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

The only problem with this concept is that style and interest changes as time goes by. After a few years, that significant investment represents a dated design.

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.

#260

Change your curtains

I’ve talked a lot about little things around the house that create a big impact on our mental health and sense of well-being. When our daily environment is in order, we feel more in control. When our personal space is tidy and tailored to our taste, we experience a deeper sense of comfort and belonging – both important elements of true happiness.

One of the little things that can change the entire feel of a room is to change the curtains. Window dressings can be art, contributing to the overall decor in a majestic way.

They can be simple and elegant.

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They can be creative and a deeply personal expression of you.

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They can be eclectic and colorful.

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Some people invest a lot of money in window treatments and feel compelled to keep them for a long time. The only problem with this concept is that style and interest changes as time goes by. After a few years, that significant investment represents a dated design.

If you’re not feeling particularly creative, use Pinterest to collect images of things you might like, things you may want to consider as you contemplate a change. As you consider modifications, remember to step out of your comfort zone and take a bit of a risk. Without that, nothing can be different. What would your choice be if you were to …

Change your curtains.

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

 

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

So, getting up and watching the sun rise may impact your thoughts; reinforcing that there are constants in the world. Standing with your face against the Eastern breeze as the sky turns orange …

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.

#271

Get up for the sunrise

Some of you may do this daily as you prepare to begin your work day and yet there are millions of you who don’t frequently make time to experience this daily wonder, but do you really ‘see’ it??  Depending on the day of course, the sunrise is either visible, or not. It is either majestic, or not. But, it is always dependable and THAT is part of it’s wonder.

The sun comes up regardless of politics, pains, joys, seasons, etc. and while it may seem like a rather primitive or conspicuous concept, it has value because of its constancy. Like ‘Annie’ always sings… “the sun will come up tomorrow”. It’s good to know that no matter how much change happens in our lives, the sun will still come up like it did yesterday and will again tomorrow; whether you actually ‘see’ it or not.

So, getting up and watching the sun rise may impact your thoughts; reinforcing that there are constants in the world. Standing with your face against the Eastern breeze as the sky turns orange and/or pink offers a perfect opportunity to experience a very specific type of mindfulness. Depending on where you live, it takes somewhere between 2 minutes (at the equator) and 5-6 minutes in northern latitudes for the sun’s disk to rise above the horizon. That offers a short – but impactful – opportunity to practice mindful gratitude with a very specific visual.

Yes, gratitude because the sunrise represents yet another opportunity for you to begin anew. It acts as a reminder that some things just are – no matter what – a reminder that is beneficial to us periodically. It represents a certain amount of energy available from the Universe and if you are there – watching it… go ahead and grab it.

It’s just a few minutes of your time and although it’s early in the morning, I can’t think of any other way to jump start each morning. Grab your coffee or tea, step outside, and embrace the magic of the moment since you made the decision to…

Get up with the sunrise.

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

Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

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

Either rearrange your perfunctory behaviors or add something significant. Beginning something new is especially effective when it is constructive to personal growth. Begin a gratitude journal or take a class; learn a new language or how to play an instrument.

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.

#337

Change your routine

How often do you feel you’re in a rut? Do you ever get the sense that life is just full of habits, routine, and rituals? Perhaps mostly unconscious?  Has your daily routine become mundane?

You see, moving along in the rut of routine can impact our ability to be notice life. It becomes so rote that we enter autopilot mode and tend to fall asleep at the wheel, so to speak. Remember that time when you arrived at your destination but noticed that you had no recollection of actually driving there? That’s how easy it is for our brains to check out… to shift into unawareness.

What doesn’t grow, will eventually die and so when you notice monotony settling into your day to day life it’s important to be aware. It’s a loud and clear signal that some element of your routine needs to be rearranged. Perhaps you go for a walk after breakfast instead of before. Maybe you eat your largest meal around noon and lighten it up in the evening.

Deleting habits that aren’t productive can also be beneficial. If you habitually wake up, pour coffee, and light a smoke… try waking up – meditating (or praying) for 5 minutes – and shower before grabbing your coffee. Set the alarm 30 min earlier and take a walk, go to the gym after work, or make dinner from scratch. Making these small changes to your daily activities can produce enough variety to kick you out of the doldrums. Getting out of that rut may be a simple tweek, as you just…

Change your routine.

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

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

I would pick up the book and without reading the cover, I would open it haphazardly and read what was there. IF it resonated, even slightly, I considered it.

My goal is to share a daily life lesson, tip, or hack. They are the things I want my children to know and the things that I teach to clients. They are the things that make my life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#351

Self-help books on the nightstand

Heraclitis, a Greek philosopher stated “Change is the only constant in life” – a quote you’ve probably seen a hundred times as you moved into adulthood. We know it to be true and some of us experience an unequal amount of change through the course of our lives. Typically, I find that we attribute this quote to external things; our jobs, our environment, our friends, perhaps spouses… Rarely do I find that people are introspecting about personal change.

Unless of course, they are of the ‘self-help’ mindset and/or focused on their mental health as a habit. I’d love to encourage everyone to adopt a ‘self-help’ mentality – in part so that we each take personal responsibility for our actions, reactions, relationships, and lives. The broader part though is that we too, are always changing and if we are not doing so in awareness, we get caught off guard.

Keeping a ‘self-help’ book on your nightstand or in your kindle/e-reader will help you stay present with where you are and what you are thinking. If doesn’t have to be heavy duty stuff all the time. It can be a book of inspiring quotes that reminds you of the progress you’ve already made. It can be a bible that reinforces your faith (yes, I put the bible in a ‘self-help’ category).

I’ve been known to have a stack; a variety of books on a variety of topics – all designed to make me ‘think’ about myself and my life below the surface of where I am living it. Some books are the kind that I am reading from beginning to end – perhaps slowly so that I can absorb new ideas as I go along. A few are the kind that I can just open randomly and benefit from the words on that arbitrary page. Others are ones that I began but didn’t connect with right away and they’ve gone to the bottom of the pile for future contemplation.

I don’t pick self-help books – I let them pick me. In the days that I began my collection, I would peruse the personal development and/or the spirituality section of the bookstore; allowing my eyes to roam across the titles like a gentle wave until something specific caught my attention. Once it did, I would pick up the book and without reading the cover, I would open it haphazardly and read what was there. IF it resonated, even slightly, I considered it. I still use that method, but I buy half as many bound books these days as I’ve fallen in love with Audible and the ability to listen no matter what I am doing. I often listen to books over music and find that I’m ‘reading’ more than ever with this option available to me.

I will caveat this idea with the warning that one can ‘overload’ on information and it’s equally important to allow yourself to step back from ‘self-improvement’ from time to time so that the things you’ve learned can take root. Personal growth is best accomplished the way we physically grow – in spurts with solidifying periods in between. I found the best way to keep myself motivated along the way is to have…

Self-help books on the nightstand.

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

Starting 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive.

I thought about waiting to start writing this new blog section at a more apropos time in terms of measurement, perhaps the 1st of next month or July… a nicer, neater way to track 365 days because this is the beginning of a new commitment to write. My goal, for those of you who are curious, is to share a daily life lesson, tip, or hack. They are the things I want my children to know and the things that I teach to clients. They are the things that make my life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

So… let’s get started.

#365

Challenge your beliefs.

Ask why – All. The. Time. Yes, this is relatively annoying when a 4-year-old echoes every one of your thoughts with “but, why?” and yet it seems as if that is when we stop asking ourselves. We learn (or assume) so many beliefs as we mature that often never again get examined and some of them are -in fact – simply untrue. I worked with a 20-year-old client once who held the erroneous belief that putting ice into milk would poison it. She was unaware of how she developed that belief; only knew that it was concretely woven into her knowledge system. I don’t recall how we discovered that bit of information as it seems trite in comparison to her presenting problem but there were more mistaken notions lingering there as well that needed to be corrected to allow her a more accurate view of the world.

Even those things that we ‘know to be true’ today may not reflect our growth as the years go by. I find that people who were shy in their youth and developed beliefs from that perspective often need to reexamine those thoughts after developing mature confidence (i.e., “I can’t do it.”). Rules and ideas that were appropriate in one situation become implanted in our thought systems and then when the conditions change, we may fail to change our thoughts.

This concept is at the crux of all new discovery. If we fail to challenge our ideas about the world, science, medicine, and technology would standstill. It makes sense – a ‘no brainer’ – of sorts in that arena but it is just as important on the personal front. Take a step back and consider your personal, individual belief system. Validate what is fact from some acquired fiction. Distinguish what is still appropriate for your current circumstances and environment. Redefine as necessary.

Challenge your beliefs often!

 

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

 

TEN TIPS FOR MAKING THE MOST OUT OF THERAPY

There are as many different types, styles, and personalities of mental health professionals as there are people.

People go to therapy for various reasons certainly. Some are coping with stress or anxiety; others with depression or grief. Couples may seek counseling for infidelity, communication, or intimacy deficiencies. Perhaps others may go to bolster self-esteem and/or confidence.

No matter the reason, there is a distinct difference between those who get the most out of the experience and those who decide that ‘therapy didn’t work’.

Here are my tips for getting the most bang for your buck.

Find a therapist you like.

Obviously, you won’t ‘know’ the therapist but it is imperative that you feel as though you connect to that person. You will be sharing your deepest self with them and a certain level of trust and comfort is needed for you to experience the kind of vulnerability that will ultimately help you. It may take a couple of tries with a few therapists to find one. Be patient and persevere through the process. Most therapists will refer you to someone ‘different’ than them if you let them know it’s not a good fit.

Be honest.

A therapist can only work with the information they receive. If you don’t lay all the puzzle pieces on the table, you are wasting your money and their time. If it is too difficult to throw it all out there in the beginning – say that. Let the counselor know that the story is hard for you to open up about but you hope to tell the whole of it as time goes by. We are trained to be patient and guide you gently to the truth.

Keep a Therapy Notebook.

And take it to your appointments. You only have an hour and in that hour your therapist may share some important information with you. It’s difficult to remember everything when you get home especially if the session was emotional. In addition, there may be ‘homework’ and you’ll have more success if you know exactly what is recommended. If you can’t write in the session for some reason – when you get to your car – write down your thoughts; as many as you can while it is fresh in your mind. In addition, keep the notebook near you in between sessions so that you can write down thoughts and/or questions you want to discuss at your next meeting.

Do the Work.

Not only is it important for you to do the ‘homework’ but you only spend an hour (on average) a week with your counselor. What are you doing the other roughly 150 – 180 hours in between therapy appointments? It’s vital for you to *think* about your situation, your growing opportunities, and the ideas / suggestions that your therapist makes after you leave the office.

Read.

There are thousands of books about various mental health topics and a few of them are excellent in each subject matter. Your therapist has one perspective that is beneficial and either supporting it or gaining another by reading is often valuable. Many counselors recommend supportive reading, so ask. Read, underline, earmark, highlight the parts of the book that resonate with you – ignore the parts that don’t. Not every paragraph or chapter applies to your particular scenario so don’t let the parts that you don’t connect to rob you, deter you from the parts that speak to your heart. Furthermore, if you find you are stuck on something, make a note and bring it up in therapy; perhaps it is a point that you can pull apart and digest in session.

Keep Going.

One of the biggest mistakes people make regarding therapy is that they stop going when they begin to feel a little better. However, lasting change needs reinforced and cemented into place. Clearly, the frequency of sessions can decrease as you improve but maintaining change is a supportive process and your therapist is the key support person.

Be Patient.

Change takes time! Sure, you want to feel better now; we understand. Realize though that true change, the kind that lasts longer than a few weeks – happens slowly. In many ways, you are learning a new language; a new way of being. Chances are your situation didn’t evolve over a short time span and so it’s irrational to think that it can change right away.

Be Kind.

Going to therapy is one of the best ways to practice self-care. You are making time to look at yourself and make a change. That’s great! It’s incredibly important for you to express internal kindness – be a friend to yourself – throughout the process. Many, many people struggle from time to time because no one is perfect and no one can go it alone ALL the time and stay healthy. Make learning to love yourself part of your growth.

Get Support.

Let your peeps – those who know and love you – know about this important step you’ve taken to feel better about yourself and your life. Again – no one is without some element of hardship or challenge from time to time. Working to make positive change in one’s life is an extremely respectable step.

Offer feedback.

Therapists don’t know everything. Sometimes, we hypothesis as we collect information from you and our suggestions don’t work or need to be reworked. Let us know what is helping you and what isn’t. If we make a recommendation and it feels really ‘off’ to you – say something. Our job and our passion is to help you feel better.

There are dozens of different therapeutic ideologies that counselors practice from. Some are solidly positioned inside one frame (i.e., Psychodynamic Theory) and others are eclectic – pulling strategies from a variety of platforms. There are as many different types, styles, and personalities of mental health professionals as there are people. For the best result – first and foremost – find someone you like!

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Six Ways to Cope with Crap

Here are six constructive and helpful ways to manage all that stinky stuff:

“You never really know what’s coming. A small wave, or maybe a big one. All you can really do is hope that when it comes, you can surf over it, instead of drown in its monstrosity.” ― Alysha Speer

We can’t control everything that happens in our life and there are times for all of us that we turn a corner and run full on into crap. For some, we are just getting cleaned off and another pile of dodo drops from the sky like a storm that blows in on a hot summer day without any warning. The kind of crap I am talking about doesn’t distinguish between gender or class, race or religion, age or vocation… it comes slowly and quickly sometimes with notice, other times suddenly and abruptly. At all times, the only part of the crap that we actually can control is how we cope with it. Here are six constructive and helpful ways to manage all that stinky stuff:

ONE: Use the skills you have.

Remember that you’ve made it through every rough day you’ve ever had before. Chances are, the thing you are going through now is not the first load of crap you’ve encountered. Remind yourself of the coping skills you’ve used in the past. Generally speaking, crap causes stress – stress can be mediated by utilizing traditional and somewhat basic coping tools. Meditation, exercise, therapy, social support, writing and the like are fantastic resources that help us deal with stressors both big and small. Use them! Use several of them at once if necessary and use them often.

TWO: Eat right and sleep right.

Both of these are relative ‘no-brainers’ and we all know them intellectually but the first thing that people under stress tell me is that it is preventing them from eating and sleeping. Then we face the bigger problem of how magnified the basic stressor becomes when we haven’t slept and/or we aren’t providing our bodies with the nourishment that makes our brains work. Furthermore, it seems as if the basic stress point births more stressors that in and of themselves, become big and problematic when we allow ourselves to become run down physically.

This isn’t the time to worry about dieting… while I’m not suggesting that we all develop the habit of ‘stress eating’… keeping fruit, nuts, and juices available so that we have something healthy and quick to grab at any time, makes sense. When I know someone is going through a rough time, I take them a big bowl of whole fruits – I know… buzzkill.

Sleeping is difficult when our brains don’t ‘turn off’. You can help by making sure you create an environment conducive to sleeping. Many of us have really bad habits that don’t support healthy sleeping conditions. NO television in the bedroom! NO sleeping on the couch in front of the TV. NO caffeine (including chocolate ice cream and other hidden sources of stimulants – including alcohol). Yes, a single glass of wine can relax you but two may induce less ‘restful’ sleep. More than just a little alcohol of any kind will certainly help you ‘fall’ asleep but your slumber will be restless. Learn progressive relaxation (search in YouTube) and do it as you fall asleep. Use a fan or a white noise machine to help drone out the sound of your thoughts. Technology allows us access to so many helpful tools regarding sleep these days. Lastly, don’t forget to support melatonin production in your body as well.

THREE:  Self-care.

As simple as this sounds, it is the one thing I find goes unnoticed most often. Seemingly, the last thing we think about when we are experiencing a load of crap in life is taking time out for ourselves. I guess it isn’t second nature to stop in the middle of chaos and ‘fuel up’ but let’s think about this… how far does your car go without gas?? Would you let a leak in your roof go indefinitely or would you take time to fix it so it doesn’t get worse?? When I recommend to people that they take some time for themselves, they often tell me they don’t have time but we both know that is an excuse. Learn to look at your life with the intent of carving out small slices that belong to ONLY you. This is the opposite of selfish – the objection most everyone tries to lay out – if you run out of steam, you will be worthless to help anyone! Take five minutes an hour under extreme duress and 30 min. a day otherwise to devote to making sure that YOU are bringing your ‘stress level’ down to its base line. If not, your body will think that it needs an elevated amount of Cortisol in your system to function and a new base will be established – that won’t feel good either!

FOUR: Accept Help

Are you good at asking for or accepting help? I always recommend accepting any type of help that is offered even if you think you may not need it. Someone willing to come mow your lawn will probably be willing to run the kids around instead if you find that more helpful. If someone asks how they can help – don’t say “I’m fine” – ask them “what are you offering?” or “Sure, what did you have in mind?” or better yet, “That would be great! Would you please….”.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to ‘do it all myself’ and it eventually backfires. Asking for help is a sign of STRENGTH – because it unzips your vulnerability. When we ask for or accept help we are making a statement that we can’t do it all ourselves and that is OK!! We are social creatures, not designed to be isolated and alone, or draining every personal resource we have. As a single mom, I had a village – almost literally – neighbors, scout leaders, friends, coaches, and the occasional family member that I depended on because I was only one person and even though I tried – God knows – I couldn’t do it – not successfully. When I made the decision to actually respond affirmatively to people who volunteered their help – my life was instantly better. Those who hadn’t meant it learned a lesson and we probably didn’t remain friends. Those who did, learned that I am a loyal friend who gives back when it is possible.

FIVE: Breathe & Count

At the very least learn how to breathe and count to five. In those few seconds where I take a deep breath and slowly exhale to the count of five, I collect myself and create intention (most of the time anyway). I respond better in conversations that are stressful, to people who are hyper or ultra emotional, and when there is significant chaos or confusion. The time it takes me to breathe and count allows my brain to run through a variety of scenarios where it can choose the best response, or the most logical in that time at least. Sometimes I count to ten if there is room for the extra pause.

SIX: Practice Gratitude

Everywhere you look these days we see reminders to practice gratitude and yet I find that the habits are not yet developed in many people… no worries, start again to make appreciation a part of everything you do. No matter how dense or smelly your pile of crap is – find something in it to appreciate it. I realize that sometimes, this is done in retrospect for the crap as a whole but in your day… there are at least three things that you can be grateful for. Today, I had enough to eat, I hugged three people who love me, and saw a beautiful sunset. If I take some time to really acknowledge those three things, I feel better about my day – at least a little. If you do a gratitude just before bedtime, you’ll have something fresh on your mind that is positive – helping you to sleep more soundly.

 

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