Gratitude has power! Melody Beattie explains that:
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
I have been keeping a gratitude journal for years. And on mornings when I am in a rush or just don’t feel like writing in my journal, I just say at least three things I am grateful for, usually out loud. I do one or the other, either write or speak, without fail, every morning.
So today, I want to say Thank You to you, my readers. There are over 6,000 or you reading my blog, and I am so grateful. Grateful for your time and energy. And grateful to those of you that take the time to comment, thank you.
And today I am also grateful to the readers of my book, This Way Up.Thank you for reading my book in whatever form you read it, whether on kindle or paperback. And a huge thank you to those of you who then took the time to review my book on Amazon. Book reviews are so important to an author and to getting the book and it’s message out there.
I appreciate the comments that women have made about the course and the love shared!
“One of the best courses on transformation and finding purpose that I have found in a long time. Patti eloquently shares in bite-sized chunks that really help consolidate the information. I am applying the exercises and I am already seeing a positive outlook in the way I’m facing challenges. Her approach is structured, but then you feel as if you’re being coached and guided by an old friend.” – Sally
And today I am so incredibly grateful to the people at International Excellence Book Awards! My book, This Way Up, was selected Self-Help Book of the Year! I am grateful beyond measure!
So as JFK so eloquently said, ‘the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.’ So today I will focus on living with an attitude of gratitude in everything that comes my way. And I will start by posting this, in gratitude to all of you.
I’ll close with one of my favourite clips by Oprah – Oprah’s Gratitude Journal.
I’d love to hear about what you are grateful for today. It always brightens my day to hear gratitude stories. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.
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.
“Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are and with what you have. Just…start.”
I’ve had several emails from people who are just starting to write their book and asking advice, any advice, on how to go about getting their book written and out there. And to me, there is no better advice than that of Umebinyuo:
“Start where you are and don’t stop. Just start”
I love that quote: Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start.
And it doesn’t just apply to creativity either, although it is certainly apt. I am thinking about this quote in terms of recovery. That quote fits so well for so many of us who made the decision to stop an addictive practice – whatever that practice is. Start stopping! Stop drinking or using or gambling or shopping or whatever that practice is . . . Start stopping now!
“Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are and with what you have. Just…start.”
Just Start Stopping . . . and Don’t Stop Stopping! When I started writing my book, my main audience was not necessarily women in recovery, but it certainly fits! I was honored this week when Sally M., an addictions counselor who read my book recently and wrote this review:
“This Way Up is the perfect accompaniment for any recovery work being done. It will add depth and enrich your recovery.”
(Psst – by the way, This Way Upe-book is on sale this week for only .99 cents!)
And a woman I know who has been sober for over 20 years, said something similar.
She told me that she has found my course on Daily Om, 8 Weeks to Your Best Self, to be helpful in her recovery, and she has been recommending it for women that she sponsors. She said it’s perfect because a lot of women she sponsors don’t have a lot of money, and with this course, you choose what you pay.
So although I never started either of these projects with that outcome in mind, it is a gift beyond measure – to be of service in someone’s recovery!
This quote also fits well with the following wonderful TED Talk. In this talk, Julie Burstein describes 4 Lessons in Creativity. She talks about 4 aspects to embrace in order for our own creativity to flourish.
The First Aspect: Embrace Experience! Pay Attention to the world around us. Be open to that thing that might change you.
The Second Aspect: Embrace the Challenges! Our most powerful work comes out of life that is most difficult.
The Third Aspect: Embrace the Limitations!
And finally: Embrace Loss! Burstein describes this as the oldest and most constant of human experiences. “In order to create, we have to stand in that space between what we see in the world and what we hope for. Looking squarely at rejections and heartbreak, at war, at death.”
She closes with this important statement:
“We all wrestle with experience and challenge, limits and loss. Creativity is essential to all of us, whether we’re scientists or teachers, parents or entrepreneurs.”
And I would add that once you’ve made the decision to embrace these aspects, then just start! Start right now. Start right where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling, but start. Just Start and don’t stop!
I’d love to hear about your experience just starting . . . whether it’s with creativity or recovery. How you start and how you don’t stop. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.
I think about that quote a lot lately, almost every time I watch the news in fact! ‘From the moment you can express this creative potential, you can start changing the world.’ Watching the news and keeping up with current events, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless. But it’s important to remember, we all have the creative potential to start changing the world.
But why are so many people so afraid of the idea of creativity? Perhaps it’s the idea that to be creative is to relinquish control.
Matisse famously says: Creativity takes courage.
And Joseph Chilton Pearce adds: To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.
Picasso adds to that: The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.
To allow oneself to put aside that part of us that is in control, that is logical and rational is a scary thought. For those of us who have worked so hard to keep everything ordered and in control, the thought of relinquishing this control is scary. But I love the image created by Lady Gaga about letting go to access one’s creative spark:
When you make music or write or create, it’s really your job to have mind-blowing, irresponsible, condom-less sex with whatever idea it is you’re writing about at the time.
A lot of research is also pointing to curiosity being an important key to unlocking creativity:
In order to spark new levels creativity as adults, we need to get back in touch with our childlike curiosity. We need to observe, explore, ask questions, and again venture into the unknown — Andrew Merle explains in a recent article in Huffington Post: Why Curiosity is the Key to Break Through Creativity.
Along with fear of losing control, a great many people believe that they aren’t creative, that they ‘don’t have a creative bone in their body.’ The sad truth is that many of us have been shamed out of even trying to access our creative spark. Some of us have even been taught out of our creativity. Sir Ken Robinson explains this beautifully in his popular TED Talk: Do Schools Kill Creativity?
The reality though is that we are ALL born creative, we all have that creative potential. Yes, some of us are more artistic than others or more talented in certain areas. But all of us are creative.
Creativity is not found just in the chosen few who exhibit artistic talent. It is a force that flows through every single one of us, allowing us to dream things up and make them happen.
“Finding your calling — it’s not passive. When people have found their calling, they’ve made tough decisions and sacrifices in order to do the work they were meant to do. In other words, you don’t just “find” your calling — you have to fight for it. And it’s worth the fight. People who’ve found their calling have a fire about them,”
Isay has listened to thousands of people tell their story and describe fighting to find their purpose. He describes his amazing work with StoryCorps in this great TED Talk – Everyone Around You Has a Story the World Needs to Hear:
1. Your calling is at the intersection of a Venn diagram of three things: doing something you’re good at, feeling appreciated, and believing your work is making people’s lives better.
That diagram shows the ‘sweet spot’ – intersecting three things: Doing something you are good at; intersecting with the knowledge that you are making people’s lives better – service; and feeling appreciated for this work. This idea mirrors Albert Schweitzer’s quote:
“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.”
Your calling takes courage and doesn’t always pay well. But we know it when we are doing it. We get in the flow; we feel good about ourselves and our work; time flies; and although the pay check may not be great, we keep doing it because we know it is right for us.
So I think it’s quite fitting to close with this video entitled: How to Know Your Life’s Purpose in 5 Minutes! After all, at almost 60 many of us are running out of time!
I’d love to hear if you’ve found your life’s purpose and how you found it. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.
“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
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.
“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 8 day retreat in Bali! You can read all about it here. This is the second 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.
Happy New Year! I think the general consensus is that 2016 was a rough year for most people, on so many levels. But in this post I don’t want to focus on politics or difficulties, but instead on cultivating gratitude. A new year is the perfect time to be cultivating gratitude and a renewed focus on what you appreciate. And 2017 is in particular a great place to start because from a numerological perspective, 2017 is a “one” year. (In short: 2+0+1+7 = 10 = 1+0 = 1.) Numerology looks at time in nine-year cycles, in which a “one” year begins a new nine-year cycle of creativity, learning and growth. It is a time of intentions and planning for the next phase. The intentions and foundations you build in 2017 can help shape the upcoming years. A “one” year is the perfect time to set intentions and goals for yourself. It’s an important year to take time for yourself and clarify the direction you want to travel. And a perfect time to focus on gratitude for what you have. My new years message talks about this and about the importance of silence in your routine. You can read more about that here in my newsletter. And if you want to read more about the science of silence, you can read about that in my article in Thrive.
Cultivating gratitude is so important as we enter 2017. Psychology Today defines the benefits of gratitude as:
Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has—as opposed to, for example, a consumer-driven emphasis on what one wants. Gratitude is getting a great deal of attention as a facet of positive psychology: Studies show that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude, and can increase our well-being and happiness by doing so. In addition, gratefulness—and especially expression of it to others—is associated with increased energy, optimism, and empathy.
Another good reason to cultivate gratitude is:
“Your experience of life is not based on your life, but what you pay attention to.”
And when you pay attention to what you are grateful for, that becomes your experience. It becomes your experience that life is good and full and wonderful.
I have often quoted Melody Beattie here but it is so appropriate, I have to do it again.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
Gratitude is independent of our objective life circumstances
Gratitude is a function of attention
Entitlement precludes gratitude
We often take for granted that which we receive on a regular basis
Gratitude can be cultivated through sincere self-reflection
Expressing gratitude, through words and deeds, enhances our experience of gratitude
Our deepest sense of gratitude comes through grace, with the awareness that we have not earned, nor do we deserve all that we’ve been given.
If you are looking for a way to focus on gratitude as 2017 unfolds, I suggest getting a ‘Gratitude Journal’ – and start by just writing down 3 things you are grateful for every morning before you even get out of bed. And if that feels too hard, then just think of 3 things you are grateful for before you get up. That’s a great start!
If you are feeling more ambitious, I can suggest a wonderful course on Daily Om! It’s a new course I have authored and it’s available here. The course is offered with the option of selecting how much you want to pay. No matter how much you pay, you’ll be getting the same course as everybody else. Daily Om believes that people are honest and will support the course with whatever they can afford. And if you are not 100% satisfied, they will refund your money. So what have you got to lose? It’s a great way to start the year.
I’ll close with a YouTube clip describing the course so you can get a better idea of what it is about.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about how you cultivate gratitude and it’s impact on you. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.
Thrive Global’s mission is to end the epidemic of stress and burnout by offering companies and individuals sustainable, science-based solutions to enhance both well-being and performance.
Recent science has shown that the pervasive belief that burnout is the price we must pay for success is a delusion. We know, instead, that when we prioritize our well-being, our decision-making, creativity and productivity improve dramatically.
Thrive Global’s three interconnected core components are: corporate trainings and workshops that bring the latest strategies and tools around health and well-being to organizations; a media platform that serves as the global hub for the conversation about well-being and performance with an emphasis on action; and, an e-commerce platform that offers a curated selection of the best technology and products for well-being. Together, the three components create an integrated platform that empowers people to make sustainable changes to their daily lives, going from knowing what to do to actually doing it.
Thrive Global is committed to accelerating the culture shift that allows people to reclaim their lives and move from surviving to thriving.
It is an amazing site and I urge you to check it out and if you are so inclined, sign up for their newsletter. It’s helpful and healing.
I was honored to have an article about Forgiveness in their inaugural edition. And I’d like to share it here:
As we enter the holiday season, many of us will be joining family members and friends that we may not have seen in awhile. Time with family often dredges up old resentment and anger for a lot of us. And especially with the divisiveness of the past election, this holiday season may be rife with tension for many. When I think about the resentments I still carry around, I try to remember that forgiving those people I’m still angry at helps me, it’s for my own healing.
But I believe a lot of us get stuck on the idea of what forgiveness actually means. Forgiveness is defined as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether you believe they actually deserve your forgiveness. Remember the act of forgiving is for you the forgiver, not the person you are forgiving.
Forgiveness does not mean that you gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offence against you. It does not mean forgetting nor excusing what has been done. It does not mean you have to reconcile with the person or release them from legal accountability.
As Anne Lamott puts it: “Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You’re done. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have lunch with the person. If you keep hitting back, you stay trapped in the nightmare.” Forgiveness is for the forgiver. It brings the forgiver peace and hopefully freedom from anger.
Forgiveness is, in particular, the capacity to let go, to release the suffering, the sorrows, the burdens of the pains and betrayals of the past, and instead to choose the mystery of love. Forgiveness shifts us from the small separate sense of ourselves to a capacity to renew, to let go, to live in love.
Ok so forgiveness is for the forgiver, but why should we do it in the first place? What’s in it for me? Here are a few great reasons. The Mayo Clinicexplains that letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for happiness, health and peace. Forgiveness can lead to:
Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
Less anxiety, stress and hostility
Lower blood pressure
Fewer symptoms of depression
Stronger immune system
Improved heart health
We may accept that forgiveness is a good thing to practice in general, and can actually be good for our health, but how do we go about it? What exactly do we do? Fred Luskin is a pioneer in the science and practice of forgiveness. He offers us nine steps toward forgiveness:
1. Understand how you feel about what happened and be able to explain why the situation is not OK. Then discuss it with someone you trust.
2. Commit to yourself to feel better; remember forgiveness is for you and no one else.
3. Remember forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to reconcile with the person who upset you; it does not condone the action. In forgiveness you are seeking peace for yourself.
4. Recognize that the distress now is coming from the hurt feelings and physical upset you are currently suffering, not from what offended you or hurt you when it happened.
5. At the moment you feel upset, practice stress management to soothe your body’s fight or flight response. Take a deep breath.
6. Stop expecting things from other people that they do not choose to give you.
7. Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you.
8. Remember that living well is the best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving power over you to the person who caused you pain, look for the love, beauty, and kindness around you. Put more energy into appreciating what you have rather than attending to what you do not have.
9. Amend the way you look at your past so you remind yourself of your heroic choice to forgive.
So if old resentment and anger is dredged up this holiday season, or if new frustrations and resentments emerge, remember letting go of the anger and practicing forgiveness is for your own peace of mind. Try taking a deep breath and walking away. It’s for your own good.
I’d like to close with a video that I love. It is worth watching again and again. A video by Jack Kornfield called The Ancient Heart of Forgiveness.
I hope you’ll take some time to watch this powerful video. I’d love to hear your thoughts about forgiveness, and how you manage to forgive those who have hurt you. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.
The goal of resilience is to thrive, and we all want to thrive, right? Resilience has been defined as that quality that allows some people face adversity and come back even stronger than before. Unfortunately though, as writer Maria Konnikova points out, the word ‘resilience’ is often overused. It is too often used in ways that drain it of meaning. But resilience doesn’t have to be an empty or vague concept. In fact, decades of research have revealed a lot about how it works. This research shows that resilience is, ultimately, a set of skills that can be taught.
Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient: a positive attitude and optimism certainly help. Resilience is considered such an important trait that in February this year, The New Yorker Magazine did a piece about the secret formula for resilience – ‘How People Learn to Become Resilient.’
The good news is that resilience can be taught. In research at Columbia, the neuroscientist Kevin Ochsner has shown that teaching people to think of stimuli in different ways—to reframe them in positive terms when the initial response is negative, or in a less emotional way when the initial response is emotionally “hot”—changes how they experience and react to the stimulus.
Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play. Resilience is an important character strength in Positive Psychology. A resilient person works through challenges by using personal resources, strengths and other positive capacities of psychological capital such as hope, optimism and self-efficacy. Being resilient is absolutely linked with personal happiness.
But it’s easy to lose touch with that sense of resilience after facing a difficult time, and instead we can struggle with feeling purposeless and directionless. It is very easy to fall into a sense of listlessness and ‘stuck-ness.’ This belief that nothing will change can become embedded in your brain, creating a negative neural pathway. 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.
Once those neural pathways are deeply embedded, changing them is not an easy task. I’ve talked a lot about the process, Creative Positive Reframing (CPR) on this blog. But as we enter the holiday season, I thought it would be a good time to look at the 3 key actions involved in this process: Identify, Reframe, Embed:
Identify Negative Messages
Action: We all have them – limiting beliefs that have become embedded in our head. Negative thoughts such as, “I can’t do it!” Or “It’s too hard!” are self-sabotaging.
Practice: Interrupt it! Once you’ve identified those negative messages, shift your focus. Take a deep breath and interrupt your own train of thought . . . and get rid of it!
Reframe the negative with positive statements
Action: Negative self-talk can be replaced by positivity with the help of a series of deliberate affirmations or questions. This creates new neural pathways and frees you from the negative spiral.
Practice: Affirm it! Create positive statements and questions. Affirmations often work, but sometimes questions work better. If your affirmation is, “I can do it. This is easy!” and your brain argues back “No you can’t It’s too hard!” then use a question instead. Something like: “What can I do today to move forward?” Or mix the two in this way: “I am moving forward easily and effortlessly. What can I do today to move forward?”
Embed it! Use Creative Visualization to picture the ideal and embed it in your brain
Action: This next step takes the previous step and solidifies it; it is a powerful process. Creative Visualization is a technique which uses your own power of ‘seeing’ to attain that which you most want or want to change. You already use this technique every day. Unfortunately, we often use it in the negative by imaging all the things we DON’T want.
Practice: Visualize it! The key to visualization is to first see what you want, and then create a mindset that you already have it and you believe you deserve it. Relax and be sure you won’t be interrupted. 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.
I’ll close by linking in the visualization from my book in which you can create your own sacred space to work from.
I hope you’ll take some time today to do this visualization. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this visualization, and how you manage to stay resilient. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.
Silence. What does that word bring up for you? Does it bring up fear? No TV, no internet videos, no talking! Or does it bring up a craving? No distractions, no barrage of noise.
I’ve been thinking a lot of about silence and sleep lately because of some neuroscience studies I’ve read about recently. Research shows that sleep and silence are much more important for our brains than we imagined.
Much of this research corroborates the research I did for my Creative Positive Reframing (CPR) process. In this process there are three main steps: Identify, Reframe and Embed.
We all have lots of negative, limiting beliefs about ourselves and our abilities that exist in our brains. One of the best ways to stop these beliefs from having a free reign in your brain is to stop focusing on them and focus on something positive instead. But once we are able to stop focusing on them, how does the brain get rid of those negative thoughts that exist in old neural pathways?
“Imagine your brain is a garden, except instead of growing flowers, fruits, and vegetables, you grow synaptic connections between neurons. These are the connections that neurotransmitters like dopamine, seratonin, and others travel across.
“Glial cells” are the gardeners of your brain—they act to speed up signals between certain neurons. But other glial cells are the waste removers, pulling up weeds, killing pests, raking up dead leaves. Your brain’s pruning gardeners are called “microglial cells.” They prune your synaptic connections. The question is, how do they know which ones to prune?
Researchers are just starting to unravel this mystery, but what they do know is the synaptic connections that get used less get marked by a protein, C1q (as well as others). When the microglial cells detect that mark, they bond to the protein and destroy—or prune—the synapse.
This is how your brain makes the physical space for you to build new and stronger connections so you can learn more.”
Perhaps you are not as interested in the science, so suffice it to say, that the more you use a neural pathway, the stronger it becomes. But the opposite is also true, when you use it less, it gets weaker. So once you identify the negative belief system, STOP focusing on it! But then the brain needs time to do some clean up, getting rid of the old synaptic pathways.
Our brains need time to prune a lot of those old connections away and build more streamlined, efficient pathways. It does that when we sleep. Our brains do this clean out when we sleep—your brain cells shrinking by up to 60% to create space for your glial gardeners to come in take away the waste and prune the synapses.
And in fact, you actually have some control over what your brain decides to delete while you sleep. It’s the synaptic connections you don’t use that get marked for recycling. The ones you do use are the ones that get watered and oxygenated. So be mindful of what you’re thinking about.
So be mindful of what you are mindful of. Replace the negative with something positive, Reframe it. Be conscious of what you focus on.
Then finally we need some silence to help embed these new neural pathways. Visualization and meditation are key factors. I often talk about the power of visualization and meditation in this blog. So much has been written about it, there is no question that both of these practices are hugely beneficial to the brain and to life! But what about silence? More and more research is showing just how important silence is for our brains.
A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice. The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.
The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons. “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system. In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain. The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence.
I’d like to close with a wonderful TED Talk by Nick Seaver called The Gift of Silence.
I hope you’ll take some time today and give yourself the gift of silence, and the gift of a great sleep as well. I’d love to hear about your experience with silence. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.