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Join Me For This Mindfulness Challenge!

Thanks to Calm for producing this calendar! May is Mental Health Awareness month, I challenge you to join me in this idea for improving or starting your own daily mindfulness practice.

I am setting an alarm in my phone for 8am and 8pm every, reminding me to attend to this calendar. I have also printed it and posted it on my fridge so that it crosses my mind more often. We all need “cues” to remind us to engage in new patterns of behavior. A cue is something that will pop up in your day (such as an alarm) that will remind you to attend to the behavior. This blog, the calendar, a reminder and friends can all join together to serve as cues for one another to practice and learn.

I will do my best each week to blog on the experience, I hope that you can join me and we can hold one another accountable!

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I Feel Vulnerable

I am starting to feel more empowered to speak up.

I want to speak up about:

– racism (white privilege isn’t an insult! It isn’t anything a white person has done wrong! I don’t fully understand how much easier my life is because I’m white…and yet since having the girls in my life, I can see how real it is. I see how they’re looked at as being “bad” when they misbehave I’m public whereas white kids are “just being kids”. Attend Undivided at Crossroads Church or read White Fragility. Educate yourself. Don’t just take my word for it.- the environment (we are killing our world. Instant gratification and convenience are KILLING our planet and everyone thinks the next generation will take care of it). Watch some documentaries and educate yourself. Don’t just take my word for it.

– gender (my husband is AMAZING and doesn’t treat chores and parenting as woman’s work) …and yet for every single country in the world, women are expected to take care of more unpaid work than men – childcare, housework, cooking, caring for their aging relatives, etc. – while also taking care of their jobs, self-care and marriage. Men get paid more. Women endure procedures without anesthesia that men wouldn’t be expected to. Women are not represented equally in politics. Etc. Read The Moment of Lift. Educate yourself. Don’t just take my word for it.

– healthy living – people are more willing to take a pill than exercise or eat healthier. Parents feed their kids more and more sugar and caffeine. Look at the sugar content of foods vs the World Health Organization or FDAs recommendations. Educate yourself. Don’t just take my word for it.

– screen time for kids – it’s horrible and dangerous for their brains. Read Glow Kids. Educate yourself. Don’t just take my word for it.

My fears are:

1. I’m white so I look like a hypocrite (re: race)

2. I’m a woman so it looks like I’m whining or being “too emotional” (re: gender)

3. You will just roll your eyes and turn back to avoidance and full your news feed with whatever serves your opinions (re: all of it)

4. Someone will ask a question that I don’t know the answer to which will “prove” to you that I’m wrong and you can keep ignoring the points

Thank you.

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There is Not a Right Way

Those might be fighting words in our divided society… and I’ll say it again: THERE IS NOT A RIGHT WAY. Why are we so quick to insist that our way is the correct way? Why are we hell-bent on getting people to see our point of view? Why are people willing to end relationships over different opinions on how to achieve a task? Why do schools and workplaces insist on procedures and refuse to allow for creative thinking?

You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way. It doesn’t exist” – Friedrich Nietzhce

I believe that there are many ways to achieve one’s goals. I believe that if we stop judging others we might be able to see that. I encourage you to take some time today (quiet, uninterpreted time) to really ponder this idea.

I’m not going to share any advice on how to achieve this goal…as you see, there are many ways to achieve introspection.

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Are You Sure You Want Less Mood Swings?

While we are on the topic of legal, over-the-counter drugs that people consume on a daily basis without any thought to how it will impact their mental health, let’s take a look at caffeine!

I am human…I like coffee as much as the next person! Especially some cold brew iced coffee! I am not innocent; I treat myself to coffee every once in a while. I am very aware of the effects; which is why I limit myself AND take efforts to avoid any excess consumption of caffeine.

Caffeine is a stimulant. It has been studied and found that caffeine is linked to increased anxiety, sleep disturbance, and can lead to symptoms of mania. Caffeine can lead to restlessness, agitation, excitement, rambling thought and speech, and insomnia. For those with psychiatric diagnoses, it exacerbates agitation, psychosis and the above mentioned symptoms. We grab a mug when we want a mood boost (instant gratification) while ignoring the problematic crash and anxiety that is generally sure to follow!

While caffeine isn’t all bad, low doses can improve cognitive functioning and mood, it is common for dependence and abuse to occur. Caffeine withdrawal leads to fatigue, headaches, irritability and depressive symptoms.

If you are already an anxious person or are seeking treatment for an anxiety, sleep, impulse control, or bipolar disorder, I would absolutely recommend that you avoid caffeine. Why fuel the fire?! I personally and professionally do not agree with minors (those under the age of 18) drinking coffee or energy drinks. This means that parents need to say no and have contingencies in place if the rule is breached. I believe there are more holistic methods to improve alertness in all people (Think healthy sleep and exercise)! Teaching kids, teens and young adults to reach for a quick fix has horrific implications later in life (think drugs, promiscuity, risk taking).

Citations and Further reading:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3777290/

Want to learn more?

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Keep Going

You are doing a great job, keep going.

You are here for yourself, keep going.

You have your eyes on your future goals, keep going!

You survived one year of a pandemic, keep going.

You can do so much more than you realize, keep going.

Did you know that you are strong, capable and worthy of your own love and affection? I know that you are. For a lot of my life, I didn’t know that I was worth my own time, my own love or my own affection. It took a long time for me to realize that my worth is MY worth. Whenever I struggle to remember this message, I find empowerment with this song by Demi Lovato!

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Toxic Positivity

What is toxic positivity? Have you been hearing this phrase lately? I sure have and I think it’s crucial that you understand what it means.

Toxic positivity is the concept that being overly positive, optimistic and encouraging can actually be hurtful! When life is difficult and the Susie Sunshine in your life comes at you with the cliche’s “there is always a silver lining” or “Chin up, buttercup! Tomorrow’s a new day” you might notice an urge to punch her square in the jaw…but why is that? Furthermore, you were taught in childhood that Susie is right and that if you could only swallow your feelings and put a smile on your face, that it would all be ok!

–WRONG–

What is happening in this scenario is that Susie strolled on by and your distress made her uncomfortable. She, doing what she was taught in childhood, tries to “fix” the situation by insisting you feel better. This is INVALIDATING (which means that she is giving you the message that your interpretation and emotions are wrong). When you did what you were taught and thought “she’s right, I should suck it up…other people have it worse”, you invalidated yourself which compounds the situation.

I have no problem, and in fact I do encourage people at times to use self-encouragement and positive self talk to overcome difficulties. Is that hypocritical? No! And here’s why: It all comes down to intention, mindfulness and comfort with pain.

  1. What is the intention of the positive statement? Is it to shut down your (or someone else’s) emotions? That would be toxic positivity. Is it to try and jazz yourself up to overcome or battle a situation that you (or they)’re feeling nervous about? That would be self-encouragement!
  2. Are you making the choice to speak mindfully or mindlessly? If the words just fly out of your mouth without stopping to check in with yourself on the purpose, it is likely going to be an invalidating statement. If you stop and think “What would I want to hear in this situation? Do my feelings (or their feelings) makes sense?” it’s likely going to be a more effective comment.
  3. Pain is a normal part of life. Pain will happen (emotional and physical). We need to get comfortable being around ourselves and others when they are in pain! It’s on to sit with someone (or yourself) in a painful situation and just be in it. It’s actually helpful to call out what you see “This situation is difficult” or “that was a painful experience” without trying to swoop in and be the fixer!

So what to do instead of offering toxic positivity? Here’s your equation: offer validation and zip it. That’s all! Validation means that you communicate to them (or to yourself) that the feelings make sense. You can always ask the person if they would like help problem solving the scenario …but you need to be open to them saying no.

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Nourish Your Soul

What nourishes you? What fills your cup? Who inspires you?

  • do that
  • go there
  • see them

So often we do what nourishes others, we fill their cup and we inspire other people…..but we ignore our own needs.

Here’s what I do to fill my own cup:

  • listen to uplifting and empowering music
  • drink hot tea
  • go for walks/hikes
  • create
  • write

Here’s what I do to nourish myself:

  • take days off work
  • take hot baths
  • journal
  • look at old photos of my kids
  • visit with family

I also try to fill my social media with accounts that inspire me and unfollow any that drain me!

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Making Monday Your Favorite Day of the Week

Poor Monday, she gets a bad reputation! You don’t have to scroll long to see anti-Monday posts, see quotes like: I’ve got a case of the Mondays and now we see references on Sunday about how much people hate Smonday (on Sunday when you realize it’s about to be Monday). Why all the hate for Mondays!?

Instead of being overly negative about one simple day of the week, one seventh of your life, you could absolutely turn your thought process on it’s head and see Monday as a gift!

Monday is a fresh start, a new beginning, an opportunity to set new goals and give yourself the opportunity to look at things in a new way! I love Mondays for this reason. If the weekend is difficult, it’s over! If last week was difficult, it’s over! Give yourself permission to leave the past in the past. Give yourself permission to get excited for the week ahead!

#mondaymotivation!

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The POWER of Gratitude

If you know me, you know that I am a big fan of gratitude! In our home, we discuss gratitude every evening at dinner, around the table each person (even guests) are asked to share one thing they are grateful for that day! Initially, this was a difficult practice for our kids; however, over time they have gotten the hang of it! They are also the first ones to remind me of the practice when I forget!

The research surrounding the topic supports the benefits also! People are less reactive and negative when they are able to focus on their feelings of gratitude regularly!

Just a few of the benefits of gratitude:

  • we are able to hold onto positive feelings for longer
  • we are less pessimistic
  • we are more able to forgive
  • we have better overall moods
  • we experience better health
  • we feel more connected to others in our lives

Are you willing to build mindfulness of gratitude into your daily life? I have a blank page in my journal that says “I’m so grateful…” for each month. I challenge myself to jot down 3 things each day (big or small) that bring me feelings of gratitude, contentment, pride, joy, happiness, love, etc. As the month goes on, it brings me so much happiness to see the page fill up! Other ways to practice mindfulness of gratitude are to write letters to people about why you appreciate having them in your life (even if you never send it). You can use apps that prompt you to track things that bring you joy and cause you to feel grateful also! Give it a try, it can flip your outlook from negative to content (or positive) in just few days!

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Adapting the Five Love Languages for your real life…

In reflecting on the upcoming holiday of Valentine’s Day (whether or not you believe it’s a valid holiday), I think it’s important to dig a bit deeper and see what we can do to make the entire year as loving as February 14th tends to be? Valentine’s Day has become quite commercialized in America, I doubt anyone would argue that.  Under all the glitter and greeting cards there is actually thread of kindness and love rarely seen as prevalently as on that day.  I see this between spouses, in dating relationships, between parents and children…even in the workplace.  It’s almost as if people use the holiday as a reminder that they can and SHOULD be nice to one another periodically and I am grateful that retailers make it so much easier for people to express it.

Gary Chapman is the author of The Five Love Languages and is a relationship counselor.  The Five Love Languages is a guidebook for how to rekindle that appreciation and love you have for those in your life and express it to them in a way that will be picked up on their radar.  He has concluded that there are five “languages” that people like to receive love: words, acts, gifts, time, and touch. The problem he seeks to address is that in our relationships, we often express love in the manner we would like to receive it…without realizing that this may not be the language of the receiver. If you are a parent, child, spouse, significant other, boss, and/or employee, I would strongly urge you to read this book or it’s appropriate adaptation and challenge yourself to speak the love language of the receiver!

I encourage you (and your loved ones) to take the Five Love Languages quiz and find out how you best receive love and share your answers. This will allow you both to maximize the communication and receiving of love from others. You can take the quiz here. Give it a try…see what changes take place in your life!

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