Category Archives: Connecting Habits

The Caring Habit of Listening

By Kim Olver

As a healthy relationship habit, listening isn’t just about hearing another person, waiting for them to stop talking so you can jump in with your “words of wisdom.” Listening is about doing your best to understand another person. Try to stand in their shoes, be in their skin and see the world with their eyes as best you can. No one can have perfect understanding of another. That would mean you would have to actually be that other person, but we can work at doing the best we can.

Understanding doesn’t mean you have to agree. You can see it from another’s point of view and still maintain your own perspective as true for you. One example is a wife who speaks to her husband about his excessive drinking. She believes his drinking is having a serious effect on his health, particularly his achy joints and his liver. He explains to her that he has a lot of anger that he doesn’t understand and that drinking helps him contain that anger. She is able to understand his perspective without agreeing with him. It helps her be more understanding of the reason he drinks.

Another example, involves an incident when I was sixteen. I remember asking my mother if I could stay home from school. She asked if I was sick and I replied, “No, I’m not sick but I can’t go to school with this huge zit on the end of my nose. Everyone will stare at me!” My mother’s response: “Kimberly Marie, get ready for school. You won’t even remember this five years from now.” Well, I’m 53 and I still remember it, Mom.

father-son

This is not to say I think my mother should have allowed me to go stay home from school. What I wish is that she would have listened to me to understand how devastated and desperate I was feeling. She might have even shared about a time she had a pimple and it wasn’t as bad as she thought it would be. Almost any response would have been better than having my perspective completely disregarded. (The funny thing is, in one way my mother was right. I don’t remember my classmates reactions that day but I do remember my mother not really listening to me.)

Do you have any stories about a time when someone didn’t listen to you? Or maybe you have a story about a time when someone did and it really made a difference. Can you be the person today who really listens to someone important to you to understand their point of view?

Emotional Realities

By Dr. Ken Larsen (Originally posted November 14, 2013)

One of the characteristics of mental health and happiness is getting our needs met in and through our relationships with caring other people.

Dr. Glasser describes these needs in a couple of ways.  One, from his first best selling book “Reality Therapy” he points out that we need to “Love and be loved, and to feel worthwhile to ourselves and to others.”

Later, when he wrote “Choice Theory” he listed our basic needs as “Survival, Love and belonging, Freedom, Power and Fun.”

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One way I meet my fun needs is by learning.  Recently I was reading a book entitled “The Female Brain” by Louann Brizendine, MD.  One paragraph jumped out at me because it spoke to ways to grow closer to the ones we love.  Having a wife, three daughters, and five granddaughters, the more I can understand the female experience of life, the closer I can be in these very special relationships.

This is a quote from the book: “If she’s married or partnered with a male brain, each will inhabit two different emotional realities.  The more both know about the differences in the emotional realities of the male and female brain, the more hope we have of turning those partnerships into satisfying and supportive relationships and families.”

I highly recommend this book.

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

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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.

World Peace through Laughter

By Denise Daub

Today, May 1st is World Laughter Day.

Laughter Day was first celebrated on January 11, 1988 in Mubai, India and was founded by Dr. Madan Kataria, founder of Laughter Yoga now practiced worldwide.

laughterLaughter has proven to be instrumental in lowering blood pressure and stress levels, not to mention it just makes you feel good … and happy!  Interestingly, the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter.  This is where Laughter Yoga comes in.

We all know that emotions stimulate physical expressions… when you are happy you smile, but it can also go the other way.  Studies have shown that physical expressions can stimulate emotions. So fake it till you make it will actually work when it comes to laughter.

Laughter is contagious, has the power to bring people together and creates happiness.  It  strengthens your immune system, boosts your energy and triggers healthy physical changes in the body and…. it is totally free!

Laughter helps to create a positive mental state to deal with negative situations and negative people. It gives hope and optimism to cope with difficult times. – http://www.laughteryoga.org

Improve your mental health and happiness and take some time to laugh 🙂

 

Fear versus Freedom

By Amanda Love

If you live in fear, it is impossible to be free.  Fear can take many forms — fear of leaving a job you don’t like for a more challenging one, fear of voicing your opinions to a spouse that constantly argues with you, fear of being alone, fear of changing careers, fear of moving away from family and friends and starting over.

depression

My personal experience has been with a verbally abusive spouse.  I would wake up in the morning to his temper tantrums and go to sleep with them as well.  This went on for about fifteen years, until I looked in the mirror one day and realized I had no respect for myself.  I have a high love and belonging need and a low freedom need, which I pushed so low it was non-existent.

I was fearful of rocking the boat by leaving all at once.  My friend, who is also a therapist, advised me to “leave without leaving.”  Start by doing things that you love to do, seek new challenges for yourself, learn new things, she said.

I followed her advice and slowly became more of who I really am as a person.   I raised a puppy for a service dog organization, and took her everywhere I went, spreading the word about the wonders service dogs work.  When the dog was returned to me for a mild medical condition, she and I trained together to be a pet therapy team.  We volunteered at a nursing  home and a Read to the Dog Program at a New York City library.

I regained my self-respect.  I began writing a novel, a love story.  I became more confident in myself and when I finished the book I was able to stand up and end the marriage.  I recently moved to a different town on my native Long Island, and have conquered my fear of new situations by participating in community groups that I love.

I battle fear every day — and maybe you do too.  Challenge yourself by identifying what you are really afraid of, and try to reason with yourself that the fear is unfounded.   If you can’t do that by yourself, seek help from a trusted family member, friend  or a counselor.

Best Valentine’s Day Gift

Best Valentine’s Day Gift Ever: Happiness

by Noelle Nelson, psychologist, author and speaker

Oh, you thought I meant his/her happiness? As in making your honey happy with cards and flowers or wearing that sexy lingerie or going to that incredible restaurant? Not! All that’s very nice, but it’s YOU being happy that is the best Valentine’s Day gift ever.

Because let’s think about it: What are you like when you’re happy? For one, you’re not complaining about every little thing. You’re not seeing problems and hassles everywhere. And you’re certainly not blaming anyone for anything, especially not your honey. And whining? When you’re happy, you’re “fuggetaboutit.”

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When you’re happy, you’re a joy to be around. Not only that, you are more appreciative and grateful of your world, your life — and your sweetheart. Because happiness does that. Just like when you’re depressed all you can see around you are more reasons to be depressed, when you’re happy all you can see around you are more reasons to be happy.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/noelle-nelson/best-valentine-gift-ever-_b_9194412.html

How do you mend a broken heart?

by Michael Rice, LISAC, CTRTC

Like, perhaps, many of you . . . I’ve had my share of broken hearted relationships going as far back as my teenage youth.  Music had always been a major part of my life and I would tend to express my unhappiness by finding and relating to the heartbroken lyrics and music of many song writers and lyricists who could express their unhappiness in words and music far better than I.

brokenheart

I recall listening to these songs over and over, wallowing in my own despair . . . not willing to let go . . . crying, hoping, and praying that each situation might magically turn itself around and we would find ourselves together again in a state of bliss and happiness.  My favorite songs that I would choose to play as a musician were ballads . . . songs of unrequited love and broken hearts.  I loved the music of such writers of Sammy Cohn and Jimmy Van Heusen, Cole Porter, Rogers and Hart, Matt Dennis, and many, many more.  Recording artists such as Sinatra, Ella, Sarah, Carmen McRae, Nancy Wilson, et al. were m playlist.  I must have appeared to be happy being unhappy.

These were not happy times by any means.  The words and music were like prayers and I recall Father Joseph Martin having said, “The best prayers you ever said were when you were at the bottom of the pit. “

But not all of these artists and song writers wrote only sad songs.  In fact, they wrote and sang more happy songs than they did mournful songs.  And isn’t this the way of the world?  In time, everything changes and we eventually put on a happy face.

When does unhappiness turn into happiness?  . . . whenever one finally becomes tired of feeling miserable.  It happens after weeks, months, or perhaps even years, when we come to terms and accept the reality of a given situation and that there is nothing we can do other than to move on with our life.  As Dr. Glasser reminds us, one of the 3 reasons why people choose to depress is because they know there is something they need to do and they a.) Don’t want to do it, or b.) Don’t know how to do it.  In situations of broken hearts, “a.)” is the primary component.

Letting go of what cannot be controlled eventually comes to those of us who have been mourning the loss of a loved one . . .by breakups, divorce, and even death.  Acceptance.  Making real of what is and not how we want things to be.  Using your own experiences, you will realize that it wasn’t until you accepted the reality of the situation and that there was nothing you could do to change it that you began to move on with your life and feel better.  Looking back on your past lost loves, I would be willing to wager that you can now do so feeling a bit of gratitude for having known them, even if for a little while; for the experience and lesson you may have learned, for the things they may have taught you, and when times were filled with passion and happiness.  I would even venture to say that as you read these words, a slight smile may appear as you recall those times with those you lost long ago.

I still listen to the love songs of my favorite song writers and lyricists. I appreciate a well-written and performed ballad.  The difference now is that I appreciate them for their beauty, creativity, and sensitivity . . . knowing that the creators, too, had the same broken hearts that I have experienced .  . . to be able to express it in words and music.  The songs sometime bring back memories of my lost loves and sometimes they don’t.  And when they do, and after all is said and done . . . I look back on them and realize they were all good.  For even in bad experiences, there is good to be found.  In retrospect, you may, perhaps, even feel fortunate that they did end when they did.

The only two choices we have to overcome any unhappiness is:

  1. Change what you want and/or
  2. Change how you behave when you don’t get what you want.

There are no other options other than to feel miserable until you do so.

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!

 

The Art of Listening

By Kim Olver

As a healthy relationship habit, listening isn’t just about hearing another person, waiting for them to stop talking so you can jump in with your “words of wisdom.” Listening is about doing your best to understand another person. Try to stand in their shoes, be in their skin and see the world with their eyes as best you can. No one can have perfect understanding of another. That would mean you would have to actually be that other person, but we can work at doing the best we can.

father-son

Understanding doesn’t mean you have to agree. You can see it from another’s point of view and still maintain your own perspective as true for you. One example is a wife who speaks to her husband about his excessive drinking. She believes his drinking is having a serious effect on his health, particularly his achy joints and his liver. He explains to her that he has a lot of anger that he doesn’t understand and that drinking helps him contain that anger. She is able to understand his perspective without agreeing with him. It helps her be more understanding of the reason he drinks.

Another example, involves an incident when I was sixteen. I remember asking my mother if I could stay home from school. She asked if I was sick and I replied, “No, I’m not sick but I can’t go to school with this huge zit on the end of my nose. Everyone will stare at me!” My mother’s response: “Kimberly Marie, get ready for school. You won’t even remember this five years from now.” Well, I’m 53 and I still remember it, Mom.

This is not to say I think my mother should have allowed me to go stay home from school. What I wish is that she would have listened to me to understand how devastated and desperate I was feeling. She might have even shared about a time she had a pimple and it wasn’t as bad as she thought it would be. Almost any response would have been better than having my perspective completely disregarded. (The funny thing is, in one way my mother was right. I don’t remember my classmates reactions that day but I do remember my mother not really listening to me.)

Do you have any stories about a time when someone didn’t listen to you? Or maybe you have a story about a time when someone did and it really made a difference. Can you be the person today who really listens to someone important to you to understand their point of view?

Turn Your Complaints Inside Out

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Complaining is one of the deadly habits that can help destroy relationships, according to William Glasser. Most of us can quickly name the expert complainer in our own lives. Sadly, this is the person we try to avoid. And sometimes the complaining person is yourself whom it is impossible to avoid.

Quite simply stated, complaining is unattractive and detrimental to our mental health and happiness.

However, complaining is part of human nature. Why? Because our brain is set up that way. Here’s the bad news: our brain is hardwired to notice what is not right, or off, or a mismatch between what we want and what we perceive we’re getting in our world. This brain attribute is necessary for our survival. But this also means our brain notices almost everything that is wrong in the world, according to us. When we notice out loud it sounds like complaining.

Most of us occasionally comment about these mismatches, or differences. Some people comment and point this out a lot—ugh! (If you want to read a plethora of celebrations of complaints about these mismatches spend time reading Facebook posts.This is our present public forum where we complain and like the world as it should or should not be according to us — just as our brain is designed to do.)

If you spend any time on social media you may have noticed advice from some recent blogs regarding happiness. We are encouraged to stop complaining for twenty-four hours. Great idea! Great advice! However this is easier said than done. Our brain keeps getting in the way, noticing and pointing out all that’s wrong: the weather, the traffic, the temperature of our morning brew, our co-workers, our relatives, our neighbors, our politicians, and on and on and on it goes. And when we comment on all of these things, it comes out as complaining.

If today is the day you want to give up complaining for twenty-four hours to improve your Mental Health & Happiness, here are some tips to honor your brain and still succeed. When you notice what is wrong start asking yourself what you want instead of complaining about what is wrong.

It will sound like this “There are no more seats in this waiting room. I would like to sit down. I’ll sit on the floor.” or “There are no more seats in this waiting room. I would like to sit down but I’ll take this opportunity to stretch.”

Today, every time you notice something worth complaining about, start declaring what you want instead. Are you able to get what you want? Good for you. Are you able to change what you want instead? Does that help? Are you able to see the advantage or alternate payoff for getting something different from what you want? Does that help?

An additional strategy is giving thanks and being grateful for what you’ve noticed in the world, yourself and other people, even if your first impression is a complaint: (aim for a neutral tone and avoid a sarcasm)

I’m grateful for the traffic that will make me late for work.

I’m grateful for the package that has still not arrived in the mail.

I’m grateful that my co-worker is refusing to help me complete this project.

I’m grateful that my brother is not answering my calls, texts or messages. 

canstockphoto15119958Once you’ve declared your gratitude, let it go and move on. You may discover the gift, lesson or opportunity that was wrapped into the complaint as you perceived it. Or not. However declaring gratitude is much more attractive than complaining; attractive to other people as well as yourself.

When you start making these kinds of changes you may begin to get more of what you want instead of simply complaining. Amazingly, when you start interacting differently with your world of complaints you may actually begin to better understand and appreciate what you really want. Now that you have greater clarity you can act more effectively to get what you want. The result? Greater Mental Health & Happiness.

Here’s a word of caution. If you spend time complaining about other people, you still need to keep your focus on what you want, not simply focusing on how you want the other person to change. Instead of complaining, “I wish my child would stop whining. I want a child who doesn’t whine,” may sound like you’re following the advice offered here. See if you can go deeper though. If your child stopped whining and you got what you want, what would that be? Would you be engaged in a more pleasant interaction with your child? Do you want a happier atmosphere when completing a chore? Once you know what you want you can act accordingly. Start singing, smiling, offering compliments about the world, your child, yourself. Your child may still be whining. And still you can create a more pleasant atmosphere while you interact with your child lovingly, no matter how he or she is acting.

People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining — Stephan Hawking