Adapted from an article by Dr. Mara Karpel
Anyone else feeling anxiety as this pandemic goes on and on? Tempers are short as we are spending more time than we are accustomed to in isolation either alone or with our loved ones that are now trying our patience. To prepare for brighter days, it’s important to take care of ourselves now. Here are some examples of ways you can care for yourself and help to ease those feelings of anxiety.
1. Don’t run from the pain
We may feel unsettled and don’t know what to think or how to feel about this pandemic and the future. We might fear becoming ill or worry about our family and friends. Many of us fear the loss of income and wonder how we’ll pay our bills. In our social isolation, we might become lonely and feel lost.
But it’s important to notice how we’re feeling, rather than running from it. Running away from pain only gives it more power to grow, so that it becomes much larger and scarier when it finally catches up with us and causes even more suffering.
Pema Chodron writes: “Sticking with uncertainty is how we relax in the midst of chaos, how we learn to be cool when the ground beneath us suddenly disappears.”
Make time to be still, to slow your thinking, judging, and worrying. When we do this; we can actually heal our pain and have the compassion to help ease the suffering of our friends and neighbors, giving our own life more meaning.
Whatever it is that you’re feeling, know that there are many of us likely feeling the same way. Right now, we are all in this together. There’s a strange sense of comfort in that. We might be socially isolated, but we’re not alone with our experience.
It’s important to practice some form of relaxation technique regularly in order to cope with the stress we’re all feeling, to prevent panic, and to stop us from spiraling into depression. Taking a step back to breathe and to be present in this moment, gives us the clarity of thought to make good decisions and the energy to move forward with creativity and rational problem-solving. When we practice stillness, we reduce the stress hormones cortisol, norepinephrine, and adrenaline.
Mindfulness meditation is a powerful way to achieve this. And we may discover that it brings new inspired and creative ideas about what we might want to do with this sudden extra time, rather than the constant busy-ness that we were used to. And mindfulness helps us to see through the illusions that we might have accepted when we were too busy to question, giving us a better idea of what is really important to us and what we can let go of.
Mindfulness can be as simple as sitting quietly and focusing attention on our breathing or on a word, just noticing thoughts that pop into our mind and letting them drift by. There have been several recent studies that have found that meditating regularly (even just five minutes a day) has numerous health benefits and improves mood. It’s through our silent mind that we discover our strength and regain peacefulness in the midst of storms.
3. Get moving
Our bodies were born to move, and exercise can help to decrease stress and improve our emotional well-being. In addition, exercise helps to boost our immune system, which is especially important right now. Here are some ways to get your move on:
*Take a walk outside. Social distancing does not mean having to stay indoors. Getting out into the sunshine for a walk can be the antidote we need from that loop of circular thoughts. *Turn up some tunes and dance around your house. *Yoga teachers and fitness instructors are offering lots of free videos. You can try a different one every day or pick one or two for your own home exercise routine. *Try some new routines to challenge yourself and keep your mind focused on the present to keep up. Of course, be mindful of your fitness level when choosing a routine.
4. Socialize – virtually
Even though social distancing is in place, we can reach out to others with phone calls, FaceTime, and online video. Isolation can lead to a decline in mood, especially if we’re already feeling depressed or stressed out. Ironically, stress, anxiety, and depression all cause us to want to isolate ourselves. Forcing ourselves to “be” with other people – even if we don’t necessarily feel like it – can help to break this cycle. Make a list of people who have been on your mind, but you’ve been too busy to call. Touch base with at least one or two of these individuals each week. Again, we are all in this together and having the on-line support of others going through this helps us to feel understood and loved.
5. Commune with nature
Going for a walk alone in nature in order to “be still enough to hear what’s really going on inside of us,” to hear our soul’s whisper, is very beneficial. Getting out into nature can be one of the most powerful ways of shifting our mood, lifting it, when we’re feeling down, or calming it, when we’re anxious or stressed-out.
Even having a view of nature through a window has been found to have benefits, such as speeding up recovery from surgery, increasing work performance, and improving work satisfaction. In fact, if you have difficulty quieting your mind and finding that place of stillness, look at a tree, a flower, a plant. Let your awareness rest upon it…how still they are, how deeply rooted in Being. Here are some ways to commune with nature:
*Take a walk in a park or near a lake, river, or ocean. *Walk barefoot in the grass. *Sit under a tree. *Plant a garden or some indoor plants. *Stroke and talk to a pet.
6. Laugh regularly and make time for joy
Laughter not only reduces stress and improves mood it also strengthens the immune system. In addition, humor stops the downward spiral of energy-zapping thought-habits that lead to increased anxiety and/or depression. Laughter immediately decreases muscle tension, enhances creativity, and increase optimism. The mere act of laughing creates positive emotions, such as joy and amusement, hope, confidence, and overall well-being. In the short-term, this stabilizes blood pressure, massages inner organs, stimulates circulation, helps improve digestion, increases supply of oxygen to the muscles, and decreases muscle tension. In longer term, it boosts the power of our immunity by reducing damaging stress hormones.
You may wonder how we can laugh at a time as serious as this. But, in fact, it’s at times such as these that humor is needed more than ever for its unique power to brighten even the darkest situation.
7. Have an attitude of gratitude
Focusing attention on what we feel thankful for changes our perspective and even our reality. Having gratitude for what we have and looking for the silver linings in the less-than-ideal situations bring us feelings of optimism, peace, and enthusiasm to keep us on this trek as a peaceful warrior.
Keeping a gratitude journal is an easy way to create this habit of having an attitude of gratitude. Write down three to five things, big or small, daily that you feel grateful for. See how you feel at the end of one week of keeping this journal.
8. Become a “glass-half-full” person
Remain optimistic about the future and use this time to discover what is really most important to you and what you were doing just because you thought you were supposed to. Spend some time being philosophical about this time of global stillness. The earth is thanking us for halting our activity, with skies and waters already becoming clearer. If you’re not able to work because of sheltering in place, use this time to investigate what your passion might be and take time to plan your steps toward following your dreams, once you’re able to. Find ways to share your gifts with the world virtually. By sharing your unique gifts with the world, you’re serving humanity, inspiring others, and bringing joy and peace to the world, all of us hungry for the beauty that you might share.
9. Find meaning
Finding ways to be part of the solution is an extremely powerful antidote to depression when bombarded with bad news daily. Taking time to discover our passion, and then taking the steps to follow it, is one way of finding meaning in our lives. There are many ways to do this, even when we feel that we have hit rock bottom.
Finding meaning in life usually consists of focusing on helping others, in spite of whatever circumstances they are in.
Here are some suggestions for finding meaning in your life:
*Look for the deeper meaning in the situation that we’re all in. *Do a good deed for a neighbor. *Express yourself creatively, such as through dancing, drawing/painting, playing an instrument or singing or writing.
10. Challenge irrational beliefs
We humans tend to have the bad habit of taking ourselves out of things that are good for us with negative, self-sabotaging statements, such as “What’s the point?” or “Who would be interested in what I have to say, anyway?” We talk to ourselves in ways we would never speak to a friend, if we want to keep our friends. This type of negative and irrational self-talk is likely to keep us down, if we listen to and believe this negative chatter.
Take some time to look at what thoughts and beliefs might be causing some of these negative emotions and to ask yourself if these beliefs are based in reality. The technique of mindfulness meditation, described above, has the added benefit of helping us to become more aware of our thoughts, noticing when we make those self-sabotaging statements, and giving us the ability to better discern those thoughts and beliefs worth keeping verses those that no longer serve us.
11. Eat well
The food that we eat has a direct effect on the health, immune system, and energy level. In addition, food affects the health, sharpness, and vitality of our brains and has a direct influence on the hormones and neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that affect our emotions. Food can cause depression and anxiety, and it can also heal our body and our “soul”, helping us to feel happy, energized, and ready to take on the world. Most recently, a direct relationship has been found between the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables one eats and their mood and level of energy. People who eat more produce tend to feel calmer, happier, and more energetic.
While the first eleven recommendations given here are crucial, getting enough restful sleep is the glue that holds it all together. Sleep is essential for having a good mood and for having the energy to use this time to be creative, as well as critical for concentration, memory, and disease prevention. We often feel that we can cheat sleep, but we can only get away with that for a while. Without sleep, everything is likely to begin to crumble, including our health, our emotional wellness, our creativity, and, even, our cognitive abilities.
Now more than ever, we are getting to see that we really are all connected. Our action at this time toward people who are distant from us in space, including the choice to sacrifice staying home, says more about who we really are than any grand achievement that we may have or have not accomplished in our life. We have been in training, everything else was a dress rehearsal, this is the moment that matters. It will take the effort and sacrifice of every one of us to get through this. If we have compassion and take care of ourselves with the help of some of these tips, then we can embrace our global human family with the compassion needed…and we will get through this – together.
In the chaos of COVID-19 and an earthquake in my neighborhood, it is fairly easy to become lonely and discouraged. Everything is uncertain, panic is ensuing, and store shelves are barren.
I wonder when life will resume to normal, or if this is our new normal.
Amid this chaos, there are little miracles to be seen. Snow fall that cleans the air of pollution. A vehicle that enables me to purchase needed supplies. A cell phone plan that provides a means of connection to loved ones. Daffodils that bloom and brighten my day without regard to anything going on in the human realm. The list could go on indefinitely.
I am grateful for technology that allows me to easily “see” my grandchildren and have conversations with them whenever I want. I am grateful for children who feel connected to one another even when living in isolation. I am grateful for family and our bonds of love and concern for one another. I am grateful for my geriatric dog who is beyond excited that I am not leaving home and am available for tummy rubs and back scratches. I am grateful for people who practice social distancing in order to keep us all healthy. I am grateful for doctors and nurses who care for those that are ill. I am grateful for streaming services that allow me to enter a different world and take my mind off of the current state of affairs. I am grateful for a vast library of books I’ve collected and always meant to read, and now have time for. I am grateful for the internet which allows me to write these posts to help uplift others.
Amidst the illness and death that this virus brings, I still have hope that a vaccine will be developed. I have hope that people will reach out to one another with love and concern.
One of the greatest miracles is the birth of my sweet little granddaughter, Scarlett. She is evidence that a pandemic cannot stop life from continuing.
Hang in there. Know that you are not alone, even if you are isolated. I am always available to chat or offer support in any way that I can. Take care of yourself physically and emotionally.
This Valentine’s Day let’s make it all about you!
1. Begin with Celebrating YOU.
Today is your day. You are your very own special Valentine.
No matter what you think of today or what our culture thinks of today, or what anyone else thinks about it, the fact is that it’s a day for celebrating LOVE. So start by celebrating all of the things that you love about yourself.
Make a list of everything that you’ve done, that you’ve created, talents that you have, people that you’ve helped.
This is not a time to be humble – you’re only writing this to yourself, so no one will think you’re bragging. Even if it’s something as simple as “I love to sing in the shower” or “I always remember everyone’s birthdays” or “I take care of my dog”, write it down.
Don’t stop until you’re feeling great about yourself.
2. Give Yourself a Special Gift
Whether it’s the dozen red roses you’re wishing someone would send you, that box of chocolates you love, or the perfect card you imagine your perfect guy giving you, give yourself a special gift that celebrates the uniqueness of you!
The beauty is that you can give yourself exactly what you know you want, so there’s no chance of disappointment.
3. Pamper Yourself
No, it’s not selfish to pamper yourself in an extra special way today – it’s the very least of what you deserve!
If it’s getting your nails or hair done, spending some time at the spa getting a massage; whatever makes you feel extra special, go ahead and treat yourself.
Remember, today is about YOU!
4. Spend Time with the People You Love
Whether we’re talking about friends or family, old ones or young, whoever it is that you enjoy spending time with that make you feel better just by being nearby, make a point of reaching out to them today, even if it’s just in the form of a phone call.
The point is this is about connecting with people who help you feel good about yourself.
Sometimes it’s all about the company you keep.
5. Write a Love Letter to Yourself
It’s amazing the power words can have on how you feel about yourself.
Imagine what you would say to yourself if you were the man or woman of your dreams who loves you for everything you are and sees you only for your true self. The one who loves you unconditionally in spite of any imperfections that you see in yourself. And even loves you more because of them.
Then write down exactly what he/she would say in a love letter he/she wrote to you.
Because one day he/she will.
6. End the Day with Some Music and Water
I know. It’s the classic “have a warm bath” approach to treating yourself like a queen.
But here's the secret: it really works!
Turn on some beautiful music. You know, the kind that moves you. The kind that stirs your soul.
Then spend some time soaking in a warm bath, complete with some calming fragrant bath salts, and you’ve got the perfect prescription for a beautiful end to a day that’s all about you.
Happy Valentine’s Day. To you.
And while doing these, remember that whatever you want to make of the day, it’s all yours to decide how to spend it. Because regardless of what anyone else says, Valentine’s Day is all about what you make of it. How you choose to celebrate it is entirely up to you.
So, remember today, the only kind of love you want in your life is the real thing, and it starts with you.
I came across a post by Sara Rodrigues that I could have authored myself. Depression is real. I hope this piece helps shed some light on what it is like to live with and through depression.
A few years ago I had a big international trip planned. I made arrangements for my travel and was excited about the prospects of traveling for a few weeks.Fast forward a month before takeoff and I called to cancel my flight because I could no longer go on this trip. Sure, on paper everything was fine. I was fine. So why couldn’t I go anymore?
Plain and simple: depression. It’s hovered and lingered above and within me off-and-on since my early adolescence, and if I’ve learned anything about this nasty thing it’s that it works in cycles and waves, so it never disappears completely. Plus, depression has this ugly little friend named anxiety, and anxiety said, “ you can’t go on this trip.”
(The internal dialogue was obviously more involved, but I’ll spare you the intensity.)
I tried to explain to the agent on the phone that, as per the literature regarding the travel insurance I’d purchased, I should get at least some sort of refund given the nature of my cancellation. It was medical. I had been treated for it in the past, though I had not visited a doctor with my most recent episode, so I had no current proof of the situation…but it was in fact real.
“It’s because of issues involving depression and anxiety,” I told her. I dare you to guess how she responded.
She laughed. Laughed.
In her defense, I’m sure those words—those foggy, unsure words that no one talks about unless plastered with motivational quotes and stories of glamorous success—made her severely uncomfortable. It’s not her fault; we’ve created a society and countless industries that not only perpetuate such issues of mental health, but shudder at their mentioning. Those words are meant only to be whispered, if spoken at all.
I also understand that if we could all cry “depression” without current proof of such conditions (like medication, which not everyone opts to take in the first place) and get refunds for it at our leisure, we would.
But I do not understand why she had to laugh.
I knew all too well that getting on that plane would have been the absolute worst decision. I was in no state to experience new things and my body and brain were persistent in relaying that urgent message.
No one else knew my internal state. I kept it to myself and on the surface, I remained “normal.” Healthy. Just fine.
That’s what makes mental health such a daunting entity: no one can see it.
But that experience, this agent’s likely innocent laugh, taught me an important lesson—that maybe it’s time we (those who have experienced it) let it be seen in a light that has nothing to do with overcoming or conquering the illness, but has everything to do with the experience of it—the day-to-day reality of inexplicable pain and shattering emptiness.
So, while the experience of depression is relatively unique to each individual who suffers from it, there are certain characteristics that ring true for all of us who’ve been there—namely (and perhaps most importantly in many cases) what depression is not:
Everyone reacts differently to feelings of discomfort, especially in situations they do not entirely understand. Some remain silent as they try to process information. Some blurt out their initial reactions. Some blush. Some let out a confused giggle. To be perfectly blunt about this, it is never okay to laugh at depression.
If someone told you they’d been diagnosed with cancer or any other illness deemed a serious condition, you would not laugh or giggle no matter how uncomfortable you felt; you’d be more concerned with their wellbeing, their treatment plan, what you could do to help in such a difficult time.
Mental illness is just as serious. It’s not an exaggeration. It’s not a melodramatic statement. It’s just the truth.
Depression is not funny. It’s never funny. Don’t invalidate people’s feelings and experiences by laughing at it.
As I said before, we as a society are pretty familiar with the success stories of moving beyond and overcoming depressive states to “live a more brilliant life” and whatnot (that is, we love “self-help”). Let me be clear: this is wonderful. It’s a beautiful thing to hear the stories of those who’ve been low but managed to rise above those circumstances.
By the same token, this is also something that’s often glamorized to make depression seem like a cool and sexy thing to experience. It’s not.
Yes, it’s amazing to witness the transformations that take place to bring those who’ve struggled into the light of a hopeful future. It’s inspiring and empowering and their voices are deeply impactful for so many. However, when those voices place a rose-colored lens over their darkness so that it might sell better, it not only appears less authentic, but almost insulting.
No, depression is not a beautiful road to self-discovery. It’s not a blissful adventure taken separately from everyday life in order to inspire a rebirth-turned-bestselling memoir.
Depression is a dark, lonely, empty cave through which one must travel while trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy. It’s unforgiving and unwilling to back down. It’s difficult to survive (it seems being dead wouldn’t feel much different sometimes), and more often than not, it makes everyday functions and tasks impossible.
3. A decision.
That brings us to another thing depression is not: a decision, a choice, a conscious submission to such wrenching and largely inexplicable pain. It’s not a tool one would willingly employ to acquire some sort of attention or concern.
I would never wish this struggle on myself or anyone for that matter.
This was not a choice. It was never a choice. Of all the factors that go into a person’s predisposition for depression, conscious reasoning is not one of them, of this I am sure. But I am also sure that many of those who suffer from it are made to feel so ashamed and frowned upon that they come to believe that they have in fact brought it on themselves—and the inauthentic voices promoting “motivational” ideas like “you are in control of your happiness” and “it’s up to you to change your attitude and so your life” only exacerbate this sense of guilt.
I’m all about inspiring and motivating others, but make no mistake: when suffering from depression, happiness is not something one can control. Depression is not a decision; if it were merely a matter of “changing our attitudes,” then believe me, we would.
Any conversation I have about depression (which there are few, to be clear) ends with some variation of this question: “… but you’re fine now, right?”
That question always hurts, mostly because I have no choice but to answer with “yes, sure, everything’s fine.”
I never bother explaining the fact that depression is not a finite entity, that it’s not a one-time storm that blows over and never returns; that it’s more so a lingering disposition that ebbs and flows with life as it happens.
Depression is cyclical. Even when one receives treatment for it, it comes and goes in various forms and degrees of intensity. It’s not guaranteed to go away forever, nor is it guaranteed to return once it subsides for a while, and for those who care about its victims, that’s a seemingly difficult concept to grasp. All they want to hear is “yes, everything’s fine now” and be done with it.
While perfectly understandable, that’s unfortunately not how it works. Depression is not something to be “done with.” Sure, one day might be great and productive—maybe even weeks or months!—but the next might be a laborious struggle just to get out of bed or a painful relapse into related habits of self-harm. Either way, offering any kind of care or support to someone who has experienced/is experiencing depression involves understanding the cyclical and ever-changing nature of the beast.
5. A reason for shame.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt guilty and ashamed for being depressed, believing that my darkened state made me the absolute worst wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend. I was a toxic presence in my own mind, a harmful being that poisoned whatever environment she inhabited—a notion I’m still trying to shake along with all the habits I’ve adopted in its wake.
As I mentioned before, all our beloved self-help gurus plastering quotes meant to awaken and inspire the beauty in each of us doesn’t necessarily help this feeling of shame. When someone says “just be more grateful, it will make you feel better” or “think positively and you’ll change your life,” I have to believe the intentions are good; however, in my experience, these concepts only worsen the guilt that surrounds depression.
Don’t tell me to be more grateful. Don’t tell me to think happier thoughts. Again, if I could, I would, but depression is an illness involving the chemicals in the brain essentially making it so that I can’t just be more grateful or think happier thoughts. It’s not a matter of flipping a switch. It’s not a matter of manifesting the happiness I seek.
Don’t tell me it’s as simple as that. It’s not. When you say it is, you reinforce the shame that surrounds this hush-hush disease, and so further into that dark place we go.
“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.” ~ Nathaniel Branden
Depression is a difficult cloud to contemplate; it hangs over so many of us, yet most are so uncomfortable by its presence that it’s hard to openly discuss it, especially from an in-the-thick-of-it point of view. No one sees it until the storm becomes violent—that is, until the signs of the illness become visible. (For example, to one extreme, a suicide attempt or physical self-harm.)
But that doesn’t always happen, and perhaps it’s the unseen parts that make for the darkest moments as we struggle to survive.
It’s not funny. It’s not glamorous. It’s not a decision. It’s not finite. And it’s definitely not a reason to be ashamed.
Until the masses become more aware of and sensitive to the needs of those suffering, we must be the ones to reiterate the importance of acceptance, of recognizing that this is a real and serious illness that demands a real and serious response—not a laugh, not a shrug, not a motivational quote demanding “gratitude to fix your attitude.”
We must take care to show what is not easily or comfortably seen. And here and now is always a good place to start.
There are several things that cause us anxiety; public speaking, mortality, and rejection. But there is another common anxiety-fueler: the fear of what others think. While it can show up in many forms—like, curbing us from speaking our truth, deciding what we do (and don’t) post on social media, and factoring into big-deal life decisions like which jobs to seek—it often holds us back from going after our most sincere goals. Or worse, it can prevent us from being our authentic selves. But before learning how to not care what people think, it’s key to first understand why so many of us do care.
Put simply, we are wired to crave a sense of belonging and safety. Humans have always felt that belonging to a group make life less dangerous. Our primitive brain is still connected to that idea that we need to belong to a group and stay in their good graces in order to survive.
While this need to be liked and accepted may have served humans way back when, it now often robs us of our freedom to be ourselves. When we are so focused on being liked or on what other people think, we can step away from our truth and lean into performance. We censor ourselves. We water ourselves down and become consummate chameleons in order to be accepted.
If any of this rings true for you, keeping you from the life you truly want to be living, here are six tips for learning how to not care what people think, once and for all.
1. Remember that what others think isn’t your businessAlthough it may seem like external thoughts can have a major effect on our inner workings, that’s really not the case. Rather, it’s merely our perception that gives them power. With this in mind here is a strategy for learning how to not care what people think: remind yourself that their thoughts are their own and have nothing to do with you. Furthermore, the only way these thoughts can impact your life is if you let them.
2. Know that your value is not contingent on being likedEmbrace the fact that your value is not determined by how liked and accepted you are. “It’s not my job to be liked,” I tell myself. “It’s my job to show up in my authenticity and deliver the contribution I came to deliver. Some people will like what I have to offer, and others will not, and that is real and normal. It has no implications on our value as human beings. So, if someone likes you or what you’re doing, great. And if they don’t, that’s fine, too—you do you, regardless.
3. Define your valuesLiving your life according to what others think of you is a recipe for an unhappy and exhausting life. Instead, define your own set of values. Get clear on what’s important to you, not other people. Focus on who you want to be, not what others say you should be. From there, we can align ourselves with friends and groups that share these values versus attempting to fit ourselves into a box that doesn’t reflect our truest expression.
4. Find the core wound and write a new storyThere is usually an old story, subconscious belief, or an emotional wound that drives the worry of what others think. Reflect on this during a meditation or in your journal to help you better understand why it is that you, personally, care what others think in the first place. Think of your earliest memory of not being liked or accepted, how it made you feel, and what you most needed in that memory.
Once you’re clearer on that core wound, belief, or story, you can write a new story for yourself. Write it out in a journal. For example, if your old story is that you need to be liked to survive or be worthy, then you can write out examples of times when you weren’t necessarily accepted and still flourished.
5. Forgive yourself and shift your mind-setOvercoming the fear of what people think is certainly not something that can happen overnight. It requires practice and a whole lot of self-forgiveness. We all get caught in our fear stories from time to time. It doesn’t make us wrong or broken. When that fear rears its ugly head (and it will), forgive yourself in that moment and then choose a new thought and way of being. Shifting your mind-set in this way will give you the motivation you need to do what you’re holding yourself back from accomplishing.
When I first connected to this question it was like something cracked open inside of me to let the light in. I was sitting in my psychologist’s office listing off all the things I needed to fix about myself. She looked at me, bemused. When I stopped talking, she stared me right in the eye and asked:
What if there is no problem?
The world stopped. Everything since that moment has changed for the better.
The transformation in me came from a simple realization--I am not a problem.
I had been thinking of myself negatively for as long as I could remember. Want the recipe for permanent unhappiness? I had it. I fixated on the belief that, when I sorted out the problem that was me, everything would make sense. I kept myself miserable and suffering for a long time.
I was pretty adept at using personal development as a weapon of self-destruction. I could identify all my personal failings and the back story to them with ease. But it brought me no peace. I was always at odds with myself.
In that moment of cracking open what was concealed for so long became clear. The perfect version of me didn’t exist. The need for it kept me from my own happiness. And the problems of my life, well, were they?
No matter how grievous or painful or humiliating or shameful or despairing or enraging my experiences were, they were just life. It was my story about them that made them good or bad. And when I saw it in that way, I was free to live my life. I was no longer defeated by it.
But this is not the end of the story. As I went deeper into my own self-acceptance, something remarkable happened in my relationship with the world. What if all the problems are not a problem?
I noticed as observed from this perspective that we are attuned to look at the events of the world as a problem. We are trained to create a problem of life. We are taught to measure our reality by what we do not yet have or that which we have lost.
We are not trained to accept that this is just life happening. And good or bad, this too, shall pass. When we switch the filter from “problem” to “acceptance” the fear begins to dissipate.
I am not suggesting for one minute that the problems stop. The problems don’t stop. In fact, the more self-aware we become, the more aware we are that the problems of the world are endless. But our worry doesn’t transform the situation we are experiencing or seeing. It only adds to it.
What if I stop seeing problems at all? What if all that is needed is the shift in perspective? Reducing the world to its problems doesn’t let us embrace reality as a continuum of experience. It is life happening. This shift set me free to act.
I moved from overwhelm to empowerment, emboldened by my acceptance of what is. In accepting what is, I could take action to make necessary change.
Acceptance of myself was the gateway to my personal peace. Shifting my perspective was as simple as changing my focus. Surrendering judgement is a radical act. But it is possible. I began by letting go of the addiction to judging myself. Next up, I stop judging the world. And perhaps, the peace I found in me can be found out there too.
BY MADISYN TAYLOR
Being open-minded means that we are willing to question everything, including those things we take for granted.
A lot of people feel threatened if they feel they are being asked to question their cherished beliefs or their perception of reality. Yet questioning is what keeps our minds supple and strong. Simply settling on one way of seeing things and refusing to be open to other possibilities makes the mind rigid and generally creates a restrictive and uncomfortable atmosphere. We all know someone who refuses to budge on one or more issues, and we may have our own sacred cows that could use a little prodding. Being open-minded means that we are willing to question everything, including those things we take for granted.
A willingness to question everything, even things we are sure we are right about, can shake us out of complacency and reinvigorate our minds, opening us up to understanding people and perspectives that were alien to us before. This alone is good reason to remain inquisitive, no matter how much experience we have or how old we get. In the Zen tradition, this willingness to question is known as beginner's mind, and it has a way of generating possibilities we couldn't have seen from the point of view of knowing something with certainty. The willingness to question everything doesn't necessarily mean we don't believe in anything at all, and it doesn't mean we have to question every single thing in the world every minute of the day. It just means that we are humble enough to acknowledge how little we actually know about the mysterious universe we call home.
Nearly every revolutionary change in the history of human progress came about because someone questioned some time-honored belief or tradition and in doing so revealed a new truth, a new way of doing things, or a new standard for ethical and moral behavior. Just so, a commitment to staying open and inquisitive in our own individual lives can lead us to new personal revolutions and truths, truths that we will hopefully, for the sake of our growth, remain open to questioning.
The holidays are a good time to remember what we’re grateful for, and right now I’m grateful that the holidays are over. Don’t get me wrong, I spent time being with people I love, which is my favorite thing. But I’m happy to get back to my routine, and I find that my “everyday life” – when I’m not surrounded by presents and sweet confections– provides more challenge for appreciating all that I have to be grateful for. It’s a better workout for my gratitude muscles.
As I see people around me making new year’s resolutions, hopeful but uncertain if they’ll keep them, I notice that a practice of gratitude is a vital part of developing and believing in our ability to change and to fully accept our role in it, i.e., our creative power.
Resolutions are usually prompted by a feeling that something needs to change. Yet if we only focus on what’s wrong, we’re impotent and miserable. When we decide to make a change, a mentality of “my current situation sucks” probably isn’t enough to carry us through actualizing that change. But a recognition of all that’s good in our lives reminds us (if we’re open to it) that we co-created this. And if we want something different, we can envision a new reality for ourselves and bring it into being.
I believe we’re much more effective at consciously shaping our lives when we do a few simple things.
First, we pay attention and appreciate all the ways in which life is going well for us, all the beauty, all the love, and all the miracles. If you can’t see these things, something is veiling your vision. Cut through it.
How can we hone our creative power if we don’t even recognize it? The more we stop and acknowledge the magic (i.e., practice gratitude) the more magical life becomes, and the more we can appreciate the role we’re playing in it. You don’t have to take my word for it. Just try it for a week (practice gratitude all day, every day). You’ll see.
Second, be sure you’re receiving what you’ve asked for. This is kind of a repetition of my first recommendation, but specifically refers to your receptivity regarding the change you’ve initiated. Make sure there’s space in your life for it, and a willingness to let yourself change. Make sure you notice when your world begins to shift – even minutely – in the direction you’ve intended and acknowledge that your creative power is working.
Third, release your resistance to having what you’ve asked for. Sometimes we think, “Why on earth would I oppose this?!” And I’m not placing blame here. I’m just saying, be completely truthful with yourself about the hidden (or not-so-hidden) desires and beliefs that may be in opposition to your intention. And let them go.
Why do so many people fail to keep their new year’s resolutions? Easy. They are resistant to making this change and/or they have specific “counter-intentions” that are getting in the way (or put simply, they want something else more).
Many of these counter-intentions are rooted in childhood. For instance, you may have a childhood belief such as “it’s bad to be strong” (because, for instance, that would mean not needing your parents, or it would entail taking back power you’ve given away to others) or “I don’t deserve to be happy” (because, for instance, in pursuing happiness you made a mistake that hurt someone). I don’t agree with Freud on everything, but he was spot-on in asserting that childhood impressions affect us throughout our lives. For many of us, it’s the work of a lifetime to recognize how our inner child is running the show and to shift power to our mature inner adult.
Fourth, be consistent. I’ve heard people say, “The Universe hears your every request, so you don’t have to keep asking over and over.” I believe that it’s true that the Universe doesn’t need to be asked twice – the issue with people not getting what they say they want lies more on the human side of the equation. We change our minds all the time and we lose sight of what we’re bringing into reality.
So, I recommend writing your intentions down. Then, every single day (or twice a day) read what you’ve written and re-embody these intentions. I began writing three things each night that I was grateful for that day, and then took it a step further by also texting or calling my accountability coach (my mom) the things I had written down.
Finally, don’t indulge in criticizing your life. A gratitude practice helps us maintain perspective throughout each day. And a practice of stepping back – expanding into the awareness that contains this character whose life you’re leading – helps you avoid getting trapped in black-and-white judgments. When you are able to see the big picture, it’s hard to feel cursed.
Adapted from an article by Kamalyn Kaur
Self-esteem: it’s how we evaluate or appraise our own sense of worth. When we are suffering with low self-esteem, we are more likely to:
>> Give up our personal power and the ability to influence others.
>> Feel insignificant to others, constantly seeking affection, attention, and acceptance.
>> Lack a sense of virtue or feel plagued with an inherent nagging sense of not being a good person, morally or ethically.
>> Often feel unloved, unappreciated, and unwanted, or that we aren’t good enough or worthy of love.
>> Be easily dominated by others who we perceive as being more powerful and capable than we are.
If we can relate to any of these feelings, then we’re often more likely to resort to certain behaviors in an effort to numb out the pain and escape to a world that allows us a temporary release of our suffering and problems.
One of the ways in which people escape is by dating or staying in relationships with partners who might not serve them. They could be unhealthy, toxic, controlling, or emotionally distressful, however we stay because we feel a false sense of security, validation, and feeling “wanted,” which gives us an artificial boost of self-esteem.
If we feel that we aren’t good enough, we will stay in relationships that aren’t good enough for us. If we feel we don’t deserve better, then we will settle with what we have, rather than fighting for better. If we feel that we aren’t entitled to be happy, then we will stay with people who don’t make us feel happy.
If we want to attract a healthier relationship, we have to change our relationship with ourselves by improving our self-esteem. Here are six ways to flip our mindset and begin restoring our self-esteem. 1. Create an attitude of gratitude.
We live in a society where it is easier for us to find faults and flaws within ourselves, but when asked what we like about ourselves or what we do well, we are often met with silence. At the end of each day, list three things you did that you feel good about. By focusing on what we have done, rather than what we haven’t done, we are creating positive momentum and training our mind to look for goodness rather than identifying what we think is lacking.
2. Don’t compare yourself to others.
We are all individual—unique and special in our own way. There is no such thing as being 100 percent perfect, but we are all perfect in our own way and that is what we should celebrate. Instead of focusing on what others are doing and putting everyone else on a pedestal, feeling that they are better than us, we have to shift the focus away from them and onto us.
We must be mindful of bringing our attention back to how we are doing and what makes us unique. Consider what skills, qualities, or characteristics you have that make you different from others. How do others describe you when they first meet you? You might not be perfect, but we all have a something that will be appealing, attractive, and fascinating to others!
3. Accept and cherish compliments.
Instead of deflecting, dismissing, or ignoring compliments, accept them with a big thank you and a genuine smile. Think of each compliment as a boxed gift with a big bow on it. If someone gave us a gift, we would consider it rude to ignore the gift, return it, or reject it instead of receiving it. Then why do we so regularly do the same with compliments? We might be worried that the person isn’t being genuine or truthful, but that is not our place to judge. Accept the compliment—without judgement.
4. Surround yourself with goodness.
Spend time with people who make you feel good. If you have a negative influence or person in your life, step back and be aware of how you might be letting them drag you down. When life feels like an uphill climb, we can’t afford to be pulled down by someone else’s negativity.
5. Stay active.
Regular exercise is a great way to get our endorphins flowing. If we feel healthy and are happy with how we look, we will begin to feel better about ourselves as a whole. Start with a short walk every day, and gradually increase the length or branch out and try other forms of exercise that help you feel accomplished.
6. Spread the love.
It amazes me to see how much we can boost our self-esteem just by being kind. Try giving one person a compliment each day or doing one nice thing for someone who needs it. Not only will we feel better about ourselves, but we will begin to feel the positive karma of our efforts.
Low self-esteem can often be the spark plug for self-destruction within relationships. By implementing these six tips into our lives, we can attract healthier connections into our lives and also create a healthier relationship with ourselves—which is the most important relationship of all.
I spoke to my daughter the other day and we were discussing our thoughts about New Year’s Resolutions. We agreed that we don’t need to reinvent ourselves every year, and that’s why we don’t do New Year’s resolutions.
It’s curious, our approach to resolutions—as they usually involve creating more structure in our life—which can be good and useful. But rather than setting resolutions, I am setting a resolve to release. A wonderful thing happens when we let go. Something rises up to greet us that is more honest, and more sustainable than our willpower—our basic goodness.
This year I’m committing to that.
It always amuses me when, at the end of a year, people are hating on the year like it was some malevolent foe who just ruined their lives. Boo! 2019, you sucked! Only, I remember the same attitude getting passed around at the end of last year: Boo, 2018! I have to think—maybe it’s not the numbers on the calendar that either soar or suck, it’s us, individually and collectively.
2016 was rough, right? One of the most divisive years amongst us that I can remember. The election brought a bunch of gunk to light that drove a split—not only through us as a nation—but amongst friends and family as well, and our choices, as a country, echoed throughout the world. Will 2020 be another year like that? It’s another election year.
A new decade arrives, and the world’s troubles continue—our personal troubles continue—and our basic goodness remains. And that can be used as a powerful force for change when we allow ourselves to relax into it.
Despite the ever-popular New Year’s resolutions craze, now is not actually time to reshape ourselves with aggressive self-improvement. Now is not the time to apply strict, often unsustainable regiments to our minds and bodies—adding endless things to our to-do lists.
Now is the time to make friends with ourselves. Welcome our lost inner orphans and communicate honestly and deeply with our souls, and all the parts of ourselves that we often don’t like.
The parts of us—feelings, desires, and needs—that are deemed less acceptable in our family and societal systems, we often reject. That can be a subtle, insistent suppression, or it can be quite aggressive. You’ve probably heard this before: What I see in you is a reflection of me. This is true for both what we see and what we don’t see—our own blind spots, so to speak. And it is often the parts of ourselves that we don’t like, that we attack in others.
The aggression that gets enacted internally also gets projected outward onto the world. This is why befriending ourselves—and learning to accept all of our feelings, needs, and desires—is so important!
Resolutions to better ourselves often come from a subtle place of aggression: I’ll like myself better if I lose 10 or 20 pounds. I’ll feel more worthy if I can manifest more abundance or a new romantic partner. I’ll finally be happy if I can just take that exotic vacation that I have always wanted. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to experience any of these things, it is important to feel into why we want them.
Do we want to lose weight because it will feel good to move more and express ourselves more healthily through our physical form, or are we trying to fit ourselves into someone else’s standard for what our bodies should look like?
Do we want more prosperity because we love our work? Because offering our gifts is a joy, an honor, our vocation, and we need to pay the bills? Or because we think those numbers on our bank account statement are going to provide us with more than financial security? We think that somehow they will give us emotional security too.
Do we want partnership with another human being because we love communicating, we love sharing energy, experiences, food, sex, fun, joy, care, and occasionally (yet respectfully) arguing, or because deep down we think another person will be able to assuage our loneliness?
Do we want that dream vacation because we love exploring new places and going on adventures, or because we have bought into the notion that paradise is always somewhere else, not here and now in this tender, human moment?
This moment matters.
Tune into you for just a moment. Notice your breath. Notice your body and its sensations. Notice your thoughts. Notice your feelings. Notice you. You will not change because a new year has been born. Underneath all the ideas of who you are and what you think you want is something that is truly permanent: your inherent worth and basic goodness.
What would it be like, I wonder, if we all committed to dissolving the lies, confusions, and adaptations that simply obscure our fundamental nature? We would truly be walking not only into a new decade but a new and more beautiful world, together.
This year and all those that follow, let’s relax more. Meditate more. Get into nature more. Move more. Let’s make choices that support life and each other. Let’s shop locally when we can.
Let’s laugh more, love more, rise in protection of life more. Let’s give ourselves even more to this brokenhearted, beautiful world and watch it—and each other—heal.
May our thoughts, our words, and, most of all, our actions be of benefit.