#96 Stop Comparing

People’s lives are often like icebergs… only the tip is exposed to the world and we don’t know what is happening below the surface.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#96

Stop Comparing

One of the potentially troublesome elements of our humanness is the tendency for us to compare ourselves. Comparing what we look like, our incomes, our homes, our jobs, our families, or the like often allow for feelings of unworthiness, envy, and jealousy – none of which are healthy contributors to our emotional frame.

Apples and Oranges

When we compare, frequently we are attempting to measure ourselves against observations that are unfair. We equate the worst of our person or situation to our assumption about the other – generally a perspective that isn’t completely accurate. We may think that our friends marriage is perfect because when in public – the couple appears laughing and engaged yet they may simply be hiding great pain and shame of a poor relationship under that laughter. Others may have a large home, go on lavish vacations, and drive fancy cars – allowing for assumptions about their large incomes but in truth – are deeply in debt.

Individuality

The reality is that we are each unique and perfectly imperfect people who have a personal story unlike another’s. No matter how similar one may be to another, the likelihood that we can be the same or would really want to be the same… is farfetched. What would the world be if we were simply duplicates of one another?

Things Aren’t What They Seem

I’ve known people who had a lot of money but no family to share it with; they got so caught up in the pursuit of wealth that their family drifted away. I’ve known people who kept their house nice and clean yet friends rarely felt comfortable there due to its sterile feeling. People’s lives are often like icebergs… only the tip is exposed to the world and we don’t know what is happening below the surface. Measuring ourselves against only part of the whole, sets us up for false perceptions.

Antidote

When you find yourself comparing – the quickest antidote to any negative feelings that may occur is to express gratitude. When we take the time to be grateful for what we DO have – for who we ARE – and for what is REAL… we stop getting caught up in other people’s lives because we notice what matters in ours.

While the temptation to compare may not entirely evaporate from your life, remembering that you see only what people what you to see and not what is real may help. Add that to an expression of gratitude for everything that works in your world and you’ll quickly learn to …

Stop comparing.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#98 Disengage a Toxic Relationship

Healthy relationships are reciprocal. They are not self-focused. They employ communication – even imperfect – to resolve differences.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#98

Disengage a toxic relationship

Yesterday’s post recommended distancing yourself from negativity and sometimes, that can mean disengaging from a relationship – any relationship – that becomes detrimental to your overall health. Negativity is not the only way in which a relationship can be toxic however.

Toxic refers to any behavior that results in harm – either physical or emotional. We may think it goes without saying that physically abusive behavior is toxic and cannot be tolerated yet there are thousands of people in relationships – still – which, can be identified as physically abusive.  And so, I’ll say it too… if your relationship is – IN ANY WAY PHYSICALLY ABUSIVE – disengage, get out, leave… NOW. Your very life may be in jeopardy.

Emotional Abuse

Perhaps worse, because there are no apparent bruises, is emotional abuse. Emotional abuse also comes in a variety of forms and MUST NOT be tolerated. No one deserves to be the target of emotional abuse. Any form of communication (speech, text messages, email, letters) that is controlling, punishing, manipulative, degrading, or derogatory – is abuse. When people use the silent treatment to coerce, withhold love and support for specific outcomes, and use money to bribe or entice – that is abuse.

Subliminal Abuse

Other people use less apparent tactics to ‘abuse’. Gaslighting is one of the most common – providing false information so frequently and with so much conviction that you begin to doubt the truth; to distrust your own knowledge or instincts.

Isolating and ignoring someone can also be considered abusive – especially if it is a parent/child relationship. It doesn’t ‘look’ inappropriate yet when someone is dependent on our attention and care – to withhold it intentionally is and abuse of power.

Relationships

Relationships are toxic when we no longer can trust, feel safe with, or feel appreciative of – the person with whom we are relating. It can be a romantic relationship, a friendship, a sibling or other family member, a parent… When we continually feel powerless, humiliated, defensive, criticized, belittled, unloved, unappreciated, etc., and our efforts at communicating and resolving those feelings go cold – it is time to GET OUT.

Recognize Normal

Healthy relationships are reciprocal. They are not self-focused. They employ communication – even imperfect – to resolve differences. They are mostly light and easy (every relationship has some level of challenge). They are supportive and compassionate. There is a mutual respect and encouragement.

Disengaging

Disengaging means creating distance. The amount of distance may be determined by circumstances and/or the relationship. At the very least – learning how to set boundaries and demonstrate self-respect is imperative. No one – absolutely no one – deserves or causes abusive behavior. The ‘abuser’ has many, many options when it comes to choosing behavior – many of which are healthy. If they fail to make a healthy choice when they relate to you – make sure you demonstrate self-respect and make the healthy choice to…

Disengage from a toxic relationship.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#106 Check Your Posture

It will feel good unless your muscles have already begun to adjust to an abnormal configuration.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#106

Check your posture

The next time you are watching a talk show of some nature (i.e., the morning news or Ellen), take notice of how tall and straight everyone is sitting. Compare that to everyone seated in the restaurant or the Starbucks you next visit. I suspect the difference is mostly the state of awareness that exists in the personalities on television. Those of us eating in a restaurant or grabbing a latte at the coffee shop aren’t (apparently) paying much attention to our personal posture.

Balance

Posture affects our balance. Balance affects walking, going up and down the stairs, getting up and down from chairs, getting in and out of the car, carrying things, and even turning our head. Hence, good posture is vital to many of the things we organically do throughout our day.

Health

Good posture plays an important role in our mood and in how people interpret our mood. It reduces neck and back pain and helps us look slimmer. Additionally, it helps us breathe more easily by allowing our lungs sufficient expansion room. And, because we are well oxygenated, we may learn more easily and retain information longer (improved memory).

Parameters

When you are standing with good posture, your chin will be parallel to the floor and your shoulders will be even. Your arms will down and your elbows, straight. Your weight will be distributed evenly across both feet on even hips. And it will feel good unless your muscles have already begun to adjust to an abnormal configuration.

Train Posture

Certainly, you can resort to the traditional ‘book on your head’ method of practicing posture. The goal is to find the position that puts the least strain on your joints and muscles. Or, you can imagine a straight line running through your body and it’s connected to the ceiling. Without standing on your toes, make yourself as tall as possible. You can strengthen the ligaments in your back by doing a ‘shoulder blade squeeze’… move your shoulder blades as close together as possible and hold them there for 5 seconds. Repeat ten times.

Upright

There’s also the Upright posture training device (this is not a commercial for the product – just passing along info). It’s a wearable device that vibrates slightly when your posture is out of alignment.  It’s part of the ‘wearable’ technology that monitors our body for optimal health and is a great way to retrain yourself to stay aware of good posture if you’ve gotten a little lazy about it.

The goal is awareness and good health. A simple piece of that is to be diligent and…

Check Your Posture

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#144 Give Up Your Favorite Beverage for a Day.

It’s a reminder to your psyche that YOU have authority over your actions.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#144

Give up your favorite beverage for a day.

If you happen to be reading this just as you move your favorite coffee cup up toward your nose, simultaneously enjoying the aroma and the bold flavor of liquid caffeine… I apologize. Yet – any negative reaction to the suggestion is further evidence that it may be just what you need.

We tend to get sewn into our habits and that morning cup of coffee, tea, lemon water, the evening frosty mug of beer, or the stemless glass of wine are easy habits to do without much thought or consideration; and that’s the danger. Some habits aren’t necessarily good for us. Indeed, it has been postulated that any  habit at all is rather detrimental if we have little awareness of it.

Perhaps the best part of making a decision to give up your favorite beverage for a day is the subliminal (or direct) understanding that YOU are in control of your being. It’s a reminder to your psyche that YOU have authority over your actions. Far too often I hear people say… “I couldn’t help it” or “I don’t even realize I am doing it” when it comes to habits. Paying attention to something as automatic as pouring a cup of coffee or a glass of wine helps you to raise awareness overall.

It’s a simple suggestion and a simple effort that helps you stay focused on the little things. Make a decision to…

Give up your favorite beverage for a day.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below

#146 Plan a Surprise for Someone You Love

We love the dopamine rush when we pull off a surprise and many of us enjoy the experience of receiving these kinds of gestures.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#146

Plan a Surprise for Someone You Love

This suggestions will elevate happiness for both you and someone special in your life. Surprising someone is always fun but planning a little (or big) surprise for someone you love is the best! For this particular post, the intent is to up your game romantically.

Dopamine Rush

A lot of us made this part of our early romantic life. We commonly offer the unexpected as a way of initiating romance. We love the dopamine rush when we pull off a surprise and many of us enjoy the experience of receiving these kinds of gestures. Coming home to an impromptu candlelight dinner… a hot drawn bubble bath with spa music… being whisked away for a steamy night in a local hotel room… These kinds of surprises turn up the ‘you’re special to me’ meter in any relationship and they are generally low cost; low effort.

Awareness

Keeping this type of energy alive in a relationship demands awareness and intent. An awareness of time and activity with the intent to keep our romantic partners needs and interest in the forefront of our mind regardless of the years that have passed.

Appreciation

Perhaps the surprise is being picked up from work and escorted to a coveted sporting event or a favorite restaurant. Perhaps it’s bringing in a cleaning team or scheduling a babysitter for a couple’s night out. It could be as simple as declaring it “Jane/John Appreciation Day” – and treating that person as if you would on a birthday or Mother’s/Father’s day – but for no special reason other than they are ‘appreciated’. Everyone receives an endorphin rush by being appreciated.

Keep Them in Mind

It’s important to specifically consider the individual you are wanting to surprise. The surprise needs to be something THEY would enjoy. Some people don’t like ‘surprises’ so the gesture needs to be softer and maybe less spontaneous. It may be important to have a random and casual conversation with your romantic partner to find out what kind of surprises they would enjoy and then write them down or commit them to memory.

Spice up your life, invest in your relationship, and elevate your mood by…

Planning a surprise for someone you love

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below

#305 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

…swallow the raisin – paying attention to the sensation of it moving across your tongue, to the back of your mouth and then down your throat.

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#305

Eat mindfully

Most of us never do this and even those of us who have tried it a time or two don’t spend many meals engaged in intention but when you do… is a whole new experience.

Eating mindfully is frequently taught with a raisin. Sometimes it is referred to as an eating meditation -mostly because ALL of your focus is on the process – the entire process – of eating.

Imagine the raisin. Hold the raisin and notice how it feels in your finger; notice the ridges, the color, and the size. Intentionally, place the raisin on your tongue and let it sit there for a minute; noticing its smell, the sensation of it there, and perhaps how you begin to salivate. Move the raisin between your teeth and gently squeeze… notice the texture, the flavor, and how your mouth responds. Notice with each movement of your jaw – how the raisin changes – the change in flavor or texture or size. And finally, swallow the raisin – paying attention to the sensation of it moving across your tongue, to the back of your mouth and then down your throat.

Now do this for an entire meal. Same process with each and every bite.

Yes – it will take a long time to consume your food – and it will be good for you. The first time I had ate something other than a raisin intentionally I immediately noticed how reflexive it was to put a spoonful in my mouth and then immediately shovel the spoon back into my plate of food – prepping the next bite. That’s NOT mindful.

I was curious enough to persevere through an entire plate of Kung Pao Chicken but it was cold by the time I was finished and an entire hour had elapsed. I had visions of my father telling me to “stop fooling around and just eat!”

Out of all the people I’ve ever known, very few eat slow enough to truly ‘experience’ their food and my personal belief is that it is becoming problematic in our culture. We eat so fast, we don’t know when we’ve had enough to satisfy hunger and consequently, we frequently overeat. Mitigating that issue is easily rectified when we …

Eat mindfully.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

When Darkness Knocks

He does an amazing job but I watch him and I am sad and pissed and helpless and scared.

“If you want to find happiness, find gratitude.” ― Steve Maraboli

In the beginning of the year I started a gratitude challenge on my Counseling Facebook page. Each day since then – except for two – I have listed three things I am grateful for that day. I’ve tried not to replicate anything, which has been hard because every morning when I am writing them I am always grateful for my coffee! Certainly, at first it was easy as there are many obvious pieces of my life that I am always thankful for … a roof over my head, a warm room, comfy pillows, enough food, etc.

I’ve noticed as the time goes by however that unless I begin duplicating items, I must stretch my awareness a bit and it has been interesting to extend my awareness beyond my immediate surroundings to include the sound of my wind chimes and birds chirping. I am so grateful for those things. Not only do they represent the fact that I can hear but they are pleasant sounds and by noticing them, I also notice how they resonate in my body – my spirit. They create a nice sensation; pleasure.

It promotes more consciousness of people smiling, friendly service, and kind hearts. It stimulates my recognition of generosity, helpfulness, and benevolence, which are all contributors to the experience of happiness. Indeed, I believe I’ve felt a little bit happier than usual despite the negativity that tries to inject itself into my life.

It’s one thing to be a mental health counselor and experience the sadness, frustration, and negative emotions of clients – that’s my job and I am sufficiently capable of keeping it away from my personal psyche. Along the way, I learned the art of allowing clients to dump their stuff in my office without feeling as though I needed to pick it up. I rarely experience a derogatory impact of my clients affect. Don’t get me wrong… if there is something deeply sad – a client who lost a child or someone so deep in their own pain that they are suicidal – I feel sad but I don’t hold it. I can walk out of my office and leave it there.

It’s a whole other thing to live in an environment that is frequently heavy. Our political climate is currently stressed – no matter one’s affiliation – every day there is some element of drama pumped into our consciousness and we are exposed to exhausting bickering, draining our enthusiasm and confidence.

I am still adjusting to the whole ‘empty nest’ experience. While I quite enjoy the clean and constantly straightened atmosphere of my home, there is an eerie silence here that highlights the absence of my family. I miss the anticipation of hearing the creaking steps as one of the girls would come home from work at midnight or the sound of the shower and blasting music in the morning as she prepared for her day. I am blessed that they stay in contact with me via Face time or regular phone calls but it’s entirely different from the smell of their perfume lingering in the air.

And then there is the reality of Harlan’s illness. Coping with fatigue is one thing but coping with pain is another entirely. Every day is filled with the blessing that he can still work and concurrently filled with the reality that he does it battling the effects of chemo and the relentless pain of bone lesions. I see him getting tired. He does an amazing job but I watch him and I am sad and pissed and helpless and scared.

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I don’t like those feelings yet I know they are real and appropriate. They exist like fleas that jump on me when I walk in the door and every time I think I have fumigated their existence with my coping skills, they find another entrance or they are simply re-birthed into our experience. The early spring weather allowed me the opportunity to open the windows and replace the dark sad air with fresh spring hope and then it got cold again. I can feel the air thicken and so I walk outside where the sun is starting to stay longer and a bit brighter.

I live by the motto that there is something good in every single experience; not only on a global level but day by day. What is good about today? The gratitude challenge that I am conducting forces me to pay attention, to look beyond the obvious, to deny those damn fleas too much of my blood. It helps to push the pendulum back, to balance the scale, to make life tolerable.

When I am sad that he is hurting, I am grateful for his doctors. When I feel helpless to fix it, I am grateful to hold his hand. When I am disappointed that we aren’t bike riding, I am grateful to sit next to him on the couch. When I am frustrated that he goes to bed so early, I am grateful that his body heat warms the sheets on my side.

Please know that this is a ‘work in progress’ and I am – in no way – perfect in my efforts to find the silver lining every. single. time. But I keep trying. My daily expression of gratitude is one of the ways that I am working to create balance and a stronger sense of happiness in a time when darkness is constantly knocking on our door.

Won’t you join me? Hop on my HCC Facebook page and add your own three things. The more positive energy we can put forth in the world – the better.

 

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