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6 Simple Strategies That Contribute To Personal Growth

Personal growth is challenging but rewarding. Still, despite knowing the good that lies in wait, it can be difficult to get into the swing of things when it comes to self-improvement if you work on yourself. With all the hurdles, sure to be thrown your way, it can be tough to adapt and power through while still maintaining the momentum of growth.

Those who don’t pay much attention to their personal growth often have trouble finding success. They don’t learn from mistakes, become better people, or move towards goals consistently. It’s a bad situation all around, and one that you should try your best to avoid.

If you’ve felt like your personal growth has come to a halt lately, then you may need to rethink your methods for self-improvement. How are you ensuring that what you do bears fruit in your betterment as a person? Here’s how experts reveal 6 simple strategies that contribute to personal growth.

1.    DEVELOP ENDURANCE SKILLS

Personal growth can, often, feel like a bit of an uphill battle. To fight that battle, you need to have mental endurance. Wellbeing technology expert, consultant, and writer Tchiki Davis, Ph.D., has some statements about what skills to develop. Here are ones you can focus on:

·         RESILIENCE

Resilience refers to the skill that allows you to bounce back from difficult situations and circumstances. If you don’t have resilience, it’s nearly impossible ever to reach success. You’ll encounter many failures along the way. So skills like mindfulness, emotional regulation, and positive thinking play into resilience.

·         SELF-SOOTHING

Stress is common when you’re chasing goals and trying to work on yourself. If you don’t know how to calm that stress down, you’re going to wind up hurting yourself in the long run and even becoming discouraged as you lose all positive thinking. That’s where self-soothing comes in. The right self-soothing methods can help calm you down from moments of anxiety while balancing out all the stress, so you’re prepared for whatever comes next.

·         PROGRESS-MONITORING

It can be difficult to keep going when you don’t think you’re getting anywhere. That’s why tracking your progress can work wonders for you. You can clearly see your improvements, how far you’ve come, and areas that need your attention. Of course, progress-monitoring is equally crucial for a more practical reason: it ensures that you’re going on the right track and allows you to make changes if you veer off course.

2.    PERFORM POSITIVE SELF-TALK

The world can weigh a little heavily on your shoulders sometimes. It’s okay to have periods where you feel down or discouraged – as long as you get back up again later! That’s where positive self-talk comes into play.

As its name suggests, positive self-talk is the act of speaking motivationally, inspiringly, or effectively instructional to yourself to boost your emotional state. It sounds a little silly to think that this can have a significant effect, but the results are more tangible than you may think. Research has long linked positive self-talk to enhanced performance in things like sports and endurance tasks!

What if you don’t feel like you believe your positive self-talk right away? That’s okay – fake it till you make it. Eventually, with enough words of encouragement, you’ll begin to believe yourself. You might even start seeing results sooner than expected!

This isn’t just good for your growth because it motivates you and keeps you on task. It’s also a sign of personal growth in itself. The improvement of your self-esteem, positive thinking, and coping mechanisms is a success all on its own, and it’s one worth striving for.

3.    MAKE A MAP

Want to understand how far you’ve come and where you need to go from here? Sometimes it can be tough because you have no way to rewind your memories and easily review the changes you may have made. The solution, then, is to map it all out, says Doctor of Psychology, Professional Clinical Counselor, life coach, and speaker Ilene Berns-Zare.

When you have some time to spare, think about your life and its progression. How did you get here? Can you follow the trail you’ve walked along? Here are some questions to help you out with this process:

  • What are some of my most significant experiences?
  • What are some of the mistakes I have made, and how did I overcome them?
  • Can I teach anyone a valuable lesson based on my mistakes?
  • What are some big lessons I’ve learned over the years? Did I learn them in time, or the hard way?
  • What are some things I wish I’d done?
  • What are my goals? Where do I want to go?
  • What are my biggest values, dreams, and hopes?
  • What can I do next to get closer to my goals and dreams?

It’s a lot to think about at once! If you dislike this process, you can make it easier by committing to writing a daily or weekly journal consistently. That will give you something physical to flip through as time goes by!

strive-for-progress

4.    DEVELOP THINKING STYLES FOCUSED ON PROGRESSION

You can’t grow if you don’t know how to progress properly in life. You’ll wind up stagnant and stunted, and no one wants that! Here are some thinking styles Davis recommends developing in this vein.

·         A GROWTH MINDSET

A growth mindset is the opposite of a fixed mindset, which is defined as the act of shying away from risks and challenges in favor of staying in a safe space. The growth mindset, on the other hand, involves not letting fear control you. It means seeking good opportunities and being brave enough to seize them, even if you’re anxious about them. It’s about being smart enough to know when taking a leap of faith or jumping at a challenge is a good idea. Without this mindset, your growth will get stuck.

·         ENTREPRENEURIAL THINKING

Entrepreneurial thinking is what it says on the tin: thinking like an entrepreneur, or an individual in business. You see, entrepreneurs are excellent planners (and if they aren’t, they seldom find success). They’re also innovative, convincing, and adaptable – all traits you’ll need to grow as a person and reach all your goals and dreams.

·         THE SEARCH FOR THE NEW

The beauty of life is that you never have to stop learning. You can continue developing new skills and seeking new opportunities for the rest of your life. So keep doing that! That way, you’re always become a better, more positive you every day.

5.    BE KIND

A little kindness goes a long way. Although you might be an objectively decent or even good person, the chances are that, with your busy schedule, you don’t have much time to put into acts of kindness. You can work on changing that by making kindness a genuine habit.

According to Madeleine Mason Roantree, a psychologist, when you are compassionate to others, you gain multiple personal benefits. Though kindness shouldn’t be about what you can personally gain, it’s still interesting to note these factors, such as:

  • Feel less isolated
  • Have a sense of purpose
  • Improve your positive thinking and mood
  • Foster better relationships
  • Are becoming a better person

You don’t need to do anything overly fancy to reap the rewards of kindness. All you really need to do is be genuine in your compassionate gestures, and you’re good to go! Here are some ideas for random acts of kindness:

  • Send a loved one a nice text message.
  • Compliment a stranger respectfully.
  • Buy drinks or lunch for a colleague or friend.
  • Donate to charity or volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about
  • Do someone a favor

But there’s another way you can be kind for personal growth: being kind to yourself—licensed clinical psychologist and neurotherapist. Catherine Jackson says that you should try to look at yourself as you would look at a best friend. You wouldn’t, for example, be overly hard on your friend for making a mistake, nor would you refuse to be empathic of their emotions.

6.    LEARN GRATITUDE

Being grateful is a huge step towards growing well as a person. Without gratitude, you never truly appreciate the things in life that have gotten you to where you are and can help you go even further. Taking these things for granted can, then, cause you to lose them.

Gratitude is a bit of a skill, and it’s one that needs to be practiced to be honed. A good idea is keeping a gratitude journal that must be filled every day with at least three things you’re grateful for that day. It’s a good way to shift your mindset, so you notice more good things in everyday life.

Is it a fair bit of effort? Yes, but it’s certainly worth it! Studies indicate multiple positive effects of practiced gratitude, including:

  • Better sleep
  • Reduced anxiety and stress
  • Better social relationships
  • A more positive outlook on life

According to sport psychology mental performance coach Anna Hennings, MA, there’s an acronym you can use to help you think of what you’re grateful for. It’s a surprisingly fitting one, too: GIFTS. Here’s how to use it!

·         G FOR GROWTH

This refers to your own areas of personal growth, such as new skills you’ve learned.

·         I FOR INSPIRATION

This is self-explanatory – what has inspired you recently?

·         F FOR FRIENDS AND/OR FAMILY

The people closest to you and who you love are always worth being grateful for.

·         T FOR TRANQUILITY

What moments of peace and happiness do you enjoy? Think of your time spent listening to music, sipping tea, reading, or doing something similar.

·         S FOR SURPRISE

Again, this is self-explanatory – what pleasant surprises popped up for you?

FINAL THOUGHTS ON SOME SIMPLE STRATEGIES THAT CONTRIBUTE TO PERSONAL GROWTH

For many people, purpose can be found in the fight for self-improvement and personal growth. It can be fulfilling to see yourself become better, whether in your values, your work, your relationships, or your life as a whole.

That’s why always working on yourself is so important. It propels you closer to all your hopes and dreams, all while making you someone to look up to. You deserve to watch yourself blossom into the very best that you can be, so work hard on yourself. You’ll be amazed how far you can go in terms of growth in just a few months!

source: www.powerofpositivity.com


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Bibliotherapy Proves Reading Is More Than A Cure For Boredom

Grief, fear, heartbreak, depression — book therapy promises to treat it all.

Eight months ago, when his father died suddenly of a stroke, the last thing on James Mitchell’s mind was literature.

There were, of course, far more pressing matters to consider, far more natural instincts to confront than the strange impulse to seek refuge in a novel. The dimensions of grief are always unimaginable, and a desire to see reading, of all things, as the logical solution to its unique violence is hardly to be expected from anyone — least of all a board-certified medical doctor who administers literal anesthetics for a living.

But here was Mitchell, 40, sitting at his computer at his home in Holland Park — a tree-lined, photogenic neighbourhood in central London — consulting a webpage on “book prescriptions” and “literary remedies” for life’s random, debilitating occasions.

“I wouldn’t ordinarily be an early advocate for something like book therapy,” he told HuffPost Canada over the phone, laughing. Historically, he says, he’s always preferred nights with Netflix over nights with Nietzche.

“But the books I read throughout this process really changed my whole perspective,” he says.

What is bibliotherapy?
This change in perspective is, in fact, the point. Book therapy (BT), sometimes called bibliotherapy, refers to the ancient practice of reading or “prescribing” reading — as one might prescribe medicine — for therapeutic effect, and can include both fictional and nonfictional materials.

No matter the genre, the therapeutic approach is all predicated on a simple, if romantic, idea: that books contain secrets which can transform the way we live our lives, and help us to overcome some of its most unwieldy obstacles.

“When I first heard about it, it was through word of mouth,” says Mitchell. One of his friends who’d tried it out before had described a moving experience. “It seemed sort of farfetched,” he adds.

“I’ve never, ever felt that books could change you in that way.”

People who read regularly, for example, sleep better, are less stressed, are better empaths, have higher levels of self-esteem, and, according to Yale University’s School of Public Health, also live longer.

And while many of the evidence supporting the virtues of formal bibliotherapy tends to be anecdotal, there’s also plenty of research that illustrates its positive effects — particularly its general enhancement of mental health and well-being.

“I’ve never, ever felt that books could change you in that way,” Mitchell says. “But it was definitely a process whereby I could feel the change happening as I was reading.”

He pauses: “It was cathartic.”

Though bibliotherapy has a storied medical history across the globe — it’s been used both in mental hospitals, to treat mental patients, and in American military libraries, to treat soldiers after World War I — it’s only just beginning to find its legs in Canada, despite its longstanding support in the United Kingdom.

People who read regularly sleep better, are less stressed out,
and live longer lives than people who don’t read.

 

Social Bibliotherapy
Most of BT’s practitioners are divided into two streams, though both more or less share the same overarching philosophy.

Over the last 10 years or so, Dr. Natalia Tukhareli, director of library and information services at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, has become the de facto lodestar of one of those streams, through her tireless work to make BT practices more available to people in North America.

Tukhareli, who is based in Toronto, is one of Canada’s foremost research scholars in social bibliotherapy: a creative approach to BT — often practiced by librarians and educators in prisons, retirement homes, and community centres — that isn’t intended as a substitute for professional help.

“Bibliotherapy originated in a clinical or medical setting,” Tukhareli told HuffPost Canada. “But through my reading programs, the ultimate goal is to build resilience, improve general well-being, and just help people to move through the adversity in their lives.”

Tukhareli’s practice draws from a popular reading intervention model used by several groups in London, including The Reader Organization, a national charity that wants to catalyze a “reading revolution” through a principal technique called shared reading.

Shared reading is a read-aloud group session, during which a leader reads a passage from a story or poem and group members are encouraged to respond by sharing thoughts, feelings and memories that may have been stirred up. It’s practiced in a number of forums, including public libraries, hospitals, rehabilitation centres, shelters, and retirement homes.

“We’re trying to expand it into non-clinical settings. This is the future,” Tukhareli says.

Over the last few years, Tukhareli created original reading packages based on core existential themes, like loneliness, adversity, forgiveness and bereavement. These packages have been included in a new one-year pilot project, for which seven bibliotherapy groups have opened in the Durham, Ont. region, all based on her approach. (The groups, she notes, are geared toward young parents, low-literacy learners, brain injury clients, seniors, and mental health clients.)

Not only did she help to develop the program, but she also trained the facilitators on how to use her thematic reading packages. “It’s the first time a bibliotherapy program here, in Canada, has received government funding,” she adds.

While this stream of BT isn’t intended to cover mental health issues specifically, it has been proven to engage with health and wellbeing in a profound and physiological way.

 

Social bibliotherapy isn’t meant to target mental health specifically
 — it’s non-clinical — but its been linked with positive mental and physical health.

 

Studies on social bibliotherapy have linked the practice with reductions in the severity of dementia symptoms, alleviation of chronic pain, and, in one extended three-year study, lasting improvement in symptoms of depression

.

Reading books

Yet it has not managed to get much traction in Canada. Many of the country’s book therapists belonged to the Canadian Applied Literature Association (CALA) — an academic group that, until it ceased activity last year, explored the “therapeutic applications of literature and story” — but there is not, for example, an accreditation body that can certify people for the practice.

Courses and educational resources on bibliotherapy in Canada are rare, if almost nonexistent (even the aforementioned CALA is now defunct) and Tukhareli says the lack of institutional structure is partially responsible for why many librarians and other educators are deterred from getting involved: they often fear they’re overstepping their boundaries by entering a profession without being certified.

“But there are two different types of this, and only one needs certification” Tukhareli says. “There’s just a low awareness, nationally, when it comes to both.”

 

Clinical Bibliotherapy
The process behind clinical BT often cleaves to a template not unlike the completion of a medical questionnaire, or a dating profile for literature: you fill out a survey about your reading habits, confess what’s been eating at you, and in return, you receive a personalized reading list of “prescriptions” that will, hopefully, do something for your spirit.

Angry? Read Hemingway. Heartbroken? Read Brontë.

At least, this is one way it can be practiced. Clinical BT is exclusively undertaken by medically-trained doctors, such as psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, who tend to combine the treatment with more conventional forms of talk therapy.

Medical professionals who practice bibliotherapy are often certified in other,
more conventional forms of therapy.

 

“For the most part, it isn’t a kind of therapy that you do on its own,” says Dr. Hoi Cheu, a humanities professor at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont. Cheu is formally trained in marriage and family therapy, and says one of the reasons for this is that BT tends not to be taken seriously as a legitimate form of treatment.

“It’s a lot less obvious, physiologically,” Cheu tells HuffPost Canada. Most rational people wouldn’t reach for a book as a cure for a broken arm, but that’s not to say that no one has made a case for something like reading as an activity that could have a clear and identifiable effect on the body.

“Our brain is a network — it connects everything,” Cheu says. Some psychiatrists who also practice bibliotherapy, he says, prefer (in some cases) to prescribe books over medication. “If you know how, you can overcome a lot of pain by Buddhist meditation, for example. Books can do similar things … but mostly for the mind.”

How does it work?
The path Mitchell took toward healing was the clinical kind, and his prescribed reading list was filled with tough reads — “searching, drastic, stinging, relentless novels.”

There was the Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning, a psychological account of the author’s imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp. There was Sheryl Sandberg’s Option B, a memoir about the aftermath of her husband’s sudden death, and how it disfigured her ability to experience joy. And there was Mitch Albom’s For One More Day, a philosophical exploration of how people might use the opportunity to spend more time with a lost relative.

The effects these books had on Mitchell were not at all abstract. They were concrete and definitive, apparent even to the people around him. “I think my friends and my loved ones could attest to the changes they made in how I was acting and feeling throughout the whole process,” he says.

Sandberg’s Option B, for example, taught him about resilience, and brought him strength in the midst of losing one of the most important people in his life. Albom’s For One More Day moved him to cherish and cling to those family members he still had around.

Frankl’s book, too, had an especially profound effect. “My interpretation was that it’s a story about how, through suffering, you can find purpose,” Mitchell says. “I mean, this is someone who has experienced one of the worst things a human being has ever been through, and comes out the other side with purpose.” Death and grief often force the wicked hand of nihilism, but Mitchell, through insights pulled from Frankl, found ways to locate meaning in his father’s passing.

That meaning was, in some ways, about legacy. For three or four years, Mitchell’s father was an aide to Mind, a U.K.-based charity that campaigns for increased services and resources for people with mental health problems.

We don’t often think of books as medicinal, but Dan Yashinsky,
the storyteller-in-residence at Baycrest Health Sciences,
believes “storycare” should be an essential part of health care.

 

After reading Frankl, Mitchell had an idea. “I went to my local charity, the same one [my father] worked at, and I started doing the same thing he did,” he says. Reading Man’s Search For Meaning led Mitchell on a path to retracing his father’s steps, and he now mirrors them almost identically, both as a means of bringing himself closer, spiritually, to his dad and also to confront his father’s passing “in a much healthier way than I would have otherwise.”

“The whole volunteering thing … it gives me a sense of meaning, a sense of purpose.”

Mitchell says people might be inclined to discount bibliotherapy because they don’t feel they need it, or can’t imagine reading as a plausible solution to anything other than boredom. (Even then, the average American reads just four books in a year, so perhaps boredom is less inspiring than one might think.) There’s also the matter of general awareness — most people don’t know anything about bibliotherapy.

Still, he argues that no one needs an “instigate event” to engage with bibliotherapy. Mitchell doesn’t think your heart needs to break for you to read something, or that you need to have some disastrous emotional experience in order to be tricked into reading. He wants to make book therapy a regular part of his children’s lives, so they can prematurely glean some of the insights he’s only arrived at now, in his 40s.

“This has changed my life in a beautiful way,” Mitchell says. “I think it would be a good gift for them, too.”

By Connor Garel    11/13/2019


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If Losing Your Job To The Pandemic Destroyed Your Identity, Here’s How To Find It

        “If I’m not (insert job title here), then who am I?”

This is the type of question some adults are asking themselves as they struggle through the darkness of losing a job to the pandemic.

Some never realized how tied their identities were to their careers until they lost them. They feel lost mentally and emotionally, as if they’re experiencing a bad breakup. The present is surreal, the future is uncertain, and they’re unsure how to define themselves.

Christa Black, a freelance copywriter from Ashland, Kentucky, said her work shaped her identity.

“I finally felt like a ‘real’ writer, because after several years of trying, I was actually being paid to do what I enjoyed and was good at,” she said. “I started to feel less like an artist and more like ‘a professional.'”

But when the pandemic hit, the work faded away. Black’s income decreased to little to none. She soon felt that she had lost her identity, that she was no longer a professional and that she didn’t fit in with the creative community from which she had come.

That might be because sudden unemployment is a threat to “narrative identity,” said Jonathan Adler, a professor of psychology who specializes in identity and narrative psychology at the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts.

“Identity is the story of our lives that weaves together the way we reconstruct our past, make sense of the present and anticipate our future,” he said.

That narrative identity is the confluence of you and the culture in which you live. We grow up in a sea of stories about what a typical life’s journey looks like and what moments we’re supposed to hold onto, Adler said, so we take the templates available to us and tailor our experiences to those master narratives.

“We use our stories as the foundation for everything else that we do,” Adler said. “So when you rock the foundation, everything else on top of that crumbles.”

Through some inner work, however, you can take back your worth.

How our identities influence our jobs

For some, jobs provide merely a paycheck. For others, occupations also supply a sense of meaning that holds weight when they think about their sense of selves.

Our perpetually “on the grind” culture defines who we are by what we do for work.

“The first thing we ask when we meet a new person is, ‘What do you do for a living?'” said Nicole Hind, an Australia-based psychotherapist behind the online community, blog and practice Unveiled Stories.

“It’s as though we equate ‘goodness’ with ‘work’ when in fact goodness is so much more than that. It’s important to note that this is particular to our modern industrialized society: the idea that work is all of who we are and that we are not worthy humans if we don’t work.”

Additionally, people who feel motivated and engaged by and passionate about their work might have experienced psychological benefits from finding their calling, Adler said.

In the idealized college-job-promotion-passion trajectory, becoming unemployed isn’t part of the vision. “All of a sudden the end is totally open and uncertain,” Adler said.

Our narrative identities serve two additional functions that make us feel good. They provide a sense of unity, so that we feel we are the same people over time. They also provide a sense of purpose, so we know the meaning of what we’re doing and what our lives are about.

People suddenly faced with job loss are now challenged by a story with a cliffhanger and interrupted senses of unity and purpose — all of which can lead to anxiety, depression and anger.

 

mirror

What to do about it

Finding your identity begins with questioning yourself about three themes that construct life stories and tend to be the strongest predictors of well-being, Adler said.

“It’s not so much what happens to you [that matters]; it’s how you tell the story of what happens to you,” Adler said.

The first is agency, a characteristic of the main character in your story (which is you). Maybe your effectiveness at your job provided your sense of agency. Though no one is in complete control, how much are you in the driver’s seat of your life versus batted around by the whims of external forces?

Give yourself the space to grieve the losses, Hind instructed.

Don’t rush into proclaiming why you’re stronger because of it. Instead, acknowledge what you’re feeling physically, emotionally and mentally. Recall positive moments, too: the times when you advocated for what you believed in or hit a goal.

Summer internships have dried up because of the pandemic. Here’s how to get ahead without one

“People who do what’s called exploratory processing — which means deeply trying to make sense of their experience before creating a redemption sequence at the end — actually do better than the people who just do redemption without exploring the challenge,” Adler said.

Then find something else to prioritize, like a new venture or hobby. Revisit your core values and what really matters: What parts of your job were important to you? What fueled your passion? How can you express those during this period?

You can stay invested in those values whether you’re employed or not, Adler said.

For example, Black, the freelance copywriter, has found her roots again in creative writing. “It has helped me get back in touch with my creativity and given me something enjoyable to focus on while I emotionally recover from everything that came along with the pandemic and its fallout,” she said.

In this way, the underlying value of her job might be fulfilled.

Figure out your own definition of success, Hind said. What do you admire about your role models? Is it their “success” or their skills, compassion, kindness or wisdom?

And our stories aren’t just about ourselves. Communion, secondly, entails a sense of being connected to, nurturing and feeling cared for by quality relationships. Engage with the connections that matter to you.

“Step away from ‘job’ as being the only and step towards appreciating [yourself] and others for everything: the way you take care of someone or the meal you cooked today,” Hind said. “What [do] my everyday life, my interactions and my values say about who I am?”

Taking action and finding community foster the growth leading to redemption — stories that start out bad but end well.

“There’s a lot of research on the theme of redemption. It’s sort of a classic American master narrative,” Adler said. “We have the Puritan settlers finding freedom. We have ex-slaves’ narratives about liberation. We have the rags to riches stories.”

The outcome of finding yourself

Reclaiming your identity requires both a quick shift in mindset and a journey of changing your thought patterns and behaviors — just like setting an intention to lose weight, Adler said.

“That’s something that takes place over time, but it actually happens every moment of every day. You can’t just diet and exercise on the weekends,” he explained. “Changing your narrative identity is like that — it’s a cumulative process that builds up over time, but the intention … is something you do in the here and now every day.”

When we’re focused only on work as a measure of success and what defines us, we lose touch with many other areas, Hind said.

We might devalue our contributions to our families or forget to be present with them, ourselves, pets and other sources of joy. We say we “don’t have time” for leisure and then wonder why we’re so anxious all the time or need a drink to unwind. Then we wonder why we’re unhappy, Hind said.
Just as a threatened identity might have upended every area of your life, a solid identity can also flow into different domains and increase your confidence.

By Kristen Rogers       June 18, 2020
source: www.cnn.com


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Long-Term Social Distancing May Be Traumatic. Here Is What To Expect And What To Do

Passover, Easter and Ramadan are occasions that typically bring families together to pray, reflect and celebrate – fellowship needed, perhaps, now more than ever – will look different this year as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The loss of those traditions is added to a growing list of losses that North Americans are facing as they endure at least another month of social distancing and with it an extended departure from routines, habits, social circles and normalcy.

The protracted disruption to life as it was, mental health experts say, could bring feelings of anger, depression, anxiety and even grief.

“There is literal grief like losing loved ones,” said Dr. Vaile Wright, the American Psychology Association’s director of clinical research. “But there is a grief of experiences that we are losing right now. There can feel like there is a lot of loss right now, a loss of freedom, a lot of things we took for granted.”

The next few months may take a toll on the nation’s mental health, experts say, but it is possible to mitigate the stress.

North Americans’ collective trauma

Extended isolation and stress from the pandemic can affect everyone differently, said Dr. Dana Garfin, a health psychologist.

It could put strain on families, send children home to abusive situations, make those living alone feel isolated and threaten people’s sense of purpose by keeping them from work, Garfin said.

And those experiencing financial insecurity in the midst of the pandemic have an added stress that is difficult to resolve, said Dr. Baruch Fischhoff, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University.

Despite those differences, the experience of staying home together through a pandemic can be considered a collective trauma, said Garfin, who studies collective traumas such as hurricanes, terrorist attacks and earthquakes.

Collective traumas start at some point of impact and then ripple out to loved ones of the afflicted, witnesses to the devastation and people whose lives are disrupted.

In this case, many Americans fall into one or more of those categories. People in quarantine show signs of confusion, depression and anger, Garfin said.

“We necessarily run much of our lives by habit,” said Fischhoff. “We know what we have for breakfast, we know how to prepare the kids for school, and that enables us to get through the day reasonably well.”

But now that many North Americans aren’t waking up and going to school and work, it can be difficult to know how to restructure even the most rote daily habits that won’t be coming back for weeks yet.

What life might look like on the other side of coronavirus

How long the pandemic and the isolation continue will dictate how severe the effects are on people’s mental health, Garfin said.

Prolonged exposure to the traumas of coronavirus can activate the fight or flight response, which over time can cause cardiovascular problems, anxiety, depression and PTSD, Garfin said. And the extended isolation can contribute to fear, anxiety, headaches, muscle tension and difficulty concentrating, said Wright.

For some groups, like health care workers, those in the media and people in newly deemed “essential jobs,” the end result may be guilt, grief and PTSD, said Wright.

But, Wright and Garfin agreed, humans are resilient.

Some may forget everything they just went through and go back to their daily lives when it is all over, Wright said, but many can come out of this with stronger relationships and a better perspective on what is important.

How to get through it

The future is uncertain, but life will be different for at least the next month and that knowledge can be the first step to making this new, temporary reality as good as it can be.

Now that it is clear the change is for more than a couple of weeks, it is important to create a new routine – one that includes showering, getting dressed and maintaining family meals — not treating the time as an extended snow day or spring vacation, Wright said.

There is an opportunity for people to develop new habits around the disruption, which can relieve the stress of feeling like starting from scratch every day, Fischhoff said.

And all three say it is important to use social media to be social, not to feed the anxiety that conflicting coronavirus information on the platform stokes.

They also agree that this experience is difficult, and it is important to acknowledge that and not be too critical of what one could have done before or could be doing now.

“I think that we need to recognize that this is totally unprecedented, and we really are just doing the best we can – and that’s OK,” Wright said. And for people doing the best they can but struggling to work, study or care for their families, virtual mental health resources may be a crucial next step.

And for those who are lonely and isolated, Garfin suggests reframing for a feeling of community within that experience.

“We aren’t in our houses alone, we are doing something for each other for our community,” Garfin said. “It’s a shared effort, something that we are all a part of and something we are all contributing to.”
“It’s going to be difficult, but it’s not permanent.”

 

By Madeline Holcombe, CNN       Thu April 9, 2020
source: www.cnn.com
plan

Take A Breath:
How The Simple Act Of Meditative Breathing
Helps Us Cope

A global pandemic causes so much worry, concern and fear. There’s the pressure of suddenly being a homeschooling parent and trying to create structure around newfound chaos in your home.

A lot of us are adjusting to working from home, all while tending to worries about the state of the world. Maybe you fret over the health of aging parents or feel anxious over the ever-changing news cycle.

Psychological stress can damper your overall health, affecting your ability to remain resilient in the face of challenges. It can also thwart a strong immune system, which is needed to keep from getting sick.

“Living through a pandemic can be scary,” said CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta in the March 18 episode of CNN’s “Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction” podcast.

The good news: Meditation is one tool that can help our immune systems functioning optimally, according to a recent study.

One of the easiest ways to reduce stress is by simply focusing your attention on your breath, according to Harvard Medical School, since it’s a form of beginner level meditation that anyone can do.

Alternative medicine advocate Dr. Deepak Chopra, in Dr. Gupta’s podcast episode titled “Pandemic Panic,” walks us through how to do a breathing meditation to ease our stress, thus calming our minds.

Breathing through the stress of a pandemic

According to Harvard Medical School, breathing meditation requires either sitting comfortably, standing or walking in a setting with minimal distractions. Many people prefer to sit.

If you’re sitting, focus first on your posture: You should sit with your spine erect.

As you become aware of the space you’re in and sit comfortably, observe your breath without manipulating it for a few seconds, Chopra suggests.

Then, slow your breath down by inhaling deeply to the count of six.

Pause for two seconds.

Exhale to the count of four. Then repeat this six-two-four breathing method for two minutes.

“Then, when you’re done with that, bring your awareness into your body and wherever there seems to be any discomfort, just bring the awareness there without manipulating it,” Chopra said. “Awareness by itself heals. Awareness without conceptual intervention restores self-regulation.”

“The goal is really to breathe from your diaphragm,” as opposed to shallow breaths from your chest, said Vaile Wright, a psychologist and director of clinical research and quality at the American Psychological Association.

“And the way to know whether you’re doing that or not, or a trick at least, is to place your hand just below your ribs on your stomach.” When you inhale you should feel your body expanding, then contracting when you inhale.

If the initial peace is interrupted by your thoughts, the meditation isn’t a failure. Though breathing meditations are simple to begin with, they can take practice before you’re able to maintain focus for an extended period of time, Wright said. Just acknowledge the thought and try to let it go.

You don’t have to concentrate on any format, but some people find that adding some sort of mantra or visualization to it helps, Wright said.

“For example, when you’re breathing in, telling yourself [in your head that] you’re breathing in love. When you’re exhaling, telling yourself you’re exhaling anxiety. Or, breathing in positive energy, exhaling negative energy or visualizing negative energy coming out of your mouth and out of your body.”

Chopra starts his day with three or four intentions: “I’m going to maintain a joyful, energetic body today; a loving and compassionate heart today; a reflective and quiet and creative and centered mind today; and lightness of being and laughter today, whatever it takes.”

By doing these intentions, you can start to feel better, he said.

Modern technology offers up apps and smart watches that can help guide you through a meditation if you have trouble staying focused.

“Slow your breath, your thoughts will slow down as well,” Chopra said.

breathe
try this for 2 – 5 minutes

Benefits for your overall health

Breathing meditations can contribute to a state of mindfulness by bringing your focus to one thing and only thing only – your breath, Wright said.

“The goal of that is to draw your attention away from maybe worry thoughts you’re having or sort of the catastrophic thoughts or maybe depressing thoughts about feeling alone,” she added. When you’re focusing, those thoughts can be pushed aside, helping you to control your emotions.

Mindfulness has been found to influence two stress pathways in the brain, altering brain structure and activity in regions that regulate attention and emotion, according to the American Psychological Association.

In a 2015 review of studies on the effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), researchers found that people who received this therapy were less likely to respond to stressful situations with negative thoughts or unhelpful emotional reactions.

Those participants were also more likely to focus on the present moment and less likely to experience ruminating thoughts.

Breathing meditations can also reduce muscle tension and your heart rate, which are signs of stress, Wright said.

Carrying yourself through a hard time

Breathing meditations are another tool you can add to your coping toolkit, which may also include journaling, baking or virtually connecting with others.

“What’s great about breathing is you can do it anywhere,” Wright said. “If music is your way of relaxing, what happens when you don’t have access to it? You always have access to your breathing, so in that sense [breathing meditations] are really portable and very accessible. We really need a variety of different coping skills in order to get through particularly unprecedented situations like this one.”

Mindfulness may not make everything go away, Wright said, but it can bring you to a “calmer state so that you’re better able to deal with all the stress that’s going on.”

By Kristen Rogers, CNN      Fri March 27, 2020
source: www.cnn.com


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20 Small But Substantial Ways You Can Use Pandemic Isolation to Emotionally Grow

Has anyone else been thinking lately about the endless ways that life can challenge us? Because I sure have. Whatever negative events you may have imagined happening in your future, the coronavirus pandemic was probably not one of them.

It seems that the current state of our world, replete as it is with quarantines, stay-at-home orders, closed businesses, lost projects, and social distancing leaves probably about 90% or more people feeling alone, uncertain and lost.

As a psychologist who specializes in the effects of Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN on adults, I can tell you that scores of people have brought a big dose of those 3 feelings forward from their childhoods and have been coping with them for years. And now, in this current situation, we are now handed an extra dose of them plus a whole lot more.

Whether you grew up in a family that ignored the emotions of its members (CEN) or not: If you are stuck at home, feeling stressed, lost, confused, terrified, alone, helpless or hopeless, sad, worried, or angry, I want you to know that there is a way to turn this around for yourself.

The Importance of Control in an Uncontrollable Time

Much of this situation is truly out of your control, but not all of it. It is possible to reframe your current situation into an opportunity. An opportunity to do things you were never able to do because of time, stress, and all the life demands that you’ve always been juggling.

I believe you can survive the challenges of this pandemic. But I want you to do better than survive. I want you to keep on growing in surprising ways. I want you to thrive.

Not all of the ideas I’m going to offer below seem psychological, but believe me, they are. Each has the potential to greatly impact your emotional health now, and also continue once this pandemic eases up. They will all return you to your regular life as an improved version of your current self.

20 Ideas to Help You Survive & Thrive Through the Epidemic

  1. Declutter your house. Is your clutter getting out of control because of your busy life? Use this time to get organized. Go through the papers and unnecessary objects in your house and sort it and get rid of some detritus. It will feel so good. It’s you taking control in an uncontrollable situation.
  2. Learn a new language. It has so many benefits. It not only improves your brain, but it also connects you to a different culture and that is a good thing in today’s world.
  3. Write. Writing, no matter what kind you do taps into an expressive, thoughtful part of your inner self. Have you had an idea for a novel or a memoir? Is there a part of your life that you would like to remember? Some unprocessed painful memory? Write about it.
  4. Clean the small spaces in your home. You know those little corners behind furniture, under furniture, window sills or the tops of windows and doors? Now is a great chance to attack those. You’ll feel so good about it.
  5. Improve your cooking. Cooking is a form of creativity and it’s also a way to practice self-care.
  6. Explore new music. It’s easy to fall into a rut of listening to the same artists or styles over and over. Get yourself out of it and try something new.
  7. Sharpen a music interest or talent. Always wanted to learn the guitar or how to sing in tune? Now’s your time.
  8. Improve your relationship with an important person. This might be anyone who you’ve always wanted to have a better relationship with. Amazing progress can be made when you have the time and energy to focus on it.
  9. Become more familiar with your emotions. This would benefit almost every human alive today. Why? Because your feelings are amazing tools that you could be harnessing better than you probably are to assist you in self-knowledge, self-expression, and decision-making. This is also one of the steps of healing Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN.
  10. Practice and learn meditation and mindfulness. This will help you find your center better and control your own brain, both of which are helpful when dealing with stressful situations.
  11. Make a list of the strengths that got you through previous life setbacks. I know you have some. Being aware of them allows you to consciously call upon them when you need them.
  12. Be grateful every morning when you wake up healthy and alive. Be grateful for the lives and health of your loved ones. Gratitude has been found to be a major contributor to life happiness. No matter what is going on around you, there are, without a doubt, some genuine things you should still be thankful for.
  13. Think of a goal that’s achievable now that could not have occurred to you in the pre-Covid world. This might be anything positive and healthy.
  14. Reach out to someone you cared about before but lost track of due to hectic life. An old childhood friend, a cousin, aunt or uncle, or a college buddy. Reconnection is enriching and enlivening.
  15. Practice or learn a new skill that applies to your career. Take an online course or read a book. Or simply practice what you already know to get better at it.
  16. Choose an intimidating exercise you can do at home and do it every day. For example, 10 push-ups or pull-ups/day. Tailor it to your own body and abilities.
  17. Give. Find a way to help in person or online and offer to help them. Like gratitude, research shows that helping others makes a person happier.
  18. Let your mind wander. There is a great shortage of this simple pleasure in today’s world. Just sit. Ponder. Let your mind go. It’s good for you, I promise.
  19. Read a challenging book. This could be any book you’ve wanted to read but haven’t had the time or energy for.
  20. Reach out to someone you wronged in the past and apologize. Virtually everyone has a nagging sense of guilt about having behaved in some negative or harmful way in the past, even if unintentional. This is your opportunity to wipe your guilt away by offering an explanation or apology. Or, if you cannot reach out to the person, think it through, learn a lesson from it, and put it behind you.

The way you are feeling now as an adult mimics, in many ways, the feelings of an emotionally neglected child. Lost, alone and uncertain, you wonder what comes next.

But now you know that the answer to that is in large part up to you. You can use this painful time to improve yourself and become stronger for whatever your future holds.

What feeds your self-respect, self-like and self-love more than watching yourself take the lemons the world is handing you and turn them into lemonade?

There is no stronger sign of emotional health than resilience. And growing yourself in any one of these impactful ways during a global crisis rife with setbacks is definitely a sign of just that.

Stay healthy and safe.

By Jonice Webb PhD         29 Mar 2020
Better-Mental-Health

For Mental Well-Being, Live in Moment But Plan For Future

People who manage to balance living in the moment with planning for the future are best able to weather daily stress without succumbing to negative moods, according to a new study by researchers from North Carolina (NC) State University.

“It’s well established that daily stressors can make us more likely to have negative affect, or bad moods,” said Dr. Shevaun Neupert, a professor of psychology at NC State and corresponding author of a paper on the recent work. “Our work here sheds additional light on which variables influence how we respond to daily stress.”

In particular, the research team looked at two factors that are believed to influence how we handle stress: mindfulness and proactive coping.

Mindfulness is defined as a mental state in which a person is centered and living in the moment, rather than dwelling in the past or stressing about the future. Proactive coping is when people engage in planning ahead to lower the risk of future stress.

To better understand how these factors influence responses to stress, the research team looked at data from 223 study participants. The study included 116 individuals between the ages of 60 and 90, and 107 people between the ages of 18 and 36. All of the study participants were in the United States.

All of the study participants were asked to complete an initial survey in order to determine their tendency to engage in proactive coping. They were then asked to fill out questionnaires for eight consecutive days that assessed fluctuations in mindfulness. On those eight days, participants were also asked to report daily stressors and the extent to which they had experienced negative moods.

The research team found that engaging in proactive coping was beneficial at limiting the effect of daily stressors, but that this advantage essentially disappeared on days when a participant reported low mindfulness.

“Our results show that a combination of proactive coping and high mindfulness result in study participants of all ages being more resilient against daily stressors,” Neupert said. “Basically, we found that proactive planning and mindfulness account for about a quarter of the variance in how stressors influenced negative affect.

“Interventions targeting daily fluctuations in mindfulness may be especially helpful for those who are high in proactive coping and may be more inclined to think ahead to the future at the expense of remaining in the present.”

Several studies have shown the benefits of mindfulness in daily stress reduction, as well as in reducing cognitive impairment in older adults, helping people in high-risk jobs and those struggling with drug addiction.

The new findings underscore the importance of daily mindfulness coupled with adequately planning ahead for the future, as these may help a person stay in a positive mindset and not succumb to high stress levels or negative moods.

The new paper is published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. First author of the paper is Melody Polk, an undergraduate at NC State. The paper was co-authored by Emily Smith and Ling-Rui Zhang, graduate students at NC State. The work was done with support from North Carolina State’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

By Traci Pedersen
Associate News Editor     29 Mar 2020
Source: North Carolina State University


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5 Strategic Ways To Build Your Self-Confidence (That Make You Stronger & More Resilient)

Grow your inner strength.

What is inner strength?
Having inner strength allows you pursue your dreams and goals and live your life to the fullest.
A person with inner strength:
  • Loves themselves (feels deeply their value, lovableness and loves their body, mind, and spirit).
  • Can bend with change and embrace it.
  • Can say ‘no’ when it feels right without regret second-guessing.
  • Knows who they are — what they like and what they don’t — and how they feel.
  • Can ask for help when they need it.
  • Is open to learning and is curious.

How do we get inner strength? The answer: Learning how to build our self-confidence.
Here are 5 ways to build self-confidence that can help you flourish:

1. Knowing what you feel.

This is primary — essential to knowing, loving yourself, and having a strong core. Pay attention to the area below your head! The information about how you feel is in your body. What sensations are in our chest and your belly? Are you tense, jittery, or nauseous? Ask yourself, “What sensation do I feel in my body?”
Then, try this exercise: Identify which feeling that physical sensation is connected to — are you mad, sad, glad, scared, or some derivative of one or more of those? Once you can identify a feeling, you find out if you accept or reject that feeling. (“I don’t like it that I’m still sad about my breakup. I should be over that by now! It’s been 5 years.”)

Having inner strength means embracing all your feelings as good because they’re part of you and you’re amazing! Feelings aren’t bad, they just are. Think of it this way: Little kids don’t stuff their feelings nor censor them. When they’re really sad, they cry. When they’re happy, they run around yelling with joy. They don’t worry what others think — and you shouldn’t judge your emotions, either!

2. Having boundaries.

So you can identify how you feel! Awesome! You start to know yourself and begin growing a strong core. Once you learn how you feel, you can create boundaries — saying ‘no’ when you don’t want to do something.
Some folks say “yes” to everything, partly because they think more people will like them and they’ll get some of that good-feeling-about-themselves aimed in their direction. They get stuck in “my value has to come from outside me”. They’re not loving who they are.

We all need outside affirmation as we’re growing up (we’re mammals — we’re relational). But if we get good enough parenting (not perfect, says the research), we grow a strong inner core that says we’re wonderful. We feel solid and happy with ourselves.

When you feel good about yourself, it’s not as hard to say “no” when something doesn’t feel right. Being able to set a good firm boundary comes from a strong inner core. You don’t worry about being rejected. You want to speak your truth.

3. Bend with challenges.

Life brings us challenges — sometimes unexpected, maybe painful. Can we bend with them, can we go with the flow and let ourselves move with, feel the feelings, and adapt to what’s happening without breaking?
These times are amazing opportunities for growth. We get stretched, maybe going beyond what we have imagined we can endure. But as we move through a challenge, even getting help along the way, we discover that we have an amazing resilience. We expand our capacities. We grow more inner strength.

4. Be open to learning and asking for help.

When someone is open to learning they are saying, “I’m not threatened that you know something I don’t, I’m curious. Tell me so I can discover that too and enrich my life. And while we’re at it, I will validate you by listening and absorbing what you know.”

When you’re stuck and don’t know how to make yourself feel better or create something in your life, can you ask for help?

Some folks feel that they need to do everything themselves. It’s a sign of weakness to ask for help. But if you are good with you, you won’t have a problem reaching out and finding that person or source who can add wonderful things to your life.

5. Answer this question: Do you love yourself?

Are you good loving friends with your body? Do you love your body as it is? Do you ask your body what food it wants to eat, what exercise feels good, and what rest does it needs? Or do you ignore what your body is telling you? Do you stay disconnected from the messages it speaks to you?

Life becomes so much more fun and easier when we have a loving relationship with our body. Look at how far your body has taken you up to now! And still truckin’! When we make friends with our body and appreciate it, our body responds in kind and we feel happier. This helps grow inner strength.

Do you love your mind? Or are you at war with your own thoughts? Do your thoughts race around in endless cycles of negativity? Do you hate it or can you calm your thoughts and find peace? Knowing how to relax your head, to accept that sometimes our mind needs tender loving care too, goes a long way to supporting your inner core.
And do you have a spiritual connection that feels awesome? Many people gain much strength from their relationship with the spirit or whatever it is that feels right to them. This is an amazing source of inner strength that helps create calm and loving and accepting you as you.

Having a strong inner core is possible!

Sometimes it takes a little work, but it’s completely doable. And that moment when you arrive and you realize that you’re amazing, you’re loving yourself, you’re at peace, you have the energy and passion to pursue your goals.
You can be on fire with loving life and be so glad you are here!

Ann Naimark an MFT who incorporates spirituality into her work. For 25 years, she has led groups, held workshops, and treated individuals and couples to help them focus and integrate their mind, body, emotions, and spirit so they can fully live with purpose, joy, balance, and peace.
Ann Naimark    April 18, 2018
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Building Confidence and Self-Esteem

17 simple suggestions for building confidence and self-esteem.

Low self-esteem can be deeply rooted, with origins in traumatic childhood experiences such as prolonged separation from parent figures, neglect, or emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. In later life, self-esteem can be undermined by ill health, negative life events such as losing a job or getting divorced, deficient or frustrating relationships, and a general sense of lack of control. This sense of lack of control may be especially marked in victims of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or victims of discrimination on the grounds of religion, culture, race, sex, or sexual orientation.

The relationship between low self-esteem and mental disorder and mental distress is very complex. Low self-esteem predisposes to mental disorder, which in turn knocks self-esteem. In some cases, low self-esteem is in itself a cardinal feature of mental disorder, as, for example, in depression or borderline personality disorder.

People with low self-esteem tend to see the world as a hostile place and themselves as its victim. As a result, they are reluctant to express and assert themselves, miss out on experiences and opportunities, and feel powerless to change things. All this lowers their self-esteem still further, sucking them into a downward spiral.

If you feel that you suffer from poor self-esteem, there are a number of simple things that you can do to boost yourself and, hopefully, break out of the downward spiral. You may already be doing some of these things, and you certainly don’t need to be doing them all. Just do those that you feel most comfortable with.

1. Make two lists: one of your strengths and one of your achievements. Try to get a supportive friend or relative to help you with these lists, as people with low self-esteem are not usually in the most objective frame of mind. Keep the lists in a safe place and read through them every morning.

2. Think positively about yourself. Remind yourself that, despite your problems, you are a unique, special, and valuable person, and that you deserve to feel good about yourself. You are, after all, a miracle of consciousness, the consciousness of the universe. Identify and challenge any negative thoughts about yourself such as ‘I am loser’, ‘I never do anything right’, or ‘No one really likes me’.

3. Pay special attention to your personal hygiene: take a shower, brush your hair, trim your nails, and so on.

4. Wear clean clothes that make you feel good about yourself. All things being equal, wear an ironed shirt rather than a crumpled T-shirt, you get the idea.

5. Eat good food as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Make meals a special time, even if you are eating alone. Turn off the TV, set the table, light a candle, and make a moment to feel grateful.

6. Exercise regularly. Go for a brisk walk every day, even if it is cold or rainy, and take more vigorous exercise (exercise that makes you sweat) three times a week.

7. Ensure that you’re getting enough sleep.

8. Reduce your stress levels. If possible, agree with a friend or relative that you will take turns to massage each other on a regular basis. For other suggestions, see my article Managing Stress.

9. Make your living space clean, comfortable, and attractive. Whenever I clean my windows or just water my plants I seem to feel much better. Display items that remind you of your achievements and the special times and people in your life.

10. Do more of the things that you enjoy. Go ahead and spoil yourself. Do at least one thing that you enjoy every day.

11. Get artistic. Activities like painting, music, poetry, and dance enable you to express yourself, interact positively with others, and reduce your stress levels. You might even impress yourself! Find a class through your local adult education service or community centre.

12. Set yourself a challenge that you can realistically complete. For example, take up yoga, learn to sing, or throw a small dinner party for some friends. Just go for it!

13. Do some of the things that you have been putting off, such as filing the paperwork, repainting the kitchen, or clearing out the garden.

14. Be nice to people, and do nice things for them. For instance, strike up a conversation with the postman or shopkeeper, invite a neighbor round for tea, visit a friend who is sick, or get involved with a local charity. Putting a smile on someone’s face is bound to put one on yours.

15. Get others on board. Tell your friends and relatives what you are going through and ask for their advice and support. Perhaps they too have similar problems, in which case you might be able to band together and form a support group. Don’t be overly shy or reserved: most people do want to help!

16. Spend more time with those you hold near and dear. At the same time, try to enlarge your social circle by making an effort to meet and befriend people.

17. Avoid people and places that treat you badly or make you feel bad about yourself. This could mean being more assertive. If assertiveness is a problem for you, ask a health professional about assertiveness training.

Finally, remember those wise words of Lao Tzu:  

Health is the greatest possession.  

Contentment is the greatest treasure. 

Confidence is the greatest friend.

 

Neel Burton       May 30, 2012


Neel Burton is author of Hypersanity: Thinking Beyond Thinking, Hide and Seek: The Psychology of Self-Deception, Heaven and Hell: The Psychology of the Emotions, and other books.

About the Author
Neel Burton, M.D., is a psychiatrist, philosopher, and writer who lives and teaches in Oxford, England.
In Print: Hypersanity: Thinking Beyond Thinking
Online: neelburton.com


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15 Healthy Choices To Help You Be Your Best Self

How Many Of These Healthy Habits Have You Incorporated Into Your Lifestyle?

Take the Stairs
instead of the elevator
 
Find Something Active You Enjoy
and stay active
 
Read Labels
and be on guard for less than healthy ingredients
 
and add more fiber to your diet
 
Minimize Sugar
where possible
 
Minimize Salt
when you can
 
best
 
 
Minimize GMOS
as often as possible
 
Minimize Pesticides
that can be prevalant in many of our foods
 
that can cause problems in your body

Eat Mostly Plants & Fish
to maximize better health
 
Drink Plenty of Water
to stay hydrated

Spice Things Up
for greater health benefits

and not your own worst enemy
 

Get Enough Quality Sleep
for energy, clarity and to help your body heal
 
Cultivate Resiliency
and arm yourself for future challenges
     Pete Szekely


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Embracing Change and Impermanence

 

“Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.”
~Karen Kaiser Clark

Life can be a persistent teacher.

When we fail to learn life’s lessons the first time around, life has a way of repeating them to foster understanding.

Over the last few years, my life was shaken up by dramatic circumstances. I resisted the impermanence of these events in my life and struggled with embracing change. When I resisted the lessons that change brought, a roller coaster of changes continued to materialize.

When I was seventeen years old, my immigrant parents’ small import-export business failed.  From a comfortable life in Northern California, they uprooted themselves and my two younger brothers and moved back to Asia.

The move was sudden and unexpected, catching us all by surprise. I was in my last months of high school, so I remained in California with a family friend to finish my degree.

I spent the summer abroad with my family, and then relocated to Southern California to start college upon my return. Alone in a new environment, I found myself without many friends or family members close by.

Life was moving much faster than I was able to handle, and I was shell-shocked by my family’s sudden move, my new surroundings, and college. Their relocation and college brought dramatic changes, along with fear, loneliness, and anxiety.

I felt overwhelmed by my new university campus and its vastness; alone, even though I sat in classes of 300 students; and challenged by the responsibilities of independence and adulthood.

Everything I had known had changed in a very short period of time. I tried to cope the best I could, but I resisted the changes by isolating myself even more from my new university and surroundings. It was the first and only time in my life I had contemplated suicide.

Several years after college, having achieved my career goals in the legal field, I started a legal services business. I helped immigrants, refugees, and people escaping persecution who’d come to the U.S. to navigate the hurdles to residency and citizenship.

I invested money, time, and my being into my law office. Not only was I preoccupied with the dire legal situations of my clients, but I also confronted the ups and downs of running a business.

Starting and running a new company is not easy, and mine was losing more money every month. While I found the nearly three-year venture immensely gratifying because of the lives I was able to help, it was time for me to move on.

It was a difficult decision, because I thought I’d found my career path. My life became engulfed with changes once again as I tried to close the doors to my office, close my clients’ cases, pay off my debt, and seek employment.

In between university and my business venture, I married a beautiful, gifted girl in India after an international romance. We were married for ten years and endured many of life’s personal and professional ups and downs together. Despite our problems, we both struggled to keep our marriage together.

When the tears dried, the counseling sessions did more harm than good, and our communication ended, we separated and then divorced last year. The ending of our marriage felt like the shattering of an exquisite glass vase into a million pieces.

I met the closure of our marriage first with strong resistance and then with profound sadness and loss. How could something that I valued so much and believed to be forever, cease to exist?

As much as I fought back and resisted each of these events in my life, I’ve since learned to embrace the impermanency of my life and the changes that come my way.

 

resilliance

 

Here are lessons life has taught me on embracing change:

1. Reduce expectations.
In each of my life’s circumstances, I had high expectations for my family, my business, and my marriage. I had expected each to remain constant and to last forever. But I’ve learned that nothing lasts forever. Nothing.

You can have reasonable expectations of how you’d like something to turn out, but you can’t marry yourself to that result. Reducing or having no expectations about a relationship, a business, or a situation can help you accept whatever may come from it.

When you set reasonable expectations, and don’t expect or demand a particular outcome, you’re better able to manage any changes that do come your way. Unreasonable expectations of life, however, will likely be met with loss, disappointment, and pain.

2. Acknowledge change.
For the longest time, I refused to believe that change was in the realm of possibility in a situation. I’ve since learned that change can happen quickly and at any point.

Be aware that change can happen in your life. This means understanding that things can and will be different from how they are now. Acknowledging change is allowing it to happen when it unfolds instead of approaching change from a place of denial and resistance.

3. Accept change.
I desperately tried to prevent and stop change from happening in my business and marriage by trying to forge ahead even in futile situations.

Instead of resisting, allow change to unfold and try to understand what’s transforming and why.

Circumstances will not turn out the way you want them to, and it’s perfectly all right. Embracing the situation can help you deal with the change effectively, make the necessary shifts in your life to embrace the change, and help you move forward after the event.

4. Learn from the experience.
If you accept and embrace change, you will start looking for and finding lessons in it.

When dramatic changes were happening in my life, I refused to acknowledge them at first, so change left me distraught and without meaning. Once I reflected back and finally accepted the changes, the lessons I started absorbing were profound.

Change becomes your greatest teacher, but only if you give yourself permission to learn from it.

5. Recognize you’re growing stronger.
When you accept, embrace, and learn from change, you inevitably grow stronger. The ability to continuously accept change allows you to become as solid as a rock in the midst of violent storms all around you—even if you feel afraid.

6. Embrace the wisdom.
The more I permitted change and impermanence in my life, the more I grew as a person. Embracing change has brought newfound strength into my life and surprisingly, more inner peace.

When you proactively embrace change and learn to accept it as a part of life, you are filled with more calmness, peace, and courage. When life fails to shake you up with its twists and turns, you realize that changes can’t break you.

You’ve reached a level of understanding in life that some might even call wisdom.

While by no means have I reached that place called wisdom, I’m working through my aversions to change. I now openly welcome and embrace it.

When we can accept change, learn from it, and become all the better for experiencing it, change is no longer our enemy. It becomes our teacher.

About  the author Vishnu
Vishnu is a writer and coach who helps people overcome breakups to rebuild their lives and live with purpose.  


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10 Ideas to Help With Loneliness

Have you ever been lonely in a crowd? Have you ever been perfectly content all alone? Me too. And I have also suffered from loneliness.

Loneliness is a complex mental and emotional phenomenon that has at its base a powerful emotion that has survival value for children. All of us have experienced some degree of abandonment, if only for a short time, and remember the painful and scary feeling that goes along with it.

Whenever we are reminded of this feeling or anticipate it in the future, we get a twinge of abandonment distress that we experience as loneliness. This can happen among a crowd of friends or even after making love. It can be pretty confusing and can put you off your game if you don’t know what’s going on.

Here are some tips for recognizing loneliness for what it is and dealing with it in the healthiest ways.

1. Realize that loneliness is a feeling, not a fact. When you are feeling lonely, it is because something has triggered a memory of that feeling, not because you are in fact, isolated and alone. The brain is designed to pay attention to pain and danger, and that includes painful scary feelings; therefore loneliness gets our attention.

But then the brain tries to make sense of the feeling. Why am I feeling this way? Is it because nobody loves me? Because I am a loser? Because they are all mean? Theories about why you are feeling lonely can become confused with facts. Then it becomes a bigger problem so just realize that you are having this feeling and accept it without over reacting.

2. Reach out because loneliness is painful and can confuse you into thinking that you are a loser, an outcast. You might react by withdrawing into yourself, your thoughts, and your lonely feelings and this is not helpful. At its best, anticipation of loneliness might motivate us to reach out and cultivate friendships, which is the healthiest thing to do if you are sad and alone. When you are a child, and your sadness causes you to cry, you may evoke a comforting response from others. If you’re an adult, not so much.

3. Notice your self deflating thoughts.  We often create self centered stories to explain our feelings when we are young, it is not unusual for children to assume that there is something wrong with them if they are not happy. If they are lonely and sad, children may assume other people don’t like them when this is rarely the case.

Victims of bullying may well have fans and friends, but they often aren’t aware of it because the shame and loneliness get more attention. Habitual assumptions about social status continue into adulthood and if you are looking for evidence that the world sucks, you can always find it.

4. Make a plan to fight the mental and emotional habits of loneliness. If you realize you are dealing with an emotional habit, you can make a plan to deal with loneliness. Since healthy interaction with friends is good, make some effort to reach out to others, to initiate conversation and face time even when your loneliness and depression are telling you not to. Yes, it is work, but it is worthwhile, just like exercising is worthwhile even when you are feeling tired or lazy.

5. Focus on the needs and feelings of others, the less attention on your lonely thoughts and feelings. I can walk down the street thinking about myself, my loneliness and the hopelessness of it all, staring at the sidewalk and sighing to myself. Or I can walk down the street grateful for the diversity of people I get to share the sidewalk with, silently wishing them good health and good fortune, and smiling at each person I meet. The latter is more fun, even though I sometimes have to remind myself to do it on purpose.

6. Find others like you. Now days there are more tools than ever before to find out where the knitters, hikers or kiteboarders are congregating so that you can get together with those who share your interests. This makes it much easier to identify groups with which you will have something in common, a natural basis for beginning a friendship.

7. Always show up when meeting up with others. You don’t have to run for president of the knitters society at your first meeting. But you do have to show up. I have been telling others to practice yoga for 20 years and promising I would do it myself for just as long, but except for the occasional coincidental yoga offering at a retreat, I didn’t take the trouble of finding a class I could attend regularly until a month ago. Now I am enjoying it and it wasn’t that hard. I have put a reminder in my phone to resign from the procrastinator’s society.

8. Be curious, but don’t expect perfection or applause. Each time you show up is an experiment, a micro adventure in social bonding. If you are curious about and interested in others, they will be attracted to you because you are giving them attention. So you will get attention in return. Curiosity about others also takes your focus away from those painful feelings that tend to make you hide and sulk.

9. Kindness goes a long way. “There’s nobody here but us chickens.” This is one of my favorite lines from The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment by Thaddeus Golas. Underneath the impressive facades of the high fliers are the same set of emotions we all are born with. Celebrities suffer from stage fright and depression too.

You have the power to offer loving kindness and generosity of spirit to all you come into contact with. It isn’t instinctual to be kind to strangers or people who scare you. But it is a choice. It is a choice that Jesus and Ghandi used intentionally. And in the long run it is a winning choice. The alternative, being mean or stingy with those you don’t know well, can get you a reputation as a Scrooge.

10. Be persistent even if a particular group does seem to be a dead end for you, try another. AA and AlAnon recommend that everyone try six different groups to find one that suits you best. If you are persistent, challenging the assumptions and feelings that tell you to give up and resign yourself to a life of loneliness, and showing up and being curious and kind to others and more and more groups, the odds are in your favor.

And once you have a friend or two, nourish those friendships with time and attention. Don’t be too cautious about whether you are giving more than you are getting at first. If you make more friends and some of them are takers, you can choose to spend more time with the friends who reward your friendship.

Brock Hansen     YourTango     8 Jul 2018

 

loneliness

 

Mindfulness and its proven impact on loneliness: What you should know

(BPT) – Maybe you know someone who stands by taking five minutes each morning to meditate or finds time after lunch to quiet his or her mind and focus on breathing. Whatever the method may be, incorporating “mindfulness” practices into your life can have a wide range of positive health benefits like improving your memory, sleep and immune system; reducing stress and feelings of loneliness and increasing compassion toward others and yourself.

Mindfulness means taking time to pay attention to yourself and your thoughts and feelings. Read on to learn how you can put mindfulness into practice in your life to help improve your overall health.

How to make mindfulness a routine part of your day.

  1. Find five to ten minutes each day to sit quietly and focus on your breath. (Helpful hint: Put your phone on silent or in another room so you can concentrate!) Take the time to notice where your mind goes and how your body is feeling. You just might find that this helps you focus and prioritize your day.
  2. Before you go to bed take time to focus on the good things that happened that day. Write your thoughts down in a journal. Writing them down can help you deliberately recognize the positive, even on a tough day.
  3. Search for “mindfulness apps” on your smartphone or tablet that lead you in a mindfulness exercise. For many people, using an app is an easy way to remain consistent with the practice. And many of these apps are free!

Feeling lonely? Mindfulness can help.

Mindfulness has been shown to help older adults overcome a silent but urgent health issue: loneliness. It is estimated that more than half of adults age 65 and over regularly experience moderate to severe loneliness. Loneliness is characterized by a marked difference between someone’s desired companionship and actual relationships. Through unique studies conducted by UnitedHealthcare and AARP, researchers are applying the techniques of mindfulness to help combat loneliness in older adults.

Loneliness poses a serious threat to the quality of life for older adults. It is linked to negative health outcomes such as higher risk of dementia, mortality and disability.

“The health risk of chronic loneliness, in older adults, is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and has a greater impact on mortality than obesity,” said Dr. Charlotte Yeh, M.D., chief medical officer, AARP Services Inc. “That is why UnitedHealthcare and AARP Services Inc. are collaborating to identify actionable solutions, geared for any individual across the spectrum of loneliness.”

Researchers looked at whether mindfulness interventions, like breath awareness, self-compassion and kindness exercises, could positively impact a person’s optimism and quality of life — all factors that help reduce loneliness.

Conclusions were encouraging: Mindfulness activities were shown to decrease loneliness among older adults. The research demonstrated that mindfulness reduced stress, and improved memory, sleep, the immune system, resiliency and compassion for self and others.

Although loneliness is complex and challenging to address, a mindfulness practice may help you live your best life.

Friday, June 28, 2019                Brandpoint 


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Seven Steps Toward Building Resiliency

How do you define resiliency?

Many define resiliency as the ability to bounce back from a setback. Some refer to it as one’s ability to push through difficult times.

Following a keynote speech recently, this definition of resiliency was shared: Putting the pieces of a dropped vase back together as close to the original form as possible, knowing that sometimes it’s impossible to put things back exactly, which results in the creation of a new normal.

Awareness – While the above definitions provide some insight on resiliency, they don’t explain how a person develops it. A person who doesn’t bounce back quickly may be judged by some as being weak. As well, these kinds of definitions can imply that resiliency is something a person has or doesn’t have, which isn’t true. Resiliency is a trainable skill and, like all skills, requires practise for mastery and to maintain top performance.

I prefer to think of the term resiliency as a verb, which requires building up resiliency reserves so they can be drawn upon in difficult times. However, we all have a limit to our resiliency reserve levels, and asking for support to get through a difficult time is not a sign of weakness.

Accountability – Building resiliency reserve levels requires accepting that what we do daily influences them. We don’t get physically fit by thinking about it; it requires actions such as exercising, eating a healthy diet and getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

Action – One proactive approach for building resiliency is to adopt a daily resiliency hierarchy: actions that can have a positive impact on resiliency.

The following resiliency hierarchy is an example of seven things that, when done daily, can build resiliency. Although each action is helpful, it’s suggested that you start with one and work your way up to practising all seven each day.

resiliency-child-emotionally-strong

 

RESILIENCY HIERARCHY

Acknowledge others – None of us can get through life alone. Recognizing, acknowledging and thanking the people we interact with daily can help to build and maintain our relationships, as well as expand our social connections.

Gratitude – Take a moment each day to be grateful for three good things you have in your life. Life is challenging, and not everything may be the way we want it to be. Being grateful for all the things we have can remind us how fortunate we are.

Movement – We can improve our mental health and resiliency levels by increasing our movement, because of the mind-body connection. Movement includes walking, running, exercise, recreational activities and sports. Set daily goals and count your movement minutes or steps.

Self-acceptance – Self-acceptance is being aware of your strengths and weaknesses. None of us will or can be perfect. Learn to be okay with who you are and your weaknesses. Stop any negative or self-critical talk that only creates hurt and serves no real purpose.

Nutrition – What we put in our mouth feeds our brain, where our thoughts and feelings come from. Our lifestyle and nutritional choices matter for both our mental and physical health. They also affect our resiliency reserve levels. Making good choices one meal at a time doesn’t have to be hard. Cut out processed foods, and focus on eating meals high in fibre, healthy fats and good sources of protein.

Hope – Without a plan, there can be no hope. Having one or two clearly defined goals for what you want in life can give a positive focus and purpose for each day. Purpose can be a source of energy that pushes us toward the things we want in life.

Sleep – Perhaps one of the most important things we can do to build resiliency is to ensure we get at least seven to eight hours of sleep a day. Without proper sleep we put our physical safety and mental health at risk.

BILL HOWATT             MAY 28, 2019
Bill Howatt is the chief of research for work force productivity at the Conference Board of Canada and a co-creator of the Employee Recommended Workplace Award.