A resolution of love

New Year

New Year

The L in ‘LUCK” stands for love and the complexity of this emotion is never lost on me.  Loving someone else is a natural process yet the idea of loving self become complicated, conditional, and at times unfeasible.  I wonder why it seems so natural to experience love for others and so unnatural to experience love for our own self?

When our friends make mistakes, we can rationalize their behavior and even experience compassion for them even when their actions may have directly impacted us.  However, we are unable to find that compassion and understanding for ourselves quickly, if at all, sometimes.  We hold ourselves to standards that can be impossible.  We judge ourselves constantly and compare what we ‘should’ be versus accepting exactly what we are in this moment.

Have we ever examined a relationship in our lives and thought, “if only they were perfect, had no flaws, and made no mistakes…I could love them more?”  So why in the world do we hold ourselves to an unattainable and undesirable standard?  Not only are we able to accept flaws and imperfections in others, but we find value in them.  Those are the traits that endear us to them and make them unique and full of character. We find tolerance through our experience of love for them.

I wonder what amazing things would happen if today we all started only one resolution….to simply love and accept ourselves completely as we are?  This is not to suggest that we can’t explore ways to become more aware or gain more understanding and knowledge of ourselves and acknowledge opportunities for continued growth.  It’s simply an invitation to accept that who we are at this very moment is worthy of love and that we don’t have to wait until we are ‘better’ to fully engage in self-love.

I fully believe that loving our self leads to a better sense of well-being, happiness, and peace which transcends into more peace, love, and happiness around us.  My resolution for this year?  More love.  Absolutely.

Advertisements

Holiday check-up

Holiday Lights

Holiday Lights (Photo credit: ImageMD)

Who is ready for the holidays?!  If you just responded with an exasperated sigh or cringed as you read those words, this may be a good post for you.

This time is mentally and physically exhausting all by itself, so why not consider doing a quick mental health check-up before you find yourself wanting to call in sick to your next holiday event?

 

Here are some areas to consider:

1)      First, you may want to check your emotional temperature.  Are you running hot lately?  Noticing a tendency to respond in anger?  If so, ask yourself what is underlying the anger?  Maybe you’re sad, maybe you are feeling insecure about something, or maybe you are just overwhelmed.  Irritability can be an indicator of all sorts of things, both emotional and physical.  Spend a few minutes thinking about the last few things that have gotten you really upset.  Notice if there is a theme or common thread.  Then create a plan to unwind or unplug each day and create a space of calm.  If you are able to meditate (or what I sometimes do,  which is simply sit still for a few minutes)…it has been show to decrease feelings of irritability and anger greatly. It’s amazing how even 60 seconds of stillness positively impacts our emotional well-being.

2)      Second, how is your appetite?   Are you eating your feelings?  Have you been reaching for extra servings of carbs and sweets?  Think about what is it that you may be trying to compensate for.  Another thought is to really consider what makes you feel “full”.  Are you seeking out activities that inspire you and fill your heart with joy?  Think about something that you can set some time aside for that truly fills you up (without all the extra calories).

3)      How is your energy level?  Are you waking up only to wish for another hour of snooze time?  And more importantly, are you pushing through the day feeling like you slept on a bed of rocks?  Getting enough sleep impacts everything from our mental sharpness, our emotional responses, and ability to problem solve. Energy level is also impacted by what we put in our bodies and if we are not eating enough balanced nutrition and taking in enough water….our whole system suffers.  Also consider what kind of energy is surrounding you.  If you are rubbing elbows with negative people all day, that’s gonna run you down.  Sometimes you can’t escape a cranky co-worker, but maybe you can take extra steps to limit contact and be ready to respond with extra kindness and positivity.  It may be as simple as repeating a positive affirmation or even faking a smile until it feels real.  Yes, that does work.  Try it right now if you don’t believe me.

4)      Now, let’s talk about your flexibility.   Nope, this isn’t about being about to touch your toes (though it is important)!  It’s about being open to a new experiences and rolling with the flow.  Are you hearing yourself explain why you can’t do something, or why something automatically won’t work?  Rigid thinking leads us to experience higher level of stress and releases all those hormones that contribute to feeling fatigued, irritable, and generally uninspired.  Start stretching yourself.  Try to resist the impulse to immediately think why something won’t work and think about how you are willing to try.  If you are going through a lot of changes, give yourself permission to feel a bundle of emotions but work on identifying what type of support you need while you’re going through the change.  Do you need someone to hear you and validate you? Or maybe you just need to acknowledge that the change is scary as hell and you’re feeling scared or fearful.  It’s okay to feel all those things.  There is something powerful about acknowledging and owning feelings of vulnerability.  Again, this about increasing awareness.  There may not be a quick fix or solution…but a higher sense of awareness can serve you well.

5)      And finally, when’s the last time you checked your vision for yourself?  How far are you able to see in the future?  I’m not talking about a psychic hotline kind of stuff, I’m referring to feeling hopeful and goal-oriented.  Have you reviewed your goals for yourself lately  or even better, have you set some new ones?  Don’t wait until a new year’s resolution party….write down a couple of things that you would like to do now and create a plan of action to go along with it.  Include the people who you need support from and a timeline.  One of the most powerful ways to instill hope is to create a goal.  When you create goals, you acknowledge that something IS possible.  That is the crux of what hope is, believing in a possibility.  It doesn’t have to be an elaborate 5 year plan.  It can be something as simple as listing off the chores you want to accomplish by the end your weekend.  Next time someone asks you why you are writing out a ‘to do’ list, just tell them that you are engaging in an act of hope.

 

Yes, the holidays are coming whether we are ready or not.  So why not take a few minutes and think about your emotional health and where you are today before taking on a whole new set of worries, tasks, and responsibilities.   Who knows, maybe if you take the time to increase your awareness and possibly incorporate some strategies now; you may not end up screaming at your in-laws at the next family dinner or flipping out about the lack of adequate parking at the local shopping mall. Okay, maybe that last point was a stretch, but never underestimate the power of positive thinking.  🙂

Apples and Oranges

“Comparison is the thief of joy”—Theodore Roosevelt.

You know the saying “that’s like comparing apples to oranges”?  When I was younger, it would always baffle me because I couldn’t understand why you would need to compare such similar objects.  But as a culture, that’s what we like to do…compare identical things and circumstances and then participate in an exercise in identifying as many differences as you can.

The problem is that when we do this with ourselves and with people in our life, then we start attaching value or worth to those differences.  Suddenly the apple is better than the orange, or the orange is more vibrant than the apple.  We must determine the hierarchy of differences and assume the most valued object.

Brene’ Brown talks about this phenomenon in her book The Gifts of Imperfection.  She refers to this idea of robbing ourselves from joy the second we start comparing to another person’s circumstances.  We get so caught up in this idea of who has what and who did what that we minimize, and sometimes even negate value to everything we have ever known.

The skill is not about training your brain to stop comparing.  After all, some comparisons can be incredibly useful and lead to great insights.  The skill is increasing your awareness of how those comparison’s impact your overall sense of well-being.  Here are examples of defeating comparison statements:

  •  “I could do X if only I had Y like my friend so and so.”
  •  “Oh, I’m having a bad day, but it’s nothing like what you’re going through…..”
  • “Yes, I’ve lost 10 pounds, but I still need to lose 5 more.”
  • “If I was making that much money, life would be so much better.”
  • “Things are not going so well, but I know they can always be worse.”

In each of the examples the actual situation is discounted through the act of comparison.  It’s a vehicle to find ways to account for something that is lacking or a desire for change without accountability.  It’s also a method to devalue something painful or uncomfortable.  They allow a rationale to escape the full experience of whatever is happening at that moment.

If we begin increasing our awareness of how often we get lost in this act of comparison then eventually it will lead to us to recognizing that we are enough exactly as we are at this moment.  There is still room to improve upon something or create space for change, but first embrace acceptance for the being that you are in this very moment.

Hold this thought….”You have everything you need.”  This isn’t some profound discovery.  It has always been true. Sure, go ahead, argue the fact.  I invite you to reflect on the purpose of trying to disprove it first.  I expect some people would go to the nth degree of literal here and say, “Wait, you need food…you need water, shelter..and so on.”  I will save the trouble and whole heartedly agree, and I will gently follow-up with the statement that the spirit of this concept is not to cause some great controversy.  It is to invite you to think about the purpose of comparison.  Is it to motivate you to do something greater with your life?  It is to inspire you to be better?  Or is it simply to give a louder voice to an inner critic that is often questioning your own value?  Because if we start comparing ourselves and highlighting some differences that lend to an illusion of value and worth; we become separate from others.  And when we spend more of our life in a state of being separate…we spend more time feeling disconnected, lonely, and ultimately less valued.

Here is a practice in the spirit of unity and well-being:  the next time you hear or experience a remarkable accomplishment, stroke of luck, or encounter a challenge or barrier to something; instead of going to that place of comparison simply experience the feeling that arises and emotions that follow and detach from the impulse to immediately file that away as better/worse/luckier/scarier/or any other ‘er’ word for your own life.  When we can be completely present in our lives without needing a comparison for ourselves or another person, it becomes a true way of honoring each other and maintain a connection without the expense of someone’s worth, especially our own.

It’s not about agreeing that an apple and an orange are different or even how they are similar…it’s about appreciating the apple just as it is and the orange for everything it has to offer.  When we can appreciate things and ourselves exactly as we are, something beautiful happens…we begin to feel more connected to others and ultimately more loved and valued.

If you’re going through a tough time, experiencing grievances, or simply having a bad day, own it.  If you’re doing well and enjoying success, own that.  If someone else succeeds, enjoy their happiness with them.  If they fail, support them.   Be accountable for your own situation without having to add some sort of disclaimer as to how it could be better or it could be worse.  Realize that everyone is on their own journey with their own obstacles, worries, and triumphs.  We are human.  We are all beautiful and complex.  And most of all, we are perfectly imperfect.

Summer vacation

va-ca-tion: Noun.  1: a respite or a time of respite from something: intermission. 2 a:  scheduled period during which activity (as of court or school) is suspended b:  a period of exemption from work granted to an employee 3: a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation (Webster’s Dictionary).

I will never forget  a conversation with a boss about vacations.  I was experiencing a particularly stressful time at work with some of the most mentally taxing cases that I had encountered and the idea of ‘burn-out’ seemed like a step up from where I was in that moment.  Feeling full of despair, I remarked that I desperately needed a vacation.  His response was “You have to realize that vacation will not solve your problems of how you are feeling.  Escaping only provides temporary relief.  The real issue is for you to find a way to achieve peace and inner calm without having to physically leave and go somewhere.”  Granted, I know he had positive intent when he provided me that insight but all I heard was “blah, blah, blah, buck up and keep going.”  Needless to say, I didn’t receive the wisdom very well and rationalized his advice as ‘fluff’ that can only come from people who get 6 weeks of vacation a year.  Therefore, I rejected his advice and the equally insightful guidance that followed and proceeded to wallow in self-pity instead of figuring out how to navigate the enormity of my emotional and physical state of exhaustion.

Eventually, I managed to explore some options and restore my spirit, and now I can truly appreciate what he was getting at with his statements.  Here’s the deal.  We have a right to enjoy vacations, but it can’t be the answer to life’s complex and exhausting challenges.  It can provide us with relaxation, adventure, and a pause of our daily chores, but if we look at it with great expectations of erasing stress and wiping our memories of pain, heartache, and turmoil; we will only set ourselves up for deeper disappointment when we return to the reality of our everyday lives.

There is something magical that can happen on a vacation; we tend to notice nature more, not be in such a hurry, be more open to love and hope, and generally allow ourselves to take good care.  And the most amazing phenomenon that happens (sometimes), is that we realize everything we need is within us no matter where we go.

Vacations can help us reconnect with our spirits but we don’t have to travel a great distance to achieve an inner state of calm. I mean, it’s not like we become different people on vacation.  We are always there.  We convince ourselves into thinking that vacation helps us be calmer, happier, and more content. But let’s get real, we don’t turn into ideal human beings just because we don’t have to worry about laundry for a few days or sit in bumper to bumper traffic.  The core of who we are is always present, unfortunately we are just too dang busy to notice while we are working all day, managing our personal life, and keeping up with endless tasks that create our ‘daily grind’.

I wish we all were guaranteed weeks of vacation every year to the destination of our choice, but the reality is that most of us simply don’t have that type of luxury. However, nobody says we can’t take a mini-vacation of our own without ever having to pack a bag.  Here are some ideas that can give us an ‘intermission’ from the daily grind and encourage us to take in some of the awesome things that surround us each day.

  1. Lose yourself in a good book for a couple of hours
  2. Take a class in something you have always wanted to try
  3. Visit a museum
  4. Explore a park or take a walk outside
  5. Drive a totally different way to work one day or drive in silence for a while
  6. Prepare a dinner that you have never eaten before (or go to a brand new restaurant)
  7. Get up and watch the sun rise tomorrow (or watch the sun set tonight)
  8. Lay out and watch the stars for an hour ( I hear there will be awesome meteor showers in mid August!   http://stardate.org/nightsky/meteors )
  9. Give yourself permission to do absolutely no household chores for a few days
  10. Go to bed early or sleep in late

Yes, summer vacation can be a magical time, but so can today.  We just have to decide if we want to use our senses to take in the beauty and awe that exists in abundance everywhere or simply ‘save’ it for those elusive vacation days.

My suggestion is to embrace today.  Listen to your spirit.  Hear what it needs and explore your options to appease it.  Then, just maybe, the idea of vacation (in any season) will take on a whole new meaning. 🙂

vacation pic