Strength training for everyone.

If someone asks you how your week is going, what are you most likely going to focus on?  Too often we get caught up in the things that we didn’t do well, the tasks we didn’t complete, or simply the daunting things piling up in front of us.  And sometimes, all of those things start to sound like a negative committee in our head that is communicating that we are not good enough or working hard enough to celebrate exactly who we are in this moment.

What if you paused today and simply asked the question:  “What did I do well this week?”  There is something powerful about this question because it holds the answer to where our strengths are found.  Through examining this question, we can reveal what we do automatically, and sometimes with little to no effort.  Herein lies the key to what really makes us strong.

Now for those of us who have a particularly loud inner critic, this exercise may prove to be more complex and require careful attention to avoid the desire of focusing on  deficiencies.  However, if you follow these simple steps, you will be on  your way to a stronger you:

  1. First, gather your writing paper/pens (this is better than the computer to decrease the likelihood of distractions).
  2. Next, sit and allow yourself to feel calm.  This will look different for everyone, but do what works for you.  It may include abdominal breathing, remembering self-compassion, smiling, soothing music, or even just thinking positive thoughts.  Whatever works for you, take as much time as you need.  Being calm and present is the most important part of this task.
  3. After you feel calm and relaxed, reflect on your week and think about all the events from the past 7 days.  You may want to jot down certain names/places/things that happened.
  4. When you have brainstormed for a minute or so, begin documenting the things that you did each day that you enjoyed, brought you satisfaction, made you smile, and/or you want to repeat.

That’s all.  Don’t worry if you had one great day and then one really crappy day….you are focusing on the positives.  If you woke up early one day, had a good workout, connected with a friend over dinner, and noticed a beautiful sunset, then you write it down.  However, and this is VERY important, if you find your mind wandering to the day that you overslept, had a conflict at work, ate all junk food, or argued with your partner; take a deep breath and focus on listing out only the things that you feel good about.  Sure, maybe you had a crap day for the most part, but can you find something that was positive?  Maybe it was the fact that you got up and dressed that day? Or maybe it was that you decided not to go bed angry.  If you sincerely look for the best parts of your day, I believe you will find it.

Every day we do something that supports us, that makes us feel whole, that motivates us to try again the next day; but we can get so caught up in the one or maybe five things we did ‘wrong’ or not quite good enough that we overlook and even forget the small awesome moments. Please do not think any act was too small….if you smiled at even one person one day; that is something work celebrating and acknowledging.

The whole exercise should only take a few minutes and the most time-consuming part may be the getting to calm but it can be incredibly powerful to consciously acknowledge all of the good things you did this week.  And as with any exercise, you will need to repeat it often to reap the full benefits.  So start today, see how you feel, then try it again next week.  Hopefully with a few intentional exercises of highlighting your own strengths you can start to recognize that you really are stronger than you realized and that you have incredible potential to become even stronger.

Be happy, be healthy, be strong.

Sun

 

 

 

 

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Complaint free day

What if you spent an entire day without complaining? How would that change your perspective?  How uncomfortable would it be to refrain from voicing a complaint and accept the reality of a situation and continue to move forward?  I’m not suggesting that we all become passive and not speak up about unequitable, unjust, or unacceptable behaviors, I’m suggesting we think about how to voice our feelings and thoughts in a more productive and healthy way that result in either a reasonable solution or follow up plan of action.

We all have our moments of complaining and it’s totally understandable.  Especially when we feel frustrated, upset, fearful, confused, and overwhelmed.  At the end of the day we have to ask, what is the point of complaining?  Are we seeking validation from other people?  Maybe.  Do we need to complain about how tough our day was in order for people to understand that we are struggling?  Or are we looking to excuse our own behavior through the fault of something/someone else?  Maybe we complain to connect with others.  I’m sure many of us have complained about another person or event to someone and it made us feel closer and more connected than before.   Are we complaining often because we don’t feel that anyone hears us otherwise?  Or are we complaining because we are fearful?  The next time you hear yourself complaining or feel the need to air out a complaint, ask yourself these questions:

What is the purpose of my complaint? Or What do I need right now from this situation? 

Is this something that serves me well or can I let it go?

If this serves me well or I feel strongly enough about it, what can I do to positively impact the situation or create change?

Once you realize those answers you can more easily determine how to frame your thoughts and feelings in a productive and helpful way instead of simply complaining about it with no means of appeasing your emotions tied to the situation.

The challenge is not about complaining, it’s the discovery of what is driving the complaint.  Ultimately if we approach our struggles with more self-understanding and awareness we are more likely to find a solution that not only helps our own sense of well-being but promotes more peace and contentment within our immediate environment.  I do not envision a world without complaint, but I love the idea of changing our personal space and space around us to a place where complaints are less frequent and ideas of action/resolve are the common theme.

There is an important disclaimer about increasing your awareness of your own complaining:  once you become aware of how often (and honestly, how easy) it is to complain within yourself….you will start noticing it much more in everyone else around you.  This is not an easy thing to navigate because as you begin living with an intention to complain less and act more, it can be incredibly taxing to be more attuned to everyone else’s complaints.  The best advice I can offer in those moments is to practice love, understanding, compassion, and kindness for both the other person and especially yourself and to remember that it is not your place to learn lessons for other people.  After all, lessons can be helpful but the models of those lessons are way more powerful.  Be a model of Love, Understanding, Compassion, and Kindness and enjoy the space that you create around you.

The power of hope is stronger than the turmoil of worry

When is the last time someone asked you, “What are you hoping for?”  And how often do we spend time thinking about our hopes and dreams?  I say things all the time like, “I’m hoping for a quiet day today” or “I hope traffic isn’t backed up this morning.”  But I don’t really think about what it means to be hopeful when I’m saying these things.  I have things in my life I think about often, including work, financial security, my parent’s health, the people in my life, emotional stress, the tragedies that occur each day, and my overall state of well-being, but what I get from all that is a lot of time worrying and not so much time hoping

And let’s be real, who can blame me?  The media and our culture tell me every day a host of things to worry about including health, politics, the BPA in plastic, global warming, gas prices, community violence, and the unstable economy just to name a few.  I stopped watching the news on a regular basis because I just couldn’t stand it any longer.  Each broadcast seems to start with a highlight of something violent, traumatic, and/or otherwise tragic.  I don’t know if I have ever seen a news hour with a promo of  “This is going to make your heart sing…so stand by and get your daily dose of uplifting news.” Or better yet, how about “Look, we are about to give you some really overwhelming and scary information but we promise to end out the news cast with solid strategies to reduce your anxiety and improve your sense of calm and peace.

I can’t help but wonder what we are doing to our younger generation when we subject them to all of this worry instead of instilling more hope.  If I ask a teenager what they hope for.  They may start off by saying something like “I hope I’m rich and famous someday.” But when I go ahead and ask them a couple of more questions, like “So if you’re rich and famous, what will that mean for you?”  or “What if you were rich and famous right now, what would be different?”  It takes a few rounds of creative questioning, but eventually I hear “…because if I have money and fame then I won’t have to worry.”

The reality is that we have been conditioned to be more comfortable in a state of fear, worry, and angst than we are in a state of peace or hopefulness.  Not to mention that we are constantly being told that we need more money and everything is getting more scarce and the concept of ‘enough’ is almost unheard of.  It’s so sad that we are programmed to respond to the routine question “How are you?” with a dismissive, “Oh, I’m fine.  Thanks.”  Because then we end up in this place where we don’t really share our insecurities or worries nor do we create a space to resolve them with acts of hope.  This is a common place I like to call turmoil.  Unfortunately, I know this space too well.

So how do we get out of the turmoil and make a left turn towards hope?  I believe we have to start by acknowledging what it is that is really worrying us so much and then invest time and effort in figuring out how we are doing address it.  And a major part of this process is: 1) being honest about what it is that we are wanting, and 2) defining what reasonable steps we are willing to take in that direction. The raw definition of hope (according to Dictionary.com) is the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.  And an effective way of feeling that something CAN happen is to identify at least one strategy that puts us one step closer to our stated desire.  So figure out what you need and then create movement in that direction.

Essentially, when we make goals…we promote hope.  And I believe it’s not just hope for ourselves, but for other people too.  I know that when my friends start showing me their accomplishments or telling me of their goals, I start thinking “Dang, I need to get off my butt and do something useful too.”  Now, it does help to have awesome friends who inspire you to be better and challenge you out of your comfort zone, but even if your friends are not lighting fires beneath you; think about how you can be the source of that fire for someone else as well as for yourself!

Of course, I can’t make goals to control things like illness, tragedy, or even how someone will react to me, but if I create strategies that help me address stress, sadness, and other overwhelming feelings…I can at least have options to explore when these things happen.  I guess what I’m getting at is that I realize I can’t control all of these external things happening, but I always have a choice on how to respond.  I can choose to respond with worry, fear, and anxiety or kick all that to the curb and respond with hope, love, and faith.  Those are the things that promote my feelings of safety and security which increase my state of hopefulness and ultimately, my well-being.  Yes, I admit; it’s much easier to say it than to do it.  But as always, this is my reminder that doing it feels much better than just talking about it.

Peace.

Afternoon by the river

Afternoon by the river