The Gift of Appreciation

Appreciation is about value. It is that to which we recognize that something or someone holds an invested place in our life.

Sometimes it comes with a sense of awe – the brilliant colours of the sun rising over water, the luminous effect of a full moon or a sky full of stars, the reassuring presence of moutains in the distance.

Sometimes it comes with a sense of wonder – the marvel and intricate system that makes up our body, the feeling we get when a ‘coincidence’ moves to a serendipitous moment, the times when we can feel the presence of grace.

Sometimes it comes with gratitude – the feeling we get when someone does something for us out of love, for the blessings that are present in our life, for the times we recognize as opportunites for growth and renewal.

What we appreciate, appreciates. It grows as we water it. Appreciation is about recognition – it is the act of praise, it is found in a compliment, it is felt within. It is a conscious act that can only increase our sense of what is valuable – leading to a more peaceful and settled place.

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Achieving Grace

When I was going through an especially tough time in my life, I was given the lovely advice that “grace builds upon nature.” At first I was not entirely sure I knew what it meant, but I also knew that it was relevant to what I was going through at the time. Since then, I have reflected upon that advice many times; I have used it with clients, and I continue to say it to myself when I feel I need a gentle reminder.

I believe our true nature to be good. I also believe that when we are being true to ourselves, there is a sense of calm, an underlying confidence, and a feeling of being whole. It is the part of ourselves that is compassionate, both to others and to ourselves. If we are able to access that part of who we are, even when struggling, we can find grace. Grace is about courteous goodwill, it is about choosing to take the high road, it is about holding your head high and keeping your chin up. Grace is about opening up the space, even when its hard to, to recognize your blessings and through that process you will recognize your strength. Grace is the honourable process of knowing you may never get the answers you are seeking, and yet choose to forgive; becoming wrapped in faith that you can heal.

Grace builds upon nature; what a lovely little piece of advice 🙂

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Facts Before Fill-Ins

It’s human nature to make assumptions. If a friend doesn’t answer our text, we might assume that they are mad at us, if someone stands us up for a date, we assume that there must be something about us that turned them off, if our spouse comes home in a bad mood, maybe it was something we’ve done.

The damage really isn’t in the assumption. If we tend to overthink, over-analyze or ruminate; however, our suppositions can often lead us to creating a full story in our minds; one that may feel very real and can carry consequences. Sometimes our emotions take over and we follow with an action that we then regret, other times we inwardly carry the weight of something when it isn’t ours to carry. It can become an emotional roller coaster, creating more heartache and worry than was ever intended. We begin to see the situation through an emotional lens and not a factual one.

The first step is to ask ourselves “Am I making an assumption here? Is how I perceive it the way it actually happened? Did I fill in the blanks before getting all the facts?” Perhaps the text didn’t get answered because the friend simply got busy and forgot, perhaps we got stood up not because of anything we’ve done, but because the person ascribes to that kind of crummy behaviour, perhaps our spouse’s bad mood was caused by a bad day at work.

Ask questions with the intent to gather information. Allow the rational part of the brain to temper the emotional one. Facts before fill-ins – works every time 🙂

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Let’s Give Up…..Post 5

In our last post of this little series on what to give up in order to optimize our emotional health, today let’s explore giving up negative self-talk.

Criticism is not feedback. It is often used as a method of control, it can also come from a need to make another person feel lesser than. Why then do we engage it in our own heads?

It is my honestly felt sense that our spirit is never self-critical. That is the ego talking. It is the learned behaviours of our childhood and the messages received as we were growing up – it can come from our learned associations to what is important in terms of success or achievement.

Having a self-check process is important of course. When we make mistakes, we learn valuable lessons. When we do something that is less than our ability, we can make a determined choice to try a little harder. When we hurt someone, we need to be aware of its impact and move to repair.

What becomes important in the process of self-reflection is compassion. When we decide that there is a place for self-empathy, understanding and forgiveness, we can give up the negative self-talk and instead include ourselves in acknowledging our need for love and kindness. It is up to us to give that to ourselves too.

Let’s give up negative self-talk. Our souls will thank us 🙂

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Let’s Give Up…..Post 4

In our series about what to give up in order to create a greater sense of well being and to support our emotional growth, today we explore giving up our resistance to change.

Change can be a frightening prospect. Sometimes this comes to us naturally if we experienced change after a traumatic or negative experience; sometimes change is in direct opposition to our comfort zone. The issue with change isn’t really the fear that comes with it, but rather the resistance to it. When we resist change, we tend to stay stuck. We may live too much in the past or fret too much about the future.

In order for us to see a softening of our resistance, we can begin to focus on:

  • Acknowledging the fear. Recoginizing that what frightens us is also holding us back is an important first step. And the best way to temper fear? Being curious. Asking ourselves, “Does it have to be this way? What would it feel like if this were to happen? Or this?” Sometimes that curiosity is about becoming better informed about something so as to take uncertainty out of the equation.
  • Acceptance. Life comes with challenges just as easily as it comes with blessings. Sometimes we have no choice but to accept what is in front of us and move with it versus against it. “It is what it is. I can’t change it, but I can control my response to it. I can find the strength and resilience in the process.”

Giving up our resistance to change allows ourselves to feel movement and direction – an important element in our continued growth.

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Let’s Give Up…..Post 3

Moving right along in our series on the things we can consider giving up in order to optimize our emotional health, today let’s explore giving up our need to please everyone.

We are a relationship species and are driven by the need to attach. As a result, gaining other people’s approval is often the tag-along partner to attachment. This makes sense, as we tend to learn growing up that when we gain someone’s approval, we feel that we also gain their love.

The issue comes when the need to please everyone becomes automatic. When we say yes without actually thinking about it, when the drive to please supercedes the process of asking ourselves if we have the time, energy and support available to agree to something, when our instincts tell us that we are doing something in order to fit it. If we sense that we have come to pleasing others in order to gain approval or avoid someone’s displeasure, we are moving away from our internal system of a strong sense of self.

We are much better served to use the process of discernment before saying yes. “Is the relationship healthy?” “Am I agreeing simply because it is expected of me?” “Do I want to agree…what are my thoughts or feelings about this?”

From here it is about learning how to say no, learning how to express your own opinion, learning that your voice is an important part of who you are.

Let’s give up the need to please everyone…..we will feel a greater sense of pride when we do 🙂

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Let’s Give Up……Post 2

Yesterday we began a series that explores giving up certain things in order to improve or optimize our mental health. Today, let’s explore giving up the need to be right.

Ooooh, that can be a tough one. Especially when we know that we are right. Haha 🙂

Sometimes our need to be right comes out of a disagreement with someone. When our tempers flare and anger has taken over, we can almost be guaranteed that our need to be right will supercede our ability to see something with an open mind. If we recognize that our need to be right comes out of anger, we are better served to take a break from the conversation and resume when the jets have cooled off.

Sometimes our need to be right comes out of our own sense of insecurity. We have all experienced the quintessential ‘know-it-all,’ who seems to know everything and yet nothing. If our need to be right comes from a place of low self-esteem or insecurity about something, we are better served to begin to look at why that is and how we can potentially increase our sense of self worth to bring us to a place of greater confidence and humility.

Sometimes our need to be right comes out of sheer stubbornness or a rigid way of thinking. When we lean into a fixed mindset, we can often close ourselves off from learning something new or adopting a new perspective about something. Reducing our need to be right due to inflexibility comes from leaning into the fact that even experts have room to learn and when we are open to new knowledge or a different way of doing something, we increase our emotional intelligence.

Let’s give up our need to be right – after all, when we know better, we do better!

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Let’s Give Up….. Post 1

This week, we will explore 5 things that we can give up in order to optimize our emotional health. Today, let’s look at giving up complaining.

Think about how much we actually complain in a day. The weather isn’t as nice as we might want it, someone was rudely unaware of themselves at the grocery store, a loved one did something to annoy us, the price of gas is too high, etc. Further to this, how much do we complain in our own heads, how much do we complain to others?

To some degree, venting is important. It is part of the way that we process our feelings or something that is bothering us. But for venting to be of service to us, it must also come with a solution. When we move to action about something that is upsetting us, we tend to not only solve our own problems, the people we vent to won’t see us a chronic complainers.

Outside of venting, complaining really doesn’t do us much good. It tends to create negativity and it depletes energy. Complaining can be  both emotionally and physically taxing on ourselves and on others, as it creates increased stress. Complaining is also a way to remove ourselves of responsibility as it is easier at times to blames others for our own misfortunes.

We are much better served to be aware of the tendency we have to complain and to begin to actively reduce it. Catching ourselves before we complain is one way to do that; increasing our ability to be thankful for what we have is another. Living simply and being satisfied with our lives also helps us to not focus on what we don’t have.

Let’s give up complaining – we will be happy that we did.

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Are You a Perfectionist?

In an article entitled “Perfectionism” featured on GoodTherapy, we read about perfectionism, defined as “a need to be, or appear to be perfect.” Although this article is chock full of information, I especially appreciated what they listed as some characteristics of what a focus on over-achievement to the point of perfectionism looks like:

  • Not be able to perform a task unless you know you can do it perfectly.
  • View the end product as the most important part of any undertaking. As a result, you may focus less on the process of learning or completing a task to the best of your ability. 
  • Not see a task as finished until the result is perfect according to your standards. 
  • Procrastination. If you are a perfectionist, you may not want to begin a task until it can be done perfectly.
  • Take an excessive amount of time to complete a task that does not typically take others long to complete. 

GoodTherapy quotes Brene Brown as saying “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfection is not about healthy achievement and growth.”

The first step in understanding perfectionism is to reflect upon how it potentially developed for you which sometimes requires the help of a therapist. It is also important to recognize the impossibility of perfection which often leads to a self-defeating cycle as we can never achieve perfection (although a perfectionist would argue that we can 🙂 ). It is only when we give ourselves permission to be imperfect do we find freedom from the trappings of the impossible.

To read more from this very in depth article:

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Our Inner Narrative; what is it and can we change it?

Our inner narrative is the story we tell ourselves. It is the thoughts that pop into our heads, our core beliefs, our internal dialogue. It is also tied to the bigger picture of our story, from our childhood experiences that bind us into chapters of our own lives, to the present moment and how we process each day.

We can’t change our story; our past is a part of our being, it is what gives us substance. But we can change our inner narrative:

  1. Listen to your inner voice and what it is saying to you. Is it kind? Are you compassionate with yourself? Challenging some of these thoughts are the first step in changing your inner narrative.
  2. When it comes to a core belief, ask yourself “Does it have to be this way? What holds me back?” If you have always believed, for example, that you will amount to nothing, that is a huge driving force in the choices you make. But does it have to be like that? Where did you learn that core belief and were you actually meant to believe something else? Be curious 🙂
  3. Know and believe that you have a choice in the direction of your own life. We have the ability to design our lives by the choices we make and the love we have for ourselves and others.

Changing your inner narrative is possible; it will allow you to own your story and speak your truths. It will allow you to build resilience and live authentically; sounds pretty awesome to me 🙂

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