Pssst – I want to let you in on a secret . . . I’m terrified!
As I was sitting down to write this article, I thought of a few topics: ‘Gratitude for Thanksgiving’ and ‘Joy for Christmas’ and ‘Happiness for the Holidays’ – but what I was honestly thinking is “What the hell do you have to say that is special Patti? It’s all been said before and you are not adding anything special to this world!” I froze after I sat down and decided I’d just look at Facebook on my phone instead of write . . . which of course made me feel worse – because on FB most people look like they have everything is under control . . .
I started wondering where these insecurities came from. My first thought was my mother, a painfully depressed alcoholic. But to be fair, she loved me and encouraged me when I was young. Then I thought about my dad, a ping pong ball of rage and Peter Pan never grow up energy; but actually much of the time, he encouraged me to be audacious and live big.
Yes, both my parents added to this negative messaging that I still carry, but it is absolutely added to and encouraged by our culture. We are so scared of getting cut down if we stand out, or trolled if we are seen saying much of anything online. Perhaps, as Marianne Williamson so eloquently puts it, my deepest fear is my own power.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
* Please note, that that feels rather cringe-worthy to say that I am afraid of my own power. My head is making serious fun of me at the moment . . . But I persist . . .
I have pursued a career of being vulnerable in front of others. I write blog posts and articles that people can read and comment on; I’ve written a book that is subject to people reviewing and saying mean things about; I put myself out there vulnerably. And it just so happens that a new study suggests that we judge ourselves more harshly than others do when we put ourselves out there, so maybe there is validity in my fear.
Professor and author Brené Brown has studied and written about vulnerability in depth:
“We love seeing raw truth and openness in other people, but we are afraid to let them see it in us,” she writes. “Vulnerability is courage in you and inadequacy in me.”
“Participants in a study imagined either themselves or someone else in different vulnerable situations: confessing romantic feelings for a best friend, admitting a costly mistake at work, asking for help from a former boss, or baring their imperfect bodies at a swimming pool. Then, they rated how vulnerable the situation was, and how they evaluated that vulnerability—as an act of strength or weakness, something desirable or something to be avoided.”
They describe as Vulnerability being a “beautiful mess.” Indeed vulnerability comes with some risks, we may be laughed at, made fun of and trolled; but there are rewards as well: We may inspire someone and touch someone’s heart, and ultimately find a beautiful sense of belonging. The research suggests that we may be overestimating the risks and underestimating the benefits.
“Showing vulnerability might sometimes feel more like weakness from the inside…[but] to others, these acts might look more like courage from the outside,” the researchers write. “It might, indeed, be beneficial to try to overcome one’s fears and to choose to see the beauty in the mess of vulnerable situations.”
2. You may make peace with troubling memories from your past. Being vulnerable may help you get rid of some pent-up baggage that bothers you. While it isn’t easy to deal with painful memories, it is better to confront your past than it is to hide from it.
3. You may attract the right kind of people into your life. Being vulnerable may help you understand what types of people you can most relate to and which ones to avoid.
4. You may find it easier to empathize with the struggles of others. Being vulnerable can help you develop empathy for others.
5. You might earn the trust of people at work. Being vulnerable might help you grow closer to the people in your workplace.
6. You may strengthen your bond with your romantic partner. Being vulnerable will probably help you bond with the person you love most.
7. You will humanize yourself in the eyes of others. Being vulnerable will help you demonstrate that you are an approachable person. While it isn’t easy to find the courage to reveal our true nature, there is no better way be seen as human and open.
So as I sit down to write this article and hope that no one rolls their eyes at me and tells me that the world would be a better place if I would just shut up, I remind myself of Brené Brown’s words:
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”
To close, I want to share a great video of Brené Brown – The Power of Vulnerability. It’s well worth the watch if you haven’t seen it yet. And worth a re-watch if you’ve already seen it.
I’d love to hear about how you embrace vulnerability in your life.
And as always, thank you for stopping by, I appreciate it.
Are you a New Year’s Resolution kind of person? Do you set new goals and resolutions at the beginning of each year. I explored this concept in my latest Thrive Global article.
I usually tend to be a goal-setter in the beginning of each year, sitting down quite purposely to set my goals as the new year unfolds. This year however, I decided to try something different and focus on intentions rather than goals.
Admittedly, goals are important, but I know personally that I can become much too goal-oriented and forget to be present in the moment. I have found that living intentionally is more peaceful and fulfilling than living in a goal-obsessed way.
Being more intentional helps me to focus on how I want to be in any given moment, no matter what else is going on around me. By focusing on my intentions, I am better able to stay centered; I don’t get as caught up in the roller coaster of whether I am getting things done and if I’m doing them ‘right’. It helps me to enjoy the journey and not get lost in getting to the destination.
David Emerald, author of TED — The Empowerment Dynamic, beautifully describes the differences between goals and intentions:
Goals are focused on the future. Intentions are in the present moment.
Goals are a destination or specific achievement. Intentions are lived each day, independent of reaching the goal or destination.
Goals are external achievements. Intentions are your inner-relationships with yourself and others.
1. If you only had 24 hours to live, what would you do and why?
2. How would the world be different without you?
3. What values do you stand for and what is worth fighting for?
4. What five words would you want written on your headstone?
5. What will you do this year that is worthy of future memory?
The timing was perfect. I got out my journal and wrote; focusing not on what I
wanted to achieve, but rather on what I feel most passionate about; about my values rather than what I wanted to accomplish. These questions helped me focus on ideas that excite my spirit.
“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” — Oprah Winfrey
So what will Living Intentionally look like for me?
1. Being quiet and focusing inward, checking in on how I feel rather than what I need to do.
What do I need, how do I feel? Focus in, don’t just react to what I should be doing, or what others expect me to do.
2. Trying to understand why
Look at what I’m doing and ask myself why I’m doing it. Ask myself what my intention is for each activity. Am I doing things out of obligation or love? When I understand my intention, it will help me do things with more joy and hopefully less fear.
3. Trying to live in flow rather than reaction
Finding flow is not always easy, it takes space and is usually intuitive. My intuition always guides me better than trying to reason my way, or worse, react my way through life. When I am in flow, life feels spacious and creative.
4. Moving away from micro-managing my life
When I’m feeling stressed and fearful, I tend to micro-manage my life (and often other people’s lives as well!) When I’m in flow and not trying to control, I can relax and not spend my time trying to figure out every detail. When I can move into a place of flow, I am so much more creative and open, and life just seems to go better.
So as 2018 unfolds, I invite you to take time to think about your intentions. Perhaps grab your journal and write about Rabbi Cohen’s five questions. Give yourself the space to listen to the call of your spirit.
“Respond to every call that excites your spirit.”
The holidays are upon us. Tis the season to be jolly and all that. But for many people, this is the season of stress and depression. People tend to push themselves beyond their limits. Overspending is rampant; people overindulge in food and drink; there is increased stress due to travel and obligatory family get togethers. And often, our sleep suffers and we have less time to recharge our batteries. And then to top it all off, most of us beat ourselves up because we haven’t done enough or haven’t done it right. “Are the presents just right?” “Did I make enough pies?” “Did I make a fool of myself at that party?”
This holiday season, I am committing to a whole new approach. In order to be fully present for my loved ones, I need to take care of me. My plan centers around Mindful Self-Compassion; with an added focus of paying attention to what my body needs. I describe this plan in my latest article in Thrive Global.
Thrive Global, by the way, turned One Year Old this month! Congratulations to the founder Arianna Huffington! I have been a contributor since the inaugural edition. If you missed my first article in Thrive Global in December 2016 on Forgiveness, you can read it here.
But back to practicing Mindful Self-Compassion. If you want to learn about this wonderful topic, look no further than Dr. Kristin Neff. Kristin Neff Phd is one of the world’s leading experts on self-compassion. She explains that with self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend. This quote by Neff sums it up pretty well:
“You don’t want to beat yourself up for beating yourself up in the vain hope that it will somehow make you stop beating yourself up. Just as hate can’t conquer hate — but only strengthens and reinforces it — self-judgment can’t stop self-judgment.”
This holiday season, by treating myself like I’d treat a loved one, I’m hoping to increase my emotional well-being and resilience. Here’s my plan:
Take time for myself
During the holidays, we are so quick to give our time and energy that we can end up feeling completely depleted. This holiday season, I plan to take the time each day to check in with myself: “How am I feeling?” “Have I done something good for me today?” This will require setting boundaries with others as well as myself. I don’t have to do everything for everyone these holidays. I commit to taking time to just be; to go on walks and to read. I don’t have to bake the cookies and host the community carolling party. I can choose to stay home and read with a cup of tea instead of joining one more holiday party. Self-care and self-compassion bring me peace and joy, which in turn will allow me to bring peace and joy to those around me.
2. Slow down and meditate
Part of my plan to take care of myself will include making sure I have plenty of time for me, and just plenty of time period. The holiday season tends to be a time of rushing around, hurrying from one event to the next. This year I plan to focus on many mini moments of mindfulness as Andy Puddicombe refers to it in his program, Headspace. And I’ll make sure I make time in my busy schedule to meditate. I know that those 15–20 minutes in the morning make all the difference to the other 23 + hours in the day.
I know from experience that when I’m in a place of gratitude everything in my life just works and feels better. Neuroscience has proven that actively practicing gratitude protects your brain from stress and depression. Recent research shows that even just thinking about what I am grateful for increases dopamine and serotonin. But, I’m not just going to think about what I’m grateful for, I commit to writing down three positive things that I’m thankful for every morning in my journal. I have learned that this simple activity trains my brain to be more positive by looking for the good in life rather than the bad. And I plan to share my appreciation too, to articulate my gratitude to others. These simple statements of gratitude to others for who they are and what they are doing are like small gifts, often appreciated more than that box of chocolates.
4. Eat well and not overindulge
We all know it’s common to put on weight during the holiday season, and then to beat oneself up mercilessly for the next few months. I know when I eat healthier, I feel better. I don’t plan to deprive myself of holiday treats, but I will eat in moderation. And when I do put on those extra holiday pounds, I will be kind to myself in the new year, just like I would a good friend. Instead of berating myself and calling myself fat, I will suggest that perhaps a long walk would be a great idea.
5. Stay Active
And speaking of long walks, I know that exercise is essential to my well being. I will make time this holiday season to go on long walks and do plenty of yoga. I know that physical activity reduces stress, improves my mood and prevents depression. I know this from experience, but the research shows it as well; exercise triggers the same hormones (dopamine and serotonin) in my brain that are targeted by anti-depressant medication. So I know that exercise won’t just help me with those few extra pounds this holiday season, but it will greatly help my mood as well. But you know what, if I miss a couple of days of exercise, I won’t beat myself up about it either!
Finally, this holiday season I commit to protecting my sleep. There are few things that mess up my health and well-being like poor sleep. I know that not sleeping well leads to stress, irritability and just feeling like crap. A lot of us lose sleep around the holidays, whether it’s from staying out late, overindulging in food, drink and sugar, or over-caffeinating. But I know that the best way for me to be cheerful this holiday season is to get enough sleep.
So this holiday season, I invite you to follow my plan and make a commitment to yourself. Take care of yourself over the holidays and practice some self-compassion. Let’s all remember Soren Kierkegaard’s wise words:
“Don’t forget to love yourself.”
If you want to learn more about how to practice Mindful Self-Compassion, you can find many videos by Kristin Neff on YouTube.
“We choose our favourite author as we do our friend, from a conformity of humour and disposition. Mirth or passion, sentiment or reflection; whichever of these most predominates in our temper, it gives us a peculiar sympathy with the writer who resembles us.” ― David Hume
The renowned Scottish philosopher, David Hume, tells us that we choose our favourite author as we do our friend, from a conformity of humour and disposition. Well that certainly fits for me. My favourite authors will be of no surprise to anyone who has read my blog posts for awhile. I consider both Anne Lamott and Julia Cameron to be, not only my favourite authors, but also mentors for me, in both writing and in life itself.
So you can imagine my absolute honour and tearful gratitude when I went to my amazon page and found this . . .
Amazon telling me that people who bought Julia Cameron’s and Anne Lamott’s books are also buying This Way Up! This is the highest flattery I could ever receive. I am humbled and grateful beyond measure. It absolutely makes my heart sing!
So for those of you out there looking for the perfect gift this holiday season for a woman in your life that loves Annie Lamott and/or Julia Cameron, look no further!
I’ll close this post with a wonderful TED talk by Annie Lamott, 12 Truths I Learned from Life and Writing.
I’d love to hear about your heroes and mentors.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.
In the Muppets’ Christmas Carol Movie, Kermit sings: “Tis the season to be jolly and joyous” . . . But what if you’re not feeling overly joyous? As we enter the holiday season this year, many people are feeling less than joyful. The political scene is grim and there is a lot to feel anxious and unhappy about. And for many, the idea of spending more time with family during the holidays does not fill the heart with glee. How you feel is your choice, daily. But if you want to feel more joy, not only this holiday season, but in general, there is an answer.
Science tells us that happiness and joy are things we can cultivate. Thanks to the advent of fMRI machines (functional magnetic resonance imaging), we can now watch our brains in real time and see which areas of the brain light up when we’re angry, frustrated, or joyful, and we can also watch the brain change depending on what we focus on. The idea that our brain architecture can change has been termed “neuroplasticity.”
In a study done by The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Neural Correlates of Gratitude, it was found that gratitude can be a natural antidepressant. When we consciously focus on what we are grateful for, certain neural circuits are activated; when activated, an increase of dopamine and serotonin is produced, which is similar to how many antidepressants work.
Building new neural pathways may not come easily at first. A good analogy is bushwhacking through a jungle. Imagine trying to walk through a jungle in a dense rain forest. It requires a machete every step of the way to clear the path the first time through. After a few more times, you might lay down some stones to keep the path clear and eventually the path becomes a road and soon it becomes easily travelled. As you walk the path more and more, you continue to reinforce it and make it even stronger. Eventually, this new neural pathway becomes a habit.
To add to the strengthening of some pathways, our brain also has a way to ‘prune’ the pathways used less often. Scientists call this “use-dependent cortical reorganization,” meaning that we strengthen whichever neural pathways we use most often, and lose the ones we use the least. Hebb’s Lawstates “neurons that fire together, wire together.”
So how do we do this? How do we create these new neural pathways and start to rewire our brain towards happiness, compassion, and joy? Many studieshave shown that cultivating gratitude, or practicing Conscious Gratitude, is the most powerful way to start building new pathways.
Seth Godin, best selling author, recently stated in an interview: “I think that gratitude is a profound choice. It is not just something that some people do. There is a way to look at life as either “have to” or a “get to”. There are all these things in life we could do because we have to do them, or there are things in life we do because we get to do them.”
Godin goes on to explain that this has nothing to do with the truth of what is going on in the world around you. It has to do with our narrative about what is going on.
Living life knowing you “get to” do something is better than constantly feeling like you have to. Godin poses the question: “What is the opposite of gratitude?” And he believes the opposite of gratitude is entitlement. “People who believe they are entitled to something, walk around expecting that the world owes them something, whereas the people who are grateful for something are eager to share that gratitude with others, and that lines up exactly with “have to” and “get to.”
So if we agree that being grateful can lead to joy, then how can we start feeling more grateful?
“Look closely and you will find that people are happy because they are grateful. The opposite of gratefulness is just taking everything for granted. ” ― David Steindl-Rast,
“There is a very simple kind of methodology to it: stop, look, go. Most of us are caught up in schedules, and deadlines, and rushing around. And so the first thing is that we have to stop, because otherwise we are not really coming into this present moment at all. And we can’t even appreciate the opportunity that is given to us because we rush by. So stopping is the first thing … and finding something in that moment … I don’t speak of this moment as a ‘gift’, because you cannot be grateful for everything. You can’t be grateful for war, violence, domestic violence, or sickness, things like that. There are many things for which you cannot be grateful. But in every moment, you can be grateful. For instance, the opportunity to learn something from a very difficult experience. So opportunity is really the key when people ask, can you be grateful for everything? No, not for everything, but yes you can be grateful in every moment.”
Seth Godin believes that acting “as if” is underrated. “If you start acting as if you are grateful, you start feeling more grateful and you will become more grateful.”
Here are some things you can do right now to start practicing Conscious Gratitude:
1. Choose a time and focus on gratitude
Choose a specific time everyday where you will stop for a moment and focus on what you are grateful for in that particular moment.
I use 11:11. I have an alarm set on my phone to go off every day at 11:11. I stop whatever I’m doing (within reason- if I’m driving on a highway obviously I don’t stop) and I silently focus on what I am grateful for in that moment. Even if I’m stuck in traffic, I can be grateful for my car or a good sound system or enough money for gas to get me where I am going.
2. First thing in the morning, before your feet hit the floor, be grateful
Before you hop out of bed in the morning, take 30 seconds, (it really does not take more than that) to think about 3 things you are grateful for. This can be done silently in your head. Or better yet, if you have a partner that you share your bed with, ask each other to list those 3 things. It can be as simple as gratitude for a comfortable bed, a warm house, and a good nights sleep. It’s been shown that starting your day in gratitude positively impacts you for the rest of the day.
3. Start a Gratitude Journal
Choose a journal that you like the feel and the look of, and make sure that it is used solely for writing about things your are grateful for. How you write this is up to you; it can be as simple as list making. I like using colorful pens playing in my journal, but use what ever works for you. Make it a routine, try to write in it daily, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day.
4. Start new traditions in your family — like gratitude at meals
This may feel uncomfortable at first; but with time, the practice of going around the table and saying one thing you are grateful for that happened that day, can become a cherished family tradition. It’s a great conversation starter and a wonderful way to lift the energy at any meal time. Another tradition can be saying one thing you are grateful for before going off to sleep. If you have children, it is a wonderful way to end the day just before they go to sleep. Another tradition to reinforce gratitude in relationships is texting to a loved one in the middle of the day, one thing you appreciate about them. This works well with teens and couples with busy schedules.
So this holiday season, if you are hoping to embody Kermit’s words . . .
Tis the season to be jolly and joyous
With a burst of pleasure, we feel it arrive
Tis the season when the saints can employ us
To spread the news about peace and to keep love alive
. . . You can start by practicing gratitude consciously today. And if that doesn’t come naturally, start by ‘acting as if’ you are grateful. And pretty soon, what was once an act will become a habit.
I’ll close with a great interview with Brené Brown talking about Active Gratitude.
I’d love to hear how you practice conscious gratitude.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.
Thrive Global’s mission is to end the epidemic of stress and burnout by offering companies and individuals sustainable, science-based solutions to enhance both well-being and performance.
Recent science has shown that the pervasive belief that burnout is the price we must pay for success is a delusion. We know, instead, that when we prioritize our well-being, our decision-making, creativity and productivity improve dramatically.
Thrive Global’s three interconnected core components are: corporate trainings and workshops that bring the latest strategies and tools around health and well-being to organizations; a media platform that serves as the global hub for the conversation about well-being and performance with an emphasis on action; and, an e-commerce platform that offers a curated selection of the best technology and products for well-being. Together, the three components create an integrated platform that empowers people to make sustainable changes to their daily lives, going from knowing what to do to actually doing it.
Thrive Global is committed to accelerating the culture shift that allows people to reclaim their lives and move from surviving to thriving.
It is an amazing site and I urge you to check it out and if you are so inclined, sign up for their newsletter. It’s helpful and healing.
I was honored to have an article about Forgiveness in their inaugural edition. And I’d like to share it here:
As we enter the holiday season, many of us will be joining family members and friends that we may not have seen in awhile. Time with family often dredges up old resentment and anger for a lot of us. And especially with the divisiveness of the past election, this holiday season may be rife with tension for many. When I think about the resentments I still carry around, I try to remember that forgiving those people I’m still angry at helps me, it’s for my own healing.
But I believe a lot of us get stuck on the idea of what forgiveness actually means. Forgiveness is defined as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether you believe they actually deserve your forgiveness. Remember the act of forgiving is for you the forgiver, not the person you are forgiving.
Forgiveness does not mean that you gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offence against you. It does not mean forgetting nor excusing what has been done. It does not mean you have to reconcile with the person or release them from legal accountability.
As Anne Lamott puts it: “Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You’re done. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have lunch with the person. If you keep hitting back, you stay trapped in the nightmare.” Forgiveness is for the forgiver. It brings the forgiver peace and hopefully freedom from anger.
Forgiveness is, in particular, the capacity to let go, to release the suffering, the sorrows, the burdens of the pains and betrayals of the past, and instead to choose the mystery of love. Forgiveness shifts us from the small separate sense of ourselves to a capacity to renew, to let go, to live in love.
Ok so forgiveness is for the forgiver, but why should we do it in the first place? What’s in it for me? Here are a few great reasons. The Mayo Clinicexplains that letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for happiness, health and peace. Forgiveness can lead to:
Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
Less anxiety, stress and hostility
Lower blood pressure
Fewer symptoms of depression
Stronger immune system
Improved heart health
We may accept that forgiveness is a good thing to practice in general, and can actually be good for our health, but how do we go about it? What exactly do we do? Fred Luskin is a pioneer in the science and practice of forgiveness. He offers us nine steps toward forgiveness:
1. Understand how you feel about what happened and be able to explain why the situation is not OK. Then discuss it with someone you trust.
2. Commit to yourself to feel better; remember forgiveness is for you and no one else.
3. Remember forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to reconcile with the person who upset you; it does not condone the action. In forgiveness you are seeking peace for yourself.
4. Recognize that the distress now is coming from the hurt feelings and physical upset you are currently suffering, not from what offended you or hurt you when it happened.
5. At the moment you feel upset, practice stress management to soothe your body’s fight or flight response. Take a deep breath.
6. Stop expecting things from other people that they do not choose to give you.
7. Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you.
8. Remember that living well is the best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving power over you to the person who caused you pain, look for the love, beauty, and kindness around you. Put more energy into appreciating what you have rather than attending to what you do not have.
9. Amend the way you look at your past so you remind yourself of your heroic choice to forgive.
So if old resentment and anger is dredged up this holiday season, or if new frustrations and resentments emerge, remember letting go of the anger and practicing forgiveness is for your own peace of mind. Try taking a deep breath and walking away. It’s for your own good.
I’d like to close with a video that I love. It is worth watching again and again. A video by Jack Kornfield called The Ancient Heart of Forgiveness.
I hope you’ll take some time to watch this powerful video. I’d love to hear your thoughts about forgiveness, and how you manage to forgive those who have hurt you. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.