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.

 

 

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.

Altruism – Why it’s so good to do good

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr
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It’s true that we are hard-wired toward negativity, that we have a ‘built-in negativity bias.’ Rick Hanson explains that as we evolved over millions of years, dodging sticks and chasing carrots, it was a lot more important to notice, react to, and remember sticks than it was for carrots. 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 may be no more chances to pass on their genes.

However, studies have also shown that we are hard-wired for empathy and altruism as well. This is because cooperative behaviour worked on our behalf and helped our ancestors to survive under harsh conditions. So we reap psychological and physiological benefits when we practice altruism, when we do good things for others. In other words, doing good is good for you.

First of all, what exactly is altruism? It is defined as:

A voluntary, sometimes costly behaviour motivated by the desire to help another individual; a selfless act intended to benefit only the other.

So why would we do something that is of no benefit to ourselves?

Karen Salmansohn explains it like this:

Altruism raises your mood because it raises your self-esteem, which increases happiness. Plus, giving to others gets you outside of yourself and distracts you from your problems.

Here are a few good reasons to practice altruism:

It promotes positive physiological changes in the brain associated with happiness

Giving to and helping other people releases endorphins, which then activate parts of our brain that are associated with trust, pleasure and social connection. This chemical reaction in the brain increases the chance that we will be altruistic and do good deeds in the future, thus creating a positive feedback loop of generosity and happiness.

It brings a sense of belonging and reduces isolation

Being a part of a positive charitable social network leads to feelings of belonging and lessens isolation.

It helps to keep things in perspective

Helping others, especially those who are less fortunate, can provide a sense of perspective, enabling us to stop focusing on what we may feel is missing in our own life.

It reduces stress and improves our health

Evidence suggests that helping others can boost our health. Compassion has been shown to help stabilise the immune system against immunosuppressing effects of stress. Altruistic acts may also stimulate the brain to release endorphins, which are powerful natural painkillers. One study found that participating in charitable activities can be better for our health than lowering cholesterol or stopping smoking

It helps reduce negative feelings

People who are altruistic tend to see life as more meaningful. Altruism is associated with better marital relationships, increased physical health, and enhanced self-esteem. Acts of altruism decrease feelings of hopelessness and decrease depression. It may also neutralise negative emotions that affect immune, endocrine and cardiovascular function.

It may actually help us live longer

Helping others has actually been shown to increase our life span. Studies on older people show that those who give support to others live longer than those who don’t.

Quite simply, altruism feels good and is good for you. When you help others, it promotes positive physiological changes in the brain associated with happiness. So although it is true that we are hard-wired to notice the negative, we are also hard-wired toward compassion and altruism. So the next time you have a choice between acting from fear or acting from caring and compassion, choose the latter, it’s better for you in every way.

I’ll close with a wonderful TED Talk by Abigail Marsh entitled: Why Some People Are More Altruistic Than Others.

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

Surviving in the Age of Technical Overwhelm

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
– Desmond Tutu
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For those of you who missed my September Newsletter …

If you are not signed up to received my newsletter and are interested in being on my mailing list, just message me below, or email me at patti@thiswayupbook.com

Please keep reading to find out how to sign up for 2 really exciting upcoming online summits.

If you are interested in learning more about the next This Way Up Online Workshop, watch the video below. Or if you are ready to sign up, you can click here. I’d love to see you there!

Welcome to This Way Up!

Thank you for being part of this community! Keep reading for more information about dealing with A Crisis of the Heart and finding well-being; news about the upcoming This Way Up Online Interactive Workshop starting in October; and info about two upcoming events that you are invited to attend. You can always find me at ThisWayUpBook.com.

Dealing with A Crisis of the Heart and Finding Well-Being
Surviving in the age of technical overwhelm

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love.”
~ Dorothy Day

There is a crisis of the heart impacting us at the moment. It’s showing up as depression, anxiety, and attention disorders. These are also symptomatic of a cognition crisis. Adam Gazzaley, PhD explains it as “a crisis at the core of what makes us human: the dynamic interplay between our brain and our environment—the ever-present cycle between how we perceive our surroundings, integrate this information, and act upon it.”

I explored this crisis in my recent article on Thrive Global.

The cause of this crisis is linked to the fact that we just cannot keep up with the rapid rise of technology and it is impacting our brains and our well-being. As Gazzaley put it: “Our brains simply have not kept pace with the dramatic and rapid changes in our environment—specifically the introduction and ubiquity of information technology.”

Some researchers explain that “the increasing complexity, speed, and multitasking of our modern environment has overtaken our capacities, and we live disconnected from our own self and from one another.” This disconnect from our self and from one another is perpetuating the crisis, and the crisis is spiralling out of control.

I discuss how Jack Kornfield describes reengaging the heart. There is hope! If you’re interested in reading more about this and watching Kornfield discuss wisdom, compassion and courage in uncertain times, visit patticlark.com.

It’s Here! This Way Up Is Now Available as an Audio Book!

This Way Up audiobook is now available for purchase! You can find it on Audible and Amazon and on iTunes. You can hear all about it here, along with a special invitation to get it for free!

Please let me know your thoughts if you listen to it. I’d love to hear from you.

This Way Up Online Interactive Live Workshops!

In May, I hosted the first This Way Up Interactive Live Workshop. There were ten women from four different countries taking part and it was amazing – exhilarating and uplifting! We explored many of the topics I write about in my book. But with the unity of sharing our common experience, it was so much richer than doing it alone.

Here’s what a few of the women said about the workshop:

“I really liked getting to know all the lovely ladies and the fact that we were all over the globe! And finding that other women have the same doubts and concerns about themselves that I do. It was fabulous! Keep me posted on next workshop, I want to share this.”
– Kathleen

“Thank you so much for the course. I really enjoyed it, as well as getting to know you and the group.”
– Shellan

“I enjoyed it all, but I think I enjoyed the interactive format the most. It was nice to feel the support and genuine caring from both you and the other participants. It was a very safe and supportive environment. It was very helpful to be guided through the visualizations directly, by someone I had built trust in. It was also helpful to hear the other participants’ experiences. It gave me hope, that doing the hard work and learning the tools will be worth it. I also enjoyed that we received helpful links after the session which enabled me to dive deeper into areas I wanted to work on. Your help was invaluable.”
– Stacy

Check out the video below to learn more about the workshop.

The next six-week series begins on Tuesday, 23 October at 5 p.m. PDT. The workshop series runs for six weeks: Tuesday, 23 Oct – Tuesday, 27 November.

Here is some information about the workshops:

If you want more information about the workshops, or you are interested in signing up for the next series of workshops, you can sign up here!

Upcoming Summits

You’re invited to this wonderful series:
Finding Yourself Master Class Series with the uplifting Clarissa Findlay
This event will launch on October 9.

You can sign up for this transformative Master Class here.

You are also invited to this fabulous summit:
The Unstoppable Artist Formula:
How to Claim Your Full Power as an Artist, Make Great Money, and Attract Your Perfect Audience
Hosted by the Incomparable Nikol Peterman

The Unstoppable Artist Formula launches October 29 and will run through November 8.

You can learn more about Nikol and the online event here.

Buy the Book!

“Author Patti Clark is a cross between Elizabeth Gilbert and Julia Cameron.”

This Way Up is a story of healing for women who yearn to lead a fuller life, accompanied by a workbook to help readers work through personal challenges, discover new inspiration, and harness their creative power. . .

Women spend so much of life nurturing and giving to others that when they find themselves alone—because of an empty nest, the end of a marriage, or the death of a partner—they often struggle with feeling purposeless. This Way Up provides a step-by-step way out of this sense of loss and into a life filled with enthusiasm, creativity, and joy.
Buy Online

Parting Words
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”
~ Helen Keller

Thank you for being part of this movement. Watch this space for more in the months ahead.

Dealing with A Crisis of the Heart and Finding Well-Being

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love.”
– Dorothy Day

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What can we do when loneliness, anxiety and depression take hold. We can hold on to hope.
I explored the Crisis of the Heart that is overtaking so many of us in my latest article on Thrive Global.

There is a crisis of the heart impacting us at the moment. It’s showing up as depression, anxiety, and attention disorders. These are also symptomatic of a cognition crisis. Adam Gazzaley, PhD explains it as:

“A crisis at the core of what makes us human: the dynamic interplay between our brain and our environment — the ever-present cycle between how we perceive our surroundings, integrate this information, and act upon it..”

The numbers of people suffering are staggering. In the United States, depression affects 16.2 million adults, and anxiety about 18.7 million. In New Zealand, it is estimated that one in five women suffers from depression, and about one in 10 men; with about one in six people suffering from anxiety.

Gazzaley describes a sharp increase in the number of teens impacted. American teens have experienced a 33% increase in depressive symptoms, with 31% more having died by suicide between 2010 and 2015. And in New Zealand, the percentage of 15- to 24-year-olds struggling with mental health has been steadily increasing, affecting

11.8 per cent in the past year. The estimated number of youth in NZ experiencing psychological distress has gone up from 58,000 to 79,000 in the past year. And tragically, NZ has the highest youth suicide rate among teenagers between 15 and 19 in the OECD.

What is causing this horrific increase, this crisis spiralling out of control? Grazzaley and many others argue that we just cannot keep up with the rapid rise of technology and it is impacting our brains and our well-being.

“Our brains simply have not kept pace with the dramatic and rapid changes in our environment — specifically the introduction and ubiquity of information technology.”

But it’s not only our brains that are impacted; it’s also affecting our emotions and our hearts. Jack Kornfield describes this crisis as:

Our Crisis of Heart.

“No marvellous technological developments alone  will stop continuing warfare, racism, environmental destruction, and global injustice. The source of these sufferings is in the human heart. Actions based on greed, hatred, disrespect, and ignorance inevitably lead to suffering.”

Gazzaley echoes this sentiment as he notes that “the increasing complexity, speed, and multitasking of our modern environment has overtaken our capacities, and we live disconnected from our own self and from one another.”

This disconnect from our self and from one another is perpetuating the crisis, and the crisis is spiralling out of control. So how do we get a handle on it, how do we deal with a crisis of the heart? Kornfield asks us to reengage the heart.

If actions based on greed, hatred, disrespect and ignorance lead to suffering, then it makes sense that actions based on their opposites — generosity, love, respect, and wisdom — lead to happiness and well-being.

Numerous studies have shown that there are ways to increase joy, compassion, peace, and gratitude. The benefits of mindfulness and compassion are well researched. The work of Richard Davidson, professor of psychology, is especially interesting. Davidson’s work at Center for Healthy Minds at UW Madison has shown that positive emotions such as loving kindness and compassion can be learned. This is great news; these positive emotions can be learned and nurtured to grow.

But the rapid rise of technology continues, and even as we work to hold on to the positive emotions that we are nurturing, the disconnect that Gazzaley described looms.

But there is hope. Kornfield is working with others to bring principles of heart and compassion into the field of technological development:

“Together with technology leaders, neuroscientists, and contemplatives, I have helped co-found something called the Open Source Compassion to bring principles of heart and compassion into all levels of technological development. We acknowledge that the capacities of modern technology are among the most potent of human creations. We are collaborating with companies and institutions around the world and beginning to formulate a kind of Hippocratic Oath for tech, which reads:

· We will not create technology that causes harm to humans and to life.
· If later we learn that it inadvertently does so, we will change it.
· We will strive to create technology that fosters human well-being and respect.
· We can create technology for profit, but not if it contravenes the first three principles.
· Working at all levels, we will act with professionalism and take these responsibilities as paramount.

Ultimately we must have hope; hope that there can be positive change and that love will prevail. Kornfield implores us:

Let these words be a reminder, a call.

Find your way to quiet yourself and tend your heart.

Promote love and spread the power of compassion in your work and in your community.

Have hope.

I’ll close with a wonderful video of Jack Kornfield entitled: ‘Wisdom, Compassion and Courage in Uncertain Times

I’d love to hear about how you deal with a crisis of the heart.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.