s capacity for reasoning, flexibility and empathy. “

So when stressed or in conflict, pausing can help us move away from getting triggered and catapulting us into reactivity, and toward choosing a more measured response, choosing reason and empathy.

The Pause to Savor:

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”
– Albert Einstein

Pause to Savor

In a TED talk I watched recently, Rick Hanson suggested that we pause to savor the good moments in order to offset our negativity bias. Our brains have a built-in negativity bias’ that has evolved over millions of years; it was a lot more important to notice, react to, and remember the dangers than it was to savor the good. That’s because — in the tough environments in which our ancestors lived — if they missed out on a carrot, they usually had a shot at another one later on. But if they failed to avoid a stick — a predator, a natural hazard, or aggression from others of their species  then there was no more chances to pass on their genes.

Hanson explained that the negativity bias shows up in lots of ways:

  • In a relationship, it typically takes five good interactions to make up for a single bad one.
  • People will work much harder to avoid losing $100 than they will work to gain the same amount of money.
  • Painful experiences are much more memorable than pleasurable ones.

In effect, our brains are like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones. This impacts our implicit memory— our underlying expectations, beliefs, action strategies, and mood — in an increasingly negative direction.

Research shows that it only takes about 30 seconds to install the good, to let it become part of our implicit memory.

Hanson has three suggestions about how to take in the good and make it stick:

    1. Look for good facts, and turn them into good experiences.

Good facts include positive events – like the taste of good coffee or getting an unexpected compliment – and positive aspects of the world and yourself. When you notice something good, let yourself feel good about it.

Try to do this at least a half dozen times a day. Each time takes just 30 seconds or so. It’s private; no one needs to know you are taking in the good. You can do it on the fly in daily life, or at special times of reflection, like just before falling asleep (when the brain is especially receptive to new learning).

2.  Really enjoy the experience.

Most of the time, a good experience is pretty mild, and that’s fine. But try to stay with it for 20 or 30 seconds in a row – instead of getting distracted by something else. As you can, sense that it is filling your body, becoming a rich experience. As Marc Lewis and other researchers have shown, the longer that something is held in awareness and the more emotionally stimulating it is, the more neurons that fire and thus wire together, and the stronger the trace in memory.

3.  Intend and sense that the good experience is sinking into you.

People do this in different ways. Some feel it in their body like a warm glow spreading through their chest like the warmth of a cup of hot cocoa on a cold wintry day. Others visualize things like a golden syrup sinking down inside, bringing good feelings and soothing old places of hurt.

So when we have an experience and we feel good because of that experience, take time to feel good; pause and let it sink in.

So honestly, yes, a simple pause really does have incredible power. Choosing to pause before jumping out of bed to set a simple intention for the day; choosing to pause when I’m triggered from anger or stress, to refrain from reacting from my primitive part of my brain and instead choosing a more measured and empathetic response; and choosing to pause throughout the day to savour the good really will enhance my life.  Taking the time to pause absolutely can enhance my life.

I’ll close with a great talk by Rick Hanson from about a year ago at The Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education

I’d love to hear if you pause during your day to set an intention or avoid conflict or to savor the moment.

And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Get Bored and Enjoy a Daydream …

“Daydream, imagine, and reflect. It’s the source of infinite creativity.”

Deepak Chopra

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I was holding a ladder for my husband.  The sun was on my back, my hands were tight on the ladder, the ladder leaned precariously.  The sensor light that he was trying to install was not being co-operative and it was all taking much longer than anticipated.  I couldn’t check my phone, my hands were on the ladder; I couldn’t walk away, the ladder might fall; I was stuck there, unable to ‘do’ anything and had to be present to keep my husband safe.  I was bored and in this space of focused inaction, my mind drifted and I began to daydream . . . and suddenly I got the inspiration for a new book.  The cover ‘appeared’ in my mind’s eye, I ‘heard’ dialogue, I ‘felt’ characters.  I got so excited!  I wanted to run inside and take some notes . . . but there was still that damn ladder to hold. . .

I was floating on my back in the sea near my house; I was the only one on the beach.  The sun was on my face and I drifted aimlessly.  I had to be focused so I wouldn’t sink or float too far out, but I didn’t need to ‘do’ anything.  I was in a state of focused inaction, and my mind drifted and I began to daydream . . . and suddenly I got the inspiration for an online workshop.  The whole content just seemed to download into me.  I started to shake and quake, almost as though a stingray had stung me (some do occasionally visit our beach.) I jumped out of the water and ran up to my house shaking with excitement.  I started telling my husband what had happened and he asked what I was going to do with this new info. I burst into tears and said, “I have no idea!”  The idea had downloaded but I had no clue how to move forward with it. Creative thought and logical next steps don’t always coincide. But the creative idea had come and I had to trust that eventually all would become clear . . .

I was curious – was this focused inactivity a precursor to creative thought? I did some research and found that boredom and daydreaming do indeed open us up to creative thought.

“When you pay attention to boredom it gets unbelievably interesting.” -Jon Kabat-Zinn

So what actually happens to us when we are bored? I discovered that when we get bored, we ignite a circuit in our brain called the ‘Default Mode.’

In a Psychology Today article, investigative journalist, Manoush Zomorodiexplains:

“We tend to think of boredom as the exact opposite of productivity, but leading neuroscientists are starting to believe that boredom is the secret sauce that can 10x creative potential. Your brain has a resting state that scientists are calling ‘default mode.’

‘Default mode’ is like the screensaver on your computer that comes on to keep things moving when there’s not a whole lot going on. It is your brain on autopilot and it switches on when we’re doing menial activities like washing dishes or going through predictable, daily routines like driving to work or school.”

One study found that people who want to come up with creative ideas would do well to let their minds drift. The study reported in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that people who allow themselves to become bored  “are more likely to engage in sensation seeking.”  When bored, people look for things that engage their minds and stimulate the brain’s reward centers; and these people tend toward more “divergent thinking styles” and the ability to come up with creative new ideas.

Boredom Researcher and Senior Psychology Lecturer, Dr. Sandi Mann explains:

Once you start daydreaming and allow your mind to really wander, you start thinking a little bit beyond the conscious, a little bit into the subconscious, which allows sort of different connections to take place. The subconscious is not constrained by a need to put order to things. The subconscious is much freer.”

Several studies have reinforced the fact that the connections between different parts of our brains increase when we are daydreaming.

In other words, Default Mode switches on during mindless activity or focused inactivity, time that you allow your mind to wander, and this mind wandering time allows us to move beyond our conscious connections and different connections start to take place. Boredom often leads to daydreaming, and daydreaming seems to spark creativity because a restless mind hungers for stimulation. Heather Lench, from the Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences at Texas A & M explains: “Boredom becomes a seeking state. Whatever you’re doing is not quite satisfying for your brain, so it seeks stimulation.”

Daydreaming incubates creative discovery.” – Daniel Goleman

One writer believes that this subconscious probing process suggests that we are hardwired for creativity:

By probing into our subconscious, our brain uses, develops, and strengthens abstract connections that we don’t rely on heavily during regular, logical thought processes. Using these neural connections improves the communication pathways between the different areas of our brain. And this results in more effective communication between brain cells and more cognitive abilities. The fact that neural networks expand and diversify during bouts of boredom suggests that human beings are hardwired to create, design, imagine, invent, and develop new thoughts, ideas, stories, music, and arts.”

Dr. Mann has found that the key to thinking more creatively is to make sure you have some downtime to allow your mind to wander. She even suggests scheduling “daydreaming” time or doing activities like swimming or walking (or holding ladders?) where your mind is able to wander without electronic distraction.

Dr. Jerome Singer, specialist in research on the psychology of imagination and daydreaming, supports the idea of scheduling time for your mind to wander.

Intentionally allowing your mind to wander allows it to access memories and meaningful connections. When you’re bored, you’re tapping into your unconscious brain, picking up long-lost memories and connecting ideas.“

Amy Fries, author of Daydreams at Work: Wake Up Your Creative Powers, explains that the ability to fully access our knowledge, memories, experiences, and imagination helps guide us to those incredible ‘ah ha’ or ‘light bulb’ moments.

“This calm and slightly detached state, which is the hallmark of daydreaming, helps to ‘quiet the noise’ so that we can experience the answer or connection . . . we are able to link up to disparate ideas and even envision things and experiences that haven’t happened in the realm of our knowledge or experience.”

So the next time you’re bored and you reach for you phone to play Candy Crush or check your Facebook page, instead let your mind wander and daydream a bit, you never know what creative idea might spark into being.

I’ll close with the inspirational TED Talk by Manoush Zomorodi entitled: How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas.

 

I’d love to hear about any experiences you’ve had with boredom, daydreaming and creativity.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.