Gratitude and appreciation are two powerful weapons we can use against depression and anxiety.
In fact, Dan Baker writes in his book, What Happy People Know, that it is impossible to be in a state of appreciation and fear at the same time.
Here, then, are some ways we can cultivate gratitude.
1. Keep a gratitude journal.
According to psychologists such as Sonja Lyubomirsky at the University of California-Riverside, keeping a gratitude journal —where you record once a week all the things you have to be grateful for — and other gratitude exercises can increase your energy, and relieve pain and fatigue. In my daily mood journal, I make a list of each day’s “little joys,” moments that I would fail to appreciate if I didn’t make myself record them, such as: “holding my daughter’s hand on the way to the car,” “a hot shower,” “helping my son with his homework.” This exercise reminds me of all the blessings in my life I take for granted and encourages me to appreciate those mundane moments that can be sources of joy.
2. Use the right words.
According to Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman, words literally can change your brain. In their book, Words Can Change Your Brain, they write: “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.” Positive words, such as “peace” and “love,” can alter the expression of genes, strengthening areas in our frontal lobes and promoting the brain’s cognitive functioning. According to the authors, they propel the motivational centers of the brain into action and build resiliency.
“Gratitude is the heart’s memory,” says the French proverb. Therefore, one of the first steps to thankfulness is to remember those in our lives who have walked with us and shown kindness for deeds big and small. I have been extremely fortunate to have so many positive mentors in my life. At every scary crossroad, there was a guardian or messenger there to help me find my way. The mere exercise of remembering such people can cultivate gratitude in your life.
4. Write thank-you letters.
According to psychologist Robert Emmons at the University of California at Davis, author of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, a powerful exercise to cultivate gratitude is to compose a “gratitude letter” to a person who has made a positive and lasting influence in your life.
Emmons says the letter is especially powerful when you have not properly thanked the person in the past, and when you read the letter aloud to the person face to face. I do this as part of my holiday cards, especially to former professors or teachers who helped shape my future and inspired me in ways they might not know.
5. Hang with the winners.
Peer pressure never really goes away, you know. Studies show that married folks hanging out with happy couples are more likely to stay married themselves; that if your friends eat well, their willpower will rub off on you; and that if you surround yourself with optimists, you will end up more positive than if you keep company with a bunch of whiners. By merely sitting next to a person who likes the words “thank you,” there is a high probability that you will start using those words as well.
6. Give back.
A while back I wanted to repay a former professor of mine for all his encouragement and support to me throughout the years. However, nothing I could do would match his kindness. No letter of appreciation. No visit to his classrooms. So I decided I would help some young girl who fell into my path in the same way that he helped me. I would try to help and inspire this lost person just as he had done for me.
Giving back doesn’t mean reciprocating favors so that everything is fair and the tally is even. That’s the beauty of giving. If someone does an act of kindness for you, one way to say thanks is to do the same for another.
Originally posted on Everyday Health.
Great relationships develop not from the absence of conflict, but from determining an agreeable pattern for how to resolve conflict. Defining the rules of engagement for how you “fight” with someone you care about is ultimately much more important than trying to never have a disagreement.
If you care about someone, then consider adopting these 10 rules as part of the way you communicate with them when you are trying to resolve a conflict:
Rule #1: Don’t yell. Adding emotion clouds the clarity of what actually happened. If the other person is yelling, it becomes especially important that you don’t raise your voice so as to prevent a natural escalation of competing interests.
Rule #2: Always start and end the conversation by affirming that you care about the other person. In the midst of a disagreement, you can never underestimate the power and importance of reminding the other person that you care about them and believe in them.
Rule #3: Be open to the idea that you made a mistake even if you are sure you did not. People rarely get upset for no reason, so there is a good chance that there is at least a kernel of truth to what they are saying.
Rule #4: Don’t speak in generalities of another person’s behavior; speak only to direct examples and instances of action. It’s hard for anyone to own up to a generalization and so you’ll likely just see his or her defensiveness activate. By isolating an instance of fact, everyone can quickly see where he or she was right and wrong.
Rule #5: Always work to be the first to apologize when any dispute arises. Although the idea of waiting for the other person to apologize first seems vindicating, it’s actually a guaranteed sign of how you care more about being right than in coming to a reconciliation.
Rule #6: Focus on trying to discover what’s right, not who is right. When thinking about what happened, try to remove yourself from the situation and evaluate right and wrong based solely on the actions that took place regardless of which side you’re on. Treat it as if you are refereeing someone else’s game.
Rule #7: Do not cuss. Exaggerated language is often proof of an exaggerated understanding of what actually happened. If you swear, the other party is likely to only hear the expletives and will stop listening for any validity in what you’re saying.
Rule 8: No name-calling. Belittling a person always shifts the focus off of resolving the actual problem. Verbal abuse is never welcome to a conflict resolution party.
Rule #9: Remind yourself the other person also cares about reconciling the relationship. One of the fundamental causes of many disagreements is feeling hurt that the other person is no longer considering your perspective, but if they didn’t care about a resolution with you they wouldn’t be fighting for one.
Rule #10: Remind yourself to never expect the other person to fill a hole in your life that only they can fill. Sometimes we fall into the trap of placing improper expectations on other people because we are hoping for them to satisfy a need in our life that they are not really capable of satisfying.
If we are fighting with someone, it means we both care about finding the best course of action and we both care about preserving the relationship. If we didn’t care about one another, then we would just ignore each other and leave.
The reason these 10 rules are important is because as long as they are in place, then no disagreement or conflict will ever shake the critical bedrock of knowing that the other person cares about you. As long as we know the other person cares about us, it will give us a common ground to work from as we try to unite two seemingly conflicted views.
Like a monster from under the bed, stress and/or anxiety is stealing the peaceful nighttime Zzzzzs of nearly 70 million Americans. Anxiety may also be sabotaging your confidence, turning your stomach into knots, and impacting your general wellbeing. Learn how to squash the uncomfortable consequences of stress and anxiety with these 5 tips.
1. Remember: This Too Shall Pass
Laundry is piling up, the baby has a fever, and your boss wanted that report yesterday. Sound familiar? No one managing his or her own life is devoid of stress and too much of it can lead to excessive worry, nervousness, dread, upset stomach, or difficulty breathing. The first step to overcoming such negative feelings is to recognize that you are experiencing a very common emotional state most commonly identified as anxiety (learn more signs of anxiety). Although it’s uncomfortable, the negative feelings WILL PASS. Fighting the anxiety can make it stronger. Paradoxically, accepting that you are feeling anxious helps activate the body’s natural relaxation response.
2. Learn How to Self-Soothe
Imagine walking down a nature path only to be greeted by a snarling grizzly bear — or worse, your boss demanding that report. When we are faced with an anxiety-inducing situation, our body’s sympathetic nervous system automatically triggers physiological changes. Our breathing quickens, adrenaline is secreted, and our heart begins to race. This natural survival mechanism — called the fight or flight response — is intended to help us to escape a true, life threatening emergency. However, when the threat is imagined (e.g., I’m going to bomb this presentation and everyone will know I’m a fraud), the fight/flight response is unnecessary and very uncomfortable.
Self soothing techniques that reduce the stress response:
One of the most effective ways to activate the relaxation response is by decreasing the heart rate. Since we can’t voluntarily alter our pulse, more tangible measures are needed. Luckily, a rapid heart rate can be lowered with deep breathing techniques. The most commonly utilized strategy is breathing by contracting the diaphragm, a horizontal muscle in the chest located just above the stomach cavity.
If a small child told you he was nervous about going to school the next day, what would you say? Unless you’re an abusive lunatic, phrases like “you’re such a dumb little kid” or “you should be nervous because no one will like you” would never leave your mouth. This is because we intuitively know how to help others combat stress sometimes better than ourselves. To increase emotional comfort, it’s imperative to practice reassuring and realistic self-talk. When anxious, practice self-talk phrases such as:
“This feeling will pass.”
“I will get through this.”
“I am safe right now.”
“I am feeling anxious now, but I have the power make myself calm.”
“I can feel my heart rate slowing down.”
Stress causes our muscles to tighten and become tense. To increase a relaxed state and physical comfort, tighten and release muscles beginning with the largest muscle group. Watch this video to learn progressive muscle relaxation exercises.
3. Check Your Diet
What we eat and drink largely impacts our emotional state. Foods most associated with exacerbating anxiety are ones containing caffeine and alcohol. Even consumed in small amounts, studies have found that the stimulating effects of caffeine can cause anxiety, trigger panic attacks, and increase feelings of nervousness and irritability. Caffeine — commonly found in coffee, colas, tea, and chocolate — also causes physical symptoms such as trembling and shaking. Abruptly eliminating caffeine from the diet can lead to withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, restlessness, and irritability so it’s important to decrease caffeine consumption gradually. Similarly, although alcohol is often consumed to “take the edge off” it dehydrates the body and ultimately increases anxiety.
An imbalance of bacteria in the gut can also cause many symptoms associated with anxiety and other mood disorders. Researchers at McMaster University found evidence that the balance of bacteria in your gut may have more to do with your mood than any other contributing factor.
4. Get Moving
Most of us know that exercise is good for our physical health. For the past few decades, research has suggested that exercise is even more effective than medication (learn more from this helpful article from Huffington Post (link is external)). Maintaining a regular (healthy, non-obsessive) exercise routine has been proven to reduce stress, improve mood, enhance self-esteem, and increase energy levels. During exercise, the body releases chemicals called endorphins which interact with receptors in the brain to causing euphoric feelings and reduction in physical pain.
5. Get More Sleep
Nearly everyone feels a little crabby after a rough night’s sleep. Disrupted sleep is common in many emotional disorders and it’s difficult to know which started first — stress or poor sleep. A study from the University of Pennsylvania (link is external) showed that losing just a few hours of sleep increases feelings of stress, anger, sadness, and exhaustion.
“People tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will descend like fine weather if you are fortunate. But happiness is the result of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert
reposed from Psychology Today
The story goes like this, eighteen hours before my plane is going to leave for vacation, I discover that I cannot find my passport anywhere. I spend the next 10 hours turning my house upside down –still no passport. I was calm at the beginning. Of course it will show up I thought. It really can’t be that far but by the time I was convinced it was in fact lost and began looking for solutions to replace it, there were very few solutions and all of them were expensive and time consuming.
Still not fully convinced that I was not leaving in the morning, I went to sleep. When I woke up I gave one last search and surrendered to the fact that I would not be getting on the plane in a couple hours. This is what my day looked like. I showered, drank some coffee, jumped in the car and picked up new passport photos. I started the trek to Boston in rush hour traffic. While in the car I was talking to the airline, the passport agency, a friend at the airlines, and finding a place to print my itinerary. It seemed everything could get done but not in the order it needed to get done so I kept wiggling the pieces to try and get them to fit to get on the plane the next day while driving down the highway in stop and go traffic.
Um, yeah, stressful…
There were some things that helped me navigate this situation and remain relatively unstressed but more than anything what this situation reminded me of what how important it is to remember that stress is not an essential part of the equation and to use the tools that I know work!
Remember that stress is optional: Somehow we collectively came to the decision that if things are not going the way we want them to, stressing out about it is the right thing to do. While a small amount of stress can increase our focus and performance a large amount of stress has a very clear detrimental effect. When things are spinning out of control the only thing that is in our control is how we feel as we go through it. If you find yourself getting stressed, you can ask yourself if that is how you want to feel. Believe it or not sometimes we are hooked on our negative states and we are reluctant to let them go. It can be helpful to accept the desire to be negative and find out why it seems so important to hang onto. Maybe it is a form of self-punishment or maybe it is a desire to get support or attention. If it feels too important to let it go then awareness is all you need to do. When you are ready, you will be able to choose to put down your unnecessary stress regardless of the situation.
Ask yourself if it can be easier:
One thing that can slip our minds when we are stressed out –as I said being stressed out is not good for our decision making- is to remember to make things as easy as possible. So, stop, take a breath, or maybe even three. Look at the situation. Aside from your mood, what can be done to streamline or simplify things? Do you ever find yourself getting ready to go on a trip or prepare for some event and all of a sudden you add in a bunch of other things to get done? For example, it is your kids birthday party in a few hours and you decided to clean out the laundry room all of a sudden? May sound crazy to some but I know plenty of people who have done it. Finding a smoother and easier way to do things is usually possible. Like I said, stop and take a breath and then ask yourself “What can I do to make this easier?”
Focus on what you want:
When things start to go wrong it is so easy to start to focus on everything that goes wrong. Every little bump becomes another stress and every potential bump is seen and fixated on well before it has even arrived. The purpose of stress is to make us hyper aware so that we can solve the problem at hand. However, while that makes sense evolutionarily, it only gets us to baseline –we can only prevent bad things from happening we don’t have much of an ability to make good things happen. By switching our focus to the outcome we desire in the big picture and in each moment the potential that we can create is much, much, greater.
Be nice, use your people skills, and ask for help:
When we get stressed it is really easy to share our stress with others via being curt or even aggressive. If we can take a moment and recognize that the other person has no way to understand why we are acting the way that we are and stressing them out only makes for two stressed out people, then we might be able to adjust our behavior to get more of what we want. So, remember to smile (which coincidentally will help your mood!) and use please and thank you! In addition, it is easy for some of us to go it alone. Remember that people are out there and can help you through this challenging stretch so if you know someone who might be able to help, ask and make your life a little easier.
Is stress an issue in your life? Tune in this week to Real Answers Radio. I will be hosting Grace Dulude, integrative therapist and yoga instructor. Grace and I will be sharing special insights on how to make each moment of your life more stress-free.
It’s tough when you are being pulled in a million different directions and what seems like little time to get everything done. When one is working against the clock, this can only exacerbate the stress levels, which is why routine is such an important part of my life. Unfortunately, decisions have to be made and they don’t always align with my schedule, but I have come up with some tips to keep me on board until I weather the storm.
1. Ask for help
You do not have to go through life alone. It’s OK to ask family and friends to help you out. You do not score any brownie points by trying to do it all. In fact you may find yourself so overwhelmed that staying committed to your healthy lifestyle is much harder than when you have others to help you along the way.
2. Keep exercising
This can be tough when you feel as though you are being pulled in a thousand different directions, but I remember my former running coach telling me years ago, “no run, no matter how short is ever wasted.” As many of us are well aware, exercise is a big stress reliever. Even if you can’t keep up with your normal exercise routine, going for a quick walk or even doing some stair climbing can do wonders to clear your mind and more importantly reduce the stress.
3. Rest is important, too
If you have children you know that when they get overly tired they are much more difficult to manage. Sleep and rest help us recharge our batteries. Even if you find yourself sneaking in rest when your loved one is resting, it may be just what your body needs.
Deep breathing seems like such a simple act, but it can do wonders in helping relieve stress and tension we hold in our bodies. Just three short minutes of concentrated breathing can help lower stress levels and release tension and anxiety.
5. Be sure to eat
Remember food is fuel for your body. It is what gives us energy especially when our meal time schedule is off. Sugary foods and junk food from the vending machine can actually leave you drained, therefore bringing healthy snacks is a great option. I keep nuts, raisins and a granola bar with me in my purse so that I never am without a little something.
6. Talk with others
While what ever you are going through may seem overwhelming, sharing your concerns with others who are or have experienced similar problems can actually validate your feelings. As my therapist Ann told me months ago, validations of emotions can make us feel normal– that it’s OK to feel the way we do. And you may be surprised that sometimes others who have walked the journey can offer you help and insight to your own situation.
7. Accept that you cannot do it all
This is by far one of the most difficult areas for me to accept. As a type A perfectionist, I do not like when I am forced to shorten my workout sessions, maybe not eat as well as I should, get upset with the way things are done or not done, etc, but this is life. A few weeks of not so healthy choices will not knock me down UNLESS I allow the guilt to consume me. I can only do the best I can do knowing that it will only be a matter of time before I am back to my normal, or maybe even my new normal, routine.
8. Seek guidance from others
When I was dealing with my father’s illness, a social worker at my father-in-law’s rehab facility was instrumental in helping us locate an assisted living facility in a very short time. While my husband and I did have to visit the places she recommended, we did not have to waste time wading through the lists of facilities. It is amazing how many people are willing to help, you just need to step out of your comfort zone.
9. It’s OK to let things slide
I love an immaculate home, but life gets crazy, accepting that there is only so much time in a day to get everything done has become my new way of living. It’s OK that I do not get EVERYTHING done. It will still be here when things settle down, but giving myself permission to let the household duties slide is a huge stress reliever, too.
After 50 years on this planet, I am learning to accept that there are many things out of my control. I can either wallow in my sorrow or I can take on the challenges. Smiling can do wonders to lift our moods along with the release of the mood calming endorphins. It can make us more positive when things in life appear to be so challenging.
While there are many things in life we can’t control, there are many things we can. Life is not meant to be experienced without sorrow and stress. It is how we manage the curve balls or the obstacles in our life that allow us to grow, change and transform into the people we are meant to be. It doesn’t mean it will be easy, but having a few tips to help you through can do wonders in making a not-so-great situation in to the best situation we are to deal with.
Reblogged from www.sparkpeople.com
Living our purpose is the key to our fulfillment. Creating both an inner and outer positive impact through living our life purpose will take us beyond what we might have seen as possible. When stepping into our purpose this way, we will experience a depth of meaning and harmony. We become less afraid of outcome and more able to face difficult truths. We become this way because we are doing exactly what we are best able to do.
Each and every one of us will not feel satisfied or fulfilled in our lives until we understand the power we hold. For example, if I go to work and believe my actions and interactions are meaningless regardless of what my job is, this will have a negative effect on how I perceive my life and how much meaning it has. Or, if I perceive myself as a victim in all circumstances ― feeling as though the world sets me up to knock me down ― I will shy away from actions that might prove otherwise. As a result, I am likely to create situations that prove I am at the mercy of the world. This perspective will leave me blaming others, feeling resentful, and feeling stuck.
On the other hand, if I see my actions ― regardless of my situation ― as having the potential to have a positive impact and to be within my control, I will feel more positive about my life, more excited by my choices, and, ultimately, more deeply fulfilled and satisfied. More than that, if I see a situation that is dangerous, negative, or hurtful, I will feel it is possible for me to take action in a positive way. As a result, I will see even more positive effects and will likely find it easier to face even more challenging circumstances in a more positive way. This makes a profound difference in my life and the lives of others.
Think of this in terms of your life’s purpose. In order to move toward your life purpose you will need to feel as though what you are doing makes a difference ― that you are capable of making a difference at least in your own life. Otherwise, there is no reason to bother.
Whatever it is that you feel passionately about, you can do it! You were meant to do that thing more than anything else. Think about yourself in the terms that Alan Watts used: “You are the perfect expression of the universe exactly where you are in this moment.” Or, as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray.”
When you begin to see yourself as a being who is connected organically to the rest of the world ― whose personal wants are whispers of the universe ― then you can begin to see your work as imperative, but less personally driven. Of course, because you are doing exactly what you want to do, you benefit as well. Following what you love and exploring the ideas and options that emerge is a great way to hone your ability to envision a different future for yourself and others. The thing is, people often think that there is some secret to finding out what you really love. However, this is not the case. The biggest thing that you need to do is pay attention to when you are feeling good. If you have not felt good in a while, then think about a time when you were happy –even if it means thinking back to when you were a kid. Want to build on this? Think of a time that you lost track of time because you were so engrossed in an activity. These are the cues that show you your purpose.
The following questions that get you to think outside of the limitations you have placed on yourself are also helpful in getting clear on your purpose. If money were no issue, how would you spend your time? Or, if you could do anything, what would your ideal day look like? One of my favorites, is list people you are jealous of and why. (The why is something you want more of in your life.)
The fact of the matter is that once you know what you love, the key is doing as much of it as possible. It is when we do more of what we love that we uncover and clarify our purpose as well as make our lives much more fulfilled. Sometimes, it can feel a bit overwhelming or out of reach to bring what we love into our life. So, start small. Small, consistent changes make a huge difference over time. Set goals for yourself. So, you can be clear about and proud of your progress as you bring in more and more of what you want.
Tune into this hour of Real Answers Radio as Dr. Kate discusses how to tap into your passion and purpose and most importantly, how to take that passion and use it to craft more and more pleasure, happiness and deep satisfaction in all that you do.
Our True Self is defined by seven intrinsic qualities. I initially identified these qualities during my study of Christian anthropology while in seminary. As I went on to study psychology and religion at Harvard, I found that these qualities are confirmed in the great religions of the world and in the modern scientific study of psychology as defining the unique nature of human being.
Human beings uniquely possess these qualities, and they are given to each of us. The true self is not reserved for those who have devoted their lives to becoming mystics. We are born with these resources which are available to all of us at any time.
These seven gifts guide us from within and define our unique nature. We may nurture these qualities or we may or take them for granted; if we choose the former course, our life will be opened and filled by meaningful opportunities–if we choose the latter, we will remain wanting and helpless, functioning at a level far lower than our potential. Nevertheless, even if we fail to utilize them, these qualities lie dormant, for we never lose them. They exist within us, waiting for us to awaken them:
“Children are born true scientists. They spontaneously experiment and experience and reexperience again. They select, combine, and test, seeking to find order in their experiences–“which is the mostest? Which is the leastest?” They smell, taste, bite, and touch-test for hardness, softness, springiness, roughness, smoothness, coldness, warmness: they heft, shake, punch, squeeze, push, crush, rub, and try to pull things apart.” – R. Buckminster Fuller
Spontaneity is our ability to express our self without hindrance. We preserve and develop spontaneity if we feel safe, cherished, and free from distress. Spontaneity captures the innocence, readiness, and freshness of a child. The spontaneous person embraces joy and affectionate humor just as children, who are less inhibited and socially constrained, naturally express their authentic and visceral feelings. Those who are spontaneous beyond their childhood years retain honest access to the full range of their emotions. People may attribute spontaneity to those with a youthful character; but while spontaneity involves innocence, child-likeness, and having fun, it also entails resilience and the ability and readiness to heal, mature, and develop, to expand our competence. Our spontaneity spurs us to growth because we are destined for expressing our aliveness.Psychologists have identified six universal emotions that we express cross-culturally: happiness, joy, surprise, anger, sadness, and fear. While we often associate access to the positive emotions as a sign of maturity, awareness of and access to the full range of one’s feelings more accurately characterizes one who is spontaneous. To assess our spontaneity, we must ask: Do I feel openness and readiness in my activities? Do I possess a freshness and enthusiasm in life? Do I have access to only certain emotions? Do I feel greater restraint or greater ease with these emotions?
“The first reason for man’s inner slavery is his ignorance, and above all, his ignorance of himself. Without self-knowledge, without understanding the working and functions of his machine, man cannot be free, he cannot govern himself and he will always remain a slave, and the plaything of the forces acting upon him. This is why in all ancient teaching the first demand at the beginning of the way to liberation was: Know Thyself. ” –George Gurdjieff
Reasoning is sound thinking; it accounts for our understanding of life and our progress in it. Through reasoning, we can discover more about the world and about ourselves and participate in life in endless ways. With the potential depth of our ability to understand, we are designed to explore, engage the world, and find solutions to our problems.
“Creativity is…seeing something that doesn’t exist already. You need to find out how you can bring it into being and that way be a playmate with God.” – Michelle Shea
Creativity is a unique expression of our ability to make something out of our “originality of thought.” Although we cannot, like God, create ex nihilo(“out of nothing”), we have the power to generate and transform things: to convert our ideas into new forms, to make our dreams realities, to shape our self and our world–to inspire, excite, incite, calm, and originate. When we create in connection with God, we feel inspired and empowered. Through creativity, we can develop skills which we often do not fully understand or engage. By applying our abilities to new possibilities, creativity builds self-awareness and strengthens identity.
When we create, we take risks and embrace new possibilities. The creative process taps the source of both our intrinsic nature and our individuality. This permits us to discover and express more of our other intrinsic gifts and more of our self. It helps us to recognize those qualities and to harness their power.
We generate creativity from within rather than accepting external formulations of it. For this reason, we often feel that what we create is who we are–it is part of ourselves. When our work permits us to create, we often call it art and equate the product with our self-worth. One of the miracles of each of our lives is the possibility of leaving our distinct — creative — mark through the expressions of our creativity. Creativity is a unique expression of our own experience and achievements.
4. Free Will
“The most tremendous thing granted to humanity is choice, freedom.” –Søren Kierkegaard
Free will is our ability to choose. Moreover, it is our ability to think outside ourselves–to gain an observational sense of our situation. Exercising free-will, we recognize that we can draw upon our own voice, rather than echo what we have been told. By examining the choices we have, we can establish our voice in relation to others and feel integrity in our position.
To not make choices is to give up a part of our self. Those who feel as if they have lost their will often feel trapped. If we feel that we have no choice or are locked in, we need to examine what constrains us. By drawing upon our spontaneity, reasoning, and creativity, we can release ourselves from these shackles.
“A return to reverence is the first prerequisite for a revival of wisdom…Wisdom comes from awe rather than shrewdness. It is evoked not in moments of calculation but in moments of being in rapport with the mystery of reality.” –Abraham Heschel
Spirituality is our response to God’s call–our communication with the spirit of life’s Mystery. Spirituality is a Mystery not only because it involves something beyond our mind and knowledge, but also because it comes from our experiences of God. The power of that relationship to spirit is unique for each of us; we tap the power of spirituality in our encounters with God, which gives us a clear vision and an understanding of life. That is why there are different paths to spirituality. Our ability to grow spiritually is made possible through a recognition of, and commitment to, developing our relationship with God. By penetrating beyond the temporal and engaging the Mystery we can find the guide for our journey of fulfillment. To engage our spirituality we must engage our personal relationship with God and make this relationship central in our lives.
You can experience God, but whether you subscribe to a particular religion, develop a personal understanding of spirit, or deny all divinities and are an atheist, there exists one certainty: things occur in life over which you have no control. You can attribute these things to fate, randomness, nature, physical reality, or God. I personally believe that it is the Spirit that provides the answers for us in all things. We find the Spirit when we discover and actively engage our True Self –connect to our Self, Others, and God and hear the voices of our thoughts (our mind), our feelings (our heart), and our spirit (our soul), we both explain and understand our nature and how these connections bring us fulfillment.
“The supreme end of education is expert discernment in all things–the power to tell the good from the bad, the genuine from the counterfeit, and to prefer the good and the genuine to the bad and counterfeit.” –Samuel Johnson
Discernment, as Johnson notes above, is our ability to distinguish Good from Evil–and to choose the Good. When we choose between Good andEvil, we demonstrate what principles are guiding us. Discernment is thus the ability both to make moral choices and to act accordingly. It is not being judgmental, as in disdainful and imperious moralizing; it is judgment driven by Truth. Discernment emerges from knowing, choosing, and acting on the Good.
The simple ability to distinguish “right” from “wrong” begins at age three according to psychologists who study moral development. Howver, from even our earliest experiences, we begin to grow in discernment by developing virtues. Therefore, the extent to which we develop virtue (such as kindness, justice, caring, truthfulness, courage, and the like) we ignite the quality of our ability to discern. While our individual temperament may be drawn to one virtue over another, refining these proclivities through the discipline of enacting virtue shapes both our character and our ability to discern. Through discernment, we express our connection to the concerns of humanity at large and define our character.
“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: that word is love.” –Sophocles
Love is the culminating point–where we put the True Self to its greatest use. Love is a profoundly caring and intensely passionate and personal connection that generates respect, honesty, and reciprocity. Love also involves a physical, emotional, and spiritual attraction to another. We are driven by the powerful urge to love and to be loved, for love is intrinsic to our social nature. By trusting another to know one’s own self through their eyes, we free our self to union–to love and be loved. Loving connections convey the ultimate expression of the authentic self through an active engagement of Self, Others, and God. But while love is frequently identified as life’s most fulfilling experience, it can also be our most difficult pursuit — it often gets confined to only one of these three crucial relationships. Authentic love may begin by engaging only Self, only Others, only God–but if the love is authentic it always leads to the other two.
Loving will be a sacred connection — the highest human function, entrusted to us by God. When that sacred trust is broken, by us or by another, we feel it. When a lover does not act with the kindness and respect that a sacred love naturally includes, we can feel that opening up to that person was a big mistake. Although loving may include sex, a relationship based only on sex is not love. Love is a connection that opens the inner floodgates of one’s being to another. Because of the inherent vulnerability of exposing the self in a relationship, you feel love when you feel safe and are comfortable enough to “let go” of your defenses. In this healthy expression of love, both people are accessing their True Self.
John T. Chirban, Ph.D., Th.D. is a clinical instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School and author of True Coming of Age: A Dynamic Process That Leads to Emotional Stability Spiritual Growth, and Meaningful Relationships. For more information please visit www.drchirban.com.
“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” ― Voltaire
Are you being judged by your questions? Not moving forward in your career, business, marriage, or fill in the blank _______? It could be because you are not asking the right questions. You need to be good at asking questions.
You might not be getting the feedback you need to make corrections in your behavior. You might not be getting type of answers that you need to hear. You also might just be getting downright wrong information.
What Do You Want?
When you ask a question, you have to know what you want for an answer. I spent quite a few years in the military. We had intelligence reports coming in; we needed data, not someone’s opinion. That meant we wanted strictly the information. We did not want any interpretation. Just the facts, ma’am. When you are asking questions, make sure you put it in the right context.
Other times you might want someone’s opinion. For example, “What do you think of this cologne?” Sometimes you want a reasoned opinion or advice. “What is the route to get from uptown to downtown?” As you get ready to ask your question, make sure you have the right source and they know what you want from them.
Do I need a factually correct answer?
Do I need an expert opinion?
Do I need a well-reasoned judgment?
How to Be Amazingly Good at Asking Questions
Once you know what kind of information you need and who to ask, you have to ask your questions in a manner that gets the best possible information in response. Asking amazing great questions is skill like any other skill, it takes practice. Here are some techniques to draw out what you need to know.
1. Don’t Ask Yes or No Questions
When you ask a yes or no question, you will most often get incomplete information. Instead, ask an open-ended question. By using an open-ended question you get insights and additional information you might not have known existed. Questions with “would,” “should,” “is,” “are,” and “do you think” all lead to yes or no. Questions with “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “how,” or “why” lead to people giving some thought to their answers and provide much more information.
2. Dig Deeper
Always consider using follow-up questions. Unless you are looking strictly for the facts, there is some sort of assumption in the answer the person gives you. Ask them a follow up question such as, “What makes you say that?” or “Why do you think that?”
Let’s say that you are talking to a co-worker and need to know details of a project. Your co-worker tells you that one of the suppliers has been very difficult to work on the project. You will want to follow up on that comment. A question such as “What do you mean he is difficult to work with?” will lead you to the real facts. It may not be because the supplier is particularly difficult to work with but rather is not reachable for quick communications or any number of outside reasons. Follow up questions give you insight and let you make your own opinions about things.
3. Use the Power of Silence
Start getting comfortable with asking a question, waiting for response, listening to the response and then waiting some more. Many times the person you are questioning has more information and will bring it out when you wait for it. You have to be comfortable with that silent period before the dam breaks. Police and military interrogators use silence very effectively. People feel a need to fill the holes in the conversation and often they will then bring out the critical bit of information you seek.
4. Don’t Interrupt
Don’t interrupt the person with whom you are talking. First, it tells the person you don’t value what they are saying. Interrupting stops their train of thought and directs the conversation the way you want, not necessarily the way it should go. Ask your question, then let the person answer it in full, even when you think you are not getting the answer you want. Listen fully to what they are saying and use that to direct them back to the topic in the next question when there is a natural pause.
If time is of the essence and the person has long strayed from the topic, then of course you need to interrupt. Be as polite as possible when doing it. This shows the person that you do respect what they are saying. Say something like, “Excuse me, I want to make sure I understand you. What I heard you say is…” and then bring them back on point to the matter at hand.
As you go forth in your quest for knowledge, remember that asking great questions takes practice. This implies that you probably won’t get it perfect every each outing. Just get started asking questions. Your skills will improve over time. Remember that if you want good answers, they come from asking good questions.
About the author: Former Green Beret Mike Martel focuses on helping individuals, entrepreneurs, and small businesses get results and improve productivity. For more information and a free Green Beret Productivity Toolkit, click here.
Many of us believe that we should “just know how” to relate in ways that bring us happiness. However, creating healthy and fulfilling relationships is an art and a practice. Before we get into some tools for creating more fulfilling relationships take a moment to look at some of the components of a healthy relationship. The following is not an exhaustive list but it will help set the stage:
Open communication: knowing what you think and feel and being willing to share it.
Trust: behaving in a way that is trustworthy, fostering trust, and being more trusting.
Respect: understanding that the other person is an individual and should not be criticized for not being like you or any other person.
Love: I like the expression, “Love is a verb.” Healthy relationships seek to continually work to foster love through behavior.
Integrity: the understanding that each person has his or her own path and it is not loving to take them off their path.
Partnership: the desire to share life ― its struggles and its joys.
Tool #1: The first tool is to figure out what each one of these categories mean to you –and to your partner. By writing down a sentence or two describing each of these components of a fulfilling relationship you will understand better how to create them in your relationship.
Tool #2: To maintain the love inside and outside of ourselves, we need to give it regular and careful attention. If you find yourself feeling frustrated or disconnected with someone close to you, see if you can take a moment to think of three to five positive traits ― things you love about the person. You can do this with your partner or your friend or a parent. You can even take an extra step and tell the person one or more of the things that you really value about them.
Tool #3: Sometimes we block the love coming from another person because of our own inability to feel worthy of love. If you find that you are disconnected or judgmental, check in with yourself to see if you really love yourself. If you are not sure, what is your self-care like? Are you eating, sleeping, attending to responsibilities, and having fun? If not, the problem might not be with the other person ― it might actually be with you.
Tool #4: Do you feel that a person or certain people should be there for you no matter what? No matter how you act, no matter how you treat them, no matter whether they show up for themselves or not? Sometimes we think that a person showing up in this way means that they truly love us. This is more the case in a parent-child relationship. However, in a peer relationship or partnership, expecting this is not about love ― it is about dependency. Check yourself; see if you want someone to take care of you ― whether it is emotionally, financially, or physically instead of creating true adult relationships and deeper love.
This week on Real Answers Radio, Dr. Kate offers simple tools that you can start using immediately. If you are craving more from your relationships – more caring, more connection, more meaning – then this show is for you!
Dr. Kate always welcomes your questions and this week’s show is the perfect opportunity to call in with your most pressing relationships questions and get the real answers you need.
Self-confidence seems to be such a slippery thing to hold on to, as it can be heavily impacted by our environment, our experiences, and the feedback we receive from others. If only there was a self-confidence vitamin we could take every morning…
Fortunately, there is a simple system to gaining and maintaining your self-confidence, and you can add it into your daily self-care routine, right along with those other vitamins! Are you ready for the secret to self-confidence? It is having greater self-awareness – being aware of how you think, feel and act – and it has four important components:
The first step in creating greater self-awareness is to know yourself. Do you pay attention to your thoughts, feelings and actions? This is absolutely essential, because you can’t change what you don’t notice.
As you move through your day, listen to your thoughts. Are they mostly positive and productive, or do you have a lot of self-criticism or other mental chatter running through your head? You may even want to carry a small notebook around with you to record your most commonly recurring thoughts.
Our feelings are highly accurate barometers of how well we are taking care of ourselves. Feelings can be triggered by our thoughts, our experiences, and our interactions with others. Notice your moods throughout the day (again, you may want to record this in your notebook), so you can get a clear picture of your emotional ups and downs – and, most importantly, what caused them.
Finally, take a good look at your actions. Do your actions support your goals, or do you find yourself distracted with trivial activities or procrastinating getting the important things done? Consider using your handy notebook to make a list of absolutely everything you do during one 24-hour period (and how much time you spend doing it). You may be amazed at how much time and energy is lost in optional or non-essential activities.
The second step in creating greater self-awareness is to understand yourself. When you take the time to notice and know your thoughts, feelings and actions, you will begin to see patterns of beliefs and behaviors. Once you recognize these patterns, it is important to explore how they were created and how they may be limiting and restricting you, rather than supporting you.
Review your list of your most common negative thoughts, and see if you can remember when they first began to appear. Perhaps you can remember a specific event in your childhood that created this thought pattern, or perhaps a particular set of thoughts sound just like your mother or father… Understanding the origin of your thought patterns and beliefs can be a powerful first step to realizing that they are not serving you and figuring out what you need to do to break free from their spell.
The only way to understand your feelings is to allow yourself to feel them – without judging, stuffing or denying them. When you feel a strong emotion, remind yourself that it is okay to feel this way. Then ask yourself what is underneath the emotion. Perhaps your feelings are trying to draw your attention to an unmet need or some unresolved pain from the past. Discovering why you feel a particular emotion helps you to understand yourself and ultimately take better care of yourself.
You may want to review your 24-hour activity list, paying extra attention to those activities that could be considered an unproductive use of your time, energy and focus. What excuses, explanations or justifications did you tell yourself to make it “okay” to choose these activities over something else? What kind of motivation, support or resources would have made a difference in helping you make healthier or more productive choices? Understanding how and why you select which actions you take throughout your day will help you to remain more conscious (and conscientious) about your activities.
The third step in creating greater self-awareness is to accept yourself. As you gain a greater understanding of your thoughts, feelings and actions, it becomes easier to lessen your self-judgments and become more self-compassionate. Accept yourself for who and how you are in the moment, know that you don’t have to be perfect, and maintain a steady momentum of personal development to bring you even closer to your ideal you.
It can be challenging to quiet negative mental chatter and focus your thoughts in more healthy directions. Don’t beat yourself up when you get into a mental funk – that’s just creating more criticism and judgment! Instead, take a deep breath and redirect your attention to more constructive thoughts. Since your brain can only hold one thought at a time, you may want to create a list of affirmations or positive statements to say out loud or silently to yourself to replace any negativity.
Give yourself permission to notice and feel your feelings, and be gentle with yourself when you feel vulnerable. Notice if you need support in expressing and releasing your emotions and find a healthy way to get that support, whether it is with friends and family, your spiritual community, counseling, or another resource.
Choose your actions wisely. Seek a balance between productive activities that will bring you closer to your goals, and recreational activities that will nurture and energize you. Reward yourself when you do something spectacular or achieve a big goal, and forgive yourself if you have a frustrating or unproductive day.
The fourth step in creating greater self-awareness is to love yourself. When you choose to accept yourself, rather than judge yourself, it’s easier to notice your good qualities and celebrate your successes. You’ll grow to like the person you are, and then one day you’ll wake up and realize that you’re in love with your life and yourself!
Your thoughts will be loving and supportive, and you will have a much more positive outlook. Your emotions will flow freely, and you will feel comfortable expressing your wants and needs. Your actions will be in alignment with your goals and dreams, and you will feel empowered to live your life to the fullest.
When you know yourself, understand yourself, accept yourself, and love yourself, you will naturally be more self-confident. Incorporate these four steps into your daily routine, and you will be amazed at how much better you feel about yourself and the world around you!
Shannon Lee, The Stuck Spot Remover, is the Director of the Self-Awareness Institute and the founder of Inner Harmonies. Shannon is a personal growth expert with over 20 years of experience in helping people to identify and overcome their obstacles to happiness, success and well-being. Visit her website at www.SelfAwarenessInstitute.com