Joyful Daily

Credit: File

Credit: File

Joyful Daily offers ideas for improving mindfulness and actively seeking joy every day. The column publishes weekdays online and Mondays through Thursdays and Saturdays in the Living section of the print edition.

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.



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