Tag Archives: positive attitude

Gratitude Revisited

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As this is the week of Thanksgiving, it seems apropos to revisit the important topic of gratitude.

I believe that gratitude is one of the critical ingredients for happiness!  When we are grateful for what we have, we are better able to live in the moment and enjoy our lives.

The Glass is Half Full!

No matter how many troubles we have at a given point in time, we can always find aspects of our lives that we appreciate and enjoy.   This “glass half-full” type of attitude can help us to embrace what’s right in our lives instead of lament that which we feel is wrong.

Some “Greatest Hits”

As this is a holiday week (and hence, there is more to do in less time…) and I have written quite a bit on the topic of gratitude in the past, I have decided to highlight a few of my past posts instead of creating all new content for this week.  The three posts which I have chosen to revisit all focus on the ever important topic of gratitude.  Please see the post summaries below and click on the post title to view that post in its entirety.

I hope you enjoy some of my favorite past posts.  As usual, your comments are welcomed!  I wish you and your families a very Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s been said that the biggest key to happiness is gratitude, and I believe it’s true!  When we are present to all that is wonderful in our lives, it’s difficult to feel depressed and despondent.  In this post, I outline a few simple yet powerful practices to help us stay present to the many blessings in our lives.

As human beings, we have a tendency to focus on what is missing instead of on what is present.  This post focuses on a concept introduced by author Dennis Prager in his book, “Happiness is a Serious Problem.”  I present an overview of the concept of the “missing tile syndrome,” as well as the three main ways for dealing with it.

This post was written at the halfway point of my year-long quest to heal my health and my life.  Since beginning “The Healing Project” on February 3, 2010, I have gained a number of powerful insights about myself and about life.  I summarized my insights in four categories:  gratitude, attitude, hope, and healing.  I expand upon each of these items and commit to continuing my healing project and sharing even more wins related to health, relationships and success moving forward.

The Decision

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Open Doorway to BeautyThe following is a journal entry that I made on August 31, 2009.  I titled this passage simply, “The Decision,” and have been carrying it in my purse now for over a year. 

Although I didn’t start my “healing project” until February 2010, I consider “The Decision” to have been the start of my turning my life around.  It was when I decided to change my attitude from negative to positive and to take charge of my life.

It Began with a Life-Changing Book…

I made an important decision today which I know will be life-changing.  It happened while I was reading a book  I’ve had for a year yet only recently started to read.  The book is called “The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die.”  I was so excited when I bought this book last September, but I was “too busy” to read it until now, or maybe I just wasn’t ready until now…

Fear, Negativity, and Pessimism

I turned 43 a few weeks ago, so statistically that puts me right at “mid-life.”  Of course, I have no way of knowing if I have 40 or 50 more years to live – or only a few months.  But even if I assume that I will live until 80 or 90 or more, do I want to live my life in the way I have been living it?

In recent months, I have become increasingly fearful, negative, and pessimistic.  I worry about many things and I’ve become more and more fearful of death.  It only hit me recently why I fear death so much.  It isn’t about the “what happens after we die” question as much as it is about “what has my life meant?”

Worrying My Life Away

I wrestle with many issues and worry my life away.  I think so much about the purpose of my life in terms of career and money, I lose sight of what my deeper purpose could be.  I worry and fret and get upset over minor annoyances as well as the bigger things in life.  The smallest things can set me off and get my head into a tailspin.

My poor, dear husband gets the brunt of all of this, as I don’t elect to share my thoughts and feelings with many other people.  He is a positive and affirming person and can often get me out of my negative states, but I’m sure he would rather not have to do it.  He has a lot on his plate as it is…

An Empowering Realization

What I realized this morning is something I knew before, but not “in my bones.”  I realized that I get to choose!  I can decide how I will approach my life and how things will affect me.  I can decide to be happy and positive instead of negative and depressed.

Not only can I decide to be happy and positive, I did decide that – just today.  Sure, I’ve made such proclamations in the past, but this time is different.  I don’t know if I hit “rock bottom” or if I had just had enough of my self-imposed suffering, but no more!

I am the architect of my life, the writer of my story, the director of the play of my life.

My Epiphany

I remember when my co-author and I wrote our book, “Searching for an Epiphany” (this book has not been published).   It was about our elusive quest for the “it job.”  I thought my epiphany would be when I knew “what I wanted to be when I grew up.”  Well, you know what?  I still don’t know, but I did have an epiphany today, and I do know some important things.

I am not a loser.  I am not a screw up.  I am not a mess, or any of the other derogatory terms by which I’ve called myself.  I am an intelligent, capable, and talented human being.  I have many interests, which is why it’s been difficult for me to settle upon just one thing.

Live With Purpose, Joy, and Courage

My many interests are a great blessing.  Maybe I will never find the “it job” and just maybe (or even probably), that will be okay.  What I will do, however, is live my life with purpose, joy, and courage instead of fear and despair.

I may never make six or seven figures per year, or I might, but who cares?  I am here, I am alive, I have my intelligence, I have my health (save the niggling problems which I WILL conquer with my new positive attitude), I have my loved ones, and I have so much more.

Today is the First Day…

This may sound trite and Pollyanna-ish, but it’s not.  I really mean this.  The saying “today is the first day of the rest of my life” is always true, but it feels more true for me today.  No matter how much time I have left, I promise these things:

  • To live my life true to myself,
  • To live without regrets,
  • To live without fear,
  • To live with purpose,
  • To embody love,
  • And to live in joy and peace!

Today, August 31, 2009, truly is the first day of the rest of my life.  Let it begin now!

Addendum – 9/23/2010

I posted the above journal entry today with the hope that my readers would find it inspirational.  I know that I am inspired and empowered each time I read it.  The past few weeks have been quite challenging for me, so it helps me to reconnect with the powerful intentions I set for myself on August 31, 2009:  to live in the moment, to face life with a positive attitude, and to courageously overcome my challenges.  Thirteen months later, I recommit to those intentions and continue “full speed ahead” with my healing project!

Six Months Already?

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Thumbs up!

It’s hard to believe, but it has been 6 months since I started “The Healing Project.” My first post was made on February 3, 2010, and outlined my quest to heal my health and my life over the course of one year.  My healing project utilizes the principles of Louise Hay and other teachers and also involves treating myself with more kindness and compassion.

Insights and Wins

Last week, upon the occasion of my 44th birthday, I posted my “Reflections at Mid-Life.” This week’s post is dedicated to sharing the insights I’ve gained and the triumphs I’ve made at the half-way point of my “healing project.” These powerful wins can be encapsulated within the following categories, each of which will be covered in the body of this post:

  • Gratitude
  • Attitude
  • Hope
  • Healing

Gratitude

“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears” – Anthony Robbins

The quote above exemplifies the power of gratitude as a spiritual practice in life.  When one reflects on the many blessings which are present in his life, he is less likely to experience fear and anxiety. The practice of gratitude involves having a “glass half full” outlook and looking for what’s right in your life instead of what’s wrong.  It is definitely true that if you look for something, you’re going to find it, so why not look for the good instead of the bad?

Since beginning my healing project, I have adopted a much more powerful attitude of gratitude in my life.  I am decidedly more present to the abundance of blessings that exist in my life, and I much more readily rejoice in the “little things” which bring me joy and peace on a daily basis.  I am more easily able to live in the moment and less likely to either dwell on the mistakes and pain of the past or ruminate on the “what ifs” of the future.

One of my early posts was on “The Practice of Gratitude” and included the suggestion for keeping a gratitude and success journal on a regular basis. I wholeheartedly re-affirm that suggestion now!  I strive to make entries in my gratitude journal on most days and find that it helps me to live more in the moment and focus more on my blessings rather than my challenges.

Attitude

“Two men look out the same prison bars; one sees mud and the other stars.” – Frederick Langbridge

Closely related to gratitude is attitude.  Adopting a positive attitude in life can help you navigate your way through the many challenges which you’ll face on your life journey. I used to be a pessimist and was always waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop.  I used to believe that it was better to expect the worst because that way, I would never be disappointed.  What I didn’t realize was that I spent a lot of time and energy needlessly worrying about calamities which never happened. Instead, I could have invested that mental and emotional capital in reaching my goals and fulfilling my dreams.

My healing project has involved a lot of attitudinal shifts.  I have become much more keenly attuned to my thoughts and the impact they have on my health and my life experience. My increased awareness has allowed me to question my thoughts and assess how they are or are not serving me.   I am now much more able to rapidly shift my thinking to a more positive space upon the realization that I am engaging in “stinking thinking.”  I now spend far fewer precious moments each day in a negative space and my husband is delighted that I have become a more upbeat person.

Hope

“In all things, it is better to hope than to despair.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

When 2010 began, I didn’t feel a lot of hope for myself or my life. I felt like a run-down, unhealthy, washed up “loser,” and I am not exaggerating much in this characterization.  While I was very happy to have a loving and supportive husband, I felt despondent about my many health challenges, my lack of career success and prospects, and the absence of close relationships with my friends and family members. Until my epiphany while working out one January evening, I was very discouraged and had little idea how to go about changing my course in life.

The simple acts of declaring my healing project and beginning this blog infused a thread of hope into my consciousness, and this thread has grown into a small but beautiful tapestry over the course of the past six months.  While I cannot report a completely clean bill of health, a thriving business, or a broad circle of friends, I can express increased hope for growth and improvement in all areas of my life.

I can also state that there have been significant positive changes in various facets of my life. I have revitalized some of my relationships and reached out to new acquaintances, and this has led to a few new career opportunities as well as an enhanced sense of connection with others.  My health has also improved in several key ways which I will elaborate on further in the next section.

All in all, I feel that I am on a positive path and have much more hope for a compelling future than I did at the beginning of this year.  I am gradually filling in the details and color in the vision for my future, and that is helping me to move forward in creating a more happy and peaceful life.

Healing

“There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophies.” – Friedrich Nietzche

A big part of my healing project relates to my overcoming a number of health challenges which have been adversely impacting my life. Some of these illnesses have plagued me for many years, while others have cropped up only recently. Fortunately, none of these difficulties are life-threatening, yet all have been troubling to me and have affected my quality of life.

As I am a big believer in Louise Hay’s philosophy that we create every illness in our bodies by virtue of our thoughts, I also ascribed to her powerful notion that I could overcome my ailments through changing my thinking.   I made a point of shifting my thoughts from negative to positive and repeating empowering affirmations related to my health.  I have also worked on being more gentle and loving toward myself, as Louise Hay asserts that all “when we really love and accept and approve of ourselves, then everything in life works.”

I am pleased to report that I have seen some noteworthy improvements in my health since beginning my healing project.  I am experiencing far fewer body aches and pains and feel a higher level of health and vitality.  My health conditions which have either disappeared or dramatically decreased in intensity include my neck pain, my TMJ syndrome, my digestive distress, and the throat condition which I wrote about in my post titled “It’s Always Something!” In terms of the latter condition, rather than having to take prescription medication twice a day as recommended by the specialist I saw, I am only taking a low dose of an over-the-counter drug each morning and my symptoms have almost completely abated!

On To the Second Half…

As I move into the second half of my yearlong healing project, I am both excited and encouraged to continue the progress I’ve made thus far.   I am confident that I will succeed in my quest to heal myself and my life in one year. I look forward to sharing my many wins related to health, relationships, and success along the way and in February 2011!

Hope, Inspiration, and “The Biggest Loser”

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I am a long-time fan of the reality show, “The Biggest Loser.”  I’ve watched all but one of its nine seasons and I frequently find myself in tears as I watch this truly inspiring show.  Last night, as I watched the penultimate episode of the ninth season, I was moved to write about my appreciation for this show I’ve come to love.

The four remaining contestants all went home for a month, where they trained to run a marathon while continuing to focus on losing weight to vie for the title of “The Biggest Loser” (and the accompanying quarter million dollar prize).  Two of the contestants were still close to a hundred pounds overweight when they left the Biggest Loser Ranch.  Yet, they all returned and finished the marathon!  The final two marathon finishers ran across the finish line hand in hand, and I bawled like a baby while watching this touching moment.

Moved to Tears

Why was I brought to tears last night?  Why am I brought to tears by this show virtually every week?  Because “The Biggest Loser” exemplifies the power of the human spirit, the power we all have within us to overcome our greatest challenges and triumph over adversity.  The shear fact that four individuals who were close to death’s door from the side effects of obesity only six months ago were able to finish a full marathon is inspiration at its best.

I have always been a champion of human change and an advocate of the sentiment that change is possible for all who seek it out.  Here were four people who had veered extremely far off the path of health and well-being.  I’m sure there were many people who knew them who had written them off as “lost causes.”  It wouldn’t have been too much of a stretch to write off 31 year-old Michael, who tipped the scales at 526 pounds at the age of 31.  Likewise, who would have thought that 27 year-old Ashley, who smoked and drank heavily and weighed in at 374 pounds, would have turned her life around?  Yet, both of them did, as did their co-finalists Koli and Daris.

Lessons from “The Biggest Loser”

Why am I writing about “The Biggest Loser” in The Healing Project?  Well, some of you may feel that it’s too hard for you to change.  After all, you’ve been the way you are for many years and you may feel too far gone to turn it around.  You’re stuck in your ways and you feel little hope of becoming unstuck.

I know how that feels, as I’ve felt that way myself many times over the years.  I may not be obese, but I’ve certainly had my share of struggles around weight and food, plus I’ve grappled with a number of other addictive issues in my life.  Yet, as I watched those four formerly obese people cross the finish line after running a marathon, I was filled with hope and inspiration.  If they can overcome their challenges, why can’t I?  Why can’t all of us?

It may not be your goal to lose over a hundred pounds or run a marathon, but I’m guessing you have your own challenges that are equally as daunting.  I know that when I think about overcoming my laundry list of health issues, I feel overwhelmed and discouraged.  But if Michael, Ashley, Koli, and Daris can run a marathon, I can restore myself to full and vibrant health, as well as overcome the other challenges included in my healing project.

Be Inspired, Believe in Yourself!

Let yourselves be inspired!  Believe in yourselves. There is hope for all of us to heal all of our ailments within and without.  Let the chorus of “The Biggest Loser” theme song guide you…

“What have you done today to make you feel proud?”

Do one thing, however small, each day to inspire yourself, to move yourself forward toward your goals, and you will get there!

Body Love, Self-Love

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Body Love and Self-AcceptanceNOTE: This article was originally posted to my previous blog, “The Healing Project,” in May 2010.

If someone were to ask you if you love yourself, how many of you would reply with an enthusiastic “Yes”?  How about if you were asked if you love your body?  I know that for most of my life, I would have found both questions absurd.  I definitely and unequivocally did not love myself or my body.

For years, I was my own worst critic.  I would unleash a torrent of criticism upon myself on a daily basis that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.  In fact, I was my own worst enemy.  Nothing I could do was ever good enough for me; my standards were impossibly high and there was no way I could reach them.  While my targets for accomplishment and success were virtually unachievable, my standards for my body and physical appearance surpassed them by leaps and bounds.

Specter in the Mirror

I would look in the mirror and pick myself apart mercilessly.  My hair was frizzy, my face was blotchy, my nose was too big, my hips were huge, and my thighs were completely unacceptable!  These are just a few of the criticisms that would play like a broken record inside my mind.  My self-criticism and overall negative attitude toward my body propelled me into a long battle with anorexia and bulimia, a struggle which almost killed me during my teens and twenties.  Even after I managed to pull myself out of the depths of that battle, the criticism did not end.  I was ruthless in the way that I’d pick myself apart, and all compliments from others would be quickly negated inside my mind.  I just wasn’t pretty enough, thin enough, firm enough, or anything enough…

The Toll of Self-Abuse

The years of criticizing my body have taken a toll on my psyche and my health.  Although I have become decidedly more kind toward myself and my body in recent months (partly as a result of my healing project), the damage has been done. I am convinced that the laundry list of health issues from which I suffer can be attributed to the years of self-flagellation.

Think about it… How would you respond to a person who continuously berates you?  Would you thrive and shine in that person’s presence, or would you wither and fade?  The way in which my body has responded to my abuse is no surprise to me.  As Louise Hay and other wise spiritual teachers have written, our thoughts create our reality.  The reality of my physical body has been shaped by what I have continually thought over the years.

My husband has frequently commented on how mean I was to myself in my words.  Sadly, my unkind words paled in comparison to the ferocity of my internal dialogue.   I have created my poor health of the present time.  I take responsibility for that, as sad and defeated as it makes me feel today.

Learning to Love Myself

I am not an unkind person.  In fact, I believe I have a good and kind heart.  It is time for me to direct that kindness and compassion toward myself.  It is time for me to treat myself the way I would treat a person I deeply love.  In truth, I have learned to love myself in recent years.  I have learned to appreciate my uniqueness and my good qualities.  I am finally able to say – and mean – those simple but difficult words, “I love myself.”  I can even speak those words while staring into my own eyes in the mirror, yet tears always well up in those same eyes.   Likewise, I find myself becoming tearful as I express these sentiments today…

Ending the War with Self

The tears are for the years of self-hatred, for the wasted time during which I was at war with myself and my body. Although I would love to recapture those lost years and circumvent my current health challenges, I can only live in the moment and move forward.   Hopefully, I have many years ahead of me during which I can live peacefully with myself and my miraculous body which has survived despite years and years of punishing abuse.

Responsibility is Powerful

Some of you may identify with what I have written. I know that many people are tremendously hard on themselves and their bodies.  We can blame society and the unattainable standards that are set out for us by Hollywood and Madison Avenue.  But while society can and does play a role in our self-image and body image struggles, the ultimate responsibility falls upon us.  That is good news because it means that we have the power to transform our thoughts and attitudes.

Moving Forward…

How do we do that?  Let’s take some tips from Louise Hay (from “You Can Heal Your Life,” page 23):

“Loving the self, to me, begins with never ever criticizing ourselves for anything.  Criticism locks us into the very pattern we are trying to change. Understanding and being gentle with ourselves helps us to move out of it. Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked.  Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”

I Approve of Myself

I have been repeating the affirmation, “I approve of myself,” over and over inside my head for months now.  It is a simple affirmation that I think whenever it comes to mind.  I use this affirmation to cancel out self-criticism when I become aware that I am thinking negative thoughts about myself.  Although I know it will take time to undo the effects of my many years of self-abuse, affirming approval of myself is starting to have a positive effect on me.  I am beginning to notice my negative thoughts more readily and can more easily release them and replace them with more beneficial thoughts.  It is becoming easier for me to think kind and loving thoughts about myself.  I am experiencing small but noticeable “pockets” of inner peace in my days, and that gives me hope for the future.

Hope to Soldier On

The journey to heal my health and my life is a challenging and tumultuous road with many twists and turns.  I am humbled on a regular basis by the ebb and flow of my numerous health issues which only seem to crop up again just when I feel they may finally be behind me.  Yet I have hope and that allows me to soldier on with my healing project.

I believe that the key to healing is in self-acceptance.  In the spirit of hope, I close this post with another quote from Louise Hay, one which provides hope for us all for a peaceful and powerful future:

“I find that when we really love and accept and APPROVE OF OURSELVES EXACTLY AS WE ARE, then everything in life works.  It’s as if little miracles are everywhere.  Our health improves, we attract more money, our relationships become more fulfilling, and we begin to express ourselves in creatively fulfilling ways.  All this seems to happen without even trying.”

Missing Tile Syndrome

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Today’s post focuses on a concept introduced by author Dennis Prager in his book, “Happiness is a Serious Problem.”  I highly recommend this book as a concise and extremely informative book on the often elusive subject of happiness.  Dennis presents a number of life-changing philosophies in his book, but one of the best is the concept of the “missing tile syndrome.”

Imagine this Scenario…

Ceiling TilesImagine that you are in a dentist’s office having your teeth cleaned and are thus focused on the ceiling above you.  As you glance around the room, you notice that one of the ceiling tiles is missing.  Although the majority of the ceiling is pristine and perfect, you would likely be transfixed upon that one missing tile for the remainder of your visit.

As human beings, we have a tendency to focus on what is missing instead of on what is present.  That is fine for ceilings, as they can be perfect.  The danger is when we apply the same focus and filter to our lives…

Even if we have a wonderful and full life, there are always areas which we feel can be better.  The positive side of this is that we continue to focus upon learning and growing and bettering our life circumstances.  The downside is that we may end up obsessing on that which is missing to such an extent that it detracts from our happiness.

Examples of “Missing Tiles”

A few examples will help to illustrate this point…  I had a friend who struggled with infertility issues a number of years ago.  She lamented to me that everywhere she went, all she saw were pregnant women and babies.  I also knew a divorced woman who would venture out on the weekends, only to notice couples kissing and holding hands all around her.  These two women were so completely focused on what they didn’t have, a baby or a partner; they felt as if they were the only ones in their respective positions.

I can think of a few personal instances of “missing tile syndrome” in my life.  I mentioned my obsession with straight, sleek hair in a previous post.  I used to feel that every woman I saw had beautiful, frizz-free hair and that I was the only one around who struggled with managing coarse, frizzy locks.  Similarly, I have often lamented my thick hips and thighs and felt they were out of proportion with the rest of my body.  When I would be out and about, all I would see would be slim-hipped women with model slim legs.

Focus and Gratitude…

Of course, not all women are pregnant, not everyone is coupled up, and not all women have sleek hair or slim thighs.  However, when one is suffering from “missing tile syndrome,” the focus is only upon what is lacking, not on what is present.  When we focus on what’s wrong instead of what’s right in our lives, we are generally less happy as a result.

As I’ve mentioned previously, gratitude is one of the primary keys to happiness and well-being. If we look for what’s right in our lives, we will surely find a number of things to celebrate.  Similarly, if we look for what’s wrong, we will be guaranteed to find those missing tiles.

Dealing with “Missing Tile Syndrome”

Awareness of “missing tile syndrome” is a first and powerful step, but Dennis Prager offers some additional suggestions for how to effectively deal with this problem.   He suggests that you do one of the following things in regards to your missing tile:

1. Get It

If you determine that your “missing tile” is absolutely essential to your happiness, you can find a way to get that which is missing in your life.  For example, if my friend with the infertility issue was unable to have a child of her own (fortunately for her, she was finally able to get pregnant…), she could have chosen to adopt a child.   Although her initial desire was to give birth to a child, adopting a child would have given her what she dearly wanted, a child to love and to raise.

2. Forget It

Although this option may not seem feasible, it is a viable solution in certain cases.  There are some missing tiles which cannot be gotten.  Dennis Prager wrote about sharing custody of his son with his ex-wife following his divorce.  Whereas he had previously gotten to spend each and every day with his child, that was no longer the case after his marriage ended.  He found himself seriously missing his son when they were apart, but he couldn’t change the fact that they now spent less time together.  Consequently, he had to dismiss the desire to be with his son all the time and instead focus on making their time together as enjoyable as possible.  When they were apart, Dennis would keep busy doing other things he enjoyed and he gradually came to accept the new situation.

3. Replace It

Sometimes, we are not able to get the exact things we want in life, but we can discover a viable replacement with which we can be satisfied.  A somewhat trivial example may concern a man who is fixated on buying a new Porsche but doesn’t have the money to make such a purchase.  This man may choose to either buy a used Porsche in good condition or he may end up purchasing a domestic sports car at a lower price.

A more serious example of replacing a missing tile may involve a woman who wanted to be an Olympic gymnast but never made it to the upper echelons of competition.   This woman may choose to open her own gymnastics studio or become a coach to young children.  By doing one of these things, she can still pursue her great passion for the sport even though her initial goal was not reached.

Personal Conclusions

Let’s get back to the personal examples which I mentioned above.  After my trauma following my recent attempt to obtain straight and sleek hair (see the post “Perspective and Appreciation”), I have decided that I need to forget about getting this missing tile.   I am choosing to accept the reality of my hair and to be grateful for what I have.  If I find myself feeling sad about the hair which I do not have, I will focus on the aspects of my appearance with which I am satisfied.  I will reflect upon my positive qualities and be grateful for those blessings instead of thinking about the “missing tile” of perfect hair.

The same is true for my thighs.  I have done all I am willing to do to make them slim and muscular.  I work out regularly and I eat well, but my thighs have not assumed the desired shape.  Since I am unwilling to pursue liposuction or extreme diet or exercise measures, I feel I need to forget the “tile” of perfect thighs.  I choose to focus on the fact that my legs are strong and effectively carry me through life.  I also choose clothing which puts less emphasis on my thighs and more emphasis on the body parts which I more readily embrace.

Self-acceptance and gratitude are key in terms of dealing with “missing tile syndrome.”   Be grateful for your blessings in life and put your focus there.  Work on accepting yourself and your life as they are, and stop lamenting your supposed “flaws” to the detriment of your happiness and inner peace.   Although I know these topics will continue to surface as I proceed with my “healing project,” I will close with the ever famous and always powerful Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

May we all live in peace and serenity and embrace our life challenges with courage and wisdom!

Perspective and Appreciation

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Most of us have things about ourselves which we don’t like or even hate, and we often waste a lot of time and energy resisting or fighting these things.  For most of my life, one of my “hates” has been my hair.   I have very thick hair, so thick that hairstylists have often commented that I had enough hair for two or three people.  In addition, my hair is naturally wavy and predisposed to frizz, tendencies which are intensified by the humid Southern California weather.

My God-given hair was not the type of hair I wanted.  I wanted the straight, sleek hair of a Scandinavian girl – or Jennifer Aniston.  I have been fighting my hair texture for as long as I can remember with countless hair products, daily flat-ironing, and a multitude of chemical processes.  None of these armaments ever worked to my satisfaction, so I continually searched for the next best thing.

Magic Bullet or Nightmare?

This past November, I thought I had found it.  I spent about four hours and over $300 at the hair salon getting what is known as a “keratin smoothing treatment.”  The result was not the nirvana I had anticipated; instead it has been a nightmare which I couldn’t have imagined.  I experienced some serious breathing problems from the formaldehyde released by the chemical process, and since the product was bonded into my hair, I was unable to remove it despite repeated washings.  Consequently, I opted to cut off close to half of my hair in order to minimize the deleterious effects.

Just when I thought I was past the worst of my nightmare, a delayed side effect occurred.  I started to lose large amounts of hair on a daily basis.  By the time I realized what was going on, I had lost so much hair that I could see parts of my scalp at my hairline and my ponytail diameter was only about half of what it used to be.   Fortunately, I think the hair loss has subsided at this point, and because I had so much hair to begin with, it is not as noticeable as might be expected.  However, I am still planning to see a dermatologist to make sure I am able to salvage my hair.

Two Key Lessons…

This is surprisingly difficult for me to write about and I am not sharing this experience to garner sympathy.  I have learned a great deal from this particular struggle and the point of this post is to share my insights.  I have titled this post “Perspective and Appreciation” because those are the two key lessons I’ve gained from my hair experience.

I would love to be able to turn back the clock such that I had never gotten the so-called keratin smoothing treatment, but I have come to understand that I needed this experience to learn what I needed to learn.  The Universe has been trying to teach me the lesson of appreciation and self-acceptance for many years.  Instead of appreciating what I had, I continued to fight it and wish for something different.

Taking Things for Granted

My hair is only one aspect of myself which I would berate and negate. While I would often receive compliments on my thick and lustrous hair, I would never take them in.  I was filled with hatred for my hair because it wouldn’t bend to my will.  Because my hair wasn’t sleek and straight, I didn’t show any love or appreciation for it; all of the energy I gave to my hair was negative.

Now that my hair is no longer long, thick or lustrous, I have been given the gift of perspective.  How true it is that we often don’t appreciate what we have until it is gone.

How often do we take things – and people – for granted until they are no longer in our lives?

Declaring a Truce

I am declaring a truce in the war against my hair.  I am now treating my hair more lovingly and am showing appreciation for the hair that is left on my head.  I am affirming throughout the day, “I love and appreciate my hair.”  I believe that this love and appreciation will help me to save my hair.  It was not only the chemicals which destroyed my hair; it was also my negativity and distain.

How many of us treat ourselves worse than we would treat our worst enemy?  How many of us are our own worst enemy?  How much would we thrive if we were to begin to treat ourselves the way we treat our treasured pets or children?

New and Empowering Vows

From this moment on, I vow to treat myself with much more love and appreciation.  I vow to start looking more at what’s right about me instead of what’s wrong.  I know that I will stumble along the way, as old habits are hard to break.  However, the perspective I have gained from my hair trauma has shown me that I must break those old habits.  It’s time to stop beating myself up and start appreciating all of the wonderful characteristics which I know I possess.

Will you join me in my new and empowering vows?  Many of us wish and pray for peace in the world, but peace begins from within.   Stop fighting yourself and choose to love yourself instead.  I know it’s hard, but we can help each other to live a more peaceful and loving existence!

Handling Discouragement

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While I would love for all of my blog posts to highlight my tremendous progress and exciting wins, life doesn’t work like that.  Invariably, we all experience ups and downs, and progress occurs more like “two steps forward, one step back” than in an upward slope.  Although I posted two weeks ago about the wins I’ve experienced since starting this blog, this past week has been more of a period of discouragement.  In this post, I will share my feelings of discouragement, along with some suggestions for how to handle such times in your life.

Career & Health Woes…

One of the “wins” I shared in a previous post was that I was attracting more work projects and experiencing increased confidence as a result.  Well, that win turned out to be short-lived…  The inquiries regarding prospective work have led to dead ends and a couple of projects which I believed were “sure things” have fallen through for reasons unknown to me.

I now find myself in the all too familiar zone of uncertainty and negativity regarding work.  Despite my desire to remain positive and hopeful, I am feeling increasingly discouraged about my work prospects.  I know that it does me no good to lament my poor past choices, but I have had to stop myself multiple times from rehashing ancient history and wishing that I had taken a different path.  I sometimes find myself feeling very depressed for not being where I’d hoped to be career-wise at my age.

In addition to my career woes, a few of my health issues have flared up as of late.  I had thought that my digestive problems were mostly in the past, but I’ve been feeling extremely bloated and uncomfortable all week and have been popping antacids like candy to address the painful burning in my stomach.  The bloating has rendered many of my pants un-wearable and has me feeling fat and unattractive, a feeling I know all too well from my many years of eating disorder struggles.

The Tendency to “Snowball”

I have a tendency for my thoughts to snowball in weeks such as this one.  A few bad things happen and I start to think about all of the ways in which my life – and myself – are just plain wrong.

Instead of merely noting that it’s a “bad week,” I start to “catastrophize” and see things only becoming progressively worse.  The result is that I become paralyzed by depression and fear, do virtually nothing to improve the situation, and end up feeling much worse.

How to Deal With Discouragement

Fortunately, there IS a better way… There are some ways to deal with discouragement before you become caught up in that snowball going 60 miles per hour down a huge mountain.  Here are some tips for addressing your discouraging feelings head on:

1. Take a “Time Out”

Opt for a change of scenery.  Get outside in the fresh air or do any activity which will bring you peace and joy.  For me, a good “time out” is taking a walk along the water with my husband or visiting the mall to enjoy a movie or do some shopping. It doesn’t matter what you do, but make sure it’s something you enjoy.  Even an hour or two away from the source of your discouragement can help you to regain a more positive attitude.

2. One Day at a Time

Stop thinking so far into the future!  Adopt the wise 12-step group saying of “one day at a time.”  Plan your upcoming day, focus on what you need to do that day, and don’t worry about anything beyond that.  Life is so much easier and far less scary when taken in small “bite-sized chunks.”  Ask yourself, “What ONE thing can I do TODAY that will help me to feel more positive about my life?”  Then do that thing…

3. Get Into Action

Stop the “paralysis by analysis!”  It’s common to become paralyzed by fear and then be afraid to act.  But I’ve found that if I do even one small thing in service of my goals, I feel so much better.  Take a “baby step.”  Maybe it’s a phone call or an email, or maybe take 15 minutes to investigate something which might be beneficial to you in an area of your life that feels stuck.  Just do something!  Don’t set the bar too high, and give yourself credit for taking even a small action in the right direction.  Those small actions add up and propel you forward in life.

4. Refocus on Your Goals & Gratitude

Sometimes when we are feeling in despair, we don’t remember what’s most important to us.  It can be helpful to revisit our key goals and commitments during these times.  You ARE writing your goals down, aren’t you?  You are much more likely to achieve your goals if you put them in writing.

When you are feeling low, remind yourself of what really matters most to you.  Look at the progress you HAVE made toward your goals and look at what’s right about your life now.  Remember gratitude – we all have things for which we can be grateful.

5. Get Help

You don’t have to do everything alone!  I know it can be hard to ask for help.  It’s a very tough thing for me to do… But the people who love us want to be there for us and they want to help us during our difficult times.  Sometimes all we need to do is ask.  Call someone to talk or ask a friend for a small favor, or just ask someone to spend some time with you doing something you both enjoy.

If necessary, get help from professionals who might be able to assist you in getting unstuck.  It may be a medical professional or a service provider; there are many professionals who can help us with our various needs, and it’s often not as costly as we might think.  Remember, there is no charge to investigate available resources.  Do what you can to help yourself, but don’t be afraid to look outside of yourself when necessary.

Getting Past My Slump…

Here’s what I’ve done and will continue to do to get past my current slump.  Yesterday, I got into action and did something on which I’d been procrastinating for quite a while.  I decided upon what absolutely needed to be done in order for me to feel a sense of accomplishment.  I set a target of “good enough” instead of perfect and approached the task with a goal of finishing it yesterday.  Less than two hours later, it was done and I felt great!  One step toward becoming unstuck… I also planned a fun activity with a friend for a few days from now so I have something to look forward to.

I am taking things one day at a time as well.  To help with my health issues, I’m focusing on eating better foods and getting more rest.  To address the career challenges, I’m taking baby steps in the right direction.  I’m deciding upon a small key action to take each weekday so that I can build some positive momentum in that arena.  I’m also considering ways in which I can get help with these issues, whether it be from a health professional or a personal coach.

Hopefully, I will soon move out of my slump and start feeling positive and hopeful once again.  I know that I will have other times when I feel discouraged.  When that happens, I will take my own advice and stop those negative feelings before they stop me!

Principles of Louise Hay – Part 4

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This post outlines the final three key principles from “You Can Heal Your Life.”

“We must be willing to learn to love ourselves.”

Many years ago, I first heard the saying, “You can’t love anyone else unless you love yourself first.” At the time, I despised this saying and vehemently disagreed with its sentiments.  Although I was clear that I didn’t love myself much back then, I believed that I was a loving person and fully capable of loving others.  Now I am much more open to the message, except that I would qualify the saying by adding the word fully, as in “one cannot love another fully unless he loves himself.” If we are mired in self-criticism and self-hatred, there is much less of ourselves to give to others, which makes us less able to love others to full capacity.

Yet, the ability to love others fully is only one reason for us to love ourselves.  When we treat ourselves with loving kindness, we experience a number of other benefits.   These benefits include:

  • Decreased anxiety
  • Increased inner peace
  • Improved relationships
  • Enhanced health and well-being

Notice that this principle includes two key words, willing and learn.  For those of us who have not loved ourselves for many, many years, it probably won’t happy overnight.  We need to learn to treat ourselves more kindly, much like we would need to learn a new language or the tasks for a new job.  It’s a process and it takes time.  However, the key is to be willing to learn, whether it’s learning a new language or a new way of reacting toward oneself. If we are open and willing to a new way of being, the learning process will flow much more smoothly.

Louise Hay is a big advocate of the use of affirmations.  One affirmation which she uses often is, “I am willing to change.” A variant on this affirmation could be, “I am willing to learn to love myself” or simply, “I am willing to love myself.” Affirmations really do help!  When I find myself engaging in negativity, I often snap myself out of that mindset by repeating a simple affirmation several times inside my head.  Give it a try… You might not notice a difference overnight, but I promise you, it will help!

Start with the willingness to love yourself and build from there.  The first step is always the most difficult.  Take that first step and see how you grow and blossom over time.

“Self-approval and self-acceptance in the now are the keys to positive changes.”

We have all made mistakes in the past.  None of us are perfect and I’m sure that if we could turn back the clock, knowing what we know now, we would make different decisions and act in alternate ways.  This key asks us to stop looking back and stop berating ourselves for our past failings.  It asks us to stand firmly in the now with an attitude of “I approve of myself” and “I am okay.” With this positive attitude, we are better prepared to move forward and to make the changes we want to make in our lives.

Would you feed yourself or your child a meal on one of last night’s dirty dishes?  Of course not!  Well, working on creating a new future on top of the “muck” of berating yourself for your past wrongs is akin to eating a delicious meal from a dirty dish.  It just wouldn’t taste as good!

We need to let go of the past and focus on what we want to create in our lives.  We cannot change the past, so it does virtually no good to ruminate upon it.  The only time when past reflection is productive is when we are looking for lessons to apply moving forward.  Otherwise, let the past go.  Embrace yourself and your life today, set powerful goals for yourself, and work on accomplishing them from a space of self-acceptance and self-approval.

I know this can be easier said than done, but as with the previous key, it begins from an attitude of willingness.  Be willing to approve of yourself and willing to accept yourself.   Use affirmations to help you along the way.  The exercises in “You Can Heal Your Life” and other related teachings will help tremendously.

Being able to accept, approve of, and love ourselves is an ongoing process.  I have definitely made a lot of progress in this regard, but I still have my days when I am highly self-critical.  It is at those times that I recommit to being willing to change, and I move forward as best I can.

I remember one of the powerful tenets from “The Four Agreements,” which is Always Do Your Best.  Our best isn’t always the same.  Some days our best means simply that we get out of bed, whereas our best on other days leads to tremendous accomplishments.  But if we commit to always doing our best and being willing to accept and love ourselves, all things are possible.

“When we really love ourselves, everything in our life works.”

Self-love is a critical facet of “the Healing Project.”  As we move forward in healing our lives, we will work on learning to love ourselves more and on being more gentle and accepting toward ourselves.  As we look at the probable thought patterns for a host of common health challenges, we’ll notice that these patterns are highly negative and destructive.  When we are able to turn these thought patterns around and replace them with more empowering and positive thoughts, miracles will start to happen in our lives.  We will start to feel better physically, we’ll have a more genuinely cheerful disposition, we’ll have more “good days,” our relationships will improve, and we’ll attract better outcomes for our life endeavors.  Quite simply, our lives will work much better.

Don’t you want to have a life that works better?  I know I do.  I used to try to climb an uphill battle to a better life, all the while driving myself with all the sensitivity of a drill sergeant.  That approach didn’t get me what I wanted, so I’m willing to try another avenue.  I am willing to step into the belief that when I really love myself, everything in my life will work.

Principles of Louise Hay – Part 3

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This post is a continuation of the key principles of Louise Hay’s philosophy.  This post outlines three more of the points which are the basis for “You Can Heal Your Life.”

“Resentment, criticism, and guilt are the most damaging patterns.”

There are many thought patterns that can be harmful to us, especially if we engage in them on a regular basis.   However, some patterns are more harmful than others, and Louise Hay contends that resentment, criticism, and guilt are the most damaging patterns of all.  Upon reflection, I would have to agree with her.  Let’s look at these patterns one by one, along with some examples of each, to drive the point home.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines resentment as follows:

a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury

It is normal to notice when we are wronged and to be upset by it.  But when we continue to rehash a bad situation and ruminate upon how unfair or wrong it was, it can be harmful to our sense of well-being, as well as our health.   There is a man I know who felt he was treated unfairly at work and had filed a grievance against his employer.  Even several years later, one could not have a conversation with him without the topic of his grievance coming up.  Not only did this repel others from desiring to be in his company, I’m sure it also destroyed his inner peace and happiness.  This is just one example of the harmful effects of resentment.

When one is either the target or the source of criticism, it is damaging.  Yet the most detrimental form of criticism is when it is self-directed.  I can speak of this from extensive personal experience.  I used to be extremely critical toward myself.  I had a running tape inside my head of all of the ways in which I was deficient and didn’t measure up to my expectations.  At times my self-criticism would be voiced, but the verbal complaints paled in comparison to the negative voice which lived inside of my head.  I am convinced that the many health complaints which I have today were created by means of my intense criticism of all facets of my being – my appearance, my career pursuits, my interactions with others, you name it… I am gradually turning this around and the negative tape is no longer the constant presence it once was.   As I emerge from the chasm that was my self-criticism, I gain an ever increasing amount of joy, peace, and happiness.  And interestingly enough, as I criticize myself less often, others are less prone to denigrate me as well.  I am also less prone to deriding others.  Win, win!

As the old saying goes, guilt is a wasted emotion.  It doesn’t make anyone feel better, and it cannot do anything to change a given situation.  It is also often misplaced and experienced by people who have nothing to feel guilty about in the first place!  The famous radio talk show host, Dr. Laura, says that guilt is only merited if one has truly done something wrong.  Even then, the guilt should only serve to motivate the individual to do whatever he or she can do to make amends to those they have wronged.  If you have done all you can to make things right, then let the guilt go.  I once had a seminar leader who stated, “Let it go; it’s killing you!”  He was referring to the ongoing guilt and regret which we experience about things that are past and cannot be changed.

If you have done something wrong, apologize, make amends, do what you can to make up for your infractions.  Don’t ruminate in wasted feelings of guilt.  If you have not done anything wrong, do whatever you need to do to release your guilt.  As Louise Hay says, “Your sentence is now over, so let yourself out of prison.”

“Releasing resentment will dissolve even cancer.”

It is Louise Hay’s contention that cancer is caused by deep resentment held for a long time until it literally eats away at the body.  As she states on page 169 of “You Can Heal Your Life,” those who develop cancer often experienced something in childhood which destroyed their sense of trust and led them to find it difficult to develop and maintain long-term, meaningful relationships.   These individuals also have a tendency to feel hopeless and helpless and to be highly self-critical.   A big key toward healing cancer is for the person to release their resentment toward the past and those who hurt them and to learn to love and accept themselves.

I realize that the above paragraph may be difficult to take in and accept.  I am reminded of the 12-step group maxim, “Take what you like and leave the rest.”  If the idea that cancer is caused by resentment seems implausible to you, perhaps this is a concept from Louise Hay that you will choose to leave.  However, as I wrote about under the previous key, resentment can and does cause a lot of damage in those who harbor it, and we would all benefit tremendously from releasing any resentment we hold, particularly resentment of a deep and long-standing nature.  So instead of thinking about dissolving cancer by releasing resentment, why not consider the increased sense of well-being or lightheartedness which you could gain by letting go of a grudge that you hold.

“We must release the past and forgive everyone.”

When we are angry at others and hold grudges, it hurts us more than it hurts the other person.  Think about it… They are off living their lives while we are stewing and seething over how they have wronged us.   Often the person we choose not to forgive is not even in our lives any longer; they may even be deceased.  Yet we hold on to our anger and resentment because we feel justified in doing so.

You may have heard of the expression, “He would rather be right than happy.”  So many people are what might be called “right fighters.”  They are indignant about their position and swear that they are right in their assertions.  They may even BE right, yet that’s not what’s most important.  What’s most important is, are they happy?  Do they have peace of mind?  Are they enjoying their lives, or are they so wrapped up in their being right and someone else being wrong that all of the enjoyment has slipped out of living?

Forgiving someone for what they have done does not mean that you are saying what they did was okay.  Forgiveness is more about YOU than it is about the other person.  When you forgive someone, you are giving yourself permission to release the past and move on with your life.  If all or most of your energy is wrapped up in being angry at someone who hurt you, where is the energy for creating a life you love?

I remember reading a story about a woman who was raped.  Of course, rape is one of the most horrific atrocities which a human being can endure.  There is a temptation to want to crawl up and retreat from life, to go into a sort of cocoon and hide from life.  Yet this particular woman was extremely strong.  I don’t remember her exact words, but her sentiment has stuck with me.  She expressed that although the monster who raped her subjected her to pain and indignity for an hour, she wasn’t going to give him the power to take any more from her than he had already taken.  She decided to let go of the experience (I would imagine this wasn’t immediate and took some time) and embrace the rest of her life with strength, joy and conviction.  Her story was truly empowering to read!

One of the best ways to release the past is to look for lessons from your experiences.  It is a good practice to always ask yourself, “What can I learn from this experience?” or “How has this experience shaped me as a person? How am I a better person as a result of this challenge?”  We all go through difficult times, some of us more than others.  There are many times when life doesn’t feel fair, but once something has happened, we can’t turn back the clock and change it.

I will end this entry with a wonderful quote from Louise Hay – food for thought until my next post…

“The point of power is always in the present moment. The past is over and done and has no power over me. I can begin to be free in this moment. Today’s thoughts create my future. I am in charge. I now take my own power back. I am safe and I am free.”