On the Eve of a New Year

Typically sung when the clock strikes midnight, the traditional Scottish song “Auld Lang Syne,” literally means “old long since,” or in layman’s terms, “days gone by.” There is a particular line in the song that I especially resonate with:

“For auld lang syne my dear, for auld lang syne, we’ll take a cup of kindess yet, for auld lang syne.”

It is at this time of year that we often reflect upon the year past. It may have held memorable moments, ones that brought joy as well as ones that brought sadness. We may have achieved some important goals in our life, or struggled in feeling lost.  We may have felt fulfilled in our relationships, or contended at times with loneliness. Regardless of the type of year we had, the thought that we can take a cup of kindness for the year gone past is a gracious act. It is saying thank you; for both the gifts and the lessons that this year has brought; encompassing gratitude for the experience.

It is also at this time of year that we often put to mind resolutions for the year to come; it is a time to begin again. Perhaps in our reflection of what we wish to improve in the new year, we can take a second cup of kindness; this one as a reminder to be gentle to ourselves. 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by Sarthak Navjivan on Unsplash

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“I’ll Just Do it Myself”

I came across this cute meme the other day that struck a chord with me. It went as follows:

Me: I need some help around here

Also me: No, not like that, here I’ll do it. 

I can remember when I first began asking my youngest daughter to take the laundry in off the clothesline, I would remark to myself how she certainly did not fold them like I did. And I also have to admit, that in the beginning, I would refold them. Tsk. Tsk.

Routine and developed patterns are a part of our comfort system. We have certain ways of doing things that are right for us; and soon become the only way to do it. Affecting us both at home and at work, we soon have too much work on our hands; landing us in the unyielding territory of rigid thought and expectation.

Perhaps at this point, we can move to readjustment; being more flexible in both our expectations of others and our ownership of task. Not only does it allow us to lighten our load, it also teaches a most valuable lesson; one that encapsulates effort, acknowledges the emotional bid and builds the healthier option of flexible thought.

In other words, no more refolding of laundry for me. 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

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Our Spiritual Side

In a former post, we explored the importance of the balance of well being. One of the areas that often gets neglected is our spiritual side; the part of us that seeks deeper connection with the world around us. Spirituality as defined in the Webster’s Dictionary: attachment to all that concerns the life of the soul // the quality of being spiritual. And the definition of the word soul: the vital principle which moves and animates all life. 

For some people, spirituality includes religion. Being a part of a religious community, being able to celebrate in a place of worship, and incorporating prayer into daily life are ways that one can feel closer to an entity that is greater than themselves; touching on an inner connectedness to peace.

Spirituality, however, is also independent of religion; it is about how we connect to our own soulful life, how we nourish and foster tranquility, leading to acts of grace. We may find it in nature, in time spent with a newborn, in the undisturbed moments we carve out for ourselves, in the mindful practice of meditation, in our thoughtful intentions, in the gratefulness of our blessings.

Regardless of how we tap into our spiritual self, the act of building leads to a greater attachment to our soul.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Hans Vivek on Unsplash

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What Is the Point to Positive Affirmations?

We often hear the phrase “just think positively” as a strategy to replace negative thoughts with positive ones; the reality is, it’s not that easy. Our negative thought patterns are often ingrained as a rumination loop in our brain, getting stuck on what feels like an endless cycle; our actions often follow, reinforcing core beliefs. Positive affirmations can help.

The definition of affirmation is: the action or process of affirming something or being affirmed. It stands to reason, that if we can repeat a message to ourselves, aligning with our goals, we can begin to lean into the neuroplasticity of our brain; an ongoing remodeling of its function and framework that lasts a lifetime. In other words, it is never to late to change a thought pattern.

Positive affirmations need to be daily, goal oriented and personalized so as to best suit your own needs. My biggest tip on how to create positive affirmations for yourself is to use google :). Identify your negative thought pattern, flip it so as to recognize the opposite, and then google “positive affirmations for ___________”

An example: If our negative thought is “I always feel sad,” we want to flip it to “I want to feel happy.” When I googled “positive affirmations for happiness,” I was able to pick out ones that would suit me, such as:

  • By allowing myself to be happy, I inspire others around me to be happy as well.
  • The most simple things in life bring me joy.
  • I am willing to be happy now.
  • I will focus on the happy moments today will bring.

Reading (or writing) our personalized affirmations first thing in the morning will help set the tone to creating a new thought loop; a healthier one that is aligned with our overall aim to foster movement and growth.

Photo credit: http://Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

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The Basics of Self-Care Strategies

Thank you to my friend and colleague Darlene who sent along this article entitled “The Top 10 Self-Care Strategies for Stress Reduction” by Elizabeth Scott and featured on verywell mind. The article brings us back to some of the basics of self care and is a good reminder that sometimes we can let good habits slide, such as maintaining the right amount of sleep and getting proper nutrition. Two points that I especially appreciated and will feature in the next two blog posts:

  • Have the right attitude: Scott talks about the importance of leaning into an optimistic frame of mind and having positive affirmations as a part of our overall self-care strategy.
  • Maintain a spiritual practice: the article mentions that research shows that a lifestyle including spirituality is generally healthier.

I also appreciated Scott’s point that we should pamper ourselves; pretty sound advice indeed. Find some time today to celebrate you 🙂

To read the full article: https://www.verywellmind.com/self-care-strategies-overall-stress-reduction-3144729

Photo credit:http://Photo by Roberto Nickson (@g) on Unsplash

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A Quote About Hiking (it’s really about life)

I stumbled upon this quote about hiking (author unknown):  Hiking is a bit like life: The journey only requires you to put one foot in front of the other….again and again and again. And if you allow yourself opportunity to be present throughout the entirety of the trek, you will witness beauty every step of the way, not just at the summit. 

Very often, the “summit” is our goal. We fall into the notions of society that if we earn a certain amount of money, own more things, live to an expected, yet unrealistic level of perfection, we will be rewarded by the rich view of the summit. And perhaps we will. But what about the journey?

I have always loved the mantra “one day at a time;” not only for the times in my life where my emotional capacity was challenged, but also as a reminder to slow down. It is meant as a reminder to focus not only on our goals for achievement, but also on our peaceful moments, our rewarding moments, our rich moments, our simple moments. One step at a time, until the summit is reached.

Photo credit: http://Photo by photo-nic.co.uk nic on Unsplash

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The Gift of Thoughtful Intention

To all of those celebrating Christmas today, I wish you the merriest of days. I wish you joy and laughter, the warmth of gathering and the comfort of sitting around a table in festivity. And if Christmas is a hard day for you, I wish you strength and courage. What I hope for you most of all is the gift of thoughtful intention; not only for today but for every day.

I hope that you can be both thoughtful in your intentions to others and receive that in return.  When we hold someone in our thoughts, we are considering them; we are protecting them with benevolent energy. When we make an intention towards someone, we have moved to action. That might be in the form of a prayer, a gift, an act of love, an emotional bid, a genuine hug or a warm smile.

Thoughtful intentions are both validating and liberating; they create peace and build grace. Sounds like a lovely way to spend the day 🙂

Photo credit:   http://Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

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Figuring Out the Right Amount of Bend

In a classic form of the”opposites attract” relationship, we have the passive versus dominant dynamic. Very often attracted to each other, the passive person appreciates the dominant person’s ability to make decisions, and it often quite happy to defer. The dominant person likes the alpha position as it gives them the feeling of control; most often sought as a means of feeling safe and secure. 

When a couple is aware of this dynamic and work together to best appreciate each other’s differences, both parties are quite content to work as a team and the longevity of the relationship isn’t compromised. It is when a couple is not aware of the dynamic that, over time, issues may arise.  The control element of the dominant person plays a role in creating what I like to refer to as the “bend principle.” Control likes to see another person bend 100% of the time, as that is where it feels safest; that is also where the biggest trouble lies, as you will eventually reach a point where the passive person begins to feel oppressed. 

This is where the right amount of bend comes into play, and it is an agreed upon measure by the couple. It is often based on a percentage; some people are quite happy with the 95 – 5% ratio, others will want it closer to 70-30%. In any case, it is about saying “I am happy to bend 80% of the time, but the other 20%, I want to contribute and have a say.”

Having this agreement works. It allows the dominant partner to feel safe in their alpha position while giving the passive person permission to have a voice when they feel strongly about something; working together to provide a sense of unity and teamwork. 

Photo credit: http://Photo by Matt Hoffman on Unsplash

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Podcast with Katie Couric on Grief

While Alan Alda was on vacation, he featured a guest podcast with Katie Couric entitled “Katie Couric and Sheryl Sandberg Take Over the Pod.” Accompanying Katie and Sheryl was Adam Grant who co-authored a book with Sheryl about facing adversity and building resilience in the face of raw grief (after the sudden death of her husband).

Some of the key points that I reflected on from the podcast:

  • Acknowledge people’s pain; and not just once. Sheryl noted that she often found grief to be an elephant in the room and was always appreciative not only when people passed on their condolences, but in the following weeks, asked her how she and the kids were doing.
  • Grief is a demanding companion. What a descriptive way of explaining grief; a companion by your side, always pulling at you for attention.
  • Lean in to your feelings versus resisting them. Sheryl stated that it really is okay to experience your feelings so as to process them instead of pushing them down.
  • Give yourself permission to find and experience humour in the midst of death. Not only is laughter filled with healing qualities, being able to find humour amidst sadness reminds us of the blending of human emotion.
  • Find meaning. It helps us to move towards acceptance.
  • The human spirit has the capacity to persevere. Grieving is a way to honour our loved one; it is also an avenue for growth.

To listen to the full podcast: http://www.aldacommunicationtraining.com/podcast/katie-couric-sheryl-sandberg-take-pod/

To visit Sheryl’s website and get details about her book: https://optionb.org/

Photo credit: http://Photo by Evan Kirby on Unsplash

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First We Make the Beast Beautiful: Book on Anxiety

A client recently recommended the book to me “First We Make the Beast Beautiful; A New Journey Through Anxiety” by Sarah Wilson. It is a memoir of Sarah’s own journey; it is refreshing, honest, and packed with information. For anyone who struggles with anxiety or for those whose loved ones have it, you will recognize familiarity in its pages. Here are some tidbits from the book:

  • Sarah put an octopus on the cover because they are beasts that have been made more beautiful through our deeper understanding of them.
  • She refers to her own experience of anxiety as “wobbles” and “spirals.” I quote, “A simple thing you can do, dear-loved-one-of-someone-with-anxiety, is to just be there when we wobble. Just stay.” (Wobbling puts me in mind of the weeble-wobble toys we had as kids. I was always fascinated by their ability to right themselves; I think this is why I loved the term when I read it.)
  • When you grow up in conditions of emotional vulnerability, it can shape how you cope emotionally for the rest of your life.
  • Anxiety is more common in people with autoimmune diseases. (Keep your gut clean.) 
  • There are a number of genetic issues that can play a part in the formation of anxiety.
  • Globally, one in thirteen people suffer with an anxiety-related illness.
  • We can reshape our brains with small movements over a period of time, re-wiring our neural pathways according to the habit you want to form. I quote, “Make your bed. Every day. It’s easier to do something every day without exception than to do something most days.”
  • Massage therapy decreases cortisol levels and increased serotonin and dopamine levels; scalp massages are particularly beneficial.
  • Sarah talks about “certainty anchors” and building them into your morning routine so as to start your day. (You know I’m going to love this one!)
  • And lastly, do the work. She quotes Louise Hay, “Anyone who thinks they can heal without doing the work is missing the point.”

This book was a page turner; I was always finding little moments to dive back into its pages. Consider picking up a copy or gifting it to a loved one who struggles to manage their anxiety. “First We Make the Beast Beautiful” is a worthy read.

Photo credit: Me 🙂

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