By Dr. Nancy Buck
My life was falling apart. My husband of 24 years left, saying he wasn’t sure he wanted to be married to me anymore. He needed time on his own to figures things out. My twin sons had left for college. The family dog ran away.
I was alone in our home, but there was no more “our” or “we.” Was there even a home anymore?
I didn’t know what to do. Crying didn’t help. Talking with my sisters and friends gave me only temporary relief.
Day after heart breaking day, the sadness, isolation, failure and oppression was unbearable.
My lifeline, it turned out, was my journal. Every morning I wrote my three morning pages. Every evening I listed five things I was grateful for. Most days my gratitudes consisted of:
1. I am breathing in
2. I am breathing out
3. I am breathing in
4. I am breathing out
5. I am breathing in and out
The lessons I learned during that time were many. The most important lesson was to keep breathing no matter what.
You never know what might happen next, what internal strength will be discovered, and what gifts will be revealed in the next moment.
And if you don’t keep breathing you never will know.
So keep breathing, in and out, in and out, in and out.
By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN
Are you employed by another? How often do you feel frustrated because you have little or no choice about the decisions you make? Are you a parent? How often do you feel as though your children are trying to be in charge of you instead of the other way around resulting in you pressing harder to prove you are the parent with the power? Are you in an intimate love relationship? Do you have moments as a couple when you want and pull for one important thing while your partner wants and pulls in a different direction?
It can feel hard, exhausting, challenging and confusing when faced with any one of the above. Feeling unhappy, out of sorts and out of balance when dealing with these kinds of problems may be an understandable and even effective strategy. Your heart and brain are driving you to search and find good answers and solutions. Here is one solution you may not have considered.
Shift your point of view and perspective. And do this shifting to a completely unrelated topic from your problem at hand. Shift to something by either going very small and mundane or very large and broad.
When going small, find the smallest joy or briefest moment during the course of the day where you feel grateful, joyful or at peace. It won’t necessarily help solve your problem. Instead it will give your brain a break, a moment of relief and flood of pleasure chemicals adding to your feeling of well being. This just may help open you to more solutions and ideas. Continue this practice frequently instead of simply staying stuck in your “I have to figure this out” behavior.
Or go BIG. At the end of your life do you think you will still be stuck in your present dilemma? Boy, I hope not and I bet you do too. And chances are “this too shall pass.” But in the meantime, spend some time asking yourself bigger questions, like Why are you here? Do you believe there is a God? What evidence do you have to support your belief? Is there life on another planet? Human? Do you believe or imagine you lived a previous life? Even if you don’t believe, who might you have been? Get the idea? Start asking yourself and contemplating the BIG questions about the meaning of life and more. This will give you time to be an explorer, searching in unknown and unknowable territory. The result may just be opening your mind to new, different and maybe even helpful ideas and perspectives when you return to your problem.
Even though it feels as though you are facing the impossible, considering and contemplating life in the micro and macrocosm can help give you much needed stress relief and maybe even good and new solutions.
By Dr. Ken Larsen
Those familiar with the New Testament can recall the story of the ten lepers who were healed.
My father in law was a good friend and he liked to keep that story in mind. Especially the part where only one returned in gratitude to say thanks. Ten men were given the gift of a fresh new life. Only one returned to say “Thanks.”
That’s a good story to remember as we face the challenges and difficulties of life in these often troubled times. Even though the question “is your glass half full or half empty” is a bit of a cliché, it still contains enough wisdom to get us to think about our life and the choices we have as we live it.
We have a choice in how we focus on the life we are living and the people in it. We can be focused on our complaints, or we can focus on what is good and true and beautiful.
Early in my marriage someone reminded me that clean socks and underwear didn’t crawl into the drawer by themselves. I started to say thanks for the many ways my wife was making a home for all of us.
Think of the many people that serve us daily. From the mail man to the guy who picks up the garbage and on and on. A word of thanks and a warm smile can go a long way to making a long hard day a bit easier.
We’ve learned that we have choices and that the choices we make determine the course of our life. Those choices often have an impact on the quality of our life and the lives of others. Being grateful internally and expressing our thanks externally can move us all to a better experience of life.
By Dr. Nancy Buck
If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you’ that would be enough”— Meister Eckhart
Sometimes life can be hard. Sometimes life can be really hard for what feels like a really long time. No matter how often you read or hear that life is suppose to be about love, about finding and bringing joy to yourself and others, it can still feel like the hard and sad times are overwhelming you with oppression. Are these times are here to stay?
No matter how often you practice all of the good mental health and happiness strategies of generating an attitude of gratitude, smiling and saying hello to everyone you meet or pass, giving to others what it is that you need most, or even pushing yourself into action instead of remaining curled in a fetal position for protection, you remain paralyzed in the pain of the really hard time that is your life in this present moment.
When all else fails, offer this prayer: Thank you
Even if you don’t believe in God or a power greater than yourself, say Thank you.
Even if you aren’t thankful in your heart and you feel like a phony, say Thank you.
Even if you’re so angry you want to spit and scream, say Thank you.
Even if you have no more hope, faith or energy for anything else, say Thank you.
Try falling asleep at night saying Thank you and waking in the morning saying Thank you. See how this prayer alone can change, shift and help your mental health and happiness.
By Dr. Nancy Buck
So much of our lives are not under our own control. We can’t control the weather; we can’t control our politicians and international relationships. We can’t control other people. We can’t control the waiting time on hold when making a phone call to a large organization or government agency. These are just a few examples. Without much difficulty you can name many more things and people out of your control that you encounter throughout the course of your day.
But if you let each of these examples lead you to feel annoyed, irritated, helpless or hopeless STOP! There is one important thing that you can control. You can control yourself, how you view each of these circumstances and handle each these situations.
(And for a choice theory psychology language correction in the above quote please read it as: You gotta look for the good in the bad, the happy in your sad, the gain in your pain, and what you’re grateful for, not what you’re hateful for.)
Stop and change your glasses. Put on the spectacles that help you find the gratitude when your car battery goes dead demanding a change in your morning plans. How lucky this happened before you ever left home. You are stuck in a warm, familiar place where you can attend to other things than what you had planned.
When a family relative loses her temper can you find the good in this seemingly bad situation? Perhaps the fact that this person is finally speaking up and back, letting the family know what she wants and how she feels is an uncomfortable change, but one long overdue.
Can you find the gift of gain that comes from being ill with the flu stopping, you in your social tracks? Perhaps being forced to spend more time at home means you can focus on improving your daily surroundings for greater comfort and home satisfaction.
Do you get the idea? Are you willing to change your point of view by putting on a pair of glasses to help you change? Are you willing to discover both the positive and negative sides contained in all aspect of life? With some effort you can find the bad and the good, the sad and happy in all that is going wrong and right in your life.
Since so much of our lives are not under our control, why not try and change what is?