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.

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@huper

Tools of Change; Post 5

In our final post on the tools of change, today we explore practice.

We have come to the time of fully putting our desire to change into action. And that will invovle practice. If it is a habit we are trying to break, or a new lifestyle we are trying to adopt, the more we practice new habits directly affects the reinforcement effect. If it is a challenge we are faced with that inevitably brings change, we must practice a new way of being, of adapting. During these times, we can practice self-care, practice asking for help or support, practice our conscious decision to seek joy despite our feelings of grief or sadness.

If we are faced with a situation that requires our action (finding a new job, moving into a better suited space, deciding to date again), we can practice putting our end goal to task by following through on our smaller tasks that need to happen in order for our objective to be met.

Practice, practice, practice. As a quote from Shawn Allen reminds us, “Skill comes from consistent and deliberate practice.” And with that comes a greater sense of self, a well earned feeling of accomplishment, and the rewards that are inherent in the process of navigating change.

Our tools of change have included actualization, direction, self-compassion, connection and practice. I hope you have enjoyed reading this series as much as I have enjoyed writing it as it has stood as a wonderful reminder that change, despite it inevitability, can be met with courage, faith and a sense of renewal.

 

 

Tools of Change; Post 4

In our toolbox so far, we have actualization, direction and self-compassion and today’s post is about connection.

When we come to the realization that something needs to change and we’ve gathered both information and courage, one element that will help us to put our plan into place is the connection we have to others. We are a relationship species and the need for our village moves well beyond childhood.

Because change almost always inevitably brings with it the fear of the unknown, leaning into our support circle can help create the necessary bridge to something new. We can spend time with others as a distraction, we can align with people who share the same goal, we can share our vulnerablities as a way to feel encouraged. This is why support groups are often instrumental for people in not only achieving their goal but in sustaining it. We can be quite determined to change on our own, but sharing our journey with our loved ones helps us to feel supported and cared for.

In difficult times in my life, where change was inevitable and I knew instinctively I could only go through it and not around it; I never felt alone. Knowing that I was walking with friends and family helped me to navigate the fears that naturally presented themselves. The connection we have to others is a tool of change that we can add to our growing tool kit. Tomorrow’s post will feature the last element in our tools of change series. 🙂

 

Tools of Change; Post 3

Moving right along in our series of tools of change, today we look at the importance of self-compassion. 

The graces we afford to others we often don’t grant to ourselves. When we falter, create a blunder, or don’t accomplish something quickly enough (according to our own standards and expectations), we have the tendency to be hard on ourselves. This is the critical time in the element of change, as we can easily fall into the “I can’t do this” trap; our core beliefs begin clamouring for space as they sense an opening to appear.

What is needed as a tool of change is self-compassion. Kristin Neff, an expert in the field, has this to say about self-compassion:

“You may try to change in ways that allow you to be more healthy and happy, but this is done because you care about yourself, not because you are worthless or unacceptable as you are. Perhaps most importantly, having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept your humanness.”

When we begin to have the same compassion, caring and empathy for ourselves as we do for our loved ones, we begin to recognize the importance that change offers us. With self-compassion, we increase the likelihood of success – of braving the storm, of creating a healthier habit, of facing a fear. We can see ourselves as our very own ally in our quest for change.

To visit Kristin Neff’s website: https://self-compassion.org/

Tools of Change; Post 2

Yesterday we started a 5 part series on the tools of change – the elements necessary in order for us to move towards changing something. Our first tool of change was actualization, today we look at direction.

Our ‘aha moment’ brings us to a crossroads. The old way we were doing something, the relationship that just isn’t working anymore, the health issue that isn’t going away – all bring us to choosing a new path. It can feel comfortable to stay at the crossroads for awhile, and many do. But the urge to choose is still there – do I stay on the familiar path? The one where I know what to expect or do I seek out the new path and see what lies ahead?

Perhaps the best guide as to direction is knowledge. Our fears will often keep us from being curious – but there is no risk to curiosity. Gathering information for change tends to increase our sense of confidence and agency; it allows us to feel as though we are in the driver’s seat of our own life.

Another important variable to direction is to share your realization with trusted loved ones. Vulnerability will always help to cement your realization, and the encouragement that you receive from those you love will bolster your decision to move forward. It is okay to ask for help. 

We need movement when in the process of growth. Albeit slowly, it is an important element to feeling accomplished.

Realization and direction – two important tools for change.

 

Tools of Change; Post 1

Most of us to some degree fear change. We love our comfort zone, we find safety in the familiar. And yet we also tend to inherently know when change is necessary in order to move forward, to challenge ourselves, to live to our highest potential. This week we will focus on the tools of change in a five part series; exploring what needs to be in place in order for personal growth to be optimized.  The first tool of change to be explored is actualization.

In order for us to change something, we must first acknowledge it. Denial and avoidance can be very strong – despite advice or concerns from others about something we are engaging in or ignoring, we will blindly defend our choices and behaviours until we are ready to face what is not working for us any longer.

Self-actualization begins with a desire to be open to the possibility of going beneath the surface; of pushing past the desire to avoid. It is why people come to therapy. Actualization is found in the ‘aha’ moments, it is found in our ability to be vulnerable, it is inherently felt. It can often be accompanied by tears as grief is part of the process. Leaving our comfort zone is difficult and we will most likely feel as though we are losing something along the way.

Once actualization has occurred, there really is no going back. We can remain in limbo for awhile, contemplating the opposing forces of courage and fear, but our recognition of the issue is now a felt sense and our inner desire to challenge, to grow and to accomplish will keep reminding us that the only people we can truly change is ourselves. It comes with the realization that we can be brave – stepping forward towards a new way of being. A new way of knowing 🙂

 

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 🙂

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@sgabriel

 

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 🙂

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@jg

 

 

 

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 🙂

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@srz

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.

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@seanstratton