Category Archives: Advice

Combat Stress, Meet New Friends, and Reduce Isolation by Giving Back This Holiday Season

By Jennifer Scott, www.spiritfinder.org

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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.

Feeling Out of Balance and Centered at the Same Time Part 2 – Imagination, Skills and Courage

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, Ill 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.” “Shes doing the best she can with the information she has at the time, as am I.”

Thoughts for detached:

“Everything doesnt have to be decided and resolved today,” “Her beliefs do not mean I cant 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 peaccouplee 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 wont 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.

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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.

Your New Year’s Resolve

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

We are close to the end of January, the month that many of us decide to make life changes and resolve to improve habits, thoughts and tendencies. How are you doing?

Anybody feel like your motivation is waning? Is the excitement you felt as you anticipated changing your life for the better harder to call on? Are you finding it more difficult to get going or to keep going in your new direction? Is it too easy to find an excuse or reason to slide backwards instead of continuing forward?

Let me offer some thoughts and advice to help:

Change is never easy!

Our usual patterns and behaviors are well worn paths and organized patterns in our brain. Any time anyone does anything new it’s harder than the old way.

For instance, how many times this year have you written or typed 2015 instead of 2016? You got into the automatic pattern of of writing 2015 after you practiced enough times. It’s going to take time, thought and practice for you to be able to write 2016 automatically.

This small habit that you changed in 2014 has only been part of your life for a year. And yet  you practiced this habit enough so that now it takes concentration, thought and time to change. This habit is in an area that is not very important in your life. And still the old habit sticks making it harder to start the new habit.

When you are attempting to change another area in your life, an area that has been your habit and practice for years, it’s going to take a lot more time, practice, concentration and forgiveness when you fall back on old habits. It is not easy to change any organized, automatic behavioral habit. Add patience, kindness and self-forgiveness as you go through the process of changing any habit you have been practicing for a long period of time.

Resolve to start doing something, not stop doing something!

If your New Year’s Resolution describes eliminating a behavior you are headed for failure unless you add what you are going to do instead.

Choice Theory psychology explains that all behavior is purposeful, even those nasty and unpleasant habits you want to change. The purpose of ALL behavior is our best attempt to act on the world in an attempt to get what we want to more effectively meet our needs. Even though the habit you want to change is not ultimately helping you be the person you want to be, it is helping some, meeting some need slightly. This is why you continue behaving as you do because it works!

(Maybe it doesn’t work well, or maybe it works for one thing and interferes with another; people who worry that they will gain weight if they give up smoking cigarettes, for instance.)

canstockphoto0012473Rather than resolving to stop doing something, resolve to start doing something. If you simply resolve to stop yelling at the other drivers on the road, what will you do the next time a driver cuts you off, or turns without using his blinker, or passes you on the right?

You’re still going to have the urge to yell, swear, or honk your horn. However, if you resolve to say loudly with feeling, “I bless you (or thank you if you prefer) as we to travel together safely on our journeys” you have a much greater chance at succeeding with your resolution. You don’t have to mean it with loving kindness. Just shout the loving and kind words, changing your road rage slightly.

Whenever there is a difference between what we want and what we are getting we have an urge to do something. And for many drivers that something is to shout angry words, flash finger digits and honk the horn. With your new resolution you are probably still going to encounter annoying and irritating fellow drivers. You will still have the urge to rage. So resolve to transform your anger into gratitude and thanks. You will be doing something. And you will have transformed the something you do.

Keep your BIG picture desire, dream or wish in mind when your motivation starts to droop

Remember why you’ve decided to stop eating all the white things (flour, sugar, salt)? You want to feel healthier and have more energy. Keeping this in mind can be useful and helpful when you are faced with a hot-out-of-the-oven, freshly baked biscuit.

Remember why you’ve decided to join the local athletic club and work out more? You want to be able to play with your children, bending, stretching, getting down on the floor with them and getting back up again, playing tag and all the other glories of play. Remember this the next time you wake up earlier than you want because you promised yourself you are going to the gym this morning, not rolling over to sleep just fifteen more minutes.

Remember why you’ve decided to call your brother every week, even for a quick hello and catch-up chat? You want to connect regularly and frequently instead of letting your relationship drift apart. Keeping this in mind on those days when calling feels like a chore and an inconvenience.

You chose this New Year’s Resolution because you have a picture in your head of what you want. Go back and look at this picture regularly and frequently to keep your motivation high and constant.

May you keep practicing your New Year’s Resolution
bringing you greater Mental Health & Happiness!

Key to Happiness

By Dr. Ken Larsen

Happiness is not something ready made.  It comes from your own actions. — Dalai Lama

I gained a bit of wisdom when I first realized that happiness was a byproduct and not something to be sought for itself.

happinesskeyDr. Glasser points out that if we are connected to people we want to be with and are getting our needs met in those relationships, we will probably be happy.  He also points out that if we are not getting the good feelings of happiness that come from needs satisfying relationships, there is a tendency to turn to addictions, violence and unloving sex.  These describe efforts to feel good when feeling bad and often involve seeking pleasure as a substitute for happiness.

Mike Rice, a seasoned Choice Theory therapist, underscores the difference between the right kind of happiness and the isolating efforts to feel good through the pleasures of addictive substances.  He works to help his clients see the difference so they can make better choices that lead to better relationships and a better chance at happiness.

Mike offers a helpful distinction between pleasure and happiness.  He points out that pleasure can be found in isolation, not needing anyone else.  Happiness is a byproduct of needs fulfilling relationships with others.

In his first book,  Reality Therapy, Dr. Glasser gave us a succinct statement of what we need to be mentally healthy and happy.  He said that we need to fulfil our basic need to “love and be loved, and to feel worthwhile to ourselves and others.”

It seems to me that the key to happiness lies in understanding our need for one another.  Then we need to find ways to relate to one another in ways that bring us closer together.  Finally we need to learn to avoid the kinds of things we do to separate ourselves from one another.  [There are articles on this web page that discuss the seven deadly habits and the seven caring habits.  Refer to them for more.]

The wisdom in the Golden Rule transcends time and cultural, ethnic and religious differences.  Our challenge is to learn to apply that golden rule in all that we do.

If you are looking for more of the kinds of thinking you are seeing here, I recommend reading Dr. Glasser’s  Choice Theory. If you have already read it, read it again.  I guarantee you’ll gain fresh insights each time you read it .

Advice

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Give help rather than advice Luc de Vauvenargues

Are you aware of your God-given gift? We all have it.  We all have the ability to tell other people how to live their lives. Some people offer this advice freely, whether welcomed or not.

What’s amazing is that often the very people we are freely advising are not necessarily open and ready to hear all we have to offer. Some people are actually insulted and annoyed by our generous sharing.

If everyone could learn that what is right for me does not make it right for everyone else, the world would be a much happier place — William Glasser, MD

To test out this idea, think back in your own life, maybe only as far as the beginning of this day. Who has given you unsolicited advice? Did it help? Did it hurt? Were you insulted? Were you enlightened?

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The reality is that no one knows all that is involved in what is happening in your life circumstance as well as you. When someone offers unsolicited advice, usually meant with the best of intentions, the advice is all wrong. As a result you may be no better off and you feel worse about yourself, the problem, or your relationship with this person.  Ugh!

Why do people offer this advice? Certainly their intention is not to detract from your Mental Health & Happiness. However, most people, especially friends, colleagues and family members, want to help solve our problems and help us feel happier. Unsolicited advice is often offered to help contribute to other people’s Mental Health & Happiness in a positive way. Instead this too often is a mistake, detractor and at best a nuisance.

Here are some ideas (dare I say advice) that you might find useful:

  1. The next time a person is complaining, sharing, or moaning about a problem or overwhelming circumstance ask what you can do to help? As the above quote reminds us, offering help instead of advice is almost always welcomed. Amazingly the person may frequently tell you that when you simply listen that is all the help they need!
  2. If you have such fabulous and perfect advice that you simply cannot resist sharing, ask permission to share first. “I have an idea that I think will help. Would you like to hear it?” If the person politely declines, go to the bathroom or the closest mirror. Now tell this great idea to the person looking back at you in the mirror. Do not share it with the person who declined your offer!
  3. If you discover that you seem to be a frequent recipient of other people’s unsolicited advice, start self-evaluating? Are you voicing frequent complaints such that others might perceive that you are asking for help? Are you clearly stating what you want; someone to listen attentively without offering advice?

The simple practice to improve Mental Health & Happiness is to offer help rather than advice. Please know that this advice was offered in the spirit of helping.