Happiness Starts With You

Photo by Autumn Goodman on Unsplash

For many people, happiness is something they think happens due to outside forces. If I get the grades I want. If I have a job where I am successful. If I have a relationship. If I am thinner. If people are proud of me.

I call it the happiness hamper. The place where you go to dig through all the things to find one that you think will make you happy. Trying on different ones to see which will make you happy at that moment. All of these kinds of happiness are dependent on someone or something else.

True happiness can only come if you are happy with yourself – with nothing added by anyone or anything else. Just you, in your own flesh, looking in a mirror and saying that YOU make you happy.

People that seek happiness outside of themselves from other people or things are very often disappointed and decidedly unhappy. If your happiness resides in your getting a certain job or making a certain amount of money and that doesn’t happen as you hope it will you then feel sad and as if you are now not successful or worthy.

If you seek happiness in relationships and your relationship does not work out…you feel sad and as if you somehow lacking because that person did not choose to stay with you.

If happiness does not start with you how then can you expect to be happy with anything else that you do or with anyone else. If you inherently find fault with yourself and are not wholeheartedly happy with just you – how can you expect that you would be able to be happy in some other situation? You are still the same person are you not? The same one you are not happy with. That does not change because your situation changes.

So many times my clients when I talk about being happy with themselves bring up all the trauma and suffering from their life. They believe they cannot be happy with themselves because of all the beliefs and responses they have to this trauma – that other people and other situations taught them. But they believe it, internalize it, live it with words like “my fault”, “not worthy”, “not valued”, “not smart”, “not pretty” and on and on.

I should have a sign in my office with the following words: Repetition and Reinforcement. I say it often enough. I believe it absolutely that it is the only way to change how you think about what you feel. You must repeat, repeat, repeat for as many times as is necessary. And then you must reinforce by repeating hundreds, millions, hundreds of millions until your brain believes what you are saying. Until the negative things you have internalized are gone – replaced.

Start small, say it once a day, have it written and placed next to where you brush your teeth every morning. Say it out loud looking at yourself in a mirror and smile when you do it.

I AM HAPPY WITH MYSELF.

Do it once a day for four weeks. Then do it twice a day for three weeks. Then three times a day for three weeks. It takes 21 consecutive days of doing something to make a habit that sticks. Then do it four times a day for three weeks. Ever increasing until it becomes a running monologue in your brain. And smile every time you say it – smiling releases endorphins, endorphins make us feel happier.

Happiness starts with YOU.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Do One Thing

Photo by Joe Caione on Unsplash

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

Photo by Alex Bertha on Unsplash

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

Face Your Fear

reflection of woman s eye on broken mirror
Photo by Ismael Sanchez on Pexels.com

Everything around us seems to be in chaos. We feel sad and we cry. We feel anger and we seethe. We think we are sad or angry. We tell people we are sad and angry.

What we are is full of fear.

Fear is quite often the driving force behind every other emotion we THINK we have. Fear is stronger than sadness, stronger than anger. It is the strongest, most motivating emotion we humans possess. It just hides out as other things because it is much easier to say we are sad or mad than we are afraid.

Ask yourself, what am I afraid of right now? What do I fear happening to me or others I care about? What am I so scared of that it makes me sad or mad?

At the core of our emotional states, we find fear.

We are so sad about how Covid has changed our lives. We cry about it. We are also mad about how it affects everything around us. What are we really feeling? Fear.

We fear getting it or others we love getting it. We fear dying and others dying. We fear feeling as if it will never end. We fear never being normal again. We fear not being able to work or losing our jobs. We fear not having supplies that we need.

We fear.

Civil rights, racial equality, police issues, political climate, protests, and all that surrounds can make some people think they are sad and some think they are angry. At the core, they all fear something.

We fear.

Recognizing disguised fear is important. It allows us to acknowledge the truth of what we are feeling and the truth of why. It is okay to be afraid. Emotions are part of us. But what will we do with that fear once we recognize it for what it is? How will we respond to it? How will we let it control what we do?

It is not our emotions that are the problem, it is what we do after the emotion both to ourselves and to others. Fear, unrecognized, can turn into great suffering.

What are you afraid of right now? Write it down, confront it, know it and then start to think how you can respond to it. Some fears we have no control over, but recognizing we have no control IS a response. We cannot control a virus or make it disappear. What can we do? How can we protect ourselves and others as best we can.

We cannot solve global racism. But we can do things in our own communities, our own hearts and minds, to affect change. What is our response to fear?

Fear can decide your life if you allow it. Fear can decide your emotions. Fear can decide your responses. Or you can know it for what it is and decide for yourself.

Until next time,
Deborah

Right Now

life is now neon signage
Photo by Elly Fairytale on Pexels.com

I am reposting this piece as I think a lot of people are currently struggling with this due to fears of the future surrounding coronavirus case increases.

Most people and their minds spend time in two places – the past and the present. Very few, spend time in the right now. Even when they think they are in the right now, what they are thinking, feeling, and doing is informed by their continued issues with the past or their fear of the future.


The right now is rarely separated out, alone, to become their focus, their only focus.

When we feel overwhelmed it is usually because we have allowed events, feelings, memories of the past to “infect” our present. We have not processed these things and we continue to carry them with us making them our reality. They all have a starting place usually not one of our own making but we make them our truths. And we are convinced that everything we are experiencing right now is a result of the past.

We unpack the bags we carry all that stuff in and start attaching the stuff to everything going on in our lives. Sometimes consciously sometimes unconsciously. It just becomes who we are.


We become accustomed to the pain of things and afraid to live our lives without it.

We also pretend we are psychic and can see into the future. We predict the outcome of everything that is happening to us. We make it bigger, more scary, more upsetting. We go to worst case scenarios. We believe our lives will always be the way they are now.

We predict everything including death as we make catastrophes at every moment of our lives. And we believe that this future we create is actually going to happen as if we have some magic machine to make it so.


Guess what? We don’t and we can’t. It’s all made up.

What if we lived in the right now? With nothing added. Trimmed down to the barest essence of this moment. How would we change our stress or depression or anger? In any moment ask yourself the following:

What am I feeling right now? Name it, acknowledge it, examine it, do not grow it, entertain it, live in it. Do not make it about the past or future. If you are upset, why right now are you upset, what happened exactly right now? What can you do about it, anything,nothing? Let it go.

What am I doing right now? Standing, sitting, walking, driving, working. Name it, describe it, notice it. Notice your senses right now what do you see, smell, touch, taste, hear right now.

Breathe slowly. In through the nose out through the mouth. Breathe in hold for 4 seconds then breathe out for 7 seconds. Notice the breathe, notice your body, notice your feelings.


Do not unpack the baggage of the past or predict the future. Stay in the right now.

We suffer first because of what we experience due to either our own choices or the choices of others. We experience suffering thereafter because of the way we live in the past and predict the future. We extend our own suffering and become used to it, sometimes even comfortable with it. We can even become afraid not to have it because we feel we deserve to be angry, sad, scared in order to be who we have come to be.


If we let that go, who will we be then without it?

If you want to find out who that person is, live in the now. Only the right now. Once you do that, it is easier to look at the past objectively and work through it and it is easier to see a future that is a blank slate waiting for you to write on it.

Live right now.

Until next time,
Deborah

Grief Of The Normal

woman sitting while looking lonely

The coronavirus is bringing about all kinds of grief. The grief of losing people is tremendously heavy. The grief of separation is isolating.

The grief of the normal. Of your normal. The grief of what is missing.
It is okay to be sad.

Grief is like an unpredictable ocean as I have written in the past. The waves come and go across our hearts and minds. Sometimes, the waves are small and almost imperceptible.

Other times they are massive and threaten to drown us with their weight.
We are now grieving the normal. The normal of going to the coffee shop with a friend and chatting about our lives.

The normal of grocery shopping without fear or restriction.

The normal of going to work or school in our everyday routines.

The normal of gathering for birthdays and holidays and yes, deaths and funerals.

The normal of reaching out to shake someone’s hand or hug someone as a greeting or goodbye.

The normal of book clubs and poker nights.

The normal of sporting events from tee-ball to professional.

The normal of meetings in person and lunches with friends.

The normal of sleepovers and playdates.

The normal of weekend trips and long-planned vacations.

The normal of going to the movies.

The normal dinner reservations at your favorite restaurant.

The normal of living.

We find these waves coming on us unexpectedly. Where we start to cry out of nowhere. Where we feel sad and lack motivation. Where we feel angry and want to lash out.

It is okay to feel this grief. It is necessary to acknowledge it and to acknowledge what we are grieving for.

It is also necessary not to live there. It is important to not let this ocean drown us.

Just as the waves of the ocean, we can acknowledge and feel the waves and then we can watch them go back out to sea.

We can say to ourselves. Yes, I feel this way, right now. But right now will not be forever. The waves will go back out to sea.

And normal will return at some point. Changed for some, the same for others. But these waves will return to the sea.

Just like the waves in the ocean come and go, no challenge is permanent. Change is the constant in human existence, nothing remains the same forever.

Self Care Is Not Selfish

self care isn t selfish signage

Many times during sessions when I work with clients on the importance of self-care, they respond that they feel doing things for themselves is selfish. Self-care is never selfish, it is essential for your mental and physical health.

Some people have never considered self-care at all. Through their own traumas and negative beliefs they have been taught about themselves, they feel that they must always be taking care of others.

Smoothing over any chaos or anger in others to keep the peace. Making other people happy so more trauma doesn’t happen.

Many times people who have suffered trauma feel that they must always say yes to everyone around them to keep them happy. Again, to keep the peace, avoid more trauma.

And then there are those who are codependent feeling they must ensure others are taken care of, especially those who do not take care of themselves such as people with addictions. People can feel that they are responsible for everyone else to make sure they are safe but provide no safety for themselves.

In many relationships, when people do attempt self-care, others can make them feel selfish and even tell them that they are being selfish and thinking only of themselves. Toxic and abusive relationships are filled with those who will make others feel badly for wanting to take care of themselves or wanting to change their lives.

Self-care is absolutely imperative for your own mental and physical health. If you do not take care of yourself, you will be worn down in your mind and your body. You will constantly feel worn out.

Not practicing self-care can lead to depression, anxiety, anger, and physical illness. You cannot pour anything into others from an empty cup. Self-care is essential to filling your own cup.

To have a cup to pour from you must fill yours first. It is not selfish, it is self love. And self love is always the right thing to do.

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. ~ Buddha

Until next time,
Deborah

Best Laid Plans

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. ~ Robert Burns

Many times, we can start something, make plans, try to help someone else, and yet it doesn’t go as we had planned. In fact, sometimes it can end up as a huge failure.

Our intentions can be absolutely good and worthwhile. We can feel that what we are planning and doing is the right path. We can even convince ourselves that it is going much better than it actually is because it’s hard to admit we have been wrong.

In some of these instances, our well-meaning errors only affect ourselves. However, in other less fortunate circumstances, these best laid plans affect others and that is when we can feel even worse.

The effects on ourselves can still be costly. If not in money, in other ways such as on our emotions, which can affect our physical health and on our thoughts about our ability to make good decisions. So we can begin to question ourselves, our intelligence, our intentions.

The effects on others can be more costly. Best laid plans may seem the right path to us, even for others, but when we try to decide or guide the paths of others and they are unable or unwilling to follow them, the cost can be high. Anger, loss of trust, loss of relationships, and emotional turmoil. Even with the best of intentions, we have to remember that others need to choose their own paths.

So what happens when our best laid plans go wrong? Outside of the things mentioned above, we are usually presented with some choices. The choices of how to continue now that we realize our error and the choice to learn from making the error so as not to repeat it.

Choosing to continue isn’t really a choice, life goes on. Choosing in what way we continue, however, is a choice. We can continue with trying to be better and do better or we can continue with being angry or depressed about our errors.

Choosing to learn and not repeat is a full on choice that we have to make ourselves. We can choose not to learn and ignore our responsibility in the error and we can choose to continue to repeat it suffering over and over and possibly causing others to suffer as well.

The best laid plans with the sincerest of intentions can look and sound brilliant to us, but in reality our perceptions can be wrong. Errors are unavoidable in life. We humans are flawed and we make mistakes. But we are also able to learn and grow and that is the beginning of every mislaid plan.

Until next time, Deborah