How to Eliminate Your Problems

I had a problem. It was big, huge, major. I was very grumpy about it. Fortunately, I was aware enough to notice so I was able to take a minute to ask myself why. I had been working on making a new style of bracelet and it wasn’t coming out as I wanted. I just couldn’t get the hang of how to create this piece of jewelry. Wow, that’s it? That’s my problem? I realized that I had lost perspective and turned something that wasn’t that big of a deal into something seemingly critical.

With the relief of this realization, it wasn’t much later when it dawned on me that if I dropped my need to learn how to make the bracelet, then my problem would no longer exist. Amazing—I had the power to eliminate this “problem” just by changing my mind about what I thought I needed.

Some problems are bigger than this, of course. But most seem bigger than they are because we make mountains out of molehills.

But, what about situations when we can’t simply alter our needs to make the problem vanish? For instance, what about when a flight gets delayed or changed and it messes up vacation plans at the last minute? Or your partner in a relationship breaks up with you? Or a loved one gets a scary health diagnosis?

If I change my expectation, then the problem is gone. Like with the flight, if I’m ok with arriving later in the day, then there is no problem with it being delayed. Or if I’m ok with being on my own, then there’s no problem with a break-up.

But, that last example is the one that truly opened my eyes to acceptance of what is. When you really can’t change things; when you may get an outcome you really do not want, the only options are to be hopelessly sad, angry at the world or to accept what is. The good ol’ Serenity Prayer – Accept the things I cannot change.

I don’t know exactly how to be okay with receiving something I don’t want (or not getting a thing I do want). But I do know that when I tell myself I don’t need the outcome to be exactly as I pictured it, then a feeling of relief washes over me. I stop working so hard to control the situation to make it as I want it to be. Because really what controlling it is about is believing that I’m not capable of handling what may come. In other words, fear of the future. In other other words, not living in the moment.

I tell myself that I can handle whatever happens, that I trust the Universe (who knows far better and more than me!) to deliver the best outcome to all concerned, and I remind myself I am ok in the now (I may have to repeatedly tell myself these statements). Then I can take a deep breath and transcend the profoundly distressing feeling of disliking and fearing life on Earth.

Now, to be clear, acceptance doesn’t mean I enjoy the outcome; it doesn’t mean I changed my desires and now want what I didn’t want. Accepting what is frees me up from the struggle of “efforting” to make things happen my way. It makes me not have to be upset. It enables me to feel better in the moment. And, really, that’s the whole goal—to feel good in the moment and that moment and that moment and that one and so on. And then you see that every moment put together adds up to your life.

What things in your life that you don’t want and can’t change, can you accept “as is”? Do you feel the relief of not struggling to control the outcome? What insights does acceptance bring to the surface for you?

Postscript 1: After I no longer needed to learn how to make the new type of bracelet, I tried it again days later just for the heck of it, you know, for fun. Interestingly, I was able to easily make it and it came out beautifully.

sliderbracelet

Postscript 2: I accepted my loved one’s (Don, of course!) serious health scare and he is doing well physically.

DonMeElla

Interesting how acceptance works. 😊

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Vacation Bonus: Hearing Your True Self

When Don—my husband—and I got home from the Grand Canyon, I began writing my book, Trail to My True Self. We had a day or two to just veg before going back to our regular job lives. I remember sitting on the blue couch in our dining room-turned-den with a spiral bound notebook busily jotting down the insights I had on that first hike down into the Grand Canyon.

But something was different. I wasn’t just journaling, as I did on a pretty regular basis. I was writing a story. I hadn’t planned to write a story. It just sort of flowed out of me onto the paper. I was taken aback because I didn’t write stories…ever. I was a practical writer. Writing was my tool to help me solve my problems or a method to vent frustrations. I didn’t even like writing. In college, I had a semsester of required Creative Writing 101. Ugh, I hated every minute of it. So what was up with this story that was flowing out of me? Even though I had just lived what was coming out onto the page, I found myself curious and eager to read what would happen next, as if I was the reader rather than the writer. When I read it afterwards I thought, Wow, that sounds really neat, like part of a book. And so, the beginning—or what I thought at the time was the beginning, but turned out to be Chapter Two—of my book was in ink.

I’ve never written again quite in that fashion, wondering what words would come out next. I didn’t know on that day I would be starting a book that I would publish almost ten years later. I just sat on the blue couch in a relaxed, post-vacation mode and wrote what I had learned about myself on vacation.

You never know what could come from vacation or relaxation time. Really, the point is to make it a priority to care for and listen to yourself. To have some down time—even a few minutes with no errands, schedules, or must-do’s—when you can hear the cool story your true self is communicating to you. It may not be a book, but no doubt it’s some very valuable information.

If interested, you can read my story from the Grand Canyon here.  🙂

Trail to My True Self…Published!

I did it! Trail to My True Self: My Journey to Self-Love and Happiness is now available on Amazon.

WordPress has a neat feature that allows blog creators to see what countries have viewed their posts. In doing research for my book, I saw that about 87 countries have viewed my blog. Wow! Obviously, I was glad and amazed. But it also showed me that I was connecting to people. And that people all over the world are interested in finding ways to be more joyful.

So, if you feel so inclined, I invite you to take a look at my book, Trail to My True Self. My hope is that it inspires you to bring more joy into your life.

Click here to get the book on Amazon. Thanks. Happy reading!

 

 

My Book: Trail to My True Self

It has been quite a while since I published a new blog post. It’s not because I have just been “sitting around”. Ha! For many months, I wasn’t quite sure how to follow the two previous posts about the traumatic period for my husband and me. So, I didn’t post anything.

But, I did write.

For several years, I had been working on a self-help type of book. Loving the process; then hating it. Picking up where I left off; and then abandoning it. A back and forth pattern that drove me crazy. But recently, things lined up to bring me the help, motivation, and inspiration I needed to get the book completed!

Since Don’s heart surgery, I’ve gotten a new perspective on life. It made me see past experiences in a new light and understand them on a different level.

So, I changed the genre of my book from self-help to memoir. That means my nitty-gritty personal stuff is in there! I recount the whole story of how a cute guy helped me to discover my self-worth issue while hiking in the Grand Canyon. The realization that my dad’s early death contributed to the denial of my true self. And how not valuing and loving myself played out in everyday life—fearing my first kiss as a teenager; being an imposter with my husband; and suffering at work, to name a few.

My hope is that this book leads you to strengthen the value and love you always deserved from your true self.

Check back soon for the upcoming release of Trail to My True Self: My Journey to Self-Love and Happiness!

 

Politics and Joy

This is an oxymoron for me, as I have never enjoyed politics at all.  But, with such an intense and enduring election in USA, with a shocking result, it seems necessary to be able to find some joy somehow.  So, I dug deep.  I realized that most people’s default setting is that someone or something -like government- will help them.  Or we need someone or something to blame when things aren’t going how we like.  Or sometimes we use people or situations to distract us from our own issues.  All convenient but not accurate, nor helpful. (Disclaimer: Yes, of course, government programs and actions do help and serve many people.  But we cannot become dependent on anything or anyone outside of ourselves to live our lives for us.)

The truth is that we are the creators of our own lives.  That’s painful to acknowledge when things aren’t going how we’d like.  Yet, we hold the key to our thoughts and feelings.  And our thoughts and feelings create our realities. So, how was I expecting the government to help me, how was I blaming the government for what I didn’t like about my own reality, or how was I using this situation to distract me from my own issues?   In other words, how was I not taking ownership of my own life?

The morning after the election, my knee was hurting badly for no apparent physical reason.  Checking in my Louise Hay, You Can Heal Your Life book, I am reminded that knee problems have to do with pride, stubbornness, inflexibility and not giving in.  Ooooh, I had been stubborn, to say the least, about seeing how the president-elect could be beneficial.  I was being inflexible about how I believed he was selfish, disingenuous, and uncaring (among other less nice characteristics).  I certainly know that agonizing over bad aspects of anyone or anything is never, ever a good thing.  (I had to re-read this post.)  This case is no exception.

Because of this knowledge and the hope that I would find relief for my aching knee, I opened up to try to find one thing about him that wasn’t awful.  I found it!  He doesn’t care what people think of him.  Which is a trait I exceedingly cherish and try to have.  I mean, that’s my life’s work – to be me regardless of other people’s opinions.  (Disclaimer #2: This does not mean that I want to do the same actions as him.  We have different values and want different things.  I’m just talking about the not living life based on needing the good opinion of other people part.)  From there, I found a couple other aspects that weren’t terrible.

I felt some relief now and realized how much energy goes into hating.  With the respite, another level of information came to me:  This has to be something to do with me directly.  I don’t even know him and I’m not into politics, so why is this bothering me to this extent?  I realize it’s not even what he says, but his general mannerisms that irritate me so much.

Then it hits me like a ton of bricks. He reminds me of someone I know.  Someone I had issues with.  Not just annoyance but deep issues from childhood.  I thought I had already dealt with these issues.  But now I see that even though I had become aware of them and forgave the person, I never opened the gift.

The gift is all the wonderful lessons we learn, how we evolved because of it, and noticing the good that came or could come from it.

As is customary after receiving a gift, we thank the giver.  Closure cannot come without acknowledging and thanking the person.  Without opening and giving gratitude for the gift, the issue just sort of lingers and lurks about waiting for our acceptance.  So, I thoroughly went over this issue from childhood and found the good in it and felt genuine gratitude to the persons involved.

The point of this post isn’t that everyone has a personal issue related to a political representative.  But the idea is that we have the power in our own lives.  It’s our choice how we feel, react, and respond to whatever is going on around us, whether it be in our own house, the country, or the world.  Are we going to love or hate?   Are we going to live in courage or fear?  It’s a personal choice of which we have full power.

Second point, it’s always beneficial to not dwell in fear and negativity.  When we look for the positive and good in all situations, absolutely including politicians we don’t agree with, when we stop playing the I’m- better-than and the blame game, then we give ourselves a chance to feel relief, love, and joy.  And from here, we get all kinds of things we want.  Maybe even a politician hearing us.

We can’t be full of hate and negativity and expect to see a loving, positive world.  Through each of our own individual attitudes of love and peace, the world will reflect that.

30 Days of Gratitude (or…At Least A Few Days of Gratitude)

The last two posts were about a day without a negative aspect (complaining and judging) These were very enlightening experiments.  But now it’s time to focus more deeply on the positive side.  Previous posts have included the value of gratitude and appreciation, but lately I’ve become more aware of their incredible power.  And, more importantly, I’ve become more aware that I haven’t been doing them regularly!  Yea sure, I’ve been grateful for lots of stuff and I appreciate tons of things.  But honestly, it’s been kind of a hit or miss activity.  I do it when the mood strikes me or when I’m in pre-crisis mode and need it as an emotional emergency pick-me-up!

Noticing that I (still!) tend to focus a little on the what-is-lacking-in-my-life side, I decided to really get on the gratitude-appreciation bandwagon and see what happens.  There is a definite power in writing things down, like helping with focus and motivation.  And it also comes in handy for accountable reasons.  In other words, the ego can’t trick us by saying we already were thankful today, when we really weren’t (After looking on dated list: ‘Oh yea, that was yesterday…’).  So, I’ve got a piece of paper (a journal just sounds too formal and off-putting for now) and I’m writing down about 5 to 10 things every day that I am grateful for.  That’s it.  My aim is to do this for 30 days, but again, that sounds too formal.  I’m going to try it out for a few days (thus, the alternate title) and see how it goes.

Benefits of Gratitude and Appreciation

During the experiment I did some research about its possible benefits.  Studies have actually been done that show the beneficial effects of gratitude and appreciation.  People who consistently practice gratitude report feeling better physically, are less depressed, sleep better, are more understanding of others’ wrongdoings, have more self-worth, mental focus, and resilience.  Gratitude also helps us to stay in the present.  In other words, we spend less time worrying about future events.  When we are more focused on finding the good, we naturally spend less time in the negativity mindset.

Additionally, there is the law of attraction angle on gratitude and appreciate – what we focus on, we get more of.  To get more good stuff, appreciate what we already have.  Simple enough.

The Experiment

Back to the experiment!  After a couple of days, one of my first thoughts upon waking was that I couldn’t wait to write on my gratitude list.  That’s especially significant because, some mornings, I wake up dreading my day.  Having an initial feeling of excitement and joy is a major turn-around!

Shortly thereafter, I didn’t want to wait till the next day to write on it.  So, I wrote on it twice a day, then three times a day.  But under no pressure, only if I felt the urge.  I only “had” to write on it once a day.

Some neat things started to happen.  Nothing noticeable to an outsider, but small things that mattered a lot to me, like, less time with an irritating co-worker, getting well-priced deals, finding $1 and $10 on the ground, a small pay raise, life-changing insights, meaningful dreams, an overall more joyful feeling.

Another neat thing was that I had a dream about something to be grateful for that I hadn’t thought of in waking life.  This showed my waking self that the feeling and energy of gratitude was now in my subconscious, as well.  So even when I’m not actively thinking about gratitude, I’m thinking about gratitude.  This must be a good indicator!

Then, after several days of writing down heaps of material possessions, as well as, relationships and nature-type things –and even though it was certainly nowhere near all-encompassing– a shift in subject matter began to happen.  I shifted from obvious things for which to be grateful, to the people that had a part in assembling those things I was grateful for!  The factory workers that made my appliances, my car, my clothes, my electronic devices…pretty much every material thing I owned, somebody had a part in creating it.  Without their contribution, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy so many of my belongings.

Then there’s the people that came up with the ideas to invent something new or improved and those that started a business.  And gratitude for their courage to follow through with the ideas.  Then it extended to people that were providing a service, like the cleaning guy at work, trash collectors that come to my house every week, the postal carrier that nicely places oversized packages on my porch (extra appreciation since Amazon Prime!).  And then to authors, which I love and have been so inspired by, that had the strength and took the time to write, organize, and complete their books.  And then and then and then…so many people working for me, helping me.  Most of whom I do not even know.

I was recognizing that the Universe was supporting me, not hurting me or trying to make my life miserable.  This is a major shift in perception.

Amidst the gratitude, the ego chimed in and said, ‘That’s their jobs.  They aren’t doing it out of the kindness of their hearts.  They’re getting paid for it’.  Kaboom – my bubble burst.  But I quickly realized, their motives not need affect my gratitude.  And then got back to the experiment.

I started recognizing good things about myself, my appearance, things I was good at, and my strengths.  Then I noticed things I did not necessarily like about myself but was grateful for anyhow.  For instance, I was grateful for my fear of sending a professional email to a stranger regarding an article submission (that I so badly wanted to work out).  I was grateful for my fear because it provided me with an opportunity to feel worthy and courageous by facing a fear.

With this in mind, I then intentionally thought of situations that weren’t so great and then appreciated them, as well.  (I have done this practice before but, again, in a haphazard fashion.)  For instance, I was grateful for a “bad” event because it was an opportunity for personal growth and to learn from mistakes and flaws.  I was even grateful that someone had wronged me because it helped me get better at honoring myself.  Could being grateful be helpful in increasing self-worth?  I don’t fully understand the why of this, but the answer seems to be, yes!

I then had a glimpse of knowing that current things that weren’t so great would be okay eventually.  So I was able to have gratitude for “bad” times before they got better.  This led to gratitude for things that I currently desired but did not yet have.  I was appreciating them ahead of time.  That’s some trust and faith right there!

And after that, I experienced nirvana!  (Yes, let’s be overly dramatic about this!)  It was just a fleeting moment, but for that jiffy, I truly did not care about my desires.  I honestly was happy, satisfied, and content in the moment right then and there as things currently were.  No guilt about my past, no worry about the future, not wanting anything different than how it was in that exact instant.

And then my heavenly state was gone.  But, I could tell what was happening over the course of this experiment – my gratitude was becoming unconditional.  In that, there is total freedom because I don’t need conditions to be a certain way to be grateful for them or…to be happy.  What I have figured out from this gratitude experiment is that gratitude helps us to focus our thoughts, our attention, our lives on finding the good – unconditionally, no matter what.  As the Dalai Lama says in The Art of Happiness, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions”.  The power is within ourselves whether to be grateful and happy, or not.  This experiment surely is proof of that.

Disclaimer!!  I don’t want to give a false impression that I am now impeccably blissful and every time a challenge comes up I am grateful for it from the get-go.  I still have my daily issues and concerns.  But, there has been an undeniable shift.  Something is certainly different than before I did the gratitude experiment.  And that’s why I’m going to extend the experiment.  If a mere 30 days had this effect, then what will continuing on do?  I intend to find out!

Don’t take my word for all of this.  Start your own Gratitude List Experiment today and see what happens for you.  No need to feel overwhelmed or intimidated by needing to list the unconditional things.  Just start out with a few material objects you appreciate having in your life.  Your list will expand naturally on its own.  Happy Gratituding!

Changing Old, Cranky Habits

When we start focusing on feeling more joyful, we soon become aware of some of our habits that are getting in the way of our joy.  These habits can be actual behaviors or merely thought patterns.  But trying to change an unwanted habit can be a daunting task.  It used to make me very grumpy, to say the least, to try to stop doing that old habit!  And that’s even when we are intentionally attempting to break the habit.  But sometimes, we don’t even realize we are doing the old habit.  It’s almost as if our brains are on autopilot.  Lo and behold, that actually is the case!

In fact, scientific research has discovered neural pathways in our brains.  These are like highways in which messages travel.  A simple example of a pathway forming is if we feel stressed (or worried, threatened, anxious, etc.) and then drink alcohol or go shopping or rant to a friend or binge eat or do whatever that makes us feel better, then cells become wired together that tell the brain the next time we feel this stress, take this same road to feel better.  The more the messages travel on the highway, the better formed the highway becomes.  Hence, pathways -habits- become difficult to alter and responses become automated.

But, fortunately, with our conscious awareness, these roads can be changed.  Neuroplasticity is a fancy term meaning the brain can form new pathways throughout our lives.  Research has shown that new neural pathways are formed through new behaviors, and even by imagining behaviors.  What matters is the repetition of the behavior, actual or imagined.  We all have experienced that the more often we do something, the easier it gets. This is the highway becoming better formed.

Think of it as a trail through the woods.  The first time through, it needs careful, slow footing and an axe to get through the heavy bush.  But once the trail is blazed then it becomes a path to easily walk on.  But what happens to the old pathways that are no longer traveled?  Just like the trail in the forest would become overgrown if not walked upon, the pathway will naturally fade out if not used.  But, how to not use these well-treaded paths?!

False Brain Messages

In the book, You Are Not Your Brain by Schwartz and Gladding, they suggest that we train our brains to perceive habits – good or bad ones – as vital to our survival.  Deceptive brain messages, as they call them, convince us we must do this certain behavior to stay alive.  Essentially, the brain’s job is to ensure our physical survival.  When we feel a negative emotion, the brain sees it as an alarm it must take care of immediately.  So, whatever seems beneficial and makes us feel better in the very short term is the route the brain will take.  The brain, on its own, will not bypass immediate relief by considering long term goals and desires.  The brain isn’t concerned with our future well-being, it just cares about preventing our imminent death.  Our brains are not actually smart; it’s our minds that have all the wisdom.

Clearly seeing the brain’s function for what it is, it becomes easier to break free of old habits.  When we notice we are engaging in an old habit, ask ourselves, what benefit does my brain think I am getting from this habit?  Then use our mind to tell ourselves this is a deceptive brain message and that the brain thinks this habit will help us to survive.  This is where it is essential to remind ourselves that the false brain message is not true and then to go over why it isn’t true.  (Hint: it probably has to do with feeling unworthy.) Schwartz and Gladding say to then refocus by doing a different behavior or think a different thought.

An Example of Breaking a Habit

One of my negative habits is to check and re-check my work at my “day job”.  And after I check it twice, to then check it again…and maybe again!  The deceptive brain message from which this habit stems is about not being capable of doing my work correctly (which originated in childhood, but we don’t need to get into all that now).  This message – even though not true – triggers the uncomfortable sensations of anxiety and worry.  To immediately alleviate those sensations, I have trained myself (unconsciously) to check, ad nauseam, to make sure my work is correct.  This gives me immediate relief from worry and anxiety, which is all the brain is concerned with – get those bad feelings to go away ASAP!  Benefit achieved.  But the problem with that is that the false brain message just keeps coming back and, what’s more, it gets worse (the trail get more and more blazed as it is used).

This is where the conscious mind must come in and say something along the lines of, ‘Whoa!  This is not helping me in the long run.  Yea, checking my work makes me feel better in that moment and may even prevent a panic attack, but I now know that I will feel more anxiety about this later.  I now know this message of incapability is false.  I learned it in childhood and have perpetuated it into my adult life.  I know this message is not true now because I have successfully been doing these work tasks for years.’  And so on, until I have convinced myself the brain message is not true.

Next step is to refocus on a completely different activity or thought. I keep a few refocus activities stashed in my mental pocket, so they are available to me without having to struggle to come up with something when I am deep in false brain message mode. Some of mine are going for a walk, learning Italian words, looking at nature, appreciating a beautiful object, Googling a place I’d like to travel, crafting.  The refocusing activities should be positive things or, at least, not detrimental.  We don’t want to replace a bad habit with a new, but still not helpful one.

What old, negative habit do you want to let go of?  What false brain message is associated with it?  Why is the message not true?

Research shows that it takes a few weeks of persistence, practice, and focused repetition to make a new neural pathway.  Remember you are not just breaking a bad habit, but squashing false brain messages.  So give it a try and hang in there!