Category Archives: Family

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

By Jennifer Scott, www.spiritfinder.org

xmas

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.

***

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.

The Creative Mind (Part 2)

by Michael Rice, LISAC, CTRTC

hobby-1642907

Many people have learned to use their creative thoughts and behavior to resolve any frustration or unhappiness that comes their way.  They use their creativity to overcome their sadness and depression, anxiety, anger, and to deal with important people in their lives that matter to them.  There are also those who use their creativity to resolve conflict with others in ways that may only slightly ease their unhappiness and frustration but cause other problems in doing so.  We see these behaviors manifested in such ways that are being called, Obsessive Compulsive, relying and becoming addicted to drugs/alcohol, anxiety attacks, mood swings (Bipolar), and other behaviors that seem unusual or “crazy” to anyone who witnesses these behaviors.   Others don’t often see what another person is facing with their frustration and unhappiness.  Nor do they understand that the person’s odd or unusual behavior is serving the purpose of easing that frustration and unhappiness, even if it is only slightly, and created as a result of their “Creativity.”  You can hammer a nail with just about any other hard object if you don’t have a hammer.  Using something other than a hammer is a person’s creativity to get a desired result.  Unusual behaviors are creative behaviors utilized by those who haven’t created a more effective tool to ease their frustration.

Our creative abilities allow for our general happiness.  Some create effectively and others create maladaptive behaviors because it’s all they created at the time.  Our creativity can get us out of many unhappy situations without the need for counseling or therapy or prescription drugs.   Those who have created ineffective behaviors to resolve their unhappiness are diagnosed and judged as someone needing psychiatric help in the form of “brain meds.”  These types of medications inhibit a person’s natural ability to be creative and to be able to create ways to resolve their unhappiness.

When you have weird or strange dreams at night or even dreams that make sense . . . that is your brain being creative.  So if you have dreams that don’t make any sense, does that mean you’re mentally ill?  If your brain is capable of creating when you are asleep, it is also capable of creating when you are awake.

CREATIVITY . . . it’s behind most of our choices of behavior . . . logical and illogical.

Seeing connections between having, doing and being

by Barnes Boffey, Ed.D; Director of Training, Aloha Foundation… ww.alohafoundation.org

The thirst inside each us for happiness and peace of mind is not a thirst for things, no matter how spectacular they are, and the benefit of the action we take is not so much in what we do as it is the people we are when we are doing it. One person could give $100 to a charity and it might be an act of amazing generosity; a very well-to-do person might give the same $100 and it would be an act of penny-pinching.

“We can never tell what someone is doing by watching what they are doing,” said Bill Powers, and what he meant is that the being dimension of our actions describes us much more accurately than the doing dimension;  they are inextricably linked.

Once we understand that the ultimate goal of a human being is being human, we can connect the “having” and ‘doing” dimensions of our QW pictures to the “being” dimension and discover how all things and actions are reflections of our being human. The significance and the slaking of our psycho/spiritual thirst is in the “being.” As human beings we are given very general instructions: be loving, powerful, playful and free.  The hard part of being human is figuring out how to “be” those things in a world which most generally offers us choices about what we want to do and have.

canstockphoto13450488

It takes work to keep our eye on the prize, the “being” component, but understanding how it connects with our “having” and “doing” choices is a big step. Some people make the connection by asking, “If I “do this” or “have this,” what does that say about me?” Who am I when I have these possessions and take these actions? We know the answer will be different for each person; Internal Control Theory teaches us that “nothing has meaning until we give it meaning.” Nothing makes us feel that we are a specific kind of person; we are the ones who ultimately make that decision for ourselves. Others can impose their values on our choices, but our mental health and happiness will be the result of the meaning and values we ascribe to our actions and possessions. If we search honestly and openly for the “being dimension” in our possessing and acting, we will ultimately be the creator of our own happiness and the arbiter of whether we are being loving, powerful, playful, and free.

“Would the loving person I say I want to be be doing what I am doing right now?”

“I say I want to be worthy; would a worthy person take the action I am about to take?

“Is buying this hat an act of playfulness or an act of fearing peer pressure?”

“The person I want to be knows that I need to spend more time on my paperwork.

If I don’t make that time, knowing what I know, what kind of person will I be?

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience,
we are spiritual beings having a human experience.

The Many Dimensions of Quality World Pictures

by Barnes Boffey, Ed.D; Director of Training, Aloha Foundation…www.alohafoundation.org

We generally experience our Quality World pictures in only one dimension.  Those dimensions include “things we want to have,”“ things we want to do,” and “things we want to be.” We tend to see these dimensions as separate, but in fact they are all simply partial reflections of multi-dimensional QW pictures whose dimensions exist concurrently all the time.  At all times, our QW pictures have all three of these dimensions — there is a “having” dimension, a “doing” dimension, and a “being” dimension.

Let me explain further. If we perceive one of our Quality World pictures as something we want to “have,” (for example, a new car), we should be aware that in general we want to “have things” because they allow us to do things. Having a car is a possession, but its significance may lie  in the fact  that it allows us to spend less on repairs (doing) or take trips more easily (doing) or be proud of the car we drive (being) or be thrifty by spending less money (being).

Everything we want “to have” gains its important because it allows us to do something; everything we want “to do” gains its importance because it allows us to be something; and everything we want “to be” gains its importance because it allows us to follow our instructions to be loving, powerful, playful and free.  Every Quality World picture exists in these three dimensions at the same time.

canstockphoto10188981

Let’s try another example. Suppose someone tells us they want to “spend more time with their family.” This want presents itself in the “doing” dimension, but also exists as “something we want to have” and “something we want to be.” If we were to ask that person what is important about spending time with their family, they might say, “because it allows me to be a better brother,” or “to be more connected with people I love.” If we want to discover the “having dimension,” we would ask the question, “If you want to spend more time with your family, what would you need to have to do that? They might say, “a better work schedule, (have) and more commitment (have).

If someone says I want to “be more spiritual,” we can explore the “doing dimension” of that QW picture by asking, “If you were being more spiritual, what would you also be doing?”  “Well,” they might say, “I’d be meditating more (doing) and reading the two books I have by my bed” (doing).  To explore the “having dimension” we would then ask, “If you want to do that, what do you need to have to be able to do that?” “More time,” (having), more self-discipline” (having) and “a conversation with my wife.” (the conversation is actually a “have,” going ahead with the conversation is a “do.”)

The significant take away from this piece is that all QW pictures exist concurrently in many dimensions. Why that is important needs to be the next topic we face.

Mother’s Day Pain

By Kim Olver (originally posted May 10, 2014)

Today I want to acknowledge the people who may be in pain on Mother’s Day and in all the days and hype leading up to it. Who may those people be?

  1. A mother whose child has died
  2. A person whose mother has passed away
  3. A mother who has put their child up for adoption
  4. A child whose been adopted
  5. A child living in foster care
  6. A woman with a regretted abortion
  7. A woman who has suffered a miscarriage
  8. A mother and child separated by pride and misunderstanding
  9. Anyone else I may have left out
  10. Couples who are infertile

canstockphoto6156088

Experiencing emotional pain is never easy but it is made even more difficult when the world around you is celebrating while you are feeling so sad. Those who have their mothers and their children to celebrate with will be happy and pampered on Mother’s Day. It is a special day set aside to honor the woman who gave birth to us.

If you are a mother without her child on Mother’s Day, you have some choices to make. You can embrace your feelings of grief and sadness and simply allow yourself to experience the loss. You can put a smile on your face, pretending everything is all right when inside you know it isn’t. You can use distraction to busy yourself so you are focused on other things. You can find a way to be grateful for the experience of motherhood, with all its ups and downs, and find the gifts, lessons and opportunities in the experience. Or you can create a new celebration of your own for this day . . . something meaningful to you.

If you are child without your mother on Mother’s Day, you have similar choices. You can embrace your feelings of grief, loss and sadness and just be in that space. You can pretend all is well when you know it isn’t. You can distract yourself with other things, trying not to think about her. You can find a way to be grateful for the mother you had, for better or for worse. She gave you life and taught you things . . . some you will embrace, others you will never repeat but all lessons nonetheless. Or you can find something else to celebrate on this day.

Whatever you do on Mother’s Day, recognize the choices you have and choose the one that serves you best. The world recognizes mothers on this day and your focus may need to be on how to take care of yourself today. You are just as valuable and important as all the mothers and children who will be happy today. Choose well.

The Relationship that Keeps on Giving

by Barnes Boffey, Ed.; Director of Training, Aloha Foundation… www.alohafoundation.org

My relationship with death has been most interesting in the fact that is has uncovered one of the great paradoxes of life: the more you think about dying, the more you think about living. Death is what gives life its significance. If we lived forever, we would never have to answer the important questions about “What do we want our life to mean?” Or “Am I proud of the person I am becoming?” or “Am I living the life I want to live or have I copped out and given into fear and inertia?” The fact that we are going to die is the great motivator of these questions.

I remember one question that was asked of me was, “If you knew you were going to die in a week, who would you call, what would you say, and what are you waiting for?” That question incited several phone calls, mostly to make sure that certain people knew I loved and appreciated them, and also persuaded me to keep that list current in case anything happened?

canstockphoto14643549Thinking about dying helped me realize the importance of my saying “I love you” as the last words my wife and kids heard from me every day before I left for work. I had decided that if something happened to me that day, I wanted to make sure that my kids could say that the last words they heard from their father were “I love you,” not something like “Make sure to clean up your room” or “Adam, didn’t I tell you to get your damn bike out of the driveway?” My looking at my own death helped me make that decision.

My partnership with death has been a motivator in my creating a notebook which sits on my desk and is entitled, ”The Journey Continues: When I Die” which contains everything my kids would need to make sense of my estate if I died suddenly. Many people make books like these in the very last years of their life (although many think they will get to it and never do). I have had that book ready for my for 20 years; I count it as a gift to them that if I had died unexpectedly, that they would have some reasonable tasks to perform rather than the ungodly mess that many people leave to their kids.

Death is a friend who keeps asking, “Ok, what do you really want to do and when are you going to do it? Death is a friend who keeps us honest. Death is the final recovery from the great American addiction: “Just keeping doing what you’re doing; you can get away with it!” With Death, we can’t get away with it.

Many years ago I decided I wanted Death to be my friend rather than my enemy or adversary. I can honestly say that nothing in my life has ever been made worse by that decision, and that overall, my life has been much richer and more significant because of that relationship. We all have that choice.

“If you were sure something important, significant and life-changing were going to happen to you in the future, would you want to know more about how you might have it become an opportunity rather than a disaster?”

“If you knew you were going to die in a week, who would you call, what would you say, and what are you waiting for?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love

by Dr. Ken Larsen (Originally posted 7/2/14)

Love and belonging is at the top of the list of our basic needs named by Dr. Glasser.  What we do to fulfill those needs is the essence of mental health and happiness.   Love is a word with many meanings.  I’d like to examine some of those meanings.

Anyone who has been to summer Bible camp has probably been exposed to the Greek words we have for “love”.  They are:

  • “Philos”.   This is brotherly love. Think of Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love.
  • “Agape” is the selfless, unconditional love that is often used to describe God’s love for humanity.
  • “Eros” is the intimate affection between lovers.
  • “Storge” is a parent’s love for their children.

Each of these ways of expressing love are lifegiving and enriching of relationships.

We need an infusion of love to live and to enjoy life in health and happiness.

mom_baby

Love is poured into us from the very beginnings of our existence.  A mother looks on her baby with love while caring for her baby’s needs.   We are learning that this life giving, life enhancing connection between a mother and her baby is much more than just a “nice to have” expression of affection.  It is actually essential for the healthy development of the baby, especially  for their social and emotional development.  This connection goes both ways.  Both mother and baby enjoy a release of neurochemicals that support their mental health and happiness.

Sadly, there are some children who are deprived of this early enriching experience of love and care.  Many of these kids grow up and experience difficulties connecting socially.  Often there is limited ability  to self regulate difficult emotions.  This often leads to the self medication that leads to addictions.  Violence and unloving sex are behaviors often associated with people that have not had the early experience of love that is needed for mental health and happiness in a stressful world.

I am convinced that it is better to reach out a helping hand before we read another tragic headline born of the not so quiet desperation suffered by some of our people.

How can each of us make a deposit of love into the accounts of those whose emotional checks are bouncing?  There is no quick and easy answer, at least none that I know of, but I do know that it is better to reach out than to reject and ignore.  There is that wonderful tagline that it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.

Elvis did a song entitled “Life” back in the 70s.  The closing line is “…for life is love and love is life.”

Here’s the song if you’re interested.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4cWkMXrGjo

Letting go

by Dr. Ken Larsen

It was one of those winter nights where it was dark by suppertime.  We had a pleasant meal together.  The girls helped cleanup and then it was story time.  I read from one of their favorites, “A Wrinkle in Time”.  As usual there were questions and discussion afterward.  I loved the thoughtful look on the girl’s faces as they pondered some of the deep ideas we had just read and discussed.

father-daughterOne yawn preceded another telling us it was time to trudge upstairs to get ready for bed.  Tonight was my turn to help the youngest get her jammies on, pray together and get her tucked in with a goodnight kiss.

I selected a fresh pair of pajamas from the dresser and laid them on the bed.  The last thing I expected was to have my little angel protest my selection.  She became quite indignant and just a bit vocal, stating that she did not want to wear THOSE pajamas.  She wanted to pick out what she wanted to wear.  She was clear on being a big girl and not needing Daddy to make those personal choices for her.

My first response was indignation and a rising insistence on her wearing what I had selected.  It was the beginning of a little power play.  It suddenly hit me, “What difference does it make?”  I had to ask myself why was it important that she stay with my choice and not her own?

Fortunately, I must have received a bit of “Daddy grace” to give in and let her choose.

Later I had to chuckle over what I had learned about letting go.  Since that time my youngest daughter has shown good judgement, not only in pajamas but in her husband and in her chosen profession.  She recently earned her Master’s degree.  Plus, she is co-creating our 15th grandchild. J

The urge to control the behavior of others, especially our children, seems to be built into us, perhaps as a necessary protection in their early lives.  As time moved on I learned how important it is for my mental health and happiness and the mental health and happiness of my children to slowly step away from control and move into encouragement and support.   Not to do this might build an unhealthy dependence, or an equally unhealthy resentment and rebellion.

I don’t want to leave the impression that we achieved anything near perfection in this process, but we did make progress, especially progress toward healing some of the overly controlling experiences from our past.

I found that I would rather maintain a healthy relationship with my children than enforce my will on their choice of pajamas.

 

Neutral

By Gloria Smith Cisse, LPC, LMSW, CTRTC

Happiness is not simply the absence of sadness.   Happiness is much more.  It is a place of peace, comfort, quiet, beauty, and contentment.  It seems the thing we are always chasing is a kind of excitement that comes from getting something that we felt we have always wanted or needed.  This can be synonymous with drug addiction or thrill seeking.  I have never really enjoyed roller coasters and I don’t believe emotional roller coasters are any different.

A few days ago while I was in my car driving from one work site to the next, I thought about happiness.  Questions like: What is happiness for me?,  Am I happy right now?, and How would people know I am happy? danced around in my mind.  It occurred to me that I had not been “happy” in some time.  It also occurred to me that I was also not sad.  About a week before Thanksgiving 2015, I lost my mother.  I should be sad, right?

Some of my sisters and I communicate with each other on an almost daily basis. It feels like they are having a much harder time adjusting to life after our mother’s death than I am.  I was thinking that maybe there was something wrong with me because I was not as sad as they appeared to be.  I had made a choice to not depress.  I had not told them that, I don’t know if they would have understood.  I made the choice years ago because I had already spent too many years of my life being “clinically depressed.”

I have made a choice to get off the happiness – sadness roller coaster.  I can enjoy the happiness more because I experienced, understand, and appreciate the sadness.  I have learned to respect and give sadness its time because I know that it does not last forever.   As a matter of fact, I choose to not depress.

veronica-balanceSince that night alone in my car, I have decided that neutral, a place of balance, peace, contentment, and weightlessness, is a great place to be. It takes effort to remain balanced.  Anyone who has ever tried yoga will tell you, it’s hard!   I am not chasing happiness.  The mental picture I have is one coasting at my own pace and being surrounded by the things and people I enjoy.  This does not mean that I will avoid happiness.  It means that for now I will do my life and enjoy the peace that comes from simply doing my life.   I will choose the amount of time I spend sad.  I will not live on an emotional roller coaster.

I prefer to think of it as living like a “weeble wobble.”  Some of you may remember, “weebles; wobble but the don’t fall down.”  I can wobble from side to side but I will not remain in any one place too long,  except neutral…smile!