Inspiration, mental health

Choose Your Attitude

I am as guilty as anyone of falling into pessimistic thinking. I can throw a killer pity party…although no one ever wants to come. Sometimes I can even be downright judgmental. I think it is our cultures default to be negative…which is why we MUST exercise the muscle that allows us to find contentment.

Please hear me, the goal is not to turn you into Susie Sunshine…rather, my goal is to be a Neutral Nelly. It is a reality that no one wants to be near Negative Nancy…and that all humans are wired for connection. It isn’t a difficult equation to see that pessimism won’t yield a great deal of relationships (especially not any enjoyable ones). Learning to see the “ok”, “not awful”, “possibly decent” parts of life can be a difficult journey. It only takes one check-out lane to prove that point. Our media tends to be overly negative and overly panic-inducing. FEAR sells!

Initially, trying to be less negative for me was like trying to strengthen a muscle that I didn’t think I had. I would get so frustrated and I found myself thinking that other people were naturally born more optimistic and that it wasn’t a choice. WRONG! While biology (nature) and your environment (nurture) certainly play a role, we are all humans with free will! This means we can train ourselves to think differently! With (a lot of) practice and persistence, you will find your inner Positive Polly and begin to see the world in a less hateful way!

Here are my life hacks on how:

1. Keep a gratitude journal. Every.Damn.Day. Every single day you need to jot down and really savor a few things that you are grateful for. These can be really big things or really simple things. They can be things you noticed in the world or things you accomplished. Sometimes (on hard days) I ask myself “what doesn’t suck right now?”. There are several apps that exist for this. I prefer an old school journal or the Bliss app.

2. Follow more positive on social media. Almost everything has a hashtag, consider following #mindfulness, #positivepsychology, or hashtags related to uplifting interests such as #abstractart or #nature to increase your enjoyable scrolling. You can also look up and follow businesses such as mine that put out encouragement and uplifting content.

3. Limit your time around Negative Nancy. She isn’t good for you.

4. Take walks. It matters, trust me. Het away from your desk, get our of your head, avoid the couch slump. Go play Wizards Unite or Pokemon Go if that helps! Download an app that helps you raise money for charities based on your steps, challenge yourself or a friend with a steps challenge…find ways to incentivise yourself!

5. Get enough sleep (8-9 hours in a row)! You need a solid foundation.

When you find yourself sinking into a negative headspace, try to become aware of it without beating yourself up. Over time you will learn which hacks work for you, and you can say to yourself “You’re getting negative. Go for a walk, it always helps…”!

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DBT, Inspiration, mental health

You ALWAYS have a choice

Are you living crisis to crisis? Are there particular people, places, times, areas, thoughts that continually trip you up and cause problems? DBT® reminds us first that we ALWAYS have a choice.  You always have four basic choices in every situation.

  1. Solve the problem – this is the “no brainer” that we do if we can. It is a choice and merits remembering.
  2. Feel better about the problem – you do have a choice in what interpretation you use which will change how you feel about the problem. The risk here is if you keep trying to convince yourself that “it’s not that bad” when in reality it (or he, or she, or they) ARE that bad and you need to problem solve in a different way.  This is a GREAT option if you are a pessimist and tend to see the worst in everything.
  3. Tolerate the problem – when we tolerate a problem we aren’t changing much in terms of how we see or relate to it (which actually changes our emotional attachment to the problem), rather we are accepting it as a thorn in our side and using distraction whenever it starts to bother us again. This is helpful short term but not always helpful long term.
  4. Stay miserable/make it worse – I LOVE that we have this choice. The angsty teenager in me needs to be reminded that I can always say the thing or do the thing or throw the thing or refuse to show up, etc.  I need to mentally walk down that path sometimes in order to get unstuck from my “it’s not fair” temper tantrum that I sometimes throw.  An example of this could be when you find yourself resenting an obligation to show up somewhere (ie: work).  Remind yourself that you do not have to go.  You could stay home. You might get fired and then you wouldn’t have income, but you really do have that choice.  Walking down that path can remind us that we don’t want to loose our housing, we do want to have money for food and fun…therefore we will now use strategy #2 and choose to go, but with a different mindset.  You might adopt the mental mantra of “I’m choosing to go to work so that I can choose to buy the shoes I want” …which is different and less problematic than “I have to go to work, I hate my job, this sucks”.
DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Get out there…literally

I don’t think it’s a secret that I enjoy nature. There is something about being out in creation, alone or in company, that is truly awe inspiring and recharges my batteries.  What you may not know is that I am a generally fearful person…I am afraid of heights, speed, water, fish, large mammals in the wild…the list goes on…

In the spirit of trying new things and being out in nature today, I went kayaking for the first time! I have been boating, jet skiing and canoeing, but kayaking had always intimidated me because of the close proximity to the actual water and the increased (at least in my mind) risk of flipping! Today was the day though, I went…I paddled…I conquered!

Sitting so low to the water was incredibly peaceful. Being in the “rapids” (they were choppier, faster and deeper than I’d hoped for…) was exhilarating. Mindfulness was not a hard state of mind to achieve when paddling or floating down the river.  I spotted turtles, geese, ducks and numerous architectural oddities too!

DBT teaches us to accumulate positive events, which means to schedule fun stuff! As a mom of 3 that works full time, it’s hard. It takes effort. AND IT’S NECESSARY! If you want to have a relationship with yourself and others, you need to build into yourself and into your relationships.  I challenge myself to take off one day each month to just be.  It looks different every month; however, each month it’s crucial to reduce burnout and improve relationships. DBT teaches us to be mindful.  Mindfulness allows our brains to get a break from all of the STUFF that is ever-circling.  Mindfulness allows the dust to settle so that we can see clearly upon re-entry into our daily lives.

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Take time. 20190603_124220

Be present.

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Try new things. 20190603_134649

Accumulate positives in your life!

Inspiration, mental health

How to Make a Change

 

sail

So many of us WANT to do something different:

  • drink more water
  • eat differently
  • exercise more
  • forgive
  • live with less waste
  • speak up for ourselves
  • be more playful
  • keep a gratitude journal

…and yet we don’t.  Why don’t we make these changes in spite of (sometimes YEARS of) intending to? How do we make changes when we feel stuck and immobilized by our anxieties?

Research.

I have found over the years that one must build up the wind that will blow their own sails, rather than waiting for the conditions to be perfect. Researching what it is we want to do, helps us to remember WHY it’s a good idea each time our procrastination or resistance to change rears it’s ugly head.

Change takes time and it seems many of us get stuck in the step of contemplation…not sure how to get to action. I see research as a way to build a bridge, or lay stepping stones for yourself.  You cannot wait for other people to motivate you. You cannot wait for motivation to magically wash over you. You must fuel your own motivation by learning as much as you can about what you want to do and why!

I believe that we all have the power within to make changes. I also believe we all have the power within to utilize self-discipline!

Try it…take the next month to just commit to learning about your idea. This could be books, TED Talks, Youtube videos, blogs, magazines, consult with others, etc…

What is it that you want to change? Share with us what it is and how you will research it!

 

Inspiration

A Candid Reflection on His Dream

If you have never read, or listened to, the full Martin Luther King Jrs iconic speech, then stop reading this and go do it. It is profound in a way that shakes me to my core.  I want to share with you the part that strikes me and stands out in my heart as a guidepost as I raise my children in this world that isn’t quite there yet…

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.”

We are still facing difficulties in our nation, we are still arguing about what the American dream really entails. We still have a land of bias – both implicit and overt.  We still judge others by the way they look.  We still have massive disparities between people of different: race, ethnicity, income, age, religion, etc. The facts are out there, this post is not to bog you down with statistics; I am happy to do so if you’d like.  I too dream of a day where our world is transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.  I too dream of a day where my children are not judged by the color of their skin…but by the content of their character.

Preach Dr. King, Preach. I wish that he could know the impact of his words.

Today my 4 year old asked why she didn’t have school.  “It’s a holiday”  I said.  “What holiday” she asked.  And in that moment I shed tears. I looked down at my beautiful brown-skinned daughter and it hit me all over again, that she will not be afforded the same opportunities as I was, simply because of the color of her skin.  Stop reading and educate yourself if you don’t believe that statement.  “Well babe, a long time ago, brown skinned people and white skinned people weren’t allowed to hang out. And that was really dumb wasn’t it? It makes me really sad to think about that.  Brown skinned people and white skinned people had to stay separated.  And a man named Martin Luther King Jr gave a big speech about how he thought we should all be friends.  Some people didn’t like that, so they killed him. So today we celebrate how smart he was”  She quickly added “Like Jesus?”. “Yes baby, like Jesus”.  

In that moment I shed more tears.  It hit me that while trans-racial adoption started and was legal in 1948, it was only legal for white people to adopt black kids, not the other way around.  In the time of his speech in 1963, I would not (as an unmarried white woman) been able to adopt my beautiful babies (for other injustices, which I am confident Mr. King would have been against as well).

So here I sit, after having reflected on this all day, shedding a few more tears about the fact that our world is broken.

I urge you to get to know people that are different than you. Get to know your neighbors. Bridge the gaps…love is really the only way through the mess we are in.

DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Hiking

I love to hike. At the risk of sounding like one of those health-nut hippie, save-the-earth types, I must encourage you to join me in my love of hiking! When I say hiking, I am sure most of you think of long, strenuous trips across rugged and lonely trails; and while sometimes that is true, often it’s a shorter jaunt down a simple path.

A hike, in my opinion, is any walk taken in nature with no electronic devices. A hike could be .25 miles at a local park or 4 miles at a larger campground, forest, nature preserve, etc

Here are a FEW (of many) reasons why hiking matters so much:

  • Metaphors – look at this tree.  Do you ever feel like you are barely hanging on? This tree gets it! I love finding trees near creeks that have exposed roots or like this, mid-forest, that remind me that all living beings have such hidden strength! When you feel like you’re going to fall apart, nature will visibly show you that you have deep roots and strength that you never thought imaginable!

  • Slow down – Scenes like the one below remind me to STOP.  Nature has a way of being serene and subtle…and in a world that seems to be going at break-neck speeds, a reminder to slow down is more than required for me!

  • Connect – as a parent, sometimes my kids drive me crazy! Whether you have kids or not, hiking reminds me to connect and bond with those I love.  I often hike alone, and still come out with more appreciation and love for those in my life! The quiet stillness of nature prompts a lot of internal reflection on relationships and where I want to put my energy.  When hiking with friends/family, I am reminded what I love about them.  Without all of the distractions in other life-realms, hiking lets me see their true self and appreciate why I have invited them into my life.

  • Listen – while nature is generally quiet, it really isn’t! Hearing something like the waterfall in this photo reminds me to tune into what’s really happening in my life. Listening reminds me to tune into what is really happening: in my body, in my home, at work, in my mind, etc. As a culture, we don’t always take time to hear what other’s are saying to us…we look but don’t see and we hear but don’t listen.

 

If you are familiar with Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, I encourage you to find as many skills as you can within hiking.  I will tell you that for me, it’s almost all of them!

  • Within the mindfulness module: I observe, describe and participate in hiking.  I do it one-mindfully, effectively and non-judgmentally.  Hiking helps me get into my wise mind, when I am struggling with fiery impulses of emotion mind or analysis paralysis of rational mind.
  • Within the emotion regulation module: Hiking allows me to implement self-inquire needed to explore what is happening with my cycle of emotions. It reduces my future vulnerabilities.  Hiking reminds me to check the facts in situations that I am struggling with. It is a clear example of building mastery, accumulating positives (long and short term), prioritizing my physical activity/health,
  • Within the distress tolerance module: I do use hiking as intense exercise and while hiking I often do paced breathing (TIPP skill), hiking is a distracting activity that generates different emotions and some strong sensations (cold stream water, muscle fatigue) which are parts of ACCEPTS. I use a lot of the IMPROVE strategies in the woods (finding prayer and meaning, being on a mini-vacation, being one in the moment, etc).  Lastly, hiking is almost always a required component for me to work toward radical acceptance!
  • Within the interpersonal effectiveness module: hiking is a time that I can reflect on my current conflicts and plan out DEARMAN communication strategies.  It seems to put things into perspective faster than in any other setting.

 

So what are you waiting for? Get out there! Hiking is free and can open up personal change in a way you may have struggled to experience before!

 

DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Mindfulness and Hot Tea

I was sitting here reflecting on what to write about when I noticed my mug of tea.  To some, it may seem irrelevant; however I try not to do things that aren’t on purpose (meaning, I like to be mindfully awake to my life: what and why I make choices).  Mindfulness means that you happen to your life, not the other way around.  When I used to be less aware and less mindful, I would often go all day without drinking anything…or i’d be half way through a frappachino before I realized that I had ordered it.

Being mindful and tuning into my body, my emotions, my urges, my sensations…has allowed me to notice when I am thirsty, when my body needs a hug, when I am feeling overwhelmed.  This is not a bad thing or a thing to fear as many believe; rather, it allows me the chance to make wise-minded choices.

Hot tea is like a warm hug from the inside.  When I sip my tea, I feel nurtured and cared for.  It reminds me to slow down.  The process of making tea can be a mindful practice on it’s own: experiencing the smells, sounds, sensations, etc.  Hot tea is not something I drink fast either, which makes it a lovely reminder to slow down and enjoy this one moment. The reality is, that all we have is this one moment. Now is now. You might as well enjoy it!

The reality is that my moment currently doesn’t look as beautiful as the photo above…yet when I close my eyes and take a sip, I can transport myself to that photo each time!

Inspiration, mental health

Is life sucky right now? GOOD!

A friend of mine sent this to me recently after I was having a difficult time emotionally.  I got to thinking about what Jocko is saying in this video.  It is so easy (SO EASY) to fall into the pit of despair…the “it’s not fair” lifestyle…the woe is me attitude…

…and yet is is so POINTLESS to go there; stagnation doesn’t produce growth.  We have to WAKE UP to our lives and realize that we have CHOICES…every single moment of our life presents us with CHOICES…

I love when someone tells me that I can’t do something. This video reminded me of the “watch me” mentality that I adopt when someone doubts me.  I am not a weak, dependent female…I am not incapable…

I am:

  • a role model to my girls
  • a strong independent woman
  • a proud survivor
  • a motivator
  • a teacher
  • a brilliant thinker
  • a talented artist

 

….and I became all of these things out of the struggle! The hurricanes that life throws at us are an AMAZING gift because they make us who we are! They make us stronger and more resilient! Embrace the struggle and have faith that you will come through this and you will be able to help others once you are on the other side.

So I ask…who are you?

 

watch meI can

Inspiration, mental health

Self Care Life Hacks

  1. Bring a water bottle with you EVERYWHERE. Seriously, hydration affects everything from our skin to our moods. The ripple effect of dehydration makes us moody, constipated, and our bodies will start to crave any foods we see (regardless of health content) because our body can leach water from the food. I most commonly hear people complain about the taste of water fountain water…I challenge you to conquer this fear as the cost of NOT drinking water fountain water is so steep.  You can certainly fill it before leaving your home with your water of choice…but in a pinch, fill up! Take the leap and buy the water bottle you have been lusting after…it is a small price to pay for the benefits reviewed.
  2. Take time at the beginning of your week to review your schedule and make a plan for when you will eat each day. This seems to be the first thing people skip and again, the consequences have a negative ripple effect on everyone you encounter (including yourself)! Each morning, make sure you have a stash of healthy snacks available in your bag, car, purse and/or desk. The magic time frame that you don’t want to exceed is 4 hours between meals.  The kindest thing you can do for your blood sugar is to keep it stable.
  3. Eat raw. There are oodles of studies that show the health benefits of eating raw fruits/veggies/nuts/seeds; there is even indication for reduced risk of cancer! Eating raw produce, nuts, and/or seeds also provides you with the nutrients, fiber, fluids and energy that you need for optimal mood end energy stamina to get through the day! I would encourage you to always keep your fridge (home and work) stocked with produce and cheerlead yourself into eating it before it goes bad! Some are easier than others to take on the road: bananas, apples and carrot sticks travel quite well.
  4. Meditate. I know…big eye rolls from about 75% of you. Mediation doesn’t have to mean full on lotus position for 60 minutes; mediation could mean you close your eyes and take 10 slow deep breaths to re-center yourself and then resume your day. Longer periods of quiet reflection time can produce more long-lasting benefits, yet you need to start somewhere!
  5. Go outside. I am not sure of an easier and more FREE life hack than going outside for fresh air and sunshine! The act of walking away from the task at hand, improving blood circulation and taking slow cleansing breaths will provide you with renewed energy and fresh perspective. Stand firm and insist on breath breaks…just as smokers insist on smoke breaks! If you have time on your drive home, stop at a local park and take a moment to yourself. Whether walking or sitting on a bench, enjoy nature.
  6. Take the stairs and the “bad” parking spot. We live a more sedentary lifestyle than ever before; we even have to rely on pedometer devices to encourage us to move our bodies! A quick few hacks for how to get more steps are to take the stairs more often (use a restroom on a different floor, don’t take elevators, make yourself go to a different floor of your house more often) and to opt for a really bad parking spot (ie: the one FURTHEST from your destination!).
Inspiration, mental health

Yelling is Futile

Are you a “yeller”? Yelling at your kids, your dog, your spouse, your siblings, your parents, your friends?

I do fall into this pattern at times: yelling at my kids more than I intend.  Either after a bad day, a tiring day, or long stretches of grey weather.  It is futile and literally has no effect on the outcome (except that I feel awful and they avoid me)…

…so why do we do it???

In general, yelling at another person is a punishment.  From behaviorism research and theory, punishment is the least effective way to get another human to change their behavior…so…

…why do we do it???

In general, yelling at another person is a REWARD to the yeller…and we know that behaviors that are reinforced (it feels good and it relieves our pressure/stress) are likely to continue.  The fact that we feel calmer after blowing off steam keeps us coming back to it time and again, even though it does not get the results we want! So many times we want to blame others or say things like “I don’t know why I did that”, so I am here to unveil this conundrum.  We yell because yelling rewards US.  We also have a lot of beliefs surrounding yelling that reinforce the behavior:

  1. That they will take us more seriously (the opposite is true, you are probably regularly telling them to speak to you calmly and respectfully; you are not modeling the behavior which makes you a hypocrite)
  2. That they will respect us more (again, the opposite is true…see reasoning above)
  3. That they will listen better (the opposite is usually true: either they respect you less and therefore don’t listen, they might think you are blowing off steam and therefore don’t take your yelling topic seriously, or you frighten them which causes their anxiety to spike and their brain processessing abilities to tank)
  4. That they are more likely to change (research shows that they are actually just more likely to lie to you, avoid you, and resent you)

Debunking the beliefs and educating ourselves on the facts about yelling is one step toward reducing the behavior.  Taking time to understand why we act in certain ways can allow us to increase our awareness and become more mindful of our behaviors and triggers.