Hope

6 Ways to Go With the Flow and Stay in the Moment

Photo by Matthew Kane on Unsplash

“Just be unattached as a child at play.” – Gangaji

 

How would it be to let go of all your concerns and fully participate in the moment? More specifically, how would you like to feel the joy of playtime, the rush of doing something wonderfully fun, discovering something new, or pushing yourself to explore unknown territory?

Researchers will tell you – and parents as well – that children instinctively know how to do this. Yet all is not lost if such a natural gift is a distant memory. As adults, while we may have forgotten how, we can rekindle the ability to shake off troubles and concentrate fully on the present moment.

In short, we can relearn how to go with the moment.

Naturally, there are times when such spontaneity is not appropriate, including when the boss is clamoring for a report and you’re nowhere near finished, or you’ve just received bad news that demands immediate action. You should not be unattached at such times.

Still, you can be in the moment, dedicated, zeroed in on what matters, adhering to a constancy of effort and making sure to accommodate deadlines.

But, getting back to having fun, being unattached as a child at play and going with the moment, here are a few suggestions on how to recapture the wonder that children naturally express.

Turn off the self-censor button.

That’s right. Start by telling yourself to stop saying no or chiding yourself that you simply can’t do something, for whatever reason. Chances are, that negative self-talk and self-criticism included the notion that it’s not adult-like or you don’t have time for this or it’s just too silly. Instead, resolve to be open to the experience.

Let go of the past.

Intrusive thoughts and memories of unpleasantness, failure, pain, loss, loneliness and disappointment may rise to the surface. This flood of negativity will deter you from being fully present and enjoying the moment. You must let go of past hurts, including the burden such memories hold over you. This does not mean that you forget the past, for when you experienced things in that moment, it contributed to who you are today. There are also good memories from the past that are worth cherishing. What’s important to remember is that there’s no reason to cling to bad memories, for the past cannot help you rewrite history. Nor can it change the future. What can, however, bring about fundamental change is going with the moment. To get started doing that, you must release the past.

Give yourself permission to feel whatever you feel in the moment.

This might be joy or delight or curiosity. It could entail a bit of trepidation or uncertainty, even a bit of fear. If it’s within the realm of possibility and doesn’t put you at an inordinate amount of risk, let your emotions play out. They may lead you to take action that your previous propensity to self-censor prohibited. Look forward with excitement to what might happen next. After all, who knows what you might learn?

Acknowledge that it’s OK to play.

Remind yourself – by saying out loud, if necessary – that it’s perfectly fine and good for you to have fun, to take a break from chores and responsibilities, to do something just because you enjoy it and want to nurture that part of yourself.

Know when it’s time to stop.

Like a kid playing in the park with friends and the sunset signals time to go home, even if you’re having the time of your life, it’s important to know and abide by limits. There is an appropriate time for play and a time when you must tend to other things. By paying attention to both, the joy you feel in the moment is in no way minimized. Indeed, it’s even more satisfying. You may not remember the hours you toiled on a report, but you do remember how much fun you had working in the garden, celebrating a memorable milestone with a loved one, laughing with your friends, reading your favorite book.

When you’re in the zone, just go with it.

You know the feeling. Being in the zone is energizing, motivating and inspiring. It’s the knowledge and certainty that you can do almost anything. The possibilities that reveal themselves when you go with the moment are unlike anything you could have predetermined or imagined. That’s another benefit to learning how to go with the moment.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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5 Secrets to a Happy and More Productive Life

5 Secrets to a Happy and More Productive Life

Photo by Austin Schmid on Unsplash

“Sometimes it’s the smallest decisions that can change your life forever.” – Keri Russell

 

Everyone has a favorite theory about what constitutes a happy life. Likely you know a few people who’ll readily tell you theirs. Allow me to share my five secrets to a happy and more productive life.

Only do what matters.

On any given day, we’re assailed with nonstop demands on our time, from the insatiable fount of hard-to-discern-what’s-valuable information on the Internet, to work, home, entertainment, invitations from friends and colleagues, junk mail, spoof robocalls and more. No wonder it’s become paralyzingly difficult to carve out chunks of time to devote to yourself. By prioritizing everything you must do, however, and giving weight only to what matters most to you, what you deem essential to accomplish today, you’ll find that you’re less distracted, cut down on daily stress, and find pleasure in completing task, projects and pursuits that are paramount.

Instead of letting others dictate what should matter to you, make sure you are the sole arbiter of this distinction. When you control what you feel is important, you’re taking the first proactive step to not only simplifying your life, you’re also enriching the precious 24 hours you have to live today.

Love what you do.

No doubt many have found themselves in dead-end jobs, forced by economic circumstance to take and keep whatever gainful employment was available. By resigning yourself to forever being less-than-satisfied with your means of bringing income into the home, however, you’re likely to lose out on a priceless and crucial ingredient in living a happy and more productive life. When you love what you do, every day is filled with opportunity, hope, discovery and purpose. Even challenges, major or minor, will not dissuade you from your enthusiasm, diligence, willingness to take risks, or forego immediate gains for long-term progress.

Here’s what happened to me. When I was raising two small children myself, I took an entry-level job in the purchasing department of a major automaker. I did very well there, all the while earning two college degrees at night. My supervisors wanted to promote me to the position of buyer, but I declined. I heard about a job in the public relations department, interviewed for it and got the position. At last, I was able to make use of what I had learned in school and every day flew by. I received incremental promotions and eventually rose to the executive level, even though there were some disappointments along the way (losing a plum reporter’s job during a major financial downturn and being reassigned to financial analyst position, for example).

Granted, it takes some imagination and a well-thought-out plan to see past the pigeonhole job you may be in right now (like my stint doing budgets, paying bills, analyzing and forecasting how the department could afford a mid-year new-car press preview). You can get beyond this unsatisfying stint and leave depression behind, starting with an adjustment to your mindset. Do the best you can with everything you do, no matter how menial, whether it’s considered drudge work no one else wants, or beneath your talents. How you meet challenges is a testament to your creativity and problem-solving, two traits that will serve you well wherever you go in life. So, be the best barista ever. Welcome guests as you park their cars. Find satisfaction in creating an efficient filing system. Think how you’re instilling a sense of wonder in your small children as you distract them from sibling rivalry or engage their curiosity when they complain of boredom. Offer suggestions when asked in company meetings. Become an expert in your area, so that you’re looked to for answers.

It’s by loving your part in excellence that you widen your sphere of influence, expand your horizons, and go on to bigger and better things.

Engage in your passions.

Think about what gets you excited, what you can’t wait to do. The origin of this excitement is your passion. And passion is what makes life extraordinarily rich and rewarding. How sad that so many people put off doing what they find pleasurable because of a sense of duty, citing lack of time, or that it’s not right to have fun when there’s so much work to do, or some other excuse that robs them of vitality and fulfillment.

What I love is a lengthy list of pursuits and hobbies. These include reading, writing, gardening, travel, trying out new recipes, mastering a difficult challenge, getting several degrees in my chosen fields. When I’ve deprived myself of my passions, I’ve suffered the consequences. There’s no point in telling yourself that you can do this another time or that you just shouldn’t waste time on this, for tomorrow may never come. You don’t have to take all day to do what you want for free or play time, just take a small amount of time for yourself. Watch that comedy. Stroll through the mall and check out interesting sales. Linger on the nature trail to notice what’s changed since last you were here. Engage in continuous learning so you’re always reaching for the next level, expanding your horizons, and making new friends.

Be true to yourself and your values.

When you live in accordance with your values, you are living in integrity. No one can take your values from you, although many people hide what they believe and are afraid to live according to their core values out of a mistaken idea that they’ll do better by going along with what others or the majority believe and do. Herd mentality never serves anyone well, least of all the person of integrity.

Granted, you may have to buck the trend to be true to yourself and your values, but isn’t living in harmony with what you believe worth it? It is so much more life-affirming to live what you believe than to exist in a discordant state. For my part, among the many instances where I was torn between my beliefs and values and doing what was considered appropriate for me (by others), was when I took the exam to get into law school. Attorneys make a very good living, and if I became a lawyer, I thought, all my money troubles would be over. I did well enough on the test and began to take law classes. I hated every minute of it. That career choice was short-lived. I did a deep soul search and realized I owed it to myself to believe in my talent to write, and to find a career that allowed me to make use of my gifts.

Share your joy with others.

Spreading your enthusiasm and showing your happiness and joy can be contagious. If you are happy and filled with enthusiasm, others cannot help noticing. Your positivity can at least cause them to rethink their outlook for today, to entertain the possibility that things may be better than they thought and potentially improve their mood, subsequent interpersonal exchanges and action.

I’ve always enjoyed people-watching when I get my morning latte at my favorite coffeeshop. Instead of standing in line like a robot, waiting to be assisted, I find something congenial to say to the person in front or behind me. I do so with a smile. Invariably, I both surprise and delight the individual, who generally reciprocates with a smile and pleasant banter. It’s nothing consequential, yet it spreads a positive emotion and embraces human connection.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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11 Ways to Cultivate Resilience

11 Ways to Cultivate Resilience

Photo by Simon Schmitt on Unsplash

“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” – Carl Jung

 

Bouncing back is a concept well understood in the context of recovering from a sports injury. Following favorite players’ comeback stories fills fans with inspiration, encourages perseverance in pursuit of personal goals, and fosters a sense of self-confidence, like we can do it if they can. Cultivating resilience in the face of all life’s challenges is a proactive way of dealing with the unexpected, the upsets and disappointments, the pitfalls and successes in life, including how to cope with trauma, chronic pain, adversity and tragedy.

RESILIENCE: WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT

An article in Forbes defines resilience as “the capacity for stress-related growth” and states that resilience has two parts related to the way you bounce back and grow:

  • From big work or life adversity and trauma
  • From dealing with daily hassles and stress

A study in Health Psychology showed that the frequency and intensity of repeated or chronic everyday life strains is strongly associated with overall health and illness, even more so than major life events.

A 2013 study found that exposure to chronic frequent negative emotion and the inability to process daily stress exacts a long-term toll on mental health.

Resilience, say researchers in an article published in Trauma, Violence & Abuse, can manifest either as “prosocial behaviors or pathological adaptation depending on the quality of the environment.” If individuals suffering from lasting effects of trauma and adversity have access to resources that help them cope, they will be more likely to develop prosocial behaviors that may facilitate healing.

Rolbieki et al. (2017) explored resilience among patients living with chronic pain and found that they showed resiliency in four ways: developing a sense of control (actively seeking information and conferring with their doctor to confirm his/her recommendations; actively engaging in both medical and complementary treatment; making social connections and exhibiting acceptance of pain and positive effect.

One surprising finding is that chronic stress accelerates aging at the cellular level – in the body’s telomeres. These are the repeating segments of non-coding DNA at the end of chromosomes. Scientists have discovered that telomeres can be lengthened or shortened – so the goal is to have more days of renewal of cells than destruction or wear and tear on them.

Researchers suggest resilience should be regarded as an emotional muscle, one that can be strengthened and cultivated. Dr. Dennis Charney, co-author of “Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenge,” says people can weather and recover from trauma by developing and incorporating 10 resilience skills, including facing fear, optimism and social support. Dr. Charney, resilience researcher and dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, was shot as he exited a deli. Following the shooting, Dr. Charney faced a long and difficult recovery. The resilience researcher himself had to employ strategies of coping he’d studied and taught.

The American Psychological Association (APA) says that resilience isn’t a trait that people either have or don’t. Instead, resilience “involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.”

WAYS TO CULTIVATE RESILIENCE

Among the varied ways to develop and cultivate resilience, some are more self-evident than others, yet each is worth a try when attempting to weather life’s challenges.

Act.

Even small steps add to a sense of accomplishment, of being proactive instead of reactive. Start with something you feel confident you can do and ask for help if you need it. There’s a lot to be said about self-empowerment when you act in your own best interests. After all, no one else can act for you.

Add to coping resources.

Everyone can benefit from having a toolkit of effective coping resources. Combat stress, depression, anxiety and other emotional, psychological and physical issues and conditions through meditation, mindful yoga, exercise and whatever helps you relax, including reading, music, doing puzzles, painting, writing and more.

Learn flexibility.

Instead of regarding your situation as no-win, steer towards an attitude of flexibility. Learn the art of compromise, as in, “I may not be able to run a marathon, yet I can manage a walk in the neighborhood with friends.” In addition, when running into fatigue or pain that prevents you from continuing, congratulate yourself on your effort and the fact that you acted to improve your resilience. Over time, you’ll get stronger and be able to do more, thus adding to your resilience and helping to improve your overall physical and mental health.

Practice optimism.

Science says that some optimism is genetic, while some is learned. You can train yourself with practice in positive self-thinking to see opportunity instead of a dead-end, to view a glass as half full instead of half empty. There’s also truth in self-fulfilling attitudes. If you believe you’ll be successful in overcoming adversity, you’re more likely to succeed. The opposite is also true: If you think you’ll fail, you probably will.

Take advantage of support.

When you need help, it’s OK to ask for it. In fact, when you know you have support available and are willing to use it, you’re exercising prosocial behavior. Similarly, when you can do so, offer your support to others who may need it.

Avoid personalizing.

There’s no point in engaging in blame or endlessly thinking about your situation. Besides being counter-productive, it makes you feel worse. Make use of some of the healthy coping measures you’ve successfully used before and stop ruminating about what happened to you.

Regard the setback/disappointment as temporary.

Nothing lasts forever, not even life-altering events, trauma, adversity and pain. You can navigate through this turbulent and emotionally trying time by realizing that this is temporary, and things will get better with your active involvement in your healing process.

Write your new story.

Psychiatrists and psychologists call this “reframing” and it refers to changing your story to focus on the opportunities revealed. For example, say you’ve returned from active deployment in a war zone with extensive physical and psychological injuries. Instead of remaining steeped in the negative aspects of your experience, allow yourself to center on other senses, traits, skills and resources you have at your disposal – your empathy, understanding, ability to solve problems, a wide support network, loving family and close friends.

Cultivate gratitude.

When you are grateful and actively cultivate gratitude, you are taking advantage of a basic part of resilience and in contentment in life. The more you develop gratitude, the more resilient you’ll become.

Remind yourself of other victories.

This may be an intensely challenging time for you, a time when failures and negativity seem paramount and inevitable. Now is when you must remind yourself of your past successes, examples of seemingly impossible hurdles you’ve overcome, victories you’ve scored. This serves as self-reminder that you’ve come back from adversity before. You can do it again.

Enhance spirituality.

Religion and spirituality have been shown as predictors of resilience in various populations studied, including returning war veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), trauma sufferers, children and adults who experience abuse or violence, patients enduring chronic pain. Prayer, self-reflection, communicating with a Higher Power serves as a healing balm to many who otherwise may resort to negative coping behaviors, such as drinking and drug use.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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15 Ways to Increase Your Happiness

Photo by Anders Jildén on Unsplash

Photo by Anders Jildén on Unsplash

Life is so busy, hectic and filled with challenges. There are also myriad opportunities for personal enrichment, satisfaction, friendship, love, finding purpose and doing good for others. Still, while the desire for and pursuit of happiness can sometimes seem elusive or fleeting, there are effective ways to increase your happiness.

Find joy in the little things.

For most people, life consists of an accumulation of small moments. There are, of course, momentous events that occur in a person’s life that can precipitate a dramatic shift, changing direction, embarking on a new path. Still, everyday life goes on, populated with small, seemingly inconsequential moments. It is in the little things that you can find your joy and boost feelings of happiness. When you allow yourself to be joyful, it’s easier to find joy. While that may sound too good to be true, it works. Feel the deliciousness of descending into cool water in a lake on a hot day. Savor the aroma and taste of a favorite meal and enjoy the presence of loving family. These are the little things that are too often taken for granted, yet they are great contributors to happiness.

Start each day with a smile.

This is more than a simple suggestion. It’s backed by science. When you smile, you not only trigger smile muscles in others, according to research, you also benefit. Smiling activates neural brain circuits associated with well-being and happiness. It also feels good to smile, especially when you do it regularly.

Connect with others.

The power of social connection to boost happiness and well-being is another area explored by researchers. The construct of time, for example, motivates people to choose being with family and friends more than working – behaviors associated with greater happiness. Other research found that happiness is a “collective phenomenon,” with people’s happiness dependent on the happiness of those with whom they connect.

Do what you’re most passionate about.

If you get swept up in what you do for a living, barely noticing the passage of time, or can’t wait to get to your job or do things with your children or participate in an activity with friends, you’re engaging in what you find most passionate. Pursuing your passions is highly conducive to increased happiness and, contrary to a mistaken notion that to do so is selfish, when you do what you’re most passionate about, you’re helping develop your potential, broadening your horizons and contributing to higher self-esteem and overall well-being.

Reflect on your blessings and be grateful.

Everyone has something in their life to be grateful for. Most of us have many, many blessings. A simple ritual of daily reflection is enough to center in on them and allows us to take a few moments to express personal gratitude for all that we have been given in life. Good health, loving family, satisfying relationships, an enjoyable career – the list is endless and highly personal. There’s also a scientific basis for the statement that gratitude helps increase happiness, demonstrating that it also helps protect you from negativity, stress, depression and anxiety.

Choose to be positive and see the best in every situation.

A positive attitude is scientifically proven to increase happiness and well-being. How can you develop a positive attitude and learn to see the best in everything? It does take practice and a willingness to confront your fears and reject their power to control you. If you’ve always seen life as a glass half-empty proposition, turn that assumption around and strive to see situations as a glass half-full. Other research has found that positive emotions can even counteract the effects of adversity.

Take steps to enrich your life.

Seeking knowledge, exploring unknown areas, pushing yourself to go beyond your current skill set or experience, striving to learn something new – these are steps each of us can take to not only enrich our life but also maximize personal joy and happiness.

Create goals and plans to achieve what you want most.

If you expect or desire to achieve a certain standard of living, aspire to earn a college degree, receive a promotion, buy a house, marry and have children or any other goal you find meaningful and purposeful, you must identify the goal first and then create action plans to help you achieve what you want.

Live in the moment.

Worry about the past or anxiety over the future are both counterproductive and a waste of time. Instead, to add to your happiness quotient, change your mindset so that you live in the present. Another way of saying this is to be present. When you focus on now, this moment, you are more aware of your surroundings, your breath, how you feel, what’s going on with your loved ones, family, friends, co-workers, other drivers and everything in your immediate environment. You’re alive and fully aware of it. Being present is a proactive way to increase your happiness and something anyone can do.

Be good to yourself.

Overeating, drinking too much, staying up all hours and other bad habits aren’t good for you physically or mentally. Instead, embark on a lifestyle that includes healthy behaviors: eat nutritious foods, cut down or cut out alcoholic intake, get sufficient and restful sleep, hydrate well, exercise regularly and take frequent breaks so that you give yourself breathing time between tasks. You’ll be healthier and happier because of being good to yourself.

Ask for help when you need it.

There are times when you know you’re overwhelmed and will not be able to finish what you started. In addition, you may run into unexpected problems or difficulties while you’re working at a task or pursuing a goal and don’t know what to do about it. There’s no shame in asking for help when you need it. In fact, it’s a sign of good mental health and a positive attitude that you’re comfortable doing so. Another person may have a suggestion that works or discussing what’s perplexing you may stimulate a solution you hadn’t realized before. Similarly, if you’re bogged down with financial problems, asking for assistance to overcome them will help you figure out a path to get past this difficulty. Asking for help allows you to get unstuck and move ahead toward your goals.

Let go of sadness and disappointment.

Why torment yourself with thoughts of how sad you are or how disappointed you feel because you didn’t immediately succeed in a task or goal, lost a friend or loved one, can’t pay your bills or don’t see a clear path to your future? Stewing in sadness and disappointment will only further erode your feelings of self-worth and chip away at your self-esteem, not to mention cause your happiness to plummet. Let go of those toxic feelings. Seek professional counseling if the problem worsens or doesn’t go away after two weeks. Remember, you deserve to be happy. To get there, ditch negative emotions and replace them with more uplifting ones.

Practice mindfulness.

There are many forms of mindfulness and meditation, sometimes called mindfulness meditation. Whichever style you prefer, when you find one that fits, make regular use of it. One example is loving kindness meditation — opening hearts to positive emotions. Research shows that it not only increases positive emotions, but also personal resources and well-being. This type of meditation has many other benefits, including increasing social connectedness.

Walk in nature.

The benefits of getting outside and walking in nature have long been documented as easy, convenient ways to increase happiness. For one thing, the physical act of exercise releases endorphins in your brain that elevate mood and make you feel better. Walking in nature also highlights other aspects of joyful, happy living such as a greater appreciation of natural beauty, thankfulness that you’re alive and healthy enough to be physically active, helping to tone your body and improve cardiovascular, lung and other vital bodily functions.

Laugh, and make time for play.

It’s almost impossible to see someone else laugh and not be affected by it. Indeed, laughter is not only contagious, it also constitutes a big part of play.  What is playing? It is the act of doing what gives you pleasure, engaging in discovery, letting your creativity flow. Laughter can reduce levels of stress and inflammation and benefit heart functioning.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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How to Feel Normal Again

How-to-Feel-Normal-Again

Photo by Jad Limcaco on Unsplash

 

“The possibility of stepping into a higher plane is quite real for everyone. It requires no force or effort or sacrifice. It involves little more than changing our ideas about what is normal.” – Deepak Chopra

 

When I was a young girl, I often felt as if I was not normal. It wasn’t that I had a noticeable birth defect or considered myself ugly or stupid, though. My feelings likely stemmed more from a sense that I was too sensitive or fragile or in need of protection and couldn’t stand up for myself. I had an older brother who sometimes was tough on me, yet I loved him dearly. He was my protector against the bullies in the neighborhood. Still, I wondered why I didn’t feel normal. My quest to achieve what I considered to be normal took many years. Maybe some of these hard-learned tips can help others learn how to feel normal, or normal again.

Let go of preconceptions about being normal.

Perhaps the most important piece of advice about how to feel normal again is to let go of any preconceived ideas as to what normal means. Forget ascribing metrics or characteristics or boundaries and limitations to what is possible and what is real, and therefore normal. Instead, expand thought to the point that normal is not constrained, nor is it rigid. Normal evolves, as it should, as nature intended.

Normal is a construct of ideas and changes day to day.

Consider that what we consider normal one day may seem abnormal another time. What seems impossible can be viewed as possible. What never occurred to us before may suddenly pop into our thoughts as an idea that’s tantalizingly accessible and real. We didn’t have a house when I was an adolescent, yet I had school friends who lived in nice homes with big yards. Their life seemed normal, while mine did not. A few years later, however, my parents were able to buy a house and we did have a nice yard with roses and other flowers in neatly manicured gardens. This felt normal. Being able to help my Dad cultivate the roses and peonies (I learned how to graft various kinds of rose bushes together) instilled in me my love of gardening. Today, it’s still one of my passions.

There is no training required to feel normal.

It isn’t necessary to go through physical or mentally grueling tests or regimens to feel normal. Likewise, there’s no need for a mentor or to join a group. A side benefit is that there’s no cost or penalty involved in feeling normal. And there’s also no reason to take mind-altering drugs, alcohol or any other substance to feel normal.

Trust in the simplicity of being true to your feelings.

Normal is not extreme or going to extremes to feel normal. To realize that you’re normal, that you feel normal, it helps to trust in the simplicity of being true to your feelings. Know that you’ll feel awkward and out of place at times, or disappointed, upset, angry, possibly in pain, depending on what’s happened recently, your physical condition, any undue stress or pressure at work, school or home. Know that it’s OK to feel bad sometimes. In fact, it’s a sign that you’re human if you feel emotion deeply during times of grief, tragedy, heartbreak and compassion, as well as happiness, joy, pride and more. Acknowledge what you feel, then go on about your day. In other words, be true to your feelings, yet not enslaved by them.

Create goals and word to achieve them.

I didn’t receive the kind of recognition my brother did and somehow that made me feel like I might lack some innate ability or intelligence. It’s not that I felt stupid because I didn’t. It was more that my brother seemed to always know the right answer. Just ask him. The plus side of this is that I always knew I’d get an answer from him if I asked – and he felt like giving it to me. Still, I saw how he went after goals and I strived to do the same. Each success I earned, however small, boosted my self-confidence and added to my self-esteem. It’s a lesson that stuck with me. Always have goals you’re working toward. When you achieve one, create another to replace it. This allows you to always be forward-looking, motivated and optimistic – all traits that help you feel normal again.

Be good to yourself.

It isn’t being overindulgent to take loving care of yourself. In fact, it’s indicative of a healthy reverence for your overall well-being, a part of feeling normal. Get sufficient rest each night so that you awake revitalized and ready for the day. Eat well-balanced meals. Engage in vigorous exercise on a regular basis. Avoid excessive intake of sugar, fats and carbohydrates, including alcohol and junk foods, for consuming too much can be unhealthy and contribute to jitteriness, bloating, gastrointestinal distress, intoxication, sluggishness and more.

See each day as an opportunity to grow.

What will today bring? If you wake up with this thought – after, of course, you’ve given thanks for the gift of today – you’ll be priming yourself to see what’s good and hopeful in whatever happens. Even if you encounter disappointments and setbacks, they won’t deter you from learning the lessons they contain and seeing opportunities to grow.

Seek professional help if you need it.

None of us has all the answers. Nor do our assortment of loved ones, family and friends. For certain experiences and diagnosable conditions, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), prolonged grief, substance use disorder and others, the only way to regain a sense of normalcy is to seek professional help. Learning how to let go of outdated beliefs and self-perceptions, to learn how to successfully cope with difficult situations or an inability to function through psychotherapy and evidence-based therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization therapy (EMDR), relaxation techniques, mindfulness meditation and others may help restore both functionality and the ability to feel normal again. There is no shame in seeking help. Rather, it is proof of a recognition that you need objective, trusted assistance and that you’re willing to do what it takes to heal.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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10 Soothing Thoughts on What Hope Is

10-soothing-thoughts-on-what-hope-is-photo-sam-schooler-unsplash

Photo by Sam Schooler/Unsplash

Animals cannot hope, people do.” —  Suzanne Kane

 

Whether you’re contemplating a future where you achieve all your goals, solid A’s on your report card, a big raise at work or an affirmative answer to the request for a date, the common thread is hope. Animals cannot hope, people do. So, this is a distinctly human emotion that nonetheless is somewhat ambiguous. These 10 thoughts may shed some light.

Hope is:

Sunshine on a cloudy day.  

When everything looks dismal and the solutions to problems nonexistent, hope can snake through the darkness and cast a warm, healing light. The fact that it can arrive so unexpectedly makes it all the sweeter. Once you experience hope, there’s no mistaking the profoundness of the emotion. Unlike sunshine, however, hope can stick around. Hope will still be there even when the going gets tough.

Restorative to the soul.

Failure and disappointment can crush prospects like a train wreck. One setback after another tends to eat away at the soul, sometimes reaching a point of seeming no-return. Hope, on the other hand, helps rebuild the weary soul, restoring it to a vigorous, healthy state. If the soul is fueled by love, hope fans the flames.

The driver of motivation.

Ever face a project that seems impossible in nature, takes too long and has an uncertain outcome? Many of us have been there. What gets us going, despite the odds, is hope — the powerful driver of motivation.  We must believe that we will be successful. It’s this hope of accomplishment that pushes us forward and keeps us going.

Source of inspiration.

Where do you find inspiration? When you want to be lifted, does going to an art gallery or trekking through nature get the job done? What is it about inspiration that makes it so elusive? If there’s one word that illustrates where inspiration comes from, it’s hope. Seeing something other than life’s mundane sameness requires hope. Transforming that sameness into something better is hope extending inspiration.

Necessary for creativity.

Without hope, nothing new would ever be created. That means no new art, poetry, writing, music, grand artistic buildings, elaborate bridges and infrastructure, no never-before-attempted recipes, nothing that wasn’t already there before. To create, you need to have hope. The outcome may not be clear, but it doesn’t need to be for the artist, inventor, designer, musician or everyday person to pursue their vision. All that’s necessary is hope that you can bring forth your creativity.

The foundation of love.

No one rushes into love with the certainty of it being reciprocal. For many, it’s this very intangibility and doubt that makes love so deliciously painful and desirable. Yet one thing is certain: the foundation of love is hope. If you didn’t have an inkling that this relationship could blossom into something more profound — and profoundly moving — there’d be no basis for love. That inkling is hope, without which there’d be no love.

Companion to generosity.

Even the tightwad Ebenezer Scrooge eventually fell under the influence of hope to cast aside his stinginess and willingly give to others. One doesn’t become generous because they think it will do them some good. They do it because of an inner desire to do good for others.

Why is hope a companion to generosity? The answer is that the giver can envision a better outcome because of their gift, freely given and without any expectation of reciprocity.

The basis for seeing possibilities.

Life often seems contradictory. Instead of a clear path forward, the way may be blocked with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. It takes courage and hope to be able to imagine possibilities amid such distraction and chaos. Indeed, when you are sustained by hope, nothing is permanently impossible. It may take longer than you’d like or require more work and assistance than you currently have, but with hope you can discover original approaches to take that will ultimately help you steer past current difficulties.

The cement that binds friendship.

Think about your best friend, the one you’ve been pals with since kindergarten. You’ve been through good times and bad and somehow are always there for each other. What is the reason you’ve stuck together so long? Could it be that you always see the best in your friend, value the goodness of your partnership?

Hope is the cement that holds friendships together. In fact, hope can keep the bond secure even through the most trying times.

Mysteriously able to heal.

In every family, sooner or later someone gets sick, undergoes surgery, suffers an emotional or physical collapse, gets involved in an accident or experiences an injury. Doctors of all kinds work their professional skills, dispense medications and fix, sew, patch or otherwise mend the damage. But to truly heal? That requires more than just medications, operations and prosthetics, more, even than visits to a psychiatrist or other mental health professional.

People who lack hope don’t heal as fast as those who do have hope. But hope is also mysteriously able to heal even when the prognosis for recovery is nil. “Against all odds” is the expression. Others may say it just wasn’t his or her time. But the truth is that the underlying reason for recovery — or at least a powerful contributing factor — is hope.

 

This article was originally published on PsychCentral.com https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2016/03/20/10-soothing-thoughts-on-what-hope-is/

 

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