FORGIVENESS

april wright therapy forgiveness

“The act of forgiveness is the act of returning to present time.”  ~ Caroline Myss

Like almost everything else, forgiveness begins at home. Self-forgiveness is a form of self-compassion, and without it, we flog ourselves for every little wrongdoing. In addition, we come to treat others the way we treat ourselves. Listen to your judgments of others, and remind yourself that you’re actually projecting your judgments of yourself onto them, probably unconsciously operating the way you were programmed in your family of origin. Everyone makes mistakes all day long. Own yours! Apologize when you can, then start over with a greater understanding of what you did wrong. When you begin to forgive yourself for your imperfections, you begin to change positively from the inside out. And when that happens, forgiveness naturally flows outward to others.

But forgiveness for ourselves–or from another–is not a natural process. It’s not something either “should” do; it happens when we are ready. Like in any dynamic development, glimmers of forgiveness may emerge unexpectedly, then, just as suddenly, recede. Stay open but keep moving forward. If you’ve hurt another, move forward with forgiveness.  If it’s not received well, don’t compound it with impatience. Let the other come towards you when she or he is ready. Meanwhile, give yourself permission to forgive your past mistakes. Remember, forgiveness doesn’t happen all at once–it comes in stages and may never feel complete.

Forgive only when your heart tells you it’s the right time. Forgiving prematurely can hurt you further because forgiving too soon denies the truth. You are on your own timetable. Take your time and stay present. Just remember that waiting too long, holding onto anger, can be toxic to your body, mind, and spirituality.  Holding tightly creates resentment that keeps you sick and stuck. Suffering doesn’t make you a better person. In fact, it demonstrates self destructive behavior.  Treat yourself with kindness and it will prelude to others. Obsessing over the past won’t heal your heartbreak, but forgiveness of yourself and others can restore you both.

Taken from Mirror of Intimacy:  Daily Reflections on Emotional and Erotic Intelligence

6 Tips to Improve Communication With Difficult People

Dialog between man and woman

Image source: (Fotolia)

Some people are just downright difficult. No matter what you say or do, it feels like there is no way out. Emotions overrun rational thoughts. Conversations turn into heated arguments, and nothing solves. It’s times like these that old patterns of communication need a make-over.

We learn our communication style by our environment and upbringing. If we come from households where our thoughts were not valued, listened, or supported; we learned not to talk. If we were dismissed, ignored, or criticized by cultural gender norms, we learned to remain silent. We adapted to suppress our thoughts and feelings to survive. As adults, we are now confronted with shame, anger, and denial of our thoughts and feelings.

When we retreat from communicating directly due to cultural norms, gender norms, or social norms we deny ourselves. We disallow access to our authentic self and to deeply connected relationships. Our fear of not being liked, avoidance of conflict or perfectionism keeps us isolated. We don’t give our relationships a chance. We hide from who we are, what we think, and what we feel. In turn, we treat ourselves with the same criticism and suppression as our childhood environment.
There is another way. We don’t have to run and hide. We can speak openly, honestly, and directly. It is not difficult. With practice communicating our needs and wants becomes second nature.

Learning skills to be assertive opens up courageous possibilities to be vulnerable. Exposing our real selves involves taking risks. The benefits outweigh discomforts. A richness of meaningful experiences of love, a sense of belonging, trust, joy, and creativity evolve naturally.

With assertiveness, we learn to stand-up for ourselves and not violate the rights of another person. It is a direct and honest expression of our feelings and opinions. We act, think and feel supporting our rights and the rights of others as equally valued, expressed, and respected.

Test Your Assertiveness

1. Do you find yourself saying “yes” to requests when you really want to say “no?”
Yes      No
2. Is it hard for you to make a decision?
Yes      No
3. Are you unable to express your discontent with a friend or partner, even if you think it is justified?
Yes      No
4. Is it difficult for you to ask for help or assistance?
Yes      No
5. Is it hard for you to express an opinion that is different from other people’s opinions?
Yes      No
6. Is it hard for you to share something positive about yourself?
Yes      No
7. Do you not speak up at work, a class, or meeting, even when you know the answer to a question or have a solution?
Yes      No
8. Do you find it difficult to accept a compliment?
Yes      No

If you answered “Yes” to one or more of the questions, you might have difficulty using assertive communication.

6 Tips to Communicate Assertively Using the Acronym, P A S A R R

1. Pause.

Quiet the mind for a moment to check in and listen internally. Noticing our thoughts gives us the opportunity to assess what we desire. Paying attention to our first intentions positions us to listen to our intuitive voice and bash any defeating self-talk. Being aware of how we feel and what we want to say enables us to stay true to ourselves. With consistent practice, reflection and self-validation the process will take less time.

2. Acknowledge the Truth.

Mirroring body language and giving credit where deserved credit helps deflate a heated moment. Agreeing with a kernel of truth in the complaint also provides time for internal reflection. For example, your boss says, “Your work is always screwed-up.” Ask, “In what way did I screw up?” If she says, “You just are a screw-up,” agree with one discreet example (if it is accurate), but correct her overgeneralization.

3. Stay True to Self.

Using clear and definite “I statements” validating our thoughts and feelings keep the conversation focused on the behavior not the person. While beginning a sentence with “I think” or “I feel” then go on to briefly describe the other person’s behavior.

4. Ask for a Request. Following what we noticed in the other’s person behavior with how their actions affected us kept the focus on cause and effect of behavior, not the person. Then make a request. For example, “When you are late and do not call, I feel afraid that something happened to you. I feel angry that I am waiting. I feel irritated that you don’t value my time. I would prefer it if you call to let me know if you are going to be more than 10 minutes late. Can you do that for me?”

5. Repeat.

Encouraging others reflection ensures mutual understanding. We are practicing self-validation and asking for what we want.

6. Repair.

If the steps above have not helped, continue to ask questions. Inquiring about others thoughts and feelings shows curiosity and their thoughts and feelings matter equally to yours, and a mutual solution is desired. During this phase paying attention to our non-verbal cues such as tone and volume of voice, eye-contact, and body position enables us to be in control of our self. It is also important to ensure we stay true to ourselves, saying “No” when needed to provide healthy boundaries, and validating our thoughts and feelings.

Using assertive techniques is a skill. It improves with practice. With time communicating our desires becomes easy. Following these steps as a guideline to stop before a heated argument, reflecting and staying honest to ourselves and others, and maintaining healthy boundaries allocates opportunity for a joint resolution, self-value, and increased confidence. Knowing that we took a risk to stand-up for ourselves demonstrates that we matter, that our thoughts and feelings are valuable, and we are worth defending.

In love and dignity, speak the truth – as we think, feel, and know it – and it shall set us free.
~ Melody Beattie

Laugh Out Loud: Laughing is Just Good Practical Fun

Babboon LaughingOf all the gifts bestowed by nature on human beings, hearty laughter must be close to the top.” – Norman Cousins
Human beings need to have fun. We need to play, and most importantly, we need to laugh.” -Hal Urban
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” – Solomon 17:22
A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest of men.”- Ancient proverb
There ain’t much fun in medicine, but there’s a heck of a lot of medicine in fun.” – Josh Billings

Laugh out loud. Play. Be Silly. Joke around. Have Fun! These are just some of the things I think of when I see children play. I watched a young girl today make the most mundane activity a joyful experience not only for her but for her granddad and mother. All three were walking along the sidewalk, destination unknown, but she playfully walked tagging one caretaker and then the other. She giggled, skipped, and made all those around her including myself chuckle out loud.

Where does that spirit go? I see children playing at the park, laughing, and having a grand ole’ time; hopping, skipping, and twirling around with not a care in the world. When does that dwindle? Life takes over, responsibilities become priorities, and work turns into a necessity. Yet I know deep in my heart, I still love to play, giggle like that 7 year old girl, and act silly. Those are some of my fondest of memories with friends, partners, and family. It’s free, fun and even good for the mind and body.

In the book, Anatomy of an Illness, Cousins said, “It worked. I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an aesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep.”

Even Einstein ensured he had a daily dose of laughter in his long, arduous hours of mathematical equations. He was known for maintaining thousands of notebooks on scientific equations and on jokes. He was able to work extremely long hours due to frequent breaks and using good ole’ fashion laughter to lighten his load (Urban, H.).

Laughter is not only used by humans such as Einstein and Edison but also animals. Chimps use laughter to solidify friendships and alliances according to lead author Marina Davila-Ross, PhD from the University of Portsmouth in England (Dingfelder, S.).

Here are just a few of the benefits of laughter:

  • Strong painkiller
  • Enhances respiration
  • Produces endorphins
  • Increases immune cells
  • Strengthens immune systems
  • Reduces stress and tension
  • Calms tempers
  • Stimulates creativity
  • Improves blood flow
  • Builds and strengthens relationships
  • Simply makes life more fun!

There are so many positives to laughter. It’s impractical not to incorporate it into your daily routine. Doctors and laymen alike support amusement so why not you? You may be asking, well how do I begin?

There is no easier way than to start with yourself. You don’t have to look far to see humor in the silly things we do, like tripping over our own two left feet, clamoring over misspoken words, or our own goofy thoughts that run through our minds. There’s nothing like using yourself as your own tool to bring hilarity and heal yourself. When was the last time you laughed out loud; I mean a good ole-fashioned belly laugh?

Here are some recommended items to ensure you laugh daily. What do you do to ensure a good chuckle?

Movies:

  • Zorba the Greek
  • A Thousand Clowns
  • Patch Adams

TV Programs:

  • Candid Camera
  • America’s Funniest Home Videos

Magazines:

  • Reader’s Digest: “Laughter, the Best Medicine”
  • Comic Books
  • Mad Magazine

References:

Dingfelder, S. Chimps’ laughter: Not just monkey see, monkey do, May 2011, Vol 42, No. 5, p. 11
Urban, H. Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter, 4th Edition, Fireside, New York

Exercise Is Not Just For The Body Anymore

boost brain function with exerciseThe benefits of exercise are mind-blowing.  They can range from increasing memory not only for your muscles but also for your brain and all in between.  Get inspired to start moving by reading the many ways working out can improve mental well-being, relationships, and an overall happier and healthier life.

1.  Adapt easier to change

Once you begin a routine of exercise the benefits are reaped even after a break.  Thirty minutes of endurance or strength training 3 times a week affects muscles on the cellular level first before any physiological results are seen.  Thus after exercise is stopped and muscles begin to atrophy, the cellular level memory remains intact and can remember previous learned motor sensory to achieve faster results upon onset of exercise again.

2.  Reduce stress

A brisk walk or weight lifting stimulates the central nervous system and increases the neurotransmitters including dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine which our body releases to adapt more efficiently to stress.  The intense concentration for coordinated exercise such as dance, tennis or rowing precipitates a type of distraction that may reduce anxiety even further.

3.  Relieve depression

Exercise is like taking a happy pill.  It’s a form of mediation which facilitates an altered state of consciousness.  Playing tag can reignite that inner child and boost mood.  Press that fun button and get that body moving again.

4.  Increase self-confidence and body image

Physical activity gives a sense of mastery and control.   Seeing results of your hard work gives a sense of gratification.  Not only are the improvements seen in your body but also running that mile faster or lifting more weight than before.

5.  Inspire others

Exercising with a buddy is an instant motivator.  You are more apt to exercise because your partner is there waiting.  They hold you accountable for your actions and vice versa.  Not only are you encouraged to show up but when you are running side by side, you are more apt to push just a little harder.  There’s nothing wrong with a little friendly competition.

6.  Make new friends

There’s no better way to make new friends than at a pick-up game of soccer, a group class at the gym, or joining a running club.  Exercise is just more fun with someone else.

7.  Anti-aging

Working out can help prevent telomeres from shortening. Telomeres are like the plastic protector at the end of your shoe laces but for your chromosomes.  Telomeres protect genetic data and determine how we age and get cancer.  When we age, cells divide and telomeres shorten.  Overtime, telomeres reach a point where they can no longer divide and become inactive.  This process is associated with aging, cancer, and a shortened lifespan.    Research shows that aerobic exercise can help delay shortening of telomeres and add years to your life.  So go ahead and take those stairs instead of the elevator knowing you are doing your body and cells good.

8.  Decrease onset of Alzheimer’s

Staying physically active maintains good blood flow to the brain and supports new brain cells.  Research shows regular exercise such as tai chi, yoga, even gardening can increase blood flow to the brain which reduces brain cell loss.  Exercise also stimulates mental activity especially when done with a partner.  The social interaction and decision-making process of planning your route or coordination of a good game of softball provide added brain benefits.

9.  Improve learning

Researchers who published a study in the 2011 Archives of Internal Medicine determined that even mild exercise improves cognitive functioning compared to folks who did not exercise.  Learning a new sport or activity like ballroom dancing can increase the amount of gray matter in your occipital lobe, the area of the brain associated with visual memory.  A 2004 Nature article stated that those who learned how to juggle increased the amount of gray matter but when they stopped the new gray matter vanished.  So learn a new move, improve your learning and memory and keep practicing!

The positive effects of physical activity out way any negative, self-sabotaging excuses.  Exercise doesn’t have to be at the gym to be beneficial.   All you have to do is access that inner child and get that body moving again.  You might just lose a few pounds and gain improved relationships, memory, and confidence.

Optimize Brain Function and Create Happiness

be_happyHappiness is a choice.  It can be a difficult decision to make with all the negativity in the world.  It doesn’t have to feel like such a daunting option when focusing on small changes.  Small changes create big leaps forward.  Over time a greater sense of happiness is enlivened.  If you want to optimize your brain health and create greater happiness here are some simple ideas.  You don’t have to do them all to achieve results. Focus on just a few and see how you can make small changes ripple outward.

1. Meditate.
2. Journal.
3. Write 3 things you are grateful for daily.
4. Exercise.
5. Create random acts of kindness.
6. Drink at least 6 to 8 oz of water daily to stay well hydrated.
7. Eat healthfully with lean proteins, 5 to 7 cups of fruits and vegetables and whole grains daily.
8. The suggested nutritional supplements tyrosine (500 – 1500 milligrams) 2 to 3x daily; OPC (oligomeric procyandius) grape seed or pine bark (1 milligram per pound of body weight); and gingko biloba (60 – 120 milligrams 2x daily) help increase dopamine and blood flow to the brain and may help with energy, focus, and impulse control. Before taking any supplements, first consult with your doctor.
9. Think positive, healthy thoughts and rid yourself of automatic negative thoughts.
10. Surround yourself with positive, uplifting people.
11. Spend time with people you want to be like. You are more likely to become like them.
12. Talk to others in loving, kind, helpful ways.
13. Fill your environment with comforting smells such as lavender, rose, or cinnamon.
14. Breathe into your diaphragm.
15. Effectively confront and deal with situations involving conflict.
16. Develop clear goals for your life (relationships, work, money, and self) and reaffirm them every day.
17. Focus on the positive things in your life more than the negative.
18. Establish eye contact with and smile frequently at others.
19. Notice when you are stuck, distract yourself, and come back to the problem later.
20. Write out options when you are feeling stuck.
21. Seek out the counsel of others when feeling stuck. Often just talking about feeling stuck will open new options.
22. Enhance your memory skills by learning something new every day.
23. Sing, hum and move in rhythm often.
24. Touch others frequently in a loving and appropriate manner.
25. Power pose daily for 2 minutes.

Life brings many challenges.  There are many uncontrollable ups and downs.  Regardless of what life may throw us, we can still choose to be happy.  Adding just one or more habit from this list ensures you are controlling what you can.  You are making certain your brain performance and personal well-being are at their best.