New neuroscience reveals 4 rituals that will make you happy
By Jennifer Scott, www.spiritfinder.org
Do you often choose feel stressed and anxious over the holidays? Purchasing and wrapping gifts, worrying about money, planning and attending parties, preparing meals, decorating, and more leave many people choosing to overwhelm, exhaust, stress, and even depress in an attempt to cope. If stressing, depressing, or anxietying are getting you down this year, why not a take a different approach and volunteer. Here are just a few compelling reasons to consider volunteering as a way to beat the holiday stress while giving back and improving your Mental Health & Happiness.
Volunteering Cultivates Social Skills Development
If spending time alone over the holidays leaves you feeling down and out, volunteering is the perfect fix. Offering plenty of opportunities for socialization, volunteering with a charity that has meaning to you will help you meet new people with similar interests.
Donating your time and energy to people or animals in need can help you overcome the challenges of meeting new people by connecting you with others who are working toward the same goal. Volunteering can even help people who are shy or otherwise struggle with social situations become more comfortable around new people by providing a common ground for initiating conversations.
Gain Professional Experience through Volunteerism
In addition to social skills development, volunteering can also provide networking opportunities that could benefit you professionally. If you’re volunteering for an organization in the same field as your ideal career, you might connect with leaders in the field who can help you land a coveted role in your chosen field.
At the very least, it serves as a valuable resume-booster that can help you advance in your current company or explore new opportunities. So, if finances are a source of stress for you around the holidays, volunteering your time won’t cost you a thing, but it might help you land a better-paying job.
You Can Choose a Cause Close to Your Heart
There are ample ways to donate your time and energy to the greater good this holiday season, meaning that you can choose a cause that’s close to your heart, making the experience all the more meaningful. If a friend or loved one has been given the gift of life thanks to blood donations, consider finding a local blood drive and donating blood in honor of them.
Maybe you’ve benefited from the love and companionship of a service dog, and have a desire to help the animal community. There are thousands of animal shelters all over the country always in need of volunteers to help raise funds and help care for the animals, as well as supplies such as food, treats, and cat litter. If you enjoy spending time with older adults, volunteer to take therapy animals for visits to your local senior living communities.
Volunteering Keeps You Busy
With so many volunteer needs during the holiday season, you can easily fill up your holiday calendar and take your mind off of your stress with plans to help people in need. If you’re not typically a social butterfly who has dozens of invitations to every holiday gathering in a 50-mile radius, there’s no reason to spend a single evening home alone when there are so many ways to get out and about in your community while helping others in need.
Anyone can keep their social calendar filled with meaningful activities by volunteering to help prepare meals for the homeless, offering companionship to homebound seniors, or spending time with older adults at a local senior center or senior living community. Socialization is crucial for the wellbeing of older adults, so these activities are mutually beneficial.
Volunteering helps to put meaning back into the season for those who feel stressed and exhausted, lonely, or depressed over the holidays. From meeting new people and staying busy, offering opportunities for socialization and networking, volunteering provides many benefits, but nothing beats the feel-good vibes you get from doing something selfless for someone in need.
By Barnes Boffey, Ed.; Director of Training, Aloha Foundation… www.alohafoundation.org
Following the imagination process through means getting very specific about our thoughts and actions. In the case of our relative, let’s say we have decided to work toward being strong, compassionate and detached (obvious derivatives of powerful, loving and free). We now need to create the thoughts and actions that might accompany those feelings. The list that follows is one version of what our new blueprint might involve.
Thoughts for strong:
“Getting angry is not going to solve anything,” ” I need to put my energy into action rather than reaction,” “ Not confronting my sister about her beliefs does not mean I agree with them,” and “ Closedmindedness and anger are the very things I say I am intolerant of.. time to prove it.”
Thoughts for compassionate:
“My sister made choices on her best information.” “I am scared, I’ll bet she has been too.” “We both want the best for our country.” “I can lead the way to common ground rather than perpetuating the conflict.” “She’s doing the best she can with the information she has at the time, as am I.”
Thoughts for detached:
“Everything doesn’t have to be decided and resolved today,” “Her beliefs do not mean I can’t express and act on my own,” “I obviously need to take action to show myself that I am serious about what I say I believe,” and “Our relationship is more important than our politics… she is my sister.”
With these thoughts in mind, we can now imagine actions that would accompany them. (again, these are not “right” answers, just one version)
Actions for strong:
Make a commitment to be more politically involved. Move conversations to topics which nourish our family not pull us apart. Actually listen to my sister for amounts of time I can handle and show my strength by actually listening. Accept that reality has changed and plot a course that I did not need to in earlier times. Have the strength to change rather than holding onto my old patterns.
Actions for compassionate:
Tell my sister I am happy she won and that I am sure we both want the best future we can have. Forgive myself for not always being the person I say I want to be. Keep a journal to stay focused and write down as a first entry, “I was born not to pass judgement on my family but to love them.”
Thoughts for detached:
Instigate other community building activities in the family rather than just political discussions. Don’t respond in kind to what I perceive as outrageous statements. Pray that both my sister and I find the peace and courage to heal the wounds that divide this country.
With this information in hand, I have now achieved some early success in the imagination stage.
The second step is Skills. Here is where we explore the reality that although we may know what we should think and do, we may not currently have the ability to do it. We have to self-evaluate to see if we actually know how to gracefully exit a conversation, or not bite at a stupid remark, or reframe the family’s activity, or pray, or even keep a journal. There may be skills we have to learn and practice to be able to bring our imagined blueprint into being.
And the final step is Courage. By now we know what we would be thinking and doing, and we have hopefully learned some new skills to do it, but change can be fearful and fear can only be faced with courage. We may have fears about taking the steps we need to take. Some in this case might be:
“If I back down from fights will others think I agree with them?” “What if I really can’t be more tolerant of others?” “What if I try and fail?” “What if I replace anger with compassion and I lose the fire in my belly to actually take action?”
There fears are legitimate, understandable and normal. We need to remember, however, that whatever emotions we act on become stronger. If we act on our fears by not taking necessary steps to change, the fear will get stronger not weaker. So now it comes to “the moment of truth.” Do I have the courage to face my fears and change myself rather than insisting the world change so I won’t have to. I often ask clients, “Do you really not know what you need to do, or do you know what to do but you are afraid to do it?” One is lack of clarity; the second lack of courage.
We have all put a great deal of energy into creating what we want and hoping that will continue. When it does not we can bemoan our fates and rage at the world, or we can go about the business of making the changes we need to make to be loving, powerful, playful and free in a world we may not like or want to accept. Our inability to accept reality does not mean that reality doesn’t exist. It simply means we are unwilling to go through the difficult process of imagining our new selves, learning the skills to put those selves into being, and having the courage to face the fears that come with any major change in our lives.
by Barnes Boffey, EdD.; Director of Training, Aloha Foundation… www.alohafoundation.org
For many people, the recent election has provided a test of their capacity to stay centered and happy, especially given what they may see is a dire future ahead. There are, conversely, many who are ecstatically happy as they bathe in the belief that our next president will help them get what they want. In either case, this election has created more stress and contentiousness than any I can remember in my 49 years of voting.
It also means that many people who have been used to feeling powerful and in the “right,” may be feeling disconnected with their communities, their work colleagues and their fellow citizens. Many are feeling like “strangers in a strange land,” unable to connect with those around them and experiencing a true sense of being aliens in their communities. Primary responses to this have been angering, depressing, pessimism, and projecting deep emotions on events that have not happened yet. That coupled with the thought, “How could these idiots be thinking what they did?” leads to feeling very out of balance and in many cases, severely lonely.
The challenge seems obvious, “How can I maintain my center and a positive sense of being when I feel severely out of balance in the world around me?” Not surprisingly, this means we have to be ever more intentional about our actions in maintaining our mental health and happiness. It also gives us a chance to understand how Internal Control Psychology can be the foundation of this process. In the beginning, taking control of our emotional well-being means we have to remember a few foundational principles, as well as asking some very important questions of ourselves and others.
The primary foundational principle we might be well to remember is that overall our metal health is determined by our ability to be loving, powerful, playful and free in whatever situation we find ourselves. If we cannot do that, we will be out of balance and likely blame the external situation for our unhappiness. It is easy to be loving in a situation where we feel supported and valued; it is much harder in a situation where we feel judged, alone and out of step with those around us. The same is true about being powerful, playful and free. If the world presents conditions in which we can easily be these things, it is easier to choose to create these emotions from the inside out. If we perceive our world as full of stupid people, or as a place where we can’t laugh because of how bad things are, or a place where we feel trapped as we see options shrinking in the future, we have to work much harder at following these psycho/spiritual instructions.
To be loving, powerful, playful and free regardless of the world around us, we have to bring to bear imagination, skills and courage. In order to live in any environment, disparate or not, we must have accurate blueprints (pictures) of what it would look like if we were being loving, powerful, playful and free. We must move from the principle/values level to a more specific description of the actions, thoughts and emotions that we would be using if we were effectively following our instructions in that specific situation. Generalities are not helpful.
For example, if we have a relative whose political beliefs differ dramatically from our own, our initial choice of behavior may be anger, incredulity, judgment and disgust. We may feel these are totally appropriate given the situation, but if our goal is mental health and happiness, being “right” or focusing only on getting that relative to change their mind will be ineffective. Our first step in gaining balance must be creating a new blueprint which illustrates and defines for us what we would be doing, thinking, and feeling if we were being loving, powerful, playful and free at the same time that our relative continues to be who they are, not who we want them to be. This is the imagination piece.
How do we imagine a new vision of ourselves being in balance when we believe the world outside us is “wrong,” or crazy or unacceptable? This is very hard because we often don’t want to let go of our current way of processing things, and we probably won’t until the pain and ineffectiveness become bad enough to consider letting go, or until we realize that in maintaining our anger, judgment, and rigid behavior, we are becoming the very kind of person we have railed against.
The first step, imagination, means developing a vision of a balanced and happy self. We need a blueprint before we can create a behavior. Being happy does not occur in difficult situations without a new level of intentionality in creating these blueprints. It means asking the question, “If I were balanced and happy, how would I be feeling in this situation?” The answer to that question will determine where we head next.
Let’s say for example, that our answer is “I’d be feeling strong, compassionate and detached (rather than infuriated, manipulated, out of control and judgmental). From there we have to create the thinking and actions that would accompany those feelings, and then act on those thoughts and actions whether we feel like it or not. One of the hardest parts in this stage is that we may be very attached to our ineffective behaviors; it feels unfair to us that we have to change when others are wrong. We may want to hold onto our “rightness,” and see how long we can get away with ignoring our basic instructions.
One thought that makes happiness almost unattainable goes something like this: “I need others to act in the ways I want them to act in order for me to feel the way I want to feel.” This way lies unhappiness. The road to true inner balance can only be attained in thinking, “I have the ability to create the emotions I desire in my life in spite of the actions of others. I don’t need to have others change for me to be happy.”
Next time: Part Two: Imagination, Skills and Courage
By Michael Rice, LISAC, CTRTC
So much of the world appears to be caught up in the belief that any behavior that is not considered usual or normal is the result of a mental illness . . . that there is some sort of chemical imbalance in some people’s brains. I am often challenged in my group sessions about the behavior of those who have been labeled schizophrenics, when I state that most of what we are calling mental illness is no more than the behavior of unhappy people. Even those who have received this diagnosis have challenged me on this statement. They seem to want to wear their badge of mental illness to let others know they are helpless and that there is nothing they can do to improve their happiness. I often hear, “Normal people don’t talk to themselves; see things that aren’t there. So there HAS to be something wrong with their brain.”
Those who have received mental illness diagnoses have been told that they have some abnormality within their brain and that there is nothing they can do about it . . . that they will have to learn to live with it for the rest of their lives while taking medications that drug their brains to cause them to not hear voices and stop seeing invisible people. These drugs also stop the person from functioning normally by shutting down all of their emotions; having a flat affect; losing interest in the things that they used to enjoy, and losing their ability to be creative. Ironically, many of these medications prevent the person from overcoming their unhappiness or to discover other creative ways to deal with their unhappiness.
It is one’s creative ability that leads them to choose the behaviors they discovered to deal with their unhappiness and frustration in the first place.
I saw the movie, “Cast Away,” starring Tom Hanks, when it first came out in 2000. Since then, I recently saw it again on my local cable network and was able to make the connection of how some behaviors would be considered mental illness by some in certain circumstances but not mental illness in other circumstances. Allow me to explain:
In the movie, after being marooned on a small island in the South Pacific, Chuck (Tom Hanks) found himself without his basic genetic needs. He had to be creative to survive and began to improvise ways to provide shelter, food, and to hydrate. He soon found himself without the power to do much about his situation but maintained enough power from within to continue to survive. Even when he considered suicide, his tested method failed and renewed his internal power for survival.
Chuck’s freedom was now very limited. He had only a small portion of the island in which he could navigate as most of it was mountainous and surrounded by pounding waves. He was held in solitary confinement. He certainly was not having any fun. All of his basic needs for happiness were not being met to the degree that he wanted.
The first thing he did when he reached the island after his plane crash was to yell out to connect to someone . . . anyone. Even the sound of dropping coconuts led him to think that someone might be near and he would yell out towards the area where he heard the sounds. He was missing the genetic need for connecting with others and belonging to the social world he had recently lost. He still had the image of Love in his Quality World from his deeply satisfying relationship with his girlfriend, Kelly (Helen Hunt), back in Memphis.
From what I have described so far, and for you who have seen the movie, you would not think any of Chuck’s behaviors were the result of a mental illness. In fact, you would probably think that it was his creativity and improvisation that was able to allow him the ability to meet his needs of survival: shelter, food, and drink.
But it wasn’t long after his initial awareness that he was, indeed, stranded in the middle of nowhere and the odds of being rescued were minimal. He still had the strong genetic need for love and belonging and after injuring his hand while attempting to make fire, his frustration led to him choosing to throw objects that had washed up from the plane crash, kick the sand, swear, and destroy whatever was near him. His bloody hand from the injury he incurred left a palm print on a volley ball that had been part of the cargo in the plane.
He eventually created fire and was so elated that he proclaimed to the sky and the sea of his accomplishment in boisterous pronouncements. “Look what I have created! I have made fire!” His power needs were beginning to be met giving him a better sense of worth and success.
After he had calmed down and successfully created the fire, he began staring at the volley ball and saw the potential for something in the bloody hand print . . . a human face. Since no one was around to offer a need satisfying relationship in the form of connecting with others, he would create his own person to meet this need.
He made the air hole the nose and erased some of the blood to make the eyes and mouth. The company who made the volley ball was Wilson and their name was boldly printed on the ball. This became Chuck’s compensation for connecting with someone whom he named, “Wilson.” So far, you may be saying to yourself, “So . . . ? What’s your point?”
Chuck then began talking to Wilson and even answering on Wilson’s behalf to satisfy his need for love and belonging and connecting. And I would be willing to wager that you would still be thinking, “Well, sure. There’s nothing wrong with that. He did it to keep his sanity . . . to keep him from going crazy on a deserted island. . . . to connect with something or someone when no one else was there to connect with”
If Chuck behaved like that back in Memphis where he lived, would you still say his behavior was an acceptable way to behave? One might be inclined to get as far away from him as possible because, “who knows what a crazy person who talks to himself or to inanimate objects might do?” One might also believe he is seriously mentally ill and should be placed on brain meds and in dire need of a psychiatrist.
In an isolating experience, you are more likely to accept Chuck’s unusual or unnatural behavior as typical, rational, and understandable. But if not deserted on a lonely island, the same behaviors are seen as symptoms of mental illness and chemical imbalances. The unusual behavior one may create and perform serves the purpose of easing their unhappiness and frustration, at the time . . . just like Chuck on the island. If he didn’t have Wilson to talk to, and imagine that Wilson was talking to him, he would have felt much more unhappy and frustrated than if he hadn’t created Wilson.
The person who sees things, hears things, and talks to people who are not present, or to inanimate objects, is no different than Chuck. While they are not physically on a deserted island, they are in a deserted world based upon their choice to isolate or detach from others because of unsatisfying relationships with the important people in their life. They have detached from others and can be alone while around others. Their creativity to deal with their frustration and unhappiness is no different than Chuck’s creativity in producing and talking to Wilson, a volley ball.
Often, their frustration is the result of wanting to do one thing with their life while others who are important to them want them to do something else. They may attempt to take both routes and find it impossible to do. Consequently, they may become so frustrated that they then choose to take neither route and isolate even more, which further destroys their need for love and belonging. And since love and belonging are basic genetic needs, they create their own people in their mind and imagination like Chuck did.
The only difference is the circumstances. You could see Chuck’s dilemma and rationalize Chuck’s behavior because you could relate to being in his situation. Since you could relate, you deem it normal, acceptable, and not a mental illness at all. You were living in his world on the screen and silently thinking, “I’d probably do the same thing.”
If Chuck behaved in this manner back in Memphis, you would not see the situation he would be experiencing in his world. His unsatisfying situation and internal frustration would be very real to him but invisible to you. Since you have most of your needs met, on a somewhat regular basis, in a world where they are more easily attainable than a desert island, you might be inclined to think and believe Chuck’s behavior is a mental illness.
When Chuck was rescued and came back home, he didn’t talk to things or people who weren’t there anymore. First of all, Wilson was lost at sea before he was rescued. When Chuck got home, he was back in a world with people with whom he could connect . . . and it didn’t take brain meds to get him to stop talking to imaginary things or hearing imaginary voices. He only had to connect with others and those who are important to him. After five years of living in isolation, his rescue not only saved his life, it restored most of his basic genetic needs for happiness: Survival, Love and Belonging, Freedom, Power, and Fun. The love of his life had given up hope for his return and had married someone else. There would obviously be some emotional pain from that loss because he had maintained the picture of her in his Quality World all those years. But even losing Kelly didn’t cause Chuck to return to his island surviving behaviors.
Would you say a child who has an imaginary playmate is mentally ill? Or would you say they are being really creative? When you dream at night . . . are some of your dreams really “out there?” Does that mean that you are crazy when you are dreaming or is your mind simply being creative? If your brain can do that when you are asleep, it is also capable of doing it when you are awake.
In our world, it appears it is much easier to convince others that a person is mentally ill than to convince them that they are sane and only frustrated and unhappy due to unsatisfying relationships with the important people in their life.
By Barnes Boffey
Barnes Boffey, EdD; Director of Training, Aloha Foundation… www.alohafoundation.org
In 12 steps programs, it is frequently noted that most people looking for relief from their pain have systematically tried “an easier, softer way” to relieve that pain rather than the actual necessary step of stopping their addictive behavior. I don’t think I would be overstating it to say that what most Americans are actually addicted to is the “easier softer way.” From a very young age we are taught that you don’t necessarily have to follow any specific paths to get a result — there is always a way around undesired choices.
Is there anyone who can’t relate to the hope that each time we go to the doctor’s office that he/she will come up with something else besides “diet and exercise” as the long-term keys to physical health. “C’mon, Doc,” we think, “there’s got to be another way…a pill, a shortcut, even a magic potion…anything but those two things.”
A simple fact of mental health is that if you want to have a specific emotion, you have to think what people who have that emotion think, and do what people who have that emotion do. If we want to feel courageous or proud, for example, we have to do what courageous and proud people do.
The great American dream is that we can feel those feelings without having to do those things; and in fact there is one way to do that… drugs. What any drug does is to allow you to feel a certain feeling without it being tied to a behavior. So, the side issue here is that when we stop drugging, we have to learn to behave in new ways in which behaviors are in line with emotions.
When we move to internal control rather than external control, the questions we use to guide our lives change. Previously, for example, I used to ask myself the question, “If I want to feel proud or courageous, what do I need to do to feel that?”
It’s a subtle shift, but that is the wrong question. The correct question is, “If I were feeling proud and courageous, what would I be doing?” And then do it… whether I feel like it or not. The error in our thinking is to wait to feel an emotion before making the change. We may say,” I don’t feel very proud of myself; how can I apply for that job?” What we should be saying is” If I were feeling proud of myself, would I apply for that job?” If the answer is “yes,” then we should go ahead and apply even though we don’t feel like it.
Healthy people make changes based on how they want to feel rather than making the change based on how they are feeling at the moment.
By Michael Rice LISAC, CTRTC
In marriage, what tends to bring people together are their similar values. What tends to keep people together in marriage are their similar interests. In non-romantic relationships, it seems that similar interests bring people together and similar values maintain the relationship. Our values are those things that we find that give meaning to us as a person and in society. They define us as to the type of person we are, or rather, how we want ourselves and others to see us. We all know that there are many people who say one thing and yet behave in another. This might be the result of their value not being fully internalized and one that they profess because others have told them they should possess them.
What makes any of our values valid?
I believe that first of all, it must be a value that we have chosen ourselves and not because someone else said we had to have it. Parents often instill many of our values. Some parents may possess some values that are not acceptable or even effective for the parent. Many of the values parents give are indeed valid and helpful. Therefore, the first rule of a valid value would be: Something that you have chosen freely and not because someone else said you should possess.
Next, a valid value is one that you have tested among other values and have found it to be right for you. If you don’t feel that it is 100% right for you, then don’t profess it to others as your true value just to “fit in.” How well does the value work for your parent’s life as you perceive it? Just because Mom or Dad possess a specific value does not mean it is necessarily correct for you. What is right for one person is not necessarily right for another.
I recall the story told by Mark Twain who said that when he was 18 years of age, he found his father to be so ignorant that he could hardly stand to be around the old man. When he had turned 21, he said he was amazed at how much his father had learned in 3 years.
Another criterion for a valid value would be that you have considered the consequences of possessing and acting on a chosen value. Will this value possibly bring wide spread rejection from others? Will it cause you to be in conflict with the important people in your life? Could it possibly result in any hardship for you or even incarceration? Are you willing and prepared to take criticism for your value? Are you willing to lose acquaintances because they don’t agree with your value?
Lastly, to be a valid value, it should be one that you profess openly and regularly. In other words, you walk your talk.
What is important to you? Have any of your values caused you to lose those who may be important to you? Many of us have lost friends and acquaintances at one time or another due to our beliefs and this would be due to the conflict of one or more of our values. However, if it seems to cause conflict with many of those who are important to you, you may want to take another look and scrutinize the validity of your values or find those who have similar values as your own.
Kim Olver, Counselor, Coach, Speaker, Author and Executive Director of the William Glasser Institute and William Glasser International.
Kim knew in 5th grade she wanted to be a helping professional when she grew up. How did she know so young? Many people in her class and older would come to her for advice. They came to her with their “boyfriend/girlfriend” problems or issues with teachers or parents. Kim had a gift and passion for helping others. Kim married a man she went to high school with even though they only began dating after high school. She knew marrying him would mean they would be living in their hometown forever. She was all right with that since it was a great place to raise children. They had two sons and life was good . . . until her husband was diagnosed with leukemia in 1994 and died 4½ years later.
Choice Theory helped Kim get through that dark time, his death, the subsequent challenges of parenting their two teenage sons alone, and managing the worry of her youngest son’s two deployments to Iraq. Now, her sons are married to wonderful women and they each have children of their own. Yes, that makes Kim a very proud, very young grandmother!
by Barnes Boffey, Ed.; Director of Training, Aloha Foundation… www.alohafoundation.org
(Origininally published on May 11, 2016)
50th Anniversary Celebration
Las Vegas, NV July 23, 2015
Live Well, It Matters
Our lives are not exercises from school that have no relevance; they have the ultimate relevance. Our lives can damage other people; our lives can heal other people; our lives can nourish other people, and our lives can transform other people. Our lives become the stars that others steer by, and if we live them well, the world will change.
We remember Bill Glasser because he was a wonderful person and a remarkable teacher. He had a powerful public persona as a speaker and was able to hold the attention of hundreds of people with both the simplicity and significance of his transformative ideas. He was also someone who could talk one-on-one with a client and minutes later have that person ready to face a world he had found so difficult to deal with only moments before.
Bill had amazing skills, but what inspires us is that he did the best he could with what he had been given, both in the time of his life and in the time of his death. He did what he had to do to maintain his dignity and integrity and to keep the beacon steady for those of us coming behind who needed him to be strong, and real, and honest and true.
Live Well; It Matters
Bill spent over 45 years creating a place where we could learn and change and be free of our victimhood. He absorbed the vision of his mentors and passed along the message “We can change the world with these ideas.” He participated in that mission with every fiber of his being, and he challenged us to do the same. I can almost hear him saying: Live Well; It Matters
If there were some other alternatives to dying, it would be different. We could plan for our final passage in life as though we were taking a vacation. Where will I go? What do I want to do when I’m no longer a living human being? The truth is that death awaits us all; that is BOTH the sad news and the joyous news.
Because it is true, our challenge as we face the future is to live in the light of the universe: being loving, being powerful, being playful, being free. And to live each day as one we can be proud of, to live each day as one we can cherish, and to live each day as one that will be remembered by others who look to us to learn how to live. That is the challenge that Bill Glasser leaves us: