Anchor Your Day ~ a mental health blog by Counselwise ~

Anchor Your Day

Thank you for visiting! The purpose of this blog is to provide short, daily counsel on a variety of topics and interesting facts about mental health. We all live busy lives which is why the focus of this blog is to have something relatively quick to read; it can act as an “anchor to your day” so to speak. If you would like to have this blog sent to your email directly on a daily basis, please follow the link below (you can unsubscribe at any time) and join me on the path to self-care. 

A Thought About Choice

In a podcast episode from Oprah SuperSoul Conversations: Finding Your Authentic Self, Oprah sits with Sarah Ban Breathnach. Featuring a candid conversation about living authentically, she speaks about what holds the power to change the trajectory of our lives:

“There are only three ways to change the trajectory of our lives for better or worse: crisis, chance or choice.”

When I first heard this, it resonated with me. We have all had at least one moment in our lives that we can remember so clearly, it was like it happened yesterday. Crisis has the power to change the direction of where we were going, both in its emotional and physical impact. Sometimes that crisis affects us only as an individual, or within our family or village context; it can even impact us at a community or societal level.  Chance can also change the trajectory of our lives in the opportunities we are given, the serendipitous moments we experience, or simply being somewhere at the right time. It was what Ban Breathnach said about choice that really stuck with me:

“Choice is a spiritual gift – one of the most spiritual gifts we have been given. Choice is the centerpiece of creating your life.”

Although I have never thought of choice as a spiritual gift, I am heartened to think of it that way. The thought that our ability to choose is tied to our spirit brings me comfort. It cements the overall knowledge that regardless of what comes into our lives via challenges, we always have the ability to choose how we are going to react. And that the choices we make both according to our values and our every day experiences have the power to create and design our life. What a lovely way to think about choice. 🙂

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From Thought to Action

Yesterday’s post featured a helpful tip in dealing with negative thoughts that came from Russ Harris and his book “The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living.” Based on ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) principles, Harris also featured a term that resonated by way of adding a layer to action.

We know and can appreciate the importance of movement forward in order to live a life fulfilled. We can sense when we are feeling stuck or lost, or when we have chosen to feed the dysfunction. Action, then, is an important element in our growth. Harris features the term “effective action” when speaking about improving the quality of life. He notes that effective action is based on values and when we can live from the position of what brings us integrity, we build character.

Essentially, it isn’t enough to simply choose something, but rather to choose it based on the question “Is this action effective in living up to my values?” It is only from this question can we begin to set goals that line up to our values; thereby creating a more decisive and confident structure to our own sense of contentedness; to a sense of being grounded and safe in ourselves.

“The Happiness Trap” by Russ Harris is filled with many thoughtful principles and has exercises to better cement the material. It is a book not just worth reading, but worth doing 🙂

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A Good Tip for Negative Thoughts

 Because we feel the most secure when we are safe, our brain is designed to look for danger. This was great when we lived on the plains and every day was a matter of survival; today, we live with a negative bias, which can lead to an automatic lean into negative thoughts. In the book “The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living” by Russ Harris, he writes:

“Whether a thought is true is not that important. Far more important is whether it’s helpful. Truthful or not, thoughts are nothing more than words. If they’re helpful words, then it’s worth paying attention to them. If they’re not helpful, then why bother?”

This stood out to me as an important tip when trying to deal with an automatic thought that is taking up too much energy and space within us. When we lean into guilty thoughts that have no merit,  thoughts of self-blame, insecure thoughts tied to core beliefs or worries that we have no control over, we help to feed the loop often generated by negative thought. Our brain is ‘searching’ for a way to solve the danger that the negative thought implies. Harris notes that by asking ourselves “Is this thought helpful?” we begin to question the validity of the thought, relying more on fact and less on perception.

If we find ourselves ruminating or leaning into an automatic thought, we can begin to ask ourselves “Is this thought helpful?” And if it isn’t, we can move towards a thought or action that better promotes the mindset we wish to create.

Tomorrow’s post will look at another good tip from Russ Harris about action.

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5 Great Quotes by H. Jackson Brown Jr.

H. Jackson Brown is an author, best known for his work entitled “Life’s Little Instruction Book: 511 Suggestions, Observations, and Reminders on How to Live a Happy and Rewarding Life.” Here are 5 quotes by Brown (sourced not inclusively to Life’s Little Instruction Book) :

“Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.” H. Jackson Brown Jr.

“Don’t forget, a person’s greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated.” – H. Jackson Brown Jr.

“Life is slippery. We all need a loving hand to hold onto.” – H. Jackson Brown Jr.

“I’ve learned… . That being kind is more important than being right.” – H. Jackson Brown Jr. 

“Live so that when your children think of fairness and integrity, they think of you.” – H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Some lovely advice; simple and yet powerful in reminding us to live according to our values, to honour connection and to seek meaning in the every day.

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In the Driver’s Seat

When we think about our sense of psychological well-being, what often comes to mind is how we rate the general satisfaction of our lives. How good do we feel about our lives in general? How content are we?

If we sat and thought about the elements that contribute to either a valued sense of well-being or a poor one, we would most likely come up with many factors such as the strength of our support system, our job satisfaction, our financial state, the condition of our health and so forth. Interestingly enough, while all of these factors can certainly affect our sense of well-being, what comes up as the number one reason we feel good about our lives is the amount of personal control we have within them.

It becomes about a feeling that despite the challenges that come our way, of which are often not in our control, we can still have a sense of agency in our own lives. Knowing that we have some ability to make decisions and have choices within the confines of our difficulty, allows us to move to a place of feeling more settled again in our sense of who we are; giving us the courage perhaps to say “Move over please, I’m driving.”

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A Poem About Growth

A little poem that caught my attention by Rudy Franciso:

Of all the things I could’ve been,

I am so glad to be this.

Thank God I didn’t actually become who I pretended to be

Back when I had no idea who I was. 

What a lovely thought about growth and giving ourselves permission to “just be.” Sometimes it is the expectations that society places on us that get in the way, other times it is our own reckoning about what it means to be successful, and sometimes the messages we get from others help put us into the mode of pretending and we end up living a life that can feel misrepresented to some degree. It is the process of self-reflection, through experience, that allows us to move towards a more genuine place, both with ourselves and others; ultimately bringing with it a courage to be who we are. 

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The Rational Brain

When I was a little girl I can remember being very fascinated by the moon. If we were traveling home anytime at night, I believed the moon was following me home. I even recall telling my mom that once and although she kindly told me that it “just felt that way”, I can also distinctly remember thinking that she was wrong. 🙂

When we are children we have a lot of magical thinking; it is why we can tell our kids that a big, jolly man comes down the chimney at Christmas and leaves presents by the fireplace. Our four year old may, in fact, question how Santa comes down the chimney, but because the rational part of their brain (before the age of seven) is very underdeveloped, all we have to tell them is that “Santa uses reindeer dust” and they are wondrously back to believing in the magic of Christmas.

Our rational brain is found in the prefrontal cortex and is involved in planning complex cognitive behavior, decision making, and mitigating social behaviour. It is not fully formed until we are in our early twenties. This is important knowledge in helping to inform us when it comes to working with and understanding our teenage children. Interpreting reality is dependent on a fully functioning prefrontal cortex, as is feeling guilt or remorse. It is often why we, as parents, feel as though we need to be the rational voice to our teenagers ~because in many ways we are. The trick I suppose is being able to do so with an open mind to their own process, so as to allow enough freedom for their growing need to make decisions while conscious of having to protect them at times.

And although we need a fully formed rational brain, I am also quite happy that the magical part of our brain does not fully go away; it is what allows us to believe in the possibility of fairies and hobbits, of the imaginable world of the Velveteen Rabbit and the ability to walk into the gates of Disney World and still feel enchanted. 🙂

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Is There Such a Thing as Over-Nurturing?

The importance of attachment, unconditional love and acceptance is now undisputed as being cornerstones to our well being. When we focus on nurturing our loved ones with those goals in mind, we are creating space for a strong foundation and healthy relationships. But is it possible to over nurture?

If we find ourselves in a position where we routinely take on other people’s problems and have difficulty in saying no, we may be moving into Rescue mode. Here, we tend to have a need to save others, to have a hand in solving their issues. We are often too soft, and as a result run the risk of over nurturing.

When we over nurture our loved ones, we end up inadvertently creating a lower sense of independence as we take on the task versus letting them handle it. If we take away every struggle, we miss the opportunity to witness their capability in conquering an issue or in figuring it out in their own way. Over nurturing can also lead to issues with self esteem, and higher levels of anxiety as our loved one feels dependent in order to get through life.

If we recognize that we can land into the habit of over nurturing, we can begin by noticing when we have ‘stepped in to take over.’ Allowing room for freedom of choice, boundary setting, and learning to say no are all valuable in creating a more balanced approach to nurturing our loved ones.

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Podcast Advice About Suffering

In a podcast episode on Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations, she sits with Bishop T.D. Jakes to talk about Covid-19 and the suffering that has been created by this global pandemic. Although the conversation centers around the experience of the coronavirus, his words about suffering are wide reaching:

“God has never hidden from us that suffering is a part of the journey. It’s dignity that we bring to the suffering that determines the outcome thereof. In the face of our pain, we must not forfeit our dignity.” He goes on to explain that our painful experiences have the ability to create resentment, cynicism and hate; yet we have the choice to allow ourselves to challenge those feelings with dignity.

“Feel the fear, but never give it the wheel.” I particularly love the analogy on this one, as my work with clients often reflects on how best they can be ‘in the driver’s seat.’ Fear will often keep us in the passenger seat of our own life.

“There is a silver lining that lives in the darkest cloud….purpose will always out wrestle pain.” 

As in all challenges we are faced with in life, we have the option to face them with faith, purpose and dignity. A lovely reminder by Bishop T.D. Jakes that we can lean into our pain in order to find its purpose.

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Another Maya Quote….

I couldn’t help sharing this Maya Angelou quote as well:

“We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends, and living our lives.”

– Maya Angelou

We fear the inevitable and worry about things that take up our time and energy. We also can fall into the trap of allowing our focus to shift from our goal of living a meaningful life to one in which we strive for success. Sometimes our ‘busy-ness’ trumps the slow down process that is necessary to allow ourselves quality time to be spent with our loved ones.

We can take joy in the ordinary moments, we can aim to have daily laughter in our lives, we can choose a healthy pace. If we need to heal, we can create a focus around that. Growth can become a cornerstone in our foundation. Movement becomes valued. As does time spent in nature, time spent seeking a grounded feeling, time spent adoring our families and cherishing our friends 🙂

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