Monday, November 28, 2016

5 ways to a more peaceful holiday

The holidays can be a time of joy or can be a time of stress. For some of us, this is a time to reflect on what we are thankful for, look for ways to give back to others, and celebrate family and friends in our lives. For others, the holidays mean added stress and pressure and we can't wait till it's all over. 
So much of the way we experience the holidays is reflected in the way we approach life in general. 
This quote by Marianne Williamson appropriately explains what I mean:

If you are feeling less than peaceful, then it may be time to refocus your energy. Here are five tips to help you do that this holiday.

1. Don't believe everything you think

The holidays can absolutely bring on added stress and pressure which can lead to anxious and negative thoughts. There is a misconception that just because we have a thought, we need to believe it to be true. We get caught up in the belief that these automatic thoughts are truths and can feel unhappy and stressed which then affects our actions. Become aware of you thoughts throughout your day and identify which ones contribute to your happiness and success and which ones don’t. Just because something is in your head, does not make it real or valid. A great way to begin noticing your thoughts is through mindfulness practice. Take a few minutes to focus on your breath.  Observe your thoughts as they come and go. Don’t connect, judge or get caught up in any thought, just observe. Practice this a little bit each day to help create space between thoughts and emotions allowing you to stop believing everything you think.

2. Take breaks from social media

It is so easy to compare ourselves with everyone else because we know so much more about each other through social media. We can learn who has finished shopping, who's family took the perfect picture or who has the most sparkly and full Christmas Tree. That knowledge becomes the measuring stick we use to guide the way we think things are "supposed" to be. It is easy to forget what we see on social media is not an accurate reflection of anyone's life. Set your own realistic expectations for yourself and your holiday and remember that there is a lot more you don't see behind other people’s "perfect" social media posts. 

3. Forget Perfect

Nostalgia and romanticized expectations for ourselves and our families during the holidays can be tough to live up to. Reality can fall short of perfection and add to stress and conflict. Take a look at your expectations and how they can set you up for disappointment or frustration when things don't go as planned. Embrace things as they are and focus your attention and energy on good and the positive of the holiday season and less so on what fell short. 

4. Practice Gratitude

What we put our energy on becomes what we see. If we spend a lot of time thinking about the negative things in life, we will begin to notice more of what goes wrong. If we spend time thinking of what we are grateful for, we begin to open up our experiences to seeing more of the good each day. Here's an easy gratitude practice you can do in a few minutes a day called Fill Your BAG Happy.

5. Practice Kindness

Take time to do something nice for someone else this holiday season. It does not need to be huge or expensive to be helpful. Simple gestures throughout your day can go a long way toward making someone else (and yourself) feel good. Give a compliment, hold open a door, buy coffee or just smile and say hello. If you can, get involved in local activities such as toy drives or other events.  Kindness also includes yourself. Don't let the busyness of the holiday lead you to neglect your physical and emotional needs. Take some time to be kind to yourself!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

After the election, what's next?

I went to bed last night early. I was tired, cranky and not mentally prepared for the stress of watching the poll numbers come in.  I woke up at 5:30am and grabbed my phone to see what happened last night. Out of habit I opened facebook first.

The first post I saw was a long and heartfelt rant by a friend to Trump voters that started with the words, “You have just elected a man who has no qualifications to be president.” From there he says many things about Trumps KKK endorsement, bullying tactics and rude, cruel and offensive comments. Although I agree with what was written, agreeing with him will not change the outcome of this election.

Then a friend I have a tremendous amount of respect for asked the question why? He recognized in his post that America is angry and distrustful of the “mainstream political machine” but he writes that he is baffled by the decision to choose Trump because of his history of misogyny, malicious insults and lack of experience.

So to answer my friend’s question of why, I thought about the family and friends in my life who support and voted for Trump and really tried to see this election from their point of view.

I can appreciate the anger and fear. I can appreciate good people who have felt betrayed and lied to by our government. They don’t trust politicians, they want change and believe that an outsider is the change we need.  They see him as a business-man and the crude and hateful speech is only  “real talk”. They want someone who puts it all on the table and says the things that they believe others are thinking but don’t say. We all have negative and dark thoughts. Trump, just lacks the ability to sensor himself or "play the game."  His lack of tact makes him honest which is a viewed as a refreshing change from the very careful and deliberate, possibly not genuine, words we hear from leaders today.

While I may not agree with the decision our country has made, it is time to stop complaining and arguing and time to move forward.  

My nine year old woke up and said “oh crap” when we told him Trump won the election.  He said that at school kids chant things like “build a wall” and “make America great again.” I told him that it is really important now more than ever to be kind and understand that you can be friends with someone that thinks differently than you do. For example, you love soccer and some of your friends don’t. They are still your friends. I then asked him to join me for my morning meditation practice. He sat with me for 7 minutes listening to Guru Mantra by Marcie Anderson through the app: Insight Timer. He left for school with a smile on his face ready to get back to what’s important to a little boy in the fourth grade; playing with his friends, grabbing some of his halloween candy and flipping water bottles. 

I want to believe that Trump realizes he needs to surround himself with people who can help him be the president he described in his 3am speech. Despite his campaign being about division, he stated
 “Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division. It is time for us to come together as one united people. It is time.”

I want to believe that can happen.  So what’s next?

It is time to practice forgiveness, compassion and kindness. Those of us who did not want to elect a president who is full of anger, prejudice and hate need to live the values we want to see in this country. Continuing to rant, complain and spew hateful rhetoric toward Trump only makes us part of the problem we need to work on solving. We need to move on. We need to support each other. We need to practice empathy and understanding. We need to come together for the common good of this country.

It is known that what we practice becomes what we are good at. By complaining and vilifying others we create patterns in our mind that keep us stuck in the role of victim and make it much tougher to stop the negative cycle leading to depression and anxiety.

It is time to be show empathy and be kind again. It starts with us. Be what you want to see. Practice mindfulness, compassion and kindness. Be the good you want to see and life goes on...