Joyful Daily

If you tend to hold yourself to unrealistically high standards, remind yourself that your inherent goodness isn’t connected with achievement.

Credit: File

Credit: File

If you tend to hold yourself to unrealistically high standards, remind yourself that your inherent goodness isn’t connected with achievement.

May 17 - Sunrises and sunsets

Spring and summer seasons in Atlanta naturally lend themselves to spectacular sunrises and sunsets. Which one are you most drawn towards? Do you tend to be an early bird or an evening one? What does your preference tend to indicate about you? Are you aware of what these events elicit in you and why you are drawn to them? Have the people in your life influenced you in any way? What are some of your favorite rituals to include?

Sunrises are often associated with enthusiasm for the day. They represent a new dawn, a new beginning. For many people, this signifies hope. Some people report feeling gratitude for being given another day to live and experience the beauty and majesty of this life. Others find a sunrise energizing and inspiring. It gives them the momentum they need to move forward with focus and fortitude. When you need a bit of a pick me up, try going outside and watching the sun rise. Notice your personal responses to the event. It may ignite various mental, emotional, and physical states that you may find supportive and meaningful.

Sunsets are often associated with contentment and peace. Many report that this event provides them with comfort and relaxation. They find validation for a day well lived and enjoyed. It can also signify that all will be well even if things didn’t go perfectly that day. Whether you had a fantastic or tough day, experiment with finding a nice spot to observe the sunset. See how you feel as you watch this beautiful aspect of nature disappear from your vision and leave a vast array of colors in its wake. Notice the multi-faceted sensations that you experience.

Whether enjoying a sunrise or sunset, you may find it informative to write your reflections about the event during or after your time watching. You may notice patterns emerge that you weren’t fully aware of. The natural world provides a organic opportunity to go within more deeply.

May 16 - Drivers and outcomes

Joy is in the journey. Or is it? It’s more like it can be. There is natural, reward-seeking behavior as humans. There is an innate drive to attain, achieve, or accomplish something. Deep within the brain, as a goal is envisioned, dopamine begins pumping. This is a pleasant feeling accompanied by a sense of unrest. Once that particular goal is reached, the mind turns to its next object.

In the experience of life, there is a certain level of restlessness, of always wanting more. This is not altogether a negative thing. You have a desire for further satisfaction. But this has to be tempered with a mindful approach because dreams and goals are not immediately realized ordinarily.

It can be delightful to put your heart and mind in the direction of something you desire, can’t it? There is a passion-filled sensation of possibilities as you move toward your objective. As long as you stay focused and hold it loosely, you may be aware that you feel excited and invigorated.

However, if you try too diligently to control the outcome, you may likely find feelings of anxiety, frustration, and disappointment. Taking a stance of using a light grip in your pursuit is not generally the easiest thing, is it?

When it comes to certain topics like health, money, work, age, or relationships, you can feel pressured as the stakes may be perceived as high.

Have you ever gone after something, and it seemed like the harder you tried, the further out of reach it became? This is where the real challenge lies. How do you strike a balance with putting forth enough effort versus too much?

Give some space to what is unfolding. Be mindful and slow down. Hold your goal in your mind’s eye, and do the needed legwork, but trying to make it happen with too much intensity can cause your objectives to be unfulfilled. Can you tune in more to enjoy the process along the way?

May 15 - Unavailability

You may know the drill. You’re in a relationship with someone. You believe things are going smoothly. Suddenly, there is little or no communication from them. “What happened?” you may ask. You likely start down a road of self-examination, maybe with the question, “did I do something wrong?”

Naturally, you evaluate your last interaction to give you some kind of clue. So, you reach out to them to connect, thinking to yourself that they may just be busy. It could be that they are struggling in some way and are consumed with those situations. Part of you rationally puts forth numerous possibilities. Still, it nags at you. What should you do if you truly care about them and your connection?

Let’s first begin with the premise that most human beings are self-consumed. This doesn’t make everyone a narcissist. In fact, a huge majority are likely very caring, non-narcissists, but can be caught up in their own world. Even if you know them well, you cannot possibly be aware of all of the factors and variables that may be causing this lapse in communication.

You could take a breath and give it time and space. Have you ever had an instance when you made a negative assumption only to learn quite the opposite of what you had assumed? Do your best to hold things loosely.

But what if this is a chronic pattern? If that’s the case, do you try too hard to hold the relationship together? Are you the one always initiating mutual plans? Also, you don’t want to reward chronic unavailability and poor communication on their part with immediate availability on yours. Resist the urge to jump at their first response as if it’s a royal command. This is a key strategy in not being taken for granted.

There is always the option of being authentic with them the next time you speak. That takes courage but in the long run, it may give you better results. If not, it may be time for a tough decision in the relationship.

May 14 - Grieving pets

Do you have pets now or have you ever? Are you an animal lover? Do you consider the animals in your life part of your family? Many people do. Some consider their pet four legged children. The industry of pet care has burst through the seams over the past couple of decades. Many people treat their animals with much care and doting, ensuring that every comfort possible is met for them. Pet care has become a big business in our country.

What happens, though, when a beloved pet dies? Have you ever experienced this? If so, you may know how traumatic it can be. Everyone doesn’t have the exact same reaction to this tragedy, but many people report that it’s one of the most difficult events in their lives to get through and overcome.

If you are grieving over the loss of a pet, there are several ways you can help yourself get through it. First, it’s important to allow yourself to grieve. Some people may not understand the depth of your grief, and that’s okay. Give yourself permission to honor this animal’s life and your emotions around it in a way that is meaningful and right for you.

Some pet owners have thrown a memorial service or celebration of life for their treasured animals. This can be a solo event or one when others are invited. You get to choose. Some people offer rituals to honor their four-legged family members. They may write letters to the animal, create a keepsake box with memorabilia in it, or do something active like walking the paths they used to with their pet. You may also choose to invite them for visitations in your dreams. Leaning into positive memories can be very powerful too. It offers the comfort and joy as if your pet is still here. This may be a bittersweet activity but helps you stay connected to the memory and love you shared together. There are many options, and one size doesn’t fit all.

Most importantly is to take good care of yourself during this tough time in life.

May 13 - Long game

Do you play the long game? Or is the short game more your speed? Have you ever heard of the long game? In what context? What does it mean to you?

Simply put, it means thinking beyond the immediate. In business, it means holding the vision of end results while navigating the obstacles in the immediate future. In personal lives, it could mean understanding long term goals over immediate gratification as it pertains to health, relationships, and other personal objectives.

When people play the long game, they are less likely to give up in the face of current adversity. The vision for the outcome is so strong that it motivates the person to withstand difficulties along the way. The payoff in the end is worth the pain in the present.

In our modern-day, fast-paced world, this approach to life’s goals is considered old school or irrelevant. Some even scoff at the idea. Patience and due diligence are often underrated and underestimated.

Whether you’re building a business or a relationship, playing the long game may serve you well. If you choose the other route, you may be tempted to give up a good thing before it’s had time to come to full fruition. Many people who have made this choice suffer deep regret. They feel that they missed their chance by being too impulsive and impatient.

It is true that sometimes it is the wisest thing to throw in the towel. At times, it’s better to cut your losses and move on than stay with a sinking ship. But how do you know? This plagues many people.

Learning to trust your own gut instinct and intuition is the absolute best route to knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. Yes, that’s a shout out to Kenny Rogers. You develop this superpower by being quiet and reflective on a regular basis. You learn to trust yourself, and that frees you to navigate life in your own unique way.

May 10 - Posers

As human beings, we have an ego, a sense of self. When held in healthy balance, it can allow you to have good self-esteem. It can also support you in reaching your goals. When a sense of ego grows out of proportion, you unwittingly can find yourself as a poser.

Here we define a poser as someone who is “putting on airs.” This means that the ego has swollen up to become an exaggerated version of itself. Posers behave as if they are more important than others. When that happens, it shows that the person has somehow elevated themselves to a higher status than others, based on their title, education, family name, physical appearance, or any number of distinct variables.

Posing involves putting up a false front. Even if they have the evidence of a degree(s), a solid lineage, or appealing looks, the poser incorrectly believes they are better than others. In other words, posers hide behind a wall of ideas and things that separates them from others.

Posers may demonstrate this quality by connecting with people or joining organizations they perceive will show the world that they are special. Oddly enough, their joy is fleeting because it is psychologically built on a house of cards. Their self-esteem is actually low, thus their need to prove themselves.

Does this description remind you of anyone in your purview or anyone you’ve crossed paths with previously? It can be uncomfortable to be around them, can’t it? Their inflated egos may be so obnoxious that it may trigger you. It certainly can be a turn-off.

Have you struggled with this behavior at times? If so, consider this: authenticity is the answer. Its cousin vulnerability can be helpful as well. As you can, come into a state of acceptance that you are special, worthy, and enough in your own rite. Posing furthers internal pain while authenticity and vulnerability transforms it.

May 9 - Space

What do you think of when you hear the word space? Did you naturally think of outer space? When you consider the sky, both at night and during the day, a vastness of space abounds. Perhaps at times you’ve imagined what it would be like to be an astronaut, to be able to view the earth from that space. But what about everyday space?

The space around and between us makes people and things distinct. Think of trees, for example. If you look at a tree from your window, you see that what ultimately sets it apart from what is around it is space. In other words, the emptiness around it defines its uniqueness in relation to other beings.

With humans, though we all look different, space helps create individual forms. In the visual field, without space, everything would essentially be one large, indistinguishable mass.

In speech, the space between words is a foundational factor in allowing language to make sense. If there is little space between words, as in rapid speech, an intense or staccato effect is produced. If the space between words is elongated, a less forceful or slowed effect is made. Space in writing is also fundamental to understanding content. If, in this column, what you are reading was without space between words, the ideas would be incomprehensible. Space matters greatly, doesn’t it?

How important is space in relationships? We would suggest that it is vital to success with one another. Even in very loving relationships, without space, there is an unhealthy fusion or enmeshment. As the saying goes, “familiarity breeds contempt.” Have you ever asked someone to give you some space? Or has someone asked that of you? It may be physical or mental.

Lebanese American poet Kahlil Gibran put it beautifully about relationships in saying, “Let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of heaven dance between you.”

May 8 - Autocorrect

If you use emails, texts and other forms of modern technology, you are likely familiar with the critical role of the delete and backspace keys. Without these two functions, messages would be greatly miscommunicated. If you are in too great of a hurry, you may type words or ideas that you really don’t wish to communicate. Have you had times of relief when you realized you almost sent something you would not have wanted to send?

Sometimes, spellchecks may be downright hilarious. Other times, if sent, serious issues can be caused with the receiver.

Before emails and texts, there was the typewriter. If you made a misstep, no one was the wiser. You simply immediately corrected the error with your typewriter ribbon or used “whiteout.” A problem that could have been created was quickly solved. Still, you had to carefully edit the document before you sent it usually by snail mail.

Have you had occasions when you said or did something and wished you could backspace or delete what occurred? We probably all as human beings have stepped in a hole and wished there was a quick way out.

Autocorrect in real time would come in handy, wouldn’t it?

If you’re working on a project, being aware of the speed at which you’re moving can make a difference. If you are fully present and adjust your speed, your work may turn out even better than you imagined.

Your cadence can particularly be key in emotionally laden conversations with others around provocative topics. By being aware of your focus and being skillful in your delivery, you can survive the discussion unscathed. Moreover, you can artfully make your point without everyone walking away with bad feelings. Outside of technology, you can’t autocorrect what you say after it’s been uttered. If you attempt it, your best move would be to sincerely correct the situation as best you can.

May 7 - Physical/Emotional Conversations

Have you ever considered your physical symptoms as they are related to your mental and emotional state? In somatic psychology, we know that some ailments have their causes in the heart and mind yet manifest in the body. When you only treat these symptoms by physical means, you may be missing an important element in your healing process. Experiment with these ideas.

For example, chronic neck pain may be interpreted as someone in your environment being a pain in the neck. An injured knee may be your inability to bend and be flexible. Gastrointestinal issues may indicate difficulty in digesting certain people, conversations or situations in your life. The list goes on.

How can begin to employ a more holistic response to physical ailments? Below are a few ideas:

- Have a dialogue with parts of your body. Dr. Candace Pert who wrote “Molecules of Emotion” stated that humans have neuroreceptors throughout their bodies and various aspects of self are in a constant conversation. Tune in to that conversation to learn more about yourself and why you may be struggling.

- Allow the voice of your pain and discomfort to be heard rather than immediately shutting it down. What is the message? Tune in and listen deeply rather than quickly medicating to tamp down the unease it brings.

- When you’re engaging others, notice how your body responds. Does your stomach tighten? Do you feel dizzy? Are you suddenly hit with an onset of fatigue. The body is always communicating.

- Learn more about this by reading or watching videos. A few books you may enjoy perusing include Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk’s “The Body Keeps the Score,” Louise Hay’s “You Can Heal Your Life,” and Anodea Judith’s “Eastern Body: Western Mind.” Check in with your health professional if symptoms continue even if you are pursuing this path of healing in addition to medical treatment.

May 6 - Overestimation

Have you ever fallen into the trap of overestimation? It’s easy to do. Perhaps you overestimated how hungry you were. Your eyes were bigger than your stomach. You could even overestimate a restaurant because of the brilliant recommendations from friends. You get there and find it’s a bit lackluster. This could be due to your personal tastes or even your frame of mind that day. It can also happen when you assume how the environment, service and food will be.

Sometimes people overestimate how a celebration will go from a birthday to an anniversary or even a wedding. When it falls short in your estimation, it can be quite disappointing. What happens when it entails bigger consequences?

Perhaps you overestimated the return on investment you made in an organization, stocks or a costly professional service. Sometimes these groups over promise and under deliver. It’s not fun to be on the receiving end of this type of dynamic. You most likely feel duped. Some even feel betrayed. At the very least, you resent having invested your personal time, heart, trust and often money in something that did not come to fruition as expected or hoped.

How can you prevent this from occurring in the future? Although this is a part of life that happens to everyone, there are a few things you can do moving forward to give yourself the best chance of avoiding this pitfall.

- Don’t operate in blind faith. Just because a service or organization was a good fit for someone else doesn’t mean that it will meet your needs. Don’t take someone’s word for it just because you like and trust them.

- Be judicious and thorough in your assessment before you sign on the dotted line so to speak. Salespeople will try to create a sense of urgency, so be prudent before committing.

- Check in with your deepest wisdom, gut instinct and intuition for the best path forward for you.

May 3 - Idioms

If you have a friend who is an actor, you may have told them to “break a leg” before a performance. But, of course, you literally didn’t mean for them to do that. You were simply wishing them good luck. And if you told someone “A penny for your thoughts,” would you actually give them a penny if they did so?

Idioms are informal statements with implied meanings but not intended to be taken literally. If someone said, “it’s raining cats and dogs,” you wouldn’t really expect to see animals falling from the sky.

It’s fascinating to consider how everyday American English is chock full of idioms. But if you spoke the same idioms in Great Britain, Australia or other English-speaking countries, they may or may not know what you’re talking about.

The same can be true with idioms within the United States regionally. Let’s say you visited a remote area of the country and said, “Elvis has left the building,” they may be genuinely confused.

Can you imagine being from another country and visiting the States? Picture a friendly American inviting you to sit down and “chew the fat.” How confusing for some people! Or maybe they advise you that it’s fundamental to “get your ducks in a row.” Naturally, this visitor or immigrant is likely to interpret the words literally and be confused.

Language here as well as in most countries is replete with idioms, slang, colloquialisms, informalities and nuances. If you’ve ever studied another language, you learned there are formal and informal ways of speaking. Native speakers may teach you some idioms and informal ways to converse in the country or countries you are visiting.

Here’s a fun exercise. For the next week, become aware of how many idioms you or others around you use in daily life. It will likely “keep you on the ball.” And you’ll see that “time flies when you’re having fun.”

May 2 - Birth order

Where do you fall in the birth order in your family? Are you the oldest, youngest or middle child? Maybe you’re an only child. Birth order and how it impacts a person’s perspective, choices and behaviors is quite interesting. These theories don’t hold true for everyone, but they do for many.

If you were the oldest child, you may be quite responsible and conscientious. Perhaps you cared for your younger siblings. Some even jest that they also helped raise their parents. The oldest child is often a pioneer. The negative for oldest children is often that they felt saddled with too much responsibility. They didn’t have space to be a kid and care for themselves, much less have others caring for them.

If you were a middle child, you may have ended up being the mediator, trying to keep peace in the household. People who grew up in this position often report feeling lost and the need to prove themselves to others. They feel that either their older or younger siblings got more attention than they did. They often don’t know exactly how they’re supposed to fit in.

If you were the youngest child, you may have been called spoiled or your parent’s favorite. Usually, parents are a bit more mature now. They’re grounded in this adult thing and able to extend more care to this child. They also often realize that this is their last child, so they may tend to dote on them to prolong the sweetness of parenting.

Finally, if you were an only child, you may have had a variety of the above experiences. Many only children report feeling more like the eldest or the youngest. They often convey feelings of loneliness and independence.

As with any position in the birth order, it can be a positive or negative experience. Perhaps understanding a bit more about how this affected you will support you now as an adult in self-awareness as well as playing to your strengths.

May 1 - Euphoric cognitive bias

Have you ever gotten enough distance from a person or activity to ease the hurt or disappointment they caused? Or perhaps you enjoyed some fantastic wins in your life and felt blissful. In those moments, you might be tempted to call someone or book an event that you previously had distanced from. Often, people coming home from a high on vacation have the compelling nudge to ring a friend or family member to spread the good cheer. The other person, though, is not feeling the same. If you’ve participated in this dynamic, you may have been met with a negative reaction. If you’re on enough of a high, it won’t faze you. But if you were strongly attached to this having a positive outcome, you may feel dashed. Your elevated state gets sunk. This occurs because you weren’t grounded enough. It’s tough to learn how to exist in the state of euphoric groundedness, but it is possible.

When you’re riding a win in your life, pause before you act. Just like we encourage you to pause before engaging when you’re in a negative mood, acting impulsively can have the same disappointing effects.

The other idea to consider here is where the other person may be. You may not realize it at the time of reaching out, but they may have just received bad news or simply be in a terrible mood. They may subconsciously invalidate your experience.

You may have also distanced from certain groups or activities because you weren’t having a positive experience or it simply wasn’t that fulfilling to you. Perhaps you outgrew that group. In your state of euphoric cognitive bias, you may tempted to re-engage hoping that it will have evolved as you have. Again, this can be a set up for disappointment.

The wisdom in this lesson is to pause before you engage others when feeling triumphant. Celebrate thoroughly within yourself. Be discerning when you do decide to engage. Cherish those positive mental/emotional/physical/spiritual states.

April 30 - Things are not people

Would people describe you as a sentimental person? Do you have a difficult time clearing the clutter in your home because you hold on to items that connect you with someone? Maybe you still have a sweater that your grandmother gave you. You won’t ever wear it nor have you in the past. Yet, there it is, taking up space.

Maybe you have items around your house that a loved one gave you or made for you. Your children’s art projects over the years may be stacked up in boxes or piled in the closet. Maybe a friend gifted you an item for your home that no longer goes with your décor, but you treasure your friend. It can be tough to release these items when your heartstrings are attached, can’t it?

How can you honor the people in your life, past and present, without cluttering your home? What can you do to nurture your feelings while also taking care of your physical space?

One thing to remember is that these items are not the people you love. They may represent them in some way, but these people are even more importantly present in your mind, heart and spirit. They may even be with you on a regular basis physically, but you still feel compelled to let go of certain things. The problem is compounded with loved ones dying and leaving even more items in their will to you.

Some struggle with this process from feelings of guilt, loyalty and obligation. They feel they are betraying the person. This is simply not true. It is okay to release items from your home while continuing to cherish memories and relationships. One strategy is to take photos of the items and store them that way. This takes up less space and allows you to revisit these things whenever you wish.

Be mindful of venturing into the arena of hoarding, which is an anxiety disorder. This may be another reason letting go is so stressful. If you suspect you may be suffering from this condition, seek medical guidance.

April 29 - Mercy me

“Woah, ah, mercy, mercy me; Ah, things aren’t what they used to be.” Those are the timeless lyrics of Marvin Gaye. Things are rapidly changing and are indeed not what they used to be. Perhaps mercy is needed more than ever in daily life. What do you think?

Mercy means “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.” What a sobering definition, isn’t it? The translation is that you could punish or retaliate against someone, yet you choose compassion or forgiveness. A sense of benevolence instead of malevolence is brought to mind. The definition of mercy is derived from the Old Etruscan translated to mean an exchange.

This is not to forego laws or societal guidelines at all. But how can you practice mercy with individuals consistently? For many reasons, there seems to be a lack of being merciful in the world. Naturally, this must be balanced with boundaries. In some cases, very strong boundaries are called for.

The twin sister of mercy is empathy. What does it mean to empathize with another person? Empathy invites you to consider how you would feel in the same circumstance. Furthermore, it asks you to think about how you would want to be treated in the exact situation.

Our egos can get in the way, can’t they? Any of us can find ourselves on our high horse, adamantly judging others. Mercy arises from a higher place than that of judgment.

Do you remember a time when you have deliberately or unwittingly crossed a boundary, and someone gave you mercy instead of punishment? How did that feel? More than likely you felt relieved and grateful. Someone gave you a break. Perhaps you realized someone gave you a second chance.

You can apply this principle in a variety of situations, from large to small. It’s a win-win for everyone inolved. Mercy, when used skillfully, is a superpower.

April 26 - Neutrality

You find yourself once again in an emotionally provocative conversation with someone you know. Through experience, you realize that after countless times of getting caught up in the fray with them, a good outcome is unlikely. This loved one, friend or co-worker has redeeming qualities, and you don’t want to give up the relationship. What can you do?

The conversation vary on tough topics. They rarely listen to your feedback or suggestions. They dominate your times together with self-absorption and lots of “yes, but’s.” You do care about them, but you don’t want to have further sessions where you feel kidnapped and dumped on. Here are some suggestions:

  • Engage less frequently when possible.
  • Make the individual chats as short as you can. End as quickly and politely as you can. The idea is to be short and sweet.
  • Redirect the dialogue to non-emotional things. Focus on the weather. Mention a sale at your favorite store. Bring up something you’re grateful for. Talk about an unusual vehicle you saw in traffic. In other words, keep it as objective as possible.
  • Go Gray Rock. Play Switzerland. This means don’t get hooked emotionally. Foster a state of neutrality. This means responding with “oh,” “I see,” “wow,” or “hmm.” There are plenty of variations you can use. This is an opportunity to be creative.

Taking a neutral stance is a safe response to a chronic individual with whom you’re connected. This relational posture is about arriving at a sane insight and new way of behaving.

There’s no convincing them or changing their driven behavior, so you use the above tactics to stay connected to them but also maintain your peace. Neutrality is about non-attachment and being diplomatic without surrendering your inner stability. Detaching with care is a fair option to both you and them.

April 25 - Ways to lend a hand

An outstretched hand from someone when you need them is a symbol of care. Support makes a huge difference when you are in time of need. You feel touched. You no longer experience loneliness and isolation. Being lent a hand in and of itself can move you forward in certain ways. Isn’t that true?

Think of the times you’ve asked for help. While it can be vulnerable to receive, a helping hand can also be magical and reassuring.

Let’s say you learn that a good friend has a cancer diagnosis. How can you support them? Many cancer patients we have worked with share that making them meals can be meaningful, but too many casseroles in their refrigerator can create their own problems.

Gestures such as giving flowers, filling up their car tank, or running errands for them can be immensely helpful and timely. The cancer journey can be exhausting in all realms. Perhaps sitting with them during their treatment is something you feel courageous enough to do. Kindness lifts others in need.

The late oncologist, Dr. Jeremy Geffen, said something mind-blowing about support. He said, “Connection with other people lies at the heart of healing. This is true for cancer or any other illness. Though it may take many forms, the need for human connection is as basic as the need for surgery, or chemotherapy or any other medical treatment.” That said, being open and willing to reach out as skillfully as you can to your friend is paramount.

This means asking how (not if) you can help. It means listening more than speaking. It doesn’t mean giving advice or sharing tales of those with similar cancers, especially if others died from the same cancer. Most valuable is being willing to be a loving presence. It can be a tall order when you are scared or uncomfortable in your own rite. But if you can summon the strength to just be there with love, the healing impact can be beautifully indescribable.

April 24 - Healing with Kintsugi gold

How do you regard places within you and your life that need healing? How do you explain your wounds to yourself and others? These might be physical, emotional or mental wounds. They may include insecurities, injuries, even failures. If you’ve lived long enough, you have most definitely incurred some hurts of various kinds. The most successful people in the world have also failed the most often because they don’t stop at failure.

Kintsugi practitioners repair clay pottery with gold. Does that surprise you? Gold is so much more valuable than clay. Why would they do that? They believe that the broken places are the most valuable. What would it look and feel like to treat your injuries in the same way? Your broken places are an important part of your life story. They have exalted value as do you.

These vulnerabilities should not be shamed. Instead treat them with the honor and care they deserve. You may even choose to celebrate them because they’ve made you who you are today. When you work on healing yourself with this approach, you are much more likely to experience dignity around all of who you are. Many people spend their lifetimes trying to hide from themselves and others. They don’t feel worthy of being fully seen.

This pattern is a vexation to your humanity. You deserve to treat yourself better. Stand tall. Be proud. Celebrate your life and all of who you are. You were not meant to compartmentalize yourself into pieces that are deemed “acceptable” by others. Don’t dim your light because of the organic wounds you’ve incurred along your life’s journey. Shine brightly in all your glory. When you shine in this way, you will attract others who do the same. You may also attract some bugs. This happens. The bugs may try to bring you down, but they have no power here. See them for who they are. Understand you may have triggered them by being so boldly beautiful.

April 23 - Drop the drama

Do you find yourself titillated by someone else’s drama? Do you find it comforting to indulge in media that focuses on conflict and potential disruption to people’s peace? If so, this may be an indication that you’re not feeling fulfilled in your own life. You may be seeking excitement and stimulation by watching others’ lives play out, even to their detriment.

What happens when you engage in this type of material often? You have mirror neurons in your brain and body that make the drama feel like it is happening to you. This creates stress, tension and anxiety in the mind and body. You shift from becoming a spectator to a participant in the dynamics before you. You may not be ready to give this indulgence up just yet because you get some satisfaction from it. That’s understandable. Ask yourself if it’s serving your best interest. If you’re already vulnerable in your own struggles, this type of content can really sink you.

This may also be true when family and friends who try to draw you into their conflicts. There are some personalities that get a charge from explosive emotions and theatrical relationship dynamics. Notice how you might get pulled into these situations even if they don’t have anything to do with you. You may feel called to join them in this way out of obligation to show that you’re an ally. This is a form of people-pleasing that can sabotage your own inner peace and well-being.

If you find that you tend to be expected to join in on conflicts that others are engaging, have a meaningful conversation with your loved ones and let them know how it’s impacting you. It’s healthy to set boundaries. Non-engagement is one option. Care is a two-way street, so give them the opportunity to refrain from this behavior as a way to show love to you. You may choose to offer other ways that you’d like to engage and show up for them.

April 22 - Abbreviated language

Are you able to successfully keep up with all of today’s informal language?

If you utilize email or text, you’ve probably had to research what some of the abbreviations stand for. Some seem perplexing to figure out while others are much easier. LOL, for example, as you likely know, means Laugh Out Loud. But what about ICYMI? That translates to In Case You Missed It.

Some people think it’s just downright lazy and a pushback to formal language. Perhaps it is when in verbal conversation, but maybe not when it comes to emails and texts. There are several solid reasons for shortening long words or phrases. One reason is convenience. You’re at the grocery store, for example, and you want to send yourself or someone else a quick note about a sale.

Speed can be another motivation. Quickly responding can be important if you’re standing in line or if you are reassuring someone who is in a precarious situation. Also, communicating with loved ones informally can be more intimate.

Then there’s the popularity of abbreviations. Do you want to connect better with younger generations? If so, you probably want to adopt at least a few of their common forms of communication. You won’t want to give up your own established forms of speaking, but these abbreviations may serve as a bridge with others.

Increasingly, informal abbreviations are also used in business communication. It’s becoming somewhat normal to use terms in emails such as ROI (Return On Investment), CTA (Call To Action), and CRM (Customer Relationship Management). Others include ASAP (As Soon As Possible), T&C (Terms & Conditions), and COB (Close OF Business)

Language, while we may think it’s established in a permanent way, is actually fluid. Being able to learn and integrate these newer, quicker, informal and convenient forms may give you a new sense of freedom of expression.

April 19 - Technology burnout

Have you ever found yourself yelling at the automated customer service voice because she can’t understand what you’re saying? How many times have the self-kiosk you’re using to check out at the grocery store not worked? How long did you wait for service? Have you ever been driving down the road yelling at a phone repeatedly, requesting that your car operating system dial a particular number?

This is just the tip of the iceberg, isn’t it? It seems as if the world is coming up with new ways to automate daily. If you’re feeling frustrated, you’re not alone. Reports show that many people are fed up with the new systems being put in place. While technology is designed to make our lives easier and more effective, it often complicates it and even slows us down.

Privacy is the other technological issue we hear a lot about in our work. People are concerned with inappropriate exposure to private matters by random companies. If you want to use certain platforms, you must cooperate with the company’s desire to collect a variety of information from health and financial data to preferences of all kinds, even food. How often have you been looking at a product online only to find that exact product or a similar one pops up in your social media feed or in your email?

The goal of reducing human interactions by many companies these days leaves a lot to be desired by many. People are craving the connection with others that preceded the latest and greatest technological advances. You can certainly reach out to these companies and platforms. You can also make choices about how you want to engage and participate to some extent. Ultimately, it’s important to be intentional about getting more human engagement in ways that you can. Connecting to others in a more personalized way may be just what many need right now. And if you’re suffering from technology burnout, take steps to care for your stress levels.

April 18 - Emphasis

Frequently, results are based on how you focus your mind and what you emphasize. Look at the following sentence. I never said they stole my belongings. Simple, straightforward sentence, right? It depends on how you read it. Read that sentence seven more times but each time place your emphasis on a different word beginning with the word I. It makes a difference in the interpretation, doesn’t it?

You are probably aware of this in language. How you stress a syllable in a word may result in a different meaning. Take the English word contract. If you stress the first syllable, you imply an agreement. If you emphasize the second syllable you indicate an action of pulling in. You have the same word but with different meanings, hinging completely on your pronunciation.

What are you emphasizing these days? Are you caught up in what’s wrong in the world, stuck in polarity and extremism, or focused primarily on the stress in your life? Are there other ways to look at what you are experiencing? Perception is based on your mental and emotional filter.

How are you feeling in general? Would you say for the most part you feel reasonably happy, bitter, or somewhere in-between?

If you find yourself discouraged by what is happening in your life, take an honest look at how you’re interpreting people and events. Is your emphasis on being harsh with yourself or others? In conversations with friends or even strangers, are you quick to point out negatives? Or are you the one who tends to bring a lighter, more encouraging spirit to others?

If you struggle with negativity, here’s a suggestion: go on a complaint diet.

That’s right. Commit to ignoring and not verbalizing complaints for the next week. Are you up for it? Instead, only emphasize what is positive with you and the world for seven days. We almost guarantee you and those around you will feel much better!

April 17 - Joy makers

Who do you think of when you hear the words joy maker? It may be a relative, a friend, someone at work or even a celebrity. Joy can be elicited spontaneously and quite unexpectedly. It can also come forth when you merely think of someone or a situation.

While people can certainly trigger states of joy, so can places and events. If you fondly recall a picturesque location you visited, you likely recall it with some level of joy. Or maybe you were at a gathering that seemed magical, as if the stars had aligned perfectly. Were you ever surprised by something a friend or a stranger did for you? Unexpected kindnesses can be true joy makers.

Consider the state of joy. Even if you haven’t felt it lately, you probably experienced it somewhere along the line. It usually brings a smile to your face. You feel pleasant sensations and positive swirls of energy. It probably wouldn’t shock you that joy boosts the immune system. According to Harvard University research, there are additional benefits.

It lowers stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, and epinephrine. It reduces pain by stimulating endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers. It can decrease depression and anxiety symptoms. Joy is good medicine.

Some people resist joy and seem committed to negativity. This is sometimes due to habit energy. Hopefully, you are not one of them. If you are, know that habits can be replaced by consistent dedication. You can decide at this moment.

Do you consider yourself a joy maker? Think of the times your words or actions brought joy to others. Was it a thoughtful gift you gave them? Did you allow someone to move in front of you in line when you could see they were in a hurry? If so, they may have smiled and graciously thanked you. Speaking of smiles, sometimes that’s all it takes. A smile or a kind word cost nothing and can make a difference to others. And lastly, have you ever noticed that bringing joy to others boosts it in yourself?

April 16 - Diving deeper

Are you someone who is interested in other people, products and plans? How far does that curiosity go? When it comes to people, some are stellar at connecting with others through basic questions like name, work and home. When that conversation naturally winds itself up, are you interested in going beyond the surface level? If you are, do you know how?

Some research points to many benefits of investigating the world at a deeper level. Some of the results reported include reduced anxiety and depression symptoms, longevity and stronger relationships. Research also suggests that leaders, teams and businesses incorporating more meaningful curiosity in the workplace are far more successful. This trait drives innovation, productivity and collaboration. It gives people and workplaces a competitive advantage.

So how can you begin a journey of going deeper with the world around you? First, don’t be so quick to stop asking questions or pondering a situation with the first answer. This doesn’t mean peppering people with questions in an invasive way. It does mean being authentic in your invitation to go a bit deeper in your conversation.

Some people struggle with getting started on this journey. They don’t know how or where to begin. Below are a few questions that may help. We also encourage you to come up with some of your own in preparation for that next conversation or conundrum you encounter.

- What drives you?

- What have other people done in these situations? Who has inspired you the most and why? What made you choose this path?

- What is energizing and motivating you these days? What informs you around decision-making?

- What makes you tick? How are your core values a part of the process?

- What’s next? Who does it involve? Where might you need support and where can you provide help?

April 15 - Stress behaviors

Are you aware of how you behave when you’re under duress? You may be a person that withdraws or overly engages in these circumstances. You might lash out at others or sabotage yourself in some way. You may drive too fast, make impulsive decisions or make costly mistakes. Some people overindulge in shopping, eating and drinking.

When you find yourself doing any of the above behaviors, practice observing yourself through the wisdom of awareness. Notice what you’re doing. Identify it without criticizing yourself. This is the first step toward making changes.

Once you’ve observed the behavior, identify the thoughts, emotions and situations that occurred beforehand. This awareness provides further information about what is triggering you and how you respond in a dysfunctional way. See if you can trace your reactions. Where did you learn them? How has it served you well in the past? All behavior is purposeful, so you were able to find relief in these activities at some point. Eventually, though, they backfire on you. You end up with less-than-optimal results.

What’s a more productive way to respond to difficult thoughts, emotions and situations? Once you’re aware of your patterns, create a plan to preemptively intervene on yourself. For example, you may choose to take a walk instead of shopping online. When you’re able to intervene on yourself consistently, you create a new pattern.

Similarly, when you notice others engaging in dysfunctional patterns, recognize that they are stressed and not bad. For example, if a family member is acting agitated or controlling, it’s a sign that something is wrong. If your colleague is making mistakes, address the behavior with firm kindness. More listening and less lecturing is helpful.

These strategies are a part of having emotional intelligence and provide a way for you to strengthen this ability within yourself.

April 12 - Universal courage

The idea of courage and bravery is a universal value. In most cultures, courage summons up a strong stance in the face of fear or impending threats. The Spanish call it valor. In Finland, it’s referred to as sisu. In Germany, courage is called mut. In Swahili, it’s ujasiri. The Gaelic word is misneach. Romanians say curaj. The list is endless but the word in any language basically means the same.

Great courage is required in this life, isn’t it? As you reflect, you probably have been courageous at various times. You had to have been to make it this far. You may not have been perfectly brave in fear-inducing situations, but somehow you summoned the noble energy to step up and continue.

Was it when someone was being bullied? Was it when justice for yourself was called for? It may have been when you crossed a self-imposed or society-imposed barrier. Embedded in courage is a degree of assertiveness. At times, it goes beyond that. Call it sacred rage when enough is enough and you can be victimized no further.

What was the most courageous thing you ever did? Courage, to be clear, isn’t being thoughtless, impulsive or destructive. It has a higher purpose. Courage in its Latin origin denotes the heart, the seat of emotions. Ultimately the heart decides in the end to act courageously.

Movies like Braveheart and more recently Arthur the King may demonstrate examples of courage on the big screen. There are countless examples of individuals who even gave their own life in standing up for what they believed was right and needed. Joan of Arc, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi are just a few of such brave figures.

How does courage beckon to you now? It may be with an illness you are facing. Perhaps you are being pushed to act for the betterment of your family or community. It’s never too late to access the courage inside of you.

April 11 - Nature speaks

Being in nature has many physical and mental benefits. You breathe fresh air, connect with beauty, and gain a new perspective. There is perhaps an even greater upgrade you can enjoy when you bask in the natural world.

Nature speaks to us. It reflects potent ideas if we pay attention to the wisdom being presented. Let’s say you take a mindful walk in the woods. What do you see? Are you only noticing a bunch of trees and plants? Or can you view the landscape in deeper ways?

A tree, for instance, has a story. As you stand before it, you observe its weathered bark, its profound roots, and its branches reaching skyward. Gazing at it opens a door to wisdom. You can appreciate all it’s been through. It mirrors all you’ve overcome. Maybe its message is you need to be more rooted and grounded in what you’re currently experiencing. Perhaps, like its branches, you need to turn your attention upward away from complaints.

A still pond can beckon you to cultivate regular states of calm. A path can remind you that nothing in life is a straight line. A tepid wind can invite you to “cool your jets.” You see a distant mountain. It tells you to be solid, to stand your ground, to not be blown about by others’ opinions. Seedlings may tell you to be patient with your goals. Leaves on the ground remind you of seasons of life.

You are the discerner of the available natural wisdom around you. The key to benefiting from your time in nature is presence. If you are busy with your cell phone, even taking pictures of what is before you or taking selfies, you can miss out on wisdom. Are you truly in the woods, savoring what you are experiencing or are you lost in your thoughts and troubles? It’s easy to be distracted, isn’t it?

Next time you find yourself in nature, be fully present with all your senses. Ask the question of nature, “what do you have to say to me?”

April 10 - Travel

Where have you visited? When was your last trip? Do you have future travel plans? Trips bring forth a sense of adventure and altered perspectives, don’t they? Consider those times and how you prepared.

Are you one to travel lightly or do you attempt to virtually take all your comforts from home with you? Maybe you’re somewhere in between.

Recall the unusual, pleasant and fun aspects of the places you visited. Maybe you have traveled to some of the same places multiple times. There was something you deeply connected to which beckoned you back again.

As you remember those trips it likely brings up a sense of nostalgia and positive memories.

But those trips probably also came with some unexpected challenges. Even if your travels were wonderful, you have to admit it probably wasn’t perfect. There are ingredients you pack on your way to your destinations. Two things of necessity to take with you are patience and flexibility.

These two items are invaluable because travels typically involve other human beings. Many may not act the way you prefer. They may not move as fast as you like. Maybe their tone or attitude isn’t what you like. Another reason patience and flexibility are required is because of unexpected physical events. You know how this works. You have a week at the beach, but then the weather is stormy. You finally make it to the air bnb and the keycode doesn’t work.

If you hold on too tightly to what you expect, you’re sure to experience frustration and disappointment. Remember, you’re traveling to enjoy yourself, right? Even if you don’t want to, you can shift your perspective. Letting go can help you access more enjoyment. Have you ever been delayed or had an unexpected cancellation, only to have a better experience? Maybe you received an upgrade or a gift you didn’t anticipate. A lighter disposition breeds better travels.

April 9 - Mental health spring cleaning

How do you think your brain is functioning these days? Are you operating with clarity and creativity? Are you feeling energized or lethargic? All of these are connected to mental health.

Just as your house or workspace can become cluttered and overwhelming, so can your mind. This creates negative consequences for you on a mental, emotional and physical level. All these aspects of self are interrelated and impact one another. Your mind, emotions and physical body are in constant conversation.

So, what are some strategies you can use to de-clutter for better mental health?

- Get clarity by writing about your thoughts and emotions. Keeping things in your head can quickly become confusing and distorted. Seeing your thoughts and feelings in writing can help you get clear. Then you make better choices.

- Use the practice of mindfulness to perform one task at a time. When you attempt to multi-task, you lose focus and momentum. It’s easy to become mentally overwhelmed and scattered when trying to do multiple things at once. It also leads to burnout.

- Rest. Take breaks throughout the day. Enjoy bigger breaks by retreating from the world. Turn off the noise and stimulation. Move from constant doing to a state of being more often.

- Release bad habits. With the organic energies of spring in the air, you may find it easier to release patterns that sabotage your success.

- Get organized and de-clutter your physical space. Having messes everywhere can be very stressful. Not being able to locate an item in a timely way can create frustration. Creating spaciousness habitually helps a lot.

If you’re currently feeling mentally strong, engaging in these practices preventatively can help you avoid mental health issues. This is an investment in your well-being and doesn’t require a large amount of time or money.

April 8 - Teens

Remember when you were a teen? Maybe it was not too long ago. On the other hand, it may seem like light years away. In any case, so much has changed since you were a teenager, hasn’t it?

Go back and try to envision your life back then from a first-person perspective. Could you have imagined in your wildest dreams that teens would one day be carrying around a computer in their pocket? You probably couldn’t have. What’s more, picturing teens in the future posting messages that could be immediately received across the world would have been unimaginable.

Today’s teens have grown up on technology. It is second nature to them. Many roll their eyes upon hearing things like “when I was your age.” For them, it is unthinkable to not have a cell phone or laptop. The positive thing about their attachment to technology is that they are skilled in imagining what is possible. Many navigate applications much faster than adults. The downside of course is that very attachment to technology. It tends to breed instant gratification, distractibility and impatience.

It can be easy to pigeonhole today’s teens. You have to be careful not to make sweeping generalizations. Recently, we were walking at a nearby lake and were pleasantly surprised at what we encountered. Dozens of teen volunteers were picking up large amounts of trash and debris. They were making a huge impact on the recreational area. When asked what was motivating them, several chimed in that they care about the environment. Another quipped, “if we don’t do it, who else is really going to?” Further pleasing was the diverse makeup of these young volunteers.

When you consider teens, you have to keep an open mind. Many care deeply. They are no more homogeneous than previous generations of teenagers. They are all unique in their own ways. Giving kudos to them when and where you can give them encouragement. And don’t we all need encouragement?

April 5 - Self-discovery

Do you feel like you know who you are and what you enjoy? Are you someone who is deeply rooted in your identity? We often hear people say that they used to think they knew who they were until they entered a new chapter of their life. Then they often feel lost and confused. They ask themselves “Who am I now?”

Transitions can create this identity confusion. People report feeling a disconnect from themselves. This can happen when parents die, especially if a person has lived their lives within the confines of familial expectations. When they are liberated to be and do whatever they wish, it can be a bit intimidating.

This state of mind and heart can also occur when divorcing or uncoupling, retiring, or becoming an empty nester. It can also happen when people outgrow a group of friends, leave an organization, or move to a different place. Everything becomes unfamiliar suddenly. The usual habits don’t have a place anymore. People habituate to comfort, even if it’s not that comfortable. How about you? Are you aware of places in your life where you may be staying longer than appropriate because it provides familiarity?

Although initially jolting, these transitions can provide the most meaningful and elevating experiences of your life. If you heed the call, you’re invited into a process of self-discovery. You are asked to learn more about who you are now. The you of yesterday is no longer helpful. You’re called to step into self-assessment and exploration. If you haven’t already been doing this work, it may feel awkward, tedious, and scary at first. However, once you get the hang of it, it may just be one of the most rewarding seasons of your life.

You get to choose you now. You’re no longer attending to everyone else’s needs. Become your own best friend. You may even uncover a new vitality, joy and peace that you’ve not experienced before. Give it a go, and see where it leads you.

April 4 - Modus operandi

How would people describe your standard way of operating? Modus operandi (M.O.) sheds light on how we tend to regularly behave as human beings. You may liken it to the way a person does business, so to speak. M.O. informs others as to the way an individual or group frequently thinks and acts. M.O. gives a degree of predictability and certainty to the way that others act.

If you know that your uncle Matt or your sister Teresa is coming to an event, you are likely to form an automatic conclusion about how they will behave. It gives you a sense of control if you think you know what will happen. This is a fair premise except for one thing: what if the person makes a definite alteration in their behavior?

This also rings true for you. Have you ever made a change and entered a familiar social scene only to have others treat you as they usually do? Based on repeated patterns of past behavior, others expected you to operate a certain way. It can be frustrating if you earnestly have shifted your M.O. You made changes but others didn’t recognize them.

You earnestly altered your way of behaving. You became more introspective. You practiced listening more. You read various self-help books that pushed you in new directions which you now enjoy. Yet, those in your social scene chided you into being your “old self.” They asked you if you were feeling okay. They told you you must be depressed. Even as you insisted you were happy and feeling good, the social circle remained perplexed.

It may take time and consistency for others to integrate novel patterns you’ve established. It’s like starting a new movement in the middle of an established dance. Some may never “buy it.” But being true to yourself in the end will bring you greater happiness. It’s also good to keep an open mind about the possibility of others changing their M.O. Nothing is ever really set in stone about human beings.

April 3 - Pareto principle

There is a saying that “the enemy of good is better.” A similar one is “the enemy of good is perfect.” This is well-known in various sectors including in medicine. Surgeons, for example, know that they should perform at their very best and operate with the highest quality possible. But beyond a point, if they tinker too much, they can end up doing more harm than good. The quest for perfection can cause damage if taken too far.

Striving for excellence is a different story. Excellence considers the human factor while perfection doesn’t and can derail your best intentions. Struggling for perfection results in inner turmoil, high frustration and self-rejection.

You’ve probably heard of the 80/20 rule. This is thought to have emanated from Italian mathematician Vilfredo Pareto. This idea means various things depending on your work or life circumstances. It basically goes like this: approximately 20% of your efforts produce 80% of the results. Focus on 20% of those behaviors that give an 80% return. Everything else is far less important. There are diverse ideas around this rule, particularly in business, but essentially this is what Pareto explained.

The fallacy of perfectionism is this: believing that all your efforts will yield 100% returns is an illusion. Furthermore, chasing the carrot of perfection will only result in mental and physical fatigue diminishing your creativity, problem solving and efforts.

Consider these guidelines for greater joy as you apply this rule:

  • As Don Miguel Ruiz describes in the Four Agreements, “always do your best, but know that your best changes day to day.”
  • Give yourself a break. Put in qualitative effort in what you undertake but have mercy on yourself in the process.
  • Commend yourself for your actions toward excellence. Reinforce your efforts.
  • Be realistic in your expectations. No one is perfect.

April 2 - Breaking through blocks

Have you ever felt blocked around a task, conversation or even an emotion? What do you think creates that barrier within you? Some attribute it to procrastination. Others believe that addressing certain aspects of life is simply too difficult. They may consider themselves incapable.

People experience blocks around many things. It can be around creativity, relationships or even dreams. When you are blocked, you might have a pattern of suppressing what needs to be addressed. This creates stress, anxiety and depression. Some people can’t connect the dots between these symptoms and suppression. They don’t see the connection.

When you suppress things, you tend to act out in ways that help you avoid the issue at hand. You may tend to work too much, binge watch television or eat and drink in ways that aren’t good for you. You may try to control other people and things because you can’t control what you’re avoiding. You might even incur health problems or age prematurely. The consequences of suppression are often severe.

What are some ways you can avoid these detrimental results? First you must be willing to do an honest self-inventory about yourself and your life. Are you really happy? Are there changes you need to make? Are there areas that you’ve refused to examine until now? This initial type of work can be inconvenient to say the least. Facing darker areas of yourself and your life can be very uncomfortable. Humans are most attached to comfort, so it goes against the grain in many ways.

Why would you become more self-aware if it could potentially cause pain? On the other side of this work, you will find abiding peace, a deeper joy and liberation. It’s essential that you include the component of compassion in this process, for yourself mostly. It can be too abrasive without it. Have mercy on yourself. There is light at the end of the tunnel that is too good to miss!

April 1 - Ice

What is immediate first aid for swelling? If your initial guess is to apply ice, you’re probably right. But what if there was no ice? That’s not a problem you’d likely need to consider, thanks to Fred W. Wolf who invented the refrigerator in 1913. That invention, paired with the advent of electricity, allows us to enjoy a dependable way to preserve many perishable items and to have ice available for swelling and other needs.

Swelling means inflammation. It’s the body’s initial response to injury. Similarly, difficulties with others means inflammation in a relationship. It’s a primary response to challenging emotional states. How does this happen and how can you ameliorate relational inflammation?

When one or more parties are overly reactive or unthoughtful in word or deed, emotional injuries take place. And like physical swelling, first aid is required. What can you do if you or someone else steps over a boundary?

Let’s consider if you made a mistake. First, realize what has happened. Secondly, if appropriate, admit to yourself and the other person your misstep. Thirdly, initiate a repair or amends. This may mean making a verbal apology. It also means changing the erroneous behavior. This process serves as ice to cool off the inflammation that has transpired.

If someone has crossed your safety zone, take a timeout first if possible. Understand your feelings. Collect your thoughts in terms of the next steps. You may need to make a statement to them regarding their inappropriate behavior. Are you willing to accept an apology if they initiate one? If they don’t, that is information for you to consider about the relationship. Sometimes it’s best to simply walk away.

Give yourself some grace and compassion as you work to make improvements. This kind of mental and emotional first aid will cool things off and empower you to move forward.

March 29 - Past, present, future

Sometimes people think that mindfulness means only thinking about what is literally in front of them. They feel unfairly tied to what is occurring before them with no consideration of the past or future. This is a misunderstanding of what mindfulness is about.

It’s accurate that mindfulness means bringing your awareness into the present moment with relaxed concentration. It’s equally true that many people suffer because they are fraught with regret over the past or consumed with anxiety over the future. Historically, it has been beneficial for people to spend more time on what is happening in real time and being skillful in their responses.

However, your wisdom relies on some reference to the past. Let’s say a conflict is occurring right now in your life. It can be helpful for you to consider how you’ve responded previously. That information supports you in the present moment.

Also, how can you plan a trip, a reunion or your dinner if you don’t focus on the future? You need to contemplate what may happen for planning purposes. Otherwise, you’d simply be an automaton strictly attached to what is transpiring now.

The question becomes how you are using your mind. How are you utilizing the current moments? Are you caught up in your mistakes of the past or resentments of some sort? Or on the other hand, are you firmly reminding yourself that your power rests in the present? Self-awareness is key.

Mindfulness beckons you to practice where you find yourself at any moment. Meditation and other mindfulness practices enable a calmer, clearer response to what is happening around you. Senselessly, beating yourself up over the past or projecting fear into the future only squanders the moment. Can you bring your full attention to this moment and this day? As you condition yourself to being mindful, you’ll find life richer, make more effective decisions, and reap better results.

March 28 - A good death

Do you give much thought to your mortality? Have you considered your preferences about how you’d like the end of your life to be? Are there specific elements that are important to you?

Many cultures have reverence for the dying process and are intentional about dying a good death. What does that mean? For some, it means dying with dignity and in peace. For others, it means being surrounded by certain people and items. And for some people, it means carrying out certain rites of passage and ceremony to honor this transition as sacred.

In the book “Grace and Grit” by Ken and Treya Wilber, dying a good death is portrayed in detail after Treya succumbed to a battle with cancer and consciously partook in how she wanted her dying process to proceed. They share their journey in this book as both caregiver and patient and the different layers of struggle that both roles may entail. It reminds the reader that having these conversations, as difficult and awkward as they may be, is very helpful to all involved when the time comes.

Many people prepare their wills and trusts. Often, they’ve outlined what they want in their service and how they want to be remembered. Few consider the details of what they would prefer if possible, during the actual process of dying. Having sacred texts read, or playing specific music are a couple of the requests we often hear about in our work. Regulating the energy of those in the room with the dying person is often something asked for in the mix as well. Some people only want a steady, calm peaceful energy. Others prefer a more festive environment celebrating their life.

You get to choose what you desire if you’re fortunate enough to experience this process consciously. You can select who, how and when around making your transition to support you in the best possible state of mind, heart, body, and spirit during this time.

March 27 - Drive-throughs

While accounts differ as to who invented the idea of drive-through restaurants, most agree that it occurred in the 1940s. The idea was simple: create an easy way to serve people food and other items so that they didn’t have to get out of their vehicles. It seemed like a stroke of genius. And with the proliferation of drive-through restaurants of all sorts, it was quite an innovative idea indeed.

When drive-throughs started, humans could have been a little more patient and maybe less prone to instant gratification. Back in the day, a meal of your choice would be prepared and delivered to your vehicle in a mere twenty minutes. Can you imagine the bedlam that would ensue in having to wait twenty minutes today?

What has become of the virtue of patience and the practice of delayed gratification? Drive-throughs may serve as an excellent example of the struggles with these concepts. Consider the quickness in getting a meal, on average, in many drive-throughs. It’s pretty amazing to really think about, isn’t it?

You may argue that faster is better. You may be right. But what about the next stop? How fast and immediate should that be? Then what about after that? What impact might that rapid pace have on your health and those around you, including strangers?

For many reasons, there appears to be a growing intolerance around waiting. Sometimes delays are beneficial. Have you ever experienced that? Let’s say you’re at a supermarket and there’s only one line open and the lone cashier seems unusually slow. Maybe you get immediately frustrated. But because of that delay, someone walks by who you recognize fondly from childhood. You learn that they have moved into your area. Suddenly, your frustration turns to delight and excitement.

If you breathe and relax in circumstances that challenge your patience, you may discover unexpected gifts and pleasant opportunities.

March 26 - New solutions

What should you do if you unexpectedly find yourself sliding on ice in your vehicle? Gently pump the brakes, right? That’s the correct answer if it is an old vehicle, but not if you are driving with today’s anti-lock brakes. These brakes pump themselves. If you initially start pumping what is called an automatic braking system, you can likely cause problems. Applying an old solution to an old problem may be detrimental in this case.

Many things that were espoused as solutions decades ago are now no longer appropriate. Let’s take cigarettes. Earlier in the last century, many in the medical establishment not only smoked themselves but advised patients to do the same. The idea was that smoking cigarettes would have medicinal effects on different conditions. Can you imagine your physician now prescribing smoking for you now?

Let’s pretend you are going on a car trip with a loved one or friend. How do you plan your route? Some sort of GPS system, right? But what would you think if your companion pulled out a paper map instead? You’d more than likely think they were clueless about modern advances in the last twenty-five years.

All of this points to the idea that new solutions are frequently needed for old problems. This is not to say that many old solutions have no place. They certainly do. But as life evolves, new ideas expand about what we thought was possible or prudent.

Perhaps much of what we currently think of as good solutions to age-old problems will be obsolete in the near future. Holding on too tightly to how we’ve always done things may not be helpful to you.

Instead, being open and receptive to what is being developed could be highly beneficial to you. While it’s difficult to release old notions and patterns, what is unfolding may prove to be of unimagined value. Can you be receptive today to new developments?

March 25 - Mirroring

Are you aware of how mirroring works? It can be extremely beneficial in certain circumstances but detrimental in others. Mirroring is when one person mimics your actions, words, dress, gestures and even your opinions.

It can be used initially to bond with others and belong in a group. Salespeople are often very good at this social skill. It puts the customer at ease when someone in sales speaks their language and style. Many people feel more comfortable when the other person dresses similarly and shares common viewpoints. Emotional mirroring can be used positively with a family member when practiced with the noble intention of connecting. It can even be experienced as a form of empathy. For example, if you’re talking to your teenage child, it may be helpful to meet them where they are rather than approaching them as an authoritarian adult. They may be more willing to open up in a conversation if they observe uncontrived commonalities. You’re communicating that you’re on the same team. Belonging is a major emotional and social drive in human beings, both in children and adults.

If you are mirroring someone else, it may be unconscious. You may simply be influenceable. However, this can rob you of authenticity and being a critical thinker and sovereign being. Self-awareness is crucial.

Mirroring can also take a darker turn. Someone may use this technique to gain your trust for manipulation purposes only. They want you to buy into them and their ideas for their own gain. They may see you as a mark. How can you prevent this from happening to you? Some suggestions are listed below.

-Be mindful. Observe the dynamics of those around you, especially new people. Learn more about mirroring and how you may be impacted.

- Know your own value and worthiness. You’re less likely to be manipulated.

- Have good boundaries. Honor yourself.

March 22 - Future faking

Have you heard of future faking? You may have fallen victim to it if you’re unaware of what it is. This dynamic can occur in multiple settings and with a variety of people. It feels terrible and confusing when it happens to you.

So what is future faking? This is when a person promises you something in the future but then doesn’t fulfill the promise. This could be intentional or not. It can also be considered dangling a carrot, especially when one does so to manipulate. This dynamic is often used with unsuspecting victims to get them to think and act in a way that the perpetrator desires. The person utilizing this technique is often well aware of your heart’s desires and can be quite skilled in dangling a carrot of what matters most to you. You may have innocently spoken about things you truly care about, and the other person recorded it in their memory banks to use it later. Future faking is most often damaging and confusing to their victims until they learn how to spot it.

Here are a few examples. A boss could promise you a promotion if you work extra hard for a while. A spouse could promise that they’ll support your dreams after you put them through school. A parent could offer a summer vacation that they never follow through on. An organization may promise a career outcome in the future if you enroll in their program for a fee. When you bring it up, they may pretend the promise was never made. They may dismiss you. They may even act as if you’re confused about the conversation. Victims of this dynamic often feel foolish, guilty, responsible and unworthy.

How can you help yourself in these dynamics? Look for patterns — others and your own. Keep a journal or calendar to record. It could be indicative of a deeper pathological process. Trust your gut. Don’t second guess yourself. Take radically good care of yourself, even if others object.

March 21 - Buffet

You’re hungry and somehow you find yourself standing before an incredible buffet containing nearly countless tasty morsels. Have you ever been there? If you have, you know how tempting it can be. Perhaps some part of you wants to eat as much as possible, after all you paid for it. But then you reason with yourself. You feel a secret relief in remembering that most buffet spreads now invite you to eat “all you care to eat,” instead of the “all you can eat” guideline of old.

As scrumptious as many of the dishes appear to you, there are some that you dislike, possibly detest. Let’s say they are green bean casserole, corn chowder and vanilla pudding. These are three of forty-five total offerings.

You could go a few different ways in this scenario. You could simply ignore what doesn’t appeal to you. You could complain to your friends about the items you find disgusting. Maybe you stare in disbelief at people who like those particular foods.

Life can mimic a buffet, can’t it? You have preferences. So do others. There are pursuits that appeal to you and some you’d rather not pursue. Similarly, you likely notice people or groups that you enjoy and others that you don’t care for. Where are you focusing your time and attention: on what you prefer or dislike?

Where you focus your attention impacts how you feel. This occurs at the mental, emotional and physical levels. If you are grumbling, ruminating and resentful on any topic continually, you’ll more than likely end up not feeling well. That’s because you’ve been consuming negativity and aversiveness. But what if, on the other hand, you were complimenting others, thankful for what is going well for you, and reflecting on more positives. Then you’d be consuming generosity, gratitude, and optimism. How would you like to approach this buffet called life? Your approach to life’s buffet is profound.

March 20 - Change agent

It’s funny. You never hear anyone say, “I wish there was more conflict in the world.” Quite the opposite, perhaps most people desire less conflict and more peace. The idea of creating peace on a larger scale likely feels untenable to them. But they may be forgetting an important element, their agency to effect change. In their own way, they can model peace and take action wherever they can in their daily lives.

We frequently hear in our organizational work from individuals that they are at the mercy of the company. They feel lost in a sea of policies, procedures and personalities. Often, they give up the idea of making a difference within the confines of their organization. Understandably but sadly, they relinquish their agency to effect change.

The same holds true with respect to families, social situations and networking groups. For many reasons, people try and try and then capitulate to seemingly greater forces. They may truly desire to change things for the better. But somehow, they sense that their voice, action, or any intervention they put forth will be rejected and ultimately useless.

Consider what it means to be a change agent. Simply put, this essentially means a person or group of people who take the initiative to inspire and orchestrate changes. Change agents are not always successful, but they still galvanize their resources to act for the greater good of themselves and those around them.

All individuals play a role in stagnation and progress (change). Every single human being is unique in how they’re wired and how they impact the world.

What changes would you like to see in the world around you? Are you inspired to step up to initiate changes where you can, or do you think it’s a fruitless endeavor? The fact is you are allowed to make a skillful sentence or more, take an action, or cast a vote. You just may make a difference.

March 19 - Successful galas

Do you enjoy a fun spring fling? Do you look forward to attending some grand galas this year? Are you enchanted by the food, decorations and people? Perhaps you’re the person people call the “host with the most?” Do you have a special flair for creating a joyful experience for your guests? That’s quite a talent that not everyone posseses. Whether you’re attending or throwing an event, what elements have you found to be the most important for success?

People we’ve talked to vary widely in their answers to this question. Some hosts believe in inviting a diverse group of people to keep things interesting and lively. Others have found that having a group gathering of people who already know and like each other creates a more enjoyable time. What has your experience been? Do you like to be seated next to strangers so you can meet someone new? Or do you prefer to spend more time with friends you already know and are certain to have fun with?

Another variation we’ve observed is pulling out all the stops regarding food and decorations versus more of a homegrown effort around these elements. From the fine China to plastic cutlery, parties run the gamut in approach. Some attendees report feeling special and cared for when they’re given VIP treatment at a gathering while others feel more relaxed when it leans toward a potluck and BYOB style. Which do you prefer? Does it depend on the occasion? Or do you have a leaning toward one or the other?

As gala goers ourselves, we enjoy it all! We know how much care and attention to detail these events require. We like to send thank you notes and bring a gift to show our appreciation to the hosts. What are your favorite ways to thank a person for inviting you to their event? What was your favorite way to be thanked by an attendee at your gala? It’s fun to reflect on these positive memories. Your immune system and mental health enjoy a boost when you do.

March 18 - JOMO

Humans are social beings. There is an underlying need and drive to connect with others, if only minimally. As part of the human experience, there is a desire for meaning and relevance. Enter JOMO.

In a previous column, we discussed FOMO, the fear of missing out. This gets triggered, particularly on social media. You can feel like your life is less than everyone else’s. You see wonderful vacations, amazing homes, and what appear to be perfect families. While much of that is largely illusionary, you can feel left behind.

But let’s look at the other side of the coin. Have you ever been tormented for missing out on something only to find that it wasn’t so great after all? An event appears a certain way in your mind but then you learn that it didn’t go so well. In that case, you may have experienced ROMO, relief of missing out. You felt reassured that you weren’t really left out.

Recently, JOMO, the joy of missing out has been introduced. In this paradigm, you feel joyful that you aren’t expending needless energy participating in activities you actually don’t wish to be involved in. Trying to keep up with everybody and everything can be exhausting, can’t it?

Isn’t it great when you give yourself permission to not do and be it all?

Joy is cultivated in the here and now. You can experience JOMO more fully by taking time to regularly disconnect from the endless stream of emails, beckoning social media and doing, doing, doing.

The American Heart Association points to numerous benefits of JOMO such as deeper connections with those around you, better sleep, less anxiety and more creativity. Enjoy JOMO by creating technology timeouts. Resist after-hours business when possible. Enjoy restful weekends and minimal social activities. Check news headlines once a day vs. constantly. Have more fun and laughter with those you love.

March 15 - Crush cravings

Do ever get bitten by the craving bug? You know the feeling! You’ve been working hard all day, and you’re in the mood for a little treat. The problem occurs when your craving is at odds with your commitment to health and well-being. Maybe you’ve been overdoing it with sugar or carbs. Perhaps you’re in the mood for a drink or smoke.

What made you decide to make this commitment to yourself in the first place? Often, it’s because you’re having troubling symptoms, or your healthcare provider suggested it. That can be a wake up call! Sometimes though, your commitment is based on something you read or what someone else is doing. Then you may not be able to sustain your new health behaviors for as long as you had hoped. The biological drive toward something you desire is one of the toughest to overcome because it’s incredibly strong.

Here are some tips, tricks, and tools to help you crush those cravings and stay on your path to wellness.

- Try Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), also called tapping. This can help you interrupt your patterns. There are books, articles and videos available to help you learn how to practice this technique. Note that there are many ways to do this. Find the one that works best for you.

- Uncouple two behaviors. For example, if you typically crave sugar while watching television, try not watching tv in the same room this time. You can also refrain from television altogether. Instead, go for a walk or take time to read.

- Wait. Pause for an hour before indulging in your craving. If you still want it after an hour, then allow yourself to indulge. Most often, people will become involved with other things and don’t crave any further.

Give yourself grace and space to be imperfect. This is not usually a linear process. It’s often one step forward and two steps back, but that’s still progress. Give yourself credit for the steps you have taken.

March 14 - Potholes

If you’ve driven a vehicle long enough, you’ve encountered an unexpected hole in the road. Suddenly, you experience a bam! While some potholes are bigger than others, they can take you by surprise and possibly impact your car negatively.

But have you ever run over the same pothole? It typically renders a sore reminder of the last time that happened.

Think of how this correlates to relationship patterns you have. Let’s say you have a shocking comment from someone in your life. You’re jolted, just like in the car example. And then it happens a second or third time. You sorely recall this unpleasantness that leaves you feeling poorly. How can you creatively avoid falling into the same pothole again? Maybe boundaries are called for. Perhaps you reevaluate your expectations of the relationship.

Let’s apply this concept to habits you wish to change. Take the example of overindulgence in food, drink, or negativity. Pick one. You make a pact with yourself to alter the habit because you’ve experienced detrimental effects repeatedly. You know why you want to change the pattern, so you move forward in your commitment.

Seemingly out of nowhere, you cave in. You indulge. It’s almost as if you were sleepwalking. Maybe you then become startled as to how it happened. What went wrong? You are a human being, so you ran into a pothole. You made a mistake or became a victim of a blind spot.

In these and other instances, it does little good to berate yourself or become infuriated. In fact, self-loathing makes it worse. Have you noticed that? Beating yourself up only increases the possibility of falling into the same pothole, the same trap once again.

Instead, begin with compassion. Realize that joy is the goal after all, isn’t that why you would want to avoid the pothole? Simply, recalibrate in real time. Your golden opportunity for smooth driving lies in this very moment.

March 13 - Ask questions

Have you ever been afraid to ask a question? Maybe you felt like you should already know the answer. Perhaps you felt like you would look foolish. There are other reasons people don’t ask questions. It can be that they were taught not to question authority or other adults.

They could have also had bad experiences in the past when they asked questions. Sometimes, people will shame or reject you when you ask questions, especially if they don’t like to be questioned. There are some people that feel personally confronted when asked a question which sometimes can be a feature of narcissistic personality disorder. If you have been engaging with narcissistic parents, partners or peers throughout your life, you may have decided its best just to avoid asking questions. This type of dynamic may have created conflict avoidance within you at all costs.

However, this is not fair to you. If you don’t understand something or disagree with something, you deserve to ask questions.

What are the best strategies to approach someone with a question?

First, ground yourself. You can do this through breathwork and movement. Then you may choose to practice to gain confidence and courage. You can practice aloud or in writing. This allows you to monitor your tone and word choices.

Also, make sure the timing is appropriate. Your sense of urgency to have answers may not align with a time that works best for the other person. Finally, know that even when you do the best you can in the conversation, the other person may still react poorly. That type of response is about them. It’s not about you. Do your best and be proud of yourself for doing so. Then, release the outcome if it doesn’t go your way. Being in a relationship with a person who doesn’t allow questions in the dynamic is dysfunctional at best and toxic at worst. Choose your relationships wisely as a part of your self-care and self-respect.

March 12 - Music

Can you carry a tune? Do you play an instrument? Even if you can’t do either, perhaps you are a shower singer or an air guitarist. Can you appreciate certain kinds of music? If so, what are your favorite types?

There are so many varieties of music, aren’t there? A non-exhaustive list includes jazz, new age, country, rap, ambient, blues, electronic, rock, hip-hop, bluegrass, rhythm and blues, pop, heavy metal, punk rock, reggae, disco and many more.

Isn’t it interesting what other people enjoy and what you prefer? You may have only one or two sorts of music you like while others may take pleasure in a wide range of sounds. What seems like sweet sounds to one person is noise to another. Like so many things, each person has unique patterns and proclivities that make them happy.

What happens to your mind and body when you are listening to a particular piece of pleasant music? You likely feel satisfied. You probably are at least somewhat present as you listen and feel better. Are there certain songs that you listen to repeatedly, perhaps year after year?

Music is a great mental and emotional transporter. You can be a little down, listen to your favorite tunes, and soon you are uplifted. The songs may evoke a warm place in your heart or unexpectedly inspire you. If you are a car singer, you may notice how your mood is quickly improved through music. It really seems to soothe the soul, doesn’t it?

Notice your joy level as you sing along. If you are a musician, you’ve probably experienced an elevated state when you’re engaged in your art. If you’re very skilled at music making, you’ve more than likely brought joy and upliftment to others. What a powerful gift that is!

We encourage you to invest some time today in the music that makes you happy. Often, within minutes, you lower your stress level and shift your being to a satisfied state.

March 11 - Life can be tough

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by even the simplest task? It might be filling up your gas tank or running an errand that just feels like too much to manage. Why might you or a loved one experience this state?

It may be that you’ve been doing too much for too long and don’t have enough balance in your life. It might also be a sign that you need more self-care, doing things that soothe you as well as activities that you really enjoy. You may be surrounded by people who are draining your life force energy and not enough people who are helping to replenish it. If you find yourself in a helping role often, it’s essential to lend a helping hand to yourself as well. Try checking in with yourself daily and asking these questions: How am I feeling? What am I thinking? What do I need? It’s important to tune in and listen to yourself as well as validate the answers to these questions. No one else has to understand these responses. Honor yourself.

Some people find themselves in a state of overwhelm when they get triggered by old traumas. Simply scrolling on social media can even do it for many. If you always felt like you don’t belong here, being on technology can amplify that feeling. Monitor how often and why you are on social media and how you feel afterward. Try structuring your time. For example, allow yourself to enter a platform with a very specific goal in mind rather than randomly scrolling. Give yourself a time limit like 5 minutes. This trains your brain to not slip down the rabbit hole of doom-scrolling mindlessly.

Finally, this life can just be tough sometimes. It doesn’t help to put on rose-colored glasses and pretend it’s not true. It’s filled with many ups and downs, so don’t force yourself to be “on the up” all the time. It’s not sustainable. When you care for yourself during the difficult times, you’ll be more fully able to experience the positives in life.

March 8 - Codes

Are you aware of the codes you operate by? Are you conscious of the codes placed in your life by others? Some of these codes are obvious while others are more subtle.

For example, you may work in an organization that consciously operates by a specific code of ethics. They may be so central to the company that they are written on the walls and discussed often in meetings to drive decisions.

You may also have your own personal brand of ethical codes of conduct. You may have created an authentic code that is unique to how you choose to live. You may also have derived some of your codes from earlier experiences like your school, sports or scouts, your place of worship, or even your family.

Do you recall someone in your family ever saying, “we don’t do X in this family”? Or perhaps it was more of an unspoken code through modeled behavior. Some people tell us that wearing designer clothes was not allowed in their family of origin while others experienced the complete opposite. While that’s a more innocent example, codes we’ve been conditioned by can cause bigger problems. For example, stealing when you can get away with it can become a code in certain groups. Not snitching when a family member has committed a crime is another type of code. You may have experienced this in friendship groups as well. Many friends have a code that they will have each other’s back when necessary. Some clubs have certain codes like sororities and fraternities. Even hobby groups operate by certain codes in hopes of creating a more cohesive intention.

To operate in a psychologically healthy and emotionally empowered way, it’s helpful to inventory the codes you’re abiding by. Ask yourself if they are serving your greater good or not. As you grow and evolve, you will find that incorporating new codes while releasing old ones will be to your advantage.

March 7 - Initiative

Are you someone who will step up when no one else will? Are you self-motivated and able to keep moving forward when you encounter difficulties? Do you assess and seize opportunities that others overlook? If you answered yes, to one or more of these you may have an important quality called initiative.

You’ve probably heard it before. They have or take initiative. Maybe you’ve been described in that way. Initiative requires the person to be steady in their assessment of their own capabilities and self-confidence. Not everyone is wired that way. Many people shrink back in challenging situations and wait for someone else to step up to the plate. Someone with initiative focuses on what is unfolding before them and acts from a clear, stable place.

Let’s differentiate this from those who act impulsively, are seeking attention, or who are simply behaving irrespective of others. That is not the same as having initiative. This is not to say that initiative is the highest virtue. But it could be argued that at times it may be noble.

What do you do if someone in your vicinity needs immediate help of some sort? Do you turn away and assume others will rise to the occasion? Do you think you don’t have enough time or that you may get bogged down by their needs? On the other hand, you may be the one who steps forward and lends a hand. Granted you can’t support everyone. You must utilize discernment in whether you show initiative or not.

How about you and your goals and dreams? When you encounter an obstacle, are you prone to quickly give up? Or do you press forward with focus and determination? Do you wait for someone to help? If you wait when you truly know you must move forward, you may be waiting a long time. You can trust your deepest instincts if you simply stop and tune in to them. Maybe today is the day you make a commitment to taking more initiative in your life.

March 6 - Temper

Being around someone who is hot-headed doesn’t feel good, does it? Maybe you know someone with a temper problem. Do you have what is commonly described as having a temper? A simple working definition of losing your temper might be “losing control physically or emotionally when feeling angry.”

Some examples may be shouting, throwing objects or storming out of a room. Many humans have lost their temper or their sense of control at some point. For some though, it is habitual and can happen quickly. Those individuals may be known as having a hair-trigger response or knee jerk reaction to events or people.

Temper describes a person’s ability to stay calm and to not act out anger. To lose your temper is to surrender your sense of calm and steadiness and to indulge in an outward, inappropriate display of behavior.

For those who fall victim to their emotions in this way, there may be guilt and remorse following their outbursts. For some though, they seem to be impervious to their own explosions and tend to justify their behavior. They don’t understand that they are metaphorically a puppet on the string of someone else’s behavior or words.

For those who are in the presence of those who lose their temper, it can be frightening, intimidating and off putting. A person losing their temper risks their close relationships. Often, it is a form of self-imposed sabotage.

Some people can recognize this pattern. They respond well to early interventions such as slowing down, breathing slowly and deeply, owning their behavior, and practicing new responses. They earnestly work on more skillful behavior for their own sake and those they impact. Others who lose their patience don’t seem to be able to do it on their own. They require more than a quick round of anger management classes. But if they are sincerely ready to change, it is a step in the right direction.

March 5 - Hiding in plain sight

Have you ever found yourself searching for an item, unable to locate it, only to find it before your very eyes later? How did you miss it? It didn’t dematerialize. It has more to do with the seeker than the object. Perception is sometimes distorted. Other cues can alter our perception, including grouped items or things of the same color. It’s easy to overlook something if it’s in an unfamiliar place without cues for our brain. This process can certainly be frustrating but not usually life-altering.

When can something hiding in plain sight be a more serious threat? When someone is suffering but does not want to share it with others, they may put on a happy face and pretend to be fine. We see this often with mental health issues. Have you heard of high-functioning depression for example? Some people are struggling with depression, but they don’t show any signs of it. What’s going on inside of the person isn’t congruent with their outward appearance. This could be true of your children, family, and friends as well as colleagues. Sometimes it can be quite difficult to spot the signs of suffering when others go to great lengths to hide their struggle. Of course, it’s not always safe to share your difficulties with other people. It’s essential to find trustworthy people to confide in during these times.

This phenomenon can also be serious when a predator is hiding in plain sight. These people are often masters of camouflage in social settings. They do what it takes to blend in. Many people have been harmed by these people. Pay attention to your gut instinct when interacting with others. While you don’t want to be paranoid, you do want to keep yourself and your loved ones safe by practicing discernment.

On a positive note, you may have talents that are in plain sight but unrealized. When you express these gifts, you bring light and joy to yourself and the world.

March 4 - Perseverance

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was quoted as saying, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, keep moving forward.” The perseverance road, even if you feel passionate about what is driving you forth, can be fraught with potholes, detours and challenges. It takes great strength and focus to stay steady in your quest to honor your values or follow your dreams.

Call it tenacity. Call it grit. Call it doggedness. Maybe describe it as a spirited single mindedness. But regardless of its descriptors, perseverance allows you the staying power when setbacks occur. Let’s say you are intent on losing twenty-five pounds for health reasons, to have more energy, and to feel better. That conviction to stay true to your goals can be easily dissuaded, can’t it?

Your habits of indulging in your favorite comfort foods suddenly beckon to you. Friends unwittingly tempt you with nearly irresistible, savory treats. It almost seems like you have to have an iron will made of unflappable resolve.

So how can you overcome this tendency whether it’s to lose weight, learn how to dance or to reach a professional milestone? Look at the temporary backslide as an understandable situation. Can you view it as an opportunity? Maybe you can reframe the setback as a chance for a strong comeback.

To meet a goal or reach a dream, it certainly takes unshakable perseverance. But how can you ensure the results you desire without going astray? For one thing, ask for support. Who do you trust that you can count on to caringly help you stay on track? Tough love can be a blessing in these cases.

Additionally, remind yourself of your why, the underlying reason for your wish to persevere. That can push you forward when you have temptations. Lastly, know that progress is not often linear, so be compassionate with yourself on your journey.

March 1 - Overcoming nerves

You can probably recall a situation where you felt on edge or super nervous. Experiencing this is part of the human condition. In fact, the only people who report never feeling nervous are sociopaths and psychopaths. You definitely don’t want to be in that group. So what to do when you can’t seem to get ahold of yourself?

This happens in all sorts of specific situations. For some people, it’s public speaking that really terrifies them. Even those who do want to become a professional speaker still struggle with nerves. It also occurs when facing difficult situations and conversations. You might notice this when asking for a raise at work or addressing a problematic issue with a loved one. Nerves can certainly peak when you are out of your comfort zone or attempting something new. An example might be attending a social or professional event and not knowing anyone or what to expect. What tends to trigger you? You may find some of these situations easy to navigate while others may be a bit more tricky.

Beyond getting triggered by specific people or situations, some experience nervous energy for no apparent reason. They may have struggled with this state since childhood. Others may feel anxious or overwhelmed for no obvious reason to them. Whether you see yourself in the previous or latter examples, there are some strategies that can help you feel better.

- Be sure not to judge yourself for feeling this way. That will only serve to make you feel bad about yourself and could amplify the nervous energy.

- Give yourself a pep talk. What would someone you admire say? Imagine how the conversation would go.

- Practice grounding activities like having both feet planted on the floor or something beneath you. Move your body. Intentionally pull your awareness and energy out of your head and into your lower extremities. Connect with the earth and nature.

Feb. 29 - Changing lanes

You’ve probably noticed people changing lanes in traffic. If you’re a driver, you’ve likely done it innumerable times. Sometimes, you make the decision to switch lanes, and it pays off handsomely. But how many times have you switched lanes only to find yourself in worse shape than your original path?

It’s tempting in traffic to jump at the impulse to shift to an alternative path you think looks better. But maybe it’s not. Still, you must use your best judgment and go with your choice, at least temporarily. But what about in other areas of life?

Some people seem to be constantly changing lanes and never settling into a defined lane. It seems that they may be reinventing themselves nearly every day or week. It may appear that they are trying to guess the latest thing to say, do, or be continually. It could be that they are trying to be an expert at everything. The saying “Jack-of-all-trades, and master of none” may apply to them. Following a strong urge to start a new job, for instance, can be important, but when overdone can be detrimental. Staying in your lane, at least for a while, may be more beneficial.

Have you ever had the experience of jumping ships to a newer, shinier object only to find the luster disappears quickly? Or maybe you know someone like that? Sometimes, it is essential to stay steady in a situation to gain valuable information. That information may only surface after a period of time. Slowing down can make a significant difference in making wise decisions.

Other people stay in their lane, let’s say in a profession or relationship too long, and it becomes costly to them. Maybe they are burned out, unfulfilled and unhappy in their chosen line of work. Perhaps they are being devalued in a personal relationship. In those cases, making a change to another lane becomes imperative. Let your joy barometer be your guide.

Feb. 28 - Energy management

There is widespread discussion currently around energy management and conservation with natural resources. How can these resources be managed and conserved most effectively? Let’s take this even closer to home.

How would you currently describe your management and conservation of your personal energy resources?

How about a quick temperature check? How are you feeling energetically at this moment? Perhaps you feel energized and full of life. Conversely you might say you feel tired or even exhausted. Your assessment of your energy gives you a good barometer presently of how you’re managing or mismanaging your energy stores.

While energy cannot be “created nor destroyed,” it doesn’t mean that it can’t vastly fluctuate. For example, have you ever found yourself so invigorated in an activity that it seemed like your energy was limitless? On the other hand, you may have had days where it was a monumental effort for you to just get out of bed. You were the same person in both extremes, but your energy levels were significantly different.

If you put out more energy that you take in or maintain, you become depleted. Are you a person who gives and gives, but doesn’t receive or hold on to enough of your life force? You give forth too much energy resulting in a physical or mental crash. To correct this, it takes a mindful focus and sense of balance.

Sometimes, simply stopping to take a breath and reflect is a step in the right direction.

How is your energy management in relationships? Are you putting forth enough caring energy? Are you giving too much? Pay attention to the feedback you’re receiving. If you feel overspent and unappreciated, for example, you may need to take a break from someone, pulling up a mental and emotional drawbridge. Once your energy is regenerated, perhaps you lower the drawbridge and reconnect from a healthier self.

Feb. 27 - Negativity bias

Do you have a tendency toward a negative view? Perhaps you allow what is wrong in situations to dominate your assessment of the entire picture. If so, you may have a negativity bias.

Let’s say you are out for a walk around a lake on an otherwise beautiful day. The sky is blue. The weather is mild and sunny. You have plenty of time for your excursion. As you continue to walk, you notice trash at the edges in a few places. You silently grumble about who put it there. Further along, you notice more. You may start to get aggravated. Now you’ve been at this lake often, yet you’ve never previously been aware of how much trash is present in certain spots. But today it seems like trash is everywhere. But is it really?

In another example, you go to a social engagement you’ve been looking forward to attending. In advance, you’re excited because there are certain friends you really want to connect with. As you arrive at the party, you are warmly greeted by the host. The aroma of good food fills the air. You hear laughter and pleasant music with which you resonate. You accept a drink you enjoy. But something doesn’t seem right somehow. There are about twenty-five people attending the event, but there are two you don’t prefer to be around. One of them is loud and very talkative. The other is very opinionated about politics. You cringe inside. Suddenly, you focus on those two people, and you increasingly feel sour and deem the party a dud. But is it really?

You might say a negativity bias is a dark filter covering a light situation. Perhaps you have discernment, but you may take that to an extreme resulting in feeling bad when you could be experiencing joy. You can address the negatives around you without capitulating to them. Consider how you and those around you feel when you are too aversive in your approach. Might a more optimistic, pleasant, or grateful view boost you and those in your company?

Feb. 26 - Torpedoed

Have you ever been blindsided by a comment or behavior? Perhaps the person was the last one you would have thought could make such a digging comment or act in a rude way. Initially you may feel shocked and even hurt by their actions. It takes a while to thoroughly digest what happened. While it may be necessary to respond in a timely fashion, you also want to be sure to lean back and take a broad perspective before acting. This allows for clarity and surefootedness in the next steps.

We recently witnessed this dynamic in a fitness class. The leader of the class was also the gym owner. She had spent decades of her life growing her business. She helped thousands of people over the years reach their wellness goals. This was her life’s work, and she had invested her heart, money and expertise in fulfilling her destiny.

You can imagine her surprise when she learned that a student she had helped for several years was speaking badly about her. When she first learned of this, she dismissed it thinking there was a misunderstanding. After multiple reports, though, she had to face the truth. This person was intentionally trying to harm her personally as well as her business and reputation. Much to her dismay, it became clear to the gym owner that something a bit more sinister was taking place.

Has a betrayal like this ever happened to you or someone you care about? It can feel a bit like being torpedoed, can’t it? It’s difficult to understand why someone would proceed in such an aversive manner. There are many possible reasons, but you may never fully understand. Some people are simply unhappy, so they project that onto you. Some are desperate for control and relevance. Others may be seeking revenge for something you are completely unaware of. Whatever the reason, seek care and wisdom from people you know for sure are trustworthy and appreciate who you are.

Feb. 23 - Unfolding

What does unfolding mean to you as a person? How would you describe your own self-evolution? There are many ways to evolve, aren’t there? You can evolve psychologically, spiritually, behaviorally and even financially.

There are paths and rates of personal evolution. This is also true of devolving. Have you ever witnessed a person spiral in their lives? This can happen for many reasons. Life events and trauma can cause this. The people you surround yourself with are also a big influence. Peer power has one of the strongest impacts on your life’s trajectory. Consider who you’re around most and how each person affects you even if it’s uncomfortable. If you’re involved in “hive think,” you may get the sense that you’re losing your authentic self. The need to belong is so strong that it can sometimes convince you to abandon your own true desires for that of the group. The group can be family, friends, colleagues and associations.

Being authentically honest is a rite of passage that will help you evolve and unfold with a deep knowing. This can often feel like your ego personality is being burned to ashes. Realize that you will then rise like the phoenix from those ashes if you have some supportive tools in place. Below are a few tools we suggest when going through the journey of healing your mind, body, heart and life.

Trusting others blindly makes you vulnerable. Even when people are nice and charming, they may still lead you astray. Gas lighting is alive and well in many circles.

There may be a period when you find yourself more on your own than you’ve been used to. Make friends with yourself. Learn to trust your deeper knowing.

Practice tools that help you anchor within your deeper self. This may include meditation, walking in nature, being creative with writing or art, and reading sacred texts that you find meaningful.

Feb. 22 - Voluntary struggle

Why would a person struggle voluntarily? Do you recall a time when you’ve done this? Many people do volunteer for things that they know will make them uncomfortable, perhaps even suffer. Does this ring a bell?

Consider a person training for an athletic event they’ve not accomplished yet. This requires hours of time and training. Their body often gets tired, sore and even injured along the way. They may miss out on events with friends and loved ones so they can train for their goal. Generally, a person doesn’t win money for this endeavor. They may or may not have people witnessing them crossing the finish line. They volunteer to struggle to reach a goal that’s personally meaningful to them. No one else in their lives may understand or even like them training. It’s an intrinsic reward that they’re willing to endure hardship for.

This is certainly true of moms carrying and giving birth to a child. This can be quite arduous. For many, it’s even dangerous. Some are willing to jeopardize their own health to deliver a baby into the world. That’s pretty heroic, don’t you think? Choosing to be a parent in general is signing up for years of discomfort, even as gratifying as it is to have a family.

Voluntary struggle is evident when young adults put themselves through schooling and come out in major debt. They knew this would happen as many had gone before them have reported. Still, getting the education and degree was more important to them. They sacrificed their time, current finances as well as future financial stability for the opportunity to learn and hopefully get well positioned in the field of their choice.

Human beings do like being in a comfort zone, but you can observe the variety of ways in which they’re willing to be uncomfortable for a greater goal. When have you engaged in voluntary struggle? What did you learn about yourself along the way?

Feb. 21 - Judgments: courtroom vs. classroom

“Your honor, we the people, find the defendant guilty.” You’ve likely heard those words of judgment on television or in an actual legal scene. A jury is essentially called to make judgments based on the preponderance of facts presented. A judge presides over the proceedings and guides the process. Judgments take place in court.

While courts have their place, life itself is a classroom, not a courtroom. People are works in progress. We are all learning as we go. It seems that judgments constantly occur in nearly every realm of society. Opinions and preferences can often lead to harsh judgments, tribalism, and an “us versus them” way of living. The truth is, though, you really don’t know all the facts about others. You don’t know what you don’t know. None of us do.

Have you ever been judged unfairly? Maybe there was a summary judgment toward you that was truly off the mark. Perhaps, on the other hand, you misjudged a person or situation causing harm. If you’re human, you’ve likely judged someone or been judged unfairly along the way. When these types of personal, sweeping judgments occur, there is a loss of joy and connection. Judgments isolate the judge and those judged.

As the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was thought to have said, “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” This quote causes us to pause and reconsider, doesn’t it?

How can you apply this idea to those who are not your enemies but are in fact loved ones or co-workers? Since you can never fully know all their struggles, maybe you can decide to give them a break somehow. Can you show more compassion or grace? Unlike court, it’s not about constantly sizing up who is right and who is wrong. Giving the benefit of the doubt can potentially lead to better relationships and greater inner peace.

Feb. 20 - Zooming in and out

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to fly like a bird over different vistas and scenarios? Or perhaps you’ve envied the drone that has a higher perspective on what’s happening on our planet. The bird and the drone can zoom in or zoom out on the scenes they’re observing.

While you’re not a bird or a drone, you can zoom in and out as a human. This has many benefits. If you want to strengthen your self-awareness, it pays to zoom in on yourself first. What is happening in your mind, heart, body and spirit? Tune in to the fine details of your internal life. Reflect on how each area of yourself impacts the other areas.

You can also zoom out as you take a look at yourself and your life? What is the larger narrative? What do others perceive about you? How would you be described? What kind of feedback have you received? If you observed yourself and your life from a third party perspective, what would you find? This perspective can help you solve problems and make decisions.

Zooming in and out helps you find balance and truth. People have a tendency to only consider things from a close up perspective or a distanced one. You can practice zooming in and out through journaling. One way is to write statements from different perspectives. Try some “I am. You are. S/he is” statements. This allows you the opportunity to write from three different angles. For example: I am compassionate. You are compassionate. She (can insert first name if you like) is compassionate.

In all three statements, you are writing about yourself but from different vantage points. As you continue to toggle through these perspectives, you will find some revelations that you otherwise wouldn’t if you only observed yourself and your life through a single lens. You’ll begin to notice that one perspective will often start to vary in its analysis of you from the others. This gives you more of a holistic picture.

Feb. 19 - Recipes

Not everyone is a foodie. But if you are, you probably appreciate a good recipe. Perhaps you are a fan of the Food Network or other culinary shows. Maybe you enjoy the latest recipe book or you like to search for tasty recipes online.

Our understanding from chefs is that a good recipe involves several components: a list of ingredients, preparation with care, and the timing of the cooking process itself. Not every dish requires the same process.

Can the concept of recipes be applied to how you live and interact with others? Perhaps the answer is both no and yes. No, you can’t simply apply a formula to others and have a certain result. Plus, life itself is organic. On the other hand, you can design a recipe that increases the probability of better outcomes.

Cooking is a process of trial and error, and it calls for you to fine-tune ingredients, preparation and timing. The same holds true for your interactions with yourself and others. If, in the case of cooking, a recipe with an excess or a deficit of particular ingredients means the difference between a good meal or a very unsatisfying one. Wouldn’t you agree?

How would you rate your recipe or approach to your life currently? Might a more optimistic, grateful attitude produce better results for you? Adding the ingredients of gratitude, compassion and being fully in the present moment can go a long way.

What’s your recipe with others? Are you a good listener? Let’s say, you haven’t been so far, but you really want a better relationship. How do you think your connection would improve if you began practicing active listening with them today? There’s a very good chance you would experience a richer quality in your interactions.

Greater joy can be accessed by adjusting your personal recipe mentally, emotionally and spiritually in how you proceed with yourself and others.

Feb. 16 - Overwhelming others

Have you ever been told that what you’re asking of others is too much? Do people ever respond to your requests with a “no?” What’s that like for you? Are you offended or do you get your feelings hurt? When others won’t meet your requests, it can be confusing. You may not understand why because it seems so simple to you. There are a multitude of reasons why people may turn away from what you’re asking of them. It may or may not have anything to do with you.

If it does have something to do with you, it’s important to practice acceptance. It’s true that some people will bend over backward for a favorite person in their life, but they won’t put in the same effort for you. You have no control over this, so don’t bang your head against the wall. Acceptance will bring you peace.

Another reason this dynamic may occur is that many people already feel pulled in so many directions. You are probably not aware of all the demands on a person’s time, effort and energy. Life, in and of itself, can feel overwhelming at times. One small event can often send a person over the edge. Recently we witnessed a person losing their temper in the self-checkout line at the grocery store. This person started screaming at the register. Eventually, she broke down in sobbing tears. She was obviously feeling overwhelmed.

Some people are not capable of meeting your requests or needs. This could be for a variety of reasons. Everyone is wired differently. What seems straightforward and simple to one person is difficult to another. This can be hard to understand for some, especially if there is a lack of empathy. Some people are not capable because of the season of life they’re in. They may be going through a tough health issues or transitions. This can be true for people of all ages, from children to the elderly. Don’t assume you know. Practicing compassion, understanding and patience is best.

Feb. 15 - Serenity prayer

By many accounts, Reinhold Niebuhr created what is known as the Serenity Prayer in the 1930s. Regardless, the common version is straightforward, “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.” Seems simple, doesn’t it? But as you apply it to everyday life, it becomes complex.

What do you accept? What do you change? Where does wisdom come from? Typically, whether it’s in an AA meeting, a corporate gathering, or in your family, you must discern and determine what you change and accept. Some things seem more clear-cut than others. For example, your favorite team losing ultimately requires acceptance because the final score isn’t going to change.

But where do you land in terms of acceptance or change when it comes to a personal relationship? What if you really love someone but their behavior is abhorrent? Maybe you’ve tried for ages to set boundaries with them, but they just don’t alter their behavior very much. A stronger decision of some kind is then required for your welfare.

Sometimes, when people read this prayer, they automatically translate it into “what do I just have to put up with?” They may try to change another person but ultimately realize the futility of it.

A key intention of the Serenity Prayer is to help you let go internally. Maybe it’s coming to terms with yourself such as in accepting your past or how you physically look. It may be accepting your perceived limitations or shortcomings.

What do you need to change? Perhaps it’s your negative, eviscerating self-talk. Maybe it’s the expectations you have that no longer serve you.

All of this calls for an intimate encounter with yourself. The wise person is inside of you. To access your wisdom, you must cultivate silence, stillness and sobering reflection. Trust yourself.

Feb. 14 - Landmark events

What dates seem to be permanently etched in your mind? In many cases, it is based on the generation you find yourself in and your age. For example, the Silent Generation may resonate with dates around the Korean War, the JFK election and his death, and the moon landing.

Baby boomers, on the other hand, seem to remember life changing events, like the deaths of the Kennedys, the “I Have a Dream Speech” and the death of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the pullout from Vietnam and the launch of color television.

For Gen X, it may be a different story. Dates like 9/11, the invasion of Iraq, OJ Simpson’s car chase and trial verdict and the 2008 Great Recession are key historical events. What are the landmark events for millennials, Gen Z and Gen Alpha? And what will be significant impressions for the following generations?

The world collectively experienced COVID-19 which will never be forgotten. There are events unfolding now like the Mideast conflict and the Ukraine/Russia war that may hold great weight in our minds moving forward.

How about for you personally? What are significant events for you?

Maybe it was when you left home, graduated or your first kiss. Perhaps it was the time a teacher, mentor, coach or someone in authority recognized or complemented you. Was it an event with a grandparent, your first time in an ocean or the passing of a loved one? While you may not instantly recall the exact dates, these and other happenings likely made quite an impression on you.

What events do you think people remember about you? That’s interesting to consider, isn’t it? While it may have been something you achieved, it could have also been a caring action you took that deeply affected them. While your behavior may not instantly affect our nation or the world in a significant way, it unquestionably has an impression on others. What do you want that impression to be?

Feb. 13 - Role reversal

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be in another person’s role? Have you dreamed of being able to step out of your current role and into another? Many people think they could do a better job in certain roles that the people presently in them. For example, we often hear employees say they would be a much better boss than their current one. Perhaps it’s a true statement. It could also be a delusion.

Until you have all the facts, you truly don’t know what the role entails. You may not be aware of the email ambush every morning or hear of the personalities they’re managing in order to do their job. Most bosses don’t relay all of the details of their role. Therefore, you may end up with only a fraction of knowledge about what is truly transpiring. This limited perspective can mislead you into thinking you would be more proficient or happier in another role.

Consider the times you’ve had an actual role reversal. When young people become parents, they often tell their parents that they had no idea how hard it would be. They thought that they would be better parents only to find out later the demands of that role were more challenging than they imagined. This can also be true when people become teachers, coaches or mentors to young people.

This may also occur when an adult decides to go back to school for courses or a degree. They may have chided their child for not staying focused and diligent with their schoolwork in the past. Now they realize how difficult that can be with so many competing demands for time, energy and attention.

There are so many possible role reversals that can occur. With this in mind, it’s a wonderful reminder to be understanding, compassionate and encouraging to those around you. It’s easy to fall into the delusion that we know everything that is occurring in another person’s world, but that is rarely true.

Feb. 12 - Dopamine

Have you heard of dopamine? It’s a neurotransmitter that plays a role in pleasure and motivation. It acts on the brain helping you to feel satisfied and good. It’s also involved in memory, learning and sleep. As humans, we are hard-wired to seek out behaviors that release dopamine in our reward system. This is why junk food, sex, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, sugar and shopping quickly become addictive. People want more of a good thing!

However, it doesn’t work just like that. In actuality, one person’s dopamine receptors can function differently than another person. Some people have sensitive dopamine receptors (and lots of them!), so they easily connect to pleasure and motivation. Things, people and activities bring joy most often to people wired this way.

Other people have under-functioning dopamine receptors. It’s incredibly difficult for them to function well on a regular basis. This wiring can result in anxiety and depression symptoms. It also may lead to low self-esteem and self-worth. Their physiology is working against them.

For many, it’s just a mixed bag. In our modern-day society, many humans are dopamine saturated meaning that they’ve been engaging in so many pleasure- seeking activities that they no longer can get that high associated with it. This can feel defeating and confusing, leading to more seeking behaviors. If you find yourself in this position, one simple yet profound strategy is to fast for a bit from your favorite activity. Take a break from television, shopping, drinking, even food. It doesn’t have to be a long break to realize the benefits of pressing pause and getting your dopamine levels back.

If you have an under-functioning dopamine level, you can work with activities like breathwork, writing, feeling gratitude, and movement. This trains your brain to connect more with joy and peace.

Feb. 9 - Be the beaver

Do you find the animal kingdom enchanting and informative? We do. They have such strong instincts on how to function successfully on this planet, even amidst changing conditions. Recently, we watched a family of beavers swimming in the water grabbing branches here and there. Their pattern almost appeared to be an orchestrated ballet of some sort to the human eye. It was fascinating.

Native American and other indigenous tribes believed that the beaver had significant meaning and wisdom to offer us. Beaver medicine, in fact, is considered to be connected to our deepest wisdom. They also describe the behavior of beavers to represent steadfastness when building something. They seem to be very methodical in their process. How might you be more like the beaver when building something? Perhaps you’re building your career or your financial security. Maybe you’re building a piece of furniture or a fence for your yard. How might the wisdom and steadfastness of the beaver inform and support your process? In this fast-paced, often impatient world, you might be tempted to rush the process of building something. If so, you’re not alone. People strive for results. It’s so satisfying to reach your goals, isn’t it? It can also be gratifying to fully experience the journey of creating something step by step.

Another significant characteristic of the beaver is the ability to work in teams. They understand the power of multiplying efforts by having several beings working toward a cause. Similar to a grand symphony, every instrument plays an important role to create a beautiful piece of music. If you’re too independent, you may miss the joy of partnering with others on a project. You may not get to experience how they enhance your skills and talents and you theirs. Inviting others to weigh in or participate in your creations can bring great learning, growth and joy to everyone involved.

Feb. 8 - Being thrifty

Do you enjoy getting a good deal on shopping items? Do you use coupons? The idea of paying less than what an item is worth can be satisfying to many people. If you tend to be a coupon-cutter, you probably enjoy savings you realize at a store or online. Some may describe you as frugal. But maybe your nature is to be thrifty and non-wasteful.

In Scouts BSA, the twelve points of the Scout Law include being thrifty. This means using money and resources, including natural ones, carefully and prudently. One common example and understanding of this in Scouting is that a Scout should always leave a campsite better than they found it. In actionable terms, a Scout tidies up debris or trash from their stay at the site, but also any garbage that was there to begin with.

How thrifty are you in your life? You may be good, for instance, at completely using home products until they are empty or of no further use.

Items like toothpaste, shaving cream, and others may be products you use until fully gone. This helps both your wallet and the environment.

Being thrifty might mean waiting for sales or discounts. Being organized and thoughtful in these ways may also give a greater sense of control and balance.

One who is thrifty may be described as a good manager or steward of resources. Like many things, though, thriftiness has a downside. Taken to an extreme, you can be miserly, withholding resources from a state of fear. This approach breeds withholding in other ways such as in relationships.

Do you hold back or are you able to give generously while still not being wasteful? Additionally, miserliness leads to not being able to enjoy paid activities without mentally counting pennies.

It’s about striking a balance, isn’t it? Where are the lines between thriftiness and waste, and thriftiness and fear-based miserliness for you?

Feb. 7 - Re-create

When you break down the word recreation, it becomes re-create. What does re-creating mean? This term can mean different things to different people. It might indicate strengthening something by continuously tweaking. This steady stream of consistent action can result in reaching goals or a satisfying conclusion. Consider a chef who continues to re-create a particular dish.

How does this apply to a person? You are re-creating yourself when you spend time in what is normally dubbed recreation. You engage in something that brings you joy, peace or learning. You then return to your daily life with a renewed vigor and sense of inspiration. It’s true recreation when it’s enjoyable and not coerced. If a friend convinces you to go to a sporting event that you’re not interested in, it doesn’t count as recreation. It doesn’t renew, soothe or uplift you. In fact, it may create stress and resentment.

Various days and seasons of your life will call for activities specific to that time. Below are some types that you may consider:

Physical recreation. This can be a solo endeavor or a group activity. It may be organized or spontaneous. These nuances matter. If you’re only engaging in physical activity because you or someone else thinks you “should,” it doesn’t fall into the recreation category.

Cognitive recreation. Some people are life-long learners and are naturally curious about the world. Usually this counts as recreation only if you’re pursuing it for pure joy. For example, working on attaining a degree feels different than reading a book from pure interest.

Relational recreation. Spending time with people you enjoy is one of the most rewarding things to do. It may even mean spending time with yourself. However, spending time with others due to obligation isn’t a part of recreation.

Find what works for you and explore new categories when you’re ready.

Feb. 6 - Messengers and messages

Have you ever received a profound or timely message from an unlikely source? Perhaps you have felt compelled to deliver a message to someone without fully understanding why? You are receiving messages all day long. You are also sending them out into the world in various ways. How aware of these are you? Do you pay attention and act in accordance? Or do you tend to brush them off?

If the messenger seems to be out of your familiarity zone, you may not pay much attention or even consider it crazy. For example, we’ve had numerous cancer patients tell us that their pets knew about the cancer in their body before they or the healthcare team did. We hear many reports of animals nudging their owners in the exact spot where the tumor developed.

Some people report being puzzled by a problem they were facing. They felt confused and paralyzed. Sometimes they tried to figure it out through spiritual measures. Other times they sought out friends and mentors. Their “aha” moment came, though, when they turned on the radio and heard the very statement they needed to guide their decision. Many of these people had heard that very same song numerous times before but never paid much attention to the exact line that spoke to them. Some have reported feeling a gut instinct that validates the message. Others report getting chills or feeling tears surprisingly emerge. Have you had experiences like this?

The body is often a messenger to people. The neuroreceptors throughout the body hold great wisdom. Some experts say that “the body never lies.” The message may first be delivered as a whisper. If not heeded, though, it could develop into a scream.

Notice what messages are coming your way today. Anyone and anything may be the messenger bringing you validation, solutions or needed guidance. Take it in with curiosity. Ultimately, you get to determine its merit.

Feb. 5 - Empty Nest

When children leave home, parents or other caregivers can find themselves in the throes of empty nest syndrome. This means that they experience marked sadness, loneliness and grief when their child exits the nest. During this transitory period, parents can go through profound feelings of loss.

Sometimes, there is anticipatory grief as they realize that in a short time their child will be leaving home. Parenting is typically a full-time commitment. Not every parent behaves the same, but generally parenthood involves dedicated time, energy, resources and most of all love.

That involvement naturally holds a huge space in a parent’s psyche. So, when there is a sizable change, a void can be mentally and emotionally felt. Not everyone undergoes empty nest syndrome. In fact, many parents are quite relieved and excited about their newfound freedom. Some of those parents have a plan to follow in their recently discovered space, while others hold it all loosely.

Have you had a child move out? If so, how do you feel as you think about it? Avoidance of thinking about it is one strategy, but that only delays the inevitable. Allowing yourself to recognize the reality of change can be a solid first step in effectively moving through this phase.

Allow yourself your emotions and cry if you feel inclined. Be patient with yourself.

Consider that you are entering a new phase of parenting. Reframe that new period to be more of a mentoring stage. Your parental guidance will continue to be needed. Your parenting role, in some ways, will never truly end.

Your life as an empty nester holds many possibilities and opportunities. Now is the time to develop your interests further and to enjoy connections with friends and others. It may require courage, but moving forward serves everyone, including your child.

Feb. 2 - Abracadabra magic

What comes to mind when you hear the word “abracadabra?” You likely summon images, perhaps from childhood, of a genie, magician, or an ancient character of some type. It is believed that the word abracadabra originates in the second century, and that in Hebrew it means “I will create as I speak.”

In “One Thousand and One Nights,” Ali Baba utters the phrase “open sesame,” which opens the door to the forty thieves.

The idea of magically transforming reality through words can be intriguing, can’t it? Wouldn’t it be amazing if saying certain words or phrases would instantly change things or other people?

Words have meaning and an energy associated with them. How you internally or externally describe things makes a difference in the reality you experience. Take, for example, a flat tire. What words do you use to translate the meaning of the situation to yourself? Are they empowering or defeating? Words make a difference. You believe what you say.

A flat tire is one thing, but a difficult relationship is another, isn’t it? Regardless, your words hold immense power. While you may not be able to say abracadabra and have immediate transformation in the relationship, you can choose your words wisely, which usually yields better results.

How you label something makes a select difference in your experience of it. The same holds true in how you assess and speak to yourself about you. Often people use the most vicious descriptors about themselves. Many people are their own worst enemy. Are you? If so, perhaps it’s an unconscious habit of many years. Nevertheless, it’s a habit that probably no longer serves you. How you speak to yourself is directly connected to how you view and experience the world. Might you begin using kinder phrases to feel better about yourself and others? Perhaps more compassionate feeling words may hold the magic you need.

Feb. 1 - Meetings

Have you ever been in a meeting that seemed to drag out for no apparent reason? Perhaps you even wondered why the meeting was called. One complaint we hear often across organizations and industries is that there are too many meetings to get the actual work done. This leads to after dinner and weekend work rather than spending time relaxing with friends and family. Eventually, this type of stress can lead to resentment, disengagement and burnout.

Maybe you’re the one who was leading the meeting? Have you ever felt like it got away from you? Sometimes people will dominate the conversation. Other times they’ll exacerbate a topic until everyone at the event has tuned out. At times, things can become volatile if members in the meeting disagree or simply don’t like each other. It can be a challenge to run a productive and effective meeting given various circumstances.

Knowing how to run effective meetings is essential to your personal and professional satisfaction and success. As professionals who are in the event space often, we’ve seen the experiences go both ways. It can be triumphant or disastrous. Below are a few tips to help you.

Know your audience. Some people need time to connect personally while others want to get down to brass tacks right away. Find a sweet spot given your goal and agenda.

Learn more about group dynamics. Take a course. Read some books.. This is essential when working with groups of people, all with different personalities and approaches.

Don’t be afraid to have conversations with people individually before and/or after the meeting to ensure cooperation. Remind them of your goals. Request the desired behavior rather than criticize their approach at first. If disruptive behavior continues as a pattern, it’s time for tougher, more direct conversation.

Jan. 31 - Advocacy

Do you consider yourself an advocate of someone or something? Have you devoted yourself to a cause or organization? How did that advocacy develop? You may have backed your child in school. You may have joined forces with others to support a cause close to your heart. You may have needed to advocate for yourself when no one else would. Perhaps you advocated for another person who you felt was being misunderstood or unfairly treated.

Advocacy most often requires bravery and persistence. Every once in a while, you can support someone or something with one action or conversation. Most often, though, it requires more time, dedication and perseverance to truly make a difference.

Advocacy also calls for leadership. You’re often being asked to voice an opinion or position that is juxtaposed to another. It’s truly courageous when you are not in the majority. People with alternate perspectives and experiences will disagree with you. This requires mental strength and emotional balance to navigate.

Some people have found themselves on the opposite side of what they advocated for previously after having life experiences that changed their views. This can be quite humbling. Some people have gone through this process publicly, which can be difficult. When you handle a shift like this with authenticity, people will often offer you grace. If you are evolving as a human being, you will shift and grow. Some of this evolution may conflict with a previous version of yourself.

When you have successfully advocated for someone or something, it is quite a triumphant and satisfying experience. It’s rewarding to see the seeds you planted come to fruition. Is there a person or cause you’re interested in advocating for? Take that first step. Do a little research to determine if it’s a good fit for you or not. Summon your courage, and know you can make a difference.

Jan. 30 - Pomodoro Technique

College students can be very creative in how they handle their study time. Some prepare very little and cram at the last minute for exams. Others, like Italian student Francesco Cirillo, found ingenious ways to plan and execute studying in a highly efficient and effective manner. Cirillo founded the Pomodoro (tomato in Italian) Technique based on a tomato-shaped egg timer he utilized.

His idea is used now not only with university pupils but also in organizations of all sorts and by individuals. This technique, which was created in the 1980′s, has widespread use across the world because of its simple structure and time management success.

The technique is easy to explain and relatively straightforward in its applications. Of note, Pomodoro eliminates multitasking which has become a massive problem in the world. Focus is concentrated on single tasking in short segments. If you can concentrate on one item for less than thirty minutes, you can probably integrate this strategy.

A Pomodoro session is broken down into 25 minutes of focus on one project, followed by a 5-minute break. The first step is to decide what tasks you plan to address in a particular day (or week). This should only take about 10 minutes based on your prioritization.

The next step is to utilize a timer to segment the task at hand. When you are ready, set the timer for 25 minutes and begin filing.

The third step is to work exclusively on that item alone for that period. When the timer goes off at the end, stop where you are. Going beyond that will not be effective, though you may be tempted to continue. Take a complete break for 5 full minutes. That brief, mental break is essential for your success. Keep in mind that, according to Cirillo, half-sessions don’t count. So, if you’re interrupted ten minutes into a session, beginning again is most effective. Don’t forget to celebrate your progress.

Jan. 29 - Mindful families

Families find themselves under increased stress for a variety of reasons. Stress leads to tension in many households. Unmet and unrealistic expectations can be part of the daily grind. Bickering, restlessness and detachment from one another can occur if family members aren’t aware. You can find yourself caught up in what the outside world thinks you should do and end up imploding as a family.

What would it be like to have a loving atmosphere where there is respect, fun and joy more often? It seems like that should be normal, but it takes mindful effort on each person’s part. Having a kind presence with one another requires dedicated practice.

Mindful families thrive. The beginning point is awareness and that decision to be more caring and present. It’s a choice and a commitment. Since each member has an undeniable effect on one another, a sincere, soft step in the right direction may likely impact the rest of the family.

A family meeting may be ideal for introducing the notion of family mindfulness. A loosely held plan can be made to start small. One example may be to practice five minutes a day of quiet time together, free of discussion and cell phones. This can include utilizing a timer or brief guided meditation. That segment may come to be enjoyable and sacred, a time of decompression and connection. Can you imagine the benefits of such a regular family practice?

Another idea may be a weekly silent, mindful meal without devices. Studies show that you digest food more efficiently when you quietly savor what you’re eating and drinking.

The element of silence is sorely needed and can be a powerful thread to weave in more frequently.

So, perhaps taking a quiet five-minute car ride to a destination or sharing gratitude daily with one another would be helpful. Family mindfulness doesn’t suggest a complete overhaul of how your family operates. Rather, it is a refinement for better results.

Jan. 26 - Wooden Dragon

Did you know that 2024 celebrates the year of the Wooden Dragon? This hasn’t been celebrated for 60 years. It’s considered an auspicious year by many cultures and teachers. Based in eastern astrology, the year of the wooden dragon is known for its emphasis on growth, caring, collaboration, harmony, strength, power and abundance. It is considered to be a year filled with blessings of good fortune in many ways including uniting people. Many teachers in this area suggest that the year ahead is full of possibilities encouraging people to be creative and flexible when it comes to navigating challenges and differences. Inspiration and productivity are the leading energies of this time.

The beginning of this new year occurs Feb. 10, 2024, and is combined with a new moon. People across traditions and cultures celebrate this through a variety of practices and rituals. How can you tap into the energies being ushered in? Below are a few strategies:

Write what you’d like to release. This may consist of old habits and patterns that no longer serve you. It might also include resentments, mistakes and regret.

Write out what you’d like to claim and create. What would you like to experience more of in your life? Develop a clear vision for yourself.

Ground yourself by being more fully in your body. Take a walk. Dance. Practice yoga and tai chi.

Develop a plan with action steps for how you intend to show up this year and how you will create it. Share with a friend or mastermind group to stay accountable.

Take a retreat day to incorporate elements described above. Spend the day in quiet reflection. Listen to your intuition and inner wisdom.

Celebrate! Host a gathering with loved ones. This could be a spiritual gathering or a more traditional gathering for socialization, food and drink. You could also create a combination of these celebrations.

Jan. 25 - Batteries

The original battery was invented by Italian physicist Alessandro Volta in 1800. Since then, many scientists have modified the original invention and expanded its uses to innumerable machines, vehicles, tools and toys. You know well the importance of a battery if you’ve ever had a car battery that is not working.

If your vehicle battery has died or is not fully functioning properly, something must be done right away. Most of all, some measure such as jump-starting is needed to drive once again. Sometimes, an even stronger measure like a battery, alternator or other part must be replaced. But for sure, no battery life results in no movement.

This parallels the human experience, doesn’t it? Each of us has an energetic battery consisting of our mental faculties, our emotions, and of course, our physical bodies. When one or more of these systems is depleted or tapped out, a recharge is needed. The degree to which there is a deficit is directly linked to the replenishment required.

In some cases, you simply need a jump start. For example, if you are physically tired and had a rough night of sleep, a subsequent night of restful sleep may be all that is needed. On the other hand, if you are chronically exhausted, depressed or mentally fatigued, more than a nap or a night’s sleep is called for.

In these cases, an overhaul is indicated. Something must be replaced in order for your battery to be fully effective again. For some people, they need a change in their career or at least in their approach to their current work. For others, it may mean changing a personality pattern such as anger management. Still others need to incorporate more self-care activities and self-compassion thinking on a regular basis.

How would you describe your personal battery at this moment in time? Do you need a quick recharge, or do you think more of a deeper shift in order?

Jan. 24 - Hurry up

“Hurry up and wait” is an expression that is frequently difficult to live with for many people. It seems that there is a collective impatience operating in many areas of life these days. You may be observing this in grocery stores, in traffic, at work and at home. It turns out that impatience is nothing new for human beings, but maybe now it seems more widespread.

Recently, we heard someone ask, “where is everyone going so quickly?” What a great question that is. If someone is prone to impatience, once they arrive at one destination or goal, they urgently plow ahead to the next place. Is that you? If it is, you have probably experienced a sense of physical and mental tension that can waylay your best thinking and common sense. Impatience causes more problems than it solves.

Those with “hurry sickness” typically suffer physical, mental and emotional repercussions. They have a chronic sense of unrest and an inability to truly relax. Those who tend to be impatient are usually confused about what patience looks like and how to get there.

Here are some tried-and-true suggestions to help you shift unhealthy impatience patterns:

  • Breathe slowly and deeply. We have mentioned this in previous columns, and we say it again because it is perhaps the most direct, effective way to intervene on yourself.
  • Reason with yourself. Whether you’re stuck in a traffic jam or if someone doesn’t see things your way, do your best to be reasonable in how you respond.
  • Mentally slow everything down as it is unfolding. You likely have more control to do this than you may think.
  • Ask yourself whether the situation is truly life or death. Without question, most things are not.
  • Consider the downside of indulging your current bout of impatience. The implications to your health and relationships probably are not worth the indulgence.

Jan. 23 - Random interactions

Have you ever been approached by a random stranger engaging you in conversation? This can be scary if the conditions don’t feel safe. If they are seemingly safe, though, it can be a fun dynamic. Recently we were in line at a supermarket, and the man behind us began to engage us about ice cream. We had a few innocent exchanges. Then he relayed a childhood story of how his mom used to make burnt vanilla ice cream by hand with real vanilla. Yum! We also discussed our plans for dinner that night. We were baking salmon with dill. He was also making salmon. Food can often be a bonding element.

As we were leaving, he suggested a specific trumpet player in the jazz scene to listen to that night which we did later in the evening. It was fantastic! It may not be someone we would tune into regularly but definitely on occasion when the mood strikes us.

What random interactions have you encountered that have uplifted you or made you curious? Do you shy away from these conversations for fear of awkwardness or worse – less than sincere intentions? If so, we understand and support you. Safety comes first! We’ve certainly encountered situations that didn’t feel either emotionally comfortable or physically safe, and we removed ourselves immediately. However, when you feel safe engaging another person you don’t know, it can reveal a magical dynamic for all parties involved. It also calls you to look around and be aware of the lives happening everywhere. It is a leaning into our humanity. It helps you to connect and uplift everyone.

When you feel safe and have the opportunity, reach out to someone you don’t know. Have a conversation. Ask questions. Be interested in others. You might just be surprised. People are yearning to be seen and known. You might be the one to make that happen for them. They might be the one that makes it happen for you. It can be a win-win for all involved.

Jan. 22 - Refinement

Consider what it means to be refined. Typically, it might mean having cultured elegance in manner and behavior. To be described as refined can suggest someone with a high-quality way of operating, a person with sensibility.

Refinement can also be described as the improvement of something through small, incremental changes. Utilizing this definition can be helpful when considering attainment of your goals. The tendency can be to attempt sweeping changes in some way, especially at the first of the year. Thinking instead of making refinements can make the intended changes less daunting.

Let’s use the example of excessive alcohol consumption. In this example, let’s say you consumed excessive alcohol over the holiday season. You created a habit that doesn’t serve you well because you don’t awaken with energy and vitality. What is a refined way to approach this pattern?

First, know this is your decision and that you can make a different choice at any point. This eliminates any “shoulds” that seldom work in a sustained way. Secondly, take a reasonable approach. Radical change too quickly usually results in inner rebellion. And that lends itself to failure. Instead, start with small, but definite steps toward your goal.

Step down on the amount you’re consuming by sipping drinks slowly and mindfully. Give yourself a predetermined limit. Build in your success by pairing your alcoholic drink with a mocktail or perhaps water with lemon or lime. Taking this kind of approach is more practical for many people. But if you are having serious drinking issues such as blackouts, DUIs, explosive arguments, and performance problems, a more serious refinement such as treatment or other interventions may be needed. Barring that, the approach mentioned above is a solid way to increase the possibility of success. You can apply this refinement idea to other goals, too.

Jan. 19 - Working backward

Have you ever tried working backward? Did you know that there are pros and cons to it depending on your focus? Working backward can mean many things. For example, if you have a health goal. You can start with the end in mind, and work methodically in reverse to engineer each action step needed to get there. You can also work in reverse on a timeline if you have a date you’d like to reach that goal.

You can also use this process to address and understand your thoughts and emotions better. If you notice that you’re not feeling your best, identify the emotion you’re feeling in that moment. Then look into the immediate past for thoughts connected to that emotion. Thoughts drive direction and intensity of emotion. If you saw an ad with a seemingly successful person on it, you might have told yourself that you’ll never be that successful. Suddenly you feel “less than.” This can happen very quickly. When you walk yourself backward, you can learn which thoughts you’re focused on that tend to make you feel bad. You can also do this with experiences. If you are having troubling emotions and thoughts, consider what you experienced recently. Perhaps you had a stressful phone conversation with someone. This then leads to thoughts that direct your emotions. This insight is invaluable.

This method, though, can be detrimental to your process if you’re working on understanding trauma, a difficult relationship or tough childhood. Many times, people will look back on these situations with the mind and maturity of the person they are in the present. It isn’t fair to yourself to frame the decisions you did or did not make in those cases because you were a different person then. You’ve evolved now, and you know better. When trying to better understand these situations, put yourself in the shoes of your younger self with less wisdom and wherewithal. As Maya Angelou said, “when you know better, you do better.” Give yourself grace.

Jan. 18 - Band-aids

If you’ve ever suffered a minor physical cut, you’re likely familiar with the product you need to stop the bleeding. Band-aids were originally invented by a Johnson & Johnson employee in the 1920′s. A century later, Band-Aid is a household brand.

Band-aids can do wonders in a short amount of time when needed. But they can’t solve all wounds, can they? Deeper cuts require stronger measures. The same holds true of interpersonal wounds. At times, you may be able to patch things up relatively quickly, but other injuries lend themselves to more extensive means of repair.

Let’s use the example of unfaithfulness in an intimate relationship. In that case, an emotional band aid usually won’t do. Some couples focus on reconciliation, so they get marital counseling or other kinds of support to do so. For other couples, once trust is broken, it is a deal breaker.

In other scenarios such as in work relationships or in friendships, there are times when more than a quick fix is needed. In the case of a friendship, let’s say you caused hurt by carelessly omitting a good friend from an important social event. A quick “sorry” may or may not be effective to correct your misstep. It may instead require a heartfelt apology paired with a do-over such as having lunch with them. There are many options.

Attending to your personal wounds can also be a potent form of personal power. This doesn’t mean forever indulging in a victim mentality. However, sometimes seeing the connection between old hurts or traumas to present day negative patterns can be helpful. This takes courage to explore. The need is for more than a quick fix. But as the famous Persian Poet Rumi stated, “The wound is the place where the light enters.” By transforming what has plagued you, amazing shifts can take place in different areas of your life. Are you willing to explore this idea?

Jan. 17 - Pretending

Is pretending good or bad? What are the upsides and downsides of pretending? Do you remember pretending in your life as a child or as an adult? What did you experience?

When you watch young children, social psychology researchers have overwhelmingly touted the positives of pretending. Children will often act like adults and experimentally learn ways of perceiving and responding to grown-up situations. These simulations allow them to try out roles in older versions of themselves, enhancing their emotional intelligence. It can build their confidence as they mature.

Using your imagination to be in positions you’ve never been in can be of benefit to everyone. The brain doesn’t know the difference between what’s real or imagined. This offers you an opportunity to practice something that may not be realistically offered to you yet. Role playing and visualization are two effective psychological techniques to help people heal from mental health issues and trauma as well as to grow and evolve into the next iterations and chapters of their lives. It’s an exciting prospect for many. You can utilize these techniques to imagine reaching your next goal. Including how you would feel is essential to your success. Gratitude is a key element.

But when can pretending be detrimental to a person and others? Taken too far and doing it for too long can result in self-deception and deception of others. You can delude yourself of real truth. You can confuse others about who we are. And others can perpetrate this onto you too. This has presented many problems for people. Trustworthiness is a core value that can be obscured when practicing pretending too much. Where does honesty come in? Finding the balance between pretending and reality is a key to well-being. You can utilize pretending to propel you forward and practice realities you’ve not yet experienced. As you do so, stay grounded in the here and now.

Jan. 16 - Psychologically safe people

Who are the primary people in your life? Who do you spend the most time with? Consider these questions in your personal and professional life. Research shows that relationships impact mental health and well-being. People often derive their own self-worth and identity based on the feedback from those closest to them. If you’re in unhealthy relationships at home or in organizations, you are likely to be suffering from a myriad of symptoms that are impeding your well-being.

It’s so important for your health and well-being to seek out psychologically safe people at home and at work. Some of the characteristics of unsafe people include criticizing you consistently, gossiping and tearing others down, needing to one up others’ experience, invalidating others’ opinions, and not showing up for you on a regular basis. If you notice these dynamics arising, it’s time to make a change. Life is short and precious, and you deserve to enjoy it fully.

How do you know if someone is psychologically safe? First, take time to get to know someone. Notice if they tend to be consistent in how they show up. Look for signs of trustworthiness, reciprocity and honesty. Observe how they talk about others when they’re not around. Are they compassionate without being codependent? Do they allow others to shine? Are they able to have respectful conversations even when they disagree? Are they able to apologize if they made a mistake? Do they accept your apologies when you do? These are all valid signs of an emotionally and psychologically safe person who is balanced and grounded.

Finally, check in with yourself to observe where you find yourself on this continuum. Are you offering your best self to the relationships you’re in? You might be surprised to know that this can fluctuate. When going though difficult seasons, humans sometimes falter. Self-awareness and regulation are key.

Jan. 15 - Hunger

Would it surprise you to know that hunger is the strongest human drive? If you think about the times you’ve been very hungry, even making statements like “I’m starving,” you know the strength of that drive. During those times when you’ve gone too long without food, you would likely eat nearly anything, including those things you normally don’t consume.

True starving is a different matter. The World Food Program and other organizations report that about 828 million people worldwide have severe hunger issues. That’s nearly 10% of the world. With the availability of and access to food here in our communities, we are fortunate. If you consider all of this, you probably feel gratitude and appreciation for rarely going hungry.

The truth is sometimes when you’re hungry, it’s due to other reasons. Maybe you’re actually dehydrated. The thirst signal can make you think you need food when you really need water instead. Maybe you psychologically need affection. It could be that you really have “eye hunger” and need some visual stimulation. Emotional eating is also very common for people. Do you crave food when you’re anxious, sad, or bored?

Sometimes, you just need to breathe deeply and ask yourself if you’re truly hungry or not. Pausing can be a good idea. By stopping momentarily, you gain clarity on the underlying reason why you are being called to eat.

Too often, eating can be a mindless activity. Instead of savoring your food, you may be distracted with what’s on tv, your cellphone or with what someone else is saying. Did you know that there are studies showing that if you pay attention to what and how you’re eating, you are likely to digest the food more efficiently? Also, when you eat mindfully, you tend to consume less. In the new year, many people set a goal of losing weight. If that’s one of your goals, perhaps approaching hunger mindfully will help.

Jan. 12 - ‘Beauty and the Beast’

Are you familiar with the tale of “Beauty and the Beast”? While it’s told in varying narratives, there are some universal lessons within the story that can be applied in modern day life. What are a few of those lessons?

To recap the story, let’s consider a brief summary. A princess, Belle, is forced to live in a tower with the Beast to save her father. The Beast is scary looking and has terrible manners. Belle is frightened at first. Ultimately Belle begins to see through his façade and connects to his inner light. Eventually they fall in love. The Beast is his own worst enemy, not liking many aspects of himself. Seeing himself through Belle’s eyes (and heart), he learns to accept and love parts of himself he previously judged and rejected. You, like many other viewers, may relate to parts of Belle, the Beauty, and the Beast.

How can you apply some of these lessons in your own life? How can you love the beasts in your life more or at least see them through compassionate eyes? Many traditions of psychology and spirituality teach that every person has a light within. Sometimes it’s very dim and hard to see. The people who are the most difficult are often the ones that need the most care.

If a person’s light gets activated by someone, it burns brighter. Belle activated the Beast’s light, and it revealed who he was at the core. Everyone doesn’t have a Belle in their physical lives, but there are many resources like books, courses and videos that can help you ignite your light and heal the darker places within the self. The truth is most of us have a bit of beauty and beast within.

This process requires courage, steadfastness and patience. Surveying oneself and one’s life with radical honesty and compassion is called for to heal. When you’ve done this successfully, it leads to self-love, self-acceptance and self-honor. It also leads to your freedom and liberation.

Jan. 11 - Brain food

With cases of dementia on the rise, many people are actively pursuing brain health. Fear of having a non-healthy mind is a huge motivator. Another drive is the desire to utilize their brain more effectively in various areas of their lives for improved results.

Have you been experiencing chronic symptoms such as mental confusion, forgetfulness, poor concentration and thinking more slowly than usual? It’s normal to struggle with some of these signs sometimes when hit by the force of stress. However, ongoing symptoms raise concern.

The question becomes how to respond to these indications when they manifest. Or better yet, how can you proactively ensure better brain health before issues arise? Consider the following:

  • Hydration - The brain is essentially 3 pounds of gelatinous material. Like all of the other organs in the body, it must be hydrated to work best. Wide, anecdotal evidence suggests that about 75% of people are dehydrated. Regardless of what the actual figure is, medical experts know that good hydration is needed for good brain health.
  • Sleep - Without question, adequate sleep is needed for brain rest, reset, and restoration. Proper, regular sleep hygiene can improve many problems such as onset and maintenance insomnia.
  • Exercise - According to the CDC, physical activity helps with problem-solving, focus, emotional balance, memory and even reducing anxiety and depression.
  • Sunlight - Exposure to the rays of the sun can be beneficial in releasing serotonin and, like exercise, can lower anxiety and depression symptoms.
  • Practicing joy and gratitude - When you adjust your perspective to acknowledging what is positive in your world, you feel better for a variety of reasons. Practice positivity.

If symptoms of poor brain health continue or are severe in nature, see your healthcare provider to get needed support.

Jan. 10 - Hard stop

If someone told you you need to slow down, you may agree and even say, “yeah, you’re probably right.” But what if they told you to stop? That may be a different story. There is a natural inclination to keep moving and doing, isn’t there? Perhaps somehow, we’ve come to associate the idea of stopping with laziness, sloth and being unmotivated. But what if intentional stopping breeds more health, wealth and better relationships?

But beware: you still need to take responsibility and certain actions in this world. However, doing, doing, doing for the sake of doing yields little real gain. What happens, for example, when you’re overly driven about a project? You run out of ideas. You make mistakes. You deplete your energy.

Let’s look at health, too. Most medical experts would agree that moderate exercise and a reasonable diet are good strategies to better health. But what if you overdo exercise to an extreme and restrict your body of needed nutrients? You exhaust your body. What do you get then? You end up with the unintended consequence of ill health. In that case, you may be forced to stop.

Sometimes, you need a hard stop. You need time to be truly still, to rest and refresh. When you physically stop your body, you allow the body’s innate wisdom to come into play. You, nor your body, are a machine.

If you are in a negative relationship pattern, you are required to stop and assess. Instead of driving forward in unconscious, unskillful ways, stop and consider how you can alter your approach. The same can be true of patterns with money and finances. Stopping involves stepping back and doing an inventory in terms of what is working and what is not. Then take action steps toward needed change.

How do you know if you need to execute a stop? Look at the symptoms that are being presented to you in various areas. Then experiment with stopping today for a period of time for improved results.

Jan. 9 - Piles

How do you feel about piles of things around your home and office? Do you overlook these things or do they bother you? Do you become overwhelmed at the sight of them? Do you have people living in your shared space that have a propensity for piling things? It’s true that some people are more organized than others. Everyone has their own tendencies. When you live with someone who has a different preference than yours, it calls for compromise from both parties. It’s a growth edge. How can you shift your relationship with piles to the positive?

You may find it surprising that you can use piles for good. They can even help you get organized. The problem is our piles are often unintentional and random. They make no sense and create visual distress for many. Having clutter in your environment creates stress for most people. On the other hand, some people like to be able to see everything.

Organizing professionals have found a way to use the action of piling to make lives easier. When you walk into a room and survey the scattered things everywhere, you can start by making piles. If it’s pieces of paper, put them in one stack. Clothing can go in its own stack. Files and mail can each have a stack. It’s best if these stacks can be moved into a less used area of the space but that’s not always possible.

Once you’ve cleared everything into stacks, take action on one of them by making smaller stacks. For example, if you’re attending the papers, make a stack for trash, filing and immediate action. The mail stack would be similar. If you’re making stacks of clothing, you could create piles for each person. You could also sort by laundry, put away and dry cleaning. Once these smaller stacks are made, they can be more quickly cleared and organized because you have paired similar items. This usually prevents the brain from becoming overwhelmed and thus defeated before even beginning.

Jan. 8 - Claim your day

Do you feel you’re in charge of your day most of the time? Or does it feel more like your day runs you? Many people feel more of the latter. When you’re not running your days, you often feel like you’re not truly running your life either. This can feel frustrating and defeating.

How then do you claim your day? What does this really mean? Creating a clear vision for your day is a starting point. Benjamin Franklin said this: “fail to plan and plan to fail.” If you haven’t created a clear schedule for the day, other things can easily take precedence. You will find yourself at the end of the day without accomplishing what you had hoped. You don’t want to be too rigid or perfectionistic with these plans, though. Some people certainly carry this principle too far, and this can create stress. Find a balance within your planning. What are your top three goals for the day? Write them down along with the schedule.

Next, invest in your mindset each morning. Do something positive for yourself that helps you feel positive, energized and empowered. This will help you stay focused, even when you need to navigate some obstacles which are inevitable on some days.

Finally, be aware of others encroaching on your time and attention. Beware of distractions. These can take many different forms. Technology, while extremely helpful in many realms, can distract you from your priorities or the task at hand. How many times have you gone to do something on your phone only to be hijacked by something else? Be mindful of any resistance within you that might encourage procrastination. This is bound to happen every once in a while, and everyone needs to be flexible. If it is happening consistently though, you are no longer claiming your day. They are. You are here for a reason and a season. Claiming your days means you are taking charge of your life, and that’s an intentional way to live.

Jan. 5 - Opportunity awaits

Do you feel like opportunities have slipped by you? Do you ever feel like it’s too late to experience a new opportunity? Have you ever thought that others around you seem to get all the opportunities?

There are infinite opportunities in this world. Sometimes you simply need to be aware. Look around. Be observant. Unfortunately, people are often operating with blinders on, unaware of what’s possible. It’s easy to fall into the familiar and settle for less than you truly desire. Some people don’t even allow themselves to reflect on what they desire because it brings up fear and defeat before they even try. This is what philosopher Henry David Thoreau called “living life in quiet desperation.” It doesn’t have to be that way. Do you think you’re you aware of the opportunities around you?

In the professional realm, one way people create new business ventures is by looking at what’s trending and observing what’s needed. There is always a new need as humans evolve. Being observant and thoughtful is required to master this. One way to practice is to look around your own home. Where is there a need that you could fill or fix? What’s the opportunity in that need? The other way people find opportunity is by connecting to their talents and passions.

You can enjoy the satisfaction of this process in your domestic environment. You can also expand it and apply it to your neighborhood, community and business. This practice can help you improve your health, relationships, finances, business and the way people live. It’s an exciting proposition.

Humans were made to create and evolve. Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson wrote about the broaden and build theory in positive psychology. This is a process where humans broaden their ideas of what is possible and build on those ideas. It calls for imagination and innovation. How can you actively participate in opportunities around the corner?

Jan. 4 - Mandela effect

Do you know how Nelson Mandela died? Would it surprise you that there are vast numbers of people who believe his death occurred in prison? But it’s not true. Mandela, the first democratically elected President of South Africa, died of a respiratory infection at the age of 95 as a free man.

When a large mass of people believe that an event happened, and it actually did not, that is known as the Mandela effect.

There are relatively innocuous examples of this effect. Take, for example, a famous peanut butter. Is it named Jiffy or Jif? Actually, it’s Jif. How about a well-known cereal? Is it Fruit Loops or Froot Loops? It’s actually the latter. The Mandela effect is not only about memory but also about how wide numbers of people truly believe an inaccuracy. Peanut butters and cereal names are harmless in how we recall them, but other things are much more serious.

Let’s extrapolate this concept to the phenomenon of groupthink. Memories can be perpetuated without actual facts. Just because enough people believe something, doesn’t make it so. Therefore, being able to utilize your own discernment based on facts can make a significant difference in many areas of life, including business.

How does the Mandela effect happen? False memories and distorted memories are two possibilities. Have you ever repeated a non-truth in your mind enough that you truly believed it? The mind can be a slippery slope.

Recalling words incorrectly is another piece of this puzzle. Based on the Snow White story, people have repeated “mirror, mirror on the wall,” when in fact the phrase is “magic mirror on the wall.” Misstating a phrase from a children’s book is one thing, but there are grave implications around what a group may think someone said or did. How many people have been released from prison who were wrongly convicted? Being open to accurate information can result in less suffering for all.

Jan. 3 - Future

While it’s great to consider 2024 and beyond, focusing too much on the future is not advised. That’s because life is lived moment to moment and can’t be lived in the future. It’s interesting as human beings that we focus so much on the past or the future, isn’t it?

In a way, we become entranced about a better future and that’s not a bad thing altogether. Vividly imagining a brighter future in regard to health, finances and relationships can actually be a good thing.

But future experiences arise out of the decisions made today, at this time. Wouldn’t you agree? Doesn’t it make you soberly consider how you are moving through most of your days?

The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”

You may have heard the expression that how you do anything is how you do everything. This means how you think and behave in real time is likely indicative of how you operate most of the time. Unconsciously, you can be on autopilot. Suddenly, it’s been another week, another month, another year.

Emerging from that kind of trance requires clear, steady focus. It means creating better habits that will propel you forward, being awake in your present behavior. In regard to the remaining time you have here on Earth, you can alter even the most entrenched patterns if you are determined. In Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Ebenezer Scrooge dramatically transforms from a self-centered curmudgeon to an altruistic philanthropist. As he gleefully dances following his transformation, he excitedly says “I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I’m as quiet a baby.” Now is the perfect time to make a change for the better, don’t you think?

Jan. 2 - Stability

There is a strong desire for stability worldwide. While there are certainly exceptions to this, an enormous number of people want to live in a more stable environment. They long for less conflict and more solidity in their lives.

This is a tricky proposition, though, because we live on constantly shifting sands. Still, many of us would agree that at times the world around us seems shiftier than at other times. How do you respond to instability whether locally, nationally or internationally? Are you triggered into fear mode as are many?

At the micro level, there may not be a ton of things you can do to bring world order and peace, but you truly can cultivate a deeper sense of stability within yourself as a good starting point. That is the very thing you have the most direct control over.

Great determination and courage are required to move through the world with grace and peace. When you get triggered by people or situations, here are some suggestions on how to do that:

  • Create peace-producing and calm-creating rituals. One size doesn’t fit all so you may need to experiment with research-based practices such as yoga, tai chi, daily walks, meditation, prayer, inspirational reading, creative journaling and positive visualizations.
  • Be aware of your overreactions. Could it be that you feel scared or threatened? Fear can hijack your rational thinking, derail your memory and cause you to make mistakes. Breathing through the underlying emotions can help you to be more stable.
  • Focus on what is working more optimally in your life. By placing a spotlight on what is going well, you feel better and take charge of your mind.
  • Indulge more often in activities that foster fun and boost joy. Laugh as frequently as you can. Lighten up. When you feel better, you can contribute more to the stability of those around you.

Jan. 1 - Worst thing

What is the worst way someone could describe you? What is an adjective that makes you shudder if you are associated with it? Some of the most common ones we hear are dumb, lazy, ugly, selfish, evil, boring and careless. Do any of these trigger you?

If you had to name the top five ways you’d least like to be used to describe you, what would they be? Why do you think you chose these? What is your connection to these terms? How is your past connected? Have you received this feedback in your history? Or maybe you’ve always been reinforced for its opposite.

Try this experiment. Take some time to write down what your top five are. Then ask the people you know what their top five worst adjectives are. You’ll notice that they are often different. Why is that? For example, some people laugh at being called dumb while others are mortified. The reason each person reacts differently is due to their psychology that they have developed over the years.

Dolly Parton was recently cited saying that she’s not offended by being called a dumb blonde because she knows she’s not dumb or blonde. And she makes a joke of it. Someone else may be absolutely enraged by being called similar.

People have a mental model of themselves. They have a fixed idea of who they should be. For example, if someone believes that they are of utmost value when they take care of everyone, then being called selfish may really trigger them. If some people have worked hard throughout life to prove themselves by accomplishing major milestones, then they will often be flattened to be described as careless.

The most important lesson in this exercise is to understand your triggers and the underlying reasons beneath them. Then it’s invaluable to release the attachment to what others think because most often it’s their projection. Care most about how you describe yourself. Be gracious in this process.

Dec. 29 - Giving space

Have you ever noticed that spaciousness often contains restorative properties? Sometimes creating space helps things to thrive. Consider building a fire. You must have space between the logs for the flames to flourish. Having space between houses in neighborhoods offers privacy and often more congenial neighbor relationships.

This can be counterintuitive to some people, even scary. Space may represent neglect, rejection or even abandonment. This can occur in relationships as one example. When trying to control another person, someone might try to constrict the space between them. This can occur even from a place of caring or helping someone. If adequate space if not given, the other party can’t find their own ground and their unique path. This can feel threatening sometimes to a person who controls as part of their caring. When someone in a relationship is unwilling to relinquish control and offer space, it can backfire and have the opposite effect of the intended outcome.

In neuropsychology, we know that creating space between a stimulus and response is powerful. This turns reactivity into thoughtful responsiveness. For example, if a person makes a comment you don’t like, you may want to mull over your response rather than giving a knee jerk reaction. The more you practice this dynamic, the better you get at it.

Giving yourself space is also a gift. Take time to retreat from the outside world on a regular basis. Unplug and breathe. Do things like yoga, tai chi and exercise to create space in the body while releasing constrictive tension. Take consistent brain breaks so that you don’t get overstimulated. Quiet the noise in your head by putting on some music or meditating. Turn your focus inward to examine your internal life. Remember who you are. Spaciousness is an often overlooked opportunity to create more calm, clarity and creativity in your life.

Dec. 28 - Amends

All human beings make mistakes and missteps resulting in others being hurt or otherwise injured. Even with the best of intentions, this is an inescapable fact. People are apt to cause suffering in some way to others.

Hurting someone, for most people, results in feeling guilty, ashamed or perhaps disappointed in yourself. So, what can you do if your actions crossed the line with someone else?

Let’s start with what therapist John Gottman calls repair attempts. Note the word attempt. Just because you wish to repair an injury you caused doesn’t mean that it will be automatically accepted. The other person has their own set of feelings and reactions that you can’t control. However, your desire to make amends is a step in the right direction. The question becomes how.

Some individuals have great difficulty admitting they are wrong and are unwilling to make an apology. Others struggle with accepting any kind of amends once they are crossed. Do you have trouble with sending or receiving repairs? Some have a tough time with both.

If you are sincere about making amends to another person, you can begin by fully owning your behavior. A common pitfall is apologizing while at the same time blaming the other person for causing you to have acted a certain way. That’s a no go. Your ego may wish to remain intact somehow instead of connecting deeper to the aggrieved party. A great way to feel less guilty is to own your unskillful behavior.

If you want clean energy around what happened, directly apologizing is needed. To be clear though, some people are champion apologizers, but they don’t alter their behavior. Know that if you say you’re sorry, the other person should rightfully expect better behavior.

Remember that a changed way of behaving is the greatest amends. Actions ultimately speak louder than words. Know that change is entirely possible if you are willing.

Dec. 27 - Situational awareness

Have you ever missed an opportunity or unwittingly created a problem because you weren’t truly aware? Most human beings have. Missing important cues and not understanding events in context happens increasingly in modern times. Enter situational awareness.

The term situational awareness is understanding the environment you’re in, comprehending the elements, and then making an educated guess as to what will happen next. It involves a three-stage process.

The first stage is perception. This involves utilizing your senses in the present moment. This is not easy to do because there can be many variables competing for your awareness. Being mindful in the present is what is needed. This requires mastery of your mind.

That can be challenging due to too little or too much data. Let’s say you’re driving a vehicle and looking for street signs. If you are deep in a rural area, there may not be enough signs or a GPS signal, hence too little information. Compare that to driving in Times Square in New York. There you can get overwhelmed at the amount of visual data in and around you. But being acutely present is still your best bet in finding your way.

In the second stage, which is comprehension, you try to understand the meaning of what you are sensing. A loud voice could mean an agitated individual, but it could also mean someone alerting others of an acute, dangerous circumstance. Your full attention is needed in this stage to discern what is happening and why.

Stage three involves projection. This means you make an educated, projected guess into the future based on the current information you have. Situational awareness is successfully used by the Department of Homeland Security, police and other first responders, healthcare professionals, and even oil rig workers. By following these stages, you or your organization can have better outcomes in basically any area.

Dec. 26 - Meraki

Have you heard the term “meraki?” While it’s a concept that can’t be translated in one word, it means “doing something with one’s soul, creativity, passion and love.” Some interpret it as bringing one’s essence into whatever they do. When have you experienced this in your life?

Putting yourself fully into the task at hand is deeply satisfying. It’s also been called being in the flow state. This can be applied to your work, relationships, hobbies and more. Have you ever eaten a meal that felt like it was cooked with love? The chef put his heart and genius into the food. Maybe you’ve entered a physical space where the decorations elevated you instantly? You can feel the care and creativity of the decorator. When people passionately show up in whatever they’re choosing to do, you experience their presence in what they’ve created even in the absence of that person. It’s an extraordinary gift to receive.

If you are spending a lot of your time, energy and effort doing things that you don’t want to put your full self into, it might be time for a change. As an adult, you can get into ruts. Sometimes it seems easier to stay in lackluster situations, whether a job or relationship, than make a change. It’s true that change requires energy and effort. It’s worth it in the end when you connect to your joy and vitality. Being intentional is powerful.

The “ki” at the end of this word is considered in some traditions to be your vital life force energy. It’s a remarkable opportunity to channel your gifts in this manner. You offer something of value to the world. Sometimes it even becomes your legacy that lives long after you do. Your commitment helps you elevate your mindset and heartset bringing you more joy and deeper fulfillment.

Rumi, the Sufi poet, said, “When you do things from your soul, you feel a river of joy moving in you.” Doesn’t that sound enticing?

Dec. 25 - Parts of you

Did you know that there are different parts of you, some conscious and some less so? You’re probably aware of the loudest parts of you, those parts that tend to take the lead. For example, if you’re highly competitive, that strong tendency may show up often. In fact, Jon Kabat-Zinn states that “wherever you go, there you are.” What does that mean? There are times in life when it’s not appropriate to be competitive. For example, learning to meditate is not the arena to prove that you’re winning. Many still try though. The competitive tendency shows up even when it’s not beneficial. This will likely cause you suffering. It also repels others.

What about vulnerability? Do you allow your softer self to show up? Do you give that part of you space to be present? Or do you shut it down and turn it off? In psychology, we call this dissociation. You can dissociate in many ways – working, technology, television, exercising, eating, drinking, shopping, controlling, using drugs and a myriad of other ways. The mind thinks it’s keeping you safe when you disallow certain parts of you to be present. This is not true though. These parts don’t go away. They show up when you least expect it and often when it’s not convenient.

Take some time to identify the various parts of your personality. Give yourself permission to allow the full continuum of who you are to be there. Ask each part what it wants to say and what it needs. You can also have these parts talk to one another. For example, the resilient side may be of help to the side of you that doesn’t feel safe. The part of you that doesn’t feel safe may just need to voice concerns so that they quiet themselves. Practice self-acceptance and non-judgment during this process. This is a way of caring for yourself. It’s a psychological strategy that allows the entirety of you to be seen, heard and validated. It’s a path of healing to your wholeness and humanity.

Dec. 22 - Adolescence

If you are reading this, you likely were or are an adolescent. During this segment, puberty takes place with significant physical changes. Additionally, adolescence is generally a time of great mental, emotional and social awakening.

These stages are not necessarily distinct because adolescence, like life, has exceptions and individual differences. It is an organic unfolding, and there are many factors involved as to why one adolescent matures faster or slower than another. One size certainly does not fit all.

Being that you were an adolescent, you probably somewhat remember what It was like living those teen years. Exciting might be one way to describe it. Awkward may be another descriptor. What you know now is probably quite different than you could even comprehend then.

Today’s adolescents face many of the same challenges that they had in previous generations. But in some ways, they face greater struggles due to the speed of information and technology. It’s more of the norm that these pre-teens and teens are skilled at understanding and utilizing technology. This has its advantages but also its downside.

Online bullying and access to shocking content is something previous generations weren’t subjected to. Therefore, many adolescents are anxious. Others are depressed. Mental health issues, including suicide, are now more prevalent than ever before.

It may be difficult to understand today’s adolescents but know that they need you. They may act indifferent to your care but know that your support makes a positive impact. You are not supposed to know all the answers. No one does. But having a loving presence matters. Listening is imperative in a helping relationship, especially on their timeline, not yours. Empathizing is very useful, too. Asking adolescents how you can help has a beneficial effect in that they know they are not alone.

Dec. 21 - Evolution

Consider all the ways you’ve evolved since you arrived here on earth. Start with your body. It’s amazing how much your physicality has changed since your birth, isn’t it? Notice your mind and your ability to solve problems and to make independent decisions. In many regards, your evolution has been nothing less than profound.

Think about other realms of your experience that have altered significantly. Take the example of relationships. Is it fair to say that what you thought many years ago is at least slightly different now? Let’s say that you used to be loud and stubborn in your approach. But over time, you saw where that didn’t work very well so you learned to speak softer and to be more flexible. You evolved.

We are all called to undergo an evolution in various respects of our lives. Contemplate what you believed when you were much younger and what you believe now. Perhaps you perceived people and circumstances from a cut-and-dried view. Now you look at how undefinable life can be. You know that everything is not so clear cut. You evolved.

What aspect of your life is asking for your attention now? Let’s use the example of your health. Is this area one that could respond well to at least a slight evolution? Your body is constantly sending you various signals. It is a wise symphony of parts and processes until it encounters some difficulty. Tuning into what your body is currently expressing can be a helpful choice.

Maybe your healthcare provider has indicated that you’re ingesting too much sugar, alcohol or caffeine. What would an evolution in this foundational realm of your life look like? Even if you’ve indulged too much for too long, it’s not too late to change. What would self-compassion look like in terms of your body?

With the new year at hand, we invite you to focus on where further evolution may truly make you feel better.

Dec. 20 - Envisioning 2024

For many, it’s mind-boggling to realize we are rapidly approaching the end of 2023. As usual, there are great differences in perception as to what 2023 has been like. Some people are relieved that this present year is coming to an end. Others are experiencing positive reverberations right now and are in no rush to have this year end. In reflecting about 2023, how do you feel?

Taking time for reflection is helpful. It’s good to know where you’ve been to determine where you’d like to go. What would you like the new year to be like for you?

Frequently, we hear others say they envision certain areas of their world in a better, healthier light. What would you most prefer to be different? It may be any number of things; health, finances, relationships, travel or perhaps a new (or renewed) hobby. Some people picture a new job. Others simply want to lose weight. And many people want to have a shift in their attitude or perspective. There are so many options. It’s helpful to focus on one or two items at a time.

Using a vision board can be a great way to support your dreams. On a poster board or a large piece of paper, you paste or affix images, words, or 3D objects representing your goals. You then place the board in a place where you will view it often. Even if you aren’t consciously aware of it, one theory is that it can still be effective though your subconscious mind. The brain processes what is in your visual periphery.

But consider this about the human mind. It tends to think in the present. This doesn’t mean you can’t plan or envision a better future. It can be most effective, though, if you see the goal and affirm it in present time as if it’s already true right now. So, instead of “I’ll lose 20 pounds this year,” it would be better to affirm “It feels terrific that I have lost those 20 pounds.” How you envision your dreams has a massive impact on your success.

Dec. 19 - Old school

Do items and behaviors of the past warm your heart? Do they give you a wistful or comforting feeling? Consider the rotary dial telephones, encyclopedias or the early typewriters. These are items people rarely encounter anymore. Old school behaviors include making iced tea in the window or dropping by to see friends or family and enjoying a cup of Sanka with Entenmann’s cake or other tasty treats.

Some things we used to do were not so innocuous like hitchhiking, not wearing seatbelts in cars and smoking on airplanes. In these ways, our society has evolved for the better.

In what ways could you use a little dose of old school ways? Perhaps you prefer speaking to a live customer service person rather than an automated robotic system. Maybe you’d like to enjoy dinner with family and friends without everyone’s phone pinging. Would it be fun to enjoy flipping through the Sears catalogue in preparation for upcoming holidays?

Many people bask in the enjoyment of watching old shows from “I Love Lucy” to “Bewitched.” Others enjoy listening to the music of their youth and young adulthood. These things bring them joy.

If you did not have a positive past, these very things may be triggering for you. You may associate these old school items and activities with pain, angst and sorrow. You might choose to avoid them at all costs. For you, moving boldly into the future is much more comforting and delighting than relishing the past.

While people who enjoy the “old school” way are considered traditionalist by those who prefer the future, they refer to themselves as more down to earth and trustworthy. They often voice concerns about moving too hastily into the inventions of the future. Are they being stagnant and fear-based or is this a position of wise leadership? Is there a place for the future face of life and the predictable past to balance one another out?

Dec. 18 - Dreams

Do you remember your dreams? Do you write them down in the morning or tell someone about them? Dreams have fascinated the human race for centuries. Have you tried to understand or analyze the meaning of your dreams?

Many experts have weighed in on the concept of dream interpretation, and their perfectives are quite different. For example, Sigmund Freud, a neurologist turned psychoanalyst believed that dreams are a type of “wish fulfillment.” The wish is not acceptable to the dreamer in waking life so they connect with these ideas while asleep.

Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist, hypothesized that dreams were symbolic of conflicts a person was having. He thought they helped people find balance through a dialogue between the ego and the deeper self. He also focused on their symbolism.

Other professionals who have studied dreams have different theories. Some believe that every aspect of a dream represents a part of yourself and helps the dreamer reconcile different parts of themselves, eventually leading to wholeness. Some believe that dreams are a pathway for the other side to connect with those that are living. They suggest that angels, spirit guides and loved ones come through dreams as a way to communicate and connect.

What about nightmares? Where do they come from and what do they mean? Some people believe they are omens. Commonly, professionals consider nightmares to be an indication that the person is struggling with stress, anger and worry. They then emerge during the dream state because they are still unresolved.

Some of the best tools to unravel the meaning and mystery of your own dreams are to:

Keep a journal to track your dreams. Notice how your waking life is playing into your sleep life.

Talk to a dream expert for a deeper dive. There are individual dream professionals as well as groups, both in person and online.

Dec. 15 - Headlights

How far can you see at night when driving with your headlights on? It’s most likely just a little way ahead. The great E.L. Doctorow said, “Writing is like driving with the headlights on. You can only see a little way in front of you, but you can make the whole journey that way.” This is true, isn’t it? We typically take this for granted except in extreme conditions.

This can also be applied to life, can’t it? We don’t know what’s going to happen in our distant future. We don’t know how our story will unfold. What are your metaphorical headlights showing you? What can you see in the near distance? Are you paying attention? Are there things you need to address? Using your headlights is a form of self-care and self-preservation. It also helps you become a short-term futurist by taking things chunk by chunk while staying grounded in the present.

Trust is called for in this situation just as it is when driving. When taking a road trip that may require many hours, you do each segment trusting that you will arrive eventually. The same is true in life. How can you be conscious of your starting point and action steps required to get you to the next segment of your life? Below are a few strategies to use your headlights wisely:

- Know your starting point. Where do you find yourself now? Where would you like to arrive? What action steps are required within these smaller segments? This requires self-awareness and self-regulation.

- Write your answers down to the above questions. Writing helps you gain even more clarity than just reflecting. Speaking these intentions to another person is another effective strategy for clarification. Remember to feel what the end result brings. Engage your heart.

- Be flexible. Forward momentum is not an upward trajectory in a straight line. There are ups and downs, twists and turns. Remain patient and curious to reach your goals.

Dec. 14 - Giving

We find ourselves amid what is known as the season of giving. What arises for you internally as you consider the word giving?

Let’s define giving for our purposes here as contributing without an expectation. True giving is the act of contributing to others without needing recognition or a certain response. This is not to say that being recognized for your efforts is negative, wrong or unskillful. In fact, sometimes your giving may inspire others to give of themselves. It has clearly been shown that giving can be a contagious energy and may create a positive momentum. What is nearly certain, though, is that when you give of yourself to others, those direct receivers are positively impacted.

Not everyone feels the same about the idea of giving. They may construe it with their having to put forth something they don’t have, be it money, time or energy. Also, they may have had bad experiences around this topic.

Many people have come to realize that when they give, something magical happens. They have observed that as givers they receive benefits. They know that giving is receiving. And research points to this very observation.

The Cleveland Clinic, for example, has found that when you give a gift to others, your brain produces several “feel good” neurotransmitters. Serotonin regulates your mood. Dopamine causes you to feel pleasure and motivates you. And oxytocin elicits a warm feeling of connection to others. Frequently, the receiver experiences these very same things.

Giving can be expressed through financial gifts, acts of service or simply your loving presence to someone. Make no mistake. We live in a time where caring and giving are sorely needed. There are countless ways you can give to many organizations including the AJC’s Empty Stocking Fund. Your thoughtfulness in sharing your gifts with others has its own reward.

Dec. 13 - Common connection

There are approximately 8.1 billion people on this planet. How many of them do you know? It turns out that the average person has a relatively small circle of connection. Think about the people in your purview. The typical makeup for many is family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, individuals in spiritual groups, professional contacts, social networks and others.

Did you know that the average total number of people you know, according to research, is 611? Seems like a large number, but relatively speaking, it’s not. That’s only .00001% of the Earth’s population. Much of what we presume or believe about others who we don’t know is what we’ve heard, read or learned otherwise. That fact invites us to learn more and to gain a broader perspective.

Whether you know them or not, every single human being is different. Each person has their own set of dreams, fears, regrets, insecurities, memories, desires, behaviors, emotions, ideas, beliefs and so much more.

The average human being wants to be happy. Would you say that’s true for you? A huge number are simply striving to survive, to be able to provide for themselves and their families. It’s easy to make assumptions about others but assumptions are often inaccurate and sometimes downright wrong.

That desire to be relatively happy and to be free of as much suffering as possible is a common connection among people. Call it an underlying bond that connects everyone.

How can you cultivate a higher, more open perspective about other people? Here are some ideas to practice:

- Be curious about why others act or believe the way they do.

- Challenge yourself when you make an automatic judgment or knee-jerk reaction.

- Give others the benefit of the doubt whenever possible. Consider the best in others instead of the worst.

- Strike up a conversation with others and be open to the possibilities.

Dec. 12 - Winter blues

As the days grow shorter and temperatures become colder, many people sense a definite, downward mood shift. Do you struggle with the winter blues? According to the Cleveland Clinic, about 10-20% of adults deal with a mild, but noticeable version of winter depression. For another 5% of adults, the symptoms are more profound. For those individuals, the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) are clinically met.

Winter blues can be triggered in a variety of ways including loss of Vitamin D. When the days are shorter and the temperatures colder, typically people are not outside receiving beneficial sunlight. There are strategies you can use if you struggle with SAD, particularly if your case is mild. One strategy is simply getting outside as often as possible. Even if it’s a cloudy day, the sun’s rays are available to help you.

Another approach is vitamin D supplementation. However, you should check with your healthcare provider first as high levels can interfere with medications.

Light therapy is effective for some. This can be accomplished by utilizing a light box. These boxes are placed on a desk, table or counter. The idea is to allow these rays (which mimic sunlight) to shine on your face for about 20-30 minutes or even longer. They can be purchased very inexpensively.

Another sound idea is exercise. Depending on your mobility and health, steady, slow movement like walking can be uplifting due to shifts in hormones. A daily walk of 20-30 minutes can make a difference.

Social activities can be beneficial. The challenge is that if you feel down, you may not be inclined to connect with others. If you push yourself a little, it may be worth it.

Lastly, if you are significantly depressed by SAD, reach out to your healthcare provider for next steps. You can also dial 988 or text the word home to 741741 for free, confidential help.

Dec. 11 - Intergenerational friendships

Do you have friends of different ages? If so, how big is the age gap? Intergenerational friendships are often described as having a 15+ year age gap. According to a 2019 AARP survey, about 37% of people enjoy friends of all different ages, younger and older. Reports indicate that women are most likely to have friends that vary in ages.

Longitudinal research in psychology shows that having friends improves the quality and quantity of life for many people. What best describes a flourishing friendship? There are several indicators including feeling seen, respected and understood. Also, feeling supported and emotionally safe to be authentic is of great importance. Having authentic interactions rather than transactional dynamics are also essential. People from across all age groups can and do possess the qualities to be a good friend, depending on the individual.

There are some distinct benefits to having friends of different ages than your own. One is that you are exposed to a different perspective. The dynamic can open your mind to new ways of thinking about things. This can then lead to personal growth and expansion. Mentorship can be a facet of personal growth. It can also be a form of unofficial professional development. Mentoring can go both ways if the parties are open to learning from the other. Having an open mind to what others bring to the table is a wonderful way to keep your mind and heart fresh and vital.

Rather than limiting your socialization to like-aged people, take a risk and connect with new people. New parents can be friends with elderly. Couples can make friends with single people. Teenagers can be friends with baby boomers. Stepping outside of your self-imposed silo may be a welcome surprise and delight that adds much richness to your life. Take a risk, be open to new and different people, and intentionally seek reciprocal friendships with people of all ages.

Dec. 8 - Adult-ish

Do you ever feel adult-ish? You have the responsibilities of an adult, but there’s something inside that still feels less than grown up. Do you ever look around and feel like you’re the only one who didn’t get the adult playbook? It seems like everyone else has it all figured out, but you are the same you as yesteryear.

Many people experience this phenomenon, and there are multiple reasons for it. There may be parts of yourself that are similar to the younger you. For example, you may still like your sandwiches made in the same way. You might still have the same interests. You might even still spend a lot of time with the people you did when you were younger. When you live your life in a similar fashion as you did in the past, it may feel like you’re not growing, and thus not growing up.

Another reason you might experience this is because of how you imagined life would be as an adult. From a child’s perspective, adults often seem to have a lot of power. They don’t have to sit in school all day. The reality, though, is that most adults do have to work all day in order to survive. They find themselves in similar positions of not having the authority they desire. The expectation of what life would be like as an adult was an illusion in large part.

Do you ever feel like your peers have gotten much further in life than you? It’s true that success is on a continuum. Would it surprise you to know that some of the most successful people still feel child-like in some ways? Also, they may be really successful in one area of life but feel at a loss in others.

Finally, the markers of adulthood have shifted. People are staying at home longer. Young adults are waiting to get married and have children or choosing to not live in these traditional patterns. Lifestyles are markedly different in a lot of ways now that make adulthood less rigid and that may be a good thing.

Dec. 7 - Honoring neurodiversity

Have you ever felt like your brain is different than everyone else’s? Do you find that you approach things differently or that your process is unique to you? Perhaps you accomplish tasks in a particular way?

People who grew up feeling like this were often marginalized as difficult. They were frequently pathologized by a society that didn’t understand how and why they functioned as they did. The word neurodiversity was first coined in the 1990s by Australian social scientist Judy Singer. The term is a combination of the words “neurological” and “diversity.” It was originally associated with autism but now includes a wide variety of learning and developmental differences including ADHD, OCD, dyslexia, sensory processing and more.

As our society evolves in the understanding of neuro-diverse individuals, schools and workplaces are learning to play to the unique strengths of each neuro-divergent person rather than treating them as problematic. This way of honoring brain differences and variations in brain development treats each person with the dignity and care they deserve. The settings that implement these ways of embracing differences are seeing much return on investment. Not only are they modeling emotionally safe spaces for all employees to experience and witness, they are enjoying some significant markers indicating victory. For example, in JP Morgan Chase’s Autism at Work program, workers were reported to be 140% more productive than their “neurotypical” counterparts and made far less mistakes. (Neurotypical means someone whose brain functions and processing are considered “typical” or “standard.”)

Allowing individuals to function in ways that are best suited to them creates positive strides for all people. Every person, whether identified as neuro-divergent or neurotypical, has ways of learning, developing and approaching life that are unique to them and deserve to be honored.

Dec. 6 - FOPO

Have you heard of FOPO? It stands for “fear of other people’s opinions.” How often have you been caught in the trap of fearing what someone else thinks of you? Have you ever chosen to do something or not do something out of this fear?

This type of thinking, feeling and behaving is exhausting, and it limits you. We encourage you to investigate what might be the driving force behind your unique FOPO pattern. Are you concerned about being judged or persecuted? Do you think you might be excluded from a particular group or organization? Are you fearful of looking silly or making a mistake? These are just a few common themes we hear about from clients. They will hold you back from experiencing the full expression of you.

What it be like to throw caution to the wind and risk being your authentic self? If you brought all of who you are to the world, what is possible? We’ve observed that people make this choice when they become sick of playing small. They’re tired of people-pleasing and people-guessing. They don’t want to hustle for approval and acceptance anymore. This is a maturity edge for many. They are willing to hold their head high and stand their ground in their choices. They choose to feel proud of themselves even if others don’t approve or agree with who they are. This is a liberating process. Cutting the cords that no longer serve you is opening your own cage of imprisonment.

A few strategies that can help you shift away from FOPO includes releasing fear gremlins in your mind and surround yourself with positive, empowering people. You may also find it helpful to read about others who have had the courage to show up authentically.

The poet Mary Oliver asks, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” This is your life. Your choices matter. You deserve peace and happiness. Step into your personal power and take ownership of how you want to live.

Dec. 5 - SLANT attention

Have you heard of the acronym SLANT that many communication experts recommend? It is specific to how you pay attention to someone. It stands for:

S – sit up

L – lean in

A – ask questions

N – nod your head

T – track the speaker

This approach lets the speaker know that you’re fully present and care about the content they’re sharing. How many times have you been in a conversation only halfway? How often do you only partly pay attention to the person speaking? Ask yourself which is hardest for you in the five components of the SLANT acronym. Is there one or two you could focus on improving for impactful results?

It can be tricky to give someone your full attention, especially if the conversation is boring you. Every conversation isn’t that interesting. If this happens, there are some interesting ways to spice things up for you and them according to author of “Barking Up the Wrong Tree,” Eric Barker. Try these strategies: Ask really good questions to connect to the emotionality of the content. Explore the personal implications of the content. Conversations are about much more than delivery of information. There’s a dynamic occurring that is overt and covert.

We’ve heard repeatedly from clients that people they interact with at network meetings drone on about themselves or are constantly searching the room for an upgrade. An upgrade is a person that might be “more important” than the one standing in front of them. It’s rude and dismissive. Be a kind listener instead.

If you need to move on from a dynamic with someone, have a sentence or two prepared that lets the other person know that you’d like to connect with someone else and do something different. You can do this in a gracious, complimentary way where everyone feels valued, understood and heard. It can be a delicate balance at times but one worth achieving.

Dec. 4 - Personal interests

Suzanne recently began attending Zumba classes. Thomas started taking fencing lessons, something he had always wanted to do. Monique is interested in landscape courses offered through a state organization. Each of these three people are of various ages with one of them in their mid-70s and another in their late teens.

What are your interests? There is practically an unlimited number of possibilities available, aren’t there? Maybe you are well-entrenched in a particular pursuit. Perhaps like the aforementioned people, you have stepped into something new or are considering a novel interest.

It’s fascinating to consider all the opportunities, isn’t it? Let’s define interests here as ideas, pursuits, memberships or otherwise voluntary activities that you like. They can be things like recreational or leisure hobbies or a pastime. It could be a business, an endeavor or a diversion. An interest may be something for strictly rest and relaxation. It could be something for character-building or skills development.

Sometimes as people get older, they shy away from something they have an interest in because they don’t wish to appear silly or maybe they think they’re too old. If so, remember that many activities have workarounds taking age and limitations into consideration. Regardless of age, it can be intimidating to try something new. You may feel like a fish out of water. But remember, by definition, if you’ve never done it, there’s no way you can automatically be proficient at it. So take a deep breath and release any harsh expectations you have of yourself.

We encourage you to go for it whatever it is. Let safety come first and get clearance from your healthcare provider, particularly if your interest is physical. Give yourself permission to fully enjoy yourself. As we’ve often mentioned, life is more than responsibilities. Invest in your own optimal level of stimulation.

Dec. 1 - Gifts

It’s nearly impossible to consider this time of year without thinking about gifts. Whether gift-giving is a practice for you or not, you’ve very likely given or received a present along the way.

What was the best gift you ever received? What was the item and how did it make you feel? Many people often report having a warm, touched feeling when someone freely gives something to them.

You may have received a physical object such as a toy, a bicycle or something else you really longed for when you were younger. The excitement you felt was probably palpable. That best gift may have been tickets to a special event or a trip of some kind. It may have simply been quality time with a loved one. For some people, that shared time is better than a physical gift.

Do you remember the best gift you ever gave someone? Think about their face and countenance when they received what you had caringly given them. You may have been surprised at your impact. It’s a wonderful feeling when an act of giving on your part brightens another person’s world, isn’t it?

When you give a gift from your heart, both you and the receiver likely experience the pleasant swirl of dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphin in your body. All these neurotransmitters are also generally experienced by givers, receivers, and even observers of a warm gift exchange.

While the expense of a gift is not irrelevant, the thoughtfulness, care and timing of a present are the overriding factors in making the experience highly satisfactory. So, if you have the funds and you want to go to great lengths in terms of spending on a loved one, by all means do so if it makes you happy. But also know that considerately giving something special to another person, including your time and attention, can be just as meaningful. Your presence may be just the gift that someone you know needs most.

Nov. 30 - Information overload

So often we hear people complain that there is too much coming at them, causing them stress. Taking care of work responsibilities, paying bills, attending to health and connecting with loved ones is a full-time job. In each of these areas, many people experience a constant influx of information. It can simply feel overwhelming.

Years ago, life was at a more mentally digestible pace in terms of data and information. For many reasons, the speed and amount of intellectual, social and educational access has grown exponentially.

Think about how much information you take in during a normal day. Sometimes, you may feel like it’s just too much. It could be addictive, can’t it? It can be an unquenchable thirst for more facts, knowledge and mental guidance. There is virtually a tsunami of information flowing toward you each day.

If you have ADD, this can be quite an issue. To be clear, the amount of information in the universe cannot cause ADD but it can be especially troublesome if you do have ADD. You may already get easily distracted. This is increasingly true of others without ADD.

If you spend hours a day scrolling through social media, texts, emails, videos, blogs and podcasts, that’s probably too much. Here’s a way to think about it. Even though eating fruit may be good for you, eating pounds of blueberries or bananas each day would be detrimental.

Being able to filter out the deluge of information available daily is a skill you can develop. Call it taking a brain break. Striking a balance is a priority, particularly if you are experiencing irritability, insomnia and other mental health issues. You can be robbed of your joy when you’re out of balance.

Instead, build in daily timeouts. Take a break without your cell phone. Do some brief exercise. When you gain a sense of balance, you feel better.

Nov. 29 - Following up

Do you follow up on your ideas and conversations? Or do you allow things to slip through the cracks? Time has a way of passing quickly, doesn’t it? You look up, and a year has gone by. Then five years have transpired. You may not have ever acted on that great idea you had. You might not have reached out to the friend you ran into at the grocery store. How many times have you said to someone, “yes, let’s get together soon.” The call is never made, and the connection doesn’t happen. Life has a way of hijacking our attention and time.

Do you ever wonder, though, what could have been if you did follow up? Maybe you would have gotten tremendous satisfaction in finishing a project that inspired you. Maybe something within you would have awakened with the exploration of new territories. Perhaps you would have rekindled a relationship that would have been mutually beneficial.

Coasting through life can be easy sometimes. Some people are simply exhausted. There are so many responsibilities as an adult. Many people feel like they are already pulled in too many directions. They don’t feel like they have what it takes to make the effort or not enough time. Others are just stuck in a rut. They do the same things. They see the same people. Others feel content. They’re fulfilled with how their life is flowing.

Where do you think you are? It’s interesting to take an honest self-inventory to understand more deeply who you are and what your life is about at this time.

Are you happy? Are you ready for more? Would you enjoy new friends? Are you interested in cultivating an old or new hobby? Is there something or someone you’re curious about? Our nature as human beings is to evolve and create, in small and large ways. Are you fulfilled with your current expression of creating and connecting? Check in with yourself and do what is uniquely right for you in this season of your life.

Nov. 28 - Dementia

When a family encounters dementia in an up close and personal way, their joy can quickly be taken away. A profound sense of grief overshadows the life of the patient and their loved ones.

While breakthroughs are taking place in medicine, the speed of progress is not nearly fast enough for those suffering. We have seen this professionally and personally. Dementia, of which Alzheimer’s is the most common type, remains a devastating illness. The patient goes through profound mental and physical changes, including memory loss. The caregivers undergo a nearly unspeakable type of grief.

One of the major challenges for families is how to respond to their loved one when they observe such radical changes taking place. They often report that the person they’re caring for is quite different, which is disturbing. Caregivers typically become overwhelmed in how to cope with the enormity of the illness. One source of help is the Alzheimer’s Association, which has a 24/7 hotline available 365 days/year, providing resources and free, confidential support at 1-800-272-3900.

These tips are not an exhaustive list, but simply some day-to-day survival strategies:

  • Create routine schedules for the patient. This seems to give a sense of stability and safety.
  • Agree instead of arguing, where possible, to reduce stress.
  • Ask versus demand. This usually works for human beings in general.
  • Look for ways to reinforce wanted behavior instead of making demands.
  • Even though it can be frustrating having to repeat yourself, be as patient as you can and simply repeat yourself.
  • Take care of yourself as an equal priority. This means enlisting help from family, friends and professionals. Taking a walk, grabbing time with a friend, or any number of other self-care activities can give you some degree of breathing room.

Nov. 27 - Quotes

How have you used quotes throughout your life? Do you have some favorite ones? In what ways have they gotten you through life’s challenges? Did you ever see the television program called “Being Mary Jane” with Gabrielle Union? Throughout the episodes she would write quotes on sticky notes and place them all over her house. They validated, inspired and comforted her.

We have many favorite quotes and behave similar to Union’s character in our own lives. We have found that the right words can help transmute and transcend difficult times. Wisdom, love and reassurance pour through these quotes. Maya Angelou, one of our favorites, said that “consistency takes courage.” She refused to be a chameleon when interacting with different types of people. This doesn’t mean that she didn’t have fierce boundaries. In fact, she also said “When people show you who they are, believe them.” Many people try to justify why people act as they do and end up staying in unsatisfying, dysfunctional relationships because of this denial.

The Buddha claimed that “nothing is forever except change.” That is true. Change is constant. The rapidly changing world we live in is not new. Perhaps the pace has picked up. It feels like it at times, doesn’t it? It’s essential to make friends with change because it will continue.

Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.” Our thoughts dictate our emotions and behaviors. Belief in yourself is core to achieving your goals in life. Many examples in history have demonstrated this.

Eleanor Roosevelt stated that “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” How often have you given authority and your personal power away to another person or entity only to suffer because of it? Standing in your own sacred circle offers you empowered sovereignty and internal freedom.

Nov. 24 - Ten percent

Think about the areas of your life you’d like to improve. Maybe it’s your money management. You’d like to significantly upgrade the way you save, pay bills and spend money. Perhaps you truly want to have vibrant health and strength. You really want to have greater endurance and flexibility. Or maybe you’re called to have closer relationships with family and friends. Maybe you want all of these and more.

When you think about improvement, even if it’s only one area of your life, it may seem daunting. What tends to happen is an all-or-nothing approach to the goal(s) you have in mind. This means you might have a notion that you should meet your goals 100%. Consider that at the first sign of “failure,” many people tend to quit their pursuit of a given goal.

Have you heard of a 10% solution? The power of dedicating 10% toward your goals is not a new concept. Too often, you may be expected to give “110%” when you may be struggling to get even remotely close to 100% of what you desire.

This can apply to any area where you constantly do 10% more or 10% less. Let’s say you truly desire to greatly improve your health. Maybe some markers on a recent blood test alarmed you. Here’s where the 10% solution provides a reasonable and realistic avenue for change.

In this example, you drink 10% less alcohol. You exercise 10% more. You eat 10% less sugar. You eat 10% more organic. Doesn’t that sound more feasible than overhauling your food and exercise habits? And here’s the thing: once you gain some momentum via realistic expectations and behavior, you feel encouraged to do more.

Once you gain traction, you simply add another 10% to your plan.

This approach, for many people, is practical and doable. Once you “prime the pump” with some small wins in the right direction, your chances of further success grow.

Nov. 23 - Holiday season

With the holiday season upon us, there is an upsurge in activity. How do you think you’ll spend this segment of time this year? Will you gather with family and friends? Will you exchange gifts? Will you cook, eat in a restaurant or have takeaway food? These and a plethora of other questions typically arise.

Not everyone feels the same about the holidays. For many, it means lights, music, presents and gatherings. For them, it may be a time of uplift and warmth. The holidays are viewed as fun and positive.

For others, it is quite the opposite. For various reasons, they simply want this period of time to pass as quickly as possible. Perhaps, the holidays were an ugly, terrible time growing up. The family may have been unable to afford decorations and gifts. Trauma may have occurred. They associate it with pain and hardship. Unlike those who enjoy the holidays, these folks find themselves triggered by the mere mention of certain greetings.

Still others miss those who have passed and are no longer here. They experience great sadness as they reflect on times gone by with a loved one who is now deceased. It can be a difficult struggle for many.

Regardless of how you perceive this annual segment of time, be aware of several items:

- Do your best to manage your stress level. Even if you love to celebrate, it can be easy to go overboard physically or with commitments. Be mindful of how you’re feeling each day.

- Manage your emotions. This holds true for the majority. If this is a painful time of year for you, allow your emotions in an appropriate way. This may involve sharing with a trusted friend or perhaps journaling.

- Garner support where and when you need it. Ask for help.

- Be considerate of others and where they come from.

- Be safe on the roads.

We wish you the best possible holiday season.

Nov. 22 - Outdoor learning

There are in-depth, impressive studies on the power of outside learning on children in terms of education. Perhaps you grew up at a time when being outside was a way of life. And there are reports that Americans, on average, spend 93% of their time indoors now. In today’s world, children tend to be indoors for the most part except for playing sports or walking to and from a vehicle.

In Helsinki, Finland, children live and learn in a very different way. Much of their school time is spent outdoors, even in winter. In a revolutionary study, Finnish kids aged 3-5 are part of a well-designed program that teaches children in the external environment. The results are remarkable with regards to educational competency, psychological maturity, immune system functioning, environmental care and even manners.

Studies elsewhere show that when young children spend frequent time in nature, they tend to experience greater physical and psychological well-being. Additionally, they have lower incidences of asthma, depression and other health issues.

In fact, even pictures of faux nature can have a beneficial effect. There is evidence that fake plants elicit lower stress, anxiety and pain. It appears that there is an inherent calming effect when pictures of scenery or faux plants are present in school settings.

While the results with Finnish and other young children elsewhere is notable, if you’re reading this, you are very likely not 3-5 years old! As we’ve written previously, there are many positive benefits for adults who spend time in nature, like Dr. Qing Li’s “forest-bathing.” The advantages include physical and emotional improvements to health and well-being.

Spending time in nature can produce various health benefits in as little as 10-20 minutes a day. How can you be creative in spending time in nature more regularly?

Nov. 21 - Amplification

Are you aware of how you’re amplifying? Many people are not. Everyone does it. The tendency of humans is to amplify the negative. Many often focus on what’s wrong — with themselves, others, the world. This leaves them feeling terrible mentally, emotionally and physically. You can make a choice today to focus differently.

How can you amplify the positive in life? You can look around your environment right now as you’re reading this and find at least five things to be grateful for. Focus on these things deeply and amplify the good feelings that emerge. When you do this, you are training your brain to think more positively. According to neuroscience, every brain has neuroplasticity. This means you can alter the structure and function of your brain by consciously choose how you’re focusing. When you amplify the positives, you are more likely to think positively tomorrow. Your brain is more familiar with this focus. If however, you allow yourself to default to the negative, your brain will be more likely to be negative tomorrow.

Another strategy is to amplify the pleasures in your life. The next time you’re enjoying really good weather or a good meal, bask in the delight and enjoyment of your experience. Allow yourself to engage all of your senses. Smile to yourself. Stay in this mindset for as long as you are able. When possible, tell others how wonderful your experience was. This helps you amplify again. It also helps the other person who is listening to something positive. You and the other person release feel good hormones and neurotransmitters with this type of dynamic.

You can also amplify the positives by simply remembering or anticipating a pleasant event. The brain doesn’t know the difference between real or imagined, so it thinks it’s happening in the current reality. You get the same benefits. It’s easier to amplify the good than you may think with these few simple tweaks.

Nov. 20 - Safety and mindfulness

Have you ever missed a step on the stairs or ladder and fell? Perhaps you ran out of gas because you procrastinated filling up your tank? Have you noticed how many drivers are distracted on the road? We have witnessed many cars barely swerve to avoid a major mishap. Unfortunately, some drivers are not so lucky. We’ve also seen major accidents on the road as you probably have. How can you avoid such a disaster?

Mindfulness can be of great help. Mindfulness is bringing your awareness into the present moment, being fully in the here and now. It’s also being aware of self and others. This two-pronged explanation of mindfulness will go far in helping you avoid catastrophe.

In the construction and healthcare industries, this is of extreme importance. Safety comes first in these arenas. First responders are another group where this is essential. It’s also crucial for safety to be a priority in an individual’s personal life. There are many factors that will compromise a person’s ability to do so.

If you are distracted or doing multiple things at once, this is a set up for disaster. If you haven’t gotten enough sleep or overused alcohol or drugs the night before, you will be impaired. Certainly if you’re using alcohol or drugs in real time, you will not be able to function appropriately or safely. If you are struggling with mental health issues, you will find it hard to focus with less energy. This puts you and others at great risk. It’s just not worth it.

How can you be more mindful and thus, safer? You can create a morning ritual that helps you energize and ground. You can take a fearless self-inventory to gauge how you’re feeling and behaving. You can make a commitment to be more aware and mindful, less careless. You can also reach out for the support you need which may be a medical professional or even a friend or family member.

Nov. 17 - Glimmers

Can you recall a time that you felt downtrodden and then some spark suddenly seemed to lift you? The feeling you were initially experiencing may have been heavy and palpable but quickly you found something that took you in a better direction. Somehow, a cue of some kind swiftly brought you back to a feeling of elevation.

Triggers tend to be signals that elicit negative emotional states such as fear, anger and sadness. Glimmers, on the other hand, create positive states based on internal or external signals. You discern an uplifting message from them resulting in a palpable mindset shift. You have a “glimmer of hope.” The implication being that when you felt hopeless in some way, a person, place or thing created an upward turn of trajectory.

It’s a wonderful experience to break free of stuck, negative patterns, isn’t it? Let’s say you woke up feeling tired and pessimistic about the day ahead. Then you sipped that first warm, aromatic taste of coffee or tea, and it gave you a pleasant respite from your doldrums. Another example would be getting into your car facing a long drive to work but then turning on your radio and discovering your favorite song. Something shifts in those instances, doesn’t it?

How can you experience more glimmers? Be curious about what’s possible. Look around your environment, even if your circumstances seem miserable. Being fully present allows you to experience the opportunities at hand. Set an intention to discover possibilities in the unfolding of your day. No two days are ever the same. Remember, glimmers evoke positive states and elicit hope. It might be something unique to you such as the sound of a child, the feel of an animal or the warm sun on your back. Even though the glimmer itself may be considered small, its power is in giving you a feeling of elevation and elation. When you find a glimmer, savor it. It may transform the moment and mood.

Nov. 16 - Preparedness

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were unprepared for the succession of events? This could have been a small or large event. Perhaps you got laid off or found out you were unexpectedly pregnant. You may have arrived at an event only to find it’s not your cup of tea. You may have taken a trip with a loved one and soon realized you weren’t enjoying the place or your companion as much as you had expected. If so, you’re not alone. These things happen. It’s a part of life. Having a Plan B (and sometimes a C) can be helpful. How can you create back-up plans to reduce your suffering?

Here’s a simple scenario: You’ve been invited to an event, and you have dietary restrictions which you conveyed to the host but find that there’s nothing you can eat safely. How can you be prepared? You may choose to carry snacks with you when unfamiliar with a host or event. You may opt to eat before the event so you’re not dependent on the host following through on dietary needs.

Sometimes being unprepared has more dire consequences. For example, you may have encountered unexpected expenses but hadn’t been saving for this possibility. You might encounter treacherous weather but forgot to bring the appropriate clothes and tools. There are so many unexpected circumstances that show up in life.

You won’t be able to anticipate everything, and nor should you. This can create neuroticism and a fear-laden mind. Some people seem to do just fine flying by the seat of their pants and never preparing for anything. It’s a curious phenomenon. Finding middle ground between these two extremes is where the sweet spot is. Being prepared without falling prey to worry and obsession is a form of self-care and self-respect. You feel that you can trust yourself in uncertain situations. You may even be a model for others and have a positive impact on their own preparedness.

Nov. 15 - Best self

What does it mean to be the best version of yourself? Let’s first consider the worst version of yourself. What does that look like? It may be that you fly into a rage, act out in a jealous way, or isolate yourself from those who care. Perhaps you find yourself feeling less than adequate, mentally scattered, or emotionally overwhelmed. You may feel difficult emotions.

Turn your attention now to the aspects of yourself you feel most pleased about or proud of. Perhaps you’re pleased with your dedication to your craft. Maybe you know yourself to be a loyal, supportive friend. It may be that you are a good conversationalist. When you’re at your best, you may feel like you’re in a groove, like you’re on top of your game. During those times, there’s a good chance you’re more positively focused and your energy is elevated.

Have you ever wondered why some days you feel so good and others so poor? What could make a difference in being your best self or not is your sense of balance or imbalance in various areas. If you’re “off” in one realm of life, it may cause you to feel out-of-sorts and affect other parts of you. If, for instance, you haven’t been getting enough sleep, aren’t eating well, and you’ve neglected exercising recently, your physical realm is creating a dysregulation.

The same is true with other parts of your experience such as relationships, work and finances. So, all of this points to the need to be in equilibrium as often as you can. Being in balance doesn’t mean that each part of your experience must be thriving. It only means that you can attend to what is causing you trouble, while strengthening what is going well.Your best self is not a perfect self. It’s a blend of playing to your positives while simultaneously focusing on areas needed for further development. Seek out others who have strengths in those areas for inspiration, support, and guidance.

Nov. 14 - Summed up as worst self

What is the worst thing you’ve ever said or done? Do you look back over the years and have some regrets about how you handled someone or a situation? When you were at your worst, what were those characteristics? This time in your life may have been in childhood, in earlier adulthood or even last week. It’s true. Even as wise and evolved as we are sure you are, the gremlins within can rear their ugly heads at the most unexpected and inconvenient times. Everyone has had these cringe moments in their lives. It can be uncomfortable to reflect on these times.

Have you ever been summed up by someone by one mishandled event? It may have even been a season in your life when you were trying to figure things out and getting a lot of it wrong. It happens to the best of the best! It’s not fair or just to be summarized by a time in your life when you simply were at your lowest and behaving accordingly. However, it is fair for others to still have emotional residue if you caused them harm. Whether you made amends or never even acknowledged it, other people are human and have their own set of feelings and reactions. In fact, your words or actions may have triggered the worst aspect of their personality. You may be tempted yourself to sum them up by what you witnessed when they were not at their best either. That’s also not fair or accurate.

People are complicated and multi-faceted. Everyone has many layers even if they don’t allow you to witness or access them. This is an important realization. The ego often likes to sum others up by the worst thing another person ever said or did. This gives the brain the idea that it can predict what will happen next which is often an illusion. When you release the need to control external situations and people, you can also ease the need to summarize another person. This offers you powerful gifts – loving awareness, deep wisdom and abiding peace.

Nov. 13 - Swift effect

Are a “Swifty” or a Taylor Swift fan? It seems that no matter where you look, Swift and her music keep popping up. Unlike many artists who began their careers in childhood, Swift has sustained and has exponentially grown her empire. She is here to stay! Not only has she been delivering widespread concerts, she is also in the theatre with a movie of her concerts and a documentary on Netflix.

Whether you’ve been swept up in this phenomenon or not, there are some interesting and uplifting indicators that this pop artist is having a positive impact on the culture’s mental health. Her music offers a feel-good vibe that lifts mood and mental health in a world that often feels heavy and scary. Her work also creates a sense of belonging among her fans, an essential component for positive mental health.

One reason this may be the case is that she both comforts and validates people by expressing and validating the emotional ups and downs of human experiences. Emotional regulation is a key life skill that helps people navigate the disappointments, heartbreaks, and victories that are inevitable. Young people truly benefit.

Taylor Swift has also been a force for intergenerational bonding. Because of her staying power, parents who grew up listening to her are now enjoying her latest music with their children. Now that Swift is dating a football player, even more fathers seem to be perking up and taking interest. Truly, it appears that people of all ages, genders and walks of life have been positively impacted by Swift herself, her inspiring speeches and media comments as well as her musical lyrics and musical mastery.

Whether you’re a fan or not, it’s a win-win to observe positive presences and impact in our world. The brain, heart, spirit and nervous system need breaks from the downtrodden, world-weary tragedies and accompanying messages that are all too common these days.

Nov. 10 - Both feet

Have you ever noticed that having one foot in and one out feels stressful? When you’ve gone in a particular direction but you’re not fully committed, the brain and nervous system experience distress. Indecision is a form of confusion, and you experience a state of unrest, sometimes agitation, when you’re not willing to commit to a decision or direction.

Dialing it in is a colloquium often used for this dilemma. If you’ve said yes to a person, path or party, for example, but you’re unsure if this was right for you, you may think dialing it in is a solution to your indecision. The opposite is actually true in this case. You won’t know if you’ve chosen correctly until you put both feet in to the experience and allow yourself to explore it fully. You can course correct if needed. You can change your mind. You may take a type of loss depending on what you invested in, but losses are often able to be recovered.

People are frequently so afraid to make a mistake or the wrong direction that they stagnate or only commit halfway to something. If you find yourself in this position, below are a few strategies to consider.

First, ask yourself why you made this decision. Was it for you or someone else? Often, if it’s only for someone else, the choice will not stick.

Second, make sure you’re tuning into your intuition or gut instinct. Being quiet and contemplative helps. If you’re only reviewing the pros and cons in your head, you may stay confused.

Third, give yourself permission to commit even if you’re not 100% certain this is correct for you. It’s a natural part of life to have uncertainty.

Fourth, if you find this was a mistake, give yourself and others grace and take a new course of action. How you frame the experience in your mind, to the positive or negative, will make a huge impact in how you feel and trust in your choice-making in the future.

Nov. 9 - Life lessons

Recently, Wall Street icon Byron Wien died. Prior to his death, Wien penned 20 life lessons he learned along the way. One of them started with “when someone extends a kindness to you, write them a handwritten note, not an e-mail.” Others like author Kevin Kelly have learned that “listening is a superpower.” Perhaps you know various lessons stated from other famous people.

Were lessons directly passed on to you by parents, grandparents, other influential ancestors, or family friends? Perhaps a coach, teacher, or mentor shared a statement that began with, “what I’ve learned in life.” How have they influenced the trajectory of your life?

What have you learned based on your life up until this moment? Typically, to integrate a lesson, you must actively and repeatedly attend it. Let’s say, you have always impulsively spent money when you suddenly came into a large amount. You’d “blow it” every time, resulting in a depressed, discouraged feeling. Your takeaway lesson may have been, “When coming into financial abundance, it’s best to pause, enjoy it, and plan how to effectively utilize it.” That lesson can be passed on to your loved ones and others.

Life lessons are valuable on at least two fronts. First, they enable you to live a more skillful life for your own enjoyment. Secondly, your life lessons hold significant value for others. There’s a tendency to think you’re not wise enough, famous enough, or wealthy enough to have meaningful life lessons for others, but in fact, you are.

Each life, including yours, contains treasures for the person experiencing them firsthand and for other people who can potentially benefit. Take a moment to write down three life lessons you’ve learned to date. How have these allowed you to have less pain and more pleasure? Might these be worth passing along to others you care about? Your impact on others is probably greater than you think.

Nov. 8 - Radio signals

While many of us marvel at the technology of laptops and cell phones, radios remain an amazing device. Think about how there are sound waves available in the atmosphere, and all it takes to translate them to your radio signal and a way to tune into what’s already there.

It essentially works the same with the human mind. What you tune into gives you a specific result. So, the question becomes, what are you tuning into? Are you directing your attention to gossip, fear and past mistakes of yourself and others? Or instead, are you paying attention to positive messages, the best qualities of others or things for which you’re grateful? How you’re managing your mental signals makes quite a difference, doesn’t it?

Consider your body as an example. If you regularly tune into “what’s wrong” with it, you accentuate what’s not working well. Naturally, you want to attend to any physical issues you’re experiencing, but it’s equally important to play to your strengths. At this very moment, your brain is translating these words. Your heart and lungs are receiving a signal from your brain to operate. Taking time to rejoice in your amazing body takes you to a higher state and empowers you.

The same is true with relationships. Where are you presently focused? If you frequently tune into “what’s wrong,” you’ll cultivate resentments. Yes, address issues as needed. But see if you can attend more to what you appreciate in others. You’ll likely see better results.

Remember, the human mind tends to reflexively focus on potential threats in the environment. It does so to protect you from harm, but it can also be detrimental in various respects if overdone. A great barometer for discernment is to notice how you’re feeling. Repeatedly feeling bad may give you an indication that you’re tuned into negative sources. Tune in to a positive station more often to feel better and yield good results.

Nov. 7 - Speed of life

Have you ever had the experience of moving from a slow steady stream to a fast-moving river? It can be a bit overwhelming if you’re not prepared or expecting the change, can’t it? You might fear that your boat will capsize, especially if it’s a radical change. This is also a potent metaphor for life.

Have you ever been coasting along in life, feeling pretty content and in control, only to be bombarded with sudden changes? These changes might be positive or negative, but the onslaught can be startling. Perhaps you’ve experienced the slow stream as boring. Maybe you weren’t content but unsure how to move the needle forward to create the positive movement you desire. This can be equally distressing.

You may have experienced the opposite where life seemed to be in a powerful surge of positive momentum, and you felt capable and confident of riding the waves skillfully. You were enjoying the adrenaline and the exhilaration. All of a sudden, things slowed down. You might have a decline in your mood or even low self-regard. You may think you did something wrong to create the slower pace, especially if you were enjoying it.

Are you aware of when you feel your best – during slow or fast times of life? When have you experienced both, and when has it served you well? When did you struggle with the pacing of events around you? Life is unpredictable, and change is constant. Learning to make friends with the idea of ambiguity and uncertainty will help you navigate the varying speeds and changes that are constantly occurring. You can then allow yourself to let go and be carried by the current while simultaneously directing your own boat along your desired path. This mindset and inspired action allows you to feel more calm, confident and capable with the twists and turns that are inevitable. Once you relax into the speed shifts, you may even find that you enjoy the variety life provides.

Nov. 6 - Ghosted

Have you ever been ghosted? Do you know what it is? It’s a relatively new term that refers to dating when one person abruptly cuts another off without a warning or explanation. It can also be applied to friends, colleagues and family members. Some people prefer to ghost another because they are conflict avoidant. Some do not feel adequately adept at having difficult conversations so they simply vanish. This type of behavior often stems from narcissism, immaturity and passive-aggressiveness.

Ghosting behavior can feel emotionally abusive to the person on the receiving end. It brings up feelings of confusion, rejection and abandonment. If you have a history of these dynamics, it can be particularly harmful. Many people blame it on themselves, explaining the behavior as something being wrong with them. Even when a person on the receiving end reaches out to inquire about the disappearance, they are often met with silence.

Are there times when ghosting is appropriate though? Yes, indeed, there are. If someone is abusive, hysterical in their reactions or stalking you, you must take steps to take care of yourself. Some people will not understand your reasons for ending the relationship and will not accept no for an answer. When these people have been given boundaries by another, they often take it as an affont. They frequently will plow right over the boundaries. If you’re a kind who doesn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, you may stay in unhealthy relationships because of these dynamics.

If you find yourself being ghosted by someone, it’s best to let it be. If you’ve reached out to have a conversation and are still being met with silence, be respectful of yourself and move on. When someone doesn’t value you, it’s a vexation to your personhood to chase it down. Feel your feelings and seek people who do value you. This is optimal self-care.

Nov. 3 - Being good

Were you taught to be a good little person growing up? Do you remember needing to raise your hand to speak or being taught to follow the rules? How might this affect you now as an adult? Can being “good” be overdone? We often witness this in our work. This pattern then becomes a liability.

For some adults, this type of conditioning toward compliance impacts their career trajectory, relationship dynamics and choices around finances and more. If you grew up in a family that taught you it’s your obligation to serve them, you may find it difficult to ask for a raise at work now. If your needs and desires were often put to the back burner earlier in life, you may struggle to speak up for yourself. You may suffer from worthiness issues.

Many people overly compromise themselves because making waves or having conflict is painful to them. This is often called going along to get along. Unfortunately, this becomes a widespread mindset and behavioral pattern that continues in various situations. They often believe that others’ needs and wants are more important than their own. They lose themselves in the process. We’ve seen dynamic contribute stress, anxiety and depression in people.

If you find yourself in these situations, we encourage you to start doing a few things differently.

Practice using your voice in easier situations so you can build that muscle to use when more difficult ones come along. Practicing ahead of time can help.

Practice a superhero stance. Creating a posture of strength and confidence conveys a message to your brain about healthy self-esteem.

Take an inventory of your relationships. Do the people in your life support you being authentically who you are? Or do they encourage you to compromise yourself because they benefit in some way? You deserve to live your precious life in a way that is aligned and congruent with your deepest needs and desires.

Nov. 2 - Hugs

Not everyone likes to be hugged. Many do, though. There is a human need for connection in many forms, including physically. If you are reluctant to hug others, you have that right. Perhaps you feel satisfied with connecting with other people in other ways.

If, on the other hand, you are someone who enjoys physical affection, you’ll enjoy what world-renowned family therapist Virginia Satir said about hugs.

She said, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 hugs a day for maintenance, and 12 hugs a day for growth.” That’s a lot of hugging! Not everyone agrees with the amount of hugs a day, even for survival. Satir, the “Mother of Family Therapy,” made the point that it’s essential for human beings to connect.

Do you remember the “Free Hugs Campaign” that began in 2004? Juan Mann of Sydney started what later turned out to be a world movement simply by planting himself and a “free hugs” sign in an Australian mall. Slowly but surely, people began approaching him for hugs. Some thought he was asking for a hug, so they offered one. Others accepted his free hug and confided in him very personal issues such as depression and cancer. An uplifting video remains on YouTube.

The global response indicated a deep desire for human contact. The free hugs campaign apparently gave people permission to meet that need. For many, there is a felt, pleasant connection when they give or receive a hug.

If you would like to receive more hugs, ask those who you know and trust. Be open to possibilities with others. During a hug, notice the warmth you experience. Be aware of the other person’s reaction.

If you are a hugger, remember this: not everyone wants to be hugged, so ask them first if they would like a hug. With flu season, as well as concerns about COVID-19 at hand, respect others’ boundaries and protect yourself, too.

Nov. 1 - Breakups

Have you ever gone through a breakup? Are you able to remember what it felt like? Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end, it’s never fun. Many people still vividly remember their first heartbreak because that type of emotional pain is imprinted in the brain. They often tell us that they remember the exact words spoken to them, the music that was playing and the clothes they both wore. The brain often stores painful, negative events, like a breakup, to ensure it doesn’t happen again. For most people, however, it does — even for the person initiating the decision to part ways.

Why does it impact the initiator of separation so terribly? Although it’s that person’s choice, there are a myriad of reasons for this. Along with this decision comes guilt, potential regret and even compassion for the other person. Guilt arises for some because they know it’s going to hurt someone else, and they don’t want to cause pain to another human being. Potential regret surfaces because they don’t want to make a mistake. Some people ask the question of themselves: “Is this is as good as it gets?” If so, perhaps they shouldn’t move forward with the decision they think to themselves. Compassion is often felt because there is a kinship with this person and perhaps even a flame of love at one time. Now, the tides have turned, and the flame has been blown out. It’s tough for everyone involved.

If you are considering breaking up with someone, here are some steps to make it as painless as possible for all involved. Have the conversation face to face. Reflect on the positives of this person because it’s definitely a self-esteem hit. Be as honest as possible and appropriate. Try not to assassinate their character or attack them for shortcomings. This can do much damage to another person, and it isn’t good for you either. Do it sooner than later. Have courage and rip off the band-aid. It’s better for everyone in the long run.

Oct. 31 - Give and receive

Life is a give and take affair, an in and out experience. Sometimes though, you may try to hold on with an iron grip to what you have. Are you good at holding your breath? If so, you naturally know you can’t hold it forever. You breathe in oxygen, but you can’t keep it for very long, can you? In fact, relatively quickly, your blood carbon dioxide level will reach a critical point and you’ll be forced to exhale.

While this probably seems like an elementary and obvious mechanism, this is applicable to more complex examples such as finances and work, relationships and health. Let’s say you are financially sound. It only makes sense that you would want to preserve that stability. It’s a wise decision. However, you know you can’t hold onto every bit of your resources. You have to buy food, pay for services and other expenses. A money flow is part of the equation.

We tend to grab, grip and glom onto what we presently think we have, not fully realizing that it must flow in some way. Giving and receiving is part of the process. Here’s another example. You may have a wonderful relationship with your children or other young people in your care. You want to nurture and protect them within reason, but somehow you know that they will grow up. You can’t keep them to a certain age. But the good news is they may flow back a gift of connecting with you in an adult way later by having dinner together or another event.

Life is never really static nor stagnant. The question becomes: how can you flow better with the shifting sands that continuously take place?

Where in your current life can you loosen your grip? How can you let your relationships, health, career and finances breathe just like in the example of inhalation and exhalation? The more you can acknowledge the inflow and the outflow of any part of life, the more you can access joy, peace and freedom.

Oct. 30 - Chain of pain

Are there particular issues that you have that your parents or others in your family tree also experienced? Maybe you struggle with financial issues. Perhaps specific health problems are at hand. It could be that you have difficulty with relationships. Have you ever found it interesting that you may have some of the same challenges as your parents or others had?

Sometimes, there is a chain of pain that is passed down generation to generation, largely unwittingly. This is not at all to judge anyone or to assume that there weren’t positive aspects. In fact, let’s face it. Without your ancestors, you wouldn’t be here right now. So, honoring the positives is important.

However, addressing the negatives is equally essential. If you are experiencing a painful pattern that you’ve seen in your ancestors, you have an opportunity to break the chain of pain. Even if it seems daunting, you have the ability to take it step by step to transform habits or beliefs that result in your suffering.

Don Miquel Ruiz, teacher, and author of “The Four Agreements,” refers to our ancestral book of law. These are things we learn when we are young that we come to believe as truth. Some of those ideas help us, and some hurt us.

In mindfulness you learn that when you take time for yourself, you are better able to help yourself and serve others. However, you may have been taught self-care is selfish. Similarly, if you were conditioned that being perfect should be your aim, you will suffer greatly. Humans are imperfect. You can shoot for excellence but focusing on perfection causes neuroses.

Breaking the change of pain may have to do with beliefs around money such as “in our family, we’ve always had trouble saving money.” If you buy into that belief, you buy into trouble. To break the chain, you can adopt and practice a new belief and create better conditions for yourself.

Oct. 27 - Compulsive talking

Effective communication involves a flow, a give and take between parties. While it may not be a perfect 50/50 balance, there should be room for both people to speak. Wouldn’t you agree?

Have you ever been held captive by someone who is talking non-stop? Often, the recipients of compulsive talking feel trapped, frustrated and overwhelmed. Over-talking is a dysfunctional habit. For some, it is a form of control. For others, it speaks to insecurity, perhaps a type of social anxiety. There could be various reasons. Usually, it’s not looked upon as a pathology in and of itself.

Do you over speak? Why do you think that is? Have you experienced poor results with others because of this compulsive tendency? The good news is that you can begin practicing the skill of pausing and listening right away. This will very likely provide you with much better outcomes.

WAIT is an acronym used to help. It represents a simple question: Why Am I Talking? The answer to WAIT can be interesting. Are you talking to provide information? Is it to fill the communication space because you are uncomfortable with being quiet? Does it give you a sense of importance and control?

If you bring your awareness into any conversation, you can better monitor the balance of talking to listening. Being mindful in the moments of a dialogue can give you more control and connection. If you fill the “dead air” with your voice or interrupt others, it’s a sure-fire way to diminish the dynamic.

Here are some suggestions to implement during conversations:

  • Adjust your breathing to a slower pace
  • Bear in mind the WAIT acronym
  • Ask a question instead of speaking
  • Reflect back the essence of how they answered instead of immediately saying what you wish to convey
  • Applaud your progress when you’ve succeeded.

Oct. 26 - Peculiarities

Have you ever been described as peculiar? Maybe you’ve characterized others in this way? While it often has a negative connotation as in “strange” or “odd,” it can also be a synonym for “interesting” or “unusual.”

For many people, growing up was a time of wanting to fit in and be a part of a group. Some compromised who they were in order to do so. Belonging is a strong psychological drive. It’s a strategy to feel safe and loved. However, this aim can backfire on you. When trying to fit in with a group, you can often diminish or abandon your genuine self. This can create a decline in your mental health and well-being.

What would it be like to own your peculiarities? You are a unique individual and not meant to assimilate into group think. When you prevent others from seeing and knowing your authentic self, you rob them (and yourself) of your special attributes. No one else is walking the planet now or ever has or will be that is put together in the distinctive way you are.

What would it be like to honor others’ peculiarities? Can you find the goodness and magic in their quirkiness? Are you willing to be curious about their idiosyncratic ways? We find peculiar people, mannerisms and tastes often quite charming and interesting. The world would become quite a boring place if everyone were to choose to be the same as others. We make progress as a society when diverse perspectives and experiences are brought forth when it’s in service of the highest good. Everyone benefits even if they disagree.

Some positive ways to begin describing “peculiar” people are uncommon, spectacular, exclusive, exceptional, out of the ordinary, remarkable and exceptional. Moving forward, you can choose to assign more positive, encouraging and compassionate labels to people and behaviors that are different from you. You then get to bask in the richness of the rare and beautiful.

Oct. 25 - Fun theory

More than likely there is a part of you that is playful, creative and enjoys having fun. Is that right? Have you ever noticed someone who ordinarily seems gruff and grumpy can move out of that mode when they find something amusing or fun? An obvious shift takes place. How you perceive your environment, and its conditions, makes a huge difference in how you feel and respond.

The Swedes know that fact about human beings. They performed a clever and successful experiment based on the “fun theory.” This theory states that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behavior for the better.”

So, in Stockholm, engineers created piano stairs near an escalator to encourage people to get more exercise. Each stair produced a piano sound. The results were that commuters were significantly more likely to choose the stairs over the escalator when the staircase was a piano than when it was a regular staircase. People become fascinated when something seems fun. They become motivated to build better habits if playfulness is part of the process.

This brilliant experiment is spreading like wildfire. Places like Auckland, New Zealand; Melbourne, Australia; Milan; Istanbul; and Sao Paulo have already replicated this experiment successfully. This demonstrates the universal appeal and enticement of fun.

Too often, adults take themselves seriously. Much of our culture focuses on a sense of impending doom. As a result, there is a collective energy of fear. This causes the nervous system of so many people to remain on high alert, which is no way to live. While it’s prudent to be aware of real threats, filling your consciousness with ongoing, fearful images and constantly being serious is not healthy. Definitely NOT fun!

What makes you laugh and take a lighter view of things? What do you consider fun? The good news is that you can indulge in your own brand of fun. The great news is that you can begin now.

Oct. 24 - Let it RAIN

What can you do if you find yourself in the throes of unhealthy behavior such as perfectionism, rage or codependency? How can you more skillfully manage your thinking and behavior to obtain better results?

Psychologist and mindfulness teacher, Dr. Tara Brach came up with a shorthand formula to both interrupt and change the target behavior. She suggests the acronym RAIN. So, identify a pattern you strongly wish to transform, and apply her RAIN formula to it.

R-Recognize that it is happening (awareness)

A-Allow the pattern to be there, as it is without indulging it (acceptance)

I-Investigate the underlying reason for the pattern (rational thinking)

N-Nurture with self-compassion.

Consider this example. Let’s say you are prone to being argumentative. Perhaps you’ve struggled with this for quite a while. You truly wish to shift away from this pattern because you see the suffering it causes you and other people.

The RAIN approach is undergirded with self-compassion. This is because berating, criticizing yourself won’t serve you in terms of change. In fact, it is likely that that very approach will lock in the negativity you already feel about the long-term habit.

Use positive reinforcement to solidify new responses. In other words, if you reward yourself for your progress, you will naturally want to continue forward.

You will need to be creative in how you reward yourself. One method we enjoy is pressing an easy button. Are you familiar with this device? When you push through a difficult part of the process, you press the easy button. An audible “that was easy” message is activated. This psychologically reframes what you previously thought was so difficult. Other rewards are equally useful.

Reflecting on the RAIN steps gives you power to transform the things you struggle with the most.

Oct. 23 - Reinvention

Do you ever feel stuck? Have you dreamed of a different life or of being a different person? Do you look at others’ lives enviously because they seem so much more fun and suited for you than yours? If so, you’re in luck!

Wherever you find yourself, you don’t have to stay there. You can choose to feel, act and be different. You can begin in this moment. Imagine who the people are that are living lives that you’re feeling curious about. Who are they? What do they say and do? How do they feel? Study them. Learn about them.

You can reinvent yourself anytime you choose. Now, we know that you have responsibilities that you simply can’t walk away from. We understand. We do, too. But within those confines, can you make some shifts? Perhaps it’s throwing away your t-shirts with holes in them? Maybe you venture out and make a new friend or try a new activity. You might decide to learn a new language or skill. Do something – anything – different to change the trajectory of the course you’re on if you’re not happy with it.

Many people tell themselves the story of being a stuck when they have the key to open the cage. Often, this is self-imposed suffering and limitation. Sometimes it’s been conditioned by generations before. Regardless of the reason, you can put your hands on the steering wheel of your life and make a change. You’re in the driver’s seat. This can be very scary and requires courage. Stepping into uncharted territories and the unknown always does. You and your precious life are definitely worth it, though. Changing can be inconvenient, awkward and even lonely, but not changing can also bring much grief, defeat and stagnation.

Find others who are or have made changes in their lives. Learn from them. Tune out the negatives that create stress and anxiety. That will only hold you back. Become the you that you were meant to be.

Oct. 20 - Monk mode

Have you ever known a monk or spent time in an ashram? The serenity these people exhibit may seem other worldly and out of reach to you. In this noisy, fast paced, hectic world, being calm and grounded can seem close to impossible. But it’s not. You can call up your inner monk or switch into monk mode whenever you feel it would be beneficial.

If you’re a person that is quick to anger or easily impatient, you may unknowingly be limiting what you’re capable of in triggering situations. Although bad habits can be quite strong in the mind and nervous system, you can intervene.

First, give your inner monk a fun name. This keeps it playful. Adults can be too serious and heavy handed with themselves when working toward personal growth. This sabotages them. Then imagine how this person would perceive a difficult situation and how they would respond. Practice accessing and utilizing your monk mode when the opportunity arises. Consider how this persona walks and talks, how they feel and behave, and the results they enjoy.

Another successful strategy is to learn from monks or those who have trained themselves in this way of being. You can do this by spending time in these environments, reading about them or watching YouTube videos.

Jesse Itzler, entrepreneur and husband of Spanx founder Sara Blakely, enjoyed an extensive time with monks and wrote about it. The name of his book is called “Living with the Monks,” and it’s quite an enjoyable read. Thich Nhat Hanh, one of our teachers, has multiple books available as well as some powerful YouTube videos and audios. Michael Singer also has a fantastic read, “Untethered,” that you may find helpful on your monk mode journey.

Whether it’s people, situations or your own internal dialogue that trigger you into an aggressive, agitated being, you have the ability to alter if you truly choose to do so. Everyone benefits including you.

Oct. 19 - Athletes

Are you watching football, baseball or soccer this season? Were you involved in sports growing up? Did you or do you have loved ones playing sports? It’s quite a commitment, isn’t it? If you truly want to excel, it requires a lot from a person. Even if you’re the parent or guardian required to get your athlete to practice and games, it requires a lot from you. Shout out to all the sports parents out there!

We are currently deep into travel baseball season with our nephew/godson which will then transition into school baseball. We’ve also been involved with basketball and football over the years. And we do enjoy a good SEC football game! How about you? What’s your relationship with sports? The good, bad and ugly?

Athletes in the limelight have spoken out recently about the pressure competition places on them. From Simone Biles to Michael Phelps as well as Naomi Osaka, they have spoke publicly about the toll it takes on their mental health to focus as diligently as required to excel to the level they have. They pave the way for our youth and future athletes to not allow the pressure of the game to outweigh their own mental health and well-being.

With that being said, there’s much that can be learned from athletes. The focus, dedication and hard work put into their chosen sport is admirable. We can all ask ourselves the question if we are as focused, dedicated and hard working when it comes to our own personal and professional goals. Do you put in the time and effort required to achieve the results you want? It’s also a mindset, isn’t it? You must believe in yourself and your vision. You must trust in your capabilities at that golden hour. If you’re on a team, it’s essential to cultivate camaraderie and community to build trust and respect. As you enjoy your sports this season, reflect on all that you’re witnessing on the field or the screen.

Oct. 18 - Breaking destructive patterns

Have you found yourself frustrated and unable to break a lifelong harmful pattern? It may be that you find yourself in a negative, unfulfilling relationship or situation. Do you tend to sabotage yourself in personal or work relationships?

Beliefs, coping skills and behavior patterns become hard-wired in your psyche early in life. There’s an expression in psychology that neurons that fire together, wire together. When a pattern is learned and repeated enough, it unconsciously becomes part of your personality. This is not easily unlearned as you move into adulthood. In fact, it’s fair to say that for many people, they find themselves living in the same atmosphere as adults as they did when they were growing up.

To be clear, they are not trying to recreate unhappy circumstances but somehow, they do. Why would someone do such a thing? Generally, it’s because you repeat what is familiar even if it’s destructive.

By no means is it a hopeless situation. On the contrary, if a person is determined and highly-motivated to get out of the pain they or others are suffering, it is not impossible at all. guidelines we recommend are:

  • Get clear on how your early life dynamics have directly influenced your current dysfunctional behavior. This is not about parent-bashing. Understanding the why of your behavior and its connection to your current reality is exceedingly helpful.
  • Take responsibility for your own feelings and behaviors. This step is not to make yourself feel bad and cause punishment. This part is key as you are the only one you can control.
  • Set an intention for how you would like to be. What does it look like? This becomes your North Star. You want to orient your internal compass daily to what is a better way of being.
  • Practice, practice, practice.
  • Be compassionate to yourself and others in the process.

Oct. 17 - Healthcare suicidality

In an eye-opening study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Sept. 23, 2023, it was found that physicians died by suicide at a rate greater than the general population. Furthermore, the research study documented that nurses died by suicide at a higher rate than doctors and healthcare support members at nearly twice the rate of the general public! It’s heartbreaking and alarming.

In this study, as well as in our work, we’ve discovered many factors causing increased mental health pressure in healthcare: COVID-19 and its sudden, ongoing veracity starting in 2020, understaffing, compensation issues, compulsory overtime, mandatory on-call status, poor stress management skills, inadequate budgets, defensive medicine requiring more time and documentation and many other variables. Healthcare workers are people and are vulnerable to mental health decline. They are imperfect beings just like the rest of us.

When a person dies by suicide, they have arrived at the conclusion that there is no viable alternative for them. Often, once they’ve made the decision, they seem peaceful and pleasant. We understand this as professionals and personally as a close family member died by suicide some years ago.

Share your appreciation with the healthcare professionals in your purview. It’s true that they get paid for their services, but frequently their underlying care is their key motivation.

If you are a physician, nurse, technician or other health support staff, we encourage you to live the admonition “physician heal thyself.” This means caring for yourself thoroughly first, before those you serve. And if you, the reader, are struggling with depression and suicidality, you too must seek support.

September was Suicide Prevention Month, but this is a concern every month. Simply contact 988 today for the National Suicide Hotline for confidential support for you or a loved one.

Oct. 16 - Remote working

Are you or a loved one in a remote workforce? It’s a very different way of working for many corporations, leaders and employees. There’s a vortex of conflicting opinions out there about its benefits and challenges, and the jury is still out. The Netflix CEO says that he sees nothing positive emerging from working remotely while the Walmart CTO reports that his organization and employees are truly thriving in the new world of remote working. Research is showing conflicting data as well. What have you experienced as a person in the workforce?

We believe that there are pros and cons to almost anything. It’s not just cookie cutter, and one size does not fit all. It depends on your industry, your particular workload and work style as well as your individual temperament as to whether you will thrive in this type of environment or not. Different generations tend to have conflicting preferences and perspectives as well. Is it conditioning or wisdom? Time will tell.

The metrics of performance and results will need to change for organizations pursuing remote working. No longer are employees exchanging dollars for hours but instead focusing on results. Measuring the outcomes will call for organizations to revamp how they perceive high performance and lack thereof. Certainly working solo at home requires discipline and dedication. Some personalities and temperaments fare well with this and some don’t.

Some things to consider if you are a remote employee, leader or workplace:

Recognize employee contributions – This is a driver of employee engagement and essential for individual and organizational success.

Foster social interactions – Find the fun, and honor the humanity in your peers and teams.

Encourage dedicated workspaces – Every person needs a sanctuary where they can focus on the work at hand away from the family, pets and other distractions.

Oct. 13 - Feel to heal

Have you heard the phrase “feel to heal?” Or perhaps you’re familiar with the concept of emotional bypassing? It’s a very common pattern in people to attempt to circumvent their emotions. Why? Emotions can be inconvenient, painful and awkward.

It’s essential that you feel your emotions in order to heal them. If you’ve had difficulty in the past, as most humans have, you may have unresolved emotions. These emotions go underground and drive your decisions and behaviors. Your body also takes a hit. This is why somatic therapy has become so prevalent these days. Somatic therapy of all types works within the body to identify and process emotions. You have more neuroreceptors in your body than your skull brain so many emotions are housed in the body and are negatively affecting you at the organ and cellular level.

First you need to recognize what is happening within you as well as your patterns. Next you need to investigate the emotions you may be feeling. Take an honest and thorough self-inventory to understand yourself at a deeper level. Denial causes further difficulties for you. They don’t like the feeling of vulnerability by acknowledging their humanity. They prefer to pretend or deny. This pattern causes more damage than it does good. In psychology, we identify this as “false bravado.” People fare much better when they release this pattern.

Many people tend to think their emotions rather than feel them which keeps them stuck. This is a form of emotional bypassing as is denial and avoidance. Feeling your full human emotions doesn’t mean you’re weak. It actually takes courage and strength. You can do this type of work while also remaining grounded and centered. Emotional bypassing dishonors who you truly are. When you take a leap of courage into this messy terrain of emotions, you become more comfortable with all of who you are and that is true personal power.

Oct. 12 - Sides of a story

You may have heard the expression that no kids grow up in the same family. If you have a gathering of family and stories are told, isn’t it interesting that there are very different views of how life was in childhood? Sometimes at such events, people say to one another, “you must have grown up in another family.” Each person remembers from a first-person perspective.

In legal proceedings, eyewitness testimony can be tricky and at points unreliable. Let’s say you have two eyewitnesses recalling the same identical accident. While the essence of their remembrances may be similar, the particulars may turn out to be quite different. This leads to the obvious predicament of what the actual truth is. This is not an indictment of families nor our legal system, but it is to illuminate the idea that there are different sides to a story.

This takes us into the pitfalls of right or wrong judgments about others. In Mindfulness, it is said that judgment is the sword of the ego. You have to hold open the possibility that other views may be accurate even if they differ from yours. By taking an open mind, particularly in familiar relationships, you lessen the odds of unneeded conflict. Remember, that what you are observing at any point is only part of the truth.

In real life moments, it’s challenging to remember that, especially if you are stressed or in the throes of an acute issue. See if you can truly see the situation from the other person’s perspective. What’s the other side of the story? Could they be at least partially right? Could it be that you have incomplete information? This doesn’t mean that your view is necessarily wrong. A skillful approach in dealing with a difficult matter is to be open mentally to what you may not know. You can lead with words like “my understanding is” or “the way I remember it.” This bridges any possible information gaps and leads to solutions.

Oct. 11 - Wrong turns

Have you ever been the driver or a passenger in a vehicle and unexpectedly found yourself lost, off-track from your intended destination? Understandably, you can become confused in the stream of vehicles. You can find yourself at a wrong exit or perhaps caught off-guard, suddenly realizing you aren’t headed in the right direction. It’s only human to make a wrong turn as a result of congestion, poorly marked lanes, or simply not paying close enough attention to the road. You can make a wrong turn.

In traffic, if you make a wrong turn, you have choices. You can proceed in the same incorrect direction, or you can pull over and ask for directions. In other words, you can continue going an erroneous way and thereby make matters worse, or you can seek help in turning your vehicle in the proper direction.

Have you had the experience of making a wrong turn in a relationship? It may be that you said something damaging to another person or acted in a careless manner. Did you lose your temper? It dawns on you that you are off course. When that happens, you can find yourself feeling lost, unable to skillfully and quickly course correct. So, what do you do if you’ve made a wrong turn in a relationship? You can ask for forgiveness and make a concerted effort to behave differently as you move forward. You can’t undo what’s been said or done as it’s in the past, but you can improve your present circumstances and focus on making the future better.

If you’ve found yourself on the receiving end of bad behavior, you have options. You can overlook or deny it. You can make a wrong turn in how you react or seek revenge. You can fight fire with fire, which usually results in more fire. You can wisely pause and reflect. You can set a boundary using precise, thoughtful words. You can walk away. You get to decide what will get you and possibly the relationship back on the right track.

Oct. 10 - Takeaways

Think about the times you’ve read a good book, seen a wonderful movie, or attended a motivational class or keynote. You may have found yourself uplifted, inspired and driven to apply some concepts or practices.

Remember when you were in school growing up? Regardless of your enjoyment or lack thereof, you probably didn’t put all the teachings to use. You may not be able to remember all the history you learned, but you may recall some key points and be able to appreciate the past. How might previous schooling have impacted your perspective, choices and behaviors now?

The application of philosophies, notions, and beliefs is not easily assimilated wholly. Sometimes, people are frustrated because they can’t remember all of what was conveyed, even though they may have enjoyed learning the material.

Photographic memory is a rare thing, so there’s no need to put undue pressure on yourself. In fact, it is estimated that only 2%-10% of children have eidetic memory and virtually no adults! Placing high expectations on yourself to digest, remember and then execute the entirety of what you’ve learned in an educational experience is a disservice to yourself. It is nearly impossible.

Instead, consider the idea of takeaways. From any single experience, you can focus on what you are taking away for immediate or future use. Let’s say you have participated in an inspirational event. Think about one or two nuggets of wisdom or information you’d like to apply to up level your life. It could be as simple as centering your mind in a positive direction each day or initiating one form of exercise daily.

If you try to apply too many concepts or institute an excessive number of physical changes all at once, your mind and body will likely rebel. It slams on the emergency brake. On the other hand, if you can apply one takeaway consistently, you may reap pleasant results.

Oct. 9 - Break the mold

Have you heard the phrase “break the mold?” What comes up for you when you hear that? If someone directs it at you or a loved one, does it conjure positive or negative feelings? Does it help you feel elevated or diminished? Have you ever been inspired to do that?

Depending on the communicator’s perspective and agenda, it can have a different impact for different people. The definition of breaking the mold is “to put an end to a restrictive pattern of events of behavior by doing things in a markedly different way”. Some people admire the behavior of breaking the mold and branching into uncharted territories. Others are more apprehensive. Where do you find yourself? What were you taught growing up? What examples have you witnessed?

When Jamie Kern Lima, author of “Believe It” and founder of IT cosmetics, was told she was not attractive enough to sell makeup to other women based on her weight and appearance, it hurt her deeply as you could imagine. After she bounced back from multiple years of repeated rejections from the industry, she found herself feeling even more determined and resolved to break the mold in the beauty industry.

Eventually, she went on to sell IT cosmetics to L’Oreal for $1.2 billion and became the first female CEO in the company’s history. Her early career path began as a waitress at Denny’s restaurant. She broke the mold. She was a pioneer. She was rejected multiple times by the experts in the beauty industry. As Jamie often says, “You’re not wrong. You’re just the first.” She has since helped many people.

Don’t allow the outside world to convince you that your ideas and vision are wrong. Even if no one else has done it before, don’t believe that it can’t be done. Jamie Kern Lima’s second book, “Worthy,” will be released in February 2024. Consider the young people in your life who need some inspiration and motivation that would benefit from reading both of her books.

Oct. 6 - Games people play

What types of games did you enjoy playing as a child? Were you involved in sports? Did you enjoy playing solo or with others? How did you respond to winning and losing? What does competition bring up for you? What did you see others modeling? How do you think these games may have shaped you into the person you are today?

Games you played earlier in life undoubtedly impacted your developing persona. From hide n’ seek to spin the bottle, your game experiences affected you. Reflect back on your favorite times with gamess and consider why they were so meaningful to you. Who was involved? What were the dynamics? What was required? What was the objective?

Do you still play games now as an adult? Many people enjoy the camaraderie of game nights. From trivia to bingo, you have a lot of choices. Having the opportunity to join others in innocent games can help reduce loneliness, improve cognitive acuity and boost mental health. Adding laughter to the event releases feel-good hormones. If the games you enjoy are more physical like pickleball, tennis or paint ball, you also receive the benefits of exercise.

Many games are all in good fun, aren’t they? They provide a way to engage others and enjoy fellowship. Some adult games, however, are not so fun. Psychological games that some people play can have a detrimental impact on those around them. There are many types of unhealthy dynamics in this category. A few include gaslighting, stonewalling, devaluing, gossiping, criticizing and triangulating. Each of these types of games are perpetrated on others because the initiator doesn’t want to be authentic or honest. It’s aggressive or passive-aggressive manipulation. When encountering these types of difficult relationships, it’s important to set clear boundaries and speak up for yourself.

Seek out people who enjoy games that uplift and elevate others. Remove yourself from those who cause harm.

Oct. 5 - Change phrases

Do you find yourself saying “I have to” very often? As adults, it can be an easy rut to fall into. When you use this phrase though, it creates a mental and emotional attitude of hardship. The task at hand can feel like drudgery depending on how you describe it to yourself. This can quickly become a bad habit that doesn’t serve you. What if you rephrase it to something more positive? You might say “I get to” or “I choose to.”

Although every act or responsibility you’re engaging in may not feel pleasant or inspiring, consider other people who would jump at the chance to do that very thing. As humans, we can become quickly acclimated to the blessings in our life and begin to perceive them as chores. For example, if you need to pressure wash your home, it might feel time consuming or exhausting. If you reframe the situation in your mind and heart, you might be able to feel gratitude that you have a home to pressure wash. You may be aware of others who don’t have the same blessing.

Another strategy that can help with reframing your mind and heart is to consider the you of yesteryear. Would the person you were five or ten years ago be delighted that they get the opportunity to do this activity? For example, your spouse may request that you pick them up at the airport. Airport traffic may cause you much stress. However, if you didn’t have this partner several years ago to even make such a request, your past self might relish the thought.

When people are tempted to complain about their situation, we encourage them to look at it from a different lens. What if this opportunity were taken away or never occurred at all? This can help you move into a more positive mindset. This shift doesn’t mean that you completely invalidate some of the thorns that accompany certain situations. However, it does encourage you to admire and respect the blooms and growth that the situation offers.

Oct. 4 - Scope creep

Have you ever had the experience of being asked to do something only to soon realize the scope was much larger than originally described? This can happen in the workplace when more is being asked of you in a shorter amount of time than was originally discussed. It can also happen in your personal life. An example might be when a friend asks for a simple favor that grows exponentially into much more than originally indicated.

You may have good-naturedly agreed to something personally and professionally but didn’t ask enough about the details. You may have even assumed that the request meant a certain thing, but the person making the request had a different idea. Assumptions can create misunderstandings. Sometimes people simply pile on to the original request in hopes that you won’t mind or won’t notice. Other times, people may intentionally mislead you. The other person’s agenda isn’t always clear. Scope creep happens in a variety of ways for many different reasons.

The best way to prevent this from happening to you is to be sure you ask good questions even if the answer seems obvious. Don’t be concerned about looking foolish for asking for clarification and feedback on what you’re understanding.

If you find yourself in the midst of scope creep, it’s beneficial to have conversations with the people involved. Let them know your understanding of the original request and how it looks different now. Be clear about your boundaries and needs. It’s important to be clear with yourself before you have conversations with others. If it’s a difficult person to approach, practice verbally with a friend or coach. You may even want to record the conversation so you can hear how you are conveying your message. It takes courage to have these conversations sometimes, but you will preserve your mental health and well-being when you do. You’ll most likely feel proud of yourself too!

Oct. 3 - Self-preservation

Protecting yourself is an essential part of what it is to be human. The response of shielding yourself from harm or death is an instinctive one.

Preserving your life is a natural desire. This instinct may be demonstrated in a variety of ways such as removing your hand from a hot stove, avoiding a dangerous place, or locking your doors.

Self-preservation is clearly triggered by pain. In fact, without some degree of pain or fear, you may not survive. Pain and fear draw your attention to people, places, and things that threaten you in some way. If, for example, you were in an accident or suffered some type of trauma, you would naturally avoid those situations that brought you the suffering associated with it.

Self-preservation becomes more complex and nuanced when it comes to personal connections. Let’s say you are in a relationship with someone who repeatedly treats you poorly. Your life may not be at stake, but you realize that your joy is regularly stolen from you. Out of a sense of self-preservation, you may have to exit that relationship. It gets quite complicated when you love someone but realize you can no longer tolerate the toxic environment.

Sometimes self-preservation can get a bad rap. In certain situations, it can clearly be out-of-balance. For instance, in an organization where layoffs are being considered, leaders and others can find themselves in a “me first” mentality instead of fairly considering the needs of everyone. If you have an “it’s me or them” mindset, your objectivity is lost, and it places others’ self-preservation in jeopardy. Where is the line?

If you give and give until you give out, all of the plates you are spinning will fall. Ultimately, self-preservation is essential for you in fulfilling your purpose and destiny. By preserving yourself in balance with the needs of others, you grow to become the best person you can be.

Oct. 2 - Bookends

Each day we have many experiences and opportunities of all kinds in its 24-hour span. Wouldn’t you agree that how you start and end your day has a significant impact on everything in between?

Let’s begin with your mindset upon awakening. Do you usually tend to have an “oh no, another day ahead” way of thinking? Your initial perception is foundational to the rest of the time following. If you look at the unfolding time as cumbersome, you are likely making things more difficult than they need to be.

What is your state of mind at bedtime? Are you looking ahead to the next day with a sense of dread or even resentment? Do you find yourself in a trance looking at social media or entertainment until you fall asleep? We’ve found, in our experience, that most people have some type of challenge at either end of the day.

If you look at how you want your days to improve, we suggest bookending your days with some small tweaks.

In the morning, contemplate the following questions:

What am I grateful for today?

How would I like my day to flow?

What is one way I will take good care of myself today?

How can I be of service to someone?

The answers to these simple questions can cause an upward trajectory for you. Answering these questions can be accomplished in less than a minute.

Right before bedtime, consider the following questions:

What do I appreciate from today?

What was something humorous I experienced?

What is something encouraging I observed?

How would I like my sleep and dreams to be?

By regularly bookending your days with these questions, you’ll begin to notice positive qualitative changes in your life. You’ll feel happier, calmer and more empowered.

Sept. 29 - Waiting

Hurry up and wait. For some people, that way of thinking serves as a daily mantra. They tend to find themselves constantly frustrated because in a world of humans, you are bound to have to wait.

Waiting is a lost art. If you observe people in grocery store lines, you know that waiting is not preferred. Have you ever jumped out of one line and into another only to find the second line takes even longer than the first?

It seems that for many of us, we’re going, going, going. And a steady sense of pressure appears to accompany that going experience. Do you have great difficulty practicing patience when things are not moving quickly enough?

How well do you do in traffic jams? How about in airport lines? And then there’s the doctor’s office. Unexpected waits can be a real challenge to those with little patience. But you can be assured that there are some situations where waits are expected. One example is Atlanta traffic. It’s no surprise that construction, accidents, flat tires and other issues are likely going to cause you to wait.

In our Mindfulness retreats where the environment is calm, some participants become frustrated as we wait for everyone to return from breaks before we continue with programming. We consider it good practice for everyone, including us.

Of course, we realize that others who are constantly late can be a problem that needs to be addressed. But in general, it’s helpful to understand that a great deal in life requires waiting. What if you were to make peace with that idea? There’s a good chance you’d have less tension.

In situations where you can predict long waits, accept them as best you can without complaint. Complaining only makes it worse. Make peace with it. And when those unexpected waits occur, if there’s nothing constructive you can do, take some nice long breaths and turn your attention elsewhere.

Sept. 28 - Sensitivity

How much sensitivity is the right amount? Have you ever gotten feedback that you’re either too sensitive or not sensitive enough? Feedback is an interesting thing, isn’t it? It’s often based on projection. It may have more to do with the person offering the feedback than the recipient. However, feedback does have its merits. It may be foolish to ignore it, especially if you’ve received that same information repeatedly. Ultimately, it is up to you to examine its content and determine its validity. It’s also up to you to choose what you will or won’t do in response.

If you’ve been told you’re too sensitive, this can feel like it invalidates or belittles your feelings. You have a right to your experience and interpretation even if others don’t agree or understand. Sensitivity can even be a gift. It’s often associated with empathy and heightened intuition.

However, it may be true that it would be helpful to you to learn to navigate the difficulties that life presents more skillfully. The world is often a messy place. It doesn’t always show up in a nice, neat package. The good news is that you have self-efficacy. You can utilize tools that help you feel more grounded, insulated and at home in your own skin. Exercise, or movement, is a great place to begin. Being around others who bring you joy more frequently is another positive strategy. Spending time in satisfying activities will also offset the tougher times when they do arise.

If you are someone one has been accused of being insensitive, this may be a growth edge for you. You can improve by softening your responses. You can also slow down your responses. Sometimes the knee jerk reaction can come across as brusque. If you’re in a hurry or preoccupied, your responses are more likely to be interpreted as curt. Be mindful when you engage in conversations, especially ones you already know might be a sensitive topic.

Sept. 27 - Baiting

Have you ever been drawn into a conversation you didn’t want to be in? Have you ever told someone you preferred not to talk about something but ended up in an uncomfortable dialogue anyway? This happens often because you were baited. These conversations can revolve around any topic from politics to religion to family dynamics. Insults are another form of baiting.

Some people enjoy the challenge of pushing boundaries and having difficult conversations. Unfortunately, some personalities delight in seeing you become baffled, disturbed and uncomfortable. This gives them a strange sense of power. They have the experience of gratification, dominance and control over you. It’s an unhealthy dynamic but one that occurs frequently. Narcissists are notorious for this type of behavior, but other people engage in it too. It happens to the best of us, but you can be more prepared in the future if you find yourself in this situation.

Here are a few strategies you might find helpful:

First, be clear within yourself about what your boundaries are about certain topics.

Then, communicate those boundaries to others. You may even need to reiterate them right before you see or talk to them.

If they still move forward toward discussing tough topics or putting forth jabs or barbs toward you, don’t retaliate. Be assertive and let them know you will not proceed any further. Retaliation often only serves to excite the baiting perpetrator. Your reaction is often their reward.

If they continue, you may need to walk away from the conversation.

Know that people often will lash out toward you in anger if you have a boundary and refuse to be baited. The relationship can take a turn for the worse. At this point, you will need to decide if you need more distance from this person for your own well-being. Let your own sense of peace and joy serve as your north star.

Sept. 26 - Hero/shero’s journey

Have you ever noticed that the standard template for many books and movies is similar? Much of the story is based on the idea of the hero’s/shero’s saga. Typically, it works like this: there is a person who sets out on a journey, adventure or occupation of some kind; they encounter huge trials and tribulations; they overcome those obstacles emerging victoriously, and they finally return home as a hero/shero.

This concept in modern times was illuminated by author Joseph Campbell. He famously defined this ancient theme in three stages: departure, initiation, and return. The overarching theme is struggle and strife ultimately leading to triumph.

Think about compelling television shows, movies or plays with this theme. More alternative shows and books don’t always end in success — as can be the case in life. Nevertheless, many professionals hook the attention of people by playing into the hero’s/shero’s journey. Audience members, readers or potential buyers tend to feel inspired when they hear a tale of victory. Perhaps it cultivates hope in them. Maybe they somehow feel they, too, can be a victor. Are you more moved by someone who has overcome great odds to succeed than someone who hasn’t?

It’s natural to look to others as a hero, a conqueror of overwhelming odds. Perhaps you have been that person. In the struggles you are currently encountering, you can access your inner power to rise to the occasion. This means coming into your alignment in the present moment and seeing yourself as brave and powerful. Your assessment of yourself is paramount to how you face the current problems in your life.

You don’t have to be a movie star or social media sensation to be a hero. Many people who have endured trying times and traumas have risen to the challenge, and ultimately succeeded. Perhaps you have been more resourceful and resilient than you realize.

Sept. 25 - Entrainment

Have you ever been walking with someone soon to discover you were in lock and step? Perhaps you were engaging in the same stride, even though your style of walking differs. People who drum in groups often notice this same phenomenon. Although each player may have started with different beats and syncopations, they soon find themselves all playing the same tempo and tune. This is often called entrainment.

It’s easy to become hypnotized by what’s happening around us, even the subtleties. People often tell us when they visit a new culture, they find themselves speaking similarly to those originally from the area even if they’ve never used that dialect or language previously. Sometimes they don’t notice it themselves. Someone else points it out to them.

It’s easy to drift into harmonic resonance with the environment that surrounds you. Understanding this principle can work to your betterment. If you currently find yourself more often in environments that are displeasing, you can intentionally begin to change that. You acclimate to the environment you’re in.

Begin considering your purpose and vision for life. What do you desire for yourself? Who do you want to become? How would you like to show up and move through the world? What groups of people are already doing that? What environments are they in? What activities do they engage in? Once you identify these, you can begin to put yourself there. You can put yourself there in your imagination and in person. The brain doesn’t know the difference between real and imagined

We encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and begin exploring the above. Be intentional and focused as you proceed. Being consistent in following through with your desires moves your forward. Before you know it, you will find yourself in harmonic rhythm with people, activities and environments that bring you joy and fulfillment.

Sept. 22 - Helping in crisis

As wonderful as life can be, and often is, a majority of people will encounter a personal crisis of some kind at some point. How do you support them in their hour of need?

Understand that medical professionals, first responders, counselors and many other professions require the ability to respond effectively to the crises of others. As skilled as they may be, their work isn’t cookie-cutter. They must recognize that each person is unique for a variety of reasons. Therefore, helpers build into their skill set a recognition of how differently individuals respond to a crisis.

There is a plethora of crisis situations: death, divorce, accidents and many more. Since many of these events are sudden and unexpected, the level of shock experienced is often severe.

We have been on both sides. We have needed assistance for personal tragedies. We have also been honored professionally to provide care to others.

There are many approaches to helping people who are experiencing a calamity. Here are some guidelines that may assist you in helping others in need:

  • Check-in with them. Your visible show of support at the outset and later is of monumental importance.
  • Be present and listen to what they are expressing. Giving advice is often not helpful in initial crisis stages unless there is a threat to their safety. Your loving presence is a gift.
  • Know that there are times when there is no apparent solution to a particular problem. For example, if someone is experiencing a loved one’s death, you are limited in fixing the situation.
  • Support them in finding resources. There are counselors, clergy, the Red Cross and community support agencies for nearly every kind of crisis.
  • Practice your own self-care. Without a sense of balance, you can find yourself succumbing to your own set of symptoms.

Sept. 21 - When you’re sick

Do you recall times of being sick in your life? It often feels as if it is never ending in these moments. Sometimes it even becomes difficult to remember times of well-being. Not feeling well can also color your perspective of things, making life seem gloomier than it actually is.

How are you supposed to navigate illness effectively? Many people were not taught this skillset. Having taught mindfulness for two decades to cancer patients and their families, we’ve learned a lot from these brave people.

In mindfulness, one of the teachings is to practice acceptance, even of sickness. Won’t that make things worse? If you focus on something deem to be unwanted, won’t it amplify it? Actually, it won’t. Acceptance brings states of relaxation and spaciousness. It basically means acknowledging the current circumstances of the moment as it is. This reduces stress and speeds your recovery process. It improves immune system functioning. It is different from resignation which may look more like living in defeat.

Some other mindful and mind-body strategies that have been shown to be effective when you’re not feeling your best are listed below. Dr. Bernie Siegel, author of “The Art of Healing,” supports these strategies.

Breathwork – Practicing deep breathing engages the parasympathetic nervous system allowing you to experience deeper relaxation.

Visualization – The brain doesn’t know the difference between what’s real or imagined. Use the time and space to imagine positive possibilities for when you do feel better.

Laughter – Norman Cousins reports that he healed himself of heart disease by locking himself in a hotel room and watching comedy reruns. Find ways to lift your own spirit, that make you smile and even laugh out loud.

Be your own best friend in the process. No one wants to be sick. It’s a part of your humanity.

Sept. 20 - Getting triggered

Do certain things tend to trigger you? Perhaps it’s bullying or a bad driver? It might also be rude people or someone not listening to you. The world is full of opportunities to getting triggered. The thing is though, that getting triggered doesn’t feel good. Why? You step out of your personal power. You’re losing your peace and joy based on an external circumstance beyond your control. In Mindfulness, we teach that there is the pain of life and then there is self-imposed suffering. Getting triggered is suffering.

How then do you prevent yourself from falling prey to this? It’s true that sometimes you can get blind-sided. You didn’t see an event or conversation coming. Other times, you may have the same dynamic occur over and over again. If this is this case, you have an opportunity to prevent this from happening. You know it’s a possibility if you continue to put yourself in the same situation repeatedly. For example, if you have a relative who always wants to discuss a triggering topic with you, you may choose to set boundaries with that person. You may choose to request the topic be off limits. If they can’t respect your request, you may decide to not have a conversation with them at all. You have choices. Sometimes they are difficult to make. People may not like or understand your choices. It may feel awkward for you and them.

Another option is practicing non-attachment. This takes practice but can be done. You can be with a person or situation without being negatively impacted. In order to have your best shot at being non-attached, it’s important that you’re in a good space yourself mentally and physically. If you’re tired, worried or having physical symptoms, it will be easier for these externals to affect you. Do some things proactively to help you feel clear, strong and grounded like breathwork, movement and participating in joyful, satisfying activities.

Sept. 19 - Appreciation

What you appreciate appreciates. If you appreciate someone in a relationship with a compliment or in some kind of demonstrable manner, you strengthen the relationship. You increased the value of the connection. A chief complaint with intimate partners is that they feel unacknowledged and unappreciated. This issue is relatively easy to correct if there is regular recognition given to one another.

Being appreciated feels good, particularly when it’s unexpected. Acknowledgement doesn’t require extravagance although it certainly can. It may be as simple as a smile or a hug. Being seen and understood is a desire of a great majority of people. How do you feel when you are seen and understood?

How would you rate yourself in terms of sharing your appreciation with those you love or work with? If you find yourself lacking in giving acknowledgement, what is the obstacle? It may feel awkward to be vulnerable, but it could be well-worth it to overcome that awkwardness with someone you care about.

How about work situations? Does giving appreciation to those you work with seem too touchy-feely? Exit interview research shows that countless employees leave their jobs not necessarily because of pay issues but because they feel unappreciated.

If you recognize clerks, wait staff, baristas, and others in your daily world, you will make a positive impression on them. When they cross paths with you again, there’s a very good chance that they’ll likely acknowledge you in return. It’s a win-win.

Have you had the occasion when someone unexpectedly appreciated you? Perhaps you felt a warm glow and were boosted. Be assured that others you bestow appreciation on probably feel the same way. If you survey your everyday activities, you have so many opportunities to shine your light on what is good in others. Where will you share your appreciation today?

Sept. 18 - Storytelling and archetypes

Did you love stories as a child? Perhaps you recall someone reading to you or you reading to yourself? Maybe it was a story from a movie or play that caught your attention. Did you enjoy making up stories as younger person? We recall the children in our lives asking us to read or watch the same stories over and over. It continued to delight the young people we raised.

Stories are everywhere. They are in books, movies and plays. They’re in conversations. They’re also in marketing and branding. People often consume a product or service because the background story is appealing to them. As professional speakers and teachers, we’ve learned the power of telling a story to elucidate a didactic point because it sticks more with the audience. People remember the story and that helps them remember and apply the principle. Stories also help people find meaning, solve problems and feel validated and understood.

The ancient art of story telling has been around since the beginning of time. You can find archetypes in every story. The exploration of archetypes dates back to Plato, and was popularized by Dr. Carl Jung, a Swiss psychoanalyst. Archetypes can be described as ideas, patterns and characters usually appearing repeatedly across cultures and symbolizing something universal in the human experience.

Some common examples of archetypes include the hero, the rebel, the jokester, the villain, the lover and many more. Notice which archetypes resonate most with you. What characters have been your favorite? What connects you to this particular persona? What are your favorite types of stories? Have they changed over the years? Psychology suggests that identifying the answers to these questions will help you grow in self-awareness and understanding. It may also help you understand those around you better. What movies or books do they enjoy repeatedly? Is there a particular story theme?

Sept. 15 - Timeouts

Were you ever placed in timeout as a child? While it probably wasn’t fun, it may have given you a different perspective, at least temporarily. The timeout was designed to stop the trajectory of unacceptable behavior. For at least a short time it probably redirected your energy.

As adults, we are called to monitor our own behavior. It’s up to you to adjust your energy and behavior as needed. If you push too forcefully in one direction, the results may not be favorable. Let’s say you have an important goal in mind. Dedicating yourself and focusing your mind on a goal is a positive strategy. But if you hold on too tightly, you can unknowingly squeeze the life out of it.

Relationships, work and other aspects of life including goals all require space. If, for example, you drive too single-mindedly in your work without rest and relaxation, you are apt to burn out. If you push too strongly in a relationship and don’t allow breathing room, you inadvertently create sizable problems.

Sleep, meditation, vacations, restful days, active listening, and play time are all examples of creating space. These are direct forms of self-care and self-regulation. Do you regularly integrate these or other space-giving practices in your life?

What does it mean to create space in a relationship? It may be as simple as doing less of a behavior. For instance, if you’ve been told repeatedly by a friend or relative that you don’t really listen to them, you can alter that behavior by paying attention without distraction when they are speaking. Those kinds of tweaks give room for the relationship to grow and possibly flourish.

There are parts of us as humans that could use a timeout so that positive transformation can take place. It may be a blind spot for you. What type of feedback have you received? What areas of your life could benefit from a regular timeout?

Sept. 14 - Dilemmas

Being on the horns of a dilemma essentially means having to make a choice between two difficult or unpleasant things. Have you ever found yourself in that situation and really didn’t know which way to go?

Human beings generally move toward pleasure and away from pain. What do they do when they find themselves in two situations that both seem undesirable? Many do nothing. But no decision is a decision. Sometimes that can be a wise choice. More often, it’s not.

Let’s say you need to pay your taxes right away as you’re at the deadline. But your only vehicle needs to be repaired right away so you can drive to work. Given your circumstances, you know of no current resources. How do you navigate that dilemma? The option of doing nothing in this case doesn’t seem smart.

One thing you can do in this example is to seek wise counsel from someone you trust. This takes a great deal of vulnerability as it involves finances. But you’re at the eleventh hour so time is of the essence. Since your adviser is more objective, they may see an option you are unaware of. Options suddenly emerge because you were willing to step out of your council of one (yourself).

Often, when some people find themselves in a bind of some kind, they ignore the situation or procrastinate making a choice. That only prolongs the inevitable. On the other hand, there are indeed situations when selective stalling or watchful waiting are called for. You have to make that call, and it may not always be right.

In the end, even if you seek guidance from others or wait for additional details, it still comes down to your making a move, and the best decision based on the facts. Write out a pros and cons list and consider the various options. Once you’ve done that, place your hand on your gut and listen to your instincts. Take a few moments to connect with your own wisdom and inner guidance.

Sept. 13 - Releasing road rage

Recently on WSB radio’s Mark Arum show, the topic of road rage was being discussed. In the last week, there was an alarming incident here in Metro Atlanta where a van blocked another car on an exit and the other driver was threatened with racial slurs and invited to fight. Are these types of incidents increasing?

According to a USA Today report, road rage injuries and deaths have nearly doubled between 2018 and 2022. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration cites that about 80 percent of drivers operate their vehicles with significant levels of anger. Don’t those statistics give you pause before you get in your car?

The causes for road rage likely includes stress, pandemic aftereffects, and other variables. But a simple explanation is this: in the moment that verbal threats, provocative gestures, and physical intimidation take place, a safe boundary has clearly been crossed.

If you find yourself victimized by another driver, do your best to be non-reactive in the moment. Breathe. Drive to a safe, populated place. Call 911. Fighting fire with fire will only escalate the intensity of the situation. Instead, be calm. As too many have learned, it’s not worth injury or death.

If you are a road rager, consider this: in addition to road rage being a crime, you are endangering many other innocent people because your anger is out-of-hand. Is the situation that you feel provoked about worth the loss of life, the impact on your loved ones, and incarceration? You have choices. You can take a breath and turn your attention away from the source of your anger. You can count to one hundred, pray, make a quick gratitude list, or anything else that will effectively help you reduce your anger.

As a driver you must become clear that you cannot control other drivers, only yourself. Can you be a safer, more considerate driver beginning today?

Sept. 12 - Wake-up calls

Have you ever been in a hotel or motel and received a morning wake-up call? For many, that’s a comforting feeling knowing they will be taken care of.

On the other hand, have you had another type of wake-up — the kind that alarms you in an unsettling way? If you’ve found yourself in the throes of a life-threatening illness, you can’t ignore the state of health at hand any longer. Maybe a loved one became seriously ill, and you were suddenly confronted with the transitory nature of their mortality. Perhaps a friend passed away without warning. It may have shaken you to the core. Those kinds of wake-up calls elicit a radical shift in perception.

Numerous people suffer financial losses, divorces or their homes being destroyed. Those kinds of shocking circumstances cause their reality to shift, likely in a lasting way. They cannot return to the way things formerly were because the change in their consciousness is so profound.

Sometimes wake-up calls are less dire but still impactful. Maybe you tended to mindlessly drive too fast but then you caused an accident that could have seriously hurt another person. You woke up. You amended your driving habits and corrected those past patterns. You changed because you saw life from a radically different perspective.

What kind of feedback are you currently receiving in your life? You don’t have to end up in a hospital because of poor self-care. You can avoid bankruptcy by practicing prudent financial habits. You can circumvent the loss of a close relationship by being thoughtful and loving. You can overcome a performance improvement plan at work by diligently stepping up. Not all wake-up calls are avoidable, but many are.

Most of all, you can have a better life by owning and attending to your personal issues. You can be a better version of yourself and evade a negative, and perhaps unnecessary wakeup call.

Sept. 11 - Promises

Unkept promises are like balloons without a strings. There has been an assurance of some kind given, but it hasn’t been met. A promise has been made, but no real follow-through has taken place. Practically, this is an empty promise.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of such a scenario? How did you feel when you were promised something like an item, an experience or a change in someone’s behavior and it didn’t happen? Chances are you may have felt duped, foolish or angry. Repeated empty promises often result in deeper feelings such as hurt or hopelessness.

Sometimes, other people get consumed with and succumb to forgetfulness, old behavior or overwhelm. They understandably have fallen short on their promises. It’s good to give grace to others when you can. However, ongoing patterns need to be addressed for your own well-being. This calls for verbal statements and healthy boundaries on your part.

Have you ever been guilty of not fulfilling a promise? Perhaps you even solemnly swore, but you didn’t make good on that assurance. Your intention may have been sincere, but your promise was not executed. What were the implications for the other person?

If you wish to improve in this area, reflect on these tips.

  • Refrain from promising something you realize you can’t deliver. Be aware of people-pleasing if that is one of your tendencies.
  • Be honest and transparent. Promise only what is realistic and doable for you. It’s better to under promise and over deliver.
  • Write down reminders. It’s helpful to be prompted about the items that most matter.
  • Provide ongoing communication with the other person. This gives the other person real-time information on your progress, and it gives you momentum.
  • Get ideas from others who are successful. Ask for help if you find yourself stuck.

Sept. 8 - Serene ambition

Do you consider yourself serene or ambitious? Perhaps a bit of both? Many people don’t think these two adjectives go together, but they are an effective combination to reach your goals while maintaining well-being. Ambition is not a synonym for aggression. Some people who are perceived as ambitious are also seen as aggressive, but this is not true for everyone. It also doesn’t need to be that way. Some people are calm, compassionate and ambitious. They are lit up by their vision.

Focus, peak performance and productivity function at a much higher level when your mind and body are peaceful and grounded. You’re better able to access clear thinking, make good decisions and communicate effectively with those around you.

It’s a misnomer that you need to sacrifice your mental health or physical health in order to achieve other goals. When you are mentally and physically strong, you can leverage your time, energy and efforts.

Below are some strategies to maintain your serenity while also ambitiously reaching for your goals.

- Plan your days, including when to take breaks.

- Do the hardest items when you typically feel your best within a day. Some people procrastinate the more difficult tasks only to give a halfway attempt when they’re not at the height of their energy and focus. Others try to tackle all hard things first thing when they may not be optimal in the morning.

- Practice well-being strategies proactively and consistently. Don’t wait until you feel stressed and overwhelmed to invest in your well-being.

- Seek out accountability partners who understand your position around serene ambition. Your tribe is out there seeking you as well. Everyone won’t understand this concept because they lean heavily into one area or the other. You can have both. Reinforcement from others is a powerful strategy to stay on track with your well-being and reaching goals.

Sept. 7 - Mud, light, lotus

Do you ever feel like your tires are stuck in the mud? Unable to move forward in any direction? The mud-like sensation can stem from many things – exhaustion, loneliness, insecurity, stagnation, lack, confusion, resentment, stress, burn out and more. Some people also call this being in the valley, like they’ve hit bottom in their lives. Unfortunately, some people end up having these experiences and feelings every day. While it’s common to have episodes like this in your life, it’s not healthy to live in the mud. Recognize where you find yourself. Don’t normalize it or chalk it up to “this is just the way it is.”

What can you do when you find yourself in this place? Like the lotus flower which grows in the mud, reach for the light. Reach for a higher, more fulfilling state and experience. The light can take many forms. It may be friendship, fun, creativity, being in service, spiritual or contemplative practice, non-attachment, love, or learning new things. The light is whatever inspires and uplifts you in that moment. It may also soothe you. Different moments call for different types of light.

When you teach yourself to reach for the light in your darker days, you are teaching your brain and body to strengthen resilience. Don’t we all need resilience these days? While we each have a certain amount of strength and mental toughness, we also have vulnerabilities. If you’re not taking care of yourself on a regular basis, you will be more prone to the negativities that may emerge in life. Resilience helps you bounce back stronger and faster.

Don’t define yourself by the mud. That’s not who you are. It’s a transitory state or an external circumstance. Don’t attach to it as your final reality. Remember, that’s not the ending of your story. Feel the feelings while in the mud, and then adjust your focus towards the things you experience as light to give you a boost forward.

Sept. 6 - Truth and lies

Should you tell the truth in every circumstance? When might it be okay to tell a lie? Is telling a white lie the same as telling a big lie? Have you had the experience of speaking the truth only to be met with anger, resentment or rejection? Have you ever been caught in a lie? That can be extremely awkward, can’t it?

Do you recall the famous line in the movie, “A Few Good Men”: “You can’t handle the truth!” This phrase spoken by Jack Nicholson’s character Colonel Nathan Jessup, has been repeated in jest by many since the movie was released in 1992. In the movie, though, his lies and coverup created devastation and trauma for all involved. There are certainly times when people act with deceit, and it causes tremendous damage.

Are there also circumstances when this famous line rings true? Are there times when the truth would cause even more damage than covering it up? Some people report that they’ve kept traumatic experiences they’ve gone through from loved ones because they felt it would be too difficult for them to digest. Some tell us that the people in their lives are too vulnerable, sensitive or even too young to know the full truth. What do you think? When we speak to people who have been adopted, for example, most are happier when their adoptive parents tell them the truth about their biological origins. Of course, everyone is different. One size doesn’t fit all.

Historically, groups of people have intentionally hid the truth from authorities to protect the innocent and persecuted. In their hearts and minds, this was the right thing to do. It was even noble. Life is complicated and messy. Generally, humans are trying to do the best they can with the conditions life presents in the moment. In hindsight, you may feel positive about your choices to tell the truth or to not. It’s not a cut and dry process, and we must each live with the decisions we make.

Sept. 5 - What, why and how?

When there’s something you want, you know what it is. You are likely even aware of why you want it. But often the question becomes: how am I going to get it?

As you move through life, you naturally desire certain items, experiences and relationships. What is it you currently want? Maybe it’s a connection with a certain person. Perhaps you yearn to create a unique, marketable product. It could be that you’re inclined to travel to a long-for destination. Whatever it is, that’s clearly your “what.”

Your “why” is key to your success. Your why drives you toward your goals. If it’s weight loss you desire, for example, your why may be because you want to be healthier. Without a strong “why” your “what” of weight loss will likely go unrealized. Many people fall short of their goals because they don’t have compelling reasons undergirding their desires.

Once the “what” and the “why” are established, the “how” motivates you. How am I going to attain this goal? What do I need to get this?

Mindful living largely involves how you approach life and the conditions unfolding before you. Your mindset and corresponding behavior can boost your happiness level or cause it to decline. Let’s say you have a significant relationship that is in jeopardy for various reasons. You truly want to work through the issues because you love the other person. Your “what” is preserving and growing that relationship. Your “why” is your love for them and a strong desire to develop that relationship further.

So, here’s the deal: how are you going to approach this relationship moving forward? You cannot change what has happened up until now. Will you be more kind in your words and actions? Can you be more skillful in your methods with this person? Mindful living calls you to examine how you approach life. If you find yourself currently feeling stuck with what you want, consider your “how.”

Sept. 4 - Personal metrics

Do you use metrics in your personal life to determine if you’re making progress on a goal? If so, what are your favorite ones to use? Some people believe wholeheartedly in metrics while others feel that the use of them can feel oppressive.

Let’s look at the example of weight loss and other health goals like eating healthier and exercising. Research shows that when you track your behavior in a journal or on an app, you will more likely reach your goals. The act of recording your daily behavior holds you accountable. Some people report that simply knowing that they will have to record it makes them want to engage in better behaviors. It helps them succeed.

Working on financial goals is another opportunity to use metrics to track your success. Many people use a spread sheet to look at how much they’ve saved, spent, invested and gifted each month. Others use a simple notebook. Do what you feel is most comfortable.

Meditation is another behavior where many apply a personal metric. People report feeling satisfied when they see they’ve meditated daily as they intended. It becomes more complicated, though, when you want to measure changes in the brain state or health as a result of the meditation. There are some exciting new metrics on the horizon through the work of Dr. Joe Dispenza and others in this field. There are many positive implications for the impact on mental, emotional and physical health.

When people consider a big goal, they are often standing on the starting line envisioning crossing the finish line of success. That can feel intimidating and overwhelming to some people. Their focus is on going from 0 to 100. Instead, focus on going from the start line to the 10 yard line, from the 10 line to the 20, and so on. Do what needs to be done to achieve mini-metrics to build momentum. Metrics can be an ally on your journey. Choose and use them wisely for best results.

Sept. 1 - Lights on

Don’t you love the feeling like the lights are on within you? Have you had the good fortune of experiencing the brain powerfully firing fantastic ideas? People feel capable and empowered when they’ve figured out how to avoid the brain fog that beleaguers so many. How are they doing that?

Your gut is known as your second brain. What you’re consuming and how it impacts you affects how you feel and perform. Many try to consume sugar and caffeine as way to energize themselves, but it often backfires. It might help you feel like all the lights are on for thirty minutes or an hour. However, the crash is inevitable and you end up feeling worse than before you ate or drank the sugar or caffeine. Some research shows that a certain amount of caffeine can kick your brain into high gear while other information in the literature suggests that it confuses the brain. There’s a vortex of conflicting opinions, and you have to be your own investigator. How do certain foods, drinks and even supplements impact you?

Experts also agree that getting enough movement and exercise affects whether your brain fires the way you’d like. When you’re not participating in these consistently, you will most likely feel lethargy. There are various exercises available to you based on capabilities and limitations. There are many videos on the internet that can guide you. It’s super hard to be creative or productive when your energy is low. These two behaviors are often underestimated and overlooked.

We know that doing things that bring you joy help you feel and perform better. Being overly serious or responsible eventually will drain your energy. Making time for laughter and playfulness will also renew and restore you. You’ll return to the task at hand with a reinvigorated brain that is more equipped to tackle the project with enthusiasm. When you invest in your health, it repays you with high performance.

Aug. 31 - Essentialism

When is it just too much? Do you ever look around your environment and feel suffocated by all the stuff? When you’ve accumulated things year after year without releasing some, objects pile up. When you keep adding activities to your schedule without having downtime, you can burn out. Saying yes to everyone and everything is a form of people-pleasing. It can also be a sign of codependency. When you have too much noise in your life and not enough peace and quiet, you can feel inundated and overwhelmed, unable to think clearly.

Essentialism was a term coined by one of our favorite authors, Greg McKeown, who wrote a book by the same name. He took a courageous step in his own life to examine where he was saying “yes” to people, things and activities when his true self wanted to say “no.” When you give yourself away to the agendas around you, you lose your way and eventually begin to feel fragmented and off balance. You lose yourself. People report feeling a sense of malaise when they’ve been engaging in this pattern. Malaise can ease into depression.

Greg was able to begin clearing his schedule of many activities that seemed urgent but ended up being superfluous in reality. He upset people in his life. They didn’t like nor did they understand. This is bravery. In our work in leadership, we call it the “stand alone” competency. You must release yourself from needing validation in order to experience true and abiding freedom.

Friends and colleagues of ours have downsized homes and office to create essentialism. They’ve bought smaller homes with less stuff. They shop less frequently. Many hang nearly nothing on their walls to enjoy the spaciousness of that aesthetic. They say they feel more free and peaceful. While you may not want to emulate what they’re doing, you may want to consider what would work for you. How could a dose of essentialism serve you and your highest good?

Aug. 30 - Smoke and mirrors

Are you a fan of magic tricks? Were you in awe as a child while watching a magician pull a rabbit out of the hat? So many children feel exhilarated when the seemingly unthinkable happens before their very eyes. There’s a child within all of us as adults that still enjoys being thrilled and delighted with magic.

As adults, however, it’s not so joyful when illusion impacts your personal and professional lives. Has anyone ever convinced you of a reality that seemed to be too good to be true? In your optimism, you may have bought into the story someone was spinning. It feels like quite a betrayal when the truth is revealed, especially if you’ve based life decisions on that tall tale. We see this happening in many aspects of life. Some people are experts at making the unreal seem plausible.

It’s an interesting and eye-opening perspective when the veil of illusion is lifted, and the truth becomes more evident. It can be disappointing and dashing at first, and that makes sense. If you bought into the smoke-and-mirrors narrative, you may feel duped and foolish. You might also reassess the integrity of the person or people who conveyed the embellishment or sometimes, outright lies.

We see this phenomenon happening in relationships, workplace, finances, health remedies, and more. Remember Bernie Madoff? He was so charming and convincing that that many people invested millions with him, only to lose their entire life savings. Devastating!

As Don Miguel Ruiz suggests, it’s skillful to be open-minded but discerning. Trust your gut instinct. Ask more questions. Don’t take the glitz and glamour of what someone is presenting as truth immediately. Most of us have been deceived at some point in our lives, so there’s no shame if that’s happened to you. Make a commitment to yourself moving forward that you will be a good steward of your time, money, energy, resources and personhood.

Aug. 29 - Honesty

Is honesty always the best policy? Are there times when it’s better to hide the truth? Is withholding a partial truth different than the full truth? Have you ever had a friend ask you if a clothing item looked good on them, and you felt uncomfortable offering your true opinion? Have you ever been put in the position of someone asking what you thought of the person they were dating? This can be awkward if you have a low opinion of the person or even bad experiences with that person. If you know something about the person your friend is dating or even married to, should you tell them? Is it better to let them find out for themselves. We’ve all heard the saying, “Don’t hate the messenger. Hate the message.”

Many of you have chosen to be the messenger for a friend or family member only to be met with hostility. The truth can be inconvenient and difficult. Your good intentions, or even protection of another, is met with anger and misunderstanding. This may prevent you from being honest with others in the future. Of course, some messengers approach with only their perspective and not any facts based in reality. They may have a bias in what they are relaying to you. Some people offering you “their honesty” may be steeped in jealousy, pessimism or projective identification. They may be operating from a personal agenda that you’re not aware of. People have all kinds of reasons for giving feedback on your situation. Sometimes their opinion or position is not the truth for you. They may put it in the context of being honest, but ultimately, you are the one who must ultimately decide and discern what the truth is.

You may make mistakes. You may get hurt, betrayed or burned. You may make a fantastic decision and be grateful you listened to your own gut instinct. Accept the messiness that arises in life. Operate with integrity and responsibility, and you can be proud of yourself even when you misstep.

Aug. 28 - Psychology of color

Are you aware of how color affects you? Are there certain colors that resonate with you more than others?

Many experts suggest that color impacts your mood and behavior. They will intentionally use color to elicit a certain feeling or action from others. Professionals in the marketing and branding field believe wholeheartedly in color psychology when they are selling a product or service to you. Are you aware of the colors in an ad or environment when someone is trying to persuade you?

Dr. Carl Jung first began looking into the psychology of color and its impact in the 20th century. He wanted to understand how it might help his patients make positive movement toward their therapeutic goals. In the yogic tradition, color is often used as an effective tool in the eastern healthcare modalities. There are specific colors associated with different parts of a person’s physical and energetic body. This is often discussed within the arena of chakras and energy medicine.

Ultimately, your response to color is largely unique. There are a variety of factors that impact your perspective including culture, gender, life experiences, expectations and more. For example, some people find blue calming while others align it more with capability. Of course, both can be true, but there is usually a predominant feeling and perspective a person has when encountering that particular color. Also, there are variations of any color. Pigmentation and placement of color can have a psychological effect as well.

Notice what colors you choose to wear or put in your environment and how that affects you. Try experimenting with wearing and using new and different colors in your life. Step out of your comfort zone, and allow color to reinvigorate you. You might even track your emotions and responses in a journal, so you can use color psychology to feel, perform and live better.

Aug. 25 - Kaizen

Shunryu Suzuki, a Zen teacher, had a famous quote that states: “Each of you is perfect the way you are … and you can use a little improvement.” What he was pointing to is that your underlying self is wonderful, but you are still called to improve your external behavior.

At first glance, the words “continuous improvement” may sound ominous or tiring to consider. But there’s a positive, practical way to look at areas that need refinement. As we often say, a little goes a long way and consistency is key.

In the 1980s, the Japanese coined an idea to describe continuous improvement called Kaizen. It was formally designed as an approach to creating ongoing refinement. You could even call it quality assurance. The foundational idea is that small, constant changes lead to significant improvements over time. This covers four areas of life: personal, home, social and work. Kaizen embraces all aspects of life.

Kaizen in the workplace is based on collaboration, cooperation and commitment. The principles can apply to any aspect of life. Kaizen guidelines are: know your customer; let it flow; follow the action — value is created where things happen; be transparent; and empower others.

How can these principles be applied in all parts of your life? Let’s apply these concepts to family life. In this case, your customers are your loved ones. What do you know about them and how can you better meet their needs? Letting it flow with family means to understand that relationships are organic and that people are human. Can you bend a little and practice being flexible with them?

Can you go to where the action is and create value with your colleagues, friends and relatives? Be transparent with your people. Secrets are harmful to those you are in a relationship with. Be as forthright and honest as possible. You’ll tend to have better results. Do your best, day by day.

Aug. 24 - Self-mastery

Do you ever feel like a leaf flapping around in the wind? It may seem sometimes that you’re at the mercy of external conditions around you. It can be a terrible feeling to be out of control and victim to external conditions, whether it’s people, events or circumstances. While it’s impossible to control externals, you retain influence over yourself. You can choose in the moment how to respond.

Consider the tall oak tree with its roots deeply embedded in the earth. It stands tall, strong and majestic. In a storm though, it may bend and sway. It may even lose a branch along the way. Usually, though, the oak remains firmly planted in the ground. When have you felt more like the oak tree in your life? How did that feel to you?

The oak tree also goes through seasons. Sometimes it gains some additional life to its form. Other times it loses parts and leaves. The oak still remains. How do you respond to the seasons of your life? Are you only happy when you’re in the growth phase? Can you also find contentment and peace when there are losses?

When you find your calm in the midst of chaos, that’s true personal power. When you don’t allow outside events, people or circumstances to dictate your mental and emotional state, that is mastery. It’s not necessary or good for you to be a yo-yo with the ups and downs of life. Stop allowing other people’s moods and agenda to control you. Your life belongs to you.

Find your center. Invest in your personal stability. Cultivate a rich interior life, and return to that space for yourself when you need sanctuary. Invest in activities and relationships that offer you a sense of joy and well-being and distance from those that don’t. When you are consistent with this type of care, you are less likely to become triggered by the distressing events around you. Self-mastery takes practice, but the return on investment is irreplaceable.

Aug. 23 - Successful speech

Language is essential in communicating with others. Words describe or represent meaning about an idea, an object, or an experience. Being able to accurately or deliberately use words is necessary in communication.

One word can make or break the success of a project or relationship. Words matter greatly. The words themselves and how you speak them make a difference in their effect. You would likely agree that saying the word “no” forcefully contrasts considerably with saying it softly. In deliberate talk, you purposely speak in a slow and measured way. You carefully select your words, and you intentionally say them slowly. This allows you to hear and monitor yourself in terms of speed and tone, and for the receiver to understand and digest the message better.

We’ve all likely used words and tones which we later regretted. Once spoken, the bell cannot be unrung. So, wise choices in how you talk to someone is paramount to having positive results.

This includes your internal talk, your inner assessment of yourself. Calling yourself stupid, an idiot, crazy and other unflattering words does little to move you forward. In fact, it can be a detrimental, self-sabotaging habit but one you can alter immediately. Try this moving forward:

Concentrate on breathing slowly and deeply, especially in difficult conversations with work teams or family members.

Rehearse heavy conversations aloud and in advance of challenging talks. Practice using pleasant, non-threatening language.

Practicing focusing on the goal. What are you hoping to achieve in the conversation with this person? Remember that conversations are organic, so be prepared to hear new information.

Realize that every conversation is not a life-or-death situation. Therefore, give yourself and others grace to be imperfect in your discussions with them. It’s a win-win.

Aug. 22 - Heat and mood

Have you ever noticed how hot weather affects people? Perhaps you’re one of them. Mood can be greatly influenced by variations in temperature. Did you know that suicide, crime and violence rates climb in concert with higher temperatures? Vernacular language points to the intensity felt in association with hot weather. Descriptions like “I’m hot under the collar” and “my blood is boiling” are often heard as metaphors around heat. And of course, you hear Hotlanta here in our fair city.

During summer, especially if it is unusually hot, not only your mood but your interactions and performance can be affected by the heat. Recent research at Rutgers University shows that heat slows down responses and it adversely affects accuracy. Other studies show a dip in cognitive processing once the temperature reaches 79 degrees.

Heat seems to make people moodier and more irritable. Does that happen to you? Part of the reason, studies suggest, is due to a rise in cortisol, a stress hormone. A 2022 psychiatric study showed that emergency room admissions for mental health issues arose during extremely hot days. Another contributing factor to moodiness and irritability tends to be sleep disruption. At night, for many people, sleeping in a hot environment isn’t ideal for a good night’s sleep.

One very simple strategy to combat the detrimental effects of hot weather, is to hydrate. So be sure you ingest sufficient quantities of water to offset those effects of diuretics. Check in with your health care professionals for guidance on how much water to consume daily. Hydration may help improve mood and performance fluctuations. Realize that you may not be at your best when overheated, so plan your most important activities for earlier in the day or when it is somewhat cooler. Practice being more compassionate. Give yourself and others more grace as temperatures rise.

Aug. 21 - Projective identification

You may not have heard the term “projective identification,” but there’s a good chance you’ve experienced it. Projective identification happens in interpersonal dynamics as a communication tool. If a person doesn’t accept or enjoy a part of their own personality and behavior, they may choose to project it onto you instead. If you lack discernment or boundaries, you may unconsciously accept their projection as the truth about you. This can most often be detrimental to you.

For example, if someone has an anger issue that makes them uncomfortable, they may suggest that you have an anger issue. If someone has hired you to help them with an issue but don’t follow through on goals, they may blame you for their failure. If a parent is selfish but wants to avoid that truth about their persona, they may tell you that you’re the selfish one.

You can begin to see the pattern. Many human beings try to avoid their shadow selves because it can be painful and inconvenient. Rather than doing the personal work on themselves, they project onto others as a way to escape blame. This can be especially true if someone grew up in a critical household where they could never do anything right. Admitting fault is almost intolerable for these individuals.

Taking accountability is one of the most liberating actions a human can take, if the “fault” belongs to you. If it doesn’t, being accountable for someone else’s actions or personality is detrimental. Sometimes people struggling with codependency have a tendency to receive others’ projections as truth about themselves. Ultimately, being able to discern what belongs to you and what doesn’t is true power and freedom. No one is perfect. You don’t need to be. In fact, perfectionism is overrated and unrealistic. Allow yourself to be human – flaws, mistakes and goodness. It’s all there. It’s a part of your wholeness and humanity. Own all of who you are.

Aug. 18 - Gaining consensus

Convincing others to move forward with an idea isn’t always easy. And if an idea has an element of financial risk or there’s another perceived possible downfall in the equation, there tends to be resistance. Some people resist an idea until they can be rationally persuaded. Others need to feel emotionally safe to really consider the idea. Some will resist change at nearly any cost.

Consensus fundamentally means agreement. Gaining agreement indicates that there has been some process of inclusion in moving forward with a plan. To be clear, it doesn’t mean that everyone agrees but that everyone in some way has input in the process. A majority vote may move an idea forward, but the minority opinions have at least been acknowledged.

Gaining consensus is not only important when possible, in organizations but even in families. Ultimately, there may be decisions made for the safety or the financial stability of the group even if there is disagreement. But at least members have an input in some way.

When approaching others, even children, your body language makes a statement beyond your words. Also, your choice of words and how you state them makes a vast difference in the outcome. Consider the contrast between “you have to” versus “it looks like we may need.” Both have the same goal in mind but are said differently.

If, for instance, you need someone to improve a particular behavior in an organization or at home, think about the difference in the phrasing “you need to stop” versus “I need your help with.” You can gain consensus with different word phrases. In fact, sometimes, you can gain consensus or buy-in from another person based on one word.

This is not to say that sometimes you just have to make a decision knowing that it will be an unpopular one. When you can gain consensus, it is more likely that the idea will be solid and successful.

Aug. 17 - Inner child

Who is your inner child and why is it important? How do you access that part of yourself? Do you even want to? These are all important questions that are posed to us in our work. The truth is that there is still a 5-year-old you, 10-year-old you and 15-year-old you inside of you. The experiences that aspect of you had still impacts you to this day. If those parts of you could talk right now, what do you think that piece of your personality would say? Do you think it’s possible that those aspects may be driving some of your current behavior, perspectives and decisions? The inner child might show us as playful or petulant. It emerges differently on each day and for each person.

If you have skepticism about the reality of your own inner child, that’s okay. You might just look at it as a way to integrate your past into your present. If you as a child experienced healthy dynamics, your inner child is probably feeling content, wondrous and open. If you as a child went through difficult or even traumatic events, that part of you may get triggered by seemingly innocuous events. It also may block or sabotage your success in relationships or at work. This happens at times because success might feel unfamiliar and thus, emotionally threatening.

You can access, communicate and express this part of yourself in various ways. You can pull out pictures of the younger you and take time to remember who you were and how you felt in the past. This validates your experience. You can write notes to and from this part of you. Let that part have a voice. Many children were not allowed to express how they really felt. You can offer yourself a safe space now as an adult to incorporate positives from childhood like playfulness, laughter and imagination while also heal from the difficulties and hurts that may have also emerged. Honor all of the emotions that emerge as part of you.

Aug. 16 - Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed

How often do you feel eager and energized? Do you remember times in your life when you could be described as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed because you were eager for an activity or the day itself? Some people have more of a natural temperament toward this way of being. Others must cultivate it.

The opposite of eager and energized is dull and lethargic. This can be a way of life for many, and it is quite painful. It can also lead to depression. Some describe this approach to life as “dialing it in.” When people feel tired and bored, they don’t show up fully for the activity, engagement or day. When they perceive the outside world as being uninteresting, it’s often because they lack the mental and physical energy to seek out people, activities and environments that would uplift and empower them.

If you’re struggling in this way, know that you’re not alone. People suffer from this condition for a variety of reasons. It can be the result of burnout, physical health issues, and mental health issues. It can also be the result of life choices. If you stay in a job, environment or relationship that is draining you, it will be hard to access and express joy and vitality. It becomes a negative spiral downward.

Believe it or not, there is an aspect of your personality that still retains the light-hearted playfulness of yesteryear. You can access and strengthen this aspect if you focus. Some call this your inner child. Others refer to it as a lost fragment of self. Regardless of how you identify it, know that it’s within you. What if you could alter to approach your life in this way? What might change for the better? Make sure you’re checking in with professionals regarding your physical and mental health to rule out internally oriented issues. If that is in check, seek out people and activities that help you feel eager and energized, and schedule these interactions consistently.

Aug. 15 - Greatest gifts

Think of someone you consider to be very talented. Chances are they display some kind of external expression of a talent. Maybe they have some type of physical prowess. Perhaps they have multiple skills. You may refer to them with terms like extraordinary, amazing, or brilliant.

What about you? Have you ever had someone tell you that you are talented in some way? We are often surprised that people don’t realize their own gifts and talents. If you had to describe your own greatest gifts, what would you say?

You may not be able to juggle on a unicycle. You may not be fluent in a foreign language. You may not be thought of as any expert with an instrument. But everyone has gifts of some kind. If you really dig deep, what would you say about yourself? Do you have a skill or talent that not everyone seems to have?

Let’s say you are masterful at figuring out computer issues or you’re highly skilled at planning and executing social functions. Some people have a special gift in how smoothly they work with special needs children. Others have become pickleball instructors. Still other people are excellent fundraisers. We believe that everyone has special gifts.

If you are stuck or unable to define or clarify your greatest gifts, consider what you have been most complimented about in your life. Have you been told, for example, that you are very witty and that you should be a stand-up comedian? Have you heard from others that you have a green thumb given your beautiful garden?

If you still don’t know what your special gifts are, you can selectively ask friends that you really trust. Call them or email them and tell them of your curiosity. Let them know you’re researching what your greatest gifts are. Tell them to think about it, and let you know what they believe sets you apart in some way. People tell us how touched they are when they receive this feedback.

Aug. 14 - New activities

It’s not too late, and you’re not too old. How many times have you thought these thoughts? If you have, know that others have too. This narrative isn’t true though. Whatever age you are or season of your life, there’s still much to explore and experience. Things change physically as you get older, and your state of mind is important too. There is a difference between chronological and biological age.

Recently, we learned of a friend in his 60s who was taking his son to the skateboard park to learn skateboarding at his son’s request. Eventually, his son became bored with it and turned his interests elsewhere. The father, however, chose to continue to visit the park and hone his skateboarding skills. To this day, he goes to the park several times a week and finds much joy in this recently discovered hobby often reserved for younger generations.

What have you been avoiding or putting off because of your age or perceived season in your life? Is there something you’ve been curious about but haven’t allowed yourself to explore for some of these reasons? What if you chose to remove self-limiting beliefs and explore possibilities you may have thought were beyond your capabilities?

Sometimes people feel foolish trying something new because they know there’s going to be a learning curve. Maybe you’ve secretly wanted to learn to paint or hike a famous trail. Perhaps you’ve dreamed of skydiving or scuba diving. Don’t chalk these ideas up to being silly. They may exactly what you need to enjoy more vitality.

You may be constricted in your thinking or use blinders based on your own or others conditioning. We suggest that you remove those blinders and allow yourself to enjoy new terrain in your life. The exhilaration, awe and wonder will fuel your vitality. Give yourself permission to uplifted and enjoy the simple, yet profound treasures and joys that life has to offer.

Aug. 11 - Artificial intelligence

What do you think about the emergence of artificial intelligence in the world? Are you a science-fiction fan or fearful of it? As AI is becoming more prevalent in every aspect of our lives, what are your thoughts, feeling and responses to it? In our work, we hear mixed responses to AI, both positive and negative.

Many of our executive friends and clients think that AI is replacing humans in the workforce. This can create a lot of fear. People don’t want to be irrelevant or eradicated. If you look back on history though, Google replaced encyclopedias and tractors replaced some manual laborer positions. Debit cards emerged as the new normal. People were and still are suspicious. People did lose jobs. Eventually, many adapted and found new jobs aligned with the new technology. As humans, it is our nature to evolve and operate on a totally different and unfamiliar plane at times. Adaptability is one of our greatest strengths. We have often learned about our adaptable strengths through struggles, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

However, we don’t want to let AI replace our humanity and our human connection, which is unique and irreplaceable. You can use the benefits and efficiency of AI while also retaining the invaluable facets of human presence and contribution in the process. We also want to keep a discerning eye on AI appropriating our intellectual capital. ChatGPT and other platforms can scoop your intellectual property and offer to others without crediting you for what you’ve created. This is egregious to many content creators, organizations, and entrepreneurs.

This is happening, so how can you get on board with the emerging future of AI while also protecting yourself? Learn as much as you can about it. Be curious. Be discerning. Ask others about their perspectives and experiences with it. Be open minded while also utilizing quality control in your life.

Aug. 10 - Little things

Little things matter greatly. Consider what pilots refer to as the “1 in 60 rule.” From what we understand, this means that a one-degree error over the course of sixty miles, will result in being off course by one mile. Just one degree, depending on the length of a trip, could have you landing in another city or state.

The same is true with the behavior of human beings. We are called to be aware of our thinking, actions and where we’re headed. Your relationships, your work, your goals, and your happiness level can become quickly affected if you are off course. Even if you are off by only a few degrees, it can be detrimental. Small, consistent choices add up to big results.

What if, for example, you have been asked repeatedly to alter a bad habit, such as rudeness, with a loved one? What are the possible consequences for not addressing particular behaviors in different realms? For instance, consistently being late to work or to social meetings over time could have harmful implications, even though you may think it’s a little thing. But here’s the idea: little things add up.

On the other hand, what if you proactively and steadily instituted positive small things? Maybe you decide to add ten minutes of meditation each day to your morning routine. That ten minutes over time could make a sizable difference in your stress level. Perhaps you could introduce a regular kindness ritual in an intimate relationship such as a small gift or a fresh, loving phrase. This is an opportunity to be creative in terms of using little but meaningful things to boost the trajectory of the relationship.

There are other little practices such as gratitude reflection before bed or a short walk daily to improve your health and attitude. If done consistently, the results take you in a new, positive direction. Minor tweaks, done regularly, can add up to wonderful outcomes.

Aug. 9 - Intensity

We often hear people report how intense the world seems these days. They wonder why. And many of the people we speak to believe they have become amped-up, too. Have you noticed a trend of intensity taking place on the roads, in organizations, at ball fields, in stores, and in homes?

The pandemic is probably a contributing factor. If you consider that much of the world population was taken unawares, you begin to understand how fear began to take root. Many people were understandably terrified. There were highly emotional debates and friendships lost over specifics around the pandemic. The atmosphere of threat and intensity was palpable.

Now, as the overwhelming scare has been assuaged and some of the issues stabilized, the mental and emotional aftereffects are happening. You could accurately call it an emotional hangover. And that shows itself in various forms including intensity.

Beyond that, social media and other forms of entertainment have grown in having a fearful focus in some quarters. If you indulge in any of these forms, for even a short time, you can become greatly affected. As energetic beings, humans are not impervious to what they see or hear. This can result in an increased fear mentality. You tend to perceive more danger whether it’s real or not.

This is not to say that there aren’t very positive ideas on social media. It also isn’t to say that entertainment can’t be funny, creative, and inspiring. So, you have to regulate yourself in terms of what you choose to view and for how long. You will see a clear relationship between what you consume and how you consequently feel.

If indeed there is more intensity in your purview, all you can do is manage your own thinking and stress responses. You can only lower your own intensity. Not only will that help you feel better, but it may serve as a healthy model for others.

Aug. 8 - Agency

Do you have a sense of control over much of your life? Do you seem to have power over the direction of your thoughts and behavior? Do you believe you have self-determination and are largely able to influence your own outcomes?

Agency is a sense of self-ownership. It’s having faith in yourself to handle tasks and situations as they arise. Life is an organic process with unexpected twists and turns. Your ability to navigate the ups and downs effectively points to your psychological stability.

If you have the capability to produce particular outcomes, you may be described as having agency. You can have it in an organization, in a personal relationship, or with your health. Agency makes a difference when you realize that in our world, you have limited control over other people and circumstances. You can take what you believe is a good course of action. You can state a sentence or even give a speech. But you must know that other people have their own choices and situations. You can’t change them, but you can maintain agency by responding with a calm, clear countenance.

Letting go or surrendering to your human limits in and of itself can be agency. In certain regards, you release control to have control. Could it be that you have choices you don’t even realize? One of the highest human aspirations is for freedom. As you exercise your choice-making in a healthy direction, you build your sense of agency. And that leads to freedom, all of which builds trust in yourself.

Auschwitz prison camp survivor Dr. Victor Frankl spoke to this notion of agency even under horrible conditions. Dr. Frankl said, “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.” In one of his popular songs, rapper NF sings, “‘Cause I thought you had me in prison this whole time, but I’m the one holdin’ the key.”

Aug. 7 - Sanctuary

What do you think about when you hear the word sanctuary? Perhaps it’s curling up with a hot cup of tea or soft blanket? Maybe it’s enjoying a delicious meal or listening to beautiful music? It could be spending time with a loved one or enjoying solitude. Everyone is different. And every season a person goes through may require a variety of strategies to find sanctuary. It is often defined as a place of peacefulness, warmth and refuge.

This life can be busy, noisy and sometimes overwhelming. Increasingly, people tell us how stressed they are feeling. The stress comes from family, work and just being an adult human being trying to keep up with many responsibilities. Can you relate?

There are times when it seems as though you can’t access sanctuary. You may be reaching for things that used to work for you but don’t now in this season of your life. It could be that you’re reaching for things that may give immediate comfort but are not long lasting. This could include shopping, sex, food and drink. There’s nothing wrong with these activities, but we’ve seen that they don’t provide the abiding peace people are often seeking.

Have you considered seeking refuge within yourself? In your own body, heart and spirit? Being at home with yourself and in your own skin is a powerful strategy. Wherever you are, you can access safety, nourishment and peace. Grounding practices and breath work are two strategies that can help you find the sustenance within yourself instead of the outside world. Getting to know yourself, like yourself and belong to yourself are profound strategies to consistently connect to the sanctuary within yourself. Practice makes progress. Similar to exercise, when you strengthen the muscle of internal self-soothing and self-regulation, you get better at it. This type of self-efficacy helps you feel more safe and secure in the busy, modern day world.

Aug. 4 - Psychology of water

Previously, we stressed the importance of water hydration. And as the summer continues, the obvious need for it continues. But have you ever considered the psychology of water?

Consider how many people migrate to beaches and lakes throughout the year. Many see the water at those venues as a means of fun and recreation. Some truly enjoy the mesmerizing effect of ocean waves, including the sounds, smells and views. Others savor the peace and contentment of a smooth lake or a still pond. There seems to be something magical about the water element, doesn’t it?

Think about what you can learn from water. Generally, water flows unless it is subjected to extremes in temperature. Human moods can mimic the properties of water under changing conditions. Being too angry is analogous to steam when too much heat is applied to water. You’ve likely heard of the analogy of a pressure cooker. This means that you have to release your anger, your “steam,” so that you don’t “blow your top.”

Being stuck in your beliefs or positions is analogous to being frozen when too much cold is applied to water. When you hold too tightly to your ideas irrespective of others’ views, you are immovable and therefore frozen.

Water teaches us a healthy way to operate in the world. Water moves smoothly in and around obstacles in its path. Haven’t you had times when you went with the flow of life, even when you disagreed with or disliked the circumstances? The only controllable facet of life is your mindset and how you respond to conditions around you. You have limited control of other people and situations. There are some things you can change, and many things you are called to accept. Do what you can to initiate a positive difference when you can. But to feel better in general, accept the inevitable. Challenge yourself today to take a breath more often and enjoy the currents of life.

Aug. 3 - Emotional intelligence

Did you know that your emotional intelligence, also known as EI and EQ, is a stronger predictor of success than your mental intelligence? Do you consider yourself to be emotionally intelligent?

Emotional intelligence is often described as the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and to be able to recognize, empathize and influence the emotions of others. This theory was originally coined by journalists and psychologists over three decades ago. This competency is important in all aspects of life – at home, in the workplace and in society. Below we break down the five major components of EI.

  • Self-awareness: Are you able to accurately identify your strengths and limitations? Are you aware of your emotions and the impact they have on you and others? Self-awareness is always a good starting point.
  • Self-regulation: Are you able to soothe yourself when difficulties arise? Do you respond rather than react in stressful situations? How well do you regulate your consumption – food, drink, technology and more?
  • Self-motivation: Are you able to motivate yourself without needing others to do it for you? Do you regularly engage in inspirational activities? Are you able to overcome the hurdles of procrastination?
  • Compassion and empathy for others: Are you able to identify and empathize with how others feel? Do you take time to understand other people’s perspectives and emotions even if they differ from your own?
  • Interpersonal skills: Do you have good communication skills? Are you reciprocal in your interactions with others? Are you able to build and sustain healthy relationships in various areas of your life?

Rate yourself on a scale from 1-5 in each category, with 5 being very skilled, and 1 as needing improvement. The good news is with practice, you can strengthen your emotional intelligence over time.

Aug. 2 - Engagement and disengagement

How engaged are you in your relationships, including work? Are you skillful at being mentally available? Or do you find yourself dialing it in? Maybe you land somewhere in between. You may go through periods of focused engagement followed by times of being zoned out and uninterested.

In corporate culture, there is a term to describe non-engagement: presenteeism. Essentially, this means that your body is present, but your mind is not fully there. Have you ever driven a car for a long distance only to find that you can’t recall much of the journey? That’s what presenteeism is like. You’re not absent. You’re going through the motions, but your attention and focus are really not there at the moment.

Perhaps you’ve been on the other side of the engagement equation. Maybe you’ve had the experience of requesting engagement from a co-worker, boss, or loved one, only to receive non-engagement and disinterest? Even if you politely asked, cajoled them, or tried other strategies, you still weren’t able to gain their presence. It may have felt like you’re dealing with an uncooperative, uninterested teenager.

While there are numerous strategies to solicit engagement from employees, as well as loved ones, here are three ideas to strongly consider:

  • Your steady, demonstrated example of what you want from others can be a strong force to gain engagement. Preaching to them about being engaged rarely works.
  • Prioritize the relationship. Show your concern. Ask caring questions. Provide guidance when you can without micromanaging.
  • Recognize and reward behavior you want. Even if others’ behavior may not be ideal, you want to reinforce their efforts in the right direction. They are more likely to do more of it when you do. Make a positive statement of appreciation, or give a small gift (if appropriate) to them for their actions.

Aug. 1 - Asking for help

It seems so simple: if you need help, ask for it. Some people can do that relatively easily. Others cannot. Many struggle to step forward and reach out when they require support. Where do you fall on the continuum? How effortlessly can you say the words: I need help?

Recent research at Stanford underlines some of the causes of reluctance to ask for help. One major reason is that people don’t want to look weak, incompetent or inferior. In other words, they need help but are scared of the social implications. Have you ever found yourself in that predicament?

It can seem awkward, can’t it?

Another barrier is that when you’re mired in a problem, you become consumed with it. While you may consider a variety of solutions, you may not think about bringing other people into the picture.

But here’s something to consider: people, for the most part, want to help. Studies show that we don’t give others enough credit. We tend to have a pessimistic view of their willingness to help. We assume they wouldn’t care enough or are too caught up in their own lives. In reality, the opposite is true. Prosocial motivations drive many human beings to want to support others.

Recently, we witnessed a horrific accident in front of us in Atlanta. We were able to help. And while it was a very shocking scene, we were deeply touched by the many people who stopped to assist the victims. Firsthand, we observed a fantastic microcosm of society willing to lend a hand. People of all ages, races, and ethnicities were utterly concerned and willing to spring into action to give aid.

The truth is no one can handle everything on their own. We all need others for support from time to time. It isn’t a failure to need a hand. It’s merely a human experience. The next time you find yourself in a bind, take a chance. Go outside of the box. Step beyond your fear and ask someone you trust for help.

July 31 - Values and branding

Have you heard of branding and core values? Have you identified your own personal brand and core values? Do you have a clear vision for your future that inspires you? Why might this be important for you? Branding, vision and core values helps you with decision-making, direction, purpose and taking right action.

Many people are aware of famous corporations branding and core values. For example, Nike includes performance, authenticity, innovation and sustainability. Their tagline “Just do it!” is well-known. A few principles that Apple uses include making the world a better place, the importance of each individual, making products they believe in. Their slogan is “Think differently.”

Regardless of your opinion about these companies, it’s interesting to explore the branding, vision and core values they’ve put forth. It can give you meaningful ideas for your own. Also, as a consumer, you can discern if you think they are congruent and aligned with their public branding, vision and values. This makes you a better consumer. You get to choose where you invest your energy, thus your dollars, not only by product but by personal alignment with your own personal values. Choose wisely.

How can you best establish your own brand, vision and core values? Start by investigating what others have done. Then brainstorm in writing your initial thoughts. How do you show up in the world? What do you want to contribute? How do others perceive you? How would like them to see you? You may find it helpful to ask trusted friends and family to send you three adjectives to you that they feel best describe you. This helps with clarity. We also find that it’s helpful for organizations and individuals to revisit their brand, vision and values regularly to ensure they are still on point and that they are using them for decision-making, direction, purpose and taking right action.

July 28 - Rumination

Do you review things obsessively in your head? Perhaps you think over previous conversations, dynamics and events? Maybe you anticipate future engagements? Rumination can be good and bad for you. How you feel when you’re engaged in the process informs you of how well it’s serving you or not. Let’s review both perspectives.

Maladaptive rumination is obsessive, impotent and energy-draining. It takes you out of the present moment in an attempt to protect you from past and future events. This internal behavior almost always leaves you feeling anxious or angry. Sometimes you may feel both. When negative things have taken place in your history or you anticipate potential hazards in your future, it’s difficult to refrain from the self-protective mechanism in the brain which is to predict and control. However, if the event is in the past, it’s over. You can’t go back. You can learn from it though. This type of learning is grounded in earned wisdom. Although it can feel painful at times, it’s invaluable to your maturity and evolution. If the event is in your imagined future, it may never happen. It’s possible you’re wasting your energy anticipating it. However, it could be supportive to you to be prepared if it does happen.

It can be confusing at times to understand if reviewing the past and future is helpful or harmful. Adaptive rumination is similar to self-reflection and course correcting. Some people want to jump over this step because it can be painful and inconvenient. If you don’t review what has worked and what hasn’t, you won’t improve when needed. One strategy that can help you discern if you’re being constructive is to notice how you feel after you’ve spent time mulling something over. If you’re completely drained, you are most likely in maladaptive rumination. If you’re in a state of analysis-paralysis, you could be overdoing it. If you feel clarity and eagerness, it was most likely a wise choice.

July 27 - Chosen family

Have you had the good fortune of meeting people who love and accept you as you are, flaws and all? Do you have friends that you feel closer to than your own family? Have you ever felt like you did not fit in as well with your relatives as you do with other groups of people?

Some people tell us that they felt like an outlier in their family of origin. Others report that they felt scapegoated or identified as the “black sheep” of the group. When you grow up feeling like you don’t belong or are undervalued, it can negatively impact you well into adulthood. If, however, you connect with others who see and honor your authentic value, it can be a powerful healing elixir.

Having a healthy family system is a blessing. Research shows that this factor positively impacts children and adults at all levels of their health and well-being. Some people have both types of families – by blood and by choice.

Belonging is a basic human need. When you feel that you belong somewhere – and that you matter – it improves your mental, emotional and physical well-being. Sometimes, we observe people trying to be a part of groups or friendships without truly discerning the characteristics and dynamics of the group. They ignore the red flags. These groups can cause even more damage to a person who has suffered within a family system.

This is the power of finding chosen family. It could be a single person who feels like a sibling, or it might be an entire group that feels like a healthy, loving family. When you connect with these people, it can be a game changer. They create an emotionally safe space for you while also validating you. They might even hold you accountable for things you want to accomplish and ways you desire to grow. They allow you to do the same for them. Reciprocity exists in loving, chosen families. It’s a two-way street where all feel seen, heard and cared for.

July 26 - Triangulation

Do you struggle with being direct? Do you have difficulty voicing your needs, desires and feelings? Is it hard for you to stand on your own two feet when a group of people disagree with you? The group could be family, social groups or teammates in the workplace. When boards are looking at who to hire for their leaders, they often facilitate an assessment to learn more about that person. One of the most common attributes these people are assessed on is their ability to stand alone in the midst of conflict which successful leaders do.

Why is it hard for you (and others) to stand up and voice your opinion sometimes? There are many reasons. You may have been taught growing up that your needs and voice don’t matter. In this case, bringing up a reasonable point or request can feel like you’re shouting. While it’s not true, it can feel that way. Sometimes there is a power differential. Some examples include a spouse who holds the purse strings, a boss who holds more power, or a group think situation at work or in other types of groups.

It’s tempting in these situations to enlist the help of others. This can often be the best and most strategic strategy. However, if you make a habit of always needing others to back you up, you could be engaging in a psychological behavior called triangulation. This occurs when you speak indirectly to one person by going through another person rather than a direct line of communication. A triangle is formed. Triangulators are often incongruent with their words and behaviors. Sometimes this is because they are scared to be authentic. Other times, it’s because they’re being manipulative. Being congruent with your words and actions is a powerful strategy to ensure that you’re not engaging in triangulation with others. Disagreement is healthy. It’s brave and noble to stand up for your ideas as well as for yourself and others, even when others perceive things differently.

July 25 - Respect

The late comedian Rodney Dangerfield often spoke the phrase “I don’t get no respect.” He would often give satirical examples of how his life was one long line of unfair situations and disrespect. He was famous for joking about an important topic.

How respected do you feel in general by the people in your life? If you’re not feeling respected, others may tell you to demand respect. But that doesn’t usually work in getting you what you want. Often, demanding others’ respect is a surefire way to get the opposite. Some people might comply, but the nature of that compliance is likely to be non-enthusiastic and temporary.

If you want to be respected, first you must show or demonstrate it to others. We see the need for this in our work, particularly in the workplace, at home and in community groups.

But what about blatantly disrespectful people? These people cross the line verbally and/or behaviorally. Some examples may be someone speaking loudly on their cell phone in a place of business, showing up at your home unannounced or commenting on your appearance.

If you have people at work or in your family who are regularly disrespectful to you, a boundary is necessary. Our suggestion is not to come out strong. Start with the least restrictive intervention. This means beginning with the lightest statement or action that will bring you the result you desire. One example may be, “excuse me, may I make a request?” or “can I ask for your help with something?” Those are soft entrances into a needed conversation.

That may not work with everyone. With some people, you may need to confront them constructively with specific examples. Refrain from being hostile or threatening in your words or behavior. In addition to using soft words, keep them simple, short and slow. Walk away if needed. Beyond that, you may need to ask for help through a trusted friend, coach, or a mediator at work.

July 24 - Nourish and flourish

Do you experience positive emotions mostly? How positive is your social functioning in your daily life? Are you mentally and psychologically positive much of the time? If you do, you may be described as flourishing. If this is your current operating state, you know exactly how it feels. You’re in the flow. Your health is good. You’re connecting well with others generally. You are mainly thinking optimistically. Most of what you’re doing brings you joy.

If you’re not flourishing, there’s great news: it’s fixable. Taking a bird’s eye view of your present life, where do you notice obstacles? A plethora of reasons can cause you to feel below the level of flourishing. Besides an honest self-inventory, how can you correct your trajectory so that you enjoy life more fully? Below are a few strategies:

  • Create a daily gratitude practice upon awakening and as you drift off to sleep.
  • Alter your negative assessments of yourself. Said differently, redirect yourself mentally away from negative self-talk.
  • Volunteer in whatever capacity you can, big or small. Flourishers give to others enthusiastically where they are able.
  • Be authentic. Trying to be someone you’re not only increases a sense of negativity, separation, and unworthiness. You are your own special person.
  • Reclaim your power. Find your inner strength even if you feel like it’s dissipated lately. Remember that you are a unique, precious, and powerful being.
  • Nourish to flourish. Savor your meals. Take time for fun. Laugh as frequently as you can. Grab a massage if possible. Exercise in whatever capacity is possible.
  • Consider others who you would describe as flourishing. What aspects of their behavior can you embrace for better personal results?

Above all, believe that you can indeed flourish. Self-affirming beliefs are a major key in unlocking a more joyful life.

July 21 - Safety and stability

Do you recall times in your life when you felt safe, secure and surefooted? These mental-emotional states feel really good. If you were fortunate enough to enjoy those in childhood, you are most likely able to access and develop them in adulthood. However if you felt unsafe as a child – mentally, emotionally or physically – it may be a tall order to feel secure as an adult.

People who had safe childhoods often crave “more good” in their lives. They tend to go after ambitious goals. They enjoy adventures into unknown territories. They’re willing to take more risks.

Those who felt insecure in childhood due to poverty, violence or neglectful parents struggle more to create that steadiness in their adult lives even when they are accomplishing their goals. Externally, their lives look excellent on paper. Internally, they still struggle. They often crave “less bad.” They want a steady ship instead of an unpredictable adventure.

Brene Brown, social work researcher and TEDx speaker, discovered that joy is the most vulnerable emotion a person can have. Does that surprise you? She writes that many people prefer a steady state of emotions rather than risking the high of joy. However, many of those people report at the end of their lives that they wished they would have risked more and allowed themselves to experience more joy. Joy is at the heart of thriving. You may be able to survive without it, but what fun is that?

Consider the people, events and experiences that bring you peace and joy. Are you doing these often enough? When you invest in making yourself happy, you also create more stability. This simple act rewires your brain and nervous system. There are so many options to experiment with including laughter, learning, and expressing yourself. Know that life is full of possibilities, and you can change the trajectory you’re on today with small steps.

July 20 - Super person syndrome

Did you ever watch the television shows “Superman” or “Wonder Woman”? Did it inspire you? These figures had so many capabilities to solve problems. They seemed to be able to be everywhere all at once. Did you or do you ever aspire to be like them? Maybe you labor under the delusion that you can do it all? If you struggle with perfectionism, this may be very close to reality for you. Sometimes it seems as if everyone around you has it all figured out, and they are doing it all. This can make you feel as if you’re coming up short in life. This is most likely a flawed premise.

When you struggle with super person syndrome, it unfortunately begins to negatively affect your health. When you consider health matters, it includes mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, relational and more. Your health and well-being is one of your greatest assets. Once they’ve been affected, it’s a difficult trek back to wellness. As the saying goes, prevention is worth a pound of recovery.

Some people will reinforce this syndrome in you because it’s easier for them to let you do everything. They compliment you for your results which only feeds the syndrome. Many people suffering from this predicament feel that they’re meeting normal expectations from others. It may be common, but it’s not healthy.

If you find yourself stuck in these patterns, here are a few strategies to help you get unstuck:

Ask for help. Request support around what needs to be taken off your plate specifically.

Don’t allow others to manipulate you with expectations and compliments. Set boundaries.

Talk to other people who may be going through something similar. It’s not a grand badge of honor as many would have you think. It’s a detriment to your health and well-being.

Invest in yourself. Make time to do things that interest you and that light you up.

July 19 - Basic goodness

Can you recall the baby Jessica situation years ago? Jessica McClure fell into a Texas well. It took 56 hours for rescuers to safely extract her to safety while much of the world watched. In 2010, 33 Chilean miners were stuck underground for two months as an international audience saw rescuers finally save them. Most recently, the Titanic submarine tragedy kept many of us spellbound and hopeful, even though it finally had a tragic end.

Generally, people root for others-human and animals- who are trapped or victimized in some way. Something arises in the human heart that exudes goodness when fellow beings are in trouble.

Have you ever had the opportunity to help someone at an accident scene? Have you given someone a break when you really could have unloaded on them? Or have you been on the receiving end of someone else’s basic goodness when you ran out of gas? Or perhaps you made an embarrassing mistake, but someone showed you mercy? When you or someone else reaches out beyond what is expected, something special happens.

This is not to say that there are not those in the world who have disregard for others. We probably know all too well that they exist. But isn’t it heartwarming to think about situations where strangers extend themselves generously to one another? Perhaps you’ve seen people or animal rescues on television or on social media. In those situations, grace was offered. And grace was received.

Chances are, you were touched emotionally watching those scenes. It likely gave you a warm feeling. The feel-good neurotransmitters oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin were probably swirling pleasantly through your body. You may have even had tears of joy, awe, or love, even though you didn’t know the people in the scene. An instant bond is created when you give, observe, or accept grace in action. Basic goodness is palpably experienced. Where you can, give generously and receive graciously.

This allows you to experience the basic goodness of yourself more fully and that of others.

July 18 - Future

In the old Moody Blues song, “The Voice,” there is an enticing lyric: “with your arms around the future, and your back up against the past.” The notion is forward movement, looking ahead to what is unfolding. There’s a sense of optimism. A feeling of empowerment is created. What’s done is done. Doesn’t that sound appealing?

Wouldn’t it be pleasant to have the past in its place, to have a healthy regard for lessons learned? But the truth is many people suffer tirelessly to let go of the parts of their history that trouble them. Some, on the other hand, struggle to release good memories and tend to glorify the past.

It’s an interesting dilemma, isn’t it? You want to embrace a more positive future, yet you may be focused too heavily on what happened previously. You ostensibly are walking backward into the future.

To be clear, you must look back to the past to an extent because your education, training, and pleasant memories lie there. However, if you want a brighter future, you have to consciously cultivate a positive future view.

Think of your present-day patterns that concern you the most. Maybe you’re stuck in financial, health, work, or relationship issues that seem to be negative, repetitive and unmovable. Naturally you reference your previous experiences that brought you to this point. But you don’t want to stay focused there for long. That will only cause you to recycle the patterns you don’t want. So, start with being mindful immediately.

Be aware of your thoughts because your thinking fashions your feelings, beliefs, and actions. To open yourself up to a better future, you must bring a sober awareness to your thinking. From there, once you’ve identified how you’ve been thinking and behaving, you can generate new thoughts and possibilities.

Try this. Write down a new, positive sentence that you can mentally repeat as a mantra to help you step into future possibilities. Even if it feels artificial or awkward, it’s a step in the right direction which is forward.

July 17 - Charm and charisma

Do you consider yourself a charming person? Do you enjoy being around charming people? How do you perceive people who are charismatic? Do they inspire you? Do you trust them? Do you ever feel suspicious of this type of person? If you’re like most people, you’ve had good and bad experiences with people who are charismatic. Every charming person isn’t the same, though it’s wise to practice curiosity and discernment when you encounter them.

The positive aspects of charming people is that they tend to be influential, confident and magnetic. In business, they are able to motivate, engage and lead others. Musicians and television personalities often exude this character trait which helps build their fan base.

Politicians and community activist leaders also often have these traits. Sometimes this can be positive and other times, it can be detrimental to their followers. Narcissistic people can be very charming and charismatic in order to manipulate and control others. Even sociopaths, like Ted Bundy, were described as charming.

This leads us to consider the darker side of charm and charisma. When people employ it for power over others to serve their own agendas, it can be detrimental. You’ve probably witnessed scandalous news stories in all type of environments where this has occurred. It’s often shocking because the person was able to put on quite a façade to fool their followers and the public. This begins to erode the trust of people who then might be suspicious of anyone who presents as magnetic and kind.

Sincere charm is quite different than manipulative, malignant charm. People with this character trait are authentically and often organically charming. They tend to listen to others and demonstrate genuine care. They have healthy self-esteem that allows them to compliment and promote others. Their words and actions are aligned and congruent. They feel good about themselves and help others to feel good too. That is the power of sincere and authentic charm.

July 14 - Identify mental abuse

The emotions you experience in relationships can often be an indicator of what is happening in its dynamics. When you feel appreciated, loved and respected, you enjoy how you are being treated by others. Conversely, when you feel unappreciated, unloved and disrespected, you feel poorly because of the treatment you’re receiving.

Let’s briefly examine types of mental abuse:

1. Name-calling - This involves derogatory words like “loser,” even when it’s under the guise of “joking.”

2. Gaslighting - This is when you doubt your own view of reality due to someone’s verbal manipulation.

3. Threats - Someone makes straightforward intentions to harm you.

4. Withholding - The person doesn’t show you care and affection or acknowledge achievements.

5. Silent treatment - Also known as stonewalling, this is largely ignoring you as if you don’t exist.

6. Belittling - You are told things to lower your self-worth and question your value or that you’re being too sensitive.

7. Blaming - They unfairly assign responsibility to you for problems.

8. Humiliation - Someone willfully embarrasses you, often in the presence of others, to highlight your flaws.

9. Constant criticism - There is ongoing verbal judgment and negativity about you, including nitpicking and micromanaging.

10. Isolation - This is when you are prevented from seeing people like friends or family or made to feel guilty when enjoying time with others.

To be clear this is not an exhaustive list. Furthermore, this doesn’t mean that if someone withholds or criticizes one time, that they are an abuser.

Without question, if you are being victimized in some or all the above ways, seek professional help. Speaking to a trusted friend could be a first step. While it may be embarrassing, keeping the abusive behavior secret allows it to fester, to become normalized, more toxic. A professional is needed to move someone forward who is stuck in this situation.

July 13 - Reciprocal dynamics

Have you had the experience in a conversation where you wanted to get away from the person because it was all about them, and they spoke non-stop? There’s a good chance you felt a strange mixture of being invisible and trapped. It wasn’t much of a conversation, was it? You may have walked away feeling that your time and thoughts weren’t important.

On the other hand, have you ever found yourself enthralled in a discussion with someone? Time likely seemed to stop, and you were truly enjoying a flow with the other person.

What makes the difference between those two kinds of dynamics? Let’s start with the idea that you have at least two people to start with. Each person is both a sender and a receiver regarding the topic at hand.

In a non-reciprocal conversation, one person dominates the time as a sender (speaker) and doesn’t allow much room to receive (listener) from the other person. This is known as a monologue.

Non-reciprocal conversationalists tend to:

  • Rule the conversation.
  • Look for an “upgrade.” They look around for another person who they perceive may give them more of what they want.
  • Cross their arms or give off other uninterested signals.
  • Be easily distracted and may be involved with their cell phone.

In reciprocal dynamics, there is shared power. There is more of a balance between sending and receiving, between speaking and listening.

Skilled conversationalists have numerous, effective skills:

  • They listen more than they speak.
  • They ask questions of the other person.
  • They resist interrupting, even if they don’t agree with what the other person is saying.
  • They are mindful in their word choices and tend to have a good vocabulary.
  • They maintain open body language and good eye contact.
  • They restate points the other person makes, demonstrating their presence and understanding.

A meaningful conversion is a balanced conversation. How do you fare in dialogues with others? Where can you improve your skills for happier results?

July 12 - Honor the call

Is there an idea or dream that has been rolling around in your heart, mind and spirit? Do you ever feel called to a certain place, event, or profession? Have you considered participating in a cause but keep putting it off? If these thoughts keep popping up or returning in your daydreams, it’s a calling for you to meet your needs and destiny. Explore the call instead of ignoring or avoiding it. You do yourself and the world a disservice when you’re not listening to your deepest desires and wisdom.

Sometimes these callings are inconvenient. They don’t always fit into your current lifestyle. We observe that some people will not honor the call because they’re scared of what others will think. They’re concerned that they may look silly or feel too vulnerable. Sometimes people think they’re not worthy to answer the call or that they don’t have the talents or resources to be up to the task.

A call in your heart, mind and spirit is there for a reason. If you sense this might be true for you, reflect on what may be holding you back. How might you be holding yourself back? Some people procrastinate or make excuses. Others keep themselves very busy. Some people we’ve worked with continue to douse their brain with an overload of stimulation as an unconscious strategy to avoid the deeper call to action.

Listening to the voice within is imperative to hear the call. Listening requires quiet time and space. You must turn down outside noise in order to receive the wisdom inside of you. Once you honor this deeper knowing, it takes courage to take the first step. Seek out others on the journey of following their call. This will galvanize needed support to continue moving forward toward yours. A calling is something that is meant for you. You were born for it. Whether it’s traveling to a foreign land and experiencing their culture or changing careers or creating something you believe the world needs, love yourself enough to honor the call.

July 11 - Raising kids in digital age

How much screen time is too much for children? Are you aware of how being on screens is impacting your child’s brain and nervous system development? How are their social skills developing? It can be a scary phenomenon for parents, grandparents, friends and other caregivers. We care about the children in the world and want to see them do well. Where is the line?

The majority of parents we speak to these days believe that raising children is much harder than it was just 20 years ago specifically because of technology. Do you agree or not?

Because many educational tools and toys are now digital, there’s even more time spent on screens than ever before. In fact, toddlers around age two are enjoying time with their first screen. This is the first generation that is growing up on technology. Will this inhibit their well-being and performance or enhance it? There are many different opinions out there.

There are many positive outcomes from learning to utilize technology effectively at an early age. We would be remiss if we didn’t highlight them here. Technology is the future, and the children of today are quite adept at navigating it early in their lives ensuring efficacy in their future when other generations have struggled. Research shows it highlights hand-eye coordination and helps children stay connected, even when not in physical proximity. Technology was a lifeline for kids (and adults) during the pandemic.

How can you find balance for yourself and the children in your life in the digital age? First, look at your own technology engagement, and ask yourself if that is the model you want your children to follow. Talk to other adults about the boundaries that have worked for them. This can include friends, neighbors, teachers, counselors and physicians. Make a family agreement around screen use, and revisit it monthly. Balance screen time with time with people, being outside, and other enjoyable activities.

July 10 - Workarounds

Plans change. Opportunities don’t always pan out. People disappoint us. Weather ruins outdoor activities. Health struggles happen. Finances take a downturn. Life throws an unexpected curve. What do you do when your desires aren’t met? You work around them.

The idea of a workaround is to circumvent a stopping point or obstacle. A question you may entertain with an obstacle might be: How can I work around this difficulty to realize success? This could also mean that you salvage at least some of your original goal. Consider alternative options. Rather than throwing up your hands, staying stuck, or feeling a sense of failure or futility, allow your mind to consider other possibilities.

Problems are meant to be solved. Sometimes they can be taken care of directly. Other times, they can’t. Workarounds are one means of problem-solving. Be creative in how you deal with it.

Since you cannot know in advance what is going to happen, the unforeseen takes place. Even when you think you know the certainty of something occurring, surprises can unfold. Nothing is ever guaranteed so you can think of a workaround as a plan B, a fallback strategy.

Too often, many people succumb to feeling defeated when they run into a “no.” Their frustration builds quickly, and they only see and feel the loss of what they initially planned. They give up and don’t think about how they can recover some or all of what is important for them.

Take the example of air conditioning. Experiencing the summer heat, it can be upsetting if it breaks down for some reason. Perhaps the part that is needed to repair your air conditioner is out of stock because of “supply chain issues.”

You can rant and rave about the unfairness of the situation, or you can look at alternatives. Maybe you call a friend and ask if you can spend the night. Perhaps you’re able to stay in a hotel or extended stay. Possibly you spend some time in other cool environments during the day such as your car, a library, or mall. You use fans temporarily to “make do.”

Even though these workarounds aren’t ideal, you give yourself some temporary solutions. And sometimes when you utilize a workaround, you discover ideas or methods that seem better than the original.

July 7 - Broken open

Have you ever been brought to your knees by a life event? Have you heard the phrase breakdown to breakthrough? Unfortunately, some of the deepest and richest life lessons come to human beings from their darkest days. The “dark night of the soul” is very real. So many people have experienced it. Yet, it can feel strangely lonely and isolating.

People question whether they will be able to cope and navigate to a better place in life eventually. When you’re going through darkness, it feels as if it might last forever. It’s not the truth of the situation. But those emotions feel very real and can be quite scary and defeating.

At this point in your life, you’ve probably already undergone a wide variety of experience. There are so many possibilities of good and bad, ups and downs. What can be strange is that the smaller of the bad things can be the exact thing that undoes you. Something seemingly navigable can be the event or person that brings you to your knees. Why it that?

Tough difficulties can be cumulative. If many smaller circumstances arise in rapid fashion, it can feel overwhelming. Even worse is that the outside world may not understand your reaction. This is where the isolation and loneliness emerge.

Well-meaning people may tell you that things are not that difficult or that others have it worse. This advice can feel jarring and abrasive. Sometimes the people around you have no idea how to help you. They underestimate their simple loving presence. If you find yourself in this situation, here are a few helpful strategies:

- Seek out someone who can and will validate your experience without joining you in the valley of darkness.

- Focus on small joys like a beautiful day or a delicious meal. Big joys during this time can feel like too much sometimes.

Offer yourself radical compassion. Bring a kind and loving energy to yourself in your thoughts, speech and actions.

July 6 - Imposter syndrome

Have you heard of imposter syndrome? Would it surprise you to learn that some of the most successful and competent people in the world suffer from feeling like a fake? Have you ever felt like you were an imposter?

This syndrome can arise in various environments: workplaces, social events even at home alone. People with this condition are fearful that others will find out that they’re not as smart or as capable as others think they are. It’s often accompanied by feelings of anxiety, depression and unworthiness. Perfectionism and competitiveness can also be strong drivers. Research shows that 70% of adults have experienced this at least once in their lives, and 30% of those adults are super high achievers. Interestingly, the most acute feelings of being an imposter may arise after receiving praise, an award or a series of successes. This can often prompt the person to unfairly and harshly assess their accomplishments.

How might this syndrome develop in someone? If you grew up in a home where you were overly criticized or overly praised, you may be more prone to develop this. If your results were criticized or praised but efforts were overlooked, this could also be a set up. If you grew up in a highly competitive home, school or community environment, you may more easily feel like an imposter.

If you are struggling with this issue, there are some strategies that can help.

- List your accomplishments factually rather than emotionally.

- Reflect on yourself as a person, not just what you’ve achieved. Your accomplishments do not equal your worth.

- Learn to stop comparing and competing with others. This is like comparing apples to oranges. We are all unique and different.

- Stop trying to do everything perfectly. Allow for mistakes. This is a part of your wholeness and humanity.

- Talk to others to get a more rational and balanced perspective on who you are and what you bring to the world.

July 5 - Middle way

In life, there is a play of opposites. These are natural polarities. If you look deeply at everyday life, you probably observe the ups and downs that seem to occur no matter what. Sometimes life can really feel like a roller-coaster, can’t it? The challenge is how you are affected by the instability.

There is a way to maintain a sense of perspective and steadiness in the changing nature of life. In Mindfulness, this is called the middle way, developing the skill of equanimity.

In the play of opposites, you straddle the centerline. You skillfully cultivate this notion as a way to have steady peace despite fluctuating conditions. You are more apt to remain stable when you realize that you are always on shifting sands because life is ever changing.

Let’s look at what is called the eight worldly winds or concerns. These are four pairs of opposites: pleasure and pain, praise and blame, gain and loss and fame and disrepute.

Consider where you land in how you perceive these pairs in your present life. These are identified as winds because of their largely temporary nature. Also, these winds are thought to be constantly co-rising. Just when you believe everything is stable, something occurs that makes life feel wobbly.

Think about how you may have been praised one moment and then blamed in another. You gain some things; you lose some things. But you also lose some things but gain some. As human beings, you naturally want pleasure over pain, but it seems that pain is inevitable in some regards. The good news is that the pain tends to be impermanent. And there may be a drive toward fame, so to speak, to a sense of greatness. But sometimes disrepute, shame, or deep embarrassment arises instead.

There are many other opposites such as attachment and aversion. The idea is to keep a loose grip, so to speak, on anything that is happening around you. That way you don’t become a yo-yo.

Here are some practices to integrate the middle way for more portable peace and personal power:

- Enjoy and savor pleasantness or positive states when they arise. Feel gratitude for the gift of those uplifting or encouraging moments.

- When you are experiencing pain, blame, loss, or other negative states, remind yourself that these are temporary conditions and subject to change like everything else. Use a “light touch.”

- Utilize meditation, silent walks, time in nature, yoga or other practices to ground yourself. This helps you have more steadiness and calm, regardless of what is happening.

- Intentionally foster avoiding extreme thinking and gain a sense of balance.

July 4 - Convenience

What would summer in Atlanta be like without air conditioning? Those without it can tell you that it’s not ideal. As difficult as it is to imagine, air conditioning is a modern convenience.

Think of the plethora of conveniences that you’ve probably grown accustomed to. The list includes things like remote control devices of all sorts including Alexa. There are fast food restaurants with drive-throughs, alarm clocks with snooze features, car washes, store self-checkouts, and cell phones. It’s difficult to believe these aren’t necessities, isn’t it?

What do you do if you need to learn some information quickly? You “Google it,” right? Literally in seconds you have an answer to your question. And how about Zoom and other video platforms? From the start of the pandemic, this convenient form of technology has saved many businesses and has been immensely beneficial for a number of families and relationships. We’ve really gotten used to this way of connecting.

Social media is a convenient way to connect with others and to market or access services in a fast way. What other conveniences can you think of? The list seems endless.

Customer service language emphasizes phrases such as “for your convenience.” The aim of customer service is to make life easier for the customer in some respect.

When these mechanisms are not available, they become inconvenient. And very quickly unrest, impatience, and frustration set in. We’ve gotten used to immediate gratification, which many conveniences are built on. When that instant payoff or reward doesn’t happen quickly enough, it can cause quite a stir, can’t it?

From a sober perspective though, most of these items are not life-or-death.

Self-regulation can be very effective whenever something becomes inconvenient. Consider the following ideas to move skillfully through those times when facing small or large inconveniences:

- Cultivate gratitude for what you do have at the moment.

- Remind yourself that the inconvenient situation is only temporary.

- Take a breath and view the circumstances from a higher perspective. Realize that it’s probably not a true emergency.

- Focus on what you can do to correct the situation and accept your limitations.

- Imagine how thrilled you will be when convenience is restored. This will allow you to enjoy and appreciate it so much more.

July 3 - Someday

Are you someone who puts things off until someday? It might be tasks or even a dream like traveling to a wonderful destination. You might put off conversations for various reasons, positive or more difficult ones. Someday is an interesting psychological phenomenon that may work in your favor, or it may not.

It’s not an effective strategy if you use someday to procrastinate tasks that could be handled today, only to compound your stress by putting it off. It’s also not helpful if you need to take care of something like your health or a much-needed conversation in a relationship to improve your well-being and peace of mind.

Someday is helpful, though, if you have a big idea you’d like to implement or experience but have too much on your plate at the moment to take it on. In this case, we encourage you to create a someday file. Write (or type) your idea out and place it in the file, so you don’t lose sight of it. Schedule a regular time to visit your someday file to check in and see if it’s now appropriate to move that item to a today file.

Someday is also helpful to you if you have a dream but not the means to make it happen. Dreaming is good for your mental health. It elevates your mood and mindset. When you dream of something wonderful, whether it’s a trip or a new career, your brain and body release feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters that help you enjoy better health, clarity and performance. Use your someday to dream big even if the resources and means are not available yet.

Avoid utilizing this technique to put things off that you can begin to move toward today. Sometimes fear and insecurity can get the best of you and cause your someday file to be a forever distant dream. It’s possible that you need to reach out to others for support, guidance and resources. How have others accomplished something similar? Learn to make your someday a reality. Act when the time is right for you.

June 30 - Noise

Stop where you are at this moment and listen. What do you hear? Maybe you’re quietly reading this column, or maybe there are some noises in the background. If so, how loud are the sounds?

Being able to tolerate noise doesn’t mean it is good for you or your health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cite continual exposure to noise as a cause of stress, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, heart disease and many other health problems. Other health issues are tied to noise such as sleep disruption, and gastritis. Adrenaline and cortisol play a substantial role in the formation of the problems cited above. Hearing loss is another direct effect of long-term exposure to noise, especially loud noise.

In terms of brain functioning, noise elicits alertness and activation. There are also superfluous noises you hear daily such as email and social media notifications. Those sounds draw your brain into vigilance unnecessarily and away from your task at hand. Being on constant alert or being regularly startled doesn’t result in greater calm, clarity and good health.

Common sounds such as washing machines, leaf blowers, sirens and traffic noises in a car add up over time. Naturally, very loud concerts and sporting events can take noise to a level that’s barely tolerable.

Even if you don’t have hearing loss issues, regular noise can be a vexation to your mood and spirit. Over time, tolerance builds, and you may not even realize the amount of noise to which you become habituated. A sense of unconscious agitation and restlessness can ensue.

The following practices are suggested to reduce your exposure to problematic noise:

- Avoid loud environments where possible.

- Create time and space for quiet on a regular basis.

- Lower the volume on devices and machines when possible.

- Use earplugs or noise-canceling earphones when you can’t avoid loud environments or when noise is ongoing.

- Eliminate any gratuitous noise at home or at work. Consider removing sound notifications from your emails and social media.

- Consider a silent retreat. The amount of time you allow can be as little as one hour. You may increase your allowance to a half-day, full-day, or full weekend retreat in silence. Typically, silent retreat participants report feeling immensely relaxed physically, mentally, and emotionally.

June 29 - Underestimation

Have you ever been underestimated? Perhaps a critic or even a loved one thought you didn’t have what it takes to accomplish a goal or a dream? Sometimes these messages come from a boss or even a stranger. If this has happened to you, you’re not alone. Many people report receiving negative feedback from others. It doesn’t feel good when someone tells you that you don’t have what it takes. It’s also a delicious feeling when you prove them wrong.

How can you accomplish your dreams and goals for your life when others don’t think you can? You have to believe in yourself. Make the decision that you can make your vision a reality. That firm decision will drive your behaviors.

Connect with the emotion behind your desire. Why do you want this? How will it impact your life? How will it impact others? What benefits will it bring beyond the actual goal itself? Imagine how it will feel when you’ve accomplished it. What feelings might you enjoy? People report emotions of joy, security, peace, elation and pride when they’ve reached a goalpost in their lives. Practicing feeling these elevated emotional states will help you continue to move forward even in the midst of naysayers and obstacles. Emotions are powerful and potent. They will support you in your progress.

When anyone underestimates you, remember that it’s only their opinion. It’s not a fact. It’s their perspective. There can be a number of reasons that people will share this perspective with you. They may be projecting their own insecurities. They may be trying to protect you from disappointment. They might simply be mean. They could be short-sighted and unable to see the value you bring. They may not understand your talents and gifts. Whatever the reason, be sure not to internalize their opinion with your truth. If you have a dream, continue to take steps toward it. You deserve to find out what is possible without limiting yourself based on others’ perspectives.

June 28 - Smile

The human brain is a marvelous pharmacy, chock-full of wonderful life-enhancing ingredients. The brain can release tiny, powerful molecules called neuropeptides to fight off stress. Those miniscule particles stimulate other potent, feel-good neurotransmitters like oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. One incredibly easy way to activate this process is by smiling.

It seems too good to be true, doesn’t it? Try it right now and hold a light smile for a minute. When you do that, studies show that a positive change takes place in the mind and body. Even if you weren’t previously feeling great, your smile signals to your body that you’re happy, which results in feeling at least somewhat happier.

There is even evidence that a smile not only lifts your mood but boosts your immune system. Dr. Murray Grossan, an ENT in Los Angeles has shown in his research repeatedly that depression weakens the immune system while smiling enhances it. A wealth of other studies shows that smiling lowers your heart rate, reduces your blood pressure, may lengthen your life, and many other benefits.

The question becomes: What if you don’t feel like smiling? The simple answer is to smile anyway. The effects are realized whether it’s a genuine smile or an inauthentic one. In fact, even if it’s a false smile, you begin a pleasant cascade in your mind and body that may positively elevate your outlook quickly. This is not to suggest that a smile will ameliorate depression, but it is a step in the right direction. Smiling gives you a greater sense of control over your internal and external experience.

Anecdotal evidence also suggests that you may be perceived as more attractive when you smile. Try the following experiment: the next time you go to a store, mall or restaurant, allow there to be a slight smile on your face. Casually observe the response you receive. Often, we’ve noticed some people not only smiling back but others enjoyably saying hello. This allows you to positively affect those around you while always enjoying a more pleasant experience yourself. It’s an experiment worth the free investment in yourself.

June 27 - De-Clutter your life

Do you ever feel like your life is cluttered? It’s easy to spot clutter in physical spaces, but there are other areas that can also spiral out of control. We define clutter as anything that is not connected to your highest and greatest good.

Let’s start by examining your physical space. Do you have closets, drawers or other areas in your home, office or car that need some organizing and simplifying? Taking time to get things in order is a powerful form of self-care. Piles of stuff cause stress for many people. Some people are aware of this connection between messiness and distress, but others aren’t. They just know they feel uptight, but don’t always connect the dots between the discomfort and disorganization.

Research by Dr. Fred Luskin of Stanford University shows that about 90 percent of our thoughts are repetitive. This constant recycling clutters your mind. Sometimes your brain can get cluttered just like your physical space. In the information age that we live in, it’s tempting to keep filling up your brain space with more stimulation. Instead, allow your brain to have a break. When you take breaks, allow the brain to rest rather than engaging with others (including technology). This will create more clarity, innovation, and mental well-being.

You might also choose to look at your calendar. We live in such a fast-paced society where we’re trying to fit so much in continuously. Sometimes priorities get pushed to the back because we’re not utilizing our time skillfully. Look over your last month, and see if you can determine how you spent your time and if you got the results you were seeking. Are there some activities you could alter moving forward to clear the calendar and create more calm in your life? Are you allowing others’ priorities and agendas interfere with what’s most important to you? Are they times you could set better boundaries to give yourself more time? Creating space is akin to a satisfying exhale to your mind and body.

June 26 - Stonewalling

Has anyone ever given you the silent treatment? Or perhaps you’ve given this treatment to another person? This is also called stonewalling in psychological literature. Although you may think you or they deserve to be stonewalled, it can actually cause a lot of emotional harm to the relationship. In fact, it’s one of the leading causes of divorce according to Dr. John Gottman, a relationship expert.

Why do people engage in this dynamic? There are many possibilities. Some people don’t have the skills to resolve difficulties in a direct, productive way. Others lack the language to articulate how they feel and what they need. Some people learned this behavior in childhood. Parents may have modeled it, or they learned that stonewalling helps them feel emotionally safe. Introverts have a tendency to stonewall more than extraverts because they like to figure things out internally before discussing. However, extraverts may use this strategy also, especially if they have found that it works in the past.

While we certainly believe there are occasions when a person needs a break from another, it’s important to be clear that you’re taking a break. We encourage people to let one another know that they need a time-out and to tell them when they will return to the conversation. If the time-out lasts longer than a full day, this can also be a form of stonewalling.

Some strategies to help you during a time-out, whether you chose it or someone else did, are listed below.

- Use that time to self-soothe and self-regulate rather than vent and stew over the issue. When you come back to the problem, you’ll be calmer and have more clarity.

- Write out your thoughts and feelings. Sometimes you’re not even sure of how you feel and what you need until you write it. Give yourself permission to all thoughts and feelings. Nothing is off limits. Be honest with yourself.

- Be radically honest with yourself. Is there something on your side of the street that you could have done better?

- Practice makes progress. Learning to stay in the conversation can be difficult at first, but eventually you will find that it leads to well-being and positive, productive relationships.

June 23 - Memories

How many times have you heard the phrase, “do you remember when?” It’s interesting how people remember events differently. In some cases, it may be recalling situations a little differently and in other cases, radically so. Why is that?

It’s not that one person is necessarily right or wrong. Several factors play into the disparity of what is remembered. One is the perceptual filter of each person, governed by their history, awareness at the time of said event, and what sensory highlights locked into their brain at the time. A snapshot, so to speak, of what happened is not the same, even if people are watching the same event in real time. Moments later, individual reports vary, sometimes widely.

Another aspect of memory is what is called the recency effect. This means that what has recently occurred is what is illuminated in memory. This is true in many aspects of life, including work evaluations. Studies show that a manager tends to remember, and therefore assess, an employee’s performance based on the last few weeks or months before an annual review. This is a largely unconscious bias dominated by short-term memory.

In relationships, there can be this same underlying bias. Have you ever gotten into a fierce disagreement with a loved one and have that dispute suddenly rule your memories of that person? It’s not the whole version of that person, but it can feel like it sometimes.

Memory is a highly-complex process and this topic is voluminous and not easily summarized. We’re not covering memory loss, memory techniques, and other memory-related subjects here. The point we’re making is that people remember things differently, and you may not be accurately assessing what has taken place accurately.

Here’s what we suggest:

- Use beginner’s mind. In mindfulness, this is being curious, open, and receptive to another person’s recall of what has occurred. Active listening without defensiveness helps.

- Ask the question: Could the other person’s perception of what has taken place, be more accurate or at least partly so?

- In an intimate relationship, look at photos that were taken over an extended period of time. If you have had a recent dispute, this may shine the light more accurately on the whole of the relationship.

June 23 - Memories

How many times have you heard the phrase, “do you remember when?” It’s interesting how people remember events differently. In some cases, it may be recalling situations a little differently and in other cases, radically so. Why is that?

It’s not that one person is necessarily right or wrong. Several factors play into the disparity of what is remembered. One is the perceptual filter of each person, governed by their history, awareness at the time of said event, and what sensory highlights locked into their brain at the time. A snapshot, so to speak, of what happened is not the same, even if people are watching the same event in real time. Moments later, individual reports vary, sometimes widely.

Another aspect of memory is what is called the recency effect. This means that what has recently occurred is what is illuminated in memory. This is true in many aspects of life, including work evaluations. Studies show that a manager tends to remember, and therefore assess, an employee’s performance based on the last few weeks or months before an annual review. This is a largely unconscious bias dominated by short-term memory.

In relationships, there can be this same underlying bias. Have you ever gotten into a fierce disagreement with a loved one and have that dispute suddenly rule your memories of that person? It’s not the whole version of that person, but it can feel like it sometimes.

Memory is a highly-complex process and this topic is voluminous and not easily summarized. We’re not covering memory loss, memory techniques, and other memory-related subjects here. The point we’re making is that people remember things differently, and you may not be accurately assessing what has taken place accurately.

Here’s what we suggest:

- Use beginner’s mind. In mindfulness, this is being curious, open, and receptive to another person’s recall of what has occurred. Active listening without defensiveness helps.

- Ask the question: Could the other person’s perception of what has taken place, be more accurate or at least partly so?

- In an intimate relationship, look at photos that were taken over an extended period of time. If you have had a recent dispute, this may shine the light more accurately on the whole of the relationship.

June 22 - Legacy

The poet Mary Oliver asks the question, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Have you thought about how your life is impacting the world around you? How would you like to be remembered? Do you think you’re making the world a better place? Have you received feedback from others? Similar to the waves trailing behind a boat, you leave a mark on the people and places you have engaged. This mark can be positive or negative.

Some people think the word legacy doesn’t apply to them. They think it’s a word used only for the famous, wealthy and powerful. However, everyone leaves some type of legacy. It doesn’t have to be loud and over the top. It can be quiet and just as potent? What will your legacy be? What’s most important to you? What are you dedicating your time, energy and effort toward? No one knows how much time they have left in this life. Given that fact, how can you seize today to create a legacy that is meaningful to you?

Some people leave a legacy of love, care and respect. They are remembered for how they made others feel. Some leave a legacy of generational wealth. Others work diligently to demonstrate a new type of leadership that positively impacts communities, workplaces and families. Some leave words of inspiration and motivation to lift and guide others. You can help elevate humanity if you desire. It’s not too late to follow the calling of your heart. Even the smallest of efforts can end up having a major impact on current and future generations.

Sometimes it takes courage to make that effort. It can be a risk to try. In some ways, it’s easier to not consider how your life is impacting others. However, when you consciously choose to leave a positive legacy, you will continue to make a contribution to future generations for years to come. You know that your life had meaning, and that’s very gratifying. It’s a gift to yourself and the world.

June 21 - Normalizing destructive behavior

Have you ever been told to ignore aggressive behavior that was directed at you? Maybe people suggested that you needed to develop a thick skin in order to tolerate intolerable behavior? These are tactics that some people use to minimize and normalize mistreatment.

The term is called “pathological denial” in psychological realms. It creates as much or more damage as aggressive behavior. A person invested in this level of denial wants everyone else to invest in it also. Why would anyone do this? There are many possible reasons. It can emanate from unresolved woundings, codependency and enabling, or even more sinister agendas.

When destructive behavior is occurring, the healthiest thing to do is set boundaries. Let the person know that the behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. You don’t need to make a speech. Just let the other person know that you will not be mistreated. If the behavior continues, you will set stronger boundaries and consequences. This is a healthy, appropriate response to aggressive behaviors.

The person enacting the aggression and the person enabling it may not be ready to change. You can’t force that on them. People only change when they’re ready. You may be tempted to stay in the dynamic hoping they will finally come to their senses. Many people do stay, and they suffer and decline on multiple levels because of that decision.

If you are in a dysfunctional dynamic, you must remove yourself if you want to maintain your own mental health and well-being. Sometimes it’s necessary to take a step back. If you haven’t done this previously, it may feel awkward and uncomfortable. This doesn’t mean that you made a wrong decision. Boundaries are highly disliked in dysfunctional dynamics. People invested in this system will definitely push against healthy behaviors and choices. Trust yourself, and take care of yourself. You deserve it.

June 20 - Purpose

Have you ever wondered what your purpose is? Why are you here? What does it all mean? Is there something specific you’re supposed to do with your life?

So many people think that their purpose is solely attached to and expressed through their work. This simply isn’t true. Your purpose may have been to bring other human beings into the world and care for your family. Your purpose may be to be a great person in the community. Your purpose might be to be a placeholder for goodness on the planet.

When people hear the word purpose, they often believe that it’s only valuable if the purpose has been acknowledged and received applause and accolades. Those can feel wonderful, but many people are living their purpose in quiet ways. Often, the masses have no idea that they’re using their life force energy to do something special for others and the world. Some people actually prefer it that way. They don’t want to be in the spotlight or receive a lot of attention.

We’ve had the good fortune of meeting a lot of these people. They are living a life of service without telling the world they are living a life of service. Imagine that! They are buying band instruments for underprivileged schools. They are buying food for their neighbors who are silently struggling. They are caring for animals who have no other place to go. We even heard of a woman caring for wounded squirrels. Many gifts people offer the world aren’t acknowledged, but they find it personally satisfying.

Everyone does not need to approve of or agree with your calling for it to be important and helpful. You only need to honor your own heart’s wisdom. The masses may not appreciate what you’re doing in your own way to serve your purpose, and that’s okay. If you have your own approval and the deep gratification that comes from honoring your purpose, that’s more than enough. It’s a basic human need to know you’re making a difference.

June 19 - Happy accidents

Did you know that some wonderful inventions happened by accident? Here are just a few of them: the implantable pacemaker, the Slinky, Play-Doh, Post-it Notes, chocolate chip cookies, Velcro, popsicle, and penicillin. Wouldn’t the world be a less healthy, less fun place without some of these “accidents?”

Do you recall the amazing artist Bob Ross? Often, with his calm, soothing, reassuring voice, he would say, “Remember, there are no mistakes, only happy accidents.” Ross cultivated the idea of self-acceptance among viewers as he captivated them with his extraordinary artistry.

Let’s think about the concept of happy accidents. What do you experience internally when you make a mistake or faux pas? Maybe what you consider a misstep is actually a happy accident. Have you ever had an experience when you were delayed en route to someplace only to meet a kind, new friend? Or maybe you were late to an appointment only to encounter a better opportunity.

Sometimes making a mistake reveals a blessing. Since you can’t work life out in advance, why not take some pressure off yourself when things don’t go as planned? If you stay open to the possibility, an unexpected gift may emerge in your experience.

Getting back to Ross, he created beautiful paintings of mountains and beaches, typically in thirty minutes. If you watched him on television long ago or presently on Youtube, there’s something you’ll never see. No matter what he does, he never gets mad at himself. In fact, he has a calm, cheerful attitude as he paints. Because his demeanor was always pleasant, he didn’t get derailed from his original, artistic intention for any given piece.

Ross seemed to know that whatever happens in life, you can also use it as information or wisdom to benefit you. He chose to see events in the most positive way. Clearly, he didn’t “cry over spilled milk.”

Think about what is happening imperfectly in your life right now. Pick any area where things may not be going as planned. Maybe it’s health, finances, relationships, work or aging? How can you look at your concerns in a way that actually benefits you? What is, is. Your opportunity lies in how you see and in how you respond at any given moment.

June 16 - Sales and negotiations

Are you a good negotiator? Are you someone who loves sales? While some people are highly competent in these areas, many dread the thought of sales and negotiations. They don’t want to come across as pushy. They sometimes feel intimidated. Sometimes people are trying to sell something they don’t believe in.

That’s the key. You must believe in what you’re selling in order for people to invest in your idea, service or product. You may be saying the right phrases, but humans have a radar that picks up your beliefs and emotions around what you’re pitching. The truth is that every single one of us is in sales. It may not be an official role or title, but we negotiate informally every day.

Children learn to negotiate at an early age, and many of them are quite good at it. Were you? They haven’t yet experienced the rejection or defeat that comes when their idea has been shot down. When the adults in their lives eventually tell them “no” or don’t meet their needs in a timely way, it can be a painful experience. At this point in their development, they are the center of their universe, and their needs and desires are top priorities to them.

So how about adults? Did you realize that you’re in sales and negotiation too? Your interactions with family, friends, the workplace and community are often a negotiation. So what is the best starting point? Get clarity about what you really want. It amazes us how often people really don’t know. Spend some time understanding what results you are truly seeking and why.

Then go into the conversation with confidence. Our colleague, Linda Byars-Swindling, wrote a book on this topic called “Ask Outrageously.” We suggest you use a three-tiered approach. What do you want ideally? What would be good if you didn’t get your first choice. What is your bottom line — your walk away terms or the very least you’re willing to settle for. Packaging your negotiation in this way helps you gain clarity and leaves room for both parties to be happy.

June 15 - Childhood emotional neglect

Have you experienced emotional neglect in your life? Do you sometimes feel that your feelings don’t matter to others? When you were growing up, did your parents help you identify and express your emotions appropriately? Or did they minimize them, belittle them or turn away from you when you had a feeling?

If you grew up in a household where your emotions were not honored, you may find that you’ve continued in similar relationships and patterns. You may have partnered with someone or made friends with a person who continues this dynamic. You may have physical symptoms like knots in your stomach, tightness in your chest or tension in your jaw. These symptoms often develop their origin in dysfunctional families. Psychological symptoms include codependency, anxiety, depression and addiction.

While it’s not helpful to get stuck in “blaming your parents” for your childhood, it is helpful to understand why you’re experiencing relationship dynamics the way you are. This helps you elevate your self-awareness and begin to heal from those wounds. You can do things differently, and this is empowering.

Some strategies to begin this healing process are described below.

- Find a few pictures of yourself as a child, and connect with that innocent, beautiful being. Send yourself love.

- Remind yourself that a dysfunctional childhood was not your fault. This experience emerged due to wounded adults who passed on those wounds to you.

- Tell yourself that your emotions, needs and desires do matter. You deserve to be seen and heard.

- Use your journal to write affirmations about your worthiness, innocence and capacity to heal from dysfunction.

- Be aware of relational patterns where you may be unconsciously allowing emotional neglect to take place. Seek others who are self-aware and emotionally healthy.

- Practice identifying and expressing various emotions.

- Practice radical self-care. This sends a message to your mind of your deservedness of care. Become your own maternal/paternal presence.

June 14 - Influence

Who or what is influencing you? So many things affect us as we move through life. People are a major influence. Those close to you probably impact you through their presence, behavior and influence. Think of how deeply you were influenced by your parents or caregivers when you were a child. Political, religious figures and social icons likely make some impression on you as well.

Then there are events like 911, the pandemic and elections that have a huge bearing on your life. Positive events like the Olympics or television shows you enjoy can also have an effect on you. You’re always under the influence of someone or something, whether you realize it or not.

Think about when you are engaging someone who is very dramatic. If you’re around them, you may find yourself caught up in their latest drama mentally, emotionally and physically. On the other hand, think of that upbeat, cheerful friend. You likely feel positively influenced when you’re in their company.

Being aware of whom or what you’re under the influence of gives you clarity. And clarity gives you choice. Largely, you can choose who the influencers are if you are in a state of clarity.

To elucidate further, it may be in your best interest to be influenced at times. Take the example of a relationship, maybe even a romantic one. If your partner expresses a strong need, it’s worth considering. Relationship researcher Dr. John Gottman encourages “accepting influence” as a way to grow communication and intimacy.

In fact, Gottman reports that allowing yourself to be influenced by the needs of your loved one as a strong predictor of relationship success. You want to be yourself expressing your own needs in a relationship, but you also want to thoughtfully consider the needs of your partner or family. This idea can be applied in many situations including work.

It’s a fine line, isn’t it? Who or what should you listen to and in what ways? This ends up being an individual decision. If you’re not careful, you can find yourself hypnotized by what family, culture or institutions believe. How you feel can be a good barometer to determine how certain types of influence are affecting you.

June 13 - Smartest person in room

Are you the smartest person in the room in your personal and professional groups? If so, we believe you’re in the wrong room. Or at least, you need to broaden your horizons. You can maintain some of the groups you participate in while exploring new ones that help you learn new things and get exposed to new ways of being and doing.

While it feels gratifying to be able to offer your guidance, wisdom and experience to others, you may be stifling your own growth and expansion if that’s the only place you reside. It’s definitely a gift to the world when you share your talents, but don’t limit yourself.

Some people only feel comfortable if they’re the top dog. They enjoy a certain status amongst their peers when no one is questioning their authority or perspective. This is a stagnating comfort zone. Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by others who are smarter and more experienced than you. Be humble and willing to learn from others who know more or who are simply different in their experience and approach to life. Allow these people to sharpen you and level your mind and life.

On the other hand, some people may shy away from being the smartest one in the room. They are scared to shine too brightly, often for fear of being criticized or disliked. These people take humility to the next level, and it doesn’t serve anyone well. Everyone has expertise, experiences and capabilities that may serve others. To not allow yourself to reveal your strengths is a disservice to everyone, including yourself. It feels good when you can lend others a helping hand by using what you’ve learned in your life.

Age is not a factor in this. Children, with their curious minds and frank, honest responses to observations, can often be some of the wisest among us. You can learn from all people in all age brackets. You’re not too young, and you’re not too old to share your wisdom. When you do, you bless others, yourself and the world.

June 12 - Habits

So much of what we do as humans is governed by habits. Habits are largely unconscious. You may be programmed in certain ways of daily operating. Think about how many of the following you do practically without thinking: brushing your teeth, taking a shower, opening a door, driving a car, moving through a grocery store, greeting someone new.

Because you have repeated a behavior many times consistently, it becomes a habit.

You likely have some positive habits. Perhaps you say thank you when someone does something kind for you. Maybe you exercise consistently. If you pause to make a list, you may find that you have an expansive number of good habits.

What about bad habits? Are there negative habits you have that you wish you could alter? It could be that you have habits around finances, health or relationships that you really wish you could change. Maybe you’ve really tried to shift those habits but haven’t been successful. Let’s consider why.

Habits are behaviors that have become locked into your way of being because they are reinforcing in some way. Even bad habits like losing a temper, gambling away your savings or smoking are somehow rewarded otherwise you wouldn’t continue. It defies logic, doesn’t it?

A huge part of the “glue” that locks in habits is emotions. Whether it’s being comforted, or reducing anxiety, loneliness or sadness, habits can fill a void. This can explain why you do things that you know may not be good for you. But habits can also be life-enhancing and positive. You may have instilled a habit of gratitude, exercise, laughter or a regular hobby that makes you feel good and lifts your health and well-being.

How do you instill a new habit? We encourage you to start small and to be consistent. Let’s say you want to learn how to meditate because you believe it will help you be more calm, clear and healthy. Our suggestion would be to set a timer for just five minutes a day. Do your best to meditate in the same place and at the same time each day. Only do that small amount for a week. But make sure you practice it every day without fail. Most people can carve out five minutes every single day. Increase the amount slightly if you are successful in the first week. This is just one example.

Beware of the myth that you form a habit in 21 days. Current research indicates that a new habit is solidified sometime between 59 and 70 days. But the good news is that once the habit is set, it becomes automatic. What habit would you like to begin for better results in your life?

June 9 - Solitude

In today’s highly social world, the idea of solitude may seem incongruent and even like a negative concept. To clarify, solitude is not loneliness, isolation or a response to social rejection. In fact, solitude can be a positive state of being. Research shows that it contains many mental health benefits. It is associated with positive psychological adjustment, stress management and life satisfaction. It may even boost relationship quality and stimulate creativity.

The obvious question about solitude is why. Let’s consider the amount of stimulation the average person is bombarded with on a daily basis. The human mind is already, according to research, processing approximately 60,000-70,000 thoughts per day. This translates into a vast amount of mental noise. Mechanisms like social media probably feed that noise level. Too much of this mental chatter leads to high levels of stress. How could it not?

Having quiet time, dedicated to self-care and reflection, seems to be a logical balance, doesn’t it? This logic has been demonstrated by psychology researcher Dr. Thuy-vy Nguyen of Durham University in England. Ten years of her research has found that spending just fifteen minutes alone had a “deactivation effect,” meaning that any strong emotions were reduced. In Nguyen’s experiments, this meant that arousal levels were significantly reduced, and greater states of calm and self-regulation took place.

Additionally, researchers at Harvard University found that solitude may boost resilience. Given the high stress levels for so many people, couldn’t resilience be helpful?

Deliberately dedicating time alone, even for short periods, can make a difference in one’s mental health. This could mean meditation each day, but it can also mean sitting quietly with a cup of coffee or tea in a comfortable place indoors or outside. Other solitary activities can include writing, mindful coloring or painting, contemplating, or simply being in nature.

Even though humans are social beings, sometimes a break is needed from one another. At times, engagement with others can be excessive. Listening to others’ opinions and conversation can reach a saturation point.

Dr. Nguyen clarifies that solitude doesn’t necessarily mean being alone, though it can. You can experience solitude sipping tea in a cafe, reading a book in a park, sitting quietly in a religious environment, running where others are present or perusing books in a library.

Since many people find it threatening to entertain the notion of solitude, we suggest doing so in small chunks. Experiment with what it’s like to practice for short periods of time. You may just find that you enjoy it and emerge feeling calmer and more centered.

June 8 - Transformation

When have you gone through transformations in your life? When have you watched others change and evolve into new versions of themselves? It’s exciting to observe ourselves and others in process. Often though, we don’t see the whole progression. We only see the end result.

The late, great Maya Angelou said this: “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit what it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” Sometimes you see the greatness others have accomplished, but you didn’t see the hard work, self-doubts and difficulties they went through on their journey. People don’t always share that information with others.

Don’t compare where you are on the journey with others who have already completed their transformation. We see people getting frustrated with themselves simply because they compare their current process with others’ end results.

You may be in a phase of becoming the butterfly but haven’t quite reached the result you seek. The process of transformation can be slow or quick. It’s different for everyone. As you are working on making some changes, be mindful to not judge yourself or become impatient. Know that it’s normal to take two steps forward and one step back. It’s easy to get frustrated.

We live in a fast-paced world and sometimes, we expect our transformation to be equally quick. It can be swift, but often it is not. Keep taking the next best right step. Ultimately, those steps add up to fantastic results when you’re consistent. Keep the end result in mind. That vision of yourself as the transformed butterfly can power you through obstacles and setbacks. Give yourself a lot of encouragement. We’re cheering you forward!

When people around you are working on transformation, you may fall into the same pitfalls as when you’re working on yourself. The same rules apply here. Be patient, compassionate, and steadfast with them. Move away from advice giving. Your loving presence is very powerful. Remember we are all in process in some way. That’s the nature of life.

June 7 - Group dynamics

Are you adept at group dynamics? Groups exist in most areas of our lives from family to workplace teams to community organizations. When you have groups, you have all kinds of personalities interacting with each other. Some of those personalities will get along well with yours, and others won’t. So how can you be in a group and retain your peace and happiness?

First, let us say that all groups are not meant for you. You may find that you had a certain perception of how a group would operate only to have that idea dismantled after participating in it. The other truth about groups is that they are constantly changing. Leadership changes. The people in the group change. So while the group may have been a good fit for you at one point, you may have outgrown it or it no longer resonates.

Family is the first group you learn to navigate. Families come in all shapes and sizes, and how you learned to interact with this primary group impacts what you attempt as you grow up. The structure and rules of this initial family may look completely different than the next group you participate in like sports teams and peer groups. You then have to learn a different set of rules of engagement. Sometimes this goes well, and sometimes it doesn’t. You may have found yourself hurt or wounded in some of these dynamics or perhaps not reading the social cues correctly. This leads people to feel like outliers.

In team dynamics in the workplace, boards and associations, and community organizations, we often discuss the stages of development that teams go through. These stages include forming, storming, norming and performing. The first two stages are difficult, but often if you can hang in there through the rough patches, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you reach norming and performing. Even with very different personalities and perspectives, groups can find themselves working well together after some time. Some key components of getting to these stages without too much damage includes effective communication, good leadership, and empathy and understanding of differences.

June 6 - Recognition

How do you feel when you are recognized by someone? How do you feel when you aren’t? Being seen, acknowledged, and understood are important needs that most people have.

At the essential level, physical survival comes first. Being able to have food, water, and shelter are necessary to live and function. As Abraham Maslow found in his hierarchy of human needs, physiological needs are elemental followed closely by safety. But there are other needs. After those basics, humans require love and esteem.

How were you recognized as a child? Were you doted on in terms of your accomplishments? Were you verbally complimented for your looks, size, or grades, perhaps your athletic skills? How was that demonstrated? In some families, verbal recognition and celebration are commonplace. In those situations, desired behavior and attempts are reinforced in some way. It may be a physical or verbal reward. Obviously, that encourages the child to repeat certain conduct or habits.

In other families, there is little acknowledgement. That may be for a variety of reasons. Maybe the family is simply focused on basic survival. It could be that recognition was never something of significance in its family history. If reinforcement is not an important value growing up in a family, school, or on teams, applause may feel uncomfortable and awkward when it occurs. Secretly, the person may want to be acknowledged but doesn’t know how to respond to it comfortably.

On the one hand, it could be best to stand on your own merit and esteem for what you achieve. In other words, you applaud yourself for your efforts and accomplishments. That way you’re not dependent on accolades from others to feel good. On the other hand, as a human being, it feels pleasant when someone compliments you. Think about the last time someone cheered for you. Have you ever had a crowd clap for you for some feat you performed? How did you feel in those moments?

How about this? How well do you recognize others? That is a powerful relationship builder. By acknowledging another person, you highlight their value. And typically, it feels uplifting to both the sender and the receiver when you attend to someone else.

June 5 - Generations

What generation do you belong? The most currently discussed include: Gen Z, Millennials, Gen Y, Gen X, Baby Boomer? How do you view and interact with others who are from a different generation than you? Misunderstanding different generations is not a new phenomenon. If you watched the “Elvis” (2022) movie starring Austin Butler and Tom Hanks, you clearly witness dissension amongst the generations. Even in the animated movie, “The Croods” (2013), different age people within a family and beyond are having conflicts.

While there are some similar characteristics among people of a certain age, it doesn’t tell the whole story of a person. We often see people quickly assessing (and then judging) another person simply because of their age. It’s unfair to summarize someone because of the generation they were born into. Some people devalue the wisdom, perspective and experience of a different generation while others overvalue it. For example, a baby boomer may value a person from the millennial generation because they have a child of that age. Some Gen Z’s have more respect for people in the Gen Y category because they have a deep connection for a family member who falls in that group.

When you quickly summarize a person based on one dimension, you lose the richness of their humanity. It’s not fair to them. And it’s not fair to you. You miss out on the possibility of a relationship dynamic that could enrich your life. It’s best to get to know someone based on the content of their character. Be curious. Ask questions. Be patient and empathetic. This in no way is a suggestion to disregard bad behavior. It’s an opportunity to expand your worldview and enjoy growth and camaraderie with people different than you.

Every generation has valuable experiences, insights and perspectives. When you give others basic respect even if you’re experience differs, everyone wins. The world becomes an even more beautiful place to live in.

June 2 - Bullies

What do you think of when you think of bullies? Many people think of the playground and classroom. Social media has provided a new platform for bullies of all shapes and ages. Bullies can also show up in families, community groups, and the workplace. They emerge in friendship groups and social settings.

The most common form of bullying is characterized by aggression and malice. They are very direct and unapologetic about how they set about terrorizing others. They often appear to have more power in the situation which allows this destructive behavior to continue. Sometimes this power differential is an illusion. There are strategies to work around the perceived gap. Enlisting others is one way to get support in the situation. Unfortunately, many people are embarrassed to let others know about the predicament because they feel that they should be able to handle things on their own. This is especially true for children. Kids rarely let their parents know what’s occurring, leaving them vulnerable to the toxic dynamics they’re encountering.

Adults often remain silent too. Sometimes it’s because they haven’t identified the bullying for what it is. If it’s a family member doing the bullying, it’s difficult to reconcile that you love this person while they are simultaneously bullying you. If it’s a leader or peer in the workplace that you respect, it also can feel confusing. This confusion can paralyze the victim of the bullying.

Even more complicated is when the true bully decides and tell others that they are the victim and continues the bullying. This happens more often than you might think and is a form of “gaslighting.” This dynamic can take the form of gossiping and withholding behavior. Some bullies are more quiet and sophisticated in their approach which makes it more difficult to identify what is occurring. Pay attention to red flags. The feeling of being disrespected, attacked, or ignored are all subtle forms of the same. Honor your feelings and experiences, and get support when needed.

June 1 - Group dynamics

Are you adept at group dynamics? Groups exist in most areas of our lives from family to workplace teams to community organizations. When you have groups, you have all kinds of personalities interacting with each other. Some of those personalities will get along well with yours, and others won’t. So how can you be in a group and retain your peace and happiness?

First, let us say that all groups are not meant for you. You may find that you had a certain perception of how a group would operate only to have that idea dismantled after participating in it. The other truth about groups is that they are constantly changing. Leadership changes. The people in the group change. So while the group may have been a good fit for you at one point, you may have outgrown it or it no longer resonates.

Family is the first group you learn to navigate. Families come in all shapes and sizes, and how you learned to interact with this primary group impacts what you attempt as you grow up. The structure and rules of this initial family may look completely different than the next group you participate in such as sports teams and peer groups. You then have to learn a different set of rules of engagement. Sometimes this goes well, and sometimes it doesn’t. You may have found yourself hurt or wounded in some of these dynamics or perhaps not reading the social cues correctly. This leads people to feel like outliers.

In team dynamics in the workplace, boards and associations, and community organizations, we often discuss the stages of development that teams go through. These stages include forming, storming, norming and performing. The first two stages are difficult, but often if you can hang in there through the rough patches, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you reach norming and performing. Even with very different personalities and perspectives, groups can find themselves working well together after some time. Some key components of getting to these stages without too much damage includes effective communication, good leadership, and empathy and understanding of differences.

May 31 - Proactive mental health

May is mental health month, but really every month should be. It’s no secret that since the start of the pandemic, nearly every category of mental health issues has steadily risen in their acuity. This includes all-time highs in anxiety and depression categories. Physical health issues and symptoms such hypertension, insomnia, and headaches have increased as well.

Frequently, to talk to another person be it family, friend, or stranger is to learn of various mental health problems they are experiencing at some level. In our personal and professional experiences, we have learned some basic proactive and responsive strategies that can help you in everyday life to feel and live better. Let’s simplify these tools as ABC’s of proactive mental health:

  • Awareness: Be aware of your personal “weak links.” Is it aversiveness, anger, overindulgence in food or drink, jealousy, or some other pervasive issue? Select one struggle and focus on that one for the next week. Monitor the occurrence of the issue as it appears in your day. Use mindfulness to note it, take a breath, and allow it to pass through your mind and body without overreacting.
  • Belong: Connect with others who are supportive. Lean into trusted people who can listen non-judgmentally. Find others who are positive or even humorous in their disposition. Seek out those individuals more regularly and when possible, avoid naysayers, passive-aggressives, and doom-and-gloomers.
  • Commit to daily, uplifting practices and rituals. Now is a great time of year to get outside, when possible, in nature. Can you start a positive morning ritual? This can be sitting quietly with a cup of tea or coffee reading something inspirational. Maybe you can start doing a brief guided meditation each day. Reconnect to activities that bring you joy.

A complete overhaul of your life is not required. In fact, it’s not advised because many times that can set you up for defeat. Instead, consciously start making a few tweaks beginning today. Beginning immediately will shift your outlook and boost your mental health. If your mental health issues are interfering with your daily functioning, seek professional help. There are many forms of assistance available if you’re willing to reach out.

May 30 - Post-traumatic stress

Recent events in our fair city and elsewhere have been shocking, unnerving and frightening. Many people find themselves confused and feeling increasingly protective of their everyday movements. They are also worried about the safety of their loved ones.

We are not experts in trauma, but we have certainly had our personal and professional share of experiences with terrible events. People ask us how they are supposed to feel joy or any positives with horrible things taking place.

Let’s start with first things first. The closer you are to a trauma, the greater the personal impact. Those who experience post-traumatic stress typically have symptoms such as:

  • Sudden, intrusive thoughts or flashbacks about the event
  • Hyperarousal marked by jumpiness and an over-alert response to everyday life
  • Sleep disruption and nightmares
  • A change in appetite
  • Reluctance to engage socially and a tendency toward withdrawal
  • Physical symptoms such as nausea, sweating, trembling, and pain

This is not an exhaustive list. Everyone is unique in his/her response to trauma which, for this column, can simply be defined as abnormal, shocking events, resulting in deeply disturbing reactions.

In terms of personal reactions, there are those who express their feelings openly, while others shut down their emotions completely. Some find themselves somewhere along that continuum.

Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, we encourage you to reach out to a trusted friend, to clergy, grief groups, or to professionals in your community. Isolation is not helpful when recovering from trauma. Connection with others who can help is a better solution.

If you know someone who has been traumatized and you are close to them, you can reach out to them. Listening non-judgmentally to them can be helpful. That is usually more helpful than offering advice unless it is requested.

Moving through traumatic grief is often a complex process requiring patience and compassion. It is not by any means a “one size fits all” situation. Addressing the horror of the trauma itself first will eventually create an opportunity to once again experience hope and other positive emotions.

May 29 - Individual impact

How much influence do you believe you have in the world? On the one hand, if you consider how many people there are on the Earth, you may not feel influential. But think again. Have you ever had someone tell you how much you helped them? Maybe it was something you said or did that moved them forward in some respect.

Your individual impact or personal power is likely greater than you imagine. Consider everyone in your circle. This naturally includes family and friends. But what about those you see repeatedly? What about individuals such as your dry cleaner, grocery workers, coffee shop employees, waiters at your favorite restaurants, gas station attendants, people you see at the gym or local park, and fellow church/synagogue/ashram/mosque members?

Think about how many people you know or see frequently. Then reflect on how many human beings you cross paths with who you don’t know. For most people, the number is likely very great.

Now contemplate on the idea of what influences people. We have observed that humans are affected by words, actions, and body language. All of these have an effect on others for better or for worse. Ever lost your temper with someone? What were the results? Ever done something very kind for someone? How were they touched?

We often hear people remark that there is so much wrong in the world. They complain about politics, crime, and resources. They largely feel powerless to make a difference in any way. They may quip that whatever they do won’t make much of a difference. They ask: “so, why try?”

Surely, you want to positively impact those around you for the better. If indeed our assumption is true, today is an optimal time to focus constructively on improving the environments where you find yourself. What if you make a decision that moving forward you will become an uplifting influencer of others? Your Uber/Lyft driver, that person struggling with their groceries, the elderly person sitting alone, that neighbor who waves to you, or that friend you’ve lost touch with, all need you. How you interact with them creates impactful permutations, ripples in the waters of life if you will. The Butterfly Effect movie of many years ago illustrated the point of various scenarios that can unfold based on particular actions of people at any given point. It’s not too late and you’re not so insignificant to make a difference in the lives of others.

May 26 - Revenge

The German word schadenfreude means deriving pleasure from someone’s misfortune. It describes being seduced into wanting bad for others. As human beings, we are subject to holding grudges toward others.

Most of us probably realize it’s not a good energy to carry, but it can be tempting when you’ve been “done wrong” by another person or organization.

So what’s so bad about the idea of revenge? After all, the other person or group may “deserve it.” There are a couple of important reasons to quickly turn away from thoughts and plans of revenge.

One reason is that grudge energy takes you away from your best self and leads you into being consumed with negative thinking. If you’ve ever held a grudge, you know how poorly it makes you feel.

Revenge is really a false sense of control. You’ve been hurt, so you want to get them back to even the score. You can become convinced that it’s only fair and that it’s even noble. But it’s not.

Holding ill will or bitterness only hurts you. That state of aversion has been described in this way: you are drinking the poison of resentment and hoping that somehow it hurts them. Most of the time it doesn’t really harm them. Mostly it hurts the sender of the revenge thoughts.

Also, revenge plans and deep resentments consume your valuable time.

Obsessing eats away at the clock. Isn’t time really one of your most precious commodities? Wasting time on plots to negatively affect others takes you away from using time constructively for your greater good.

Your job is to feel good. Revenge rarely feels good if only temporarily. Letting go of the anger and hurt you feel can be difficult, especially if it’s a habit. The good news though is that habits can be altered for the better.

Here are some steps to release grudges, resentments, and thoughts of revenge:

  • Become aware as soon as you notice your physical tension and negative mental energy toward others
  • Take a fully belly breath, exhale, and deliberately turn your attention to something positive in your immediate environment
  • Tell yourself that you are letting the resentment go right now
  • Write down five, yes five redeeming aspects about the other person(s)

Keep in mind that you are following this not because the other person is right. You are doing this so you feel better. You have no true control over anyone, including the people who are objects of your bitterness. You can set boundaries moving forward. Maybe you learn a lesson that now becomes your deeper wisdom. Most of all, you deserve better.

May 25 - Interdependence

Would you describe yourself as more independent or dependent? How do you think the people around you would describe you? It might be a fun and enlightening exercise to ask them for their feedback. This allows you to close the gap on any blind spots.

We often see that people can be independent in one area of their lives but dependent in other areas. Of course, life events and seasons of life can alter that as well.

As adult children, we were conditioned to be independent. If we’re really being honest, we were both taught to be hyper-independent. It served us well in some areas of our lives but was detrimental in others. Being vulnerable or asking for help was awkward and uncomfortable as we developed into young adults. Perhaps you’ve experienced that phenomenon.

There are others who were conditioned to be dependent. When the adults in your life run your life as a child, you lose confidence in your own capabilities. You learn to look to others more than looking toward yourself for solutions. While parents often mean well in these situations, it disempowers and sabotages the children who then grow into adults being more dependent on others than is healthy.

The art and beauty of interdependence is where the true magic lies. Interdependent relationships are characterized by reciprocity, respect and empathy. Mastering interdependence takes awareness and practice. The first step is being willing to acknowledge where you find yourself on the scale. Then ask yourself if it is serving your highest good to operate in relationships that way. Once you’re aware, you can practice. Below are some psychological strategies to help you become skilled in interdependent living.

If you tend toward being a strong, independent type:

- Practice asking for help. No person is an island. Humans weren’t made for that.

- Listen to other people’s ideas and perspectives. You don’t have to have all the answers.

- Let someone else take the lead on projects or decisions. This takes humility and flexibility. They may not do it the way you would, but that doesn’t make their approach wrong.

If you tend to be more dependent:

- Practice doing activities on your own. Take yourself on dates to the movies, park, or restaurant.

- Make your own decisions, even if you make a mistake. This builds your confidence.

- Speak and write positive affirmations to yourself about your wisdom, strength and experience.

May 24 - Flaws and shortcomings

How do you respond to flaws and shortcomings? Yours and others? Some people really struggle when these present themselves, whether it’s at home with family members, in the workplace or with friends. It’s often almost as if they take it personally when someone doesn’t measure up to their expectations or makes a mistake.

This relational dynamic is damaging for both parties. Both people are suffering. It doesn’t feel good to be a “prickly pear,” always finding fault and criticizing others. It’s also detrimental to health. Simultaneously it doesn’t feel good to be on the receiving end of having your missteps pointed out and being berated.

Feedback can be important and valuable in this life. That’s how you grow and get better. However, some people are not engaging this process from a place of awareness, care and integrity. If you decide it’s pertinent to give someone negative feedback, check in with yourself with radical honesty about your agenda and motive. If you do decide to proceed, check in with your word selection, tone and non-verbals.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of continual critical feedback, it may be prudent to have a candid conversation with the person who is delivering these messages. Speak up for yourself. Also, be curious. Ask questions about their content and approach. Let them know the impact it’s having, and be clear with yourself and them about what you need moving forward.

Unfortunately, we often witness people being too hard on themselves about their perceived flaws and shortcomings. Humans are messy. Remember, that you (and everyone else) are both a masterpiece and a work in progress. Leonard Cohen said “Everything has a crack in it. That’s how the light gets in.”

Having quirks makes people interesting and relatable. Being perfect is boring and overrated. Give yourself and others full permission to be perfectly imperfect.

May 23 - Pets

May is National Pet Month, so this is a perfect time to shine the spotlight on the love your pets bring to you and your life. While pets do require much care, they offer it back tenfold. The unconditional love you receive from your pet in not quantifiable. Consider the peace, joy, and fun your pet offers.

In these modern-day times, humans can get so busy that they may forget to focus on how grateful they are for the animals in their lives. It’s true that if you’re too busy to properly take care of a pet, then perhaps you’re not able to have one. Maybe you take joy and comfort from your neighbors’ pets or animals you encounter outside. We are tickled to cross paths with butterflies, birds, deer, hawks and other species in our environment.

Animals are often used in therapy to help heal the sick and wounded because they are naturally loving beings. Veterans in hospitals often get visits from trained dogs. Sick children enjoy visits with rabbits, frogs and other animals. Service animals are used to help owners with anxiety, fly in airplanes and navigate the world in general.

Of course, we can’t forget the dogs that help our first responders. From police animals to forensic trained dogs helping detectives find missing people, they truly contribute so much positivity to the world.

Below are some ways you can show your pet some extra love:

- Buy a comfy new animal bed or fun toy.

- Schedule a photo session. (This may make you happier than your pet, but it’s fun to preserve the memory.)

- Buy some new treats to offer them.

- Make some extra time to play with your pet.

- Take an outside adventure to the park or beach.

- Give your pet a massage or try some tapping (EFT) for relaxation.

Of course, every month and every day is “love your pet” time. It’s a win-win when you engage more with your animal. It’s good for your health and theirs.

May 22 - Codependency and enabling

Are you someone who enjoys helping others? Have you ever found yourself in a position of caring more about a person’s life and outcomes than they do? Do you ever feel like you’re carrying the relationship? Do you feel overly attached to a person as if you’ve built your life and meaning around them? If so, you may be experiencing codependency.

Codependency often originates with goodness in your heart and nobility in your character. It can quickly spiral out of control and harm all parties involved. Codependent relationships occur in families, friendships and beyond.

Often a codependent person wants to help and be a part of someone else’s life in an intimate way. This dynamic can become a bit obsessive and controlling, serving no one in the end. A codependent person, sometimes unbeknownst to themselves, ends up enabling the person they care so much about.

Some examples of this include allowing your adult child to take advantage of your finances. It could also look like a parent being overly involved in their adult child’s relationship decisions. Sometimes it emerges between friends when one friend leans into another for advice but never actually takes action toward solutions. It happens between siblings when one person never takes accountability for their actions and the other always comes to their rescue. In these situations, there’s no personal accountability or the opportunity to grow.

Sometimes helping can hurt. It can be harmful to you and the other party. If you are in a position of strength trying to help someone you love, you may actually be enabling them. When you enable, you inhibit your loved one’s growth as well as your own. This becomes a symbiotic relationship where no one is thriving.

It’s so difficult to know that a loved one is suffering. It’s tempting to try and rescue them. Once may be appropriate, but if this is a pattern, the relationship has slipped from positive intentions to a harmful dynamic to all involved.

People in this dynamic with others experience helplessness, resentment, and exasperation just to name a few. The feelings that surface are strong indicators about what is transpiring in the relationship. Step back from codependence and enabling, and you will be able to care for your loved ones in a healthy, empowering way for all involved. Get help as needed. Read books, and listen to podcasts that address these issues.

May 19 - When things don’t go your way

Have you ever had your heart set on something only to be disappointed in the end? Perhaps it was a person you hoped to date, a job you were seeking, or a financial outcome. Disappointment never feels good. Some people handle it better than others.

How do you handle it when things don’t go your way? Some people internalize it from a negative perspective blaming and criticizing themselves for not succeeding. Others get angry at others or the situation, blaming people and circumstances outside of themselves. Neither of these strategies works toward your greater good.

You can experience disappointing or difficult news and still stay grounded and centered. You don’t have to allow it to unravel you. It’s easier said than done sometimes, especially if you held a certain desire close to your heart. Even then, you can move through the event with poise and personal power.

What are some strategies you’ve used to help you stay grounded and centered in the midst of difficulties? Creating an expansive toolbox for these circumstances can be helpful because different situations call for alternative solutions. Exercise, meditation, and having sincere friendships are just a few ideas that will support you.

This doesn’t mean you suppress your difficult emotions. It can be tempting but becomes a saboteur if you try to circumvent this step. Allow your feelings to be what they are, but know that you are not your emotions. You can observe them. You can validate the difficulty of the situation. Once you do this, it’s easier to get clarity about taking next steps.

As time goes on you begin to see that you are capable of surviving, and even thriving, even when things do not go as you had hoped and planned. You realize your own strength and capability. Eventually you may choose to use your own experience to educate and inspire others who are struggling. What a beautiful contribution to the world!

May 18 - Offering presence

In the 1980′s, Spencer Johnson wrote the book “The Precious Present.” The title led people to think it was a book about a very special gift, perhaps an exceptional physical object. Indeed, the gift was and is both special and exceptional but it wasn’t a material thing. The precious gift, Johnson spotlighted, is the now, the present moment.

Presence is a gift that in today’s world is frequently taken for granted. Much of society is consumed with “what’s next” instead of what is before them right now. It could appear that the tendency is to focus and struggle toward the future without regard to enjoying and savoring the now. There seems to be a fear that taking delight in the present moment is tantamount to complacency. If so, that is erroneous thinking. Reflect on the fact that most of life’s moments are not filled with fireworks, explosive entertainment, wonderful sex, peak states, and fantastic adventures. Daily life is not like that but it can still be fantastic if you are truly present.

Wherever you are, you can appreciate aspects of your environment, the situation, or the people you’re with. If you’re alone, you can be grateful for your health, your freedom, or your positive characteristics. You can look deeply at the beauty of a blade of grass, consider the wonder of a plane flying by, or warmly view a gift you received from a loved one. You can write a note or email of appreciation to someone special to you. All of that and more can take place at this very moment if you choose.

If you are present in this moment, that means you have presence. Presence is then a gift you can give to others. In our work, we have learned that people want the presence of others most of all. They want to be seen, heard, and listened to. It’s true that they may want suggestions or strategies they can use. But they don’t want to be controlled or told what to do. So if you’re able to be present, sharing your attentive presence with someone else, you have contributed something helpful to them. Moreover, you have increased the intimacy in your relationship with them. How can you begin being more present?

May 17 - Post-traumatic stress

Recent events in our fair city and elsewhere have been shocking, unnerving, and frightening. Many people find themselves confused and feeling increasingly protective of their everyday movements. They are also worried about the safety of their loved ones.

Although we are not experts in trauma, we have certainly had our personal and professional share of experiences with terrible events. People ask us how they are supposed to feel joy or any positives with horrible things taking place.

Let’s start with first things first. The closer you are to a trauma, the greater the personal impact. Those who experience post-traumatic stress typically have symptoms such as:

-Sudden, intrusive thoughts or flashbacks about the event

-Hyperarousal marked by jumpiness and an over alert response to everyday life

-Sleep disruption and nightmares

-A change in appetite

-Reluctance to engage socially and a tendency toward withdrawal

-Physical symptoms such as nausea, sweating, trembling, and pain

This is not an exhaustive list. Everyone is unique in their response to trauma which, for this column, can simply be defined as very abnormal, shocking events, resulting in deeply disturbing reactions.

In terms of personal reactions, there are those who express their feelings openly, while others that shut down their emotions completely. Some find themselves somewhere along that continuum.

Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, we encourage you to reach out to a trusted friend, to clergy, grief groups, or to professionals in your community. Isolation is not helpful when recovering from trauma. Connection with others who can help is a better solution.

If you know someone who has been traumatized and you are close to them, you can reach out to them. Listening non-judgmentally to them can be helpful. That is usually more helpful than offering advice unless it is requested.

Moving through traumatic grief is often a complex process requiring patience and compassion. It is not by any means a “one size fits all” situation. Addressing the horror of the trauma itself first will eventually create an opportunity to once again experience hope and other positive emotions.

May 16 - Narcissists

Have you ever interacted with a narcissist? Do you have one in your life now? How do you end up feeling after being around a person with those characteristics?

It’s interesting to note that narcissism is on a continuum, ranging from healthy narcissism to a clinical disorder. Healthy narcissism is what encourages you to get up in the morning, take care of yourself, and go for your goals. Symptoms for the personality disorder called narcissism include an unreasonably high sense of self-importance and requiring constant admiration. They also feel entitled to special treatment and lack true empathy for others. Narcissists often take advantage of others and objectify them.

Some people exhibit some of these characteristics but not all of them and not all of the time. These people are somewhere on the continuum. You might be surprised to learn that there are nice narcissists who can be very charming. They are often skilled at masking their true intentions and agendas. Dealing with these people can sometimes be the most difficult because you can’t quite put your finger on why you feel so uneasy after engaging them.

Narcissists can be in all kinds of roles in your life, sometimes unexpected. This can be confusing for people. It may be your parent, child or sibling. It may be a co-worker or boss. Narcissists can be clergy, teachers and people who inspire others. One size does not fit all. There are loud and quiet narcissists. They’re not always braggarts and big in the room, although they often are.

Some effective psychological and behavioral strategies you can employ if you find yourself in relationship with someone with these traits include:

- Create structure and strong, consistent boundaries around your interactions with this person.

- Limit your frequency and length of time with this person.

- Have a voice in the dynamic. It won’t be offered to you by a narcissist. You must claim it.

- Be good to you. Narcissists won’t meet your needs consistently and sometimes not at all. You will have to do that for yourself. Ask yourself what you need and desire, and ensure that you receive it.

May 15 - Codependency and enabling

Are you someone who enjoys helping others? Have you ever found yourself in a position of caring more about a person’s life and outcomes than they do? Do you ever feel like you’re carrying the relationship? Do you feel overly attached to a person as if you’ve built your life and meaning around them? If so, you may be experiencing codependency.

Codependency often originates with goodness in your heart and nobility in your character. It can quickly spiral out of control and harm all parties involved. Codependent relationships occur in families, friendships and beyond.

Often a codependent person wants to help and be a part of someone else’s life in an intimate way. This dynamic can become a bit obsessive and controlling, serving no one in the end. A codependent person, sometimes unbeknownst to themselves, ends up enabling the person they care so much about.

Some examples of this include allowing your adult child to take advantage of your finances. It could also look like a parent being overly involved in their adult child’s relationship decisions. Sometimes it emerges between friends when one friend leans into another for advice but never actually takes action towards solutions. It happens between siblings when one person never takes accountability for their actions and the other always comes to their rescue. In these situations, there’s no personal accountability or the opportunity to grow.

Sometimes helping can hurt. It can be harmful to you and the other party. If you are in a position of strength trying to help someone you love, you may actually be enabling them. When you enable, you inhibit your loved one’s growth as well as your own. This becomes a symbiotic relationship where no one is thriving.

It’s so difficult to know that a loved one is suffering. It’s tempting to try and rescue them. Once may be appropriate, but if this is a pattern, the relationship has slipped from positive intentions to a harmful dynamic to all involved.

People in this dynamic with others experience helplessness, resentment, and exasperation just to name a few. The feelings that surface are strong indicators about what is transpiring in the relationship. Step back from codependence and enabling, and you will be able to care for your loved ones in a healthier way. Seek resources that address these issues.

May 12 - Compassion fatigue

Do you ever feel like you’ve given so much to others that you have nothing left to offer – to yourself or anyone else? Have you experienced feeling numb or overwhelmed when someone needs you to support them during a time of stress? You may be a person who is struggling with a condition called compassion fatigue.

Compassion fatigue is characterized by physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. People who are in helping professions often experience this condition like first responders, news journalists, media professionals, military personnel, healthcare professionals, counselors, teachers, and more. Chronic exposure to someone else’s stressors and traumas can sometimes overwhelm a person’s system and hijack their well-being even if they’ve been professionally trained to care for people in these situations. It is often referred to as “vicarious trauma” for people in these professions.

Compassion Fatigue also happens to parents, caregivers, and leaders. Being exposed to too much negative media can also lead to this mental and emotional debilitation. How do you know if you or someone you know is experiencing this? A few signs to look for include burnout, lack of empathy, a sense of overwhelm and doom, substance abuse, withdrawal, agitation, anxiety and depression.

Unfortunately, many people feel guilty when they experience these symptoms. As humans, we all have limits. Also, when you’re going through a particularly difficult time in your own life while trying to care for others, it’s a perfect setup to develop this condition.

The good news is that you can recover from it. Here are a few strategies to help:

- Practice radical self-care. This is a time that requires you to maximize care for yourself.

- Put others’ needs on hold for a while. Take a break from responsibilities and commitments as much as you can.

- Release the guilt and shame. You are a human being, not a machine. Everyone goes through times when they need to take a step back.

- Ask for help. Seek assistance with responsibilities. Get support from friends, loved ones or others who have experienced similar symptoms.

- Intervene as early as possible. The sooner you recognize the signs and change what you’re doing, the quicker the recovery.

May 11 - Care for the caregiver

Caring for a loved one can be difficult. Depending on the circumstances or illness, some people become overwhelmed in the caregiving role. Feelings like anger, fear, and helplessness can derail you from your best intentions.

In healthy times and relationships, giving and receiving are in balance. But if there is a serious health condition or life situation happening, this can quickly shift out of equilibrium. The caregiver may pour out care and energy, sometimes constantly.

As a human being, you have a finite amount of energy. Beyond that, you cannot help that loved one past a point. That limitation isn’t because you’re inadequate or not smart enough. Do what you are able to do for them, but accept that you have physical, mental, and emotional limits. Everyone does.

Enlist support. This can be a tough one for a variety of reasons. Caregivers may feel like only they should help their loved one. They may want privacy. It can feel vulnerable asking for or accepting help from others. Gaining support can be both a difficult but also a very liberating proposition. Remember, no one can go it alone. Only you can determine when to ask for help. That assistance may come from trusted friends, a support group, place of worship or a professional.

When you allow others to assist you via their time, care, or expertise, you tend to feel relieved. You likely will experience their compassion. You will regain your energy. Without your best energy and mindset, you cannot be as effective as you want to be with your loved one. What’s more, when you receive, you allow the giver their gift to you.

You must also take non-caregiving time for yourself. Being totally consumed with the problem at hand does nothing constructive for anyone. Can you take an hour off, maybe a day? What activities provide relief for you? Some people reconnect with hobbies like painting, reading, or hiking.

Symptoms often point to the need for support if you are a caregiver. Signs such as insomnia, agitation, hyperarousal, paralyzing fear, and a sense of helplessness, or overindulgence may point to you being at your limit and requiring help. Your self-care, above all, is necessary for both your well-being and that of your loved one.

May 10 - Family dynamics on vacation

Are you excited about the upcoming summer? School is getting out, and many people are planning to vacation or just enjoy some downtime. It’s so exciting to plan fun and relaxing activities and getaways, but the family dynamics often go with you during this time. Many people feel frustrated and disappointed when this happens. Have you ever noticed that?

In Mindfulness, we have a saying that “wherever you go, there you are.” This means that the same anxiety, anger and conflict that arose outside of vacation or summer can still be activated during downtime. Conflicts can arise about simple things like where to eat or which movie to watch.

How can you make the most of your summer given difficult family dynamics that may arise? First, be mindful that this is a possibility. Building false expectations can be a quick route to disappointment and resentment. Don’t expect everything to be perfect or ideal.

Also, know that in all relationships, there are perpetual and resolvable problems. Everyone will not always agree on each decision. Bad moods arise sometimes. Unresolved hurts may emerge. All of these conflicts can be addressed in a calm and loving manner with the realization that the disagreement may not be “solved.” All parties may not be happy all the time. Learning to tolerate this while maintaining your own inner peace will go a long way toward your well-being. You also bring an energy of groundedness to the situation when you commit to being calm and loving that often will have a positive impact on those around you.

When disagreements arise, it can be so easy to slip into the mindset of good person – bad person. Who is right? Who is wrong. Rather than explaining the dynamic in these terms to yourself and others, try to provide an opportunity to allow everyone’s preferences be heard. A basic human need is to feel seen, heard and valued. There is a natural “conflict of needs” in some decisions. This is a healthy part of everyone’s humanity because everyone is unique. When you honor the dynamic from this perspective, the situation is much more likely to move in a positive direction.

May 9 - Be the beach, or the mountains

Do you love visiting the beach? Or maybe you’re more of a mountain person? Perhaps you enjoy small cities to walk around and explore? Whatever your preference may be, what are the qualities about that place that you enjoy? Can you identify some of the elements of that visit that spark joy, inspiration and peace in you?

It’s not always possible to get away as often as we would like, is it? Perhaps your current situation will not allow for it. It could be job obligations, finances, family issues, etc. So many things can prevent you from going to the places that light you up.

We have some good news though. Did you know that the brain doesn’t realize the difference between what’s real or imagined? When you vividly envision your favorite place in your mind, you can have a very positive experience internally, even while being at home. We know it’s not the same thing exactly, but it offers many health benefits when we imagine being in places and spaces that help us feel good.

Try this. Pick a location that inspires you. It could be a memory of a place you’ve already visited. It might also be a place you’ve seen in the media or heard about from others. Close your eyes and do some deep breathing through the nose into the abdomen. Now imagine the sight of this place as clearly as possible. Incorporate colors and textures. Perhaps you see other people there with you. Next imagine the sounds and smells of this place. What are you hearing? Are there unique smells you enjoy there? Finally, imagine how your body feels in this place. Perhaps it’s deeply relaxed or elated. Maybe you experience a gentle breeze or warm sunshine.

Bring in as many details as possible to your vision. The more vividly you imagine, the better you feel. You can also use photos to help you attain clarity for your vision. These may be your own photos or those from a magazine or social media. Be creative. When you practice this often, you get better at it. Notice how you feel after each visit.

May 8 - Decision fatigue

Have you ever had the experience of feeling overwhelmed and exasperated when someone innocently asks you a simple question? It might be about dinner or plans for the day. It may be about a bigger choice like where to move or a career change. In fact, if you’re in the middle of larger decisions, the smaller ones can often feel like too much. This is called decision fatigue. If you’ve experienced this, you’re not alone.

We often hear adults saying that they feel like there’s so much more pressure on people now than 20 years ago. Do you agree? Humans have so much noise coming toward them today in the information and digital age. While it’s convenient in many ways, our biology just hasn’t caught up to the technology. The ability of the brain to process information and make grounded decisions becomes debilitated when it’s on overload.

When deadlines are involved with decision-making, it can feel much more stressful. So how can you navigate this landmine when it arises? Below are a few strategies.

- Understand that your brain has a certain amount of cognitive bandwidth for decisions each day. Create space throughout the day to give your brain a break from focus.

- Give yourself space and grace. The decisions you make will not always be right or timely. This is a part of your humanity.

- Prioritize the most important decisions for the day and week. Don’t allow other people’s agendas to pressure you into making decisions that you’re not ready or able to make. This creates stress and the brain feels scrambled.

- Sometimes, when you’re trying to make a good decision, you’ll reach for experts. This can get confusing because many experts disagree. Take in the information, but ultimately, trust yourself to do what you think is best.

- Do things each day, especially in the morning, to ground yourself. This will give you the best shot each day to feel your best and make good decisions.

May 5 - Taking care of your anger

How do you respond to anger, your own or that of others? What did you learn about anger growing up, and how has that impacted you as an adult?

Your health and immune system take a hit when you overindulge in this emotion and when you suppress it. Anger is a natural human emotion. Learning to acknowledge, regulate, and express it skillfully when appropriate is a valuable life lesson. Practicing this skill will serve you well in relationships and getting the results you desire. How can you get better at this?

- Practice identifying what type of anger arises in you. Is it rage or agitation? Printing an emotions chart can help you accurately identify what type of anger you’re feeling.

- Are you clear about the source of the anger? Sometimes, we attribute our emotions to a person or situation when in reality, it’s something different. When you have clarity, you are prevented from causing damage by expressing anger about the wrong thing. As you know, that bell can’t be un-rung once in the open.

- Learn to self-soothe and regulate your anger before expressing it. You can learn to stay grounded even when upset. Having an emotion doesn’t mean being emotional when letting others know how you feel. All emotion does not need to be expressed. Sometimes it’s better to contain how you feel. It’s information for you. However, if you have a pattern of suppression, you many have a tendency to self-contain too often. Being aware of your conditioning and patterns helps you identify the most appropriate response.

- Writing in a journal can be helpful. It helps you clearly identify the level of emotion and to self-soothe. It also helps you practice expressing what you need to on paper before having the conversation. Word choices and tone of voice are imperative in getting the results you seek.

- Bring compassion to yourself, others and the situation. It’s not fun (for most) to feel angry. It’s uncomfortable. It’s tempting to vent but often not helpful. In fact, it can escalate the feelings and situation. Inviting kindness and care can go a long way.

May 4 - Success stacking

Think of an area in your life where you truly yearn for success. Maybe you have a relationship goal that is meaningful to you. Perhaps there is a work deal or accomplishment that really lights you up when you think about it. Or you could have a health goal you really want to realize. Does the yearning for success motivate you or frustrate you? This can impact your process and results.

Wanting a big win is normal. Maybe those wins aren’t as frequent as you’d like. Perhaps what you want isn’t happening fast enough. You could be feeling a little hopeless about certain things. Even if you’ve made some progress, you may be experiencing frustration in getting to the “big ticket” item or the next level. We often hear “when is it going to happen?” Have you ever experienced those feelings?

Reminding yourself constantly that you “haven’t gotten there” creates mental confusion and tension. Try a gentler approach: “I haven’t gotten to where I’d like to be just yet.” Feel the difference? Releasing a vise grip on the goal can only help. Can you loosen your hold?

We have a STACK acronym that may help:

Stop working against yourself. You can’t move forward if you berate yourself constantly. Instead, seek to be an encouraging friend to yourself. Let go of oppressing self-talk.

Turn your attention to the progress you’ve made with your goal(s). Build momentum by reminding yourself of your wins, even if they are small or imperfect.

Accept the present moment as your point of power. What is done is done. Recognize the choices you can make right now.

Create rituals to keep you grounded in your quest to meet your goals. What do you find satisfying? Soothe yourself with calming or uplifting practices to keep you on course.

Keep your eye on the prize. Picture the outcome you most desire and then release the outcome. Do your best to trust the process.

May 3 - Valuing your own opinion

Do you find yourself valuing others’ opinions over your own? Are you a person who often asks others what they think you should do? Is it difficult for you to trust yourself when making decisions? Some people even ask waiters what they should eat at a restaurant. How would the waiter know the answer to that question if they don’t know you.

It can be easy to fall into a pattern of overvaluing what others think and devaluing what you think. We’ve observed this phenomenon with young people choosing a major in college. Sometimes they want to please their parents or peers over what they truly want to do with their careers. Unfortunately, it can be years later when they realize they chose the wrong path.

We’ve seen it with entrepreneurs trying to figure out what’s best for their business and parents wanting to do a good job raising their children. Often people are afraid to make mistakes, so they let others decide. If they make a choice based on the advice of someone else, they can abdicate responsibility.

The fallacy of this approach is that what has worked for one person may not work for you. Also, there is a vortex of conflicting opinions out there, and it can get confusing fast. Even if you are being informed by someone else’s advice, it’s ultimately your personal responsibility to make choices in your life. While it’s great to check in with experts and even hear the viewpoint of your friends and family, the most important opinion is your own.

To get better at this skill, practice refraining from asking others about smaller decisions. Make your own choice with the full knowledge that if you make a mistake, you will be accountable. Some simple areas include what you’re wearing, what you’re eating, how to respond to innocuous emails. This strengthens your habit. Once you feel confident in these smaller decisions, you can step into even more important choices in your life. What do you think?

May 2 - Pedestals

Have you ever heard of The Tall Poppy Syndrome often used in Europe, Australia and New Zealand? It’s a metaphor used to describe how some people are eager to “bring others down to size” out of jealousy, intimidation or spite. In the U.S., we often use the image of a pedestal. Have you ever put someone on a pedestal? Or perhaps others have put you on one? It rarely works out well for anyone.

It’s quite a long fall from a pedestal, isn’t it? We’ve observed how others become quite disappointed and even disillusioned when the hero or guru reveals their humanity and imperfections, and thus falls from the pedestal. We’ve also seen how some people can’t wait for that person to fall from grace. In fact, there are many public platforms designed to highlight this. Television shows, magazines and social media often amplify mistakes and missteps of others. Wanting others to be humiliated or even fail is not the best version of a person, and we don’t encourage others to participate.

It’s also uncomfortable to be put on a pedestal yourself. While you may have accomplished much, you know that you are human. And it’s quite uncomfortable to fall from that pedestal. People often do this because they see greatness in you. They admire who you are and what you’ve done. And sometimes, they need to find hope in a hero.

We often tell people that the reason you admire something in another human is because you have a seed of that greatness in you. While it’s a lovely feeling to be inspired by others, don’t underestimate who you are and what you bring. You may express and manifest your gifts differently, but they are equally as important. Remember that greatness can be expressed quietly and just as powerfully as publicly. Take time this week to explore all of the beauty and light within yourself. Release yourself and others from any pedestals. Humans don’t belong up there.

May 1 - Show up, own your space

Do you feel self-conscious or apprehensive if you stand apart from the crowd? Are you someone who always tries to blend in? Do you prefer blending in over standing out? Some people we work with tell us that they try to hide into the wallpaper, not wanting to be acknowledged in any way. It almost seems like a non-verbal apology.

Why might someone do that? We have discovered that it’s often because they’ve had bad experiences in the past when they’ve shown up authentically or shone their light too brightly. They fear repercussions like rejection, judgment, jealousy and sometimes even worse like bullying and abuse. It can also happen when people are given messages earlier in their lives that it’s not okay to fully show up and own their space. Sometimes it also happens when adults condition their children through modeling and messages that it’s better (even safer) to not be seen or heard. They offer this message from their own wounding as children.

As adults now, we want to encourage you not to allow past experiences to haunt you. You have a right to show up in this life exactly as you are. You don’t need to hide or blend in. Allow yourself to be heard and seen. It’s one of the basic human needs. This builds momentum toward feeling empowered and confident about who you are without needing anyone else’s approval or acceptance.

If you’re not used to this way of being in the world, it can feel intimidating and awkward. It calls for courage. Remember that the root word of courage is “cour” – of the heart. Love yourself enough to give yourself permission to show up fully for yourself as yourself. When you do this, you give others permission to do the same. You may never know how your actions will inspire and encourage other humans to brave the unknown and claim their space.

It’s a beautiful phenomenon when we can encourage one another to be their authentic selves. It’s contagious.

April 28 - Philanthropy

Consider the people associated with the word philanthropy. You likely think of names like Gates, Bezos, and Bloomberg. These folks are known as philanthropists, and they give large sums of money to various causes. Lesser-known names nationally and locally apply their wealth to help others. But what about average people? Can they be philanthropists?

Philanthropy by one definition is “the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes.” Notice the word “especially” vs. necessary. There’s no doubt that money, particularly in significant amounts, can constructively benefit groups, organizations, and movements.

But, many people may struggle to make ends meet. Perhaps you, like others, are doing well enough to be able to give financially to organizations. If not, maybe there are other ways you can promote the welfare of others. Reflect for a moment on what you may be able to give in terms of your time, talents, or treasures.

What you give to others can be its own reward. Carefully consider the words of the poet Kahlil Gibran in his poem “On Giving”: “There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward. And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.” Do you feel delighted when you share what you have with other people? Or do you feel tight-fisted about even giving them a smile or a word of encouragement? Do you feel a vast sense of abundance when you freely give? Or do you feel that “they don’t deserve it” or that it’s a personal loss somehow?

Here are some ways to be a philanthropist:

· Join or support a cause that you believe in. Search for those that promote the enhancement of others.

· Examine your treasure chest of physical items or monetary funds you can contribute to the greater good of others. Select which person(s) or groups to whom you’d like to give a donation.

· Recognize your contributable talents. We all have talents. What are yours? Look at your local community to see how your talents can help them.

· Dedicate a certain number of hours or dollars per week or month to those who can use your support.

When you serve as a benefactor to others, you give them a gift. But you also benefit in receiving a gift of joy and gratification, knowing you’ve promoted the welfare of others.

April 27 - Tending to your internal garden

If you are a gardener, this is an exciting time of year. By now, you’ve probably cordoned off and tilled the space where you plan to grow vegetables, flowers, herbs, or other plants. Perhaps you’ve already planted those items. Spring is an exciting time of year when trees and flowers are blooming, and outdoor temperatures beckon to you.

You know what you need to do and what is required for your plants to grow. They need sunshine, water, fertile soil, and weeds must be removed. Done well, you can expect healthy blossoms in a relatively short period of time. But what about your own inner garden as a human being?

Like all living things, you need plenty of hydration, sunshine, rich soil, daily attention, and tender loving care. And you must be aware of the infestation of weeds and other entities that threaten your growth. How are you doing in terms of your overall daily self-care?

Since the human body requires hydration to survive, sufficient water intake is needed. The body is largely water, and it’s necessary to have an adequate amount for your brain and bodily processes to work well. Can you adjust your consumption to operate more efficiently?

The benefits of moderate amounts of sunshine and vitamin D are indisputable. Can you step outside, even for a few minutes each day, to aid your mind and body?

How about the soil in which you’ve planted yourself? Are your daily health and wellness habits adequate to sustain your survival and growth? Spring is a wonderful time to make a few tweaks to feel better and live more healthily.

What weeds do you need to remove? Maybe there are habits that you need to address because they prevent you from blooming. Some adjustments can make a monumental difference in how you feel and operate. There is no better time to shift than now. Weeds can also represent relationships that no longer serve you. Maybe certain connections had their season but are now causing you stagnation and may even be detrimental to your survival and growth.

Finally, are you giving yourself tender loving care? Studies show that speaking kindly or singing to plants can help them grow better. How are you treating yourself in terms of kindness and compassion? A solid, regular dose of positive self-talk and relaxation, and even singing can go a long way in your mental, emotional, and physical welfare.

April 26 - Traffic: Another view

Isn’t it amazing to observe how many people are driving well in Atlanta traffic? Next time you’re driving, become aware of the overwhelming number of drivers who use their turn signals, obey the speed limit, and allow others to merge onto freeways.

Isn’t it remarkable to observe the construction and see the unfolding of new, more efficient roads and adjacent buildings? Engineers and workers create products that were unimaginable years ago. Are there things you can appreciate on your journey? Taking time to marvel at the skill of these people and their work can be inspiring.

Does this sound like we’re deluded or wearing rose-colored glasses? It all depends on how you look at it. If you drive on Atlanta highways, it’s no surprise that there are drivers of all sorts. There is ongoing construction. Since human beings are behind the wheel, there are bound to be delays and accidents.

How you view this process that consumes so much of your daily life makes a difference in your commute mentally, emotionally, and physically. How can you make your road trips more enjoyable? Maybe you can make your car more comfortable. Perhaps you can listen to uplifting podcasts or tune into your favorite music. We encourage you to give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination. Leaving at the last minute only puts more pressure on you and may increase your impatience with other drivers.

How do you describe Atlanta traffic to yourself? Do you say it’s terrible, intolerable, or dangerous? Or could you choose to perceive it as part of life, even pleasant in some way? Like anything, your perception creates your inner experience.

Focus on what is going well on your commute. What do you appreciate in terms of your mobility, vehicle, and the landscapes you view along the way? Appreciate the people who drive well and are polite. Give others a break when you can. You never know what others are going through personally.

Your attitude makes quite a difference in how you experience your ride. Next time you start your vehicle consider your perception and how you can better approach the process for more enjoyable results.

April 25 - Use your favorite things now

Use the good dishes. Light the beautiful candles. Wear the sparkly dress. Eat the truffles. Allow yourself to enjoy what you have in your possession now.

You don’t have to wait for a special occasion to enjoy your treasured possessions or to create wonderful moments. Some people spend their lives waiting on just the right time, and it often never comes. They end up missing opportunities to savor the small delights in life.

One of our favorite memories from Maya Angelou’s life was that she consistently sat down for a home cooked meal with her fine china, lit candles and played music. She said she did this often even when dining by herself. The special occasion was her!

Do you treat yourself like the special occasion you are? Or do you schlep yourself through life meeting only the bare minimum of your needs? Making things special doesn’t need to be extravagant. In fact, sometimes the simpler gestures are even more memorable and enjoyable.

We remember when we moved into our home, everything was still packed in boxes when dinner time rolled around. We ordered pizza, one of our favorite meals. We sat on the floor and used a box for a table. We were able to locate some candles and lighting them was a way to make our pizza dinner on the floor special. Bringing that memory to mind makes us both smile.

How can you add a little “special” to your day? Here are a few suggestions:

- Wear a beautiful piece of jewelry or hair accessory to spice up your wardrobe. Choose something you like and helps you to feel good. This choice does not involve other people’s opinions.

- Use those antique teacups for your daily tea. If you don’t have something like that, visit a thrift store. They often have many good finds.

- Play spectacular music while running errands.

- Wear your favorite dressy shirt or fun hat for no special occasion.

April 24 - Dreaming and executing for success

Are you a daydreamer? Or perhaps you enjoy more of an action orientation? Both aspects of a person’s personality are important. Together, they create the winning combination for success.

Dreaming or envisioning the possibilities for the future creates inspiration, excitement and boundless potential opportunities. Don’t allow messages from the past to discourage you from dreaming. It helps you to clarify exactly what you want to experience. It allows you to move beyond self-imposed and external limitations. This aspect of creating your future is an essential part of defining and refining the “what” of your vision. Some people struggle with visioning. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. It begins to bring great joy to your mind, heart, body and spirit.

The next part is determining the “how” of your vision, and it is also an essential part of the pathway to success. This is true whether you have a business goal, a travel plan or a health outcome you are seeking. The how is the execution part of success. What consistent steps are needed to make your vision a reality? Breaking big goals down into smaller tasks helps you create a clear roadmap to what needs to be done without feeling overwhelmed. This is also the part of the process where you can determine what kind of help you might need to troubleshoot any obstacles.

Many people tend to lean heavily into being a dreamer or executor. If this is true for you, you might want to partner with a person or even create a mastermind group to help you achieve your goals. As humans, we tend to go farther faster toward our goals when we create alliances with people who have different strengths than we do. It’s a win-win because we can help one another. The key to this arrangement is reciprocity. Ensuring that everyone is getting their needs met creates trust and confidence for the future that the alliance is mutually beneficial.

April 21 —Apologies

What are your patterns around apologizing? Are you able to swiftly apologize to someone if you’ve made a mistake? Or does it feel too vulnerable for you to admit when you’re in the wrong? Many people struggle in this area for a variety of reasons.

How do you receive apologies? If someone apologizes for hurting you, are you quick to forgive and allow them to repair the relationship? Or do you hold on to their mistakes out of indignity or even fear of the same thing occurring again? People report that, once hurt, forgiveness can feel challenging.

Research by Dr. John Gottman shows that people in the most successful relationships have the ability to easily offer and receive apologies. Sometimes this can be difficult if the wound was deep and created ripples of suffering. However, even with the most hurtful offenses, practice can help you get better with it.

When we refuse to offer or accept an apology, this is often called stonewalling in the research. This dynamic is a strong indicator that the relationship will not be successful. Sometimes you might get stuck in stubbornness or fear, especially if you’re not adept at apologies. Here are some strategies that can help you navigate apologies better:

-- Write out the apology before you speak it, so you are sure to use the words that are most meaningful.

-- Practice saying the apology alone before you have the actual conversation.

-- Be mindful about which approach is best – in person, by phone, email, text or card. Some people even include gifts with their apologies.

-- Ensure that your actions align with the words. You will lose others’ trust if they don’t line up and you keep making the same mistake.

-- When someone approaches you with an apology, offer grace and the benefit of the doubt when possible. It takes humility for them to approach you. Remember that everyone is flawed and would not want to be summarized only by their mistakes.

-- Consider how it would feel to get to the other side of the conflict and resolve any festering thoughts and emotions. That liberation feels far better than being right.

April 20 — Introvert or extrovert?

Do you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert? You might even consider yourself an ambivert with equal amounts of both. Some even suggest that they are introverted extroverts or extroverted introverts.

How can you learn more about the distinctions? You can go online and take a complimentary self-assessment of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) which will give a four-letter code along with numbers on a scale from 0-100. The higher your number, the stronger that characteristic is within you. You may find it fascinating and a wonderful framework to understand yourself and others a bit better.

What does this mean and how does it impact your life? We have seen that people who strongly lean toward one characteristic but are required to operate frequently with the other characteristic can become highly stressed, burned out, depressed or anxious. For example, if you are a natural introvert but work in the entertainment sector, you may experience the above symptoms. The same is true if you are an extrovert but work in the accounting industry, as an example.

It also impacts relationships and activities. If your family and friends prefer activities that are louder with lots of people, they’re probably extroverts. You may find yourself feeling a bit of out of sorts if you are an introvert trying to fit in to this extroverted lifestyle. You can do it sometimes without much struggle, but if you’re doing it often and for long periods, you will experience negative effects. The same is true if you are a natural extrovert but the people in your life prefer more quiet activities with fewer people. Introverts enjoy one-on-one or small groups much of the time.

The key here is to realize humans are wired differently. There’s no right or wrong. Understand yourself, your preferences and those of others. From this clarity, you can choose work, friendship groups and activities that lead you to optimal well-being.

April 19 — Caring for your energy

Do you ever feel like you are scattered, smothered and stressed? And yes, that’s a nod to Atlanta-based Waffle House! If so, you’re not alone. Research shows that stress levels and burnout are on the rise. This is not solely in the workplace. It’s in schools, nonprofits, and even in homes.

Sometimes it feels like the pace of life is outrunning you, and you don’t have the energy to keep up. People often tell us that they feel like they’re barely keeping their heads above water. That’s a terrible feeling and no way to live.

Our belief is that we are all here to thrive in life, not just survive. It takes energy to survive and thrive, doesn’t it? If you don’t have your energy levels to the status you need them to be, life can feel overwhelming and defeating. So how to gain more energy? We have had a few things work for us that we’ll share with you. Remember that everyone is unique and different, so it’s a bit of an investigation to find the lock and key solution for you.

Everyone goes through cycles in life. You are subject to planetary and personal cycles. Some people gain energy, for example, in certain seasons while others lose energy in that same season. It’s key to know and understand yourself. As cycles change, so will your energetic needs.

A few areas to explore to increase your energy include:

  • Exercise and nutrition (one size does not fit all)
  • Reduce or eliminate negative stress and worry
  • Surround yourself with people who elevate your energy
  • Do things that light you up and bring you joy
  • Find the right combination of supplement to support your mind, emotions and body
  • Create spiritual practices that are meaningful to you
  • Explore mind-body practices like meditation, yoga and journaling

April 18 — You’re not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s OK

Have you had the experience of someone obviously not liking you? Perhaps you couldn’t understand why. In fact, you may have racked your brain to uncover any missteps you made to create this dislike.

Here’s the truth: You’re not everyone’s cup of tea. And that’s OK. The need to be liked by everyone can be a setup for much suffering. Some people just don’t like one another. The chemistry isn’t there. When you come to an acceptance of this fact, you’re more likely to have inner peace.

We’ve observed people doing all sorts of things to get the approval of others. Sometimes their strategies worked, and sometimes they didn’t. The scary part is that often people lose themselves in an effort to please others.

A person’s dislike of you can arise for many different reasons, sometimes even unknown to the other person. They may have had a bad experience with someone in their history, and you remind them of that person. They might be jealous or intimidated by you, so they distance themselves. They may have been conditioned over the years to be a bit prickly. When this happens, it is helpful to let them be. Don’t chase after a relationship. If it was meant for you, it will not go past you.

Whatever the reason for their dislike, it has nothing to do with your value or worthiness. The most important approval and friendship to cultivate is that of yourself. Belong to yourself first and foremost. Are you your own cup of tea?

Do you enjoy the person you are today and who you are becoming? You don’t need to be perfect to like the person who greets you in the mirror each morning. When you see yourself in the mirror, acknowledge what you appreciate, how far you’ve come, and the things that you’re most proud of. Making positive deposits in your own mind and heart will make it so much more bearable when you come across that person that doesn’t care for you.

April 17 —The K.I.S.S. formula

You’ve probably heard of the K.I.S.S. formula at some point. However, calling yourself stupid (the last S in the expression) does little to help you move forward with anything effectively. So, try our adjustment to the formula: Keep It Simple and Skillful. Do you notice a difference in the visceral effect this version has on you?

Words carry impact. And the way humans think words translates into how you tend to respond. Take for example, something you’ve repeatedly attempted to do but have been unsuccessful. There’s a good likelihood that if you attempt this thing or situation again, you’ll remind yourself of how you’ve failed at it previously. Unless you’re an exception, you’ll likely convince yourself of defeat before you even attempt the action. This can be an exhausting approach to trying new things. It’s a self-limiting belief that stops you before you’ve started.

As a constant meaning-making machine, the mind maintains a state of complexity. This mechanism can complicate the simplest of situations. As the expression goes: “we can make mountains of molehills,” but we can also “make molehills out of mountains.” Either mental tendency can distort reality. When you take actions from a distorted perspective, you’re more likely to make missteps.

Keeping it simple and skillful means focusing on words that are positive and encouraging. Your body is always listening to what your internal thoughts and externally spoken words are. And the body responds accordingly. In other words, the body can match what you are thinking. So, beware of how you assess circumstances.

Expressions like “this traffic is going to cause me a stroke” would be more skillful as “I am calm and am at ease in traffic.” But at least altering your thoughts and words to “Traffic is inconvenient, but I can handle it” will cause a better mental and physical countenance. We encourage you to monitor your word choices for the next week, and notice how you are affected.

April 14 — The art and science of crying

When was the last time you cried? Do you remember what it was about and how you felt? Some people cry easily and for many reasons and emotions like sadness, happiness and inspired. Others have difficulty accessing and expressing tears.

Have you ever held back your tears? Maybe you felt it was not an appropriate time. Perhaps you’re uncomfortable with the vulnerability of revealing how you feel. Maybe you’ve been taught that you shouldn’t cry. Many people have been taught to bottle up emotions which is not good for you and can keep you stuck emotionally.

Science tells us that crying is good for us. It offers a much needed release when we’re frustrated, stressed or grieving. According to the American Academy of Opthamology, emotional tears have high levels of stress hormones in them which means you literally are releasing stress through your tears. You may recall a time when you allowed yourself a good cry and felt much better afterward because crying can be cathartic and self-soothing. Research shows that your brain releases endorphins when crying which helps you feel lifted afterward.

People sometimes ask us if it’s healthy to cry every day. It depends, and there are different opinions out there. If you are grieving or going through an acute difficult period in your life, it is appropriate. If you find that you’re crying daily for no reason at all, this might be a sign of a clinical issue. In this case, it is wise to be assessed for depression.

What if you want to get better at healthy crying? Here are a few suggestions:

Engage a sad movie or book, and give yourself permission to cry.

Watch characters cry on TV shows. This can trigger mirror neurons in the brain that help you cry also.

Play melancholy music and allow yourself to go inward toward your own sad feelings.

Give yourself the release you deserve!

April 13 - Power of retreat

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the noise and demands of the world around you? Wouldn’t it be pleasant to get away from it all for a while? Guess what? You can!

There are many ways to retreat from the world, so that you can return feeling refreshed, focused and renewed. The idea doesn’t often dawn on people. You may find yourself waiting for vacation time to get the break you need, but sometimes that doesn’t come along in a timely fashion. Sometimes, vacations don’t give us the downtime that retreats do. Have you ever returned feeling like it was still not enough?

You can book a formal retreat. There are many places nearby, in and near Georgia. You can also create your own retreat. You can do this in your own home or find a location that appeals to you. You can do this alone or with others. There are lots of creative ways to have a retreat that meets your needs at the time. Different times of life will call for different elements in your retreat. You can choose to retreat for a half-day, a day, or a week. The possibilities are endless, and you get to choose what would work best for you. Below are some ideas to get your started:

  • Select a place that would work best for you. Consider noise levels, people and aesthetics.
  • Choose a length of time for your retreat.
  • Let the appropriate people in your life know what you’re doing, so you won’t be disturbed. You can offer them an emergency strategy if something dire arises.
  • Decide if you’d like to unplug from technology. We highly recommend this to give your brain and nervous system a break. Much of the noise causing stress comes through technology channels.
  • Decide if you want silence or not. Silent retreats can be a powerful reset even if for only a few hours.
  • Create a schedule if you’d like. This might include yoga, meditation, prayer, journal writing, walking, reading, mindful eating and even time to daydream and meander.

There is no right or wrong. Experiment with different styles depending on your mood and needs.

April 12 — Pain Points

Have you ever set a difficult goal for yourself that caused you pain as you prepared for it? People who are in extreme sports, or even simply working out in the gym, often report that they experience pain on the way to their aspiration. Entrepreneurs, writers and artists often experience this as well.

Why would anyone choose to do something voluntarily when they know it might be painful? Why would someone keep moving forward with an activity if they’re already in pain and know there’s more to come?

It’s because the end result offers a promise of satisfaction, pride and achievement. It helps people realize their capabilities. It teaches you that you can surmount limitations. It can feel incredibly empowering.

However, many people don’t keep going. They quit. And sometimes, this is the right thing to do. Perhaps they were attempting the activity for the wrong reasons. Maybe they realized it wasn’t worth it after all. You do need to know when it’s in your best interest to stop versus continue.

Whether you decide to continue or stop, make sure it’s your decision. It may be helpful for others to weigh in with their opinions, but ultimately this is your decision to make.

If you do decide to move forward with a goal that will cause pain in the interim, how can you navigate the anguish along they way? Here are a few strategies:

- Keep an image in your mind of the end goal. Have a physical picture or representation that you can see on a daily basis.

- Visualize how this will look and feel when you get to the endgame. Imagine people congratulating you.

- Get clear on your why, the underlying reason, of the goal, and remember it often.

- Surround yourself with a positive tribe who will cheer you on unconditionally.

- Watch or read about people who have overcome challenges to achieve greatness in their own lives. Learn from their mindset and behaviors.

April 11 — At home with yourself

Are you at home with who you are? Do you like yourself? Do you enjoy the quiet moments of solitude alone? Are you able to be authentic across all situations? If so, that is great fortune indeed.

So many people are overly compromising themselves to fit in with various groups and environments. Often people report to us that they feel as if they’ve lost themselves altogether. This is so sad and not necessary.

It’s true that who we are changes over time as we evolve personally. The you of yesteryear may even contradict the you of today. And that’s okay. It’s interesting to look back over our lives and observe the changes we’ve made in our perspectives and personalities, isn’t it? Do you find this to be true for you?

If you do find yourself trying to fit in as a way to be accepted by the outer world, know that this can be dying a slow death. In a world enraptured by social media and “likes,” it’s easy to not present the wholeness of who you are. The world is in no shortage of messages about who it thinks you should be. If you’re involved in compromising yourself as form of being accepted, know that what is expected from you now will change. You will be required to keep changing like a chameleon to get the approval you are seeking. It’s simply not worth it.

You are a precious, unique and irreplaceable person. The world needs you exactly as you are. There will never be another you walking the face of this planet. Consider how miraculous that is. Give yourself permission to be all of who you are and to be consistent. This includes all of your glory and greatness as well as your quirks and eccentricities. Know your innate worthiness, and make friends with yourself.

Some strategies that may help include:

-- Spend time with yourself. Take yourself out on dates regularly.

-- Journal about the qualities you appreciate about yourself. You may also want to reflect on the positive feedback others have given you.

-- Write affirmations or mantras on sticky notes. Post them around your house to remind you of worthiness.

April 10 — Technology Timeout

Much of what we see presently was incomprehensible for most people just 40 years ago. The average person then could not likely have imagined what the average person now has access to. The idea of so many people walking around today with personal, portable hand-held computers was inconceivable.

Think about the amazing blessings of technology. The ability to access information in mere seconds can be both convenient and wonderful. Reaching nearly anyone at any time expedites solutions to problems and brings loved ones together sooner. Unprecedented advances in a wide range of fields such as medicine are taking place due to technology. So why are timeouts needed for users?

Human beings are not machines. We are mental, emotional, physical, relational, and spiritual beings. Technology is not a human being. As complex beings with emotions, we must rest. That includes the brain. If you operate as a machine, you invite suffering. Mentally and emotionally, you can become consumed with personal technology to the point of burnout and other major health issues such as severe insomnia and brain dysregulation. In everyday life, obsession with the cell phone can be a real impediment in relationships. The next time you go to a restaurant or public place, observe the engagement people have with their phones versus each other.

Here is where the idea of balance can help. Only the user can decide when enough is enough. Utilize these steps to move toward a sense of balance:

  • Monitor how often you are engaged with technology, particularly your cell phone.
  • Put your phone and laptop away completely for an hour, maybe longer, unless you are on call in your work. Notice your thoughts and how you react during that timeout.
  • Consider how you may be using your phone and technology as an escape from resolving problems or engaging with loved ones. Reflect on any physical consequences you may be experiencing from lack of sleep, poor diet, or lack of motivation and its possible connection to technological overuse.
  • Challenge yourself to put your phone away at meals with others.

April 7 — Regret

What do you wish you could undo from the past?

Former actions or inactions can plague you. Many people want to somehow rewrite their history in specific ways. Have you ever remarked that you wished you could go back to a previous time to correct something or perhaps do it differently altogether?

Unfortunately, you cannot. What’s done, is done. So many people struggle with that. However, letting go of the regret associated with the past is paramount to moving forward.

First, know that no amount of regret or guilt will change what has already happened. Can you accept that fact? If so, there’s a good chance you can shift. The reason that acceptance is fundamental in relinquishing regret is that amplifying your mistakes will only perpetuate negative feelings which keeps you stuck. If you’ve been doing this for awhile in your life, it may take a bit of practice over time to naturally access acceptance.

Secondly, you don’t want to overemphasize your shortcomings at the expense of staying balanced. Embrace the idea that it’s time to let go, forgive yourself, and stop punishing yourself over and over for the same mistake. Punishing yourself merely reinforces a self-defeating pattern and does nothing to alter the past. Living in the past thwarts your enjoyment of the present moment. When you halt your mental chastising, you free up energy to feel good and make desired changes for your future.

Realize that you’re not alone. Every human being has made mistakes in their lives. It’s simply a part of the human condition. Instead of resenting yourself for your missteps, commit to creating better responses in the future. Take responsibility for the past, but focus more on the present moment and the future. Take a breath. Literally shake off the energy when you catch yourself feeling regretful again and consciously let it loose. That is where your true power resides.

April 6 — Satisfaction

Remember the famous song lyric “I can’t get no satisfaction?” Mick Jagger crooned “‘Cause I try, and I try, and I try, and I try. I can’t get no satisfaction.”

The song aptly illuminates the seemingly endless pursuit for satisfaction. You naturally want to be satisfied with who you are, your efforts and your life. But are you? Or does it seem futile sometimes to keep trying?

Underlying the idea of satisfaction is the notion that eventually, it will be attained. You will have arrived, so to speak. It’s good to have goals and to want to improve aspects about you and your life. But what if you can find satisfaction now, before achieving those results?

Take a moment and mindfully draw your attention to what is around you. Use your senses. What do you find pleasing in your present environment? Whatever you notice, enjoy it. What satisfies you about your personality, relationships, body, accomplishments or travels? Let yourself savor those aspects. Avoid brushing off those aspects of your life. Those things can be deeply satisfying if you allow it.

It may be helpful to take a moment to reflect on your body and mind. You are breathing. Even if they’re imperfect, your brain, heart and digestion are functioning. You are likely able to read these words. Can you be satisfied with those aspects?

You might choose to focus on your environment. Perhaps you enjoy certain aspects of your home or the people living in it. Maybe the weather is bringing you joy today. Look around and notice the elements that are bringing you peace and happiness.

In some cultures, contentment is considered the highest mental and emotional state a person can experience. Satisfaction breeds appreciation and gratitude, and those states produce relative happiness. In essence, the more satisfaction you can focus on moment to moment, the greater your happiness level will gradually become.

April 5 - Mindful eating

Are you a mindful eater? When is it hard to eat mindfully and when is it easier? People sometimes tell us that it’s hard when they’re stressed, upset or when the food is delicious.

When you do eat mindfully, you are better able to digest your food and register fullness. You also tend to eat slower and a smaller quantity, which are both perks for your health.

Here are some tips for eating mindfully:

  • It starts with food choices at the grocery store. Are you selecting foods that will help you feel and perform at your best? Are you making choices emotionally or from the intentions you set for yourself and your well-being?
  • Prepare your food in a way that brings you peace and joy. You may even choose to play some music or enjoy a beverage as you do this.
  • On a scale from 1-10, ask yourself how hungry you are. Don’t allow yourself to become hungrier than a 3 or more full than a 7 or 8. Practicing body scan meditation, a central practice in mindfulness that can be accessed on many video platforms like YouTube, can help you become more accurate on this scale. Many have been taught to eat everything on the plate, which is often too much. It takes some time for the body to feel full.
  • Release stress before you sit down to eat. This helps calm your emotions. It also helps you release any difficulties from the day so you are less likely to eat from stress. You may choose an activity like walking, yoga or journaling to regulate your nervous system so you can more fully enjoy your meal.
  • When you eat, just eat. Put away the electronics. Turn off the television and put your phone away. Enjoy the food for the gift that it is.
  • Slow down and breathe. Put your fork down between each bite. Savor the taste, smell and texture of the meal for even greater pleasure.
  • Offer gratitude to those who participated in make this meal possible – farmers, truck drivers, and so on. Gratitude is powerful for your health and well-being.

April 4 — Avoiding the uncomfortable

There is a natural tendency to shy away from people or situations that you don’t prefer. Avoiding the uncomfortable is a normal thing. In psychology, this is known as the pain pleasure principle.

From a common sense point of view this makes sense, doesn’t it? You avoid touching a hot stove because of the pain it will cause. You indulge in your favorite comfort food because it gives you pleasure.

But there are challenging conditions that seem unavoidable. One realm involves human beings. You can’t exactly avoid your employer. Try as you may, that would only cause you further pain. Then there are people you just don’t resonate with. Funerals of loved ones take place. Health challenges unfold sometimes. Difficulties do arise in various facets of life. How can you face these circumstances thoughtfully?

Incorporate these four steps, known as the acronym STAR, when you find yourself in uncomfortable positions:

  • Stop: In many situations a knee-jerk reaction is ineffective and not required. Pause, even for a minute, when possible.
  • Think: Typically, difficult circumstances are emotional. Emotions can hijack the prefrontal cortex in the brain which is responsible for planning, organizing and decision-making. This is where your best thinking takes place. Breathe. Take some time to reflect on your best response.
  • Act: Make a step based on your own best thinking. This may be a small step. Small steps add up over time though. It may be an imperfect step, but that’s OK. You can adjust later. Sometimes, you must act like you are being confident or courageous. It’s mindful to “fake it until you make it” when needed for your greater good.
  • Reinforce your best efforts: Mentally applaud yourself for your successes. Feel the pride inside for effectively navigating the tough situations.

April 3 — Money

Can money buy happiness? Research says “maybe.”

A person with a household income of below $70,000 experiences an uptick in happiness when that threshold is reached. Above that number, research shows that more money doesn’t necessarily make people happier.

Why do people look to raises and generating more money to bring happiness to their lives? Worldwide polls have indicated that people who live in some of the wealthiest countries are the least happy, and those who live in the most impoverished countries are among the happiest.

When people desire more money, a promotion or better cars and homes, it’s usually because they think these things will make them happier. History has shown that they do make people happy briefly but then they quickly acclimate to the new item or experience. In fact, we’ve all heard the stories of lottery winners losing their fortune not long after winning it.

Research in psychology shows that you do get happier when you spend more on experiences versus items. It also shows that people feel more joy when they spend on others and not just themselves.

Below are some strategies to get more comfortable with your finances and even feel more empowered and happier.

  • Know your numbers. Some people avoid looking at their numbers because it can feel scary and overwhelming. When you know these numbers, you have clarity and can set effective goals.
  • Have regular money meetings. You can do this for yourself and with people who are involved in your finances. You might choose to do this once a week or once a month. Create a pleasant environment to do this so that you look forward to it.
  • Journal about your finances. Some ideas include charting your money history, celebrating your successes, daydreaming and visioning possibilities, affirmations, and making a plan on how you’d like to save, spend, gift or invest.
  • Ask for support from a financial professional. You don’t have to go it alone. This builds your confidence around financial decision-making, especially if this is not your area of expertise.

March 31 — Wake up to your true beauty

According to the great sculptor Michelangelo, the beauty of the sculpture was within the marble. He stared at the stone sometimes for months before carving into it. He was envisioning the work of art underneath. He worked to unearth the beauty he thought was already there. Can you discover your own inner beauty?

Many people get swept up in the external world. We often find clients defining their worth by their appearances, accomplishments and possessions. While it’s great to enjoy how you look, what you’ve done, and what you have, it’s usually not enough. We’ve observed that many times people still feel like something is missing. They long to fill an inner void.

What if you haven’t discovered your inner beauty? Like Michelangelo, can you picture what might already be there? Relying solely on the exterior world can be confusing, defeating and difficult.

Here’s what we suggest:

  • Write out a vision statement on how you would like to feel inwardly.
  • Break that statement down into affirmative, “I am” sentencesThere is a disconnect between the first suggestion and this one. A vision statement seems to be “I want to ...” and look to the future. While the “I am” sentences are present tense. It’s a step by step process. You start with your vision, then bring it back to the present moment. Present moment awareness and affirmation helps to move the momentum towards the future feeling.
  • Speak those sentences aloud and see if you can feel them in real time.
  • Close your eyes and envision that unfolding taking place.

As you move through your day, be aware of the tendency to get caught up in problems and negative assessment of yourself. Turn your attention instead to what is wonderful about you.

March 30 — Sensory delight

Do you remember the smell of your loved one’s cooking? Perhaps you’ve walked into a home where coffee is brewing and cookies are in the oven. The smell itself gives you a positive feeling if it’s something that appeals to you or feels pleasantly nostalgic.

The same is true for seeing, hearing and tasting. If you are fortunate enough to enjoy all of your senses, then you are fortunate indeed. The sensory experience is something that people often take for granted but is a quick path to gratitude when you focus on it.

Savoring the sensory experience can bring peace and delight. When you slow down and allow yourself to hear the beauty of the chimes ringing and feel the sunshine on your skin, you are transported into an experience of peace and joy. This is one benefit of mindfulness.

Many people rush from one thing to the next so often in this life, hoping to get it all done. They often miss the simple, yet profound treasures presented to them on a daily basis. Learning to savor via the senses is a gift you can give yourself daily.

Slow down. Breathe. Look around. Smell. Listen. When you eat your lunch, enjoy the textures, colors and tastes. Indulging in sensory delight is sure to bring a smile to your face. When your loved one is speaking, enjoy the tenor of his or her voice as much as the content of the words. Springtime is a perfect time to see the beauty of the blooms and flourish.

March 29 — Portable peace

There is always drama. If you’re not careful you can get drawn into its intensity. The trick is to become skillful in how you handle the situations. Maybe you find yourself in a relationship with a very dramatic person. Perhaps you’ve been accused of being a bit dramatic.

Either way, there is a wonderful way to live more peacefully.

The great teacher and Nobel prize winner Thich Nhat Hanh was often asked what the path was to peace. He would calmly respond, “Peace is the way.” You must practice what you wish to learn. While simple to understand, the practice of peace can be difficult to master. Intellectually, living peacefully probably makes sense, right? But the challenge lies in your emotional patterns and reactions.

What would it be like to enjoy what we term “portable peace”? That way of being is a profound way to live. It is a tool for life-affirming transformation. If you are truly motivated to step out of the turbulent currents of the stress that unnecessary drama brings, you can start enjoying being consistently peaceful right away.

Here are some proven steps to portable peace:

  • Take direct action toward immediate self-care. This may include your diet, and other items you physically consume. It may also include the mental material you take in such as TV and movie programming.
  • Make a commitment to take the high road in relationships. Avoid those that are too intense and wrought with drama. During disagreements, focus on being happy versus being right.
  • Create peaceful rituals and practices such as regular meditation and relaxation time.
  • Integrate humor into your everyday life.
  • Set a daily intention to be a peaceful, powerful person.

March 28 — Mindful leadership

Have you ever heard of mindful leadership? Do you think you’re a mindful leader? Have you had mindful leaders in your life? The difference between a mindful leader and one that is not mindful is palpable. The impact leaders have on those that follow them is massive.

Here are some adjectives in business and psychology literature that describe mindful leaders: self-aware, other-aware, conscientious, compassionate, collaborative, clear, conscious, humble, confident, intuitive, non-defensive, possesses integrity, strong, balanced, innovative, inspiring, on the cutting edge, and authentic.

The truly great leaders who elicit loyalty and teamwork stand apart. They are not afraid to be themselves or trust themselves. When they make mistakes, they own it. They listen to others’ ideas, even if they don’t agree with them. They surround themselves with smart, capable people. They are not intimidated by them.

Leadership comes to people formally and informally. You don’t have to be recognized as a leader by others or have leadership in your title to be a good leader. Leaders show up in all kinds of ways and settings: communities, families, on sports teams, in the workplace, and beyond. In fact, each person is the leader of their own lives.

Are you showing up as the leader of your own life? Do you embody some of the characteristics of a mindful leader? What behaviors are no longer serving you now and what qualities would you like to emulate and embody more?

March 27 — Feel, perform, and live at your best

How many times have you sacrificed your peace for peak performance? How often have you put your well-being on the back burner? You don’t have to sacrifice wellness for performance or productivity. You can have it all.

In fact, when you take care of your well-being, you perform and live better. Unfortunately, our culture often tends to overvalue productivity and performance to the detriment of wellness, and you can get caught up in that hypnotic trance. The opposite philosophy is much more powerful.

When you meet your needs for well-being first, you will outperform and produce the yesteryear of you. When you feel your vitality and strength, you enjoy energy, creativity and clarity. You feel unstoppable.

How can you shift this habit of putting wellness on the back burner? Here are a few strategies:

- Make yourself and your mental and physical health a priority. Schedule activities and downtime on your calendar.

- Check in with yourself in real time. What do you need today? It may be different than what you had planned, and that’s OK.

- Remind yourself of the times when you’ve invested in your well-being and the return on investment you experienced when you did.

- Find your tribe that values feeling, performing and living at your best and believes you can have it all. The people you surround yourself with have a major impact on your mindset and habits.

When you trust that it is possible to feel, perform and live at your best, the transformation is astounding!

March 24 — The art of conversation

Sometimes, it seems as if conversation is a lost art.

Do you think others consider you a better listener or speaker? Or would they consider you equally skilled in both? Learning to balance assertion with inquiry is a skill set that will serve you well in multiple aspects of your life.

When we attend networking and other professional events, we notice that some people lean more into the assertion part of the dialogue than the inquiry. This can also happen when gathering with family or friends. No matter the occasion, one-sided “conversations” can leave both parties feeling rather unsatisfied.

Everyone wants to feel seen and heard. They want to know that they matter. When you provide this opportunity for the other party rather than trying to be interesting or prove yourself, you may learn some valuable and interesting insights about the other person. And once that person feels heard, they are more likely to reciprocate.

Learning to be reciprocal in conversations, personally and professionally, is an invaluable skill. It can be developed with intentionality and practice.

Here are some strategies to improve your conversation skills:

- Make an agreement with yourself before a gathering to consciously participate in more listening or speaking, depending on the area you want to strengthen.

- Come prepared with a few questions to ask. This will help you build confidence and relaxed for better social engagement.

- Learn to read nonverbal cues like body language and facial expressions. This may help you ascertain whether someone has finished their thought or has paused to think.

- Step out of your comfort zone more often. Humans tend to avoid activities where they don’t feel competent. This doesn’t help you get better at it though. Practice your conversation skills whenever the opportunity presents itself be it at the grocery store, in the workplace or with your neighbors.

- Realize that other people may also be on a learning curve. Give yourself and others grace when a conversation doesn’t go perfectly.

March 23 — Cycles and seasons

The world around us operates in seasons and cycles. In Atlanta, we’re noticing signs of spring. Flowers are blossoming. The weather is warming. There’s more daylight.

Just as the seasons cycle throughout the year, we cycle through our own seasons as human beings. When we honor these cycles and learn to operate within them, we enjoy more peace and happiness.

Sometimes life seems to be slowing down. Perhaps things aren’t happening as fast as you’d like. Maybe you’re not getting the results you want. As humans, we tend to want to push forward anyway. However, this may be a sign to slow down, collect yourself, and prepare for next steps. Action taken for action’s sake alone can be detrimental. Pushing the river can create self-imposed obstacles. Instead, learning to flow with the river can help you experience better timing and connect you to greater ideas and inspiration.

At other times, life seems to be speeding up, requiring more of your energy and attention. This is the time to put your foot on the gas pedal, and go for it! This season of life often leaves you feeling elevated and energized. You may even feel invincible and unstoppable. Enjoy the trajectory of positivity this cycle brings.

Seasons are impermanent and transitory. When you learn to find your rhythm within each one, you’ll enjoy a feeling of calm, balance and surefootedness.

March 22 — Discipline

When people consider the word discipline and what it means, they often have a sense of dread. Many people associate this with arduousness and suffering. While discipline does require focus and delayed gratification, the results can change your life. You do have to get out of your comfort zone and sacrifice sometimes, but it’s worth it when you reach your goals.

How do you relate to discipline? Do you consider yourself a disciplined person? What feedback would your friends and family offer? When you set goals, do you trust yourself to follow through and stay on track?

Some strategies that can help with discipline if really want to achieve your goals include:

- Remember your “why.” Keep the endgame in mind. How do you want to feel? What do you want to experience?

- Who are you doing this for? Is it for yourself or others? If you’re doing something that others think you should do but you’re not personally invested, it likely won’t stick.

- Manage your stress. If you are in an acutely stressful period like a divorce or job loss, it’s much harder to practice discipline. Address your mental and emotional needs first before setting goals.

- Get support. Are there people who have achieved these goals already? What did they do? What worked? How did they navigate setbacks? Trust that people want to help and see you succeed.

One caveat about discipline is that any strength overdone becomes a liability. Rigidity around goals can cause suffering for you and those around you. Only you can determine this. Check in with yourself to see if the discipline you’ve chosen to implement is uplifting you or not.

March 21 — Mental models

Have you ever had the expectation of what a person should look like or act like only to be surprised by how they presented themselves?

Our society has historically put forth many “shoulds,” like how a mom should behave or a professor should dress. When you get caught up in these mental models that are grounded in limiting assumptions and experiences, you might be robbing yourself of the richness and fullness of humanity.

People come in all types of packages, preferences and personalities.

We remember the first time we walked into our therapist’s office to find him in jeans, a leather jacket and combat boots. He certainly looked different than we expected. Initially, it threw us off. We weren’t used to that attire for a therapist. Luckily, we didn’t let that deter us because he was one of the best clinicians we’ve ever encountered. If we had been put off by his dress, we would have missed out on one of the richest experiences of our lives.

In what ways might you be allowing mental models to limit your experience of others or yourself? Are you overly compromising yourself to fit the model others think you should have? Do you have rigid expectations of how others need to show up? How can you open your mind and be more flexible in your position and perspective?

Years of conditioning may be a part of your mental model construct. Give yourself grace as you begin to unravel fixated views that you’ve been accustomed to from your past.

March 20 — Finding happiness

The International Day of Happiness is celebrated throughout the world on March 20.

When we ask clients what they most desire, most answer that they want to be happy. For many people, happiness seems elusive, like an unobtainable, unrealistic goal. Perhaps they’ve tried repeatedly to find happiness in a variety of ways, including relationships, special vacations, self-help books and other pursuits. Still, they just plainly don’t feel happy.

So maybe a shift in focus is in order. What if you could find reasonable happiness today? And what if you could then water those seeds for greater contentment and pleasure? Well, it seems that the people of Finland have done just that.

For five years in a row, Finland has been ranked as the happiest country in the world, according to the World Happiness Report. One Finnish psychologist, Frank Martela, states that there are three things that Finnish people don’t do:

  • They don’t compare themselves to their neighbors
  • They don’t overlook the benefits of nature
  • They don’t break the community circle of trust

It probably helps that they also tend to take four weeks in the summer to vacation. They often use this time to be in nature and away from work. They truly vacation.

Here are some tips based on the Finnish happiness quotient:

  • Focus on what makes you happy without comparing yourself to others.
  • Spend time in nature as often as you can. Enjoy the sunshine, fresh air, and greenery.
  • Look at how you can build trust in your world through small acts. Those acts may be as simple as giving up your seat on the train or paying for someone else’s cup of coffee.

You can find happiness immediately by being present and feeling satisfied as often as possible.

March 17 — Connect with your heritage

As we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this weekend, we are reminded about our ancestry.

Our people were both largely from Ireland. We had the delight of visiting the homeland of our ancestors a few years ago. We felt the magic of the people, the breathtaking land, the soulful music and the ancient history. As we walked on the clay of our lineage, we were viscerally in touch with times gone by.

Humans long for connection. They want to know who their forefathers were and where they came from. There is a deep-seated, inexplicable desire to respect the mark of our predecessors and to leave our own legacy. This connection, though mainly invisible, can be palpably felt as you hear old stories of your kin. You appreciate the struggles of those who came before you and how they paved the way for you.

Would you like to connect more deeply with your heritage? Here are a few strategies to connect with your roots:

– Talk to the elders in your family. Some people interview family members to capture their history on video or audiotape.

– Read historical fiction and non-fiction to learn more about your ancestry.

– Visit the lands of your ancestors. If you can’t travel, watch documentaries and virtual tours.

– Learn about some of the rituals of your ancestors and incorporate those into your life.

As you learn more about your past, you may find yourself feeling more gratitude for the lives of your family of old and the many generations it took for you to be here. It may also instill in you a deeper desire to expand and improve life for your sake and those who will come after you.

March 16 — Posture and mental health

Have you ever noticed that how you are standing or sitting affects your mental health? It’s true. In fact, a study by Harvard University found that sitting up straight improved symptoms of anxiety, low self-esteem, stress, and depression.

People who walk or sit in a slouched position tend to have greater feelings of unhappiness. The neuroreceptors in the body send a signal to the brain that things are not going well. In psychology, this is called Embodied Cognition. EC is a form of communication between your mind and body. The opposite is true, too. When you sit or stand with good posture, studies show that confidence, self-esteem, and positivity increase.

You may have a habit of slouching due to years of practicing this posture. Many people are unaware that they’re doing this. There are some simple, yet profound strategies to help improve your posture:

  • Be more mindful and aware of your posture. Catch your reflection in the mirror to check on it throughout the day.
  • Create a body memory of what good posture feels like so you can practice throughout the day. Practice makes perfect.
  • Strengthen your core through exercise. Often compromised posture comes from lack of strength in this area of the body.
  • Ask a trusted friend or family member to give you feedback on your posture when they notice it — both positively and not.

Some people were born with spinal defects or are suffering with chronic back issues. For these people, specialized medical help is most likely needed. When possible and medically appropriate, be intentional and practice this way of being in the world to create better mental and physical health.

March 15 — How you dress

The way you dress can affect your emotional state.

During the early days of the pandemic, some people who were mostly housebound wore pajamas all day. It was fun and freeing. Eventually, though, they realized they were not showing up as their best self – and the wardrobe had a lot to do with it. When they dressed for the day, they felt better.

People searching for a new job may experience a similar boost when they dress professionally. It puts them in a confident work state of mind that is projected to prospective employers in interviews, emails and other aspects of the job search process.

When you dress intentionally for the activity you are participating in, it conveys self-respect and signals to others how you are choosing to show up in the world and the impact you want to have.

Think about the times when you have experienced a positive mood shift based on the clothes you were wearing. The material, color, fit and style all probably felt authentically you – and right for the occasion whether you were going to the gym, office, a restaurant, or special celebration.

Scan the current clothes and shoes in your closet. How do you feel about each item? Are some ill-fitting or worn out? Is the style reflective of your current style?

If your wardrobe no longer reflects your personal values, maybe it’s time for a refresh.

Even small changes can make a difference. Our clients always report that they feel much better when they replace ripped clothing. Even if it’s just a new T-shirt, they have more pep in their step.

Dressing in a way that is authentically you doesn’t have to mean spending a fortune on designer clothes. Thrift stores and consignment shops have many wonderful options.

What will you choose to wear today to feel and perform at your best?

March 14 — Harness the Power of 10

Do you have projects you’d like to complete but don’t know where to begin? Do you have deadlines looming but feel overwhelmed thinking about the task at hand?

When a project seems daunting, people tend to procrastinate. It doesn’t have to be that way.

One productivity method, known as the Power of 10, requires breaking a project down into more manageable tasks and regularly dedicating small chunks of time toward completing those tasks.

Are you ready to chip away at a project 10 minutes at a time? Here’s how to harness the Power of 10:

  • Identify your top 2-3 projects to prioritize.
  • Put the other projects in a “someday” file to review once your prioritized projects have been completed.
  • Break the identified projects into tasks.
  • Schedule your tasks in a calendar in 10-minute segments.
  • Set a timer during these 10-minute work sessions.
  • Do not allow yourself to go over allotted time as this is what tends to overwhelm people.
  • Be clear with yourself about what “finished” looks like.
  • Once a project is completed, you can move a new project from the “someday” file to the priority file.

This system has helped so people complete an array of projects. They’ve written books, cleaned out closets and sold their homes. They’ve started an exercise program, gone back to school and finished their taxes on time.

No matter what you want to accomplish, the Power of 10 provides a structure of small, consistent steps that will help you achieve your goals without feeling overwhelmed.

March 13 — Overcome adversity

Have you ever felt like life was coming at you from all directions? Can you recall a time when it seemed as if everything that could go wrong did go wrong?

When people are bombarded with negatives, they react in a variety of ways, some helpful and some not. Some people think there’s something wrong with them because things aren’t going well. They personalize the situation. Others fall into a blame-and-victim mode. They blame everything and everyone for what’s happening and feel that they’ve been victimized by a cruel world.

Everyone has experienced adversity at some point. Sometimes it’s on a large scale. Other times, it’s a bunch of little things that add up. Either way, it causes suffering. How much you suffer, though, is in your control. You can’t control the pain that life delivers, but you can reduce the self-imposed suffering that stems from adversity. In mindfulness, we often say that you can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.

When bad things happen, take a breath and a step back. Pay attention to how you’re explaining things to yourself and whether that explanation is serving you well. In psychology, we call this your “explanatory style.” Check your narrative. Practice self-care. Be gentle with yourself. Ask for help from others. You might need a hug, a compassionate ear or professional help to take your next best steps.

Learn to respond to difficulties rather than react to them. When you respond in a manner that is deliberate and grounded rather than impulsive and rash, you put yourself in a position of power and clarity to realize workable remedies.

March 10 — Variety is the spice of life

Do you find that you’re doing the same thing every day? Driving the same streets? Talking to the same people? It’s easy to get into a rut. While routine can be grounding, too much of a good thing becomes a liability.

What would it be like to change some of the simple things in your life? What if you altered your route to work, visited a different grocery store or changed the types of clothes you wear? You might notice a bit more pep in your step when you alter some of the basics.

By making simple changes, you will most likely feel a sense of renewal in your life. After making some simple shifts, you may find that you’re inspired to move on to larger ones.

What would it be like to travel somewhere new? Perhaps you’d like to move to a different neighborhood or city. Is it time to expand your circle of friends and broaden your activities? Consciously cultivating variety is a wonderful way to learn more about yourself and the world around you. Allow yourself a sense of fun and adventure as you change some things up -- and expect some delight along the way.

March 9 — Resist making assumptions

We can recall times in our lives when we made assumptions about people or situations and eventually were proven wrong. Can you remember when you were incorrect in your assumptions? Perhaps there were serious consequences or at least a feeling of embarrassment.

Assumptions are incomplete notions by their nature. They are the mind’s way of controlling ambiguity by filling in the blanks. Those notions are the result of a mental attempt to gain certainty over the uncertain. These notions are beliefs based on a conjured premise. Sometimes, you can be utterly convinced of those assumptive beliefs only to be mistaken.

So how do you avoid the pitfalls of making assumptions? One strategy is to realize that it’s OK not to know all the answers. We all need clarification. You can ask a question for further information. You can restate your understanding with another person to gain additional insight. Perhaps you can simply bring awareness to your mind that you are in the throes of making incomplete speculations.

What gets in the way sometimes is making snap judgments. The mind is a meaning-making mechanism; therefore, it can work too quickly in guessing the reasons why people and events are as they seem. Appearances, you may have learned, can be very deceiving. We’ve seen in corporate culture how some people suffer greatly because of mistaken ideas they have about their future employment, colleagues and bosses. Assumptions can frequently lead to self-sabotage in the workplace and beyond.

When you do your best to resist assumptions and clarify when you can, you have greater enjoyment and suffer less.

March 8 — Learn to say no

Saying yes when you mean no can be painful. It puts you in awkward positions. It may even drain your energy. While it’s fun to be a yes person, it’s not always appropriate to agree to something that others are asking of you.

It’s OK to say no. You are well within your rights as a human being with your own life force energy to decline invitations or projects. And more importantly, you must give yourself permission to say no without guilt or stress. You may feel that declining something is a flat-out rejection but it’s not. It may be bad timing or simply something that is not for you. It may even be something you’ve outgrown.

Sometimes saying no to others is saying yes to yourself. This is your precious life, and you deserve to say yes to yourself when that is what you need to do. You may want more time to yourself or to focus on a different project. You may need a change from what you’ve been doing previously in your life. You get to choose how you use your time, energy and brain power. Priorities and desires change as we grow and evolve.

If you’re not used to saying no, it may take some practice. Over time, it becomes woven into the fabric of who you are and ultimately brings your greater peace and fulfillment in your life.

March 7 — Transform worry and anxiety

Have you ever been paralyzed by an ongoing sense of dread and persistent worry? If so, you’re certainly not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, roughly 13% of Americans struggle with some kind of anxiety disorder.

There are many clinical approaches to anxiety, including medication. You may want to consult your physician for an assessment. There are also complementary approaches that have been proven helpful in lowering worry such as meditation and certain research-based supplements among others.

One innovative way to transform this issue is based on the idea that worry, anxiety and fear are experienced in the body, not the head. The mind is where the ruminating thoughts persevere, but the body experiences the alarm of the mind-body loop of anxiety. And therein lies a solution: to use the body to shift worry patterns. The mind can flood you with thoughts like an out-of-control train. To slow the thought train down, try mindfully attending to your body.

Medical professionals such as Drs. J.A. Armour, Russell Kennedy (author of “Anxiety Rx”) and others contend that consciously connecting with the heart and body as an anchor can transform those worrisome thought patterns.

Among many approaches, here is one effective way to soothe worrisome thoughts:

  • Become aware of the sense of alarm in the body that occurs in tandem with worry thought loops.
  • Focus on -- and even place your hand(s) -- on the place where you feel it most.
  • Tune in to the emotion(s). Allow the worry, anxiety and/or fear to organically move and morph without an inner commentary.
  • Simply experience the emotion(s) as you breathe slowly and deliberately through it.

March 6 — Bring out the best in others

Do you remember a time when someone saw the best in you and encouraged you in your life? It felt so good, didn’t it? Are you someone who makes it a point to do this for others? In our busy modern-day world, it can be so easy to slip into complacency in our relationships. We don’t always take the time to let others know what they’re doing well. You might even find yourself criticizing others more than praising them in the name of process improvement.

Catching someone doing something right is never a mistake. Shining the spotlight on what you appreciate in others is a win-win for everyone.

Consider the people in your life. Who could use your encouragement? Sometimes it’s not the people you would typically expect to need some care. Some people seem to be doing quite well and to have it all together. However, these people may be suffering on the inside while projecting positivity outwardly.

You can create a joyful habit for yourself by selecting a person each day to cheerlead. Shine the spotlight on the positives. Cheer people on. Applaud them for their accomplishments, qualities and efforts. Be the voice of kindness and upliftment. Compassion is definitely the new cool, and it feels good to be a lighthouse for those around you.

March 3 — Balancing hard with easy

It’s tempting to procrastinate doing the hard things in life. We often put tasks that feel tedious, scary or overwhelming to us on the back burner. The problem with this strategy is that putting things off usually makes it harder when it is necessary to do them.

The brain slams on the emergency brake when you are attempting to step out of your comfort zone. It thinks you might fail, look foolish or experience discomfort. The truth is that you are stronger and more capable than you might think. You can manage discomfort. Consider what you’ve already accomplished in your life. If you need guidance in an area you’re not familiar with, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Avoiding the hard stuff prevents you from making progress toward reaching your goals in life.

You don’t always want to be doing hard things though. If you do, you will eventually burn out. Make time for the easy, fun things in life, too. Read. Take a bath. Go out with friends. Watch television. Find daily ways to create pleasure for yourself. Some people actually need to schedule pleasurable activities or they will keep procrastinating those!

A good rule of thumb to balance hard with easy is to attend to the more difficult things when you have more energy and motivation. Then, schedule fun and relaxing activities when you’re naturally ready to unwind. This pattern of living will set you up for success.

March 2 — Service

How are you called to serve the world? In our previous columns, we’ve emphasized the essential foundation of good self-care and compassion. Once self-care is firmly established, that care and compassion can then be skillfully shared with others.

What comes to mind when you think of service to others? Perhaps you think of a clothing drive. Maybe you consider volunteering at a local soup kitchen or shelter. Possibly you become involved with animal rescue. We have friends who raise money for various causes and foundations using their talents, including dancing.

Look at who or what is in your immediate purview. Is there a family member or a neighbor who is struggling? Sometimes people ask for help, but often they don’t. Perceiving a need in others and then asking if you can help them in some way, is a deeply meaningful act. Others may appreciate a nicely prepared meal. It may just be a phone call that is needed. Sharing your time, which is such a valuable commodity, may be of greatest value to them.

When you extend yourself in service to others something magical happens between you and the recipient. The substance and symbolism of your action convey heartfelt care to that person.

And there is another impactful benefit that often occurs. There can be a rush of “feel good” neurotransmitters like oxytocin, endorphin and serotonin. These happy hormones improve the mood and health of both the giver and the receiver of your actions. That makes service a win-win for everyone.

March 1 — Mindful words in self-dialogue

Words have an impact. There is power in words. Consider times when you were verbally encouraged and how that made you feel. Conversely, recall how you felt when you received demeaning words. Most of us can remember when we boosted someone with our words or caused them emotional pain by unkind ones. The selection of the words themselves as well as the tone of voice and body language used makes a difference in the message.

In his book “The Four Agreements,” Don Miguel Ruiz shares the importance of editing your words. In fact, his first agreement is “Be impeccable with your word.” Ruiz suggests that you commit to being integritous with your words as a starting point for freeing yourself from self-limiting beliefs that may rob you of joy and create needless suffering in your life. But perhaps most interesting is his encouragement to examine how you speak to yourself mentally and verbally.

Your words to yourself can be a blessing or bane. Are you a friend or foe in your inner dialogue? Being mindful in your communication with others starts with your self-talk. In our work, people have revealed to us horrible assessments of themselves. Their recycling of negative words internally causes them immense pain and physical symptoms.

Being able to be kind and compassionate to others starts with you doing the same to yourself. So, practice being quick to select positive words toward yourself. Resist opportunities to berate yourself in your head or in front of others. Make concerted efforts to swiftly forgive yourself for mistakes and move forward.

Feb. 28 — Using your voice

Speaking to others with purpose, responsibility and compassion requires clarity and confidence. This is true especially when the topic or situation being discussed is difficult. If you’re not used to using your voice in this way, it may initially feel awkward. You may make mistakes. This doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong track. Practice makes progress.

Do you find it tough or scary to be direct with others in conversations? If so, you may have been taught over the years that it’s not appropriate to state your needs and preferences. This new way of speaking will require that you access courage.

Do you find it challenging to speak gently with compassion? You may have been conditioned to think that the only way to be heard is to be loud and forceful. You will need to soften your tone and edit your word choices as a potential growth point.

In our work, we often observe that learning to speak up for yourself in general is a communication challenge. When people are scared to ask for what they really need and desire, they may soft-pedal the message, and it goes unheard. When people are too aggressive in their messaging, they shut others down and don’t get their needs met. If they are overly emotional when communicating, the message can also get lost.

Rehearsal writing is a powerful strategy to help you practice what you want to say before the actual conversation. It also helps you process your emotions prior to communicating with others. Prepare in advance for optimal results.

Feb. 27 — Choices

Are your choices congruent and aligned with your core values? Do you say what you think? And do what you say? When we don’t align our thoughts, words and actions, it can create stress and a lack of clarity.

Once you are aligned in all three dimensions, you can make better choices for yourself and those around you. Some people have a hard time making choices or decisions. They become paralyzed by indecision, what we call “analysis paralysis.” If you find that you’re experiencing this, take time to explore whether your thoughts, words, actions — and ultimately choices — are congruent.

Other people may make hasty choices to move forward more quickly than warranted. It’s more difficult to reverse a decision than it is to give the appropriate time needed to make a thorough one. If you find that you lean towards this dynamic, try giving yourself more time than you think you need. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but you’ll enjoy the benefits of making a more thoughtful choice.

The exciting news is that you do have choices. Choices give you freedom to create your life in a way that you prefer. Research in positive psychology shows that having choices is related to happiness. Interestingly, that research also points out that if you are given too many choices, you become less happy. The sweet spot is usually two to three alternative on any one topic.

What choices will you make today for your highest and greatest good?

Feb. 24 — The power of patience

Do you consider yourself a patient person? Would those around you characterize you that way? Do you have specific triggers that ignite impatience? Traffic? Technology? People?

Your mind will try to justify impatience. But even if you think you’re justified in feeling aggravated with a person or situation, it’s not in your best interest to visit this state of mind frequently.

Some people have a propensity to reside in this mental-emotional state. Everything seems to trigger them. This way of living has been called the “hurry sickness,” and people with Type A personalities who are overly ambitious and driven exhibit this behavior pattern, which is characterized by chronic rushing and anxiousness. In the 1950s, cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman found that these types of personalities are more likely to develop coronary heart disease than the general population.

Put simply, it’s just not worth it. Your health and well-being are far more important. If you think about it, impatience does not feel good to your mind and body anyway. You can also damage your relationships if you lean in this direction. If you’re naturally predisposed to this temperament, consider the strategies below to develop a more patient response to life’s challenges.

In mindfulness, patience is defined as a gentling of the spirit. It’s a healthier way to live on all levels. Take these steps:

  • Acknowledge impatience when it arises.
  • Breathe slowly and deeply.
  • Pause before reacting.
  • Edit yourself as needed.
  • Try to redirect your focus to something more pleasant.

Feb. 23 — Be a lifelong learner

Research shows that lifelong learning increases your longevity and improves the quality of your health. You can approach learning in many ways.

According to cognitive neuropsychologists, simply reading for 6 minutes can lower your stress levels. And when you stress less, you feel, perform and live at your best. Shift things up sometimes. Try reading beyond the typical genres to expand your understanding of various aspects of the world. It doesn’t have to be an entire book. It might just be an article. You may decide to take a formal education class to explore new areas. In Georgia, residents 62 and older can sign up for courses at any of the 31 colleges and universities in the state system and attend without paying tuition (although some nominal fees may apply).

You can also challenge yourself to learn a new activity. This may be new dance steps, a foreign language or the latest technology trend. This leads to expansion of wisdom, a sense of vitality and youthfulness, and robust interests that you can share with others.

Learning new things is not only good for your mental and physical health, it provides a pathway for a better social life. You are a more interesting person when you are committed to your own growth and evolution. People want to spend time with you. And you have an opportunity to meet others who are interested in similar ideas and activities.

Learning is to brain health as exercise is to physical health. Your brain, through neuroplasticity, can continue to grow until the end of your life. Continuous learning can prevent and/or delay cognitive decline in later years, so we encourage you to continue to seek out new ways to learn and nourish your brain.

Feb. 22 — Optimal stimulation level

Everyone has an optimal level of stimulation that provides well-being. Do you know what yours is? And are you living your life according to that level?

Some people need a high activity level. When that need isn’t being met, they can be stressed and unhappy. Others need less activity and engagement. When they have surpassed their limits, they are not at their best.

When you operate outside of your optimal level for more than a day or two, you may find that you’re more irritable, less energized and not feeling your best. Over time, operating outside of your optimal level can lead to mental, emotional and physical ailments.

You may be someone who needs more quiet than you are currently experiencing in your life. If so, look for ways to step back from engagement. People around you may not understand your preference to spend more time alone than usual, especially if their optimal level of stimulation is higher than yours. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries and ask for what you need from those around you.

You might be someone who needs more engagement than you’re currently experiencing. If so, seek out other active like-minded people who want to do some of the things you’re interested in and are willing to explore new activities. Don’t wait for those closest to you to participate; they may have a lower level of stimulation.

Keep in mind that these levels change over time and often depend on many factors in your current reality.

Feb. 21 — Think big, start small

Consider a dream or goal that you have. Maybe you want to take an extended trip, lose weight or obtain financial security. There’s a fair chance that you really want to see that come to fruition. Perhaps you’ve had that dream or goal in your mind and heart for a while. How can the result you desire come to fruition?

In our work, we have encountered many clients who have struggled to make their dreams come true. Some are exasperated that their efforts have not yielded what they want. Whether they yearn for a loving relationship, better health or a new home, they can’t seem to find a way to realize their goals. Some have fallen into self-sabotage due to their beliefs or behavior.

We look at the “how” instead of the “why” of their process. How you approach your dreams makes all the difference. Have you ever started the process of accomplishing a goal, had some initial success followed by failure, and then given up? Many of us have.

Rather than give up, we encourage you to think big but start small. This means to set and hold your goal in mind. Perhaps create visual reminders about it. Maybe create a vision board. Then take daily, bite-sized steps toward the goal. Perhaps one day you reach out to someone who has had success in that area. Maybe you create specific ways to do it like designing a budget, securing a trainer or speaking to a travel agent.

Know this: it’s not too late. Own your dream and take inspired action steps. Taking small, steady steps will help you attain those well-deserved dreams.

Feb. 20 — Age well

Did you know that you can influence both the quality and quantity of your life? Chronological and biological age can be very different numbers. The anti-aging industry is a billion dollar field. Some chalk this up to vanity, but others believe that it’s because people are ultimately concerned about losing their independence, well-being and dignity as they grow older. The good news is that there are many strategies to help prevent that from happening.

Research shows that centenarians around the world who have lived a high quality and quantity of life participate in several activities regularly. A few elements that have been identified include daily movement, eating well, having a sense of purpose and enjoying a daily indulgence.

Meditation, exercise and biofeedback (methods to control some body functions like your heart rate) are classic biohacking techniques. Research in biohacking strategies also shows promise in cutting-edge strategies for aging well. Cryotherapy, sometimes known as cold therapy, is treatment that uses low temperatures. It has received a lot of attention for its health benefits. We choose to practice this regularly ourselves and have noticed the sensations of feel-good hormones being released as well as quick muscle recovery. Using an infrared sauna, in your home or at a center that specializes in it, is relaxing and supports healing. lt addresses a variety of ailments while also boosting mood and immune system functioning. Supplementation is another biohack that has grown in popularity. A good integrative, functional physician can be of great help in identifying the appropriate supplements that will support your unique system and needs.

Find the strategies that appeal to you and create consistency in those health habits for best results.

Feb. 17 — Lost and found

Recently we saw a T-shirt that read “Sometimes we feel lost, and that’s okay.” The wording speaks to a challenging emotion that you can sometimes experience in life: feeling lost.

Cultural expectations and conditioning can cause you to feel that you need to be on top of your game at all times — to always have a plan. But sometimes you aren’t and don’t. Welcome to Humanity 101.

Do you ever feel like you don’t know who you are, what you are supposed to be doing or where you’re headed? It can happen to the best of us!

On any given day, you can only do your best. To expect that you can always “have your act together” is unrealistic, and that mindset causes unnecessary suffering. You are a human, not a machine. Being able to transform that mental suffering and emotional unrest into a more compassionate response to yourself starts with giving yourself grace.

Keeping your expectations in check can help. Understand that life brings unexpected challenges. When you feel lost, remind yourself that this is a normal part of your humanity. Mindfulness teaches you to accept that tough times are a temporary condition. The same holds true with emotions. They are impermanent and subject to change.

When you feel confused or insecure, find activities to ground your mind and body. Different strategies work for different people. Movement is usually an effective strategy. Once you feel settled, you can take the next best step for yourself.

Feb. 16 — Find your flow

In positive psychology, flow is defined as a mental state in which a person is immersed in what they are doing. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi created the term. Flow crosses a wide range of fields and activities.

When you think of someone being in the flow, you may associate them as being “in the zone,” very focused in the moment with their talents and interests. Perhaps athletes, actors, musicians, or motivational speakers come to mind. But this flow state is available to everyone, including you.

Think of a time you were totally engrossed in an activity, feeling energized and excited. That’s the flow state! Csikszentmihalyi discovered that those who could tap into a flow state more regularly were happier and more joyful.

What can often prevent this fluid, pleasant zone are distractions and stress. But you don’t have to wait until the challenges dissipate to feel the flow. Letting go of any resistance creates an opening for the flow state to occur.

It begins in the present moment where all of your power lies. You can approach nearly any activity or interest with a singular focus and a relaxed demeanor and initiate flow. Becoming skillful in mindfulness helps you find flow more frequently.

Most feel, perform, and live better when flowing. We suggest making time for those activities or even tasks that trigger positive mental and emotional states. When you commit to this way of being more often, you’ll enjoy deep fulfillment and gratification.

Feb. 15 — Navigating grief

One of the toughest emotions that human beings experience is grief. The emotional and psychological upheaval associated with grief can vary in its intensity and unpredictability. Whether the issue is death, divorce, a health issue, an accident, or other event, grief hits people at their very core.

We certainly understand it professionally. And, perhaps even more importantly, we know it personally. Not so long ago we lost four close family members in a three-year period. We know the palpable feeling of shock and panic and an unspeakable sense of loss and sadness.

While the five stages of grief (shock, emotions, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) were established by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross decades ago, not everyone follows that process the same. In fact, without support, some people can find themselves stuck in specific parts of grief, such as anger.

Understand that as a human being, grief is unavoidable for a plethora of reasons, including mortality. However, you can learn to skillfully navigate the process. While you cannot control the form or the life of grief itself, you can arm yourself with information and understanding.

We suggest connecting with others and not isolating. We all need support and often others can step forward to help if you allow them. Share your emotions but only with people you trust. Beware of those who discount your emotions. Sometimes to help, some people do more harm than good through judgment, cliches, and even shaming the affected person. Not everyone can be skillful in being present and caring in a way that is helpful. So be selective with whom you share your grief. Allow yourself to experience all of your feelings and ask for support when you need it.

Feb. 14 — Honoring, loving and celebrating yourself

Love is in the air with Valentine’s Day in the month of February. Traditionally, this holiday sets the stage for sharing your love with your significant other, family and friends. While that is very important to your health and well-being, extending that love to yourself should take priority.

Your relationship with yourself affects all other aspects of your life, including how you love others. What does it mean to you to honor, love,and celebrate yourself? What are some ways you can become your own best ally and advocate? Below are some strategies that will help you strengthen your relationship with you.

  • Spend time alone doing what you find satisfying. It may mean not doing anything, or it may mean doing something that no one else is interested in doing. Stop compromising yourself based on others’ preferences.
  • Take yourself out on a date. Indulge in the movie, art show or restaurant you’ve been wanting to try. Learn to like the company you keep.
  • Speak well of yourself — in your own mind and to others. Be proud of who you are and how far you’ve come in your life.
  • Shine the spotlight on your successes. Take time to celebrate even the small wins in whatever way is meaningful to you. Make sure you don’t diminish yourself or dim your light in any way in order to prevent others from feeling insecure around you.

We often look to others to honor, love and celebrate us. Sometimes that goes well, and sometimes it doesn’t. When you do it for yourself consistently, you enjoy the benefits of self-reliance.

Feb. 13 — Love languages

Loving others is an innate quality that comes naturally for most people. It’s also a skillset that can be developed. There are multiple avenues to show love to one another, and everyone’s preferred avenues are different. This is why some people feel like their attempts at loving are not being received well or they are not getting the love they desire.

Gary Chapman discusses five different love languages in his book, “The Five Love Languages.” Do you know your love language and that of those around you? See if you can identify them below.

  • Words of affirmation
  • Acts of service
  • Shared activity
  • Physical affection
  • Gift giving

It’s important to convey to people around you how you prefer to be cared for and appreciated. You may think they should already know, but if you haven’t clarified, it may be a misfiring in communication. Also, ask your loved ones how they prefer to be loved and appreciated. In our work, we have observed people in long-term relationships being surprised at their family and friends’ answers.

If your friend or family member prefers a strategy that doesn’t come naturally to you, know that you can strengthen your ability to meet their need. Write reminder notes to yourself at first. Eventually it will become more natural, and they will appreciate your intentions and efforts.

Feb. 10 — Your environment

Your environment plays a major role in your mental, emotional and physical well-being. This aspect of health can often get overlooked. Where you live, how you live, and who you live with can help promote your joy or be an impediment.

Survey the landscape of your life and assess how satisfied you are. Are you enjoying the aesthetics of your home? Is it time for new colors or textures? You can select one room to focus on as a first step.

Do you enjoy the community you’re living in? Are you getting your needs met? Are there other places you’ve dreamed of living but haven’t yet researched steps to make that a reality? Would you like to be closer to friends or family? Many people feel isolated in our nomadic modern society. It wasn’t that long ago that we lived more in villages with multiple generations of relatives nearby.

Perhaps it’s time to get organized, de-clutter and rearrange in the home or office where you spend much of your time. Taking these steps can have such a positive impact on your mindset and finding clarity. Feng shui, an ancient practice, suggests that the spatial arrangement of items and colors has a favorable or unfavorable effect on our psychology.

Look around and make some choices to support your environmental health and well-being, so you can have greater joy in your daily life!

Feb. 9 — Time

Time is one of your most precious commodities. Many people suffer from several aspects around time: feeling there is not enough time, feeling time pressured, feeling that they’re running out of time. In our work with many people over the years, we have found that the perception you have of time can be experienced as a chronic struggle or a liberating opportunity.

How do you perceive time? What is your relationship like with it? Are you aware of how you’re spending your time? When we ask people to record how they’re spending their time each day, they are often surprised at how much time is wasted on activities that are not meaningful to them.

We encourage you to try this exercise for yourself. Commit to recording how you’re spending your time for seven days. Write everything down from commuting to screen time to work to errands, etc. After seven days, review how you’re spending each day. See if there are some changes you’d like to make to enjoy more time doing the things that are important to you.

This exercise rarely fails in helping people feel like they got their time, and thus their lives, back. We are all given the same 24:7, and we’re each making choices, whether we’re aware or not, about what we’re doing with that time. This realization can be enlightening and empowering. The experience of having an abundance of time is a catalyst for greater joy!

Feb. 8 — Mindfulness

A study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed impressive results for anxious people. The study revealed that mindfulness training decreased anxiety levels equal to certain anti-anxiety medications.

The simple definition of mindfulness is being fully aware and focused in the present moment while practicing non-judgment and acceptance of what is occurring. This ancient practice, which began about 2500 years ago, is a great training for dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression in modern day times.

Stress hijacks you from truly being present in everyday life. Perhaps your roles and responsibilities impact your concentration abilities. Maybe your phone has become a regular source of distraction with its constant beckoning and its “bells and whistles.”

Some people are confused about what mindfulness is. This is a combination of practices (like meditation) and principles (ways of being in the world). When you train your brain and nervous system to be more mindful through practices and principles, you will feel greater ease, peace and joy in your life. Research shows that it also strengthens resilience, builds confidence and energizes you. It also enhances your immune system functioning.

You don’t have to live in a cave or visit a mountaintop to practice. You don’t even need to practice for hours at a time. Just a few minutes each day will allow you to gain traction. Connecting to your breath, body and the present moment is the practice. When you do this consistently, you experience profound results. Before you know it, you will be mindful without conscious effort and enjoy the immense benefits it offers.

Feb. 7 — Forest Bathing

You may have bathed in nature and not even realized it. Few can dispute the benefits of taking a relaxing walk in the woods. Many people find a refreshed feeling after spending time in nature as if they’ve been bathed. In Japan, the practice of forest bathing or Shinrin-yoku, is highly-acclaimed as a way to enjoy both mindfulness and the benefits of nature.

Dr. Qing Li of the Nippon Medical School and other researchers have documented its impressive health benefits. Among them are:

  • Lowers heart rate and blood pressure
  • Improves the quality and quantity of natural killer cells in the immune system which protect against disease
  • Triggers the parasympathetic nervous system causing relaxation
  • Reduces cortisol which prevents or slows down disease
  • Helps with sleep
  • Supports PTSD recovery
  • Improves mood and lowers psychological symptoms

Part of the mechanism that produces these benefits is a substance trees emit call phytocides. Those are airborne, anti-microbial substances that you breathe when you’re in the woods. Another reason forest bathing is beneficial has to do with practicing being present in the time spent there. Being mindful in nature seems to encourage a shift in perception and an appreciation for the miracle of nature itself.

The benefits we mentioned can be obtained by merely 20 minutes in the woods a few times a week. Imagine the pleasant feelings you will enjoy by simply spending time in nature. It is generally accessible and often free of charge. In the Atlanta area, look into Kennesaw Mountain (Cobb), the East Palisades bamboo forest (Fulton/Dekalb), Island Ford Trail (Roswell) or Arabia Mountain Park (Lithonia) among many others. We encourage you to step into the woods when you can and relish the benefits!

Feb. 6 — Complaining and criticizing

When you allow your thoughts to go on autopilot, research shows that they tend to go to the negative. You’ll notice if you observe your thoughts, much of that negativity is tied up in complaining and criticizing. Even though you may not be verbalizing your complaints and criticisms, it still blocks your joy.

We suggest to clients that they go on a “complaining and criticizing diet” for a week. When they practice this, they realize just how often they are engaging in negative thoughts — about themselves, others and the world. Experiment with this for yourself. For the next seven days, make a commitment to refrain from complaining and criticizing in your mind, even if you feel justified in your thoughts. Many people do! Whether those thoughts are justified or not, they still cause you harm when practiced repeatedly. For many, it becomes an unconscious habit that robs them of greater happiness and joy. It’s just not worth it.

If you notice that your mind continues to wander to negatives, simply say to yourself “not now” or “switch” as soon as you observe the pattern. You can even count down from five to one to create a gap between stimulus and response. After you’ve disrupted the thought, you can also replace it with something more positive like gratitude. You’ll notice how much better you feel when you make this mental shift!

Feb. 3 — Friendships

Friendships are incredibly important to sustain mental and physical well-being.

Adults are sometimes challenged to make new friends. When your children leave the home for good or you retire from the workforce, there can be fewer organic opportunities to meet people.

Many people don’t actively pursue new friendships, thinking that should happen naturally. Unfortunately, this leaves them feeling alone and isolated.

It takes time and effort to make new friends. Some people know that they’re feeling lonely but are unsure how to begin the process. Here are a few suggestions to expand your circle of friends:

- Participate in activities and events where you might meet like-minded people.

- Explore new activities and events that you haven’t previously tried.

- Be willing to initiate conversations. Perhaps prepare a list of conversation starter questions.

- Be present and engaging when you participate in activities and events. Start by putting your phone away.

- When you connect with someone new, ask for that person’s contact information and be deliberate about following up.

- Be consistent in the above suggestions to gain traction.

Adults also often neglect to nurture current friendships because they are so busy. Friendship may take the back-burner to careers, raising children and other adult responsibilities. Try to spend quality time with the friends that bring you joy and love and accept you unconditionally.

There’s nothing quite like having a confidante to connect with, sharing a belly laugh or spending time with someone who enjoys activities similar to those that bring you joy.

Feb. 2 — People-pleasing

People-pleasing is a compulsive, reflexive drive to meet the preferences of others. Put bluntly, pleasing other people means trying to manipulate outcomes through performative action and is an indication of over-functioning in relationships.

This pattern often begins at a young age and is typically associated with codependency. Think about it. When you were a child, you likely wanted to please those in authority. You probably wanted to please them because your survival depended on it! Those established patterns are frequently carried into adulthood. Unfortunately, the pattern of trying to please others can have negative consequences. This often results not getting your own needs met.

You can mindfully focus on what you really desire and begin the change process immediately. Start by clarifying your needs. How often to do you care for your those? What would it be like to please yourself first? You are not meant to be a needless, want-less machine.

Visualize how you would like to alter that old, familiar pattern of over-functioning for others. You can choose to respond slower to requests. You can cut unpleasant conversations shorter. You can avoid overly demanding people who trigger you.

Be willing to ask for what you need from others. Reduce your level of overworking yourself with others when you can. Realize you can’t fix anyone’s life but your own. You are not responsible for their joy. Meeting your own needs more regularly allows you to experience greater joy!

Feb. 1 — Vagus Vacation

The vagus nerve is the longest one in the body. This wandering nerve winds itself through the body and regulates various functions of the heart, lungs and gut.

The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic branch of the central nervous system which is responsible for restorative functions in the body. Among the restorative functions of the vagus nerve is that of triggering the relaxation response. Our heart rate slows down. So does our breath. Our blood pressure lowers. Even our digestion improves.

Relaxation is one of the results you seek when you go on vacation. While you can’t necessarily go to the beach or mountains all the time, you can elicit that same desired state of relaxation regularly.

Relaxation feels good but there’s another reason for seeking it. According to Dr. Lissa Rankin, “When the body is relaxed, the body’s natural repair mechanisms are enabled.” Translation: relaxing is good for the body and the spirit!

Here are some activities to support the vagus nerve and enhance relaxation:

  • Exercise
  • Massage
  • Deep, slow belly breathing
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Cold immersion or cold water face splashes
  • Singing, humming or chanting
  • Socializing and laughter

Beyond trying these suggestions, think what makes you feel good. Perhaps you enjoy reading a book, soaking in a hot bathtub, or watching a comedy show. Usually when you feel good, you are relaxed. Pay attention to what makes you feel good and indulge in those things often. When you allow yourself to relax, you not only heal the body, but you also experience joy.

Jan. 31 — Multitasking

How many tasks can you effectively focus on at one time?

Research indicates the answer is one.

While that may be true, it doesn’t seem realistic in today’s world, does it? With so many responsibilities and unexpected occurrences, how can you take care of them all? You cannot.

Multitasking is defined as performing multiple tasks simultaneously or in rapid succession. As a human being, you can only focus on one item at a time.

The expectation that everything is of equal priority and urgency is part of the problem. You are limited in what you can accomplish in any day and at any moment.

Besides managing your expectations, it is important to regulate competing priorities. Although you may deeply desire to juggle everything skillfully, emerging research shows that you can’t. In fact, multitasking results in cognitive overload, decreased memory, less productivity and a lower IQ.

Multitasking is little more than toggling between thoughts or activities. As you focus back and forth, you lose time and mental energy. You get a false sense of efficiency. The results are suboptimal — the opposite of what you intended.

Here are ways to avoid multitasking:

  • Commit to mindfully perform one task at a time
  • Do your best to prioritize and stick to that order
  • Eliminate distractions in your purview
  • Bundle similar tasks
  • Schedule time to answer emails and phone calls
  • Slow down and ask for help when needed

Jan. 30 — Perfectionism: Perfectionists tend to hold themselves to unrealistically high standards. They often see this as a form of excellence, but it is not. It can quickly derail excellence and compromise performance. It can also become a path to anxiety, toxic stress and depression.

Perfectionists often live with the obsessive thought of “not enough” or “never good enough.” They are afraid of making mistakes and being judged by others. Sometimes this develops from being highly pressured in childhood and young adulthood to live up to unrealistic expectations or rigid standards.

These people are often very self-critical and find themselves coming up short most of the time even though that’s an illusion. They often think they must prove themselves to be worthy of what they desire in life, be it love or success.

Perfectionism robs people of joy in their lives, but it can be ameliorated with practice. You can achieve at a high level without sacrificing your well-being along the way. Allowing for mistakes is an effective strategy. All humans make mistakes. Practicing self-compassion is another. Releasing the tendency to compare yourself to others is helpful. So is lightening up on self-imposed pressure.

Surround yourself with people who allow you to express your full humanity and accept you when you’re not perfect. Remind yourself that your inherent goodness isn’t connected with achievement. Take time to engage in activities that bring you joy, help you refuel, and aren’t associated with performance.

Jan. 27 — Honor all your feelings: Having a broad array of emotions is a part of your humanity. In our work, we often observe people trying to avoid certain emotions because they don’t know how to process them. It feels wonderful to feel happy. Unfortunately, you can’t live in a perpetual state of happiness.

Many people were not taught how to manage and navigate challenging emotions like despair, shame and anger. Some people fear these emotions because they think they might cause them to do something bad or that the unwanted feeling won’t go away.

Learning how to process your emotions in a healthy way is an important life skill. This involves self-soothing and self-regulation once you’ve identified the feeling. These two skills will help you trust in your ability to feel something uncomfortable and know how to move beyond it without causing damage to yourself or others. The research is clear that denying or sublimating emotions can cause psychological, relational and physical problems.

Journaling is a wonderful strategy to learn to identify and express your emotions. You can also find feelings charts and wheels on the internet to help you. After you’ve taken this first step, ask yourself what you need to feel better – from yourself or others.

Emotions are information. When you honor all your emotions – even the challenging ones, you gain clarity about the steps you need to take to support yourself and ultimately, have more joy in your life.

Jan. 26 — Mindful consumption: Consider what you are consuming regularly – food and drink, media, social media, conversations, advertisements and more. Being mindful about your consumption allows you to increase your awareness of how these activities and items impact you. Do they help you feel and perform at your best? Do they detract from living your best life?

Once you’ve assessed the impact, you can make decisions that will help you move forward in the best way possible. Sometimes, you can get complacent and stuck in a comfort zone that no longer serves you. Perhaps it never did! Once you’ve raised your level of awareness, you can begin to make changes.

Are there habits of consumption you’d like to alter or stop altogether? Are there new habits that you’re ready to create? Lastly, are there things you’re consuming that you’d like to continue? Answering these questions will help you identify what’s working and what’s not. Then you can get some clarity about next best steps.

For example, you might decide it’s time to be more consistent with hydration and healthy eating. You might decide it’s time to decrease or eliminate time spent with certain people or groups of people. Setting boundaries with yourself and others is an essential behavior in mindful consumption. We encourage you to start small and then build on your successes.

If you’re feeling hesitant about getting started, find the appropriate support. Perhaps working in a group with others with similar goals could prove helpful. Another strategy is to read about someone who has accomplished what you’re focusing on. Consider sharing your goal with someone you trust because that helps with accountability. Having support will help you stay on track to raise your joy quotient.

Jan. 25 — Generosity: Getting outside of yourself can lift your mind and heart tremendously. When we work professionally with people who seem stuck in negative thought and behavioral patterns, we suggest the practice of generosity. This may seem counterintuitive, especially when you’re not feeling your best, but being of help to others is incredibly empowering and uplifting.

Ask yourself how you can be of service to others. How can you be of help? What do you have to offer? It may be as simple as a smile or kind word. It could be more complex like using your time, talents and gifts to help someone on a project.

You don’t have to look far to find someone who is suffering. Sometimes you’ll never even know a person is having struggles because they don’t disclose them to you. Being generous with others is rarely a misstep if it doesn’t cause harm to yourself.

Think outside the box when it comes to generosity. Some people will always give money but never their time. Some are happy to offer a friendly smile but never money. What patterns do you have? Are there ways to broaden your generosity toolbox to explore other ways of expressing this part of yourself?

Less tangible forms of generosity are also quite powerful. Being generous in your assessment of others is an example. Allowing others to share the spotlight is an act of generosity. Actively seeking ways to express your generous nature will increase your happiness levels significantly. How can you make a difference today?

Jan. 24 — Balance: So many of our clients and audiences struggle to find balance in their lives. Perhaps you do as well. You may find that your best intentions to gain balance in specific areas of your life can be easier said than done. External forces like home and work responsibilities often compete and can quickly shift your life out of balance.

Taking control can be challenging, as change is difficult. You may be a creature of habit. You may have habituated to the notion that a high degree of stress is expected, normal, or even noble. Nothing could be further from the truth, however, for true balance to occur.

Often, when people seek balance, they think in extremes. The tendency may be to attempt to overhaul aspects of their lives suddenly and unrealistically. Have you ever done that? The result is often stress, overwhelm, and defeat.

Our suggestion is to start small and remember that consistency is key. Realistically focus on one aspect at a time. The areas needing balance improvement may be subjects like health, parenting, personal and professional boundaries, relationships or money. Just pick one at a time to work on.

Once you’ve decided the item you most want to work on, have a daily, disciplined but compassionate approach. There is only so much you can do on any given day, including today. Just keep your sights on your goals, hold them loosely, and do your best as you can. Most of all, allow yourself to experience the joy in the journey!

Jan. 23 — Sleep

Sleep is a state of rest in which you are unconscious and unaware of your surroundings. Volumes have been written on this topic, so let’s keep it simple.

Sleep is required for both the body and the mind to work effectively. Restoration of the body takes place. Mental activity slows considerably, and the mind integrates information. If sleep is compromised, particularly over a period, well-being and performance decline.

How much sleep do you need? Previously, eight hours per night was the standard. But new recommendations suggest that it depends on individual needs. One size does not fit all.

Quality over quantity is a key concept to remember. Quality is marked by various factors, including sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene allows you to fall asleep more easily and rest more comfortably through the night. That process begins long before bedtime. Sleep experts, such as Dr. Rubin Naiman, emphasize the idea of slowing down well before you lie down, much like a plane making a slow, gradual descent.

Our suggestions include:

  • Turn down the lights in your surroundings hours ahead of sleep time.
  • Read material or watch entertainment that is more peaceful and less intense in content.
  • Take a warm epsom or bubble bath.
  • Do some stretching or light yoga.
  • Write or recall a gratitude list of at least five items.

If you have trouble falling asleep, try a body scan meditation, visualization or simply count backwards from three hundred.

Take a gentle approach and relax. We encourage you to experiment with some of our suggestions tonight. Have sweet, joyful dreams!

Jan. 21 — Laughter

Laughter directly opens a channel to joy. Think about it. Consider the times you’ve laughed intensely, maybe even hysterically. Didn’t you find yourself transported to a feeling of exhilaration? Your cares likely melted away in those deeply humorous moments. You may have experienced a high followed by a “glow’,” a delicious feeling of well-being. You were joyful!

Sadly, much of today’s world is consumed with stress and fear. Instead of living in a consistent happy mood, the tendency is to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and threatened by real or imagined happenings. You might find yourself operating with great intensity and an impending sense of doom. That’s no way to live. You deserve to feel good. By feeling good, you enjoy your life more, and you can better help those around you. Taking a lighter perspective and laughing as often as you can equals good self-care.

When you laugh, you not only create a better mood, but you initiate a healthy cascade throughout your body. Studies show that laughter produces endorphins, increases circulation, and stimulates serotonin uptake. So, when you indulge in laughter, you feel uplifted, and you directly influence your health and mindset!

Jan. 19 — Perspective

Perspective is how you see the world. Perspective develops through life experiences, state of mind, exposure to certain ideas, and much more.

Consider how your own perspective of life has changed over the years. What you believed in your teens is probably quite different from your viewpoint now.

Most people move through the world assuming their perspective is the correct one. It feels like reality. This can present challenges. If everyone has this stance, disagreement can be frequent and even volatile at times. Learning to be curious about other perspectives while honoring your own is the key to collaboration, and ultimately joyful growth.

Seeking and understanding diverse perspectives can be a joyful process if you are willing to bring curiosity to the dynamic. It would be quite a dull world if everyone had the same outlook or opinion. This can be difficult, though, when everyone is passionate about a topic or situation. Dynamics can become intense quickly.

Mindfulness can help. When you mindfully take the time to slow down, step back and breathe, you have a far better chance of being able to truly listen to others even when their perspective is different from your own. Through listening with an open mind and being willing to be influenced, you might even find that your perspective shifts or broadens to include others.

Jan. 18 — Practice gratitude

Gratitude is often overlooked on the path to activating joy. The mind often wants to complain and criticize, which makes people feel angry and depressed. You can uplift yourself quickly by identifying what makes you feel grateful.

Many people start and end the day with gratitude. You can reflect on it. Write it. Speak it. And feel it. Some people default towards thinking about gratitude but don’t really feel it. When you practice feeling it, you release endorphins in your body that make you happy.

Research shows that sending gratitude or appreciation notes to different people for 30 consecutive days significantly raises your happiness level. You can do this through email or text messages. You get extra points if you handwrite the notes, which are appreciated by recipients.

Notes can be sent to people from your past and your present, including colleagues in your workplace. When we work with corporate clients, we often encourage them to create a gratitude challenge within their companies or departments. We bring notecards and distribute them to participants to get them started. The workplace culture thrives when employees share the energy of gratitude.

Sometimes we even take gratitude walks. On these walks, we are only allowed to voice our appreciations. We always feel uplifted by the time we return from the walk.

There are so many ways to practice gratitude. Choose what works best for you.

Jan. 17 — Amplify the good

The brain often scans the environment to identify what’s wrong now, to analyze what went wrong in the past, or to predict what could go wrong in the future.

This compulsion toward the negative blocks you from joy. This thought pattern is rooted in the desire to endure and protect yourself. The brain is conditioned to think that if it can fend off any negatives, it will survive. That’s an illusion and is no way to live!

Amplifying the good strengthens your resilience and helps build internal resources to navigate challenges. It’s analogous to making deposits and withdrawals in your bank account. You don’t want to be in the red — financially or mentally and emotionally.

Here are a few strategies to amplify the good:

Focus on what is going well in your current environment. It can be as simple as enjoying a cup of tea, a sunny day or a constructive meeting.

Remember what has gone well in the past. Think about previous positive experiences. Reflect on your accomplishments. Place a mental spotlight on all that’s been good.

Anticipate positive things for the future. These might be expected or unexpected events and outcomes.

When you amplify the good, you will feel and perform at your best.

Jan. 16 — Nurture your brain

The human brain is the control center of the body. The average adult brain only comprises 2% of body mass and weighs a mere 3 pounds, but its complexity cannot be emphasized enough.

Keeping your brain healthy enables you to maintain mental agility and enjoy a good quality of life. Without a highly functioning brain, the mind and body suffer tremendously.

The physical structure of the brain can grow and improve throughout your life. This quality of “neuroplasticity” means that the brain can adapt and operate more effectively through specific focus and care. You can directly support the health of your brain by your intentionality and health practices.

Physically, the brain can be nurtured through proper hydration, a balanced diet, exercise and sufficient sleep. A deficit in any of these areas can make a marked difference in how you think, feel and operate. Can you adjust your behavior to obtain better results mentally, emotionally, and physically?

Besides physical nurturance, one of the best strategies for brain health is meditation. When you meditate, you encourage your mind and brain to let go of stress and experience more clarity. You tend to enjoy better memory and a calmer response to whatever is occurring.

Today is the perfect day to make healthier decisions for your brain health.

Jan. 13, 2023 — Express your creativity

Human beings are designed to be creative.

Creativity looks different for different people. One person might make art. Another might cook a delicious meal. Even organizing can be a form of creativity.

In what ways do you like to express your creativity? When was the last time you enjoyed your creative side? Are you creative on a consistent basis?

Adults can find themselves busy with so many responsibilities that they forget to express their creativity. Being overly task-oriented can kill the spark of joy within. It may sound strange, but scheduling your creative time may be necessary. If you wait until all the “work” is done, you may never get to enjoy this inherent process of creativity. Bonus: When you allow space in your schedule for creativity, you will be able to return to the tasks at hand feeling refreshed.

Another way you can express your creative nature is by designing your life intentionally. If you get into a slump or start running on autopilot, the spark gets stamped out. Ask yourself these important questions:

What do I really want to experience in my life?

What is holding me back from moving forward?

What kind of support or help do I need?

When you live deliberately, you feel empowered and alive. Your creative spark is illuminated, and you’re filled with a sense of vitality. Make consistent dates with yourself to survey the landscape of your life and ensure you’re on track with your vision for yourself.

Jan. 12, 2023 — Let go of control

Life is in a constant state of flux. Our brains try to make sense of change by predicting and controlling, but that can lead to attachment.

Ultimately, attachment to people, places and objects can result in self-imposed suffering. Many people find themselves stressed, anxious and frustrated when they can’t control people and situations. The need to control is usually rooted in fear, and the truth is you can’t control anything outside of yourself. It’s a hard truth but one that can be liberating once you befriend it.

The starting point to practicing nonattachment is acceptance. This does not mean resignation. It means “seeing things as they are” and having compassion for yourself and others if those observations are uncomfortable. Viewing things from a place of clarity enables you to choose to take productive action or let things be. Continuing to symbolically bang your head against the wall in situations where you find yourself powerless to change things only perpetuates the pain that you and others may be experiencing. This dynamic especially emerges when you try to control those closest to you.

Sometimes, letting go of control and expectations is the wisest action to experience inner peace and joy. When you let go, you can return to your natural state of caring without the need to control. Releasing and letting things be can be a challenge, but when practiced consistently, it can be the key to your personal freedom!

Jan. 12, 2023 (extra) — Meet Angela and Dennis Buttimer

Our Joyful Daily columnists joined us for this week’s Go Atlanta podcast to talk about the new column. Listen below.

Jan. 11, 2023 — Improve your mindset

Mindset is your starting point for how you feel and behave. All else flows from this point.

Your beliefs about yourself and life dictate how you behave. Your beliefs are basically thoughts you’ve been thinking over and over.

Many people allow their thoughts to be automatic without ever truly examining them. Neuroscience tells us that these automatic thoughts tend to be negative and repetitive. If your mind is on autopilot, you may be enduring a negative mindset, which doesn’t allow you the experiences or results you desire for your life.

You can put your hands on the steering wheel of your mind to focus more positively right now. When you do, you create new patterns in the brain that help you strengthen positivity. The more often you do this, the more positive your mindset becomes.

Positivity researcher and psychologist Carol Dweck coined the term “growth mindset.” People who adopt this type of mindset believe in positive possibilities for themselves. They believe they can grow and expand. They believe they can face challenges and develop resources to navigate them. On the other hand, people with a “fixed mindset” are closed to possibilities and find themselves resigned to what life is delivering to them.

You can strengthen your mindset by feeding yourself positive thoughts more often and limiting the self-defeating ones. Grab a journal and write some statements that feel uplifting and energizing to you. Write them each day, and soon you’ll be enjoying an elevated, joyful mindset.

Jan. 10, 2023 — Practice self-compassion

People tend to be hardest on themselves mentally. The tendency to engage in self-criticism, self-negativity and self-loathing makes it nearly impossible to experience joy. Are you your own worst enemy in how you view yourself?

How you frame your mistakes, missteps and miscalculations can deeply impact your daily life. Are your words harsh and your tone intolerant? Be aware of your self-talk, the storylines you tell yourself.

Joyful people cultivate the habit of self-compassion. They learn that self-condemnation does little to move them forward. Instead, they are quick to forgive themselves. They don’t waste time and focus on self-recrimination. They don’t indulge in negatives like unworthiness and inadequacy. Rather, they embrace lessons and use those lessons to move forward constructively.

If you haven’t been treating yourself with compassion, we have some wonderful news: it’s only a pattern and it’s not too late!

Can you take a kinder and more gentle approach with yourself? Can you soften the critical, internal voice? Perhaps, you can be quicker to forgive yourself when you think you fall short. One strategy is to regularly write down and affirm your positive characteristics. Joyful people emphasize what they do well. Putting those wonderful traits in writing can be a tangible reminder and affirmation of your self-worth.

By adopting a more compassionate view of yourself, you can feel good more often. Own your basic goodness despite your shortcomings, which are a part of your humanity. As you create a habit of self-compassion, you’ll experience more joy than ever before.

Jan. 9, 2023 — Utilize your breath

Working with your breath is simple yet profound. In fact, check in with your breathing right now. What do you notice about how you’re breathing in this moment?

Many people tend to breathe shallowly into the chest or hold their breath. This happens mostly out of habit and especially when people get stressed or focused. When you breathe this way, it ignites the sympathetic nervous system, which quickly creates stress and tension in the mind and body and blocks your ability to experience joy.

Dennis and Angela Buttimer


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Instead, practice deep belly breathing. Breathe in through your nose all the way down into the belly. Make a balloon belly. No holding in the tummy for this! Then exhale through the nose fully. Many people often don’t fully exhale either. When you breathe this way, you engage the parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes you and allows greater access to the experience of joy.

Put a reminder on a couple of sticky notes so you can remember to do this breathing exercise. We encourage people to place those notes in highly frequented places like your desk, the car and the mirror.

To really master this technique, you want to set an intention each day and then practice. Practice creates progress. The good news is if you forget, you can course correct at any moment. Eventually, you won’t need to think about it anymore. You will have trained your mind and body to breathe in a more joyful way!

Angela Buttimer and Dennis Buttimer are psychology experts and the founders of Atlanta Center for Mindfulness and Well-Being. Learn more about their work at Send questions or comments about Joyful Daily to