Self Love During Difficult Times

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. And we need to learn to love ourselves first.”
― John Lennon

_________________________________________________________________________________

This post was from 2017 – but it was so relevant that I decided to repost it . . .

Self-Love. Why do so many of us find that concept so difficult?  One of the most common things that I hear from women in workshops is that they think the worst of themselves and usually have difficulty prioritizing themselves.

Why is it that some people, the Donald Trumps of the world, seem to believe only the best about themselves, while others—perhaps especially women —seize on the most self-critical thoughts they can come up with? “It turns out there’s an area of your brain that’s assigned the task of negative thinking,” says Louann Brizendine, MD, a neuropsychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco, and the author of The Female Brain. “It’s judgmental. It says ‘I’m too fat’ or ‘I’m too old.’ It’s a barometer of every social interaction you have. It goes on red alert when the feedback you’re getting from other people isn’t going well.” This worrywart part of the brain is the anterior cingulate cortex. In women, it’s actually larger and more influential, as is the brain circuitry for observing emotions in others. “The reason we think females have more emotional sensitivity,” says Brizendine, “is that we’ve been built to be immediately responsive to the needs of a nonverbal infant. That can be both a good thing and a bad thing.”

Interesting that this article was from the August 2008 O Magazine. The comparison to the Donald Trumps of the world is more apt than ever! (Although I would like to point out that there is a huge distinction between narcissism and self-love!) And in these dark and difficult times, when there is a constant reminder of how much is at stake, fear is rampant. So self-love is more important than ever.  We need love to conquer the fear that many of us are feeling in response to the political insanity that has gripped the world at the moment.

In an article that I recently published in Thrive Global, I wrote about just this phenomenon – Why Self-Love is So Important During Difficult Times. In this article I quote an important point by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross:

There are only two emotions: love and fear. All positive emotions come from love, all negative emotions from fear. From love flows happiness, contentment, peace, and joy. From fear comes anger, hate, anxiety and guilt. It’s true that there are only two primary emotions, love and fear. But it’s more accurate to say that there is only love or fear, for we cannot feel these two emotions together, at exactly the same time. They’re opposites. If we’re in fear, we are not in a place of love. When we’re in a place of love, we cannot be in a place of fear.”

So if we want to stay in a place of love instead of a place of fear, we have to learn to love ourselves first. We cannot pour from an empty cup, we must be filled up. And one way to fill your cup is to prioritize yourself, pamper yourself!

 

 

So if you have the time and the inclination, may I suggest a lovely retreat to Bali! Rejuvenate Spa Retreats is offering a stunning 9 day retreat in

Bali! You can read all about it here. This is the Third annual Bali Retreat my business partner Deb and I have run.  It is a phenomenal way to refresh and rejuvenate yourself. And a wonderful way to show yourself the self-love your deserve!

I’ll close with a short sweet video of Oprah Winfrey as she talks about self-love and taking care of yourself.

 

 

I’d love to hear how you take care of yourself and practice self-love.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it. And please let me know if you want more information about our retreat to Bali in July!

 

Advertisements

The Path to Well-Being . . . Yes you can get there from here!

“The ultimate end of all revolutionary social change is to establish the sanctity of human life, the dignity of man, the right of every human being to liberty and well-being.”
– Emma Goldman
________________________________________________________________________________

What do you want? No honestly, what do you really truly want in your one wild and precious life? to mis-quote Mary Oliver. Most studies show that happiness and well-being are at the top of this list. But that is often immediately followed by but I don’t know what to do to get there. The good news is that there is a path to well-being, and you can start travelling this path today.

 

Well-being is actually a skill that can be learned and practiced and improved. Well-being can be achieved by focusing on four main keys. One of my heroes that I’ve written about is Dr. Richard Davidson. Dr. Davidson is the founder of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and he has studied and discovered the four science-based keys to well-being.

Davidson explains that well-being is a skill and it boils down to four main attributes:

Resilience, Outlook, Attention and Generosity.

From his research, he and his colleagues have learned that:

Each of these four is rooted in neural circuits, and each of these neural circuits exhibits plasticity—so we know that if we exercise these circuits, they will strengthen. Practicing these four skills can provide the substrate for enduring change, which can help to promote higher levels of well-being in our lives.

1. Resilience

Yes it’s true ‘Shit Happens.’ It happens to all of us and we can’t always stop it or avoid it, but we can change the way we react to it. Davidson explains that:

Resilience is the rapidity with which we recover from adversity; some people recover slowly and other people recover more quickly. We know that individuals who show a more rapid recovery in certain key neural circuits have higher levels of well-being. They are protected in many ways from the adverse consequences of life’s slings and arrows.

Recent research that Davidson conducted at UW Madison asked whether resilience could be improved and if so, how. The good news is that answer is yes; resilience can be improved by regular practice of mindfulness meditation. … The bad news is that it takes thousands of hours of practice before you see real change. But hey, it can be done.

2. Outlook

The second key to well-being is one’s outlook on life. Davidson explains:

Outlook refers to the ability to see the positive in others, the ability to savor positive experiences, the ability to see another human being as a human being who has innate basic goodness.

The good news regarding outlook is that unlike resilience, research indicates that simple practices of lovingkindness and / or compassion meditation may alter this circuitry quite quickly.
There was a study done in 2013 where individuals who had never meditated before were randomly assigned to one of two groups.

One group received a secular form of compassion training and the other received cognitive reappraisal training, an emotion-regulation strategy that comes from cognitive therapy. We scanned people’s brains before and after two weeks of training, and we found that in the compassion group, brain circuits that are important for this positive outlook were strengthened. After just seven hours—30 minutes of practice a day for two weeks—we not only saw changes in the brain, but these changes also predicted kind and helpful behavior.

3. Attention

The third key to well-being is paying attention. Research has shown that most people do not pay close attention to what they’re doing about forty-seven percent of the time. The quality of attention that you pay to what you are doing is vital.

William James in The Principals of Psychology explains that:

The ability to voluntarily bring back a wandering attention over and over again is the very root of judgment, character, and will. An education that sharpens attention would be education par excellence.

Davidson explains that educating attention can be done through a contemplative practice.

4. Generosity

It is well known now that when individuals engage in generous and altruistic behavior, they actually activate circuits in the brain that are key to fostering well-being. Davidson believes that:

Human beings come into the world with innate, basic goodness. When we engage in practices that are designed to cultivate kindness and compassion, we’re not actually creating something de novo—we’re not actually creating something that didn’t already exist. What we’re doing is recognizing, strengthening, and nurturing a quality that was there from the outset.

In addition to the four keys that Davidson outlines, science has also shown that gratitude hugely increases our feelings of well-being. Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present. It magnifies positive emotions. With gratitude, we become greater participants in our lives as opposed to spectators. You can become more responsible for creating more well-being in your life by the simple act of being grateful for what you are experiencing in this present moment.

By practicing gratitude and focusing on these four keys, Davidson assures us that:

Our brains are constantly being shaped wittingly or unwittingly—most of the time unwittingly. Through the intentional shaping of our minds, we can shape our brains in ways that would enable these four fundamental constituents of well-being to be strengthened. In that way, we can take responsibility for our own minds.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, no one explains it better than Dr. Richie Davidson himself!

I’d love to know if you have found that a meditation practice impacts your well-being.
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
____________________________________________________________________________

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.

Overcoming the Trance of Unworthiness

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”
– Jack Kornfield.”

____________________________________________________________________________

There is a trance that is overtaking many of us these days. It seems to be present in most women I talk to. It is the Trance of Unworthiness. We seem to be champions at berating ourselves for our perceived failures – for not being good enough at our jobs or at parenting, for not exercising enough or for eating too much. We have convinced ourselves that we are unworthy of the kindness that we show most other people. And that unkindness and self-criticism is making us sick!

Research shows that accepting our imperfections and being kinder to ourselves can lessen feelings of depression and anxiety, and can also lessen feelings of shame and fear of failure.

People who have greater self-compassion also tend to be happier and more optimistic.
Quieting the nagging self-critic and practicing self-compassion can lead to a healthier immune system and a much better sense of well-being.

Psychologist Kristin Neff describes self-compassion as kindness toward the self, which entails being gentle and supportive. “Rather than harshly judging oneself for personal shortcomings, the self is offered warmth and unconditional acceptance.”

But after years of relentless negative self-talk, how can we break out of this trance of unworthiness? How can we cultivate more self-compassion?

It needs to be intentional – set the intention daily to be kinder to yourself.

Here are some guidelines:

1. Practice Imperfection:

Self-compassion means that we give ourselves the space to be human. And that means we can be flawed sometimes, but we don’t have to define ourselves as being ‘completely flawed and a hopeless case.’ We get to practice imperfection sometimes and not lose sight of our own potential.

2. Practice Mindfulness:

Jon Kabat-Zinn explains that mindfulness has been found to have a positive impact on self-compassion because it has the tendency to lessen self-judgement. When we are stuck in a negative spiral of self-criticism, it’s quite often because we are engaged in ‘negative story-lines’ —stories that we repeat in our heads, criticizing self about past mistakes and failures. This playground of our internal critic, plays on repeat and creates a negative spiral that we can easily get stuck in. Mindfulness, or the state of non-judgmental awareness, can be the antidote.

3. Practice Forgiveness

Refer back to number one, being human means that you sometimes make mistakes. Shit happens. We don’t have to punish ourselves for making mistakes. We get to accept that we’re not perfect and move on. Remember what Anne Lamott says:
“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”
That goes for self-forgiveness as well.

4. Practice Gratitude

By focussing on gratitude, we over-ride our inner critic and can hear a kinder voice in our head. We can then shift the lazar-focus away from all of our perceived shortcomings and instead appreciate what we can contribute to the world. Robert Emmons reminds us that gratitude is powerful and by focusing on gratitude instead of criticism, we can learn to be more self-compassionate.

Remember self-compassion has to be learned for most of us. I have to remember to practice it daily. It has to be intentional and mindful. But it can be done, and I’ve decided that I’m worth it. And I think you are too.

I’d like to close with a beautiful meditation called ‘Awakening Self-Compassion’ by Tara Brach.
She also has a two part meditation on her own site called “The Healing Power of Self-Compassion” which is also wonderful when you have the time.

I’d love to hear about how you manage to overcome the Trance of Unworthiness.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.

What the Dying Can Teach Us About Living

As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death.”
– Leonardo da Vinci 

_______________________________________________________________________________

Once again, I have so much to be grateful for, in terms of what my sons have taught me. This time, I am grateful that both of them pushed me to explore the wonders of podcasts. Of course I have listened to podcasts, I’ve even been interviewed on several, but it’s been a half-hearted effort. On their last trip home, over Christmas, they downloaded a podcast playing app and steered me in the direction of several podcasts that they enjoyed. And since then, I have been playing podcasts on every trip I take in my car. I’m hooked! Mind you, as most of you know that have been reading my blog for awhile,  I’m an addict at heart, so everything I do, I often overdo! But at this point, I’m loving it and it doesn’t seem to be doing me any harm.

The first podcast that my sons turned me on to was an interview with Frank Ostaseski on a podcast called Waking Up with Sam Harris. But Actually, Tara Brach is much more my style, so I then listened to her interview with Ostaseski on her podcast, Tara Talks.

I was so impacted that I bought Ostaseski’s book, The Five Invitations. A wonderful book that I highly recommend.

In an article in Daily Good, Ostaseski describes his journey:

“Over the past thirty years, as the co-founder of the Zen Hospice Project, people who were dying generously invited me into their most vulnerable moments. They made it possible for me to get up close and personal with death. In the process, they taught me how to live. I distilled their wisdom into five heart lessons for living fully and without regret.”

The message in the book has five invitations to us from what Ostaseski has learned from people dying.

1. Don’t Wait.

2. Welcome Everything; Push Away Nothing

3. Bring Your Whole Self to the Experience

4. Find a Place of Rest in the Middle of Things

5. Cultivate “Don’t Know” Mind

The idea of the first invitation, Don’t Wait, seems obvious. If you are dying, you can’t wait to do things, there is an immediacy to everything. But this has a message to all of us:

“This idea can both frighten and inspire us. Yet, embracing the truth of life’s precariousness helps us to appreciate its preciousness. We stop wasting our lives on meaningless activities. We learn to not hold our opinions, our desires, and even our own identities so tightly. Instead of pinning our hopes on a better future, we focus on the present and being grateful for what we have in front of us right now. We say, “I love you” more often. We become kinder, more compassionate and more forgiving.”

When I think about the second invitation, Push Away Nothing, that feels very hard. My logical mind says, but what about the horrible stuff? I don’t want to welcome the bad stuff. Ostaseski explains though:

“In welcoming everything, we don’t have to like what’s arising or necessarily agree with it, but we need to be willing to meet it, to learn from it. The word welcome confronts us; it asks us to temporarily suspend our usual rush to judgment and to be open, to what is showing up at our front door. To receive it in the spirit of hospitality. At the deepest level, this invitation is asking us to cultivate a kind of fearless receptivity.”

Bring Your Whole Self to the Experience is a good invitation for me. I often hold back thinking I have nothing to offer here, I don’t know how to deal with this. I believe if I can’t contribute some kind of knowing to something, then I should not contribute. I know this is from ego, that I want to look good if I’m going to contribute. But Ostaseski explains gently:

“We all like to look good. We long to be seen as capable, strong, intelligent, sensitive, spiritual, or at least well-adjusted. Few of us want to be known for our helplessness, fear, anger, or ignorance. Yet more than once I have found an “undesirable” aspect of myself — one about which I previously had felt ashamed — to be the very quality that allowed me to meet another person’s suffering with compassion instead of fear or pity. It is not only our expertise, but exploration of our own suffering that enables us to build an empathetic bridge and be of real assistance to others. To be whole, we need to include and connect all parts of ourselves. Wholeness does not mean perfection. It means no part left out.”

The fourth invitation, Find a Place of Rest in the Middle of Things, is a wonderful reminder for all of us I think. After listening to the podcast with Tara Brach, I downloaded another app to help remind me to find a place of rest in the middle of thing. The app, Insight Timer, has meditations on my phone to help me find rest in the middle of things, to remind me and aid me to rest.

“We often think of rest as something that will come to us when everything else in our lives is complete: At the end of the day, when we take a bath; once we go on holiday or get through all our to-do lists. We imagine that we can only find rest by changing our circumstances.”

 

And the fifth invitation, Cultivate “Don’t Know” Mind is a Zen flavored invite, one that describes a mind that’s open and receptive, one that is not limited by agendas, roles, and expectations.

“It is free to discover. When we are filled with knowing, when our mind is made up, it narrows our vision and limits our capacity to act. We only see what our knowing allows us to see. We don’t abandon our knowledge — it’s always there in the background should we need it — but we let go of fixed ideas. We let go of control. The night before my open-heart surgery, my 26-year-old son Gabe and I had a tender conversation. Our sharing was filled with reminiscing, kindness, and laughter. At one point, Gabe became quite serious and asked, “Dad, are you going to live through this surgery?” Now I love my son beyond words, and like any father, I wanted to reassure him that I would be just fine. I felt into my experience before answering. Then I heard myself say, “I’m not taking sides.” My answer surprised us both. What I meant was that I wasn’t taking sides with life or death. Either way, I trusted that everything would be okay. I don’t know where the words came from; they spilled from me without censorship. I wasn’t trying to appear sage or to be a good Buddhist. Yet we both were reassured by my response. I think it was because we knew we were in the presence of the truth spoken with love.”

These five invitations are a gift to all of us, supportive in our life. They invite us to continue to explore and understand what it means to be alive now; not just to cope with death, but to live. And I whole heartedly agree with Ostaseski, they are relevant guides to living with integrity. Yes, we need to live these invitations, to be truly understood, they need to be lived and realized through action. They indeed are “five invitations for you to be fully present for every aspect of your life.”

The conversation with Tara Brach and Frank Ostaseski is truly inspirational, and I invite you to take the time to watch it now.

 

Let me know your thoughts on these Five Invitations.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Let’s Talk about Love . . .

“He who plants kindness gathers love.”

– St. Basil 

_______________________________________________________________________________

For those of you who missed my last newsletter, I’m posting it here.  There are links to articles and lots of exciting news about upcoming events.  If you want to sign up for my newsletter, you can sign up here – under ‘Stay Inspired.’ 

 

Is love really all you need?
View this email in your browser

Welcome to This Way Up!

Thank you for being part of this community! Keep reading for more on clinging to a flawed definition of love, news about upcoming summits, and updates about the This Way Up Audio Book! You can always find me at ThisWayUpBook.com.

Is Love All You Need? Not Really.

“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.” ~ Mary Oliver

I was sitting in the seat of the car, looking out the window, pouting. The day was not going as I had planned it in my head. He should have known! He must have known how I wanted it to be. After all, we were married and he should know … he should be able to read my mind …

Lennon and McCartney tell us that “love is all you need.” But in the case of romantic love, is that true? Plenty of research and lived experience tells us: no, it’s not. Alain de Botton describes why we created and still live by the inaccurate, and often disastrous image of romantic love in his NYT article: “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person.”

I explored the concept that we are clinging to a flawed definition of romantic love in my latest article on Thrive Global.

The idea of romantic love tells us that we all have a soul mate out there, that it is our task to find our one true soul mate, and we will know when we find him or her because we will have a very special feeling. Botton describes this search for romantic love in his very entertaining talk “On Love” from The School of Life. You can watch this insightful talk here.

We are led to believe that when we find our soul mate, we will never be lonely again, that person will understand us completely and practically be able to read our mind. (Flashback to me in the car pouting.) We will feel completely understood and loved. This love shall be one long romantic holiday …

Anyone who has experienced a romantic relationship knows that this logic is flawed in so many ways!

For a relationship to last, we need more than that outdated version of romantic love. So what do we need to make a lasting and happy relationship? Well for one thing, we definitely need good communication. The day out with my husband would have turned out a lot differently if I had communicated my vision for the day instead of assuming that he should “just know.”

But aside from good communication, science is showing us that lasting relationships come down to two things: kindness and generosity.

In Atlantic magazine’s article “Masters of Love,” psychologists John and Julie Gottman describe their work. Together they have studied thousands of couples in a quest to figure out what makes relationships work. From the data they gathered, they were able to separate the couples into two major groups: the masters and the disasters. The masters were still happily together after six years. The disasters had either broken up or were chronically unhappy in their marriages. Read more about this on my blog post.

Ultimately, if we are looking to live happily ever after together, we need to ditch the antiquated idea of romantic love and move forward in the spirit of kindness and generosity.

Upcoming Summits: You’re Invited!

I am so excited to be participating in several events in February and March.  Each summit or master class is completely free and full of amazing information from a host of experts.

Great Health Now: Reverse Aging, Feel Confident in Your Body and Have Fun Again!

Live now.

Learn more and join the event.

Ignite Your Creative Power

Live now. 

Free master class series where you will discover how to get unstuck, expand your vision and live your greater potential. This intimate, high-value, high-profile master class series wil explore the topic of the unlimited creative power of women to help them activate and realize their deepest desires and dreams.

Learn more and join the event.

Authenticity Is Power: Get out of your own way and into success, by being yourself always!

Going live February 27.

Learn more and join the event.

Reclaim Your Life: Get Clear, Simplify and Do Something Worthwhile

Going live March 12.

Learn more and join the event.

This Way Up Will Soon Be an Audio Book!

This Way Up is being made into an audio book! The book is being narrated by the fantastic character actress, Janice Kent. When it is ready, it will be available on my Amazon page and I will send a special link for the book in my newsletter. I can’t wait to share this new version of the book with you!

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

“Communication to a relationship is like oxygen to life. Without it … it dies!”
~ Tony Gaskins

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

Practice Some Mindful Self-Compassion this Holiday Season!

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”

― Jack Kornfield

________________________________________________________________________________

The holidays are upon us. Tis the season to be jolly and all that. But for many people, this is the season of stress and depression. People tend to push themselves beyond their limits. Overspending is rampant; people overindulge in food and drink; there is increased stress due to travel and obligatory family get togethers. And often, our sleep suffers and we have less time to recharge our batteries. And then to top it all off, most of us beat ourselves up because we haven’t done enough or haven’t done it right. “Are the presents just right?” “Did I make enough pies?” “Did I make a fool of myself at that party?”

This holiday season, I am committing to a whole new approach. In order to be fully present for my loved ones, I need to take care of me. My plan centers around Mindful Self-Compassion; with an added focus of paying attention to what my body needs.  I describe this plan in my latest article in Thrive Global.

 

 

Thrive Global, by the way, turned One Year Old this month!  Congratulations to the founder Arianna Huffington!  I have been a contributor since the inaugural edition.  If you missed my first article in Thrive Global in December 2016 on Forgiveness, you can read it here.

But back to practicing Mindful Self-Compassion.  If you want to learn about this wonderful topic, look no further than Dr. Kristin Neff. Kristin Neff Phd is one of the world’s leading experts on self-compassion. She explains that with self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend. This quote by Neff sums it up pretty well:

“You don’t want to beat yourself up for beating yourself up in the vain hope that it will somehow make you stop beating yourself up. Just as hate can’t conquer hate — but only strengthens and reinforces it — self-judgment can’t stop self-judgment.”

This holiday season, by treating myself like I’d treat a loved one, I’m hoping to increase my emotional well-being and resilience. Here’s my plan:

  1. Take time for myself

During the holidays, we are so quick to give our time and energy that we can end up feeling completely depleted. This holiday season, I plan to take the time each day to check in with myself: “How am I feeling?” “Have I done something good for me today?” This will require setting boundaries with others as well as myself. I don’t have to do everything for everyone these holidays. I commit to taking time to just be; to go on walks and to read. I don’t have to bake the cookies and host the community carolling party. I can choose to stay home and read with a cup of tea instead of joining one more holiday party. Self-care and self-compassion bring me peace and joy, which in turn will allow me to bring peace and joy to those around me.

2. Slow down and meditate

Part of my plan to take care of myself will include making sure I have plenty of time for me, and just plenty of time period. The holiday season tends to be a time of rushing around, hurrying from one event to the next. This year I plan to focus on many mini moments of mindfulness as Andy Puddicombe refers to it in his program, Headspace. And I’ll make sure I make time in my busy schedule to meditate. I know that those 15–20 minutes in the morning make all the difference to the other 23 + hours in the day.

3. Gratitude

I know from experience that when I’m in a place of gratitude everything in my life just works and feels better. Neuroscience has proven that actively practicing gratitude protects your brain from stress and depression. Recent research shows that even just thinking about what I am grateful for increases dopamine and serotonin. But, I’m not just going to think about what I’m grateful for, I commit to writing down three positive things that I’m thankful for every morning in my journal. I have learned that this simple activity trains my brain to be more positive by looking for the good in life rather than the bad. And I plan to share my appreciation too, to articulate my gratitude to others. These simple statements of gratitude to others for who they are and what they are doing are like small gifts, often appreciated more than that box of chocolates.

4. Eat well and not overindulge

We all know it’s common to put on weight during the holiday season, and then to beat oneself up mercilessly for the next few months. I know when I eat healthier, I feel better. I don’t plan to deprive myself of holiday treats, but I will eat in moderation. And when I do put on those extra holiday pounds, I will be kind to myself in the new year, just like I would a good friend. Instead of berating myself and calling myself fat, I will suggest that perhaps a long walk would be a great idea.

5. Stay Active

And speaking of long walks, I know that exercise is essential to my well being. I will make time this holiday season to go on long walks and do plenty of yoga. I know that physical activity reduces stress, improves my mood and prevents depression. I know this from experience, but the research shows it as well; exercise triggers the same hormones (dopamine and serotonin) in my brain that are targeted by anti-depressant medication. So I know that exercise won’t just help me with those few extra pounds this holiday season, but it will greatly help my mood as well. But you know what, if I miss a couple of days of exercise, I won’t beat myself up about it either!

6. Sleep

Finally, this holiday season I commit to protecting my sleep. There are few things that mess up my health and well-being like poor sleep. I know that not sleeping well leads to stress, irritability and just feeling like crap. A lot of us lose sleep around the holidays, whether it’s from staying out late, overindulging in food, drink and sugar, or over-caffeinating. But I know that the best way for me to be cheerful this holiday season is to get enough sleep.

So this holiday season, I invite you to follow my plan and make a commitment to yourself. Take care of yourself over the holidays and practice some self-compassion. Let’s all remember Soren Kierkegaard’s wise words:

“Don’t forget to love yourself.”

If you want to learn more about how to practice Mindful Self-Compassion, you can find many videos by Kristin Neff on YouTube.

I’ll close this post with one of my favorite videos by her:  Overcoming Objections to Self-Compassion

 

I’d love to hear about how you plan to take care of yourself this holiday season.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Healing Shame and Finding Well-Being

“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”

― Brené Brown

________________________________________________________________________________

My reaction was similar to many other people I know when I first saw the hash tag ‘MeToo’ on twitter and on Facebook. I thought ‘Oh another hash tag on social media . . . Ho hum.’ But then in less than an hour, my wall was full of #MeToo from female friends on Facebook. Little did I know at that point how much Actress Alyssa Milano’s post would impact me personally. So personally in fact that I decided I had to get public with it on Thrive.

Of course, what we now know is that Tarana Burke, a native of Harlem, New York, was the original creator of the Me Too movement over a decade ago, before hash tags and social media. But it was Milano’s post, on October 16th that impacted me.

When I saw the original post, I felt vaguely uncomfortable, but ignored it. It wasn’t even when I saw my wall flooded with #MeToo that I really understood it’s impact. It was only later, over coffee with a friend, that it hit me, the full magnitude of how this related to me personally.

What #MeToo did, was to open up a huge, previously taboo, conversation with other women. Looking back at myself in my 20s, I was a ‘party girl’ and a bartender. I had a lifestyle that ‘invited’ that kind of behavior. I had convinced myself that I had deserved and been ‘responsible for’ the intimidation and harassment that I experienced.

Early in my own personal recovery process, I took full responsibility for my actions and my past behavior . . . full and total responsibility. And thus the shame lived on. I first read about this topic in John Bradshaw’s  ‘Healing the Shame that Binds You.’ Yes I read the book and yes I talked about the concept. But still, said the little voice in my head, if you hadn’t been that drunk, if you hadn’t put yourself in that situation… I still believed that I was responsible for the treatment on some level because of my own behavior.

What I discovered through conversations with other women is that there are a lot of us who still blame ourselves for what happened to us. “If I hadn’t been that drunk” and “If I had been wearing a bra” and “If I hadn’t been so stoned” then that wouldn’t have happened. And most of us have kept that bottled up inside of us, continuing to blame ourselves for our own ‘reprehensible behavior.’

This campaign has opened up the conversation, opened up the willingness to look at the behavior, not with shame, but with a desire to share the story. We are comparing notes and listening, and we are realizing that we are not alone.

There are so many layers to this problem. Looking at the culture of misogyny and who is in the position of power that enables this to happen. I’m aware of this and of course we still have so far to go. But today, I simply want to express gratitude, gratitude that even after so many years of recovery and therapy, these conversations have helped to heal a part of me that remained buried for over thirty years. I am writing now to say thank you for what was not just another ‘social media craze’ but instead was a catalyst to heal. Healing through deep and nourishing conversations with other women, initiated by a simple comment, ‘Me Too.’

I’ll close with a clip from John Bradshaw

 

 

I’d love to hear how the #MeToo campaign impacted you, or how shame itself has impacted your life.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Practicing Self-Care

Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.

―Eleanor Brown

_________________________________________________________________________________

 

I recently published an article in Thrive:  You can’t pour from an empty cupMost of us know that is true, but how many of us actively practice replenishing ourselves? I just returned from a retreat for women, and in speaking to the women individually, what I discovered was that the biggest factor that they had to overcome to go on the retreat was the guilt! Guilt for taking the time for themselves and guilt using money exclusively on themselves.

We, especially women it seems, have difficulty taking time for ourselves and prioritizing self-care. It often takes an illness or an accident to persuade us to give ourselves the time and care we need.

In an article by Dr. Susan Biali in Psychology Today, Biali describes feeling incredibly unwell, but continuing to push herself. She had an epiphany, that although she had been teaching people about stress management and self-care for over a decade, she had not been practicing what she preached. She explained that when she finally took time out for herself, it felt like she had woken up after being asleep for a long time. But it’s only when you wake up that you notice you were sleeping

But when we are stressed out, self-care is often the first thing we let go of.

Why is that? Barbara Markway, Phd explains in a different article in Psychology Today a few reasons that that is the case.

  1. Our brains go into fight-or-flight mode and our perspective narrows.
  2. We’re so busy trying to solve problems that we’re stuck in “doing mode
  3. We may not have a “go to” list of self-care activities.

So once we wake up, so to speak, how do we practice self-care, what can we put on our list of self-care activities. For those of us that can, a retreat is a lovely way to have time and space for self. But if that is not an option at the moment, here are a few suggestions:

Focus on the sensations around you — sights, smells, sounds — this helps you be present in the moment.

· Go for a walk and breathe in fresh air.

· Listen to running water.

· Take a hot shower or a warm bath.

Do something pleasurable for yourself.

· Get creative! Do some art, journal or play some music

· Garden.

· Take yourself out for a nice meal

Give yourself some spiritual space

· Practice gratitude — journal about things your are grateful for

· Light a candle and meditate

· Walk in nature

Connecting with others is an important part of self-care.

· Go on a lunch date with a good friend.

· Call a friend on the phone.

· Join a support group.

Caroline Myss asks us: “How do you define taking care of yourself?” Think about that and then as Myss suggest: Create a new self-care practice, starting today.

Remember what Audre Lorde says — self-care is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation. Take care of yourself, start today, you are worth it!

To close I’d like to put an invitation out there to ignite a self-care revolution!

 

 I’d love to hear how you practice self-care.  I love learning from all of you.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Tell your inner critic to shut up!

“Tell the negative committee that meets inside your head to sit down and shut up!”

― Ann Bradford

_________________________________________________________________________________

Do you ever feel like your inner voice is not your best friend? Do you find that voice telling you that whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it wrong? My inner chatter is often telling me that I’m not doing ‘it’ right. It doesn’t matter what ‘it’ is – doing a task, helping someone to do something, even just trying to meditate. I used to think that I was alone in this and that I was just flawed and hopeless. Then I started working with other women in workshops and discovered that almost all of us do this one way or another. It is painful to realize how many of us believe these negative voices in our heads. I wrote about this topic recently on Thrive Global.

Most of us received plenty of negative messages growing up, and usually those messages are blindly accepted and believed. These negative messages from our inner critic create new neural pathways which become embedded in our brains. This becomes negative inner chatter creating limiting beliefs which adversely impacts us in many ways.

A neural pathway is the way that information travels through the neurons, or nerve cells of the brain. We create new neural pathways every time we hear or experience something new. The more we experience something, the more embedded this pathway becomes, and unfortunately, a lot of us have some very negative messages firmly rooted in our brains.

Once those neural pathways are deeply embedded, changing them is not an easy task.

Is there a way to overcome the negative stories that we once heard and now continue to tell ourselves? Is there a way to shift those pathways so that they are less destructive? Yes! There is a practice which you can start using right now, which will bring about changes in the neural pathways that keep you stuck. Using Creative Positive Reframing, you can take limiting beliefs and creatively transform them so they become supportive rather than destructive. You can reframe and create a new perspective on how you think by using these seven tools:

Pay attention — Pay attention to your thought process.

Action: A good way to pay attention to your thought process is to pay attention to how your body feels. You can tell if the thoughts are self-defeating and destructive if they negatively impact your body; for example, a knot in your stomach or a lump in your throat, clenched jaw or tight shoulders.

Practice: Scan your body to check in, notice any tight spots or knots. Observe/pay attention to the thoughts that you are focusing on when you feel tight; think about why you want to change those thoughts; what is the negative impact on your life?

Get the negative out — Write out the negative.

Action: Nature abhors a vacuum. When you cannot get out of a negative thought spiral — write it out. Get rid of the negative to make room for the positive.

Practice: Get negative thoughts out of your head by emptying it out on paper. Think of it as an emotional enema! Write about all the negativity spiralling in your head. Allow a stream of consciousness to flow and let it all come out. And then tear the paper up.

Replace the negative with positive — Use positive statements and questions to replace the negative

Action: Negative self-talk can be replaced by positivity with the help of a series of deliberate affirmations and questions. This creates new neural pathways and frees you from the negative spiral. However, sometimes when we use affirmations that do not feel real, our brain does not believe it, and this can embed the negative even more deeply. For example, if you are struggling to pay the rent and you say to yourself: ‘I am wealthy and have plenty of money for all of my needs’, perhaps your thoughts will rebel with: ‘Well, that’s not true’ — and then will go on to prove how wrong you are, throwing you further down the negative spiral.

Practice: Creative positive statements wherever possible; and try creating questions as well. Research shows that the use of questions instead of statements works effectively. Questions work with the brain’s natural inquisitive nature; pose a question and your brain will work to find an answer, creating more positive neural pathways automatically. So if when you say “I am wealthy” and your brain rebels; try asking for its help by saying something like “Money is coming to me easily and effortlessly. What do I need to do to increase my cash flow?”

Think about the ideal and be clear why you want it — Create an ideal scenario and know why it is important to you.

Action: In order to create new neural pathways and escape the negative spiral, it’s important to have a replacement to start thinking about. For example, if you are stuck in fear about money, and in a negative loop, start thinking about the flip side and create a picture of the ideal.

Practice: Describe your ideal financial situation, be as specific as possible. Have fun with this: let your imagination be your guide. You don’t need to write this out, just tell yourself the story. Picture yourself living with plenty of money. See yourself living the life of your dreams; actually feel how good it feels. And then focus on the why; why is it important? For example, allow yourself really examine why having more money would make a difference in your life. What is the deepest reason you want this to manifest? Keep going deeper and deeper into why you want to achieve this until you feel like you have hit the heart of it. You will know it when you have hit it, there will be an emotional charge linked to it. Allow yourself to feel the depth of that emotion.

Creative visualization — Picture the ideal and embed it in your brain

Action: Creative Visualization is a technique which uses your own power of ‘seeing’ or visualizing something to attain that which you most want, or want to change. It involves using the mind to see that which you want to achieve; or using the mind to change the negative into positive. You already use this technique every day. Unfortunately, we often use it in the negative. The key to visualization is to create a mindset that you already have that which you are trying to attain, and to believe that you deserve the positive result.

Practice: Relax and take time to do this. Close your eyes and let the movie of you having your heart’s desire run in your mind. Enjoy the process. The more you do this, the more deeply embedded this vision becomes.

Stay positive in the process — Keep a positive attitude as you practice

Action: The field of Positive Psychology points out many benefits of staying positive and being happy. Happiness brings social rewards, helps people recover faster from illness, and have more resilience. Happy people feel like they are in control and are empowered and therefore usually feel more confidence, optimism, and a sense of well-being. These are all good reasons to try to remain in a positive mindset, but one of the main obstacles to positivity is that our brains are wired to look for and focus on threats. This mechanism was helpful back when we were hunters and gatherers, but now this mindset breeds pessimism and negativity because the mind tends to wander until it finds a threat. But there are many methods to overcome the brain’s negative bias.

Practice: The most straightforward method is to focus on love and compassion, forgiveness and gratitude. These positive mind-sets shift your focus from the negative to the positive. Even simply thinking about someone you love or something you are grateful for, can help you shift from a negative mindset to a positive one.

Be creative — Creativity helps us shift from the negative to the positive

Action: While you are focusing on shifting limiting beliefs into more positive and supportive beliefs, it is helpful to be creative in the process. An expression of creativity, in any form, can be helpful in shifting our mood and removing us from a negative spiral. Not only that, but repressed creativity can have the opposite effect, and can ultimately express itself in unhealthy ways, such as bad relationships, stress, neurotic or addictive behaviors. Perhaps the most common manifestation of repressed creativity in women is depression, which, of course, only increases the negative downward spiral.

Practice: There are so many ways we can get creative, and they all involve play: start journaling and play with words; get some oil pastels and play with color; go outside, garden, and play in the dirt; learn an instrument, dance, and play with music; cook and play with spices. There is no right or wrong way to be creative. The only important thing is to allow ourselves to connect with our own creativity.

The next time you find yourself falling into a negative spiral, use these seven tools to tackle those limiting beliefs, and transform them so that they are supportive rather than destructive.

I want to close with a wonderful video clip with Lisa Nichols and Marci Shimoff, appropriately entitled: ‘How to Stop Negative Self Talk.’

 

I’d love to hear about how you get your inner critic to shut up.  We all need as much help as possible with that negative committee! And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.