Creating A Universe Of Gratitude

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Zig Ziglar is credited with saying:

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions.”

And he is so right. Of all the emotions we can experience pure gratitude is one that boosts our “feel good” chemicals, increases joy, makes us more mindful, and attracts or brings more good things to our lives. Gratitude costs nothing outside of our effort to be thankful.

Practicing gratitude is like all other things we practice and make habits in our lives. If done daily, even as little as once a day, it can become a habit in as little as 30 days. To do it more than once a day allows us to fully be aware of all the things that we have, things we are thankful for, things bringing good to our lives.

The brain is trained to focus on what we present to it as being the most important. Most of the time what we present is what we are worried about, angry about, sad about and that takes up all the brain’s focus. If we deliberately, purposefully, redirect our brain to the things we are grateful for, it will focus there. Being focused on these things instead of the things we don’t have, or the things we wish weren’t in our lives, or the things that don’t bring good things to our lives frees us to embrace happiness and joy.

There are many ways to practice gratitude. Mental gratitude — being thankful just in your mind, thinking about the things we are grateful for. Spoken gratitude — speaking out the things we are grateful for. Written gratitude — writing down the things we are thankful for. A combination of these gratitude exercises can increase the habit of being grateful daily.

I have been talking about writing as emotional transference quite a bit in sessions recently. Writing can also be very helpful in being grateful to reinforce your gratitude and the habit of being thankful. There are many, many options for gratitude journals online. You can also just as easily use any kind of paper for a journal. You can use a guided or prompting journal that gives you specific things to be grateful for on that date or you can just write about anything you want.

Many apps allow you to practice gratitude daily. I use the Gratitude Journal — Private diary & affirmations on my phone to keep a daily record of my gratitude. But I also incorporate mental and spoken forms of gratitude during the day and while practicing meditation.

It doesn’t matter what you are grateful for. It can be something big like your family, a home, a job, or health. It can also be something seemingly insignificant like coffee, a pen, pajamas, or dark chocolate. It is not what you are grateful for that matters it is that you practice BEING grateful every day to increase your happiness and joy. If you have more on the grateful side of things, you will find that more joy, more happiness, and more things to be grateful for come your way.

To create your universe of gratitude, you must put your thankfulness out into the universe. With each thankful moment you release, you are building a universe of gratitude that accepts your thanks and returns to you more things to be thankful for. If your brain is occupied with thankful thoughts more often than it is the thoughts that keep us trapped, we feel happier, freer, more at peace with ourselves and our universe.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Show Love Now

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Throughout the Covid19 pandemic, one theme has run through many of my conversations with clients – death. And more specifically, the fear of death and of losing people they love.

Most of my clients are not fearful of death for themselves, but for their loved ones. Specifically for older loved ones or loved ones who have pre-existing conditions that could make a Covid19 infection possibly worse for them. They worry about death and worry about loss.

When in counseling, I use a lot of what is going on right now to help people focus on the here and now and not the speculation of future catastrophes. I do a lot of cognitive behavioral therapy work, which involves replacing negative thinking with positive.

But you cannot say to someone, how about we change that to my loved one is not going to die.

There is not, that I am aware of, any way to prevent death in human beings. All of us will die at some point. Therefore, it is very difficult and most times impossible for my clients to say they can believe the statement that their loved one is not going to die, because people do die.

Like the Covid19 virus, there is no making it just go away or that it is just not here anymore. Just like there is no making the truth that people die go away. We have no control over these things. We can mitigate by making healthy choices and working on ways to possibly extend our life span, but we cannot escape death at some point.

Staying in the here and now still works even with Covid19. Is your loved one sick? Are they taking precautions and being careful? Have they been exposed to a close contact? How are they doing right now – this moment? These are still here and now grounding questions we can ask and answer.

But what else can we do? We can always be intentional in showing our love now, today, at every opportunity to people we love. We can be proactive in our relationships to cultivate them and grow them with the people we love. We can make choices to show our love so that whenever the day does come that they are no longer here, we can say we know that they knew without a doubt that we loved them.

Being intentional with love relationships is something to be practiced whether there is Covid19 or not. It is the way we stay connected in the here and now. It is the way we share every moment of the time that we do have with people in meaningful ways.

We will still have to navigate loss and grief, but we will do so knowing that our loved ones knew we loved them and that we have many memories to keep their spirit alive with us.

We do not have to spend hours and days worrying and wondering what might happen in the future, we can live in each day, each moment showing love intentionally instead. Choosing not to lose the time we do have by letting it slip away in worry and fear.

Show love now.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Do One Thing

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I have a sign in my office that states, do one thing every day that makes you happy.

In a world of grief, division, blame, election chaos, and Covid finding happiness can seem a herculean task. But finding one thing, no matter how small, might seem a little more doable.

Think right now the first thing that comes to your mind that makes you happy. What is it? It does not matter what it is. It does not have to be something big or enormously meaningful. It can be tiny and to others may seem insignificant or even trivial, but to you it makes you happy. It makes you smile.

The first thing that came to my mind is coffee. A really good cup of coffee. Every time I have my coffee in the morning, it makes me smile. it makes me happy. It makes me warm and fuzzy. And this is something made of just beans.

Do one thing every day that makes you happy.

And in the great tradition of building habits, if you can do one thing for a period of time, you can also add to that one thing with another thing. And possibly another thing.

What if you added enough of one happy things that it filled most of your day? Would you think you would feel happier overall? You would need to notice and acknowledge each one. Speak gratitude for each. Enjoy the smile, the happiness, the warmth for each one.

How many one things could you have in a day? Five, ten, twenty, a hundred? Just think of the dopamine and serotonin you would get from all those one things that make you happy every day.

This week I put up the Christmas decorations in my office because Christmas lights make me happy every single time I turn them on. Every time. One thing.

What will your one thing be today?

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Constancy of Change

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In all of life, there is one thing on which we can constantly expect and that is change. In the universe, change never ceases and in our lives it is our constant companion.

Because we are human, we resist change. At times, we resist it mightily doing all that we can to avoid it, to try and stop it. We are often times intensely afraid of it.

We become comfortable in our lives. Even if our lives contain trauma and pain, those things become normalized and we are afraid to move past them. We have relationship issues and attachment problems, but we fear letting go. We fear being alone.

So we push back at change to try and avoid it or prevent it. Much of the time we are running away from it or pretending it does not exist.

However, nothing that we do can stop change from happening. It is the very catalyst of the universe and of all life in it. An ever changing constancy that promotes growth. And it can be very painful.

Every moment of every day we are presented with the choices of change. And every time, we make a decision on whether we resist or accept. The changes will occur either way, the amount we suffer with them is up to each of us.

We resist out of fear. We resist because we are afraid. We resist because of our past trauma responses. We resist because we are not in control.

The suffering comes to us with the resistance. Much like sandpaper across wood used to change it from rough to smooth. It scratches us and can wound us, but the end result can be beautiful.

Change can be difficult and painful and yes scary, but it can also be beautiful and transforming and freeing.

Change is constant, it is always occurring, and for life it is necessary for everything, including ourselves.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Try Love

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I read an article earlier this week that was shocking, sad, and truly hard to believe. One of those stories, that you almost never hear about but that happens millions, even billions of times a day around the world. Yet we remain unaware in a world of constant information.

With the 24/7 Internet providing us with what we THINK is all the information all the time – there is SO much that I, You, We do not know that goes in in this world, this country, your neighborhood, in your next door neighbor’s house and lives.

Mental health issues are what I would estimate as immeasurable during this current time. And services for those issues continue to be underfunded, underutilized, and understaffed. Just yesterday I learned that the shortage of therapists in the state where I live is astronomical. And my state has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation.

This story was one of multiple millions, even billions that are similar and much, much worse going on right now every second and I, you, we know nothing about it.

So what can be done? Such a complicated question with millions of possible answers.

I think though starting at love thy neighbor as thyself might be good and to truly love means to know them, their lives, their needs, their issues, and find some way, any way, a single action to help. But start with love no matter who they are, what color they are, what political party they support, what hot button issues they agree with, or any other thing that we might feel separates us from them.

Love has no separation. True love, true acceptance, true support does not see barriers, differences, politics, religion, etc.. True love sees that we all the same, HUMANS.

Will we choose today to not hate, not blame, not divide, not separate and try love instead? It is a choice regardless of what we do…we choose to do it. And one choice could save a life, a human, a soul.

Choose love for we know not what others are suffering only that they like us are humans and we all need love.

Until next time, be well,

Deborah

Your Life Matters

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Your life matters.

In the last few weeks, many of my clients have expressed an increase of anxiety, worry, feeling a loss of control, and not taking care of themselves. Many have stated that much of their time is spent worrying about other people, other events and crises, and just about anything but themselves.

They often say that all these other things matter more than taking care of themselves and often add that if they do self-care or even think about self-care they feel selfish.

Self-care is not selfish. It is sustainability. It is resilience. It is rest. It is renewal. It is filling your vessel so that you have something to pour out to other people and things.

Self-care is immensely important. Especially in times like these. Just the overwhelming nature of anxiety and worry and adding serving other people and things is so great that we can easily find ourselves crushed.

We then feel hopeless, defeated, tired, empty, sick, and lost.

Many people push back at the idea of self-care because they think it must be some grand gesture or huge undertaking that they assume they have no time for. But self-care can be minutely small and still have a huge impact.

If you get up five to ten minutes earlier before anyone else and spend time alone just gathering yourself and your thoughts. You can have a cup of coffee or tea, read a short uplifting or motivational item, sit and watch the sunrise, meditate, deep breathing, a warm washcloth to your face, stretching, yoga, or anything you can put in just a short few minutes.

It can change your life.

If you schedule all this time for other people and their needs and events and other things or events and it is in your calendar of things you have to do, there is nothing stopping you from scheduling time for yourself in the exact same way except you.

Make time in your calendar for something just for you. Again, it does not have to be grand or huge and does not have to consume a lot of time. But it does have to be just for your, to serve to fill you up, to build you up, to give you strength, to reset your mind, to feed your body. Something to relax you or invigorate you as you need.

Plan for your self-care. Schedule it. Follow through with it. Accept it. Know that it is for your good and therefore the good of everyone and everything around you. When you are filled and cared for, it is so much easier to fill and care for other people and other things.

Vary your self-care to serve all the parts of yourself. Sometimes you fill the creative you. Other times you fill the physical you. Still other times you fill the mental or spiritual you. And even still other times you fill the you that just wants to take a power nap.

Try something you have always wanted to do but felt you had no time or that it was selfish to do so when so many other people and things needed your attention. Have you ever wanted to paint, or learn to crochet, or mix essential oils, or make a body scrub, or try a something active, or start a journal.

ANYTHING works for self-care as long as it is about filling yourself up in some way or replenishing some part of yourself.

Do not wait until you think you will have more time. If you have time for other people and other things you have time for yourself. Choose to love yourself because your life matters.

Feeling Untethered

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Many of us go through our lives believing we have control over them. We believe we control our day to day decisions and the decisions of those around us.

Many of us also feel that we are tethered or tied to our daily existence through this belief in our control. We believe that our daily life has routine and constancy. We do not feel as if we are an escaped balloon floating without safety bouncing from one place to the next and one event to the other.

More often than not, we feel relatively safe in our daily lives because of this belief in our control.

Welcome to 2020 and coronavirus. Everything about the effects of this virus scream feeling untethered. Our belief in control is shattered and we find ourselves frustrated, fearful, and lost.

All of the things we believed we decided are now being decided by the virus and the subsequent mandates, restrictions, and consequences. All of the control we believed we had has vanished and all ties we had to those beliefs and the lives we were leading are many times hard to see.

We feel constantly as if the skin of our lives is being ground away by the sandpaper of this new reality.

We are told how we can work, go to school, interact with others, recreate, and spend time with friends and families. We are told what we have to wear and how long we have to isolate ourselves.

We are told not to see family and friends as we would like to do. We are told not to celebrate birthday parties, weddings, anniversaries, even deaths the way we would have in the past.

Untethered.

We feel disconnected from our lives, from our people, from our belief of control, from our safety.

So how do we manage this untethered feeling? We have to make connections in whatever way we can in this environment. Texts, calls, video calls with family and friends. Finding ways to continue working and going to school.

Recognizing what is happening in the moment. Are you safe? Are you doing all you can to manage your life and stay connected to others?

Realizing that this is not a situation that will last forever. Practicing meditation and breathing every day, even multiple times a day. Remembering your self-care activities that offer enjoyment and fulfillment. Finding ways to create tethering even now.

Understanding that most everyone feels untethered at this time in our society. That what you are feeling is what most people are feeling. Be kind. Let go of quick judgment, angry responses, and blame.

Some escaped balloons can find themselves entangled in trees and their out of control condition is changed. Find your tree branch and hold on. Find one thing to tether yourself and your mind in this chaotic world.

Deep breath in through the nose for 5 seconds and out through the mouth for 7 seconds and repeat and repeat and repeat. Say to yourself I am calm and I am safe in this moment with each breath. Repeat as necessary feeling your feet on the floor or ground. Becoming tethered once again.

We can get through this one moment at a time.

Until next time,

Deborah

Sharpen The Saw

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The last of the 7 habits of highly effective by Dr. Stephen R. Covey may well be the most important and the hardest for many to accomplish. We spend a great deal of time taking care of others needs and also trying to accomplish everything in our daily lives that we forget about the most important person – ourselves.

The phrase sharpen the saw is used to describe self-care or self-renewal. To be effective for others, we must take care of our own physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual health. We cannot pour ourselves out onto others or into the other parts of our lives (work, school, family, friends) if our own vessel is empty.

We can attempt to pour from an empty vessel, but in doing so we will find that we are very ineffective and our own bodies, minds, and spirits become worn down, sick, and unable to function in a healthy way in any part of our lives.

Taking care of our physical self and renewing our bodies requires beneficial eating, exercising and resting. Choosing more healthy options over fast food, meal planning, picking nourishing foods with which to refuel ourselves. Exercising as much as possible and getting creative when we have less time such as taking the stairs instead of elevators, parking farther away from where we need to go so that we walk more, incorporating yoga or tai chi into our office breaks. Adequate sleep is paramount in renewing our bodies and minds. But adequate sleep that is actually restful is even better. Finding ways to achieve deep, restful sleep such as meditation before bed, warm baths, herbal teas, or supplements.

In renewing our social and emotional selves we must make intentional, meaningful connection with others. Intentionally reaching out to friends or family to sincerely connect with them even if it is just for a few minutes of your day. Many people use texting as their only method of communication and it is connection, but what if we had an actual phone call, sent a hand written letter, or made time for lunch or coffee instead.

Renewing our mental health means not only addressing our emotions and responses to stressors and trauma, but adding learning about ourselves and our mental health. Reading about how to strengthen our minds and emotional resilience. Writing our emotions in journals. Seeking out therapy if needed. Being open to processing and working through things that impact our mental health.

Expanding our spiritual renewal by spending time in nature, utilizing meditation, music, art, prayer, or acts of service. Connecting with whatever our spiritual beliefs might be and being aware of our spiritual self and connection with the universe. Enriching our spirit through reflection and meditation.

These acts of self-renewal or self-care allow us to grow and change as individuals to be able to offer more to others and to the world around us. Renewal allows us to increase our ability to handle challenges that arise because we are fresher and stronger.

If we live our life in balance we take the time to renew ourselves. The four areas of renewal when practiced regularly have an overlapping center that contribute to our ability to be our best possible selves within all areas of our lives, and especially for our own self-care. Without this, we are unable to be effective anywhere else. A saw that is not sharpened will not be of any use.

“We must never become too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw.” ~ Dr. Stephen R. Covey

Seeking Synergy

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As we continue the exploration of the 7 habits of highly successful people as written by Dr. Stephen R. Covey, we come to habit number six, synergy. The definition of synergy is as follows: the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.

When we have differing points of view, as is the case in many aspects of society today, problem solving WITH others of different points of view becomes somewhat of a unicorn in communication. Meaning it is mythical and seldom seen. Many of us spend a great deal of time trying to convince others to our point of view and synergy is nowhere to be seen.

Synergy requires creative cooperation. Working together, being open-minded, and working to find solutions to problems.

Synergy is however not the same as compromise. A compromise is rarely an even trade. One side will likely get more than the other. Synergy is one plus one equals three, or fifty, or millions or more.

If we are willing to be truly open setting aside biases, prejudices, past hurts and truly listening to what someone else has to say, we can find new ways of seeing things. New approaches to problems begin to emerge just from the addition of different points of view.

Synergy starts with differences to which the next step that must be added is be willing to listen. Clarify what the end goal needs to be. Explore the alternatives – all the alternatives. Seek first to understand (listen) and then to be understood (heard).

Being in synergy can be manifested in several ways. Having a change of heart, seeing things in a new way, feeling that the relationship has been transformed, and ending up with an idea or result that is better than what either one started with.

Do you truly value differences with others in the mental, emotional, and physical realms? Or do you just wish everyone would agree with you so you can all get along (on your terms only)? Are you willing to look at any of the things you say you believe most strongly in willingly, openly, with others who have differing opnions? Or do you wish only to drown out all opposing viewpoints?

Many people mistake everyone believing the same way as unity and sameness for oneness. If we expect everyone to believe, look, and live the same as we do, then we are not trying to achieve unity but forced compliance.

Synergy is better than my way or your way. It’s our way. ~ Dr. Stephen R. Covey

Understand and Be Understood

Habit number five in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Stephen R. Covey is Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. It sounds complicated, but it is actually fairly simple in practice and absolutely necessary to effective communication habits.

How many times have you found yourself in conversation with someone and you are only thinking about what you are going to say when they ever stop talking? Concentrated on your reply and not what they are actually saying.

Often times, we may not even hear what they are saying, especially in highly emotional conversations. The reply in our heads coupled with anger or fear or sadness blocks out every word they say to us. We wait only to pounce with our heated reply or disagreement or accusation.

Many times, we seek only to be understood first. We want people to hear us. We want to make our point. What the other person has to say takes away from our time to be understood, or so we believe.

We can listen selectively, focusing on words that make us more angry, more sad, more afraid and leaving out the context of what someone is saying entirely. We can filter everything someone else is being said through our own frame of reference and experience. Not hearing anything about the other person’s personal story in the words.

We can jump to conclusions about what someone else means by their words before they even finish speaking. In today’s climate this is particularly true when what one person says does not line up with what another person thinks or feels, immediate judgment comes without ever taking the time to actually listen to the other person.

We respond usually in one of four ways when we are not seeking to understand. We judge what is being said and then either agree or disagree. We ask questions but only from our own frame of reference. We give advice or solutions to the problem. We analyze the other person’s motives and behaviors based on our own experiences or beliefs.

When we seek to understand we intentionally listen to the other person, even to the point of making notes if we have to in order to actually hear and see what they are saying. When they are finished speaking, we paraphrase or repeat back what we heard them say such as “I heard you say” or “I hear you saying”. And then asking them if what you say you heard is actually what they said.

Without intentional listening, repeating back, asking for correction if what we repeat back is not what they said, and then responding with I statements, we end up with reactive responses having actually heard nothing from the other person. This results in misunderstanding, blame, and repetitive arguments. Common ground is nowhere to be seen and no one understands anything about the other person.

Deep communication is intentional. It requires effort and the ability to resist being reactionary. But practiced over time this habit can transform relationships.

“If I were to summarize in one sentence the single most important principle I have learned in the field of interpersonal relations, it would be this: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” ~ Dr. Stephen R. Covey