Reflecting on this Past Year*

 

 

Even if you don’t like making New Year’s Resolutions, the beginning of a new year can be a good time to reminisce on the passing year.  It can be beneficial for us to highlight certain memories.  Specifically, we can benefit from reflecting on:

  • a time when we successfully dealt with a challenging situation, and
  • an experience that shaped the person we are today.

Research shows that this exercise is uplifting because it promotes resilience and self-exploration.

You might want to take a few minutes of quiet time to come up with at least one example of  each of the above situations.  Maybe you would like to journal your examples.  It might be fun to gather with one or two friends and share your responses.  Of course, feel free to share below.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

*From How to Find Happiness When You Reflect on the Past Year (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_find_happiness_when_you_reflect_on_the_past_year?utm_source=Greater+Good+Science+Center&utm_campaign=d4b50f449d-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_January_Theme&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5ae73e326e-d4b50f449d-52221859)

 

 

(professional website:  http://www.bethlevinecounseling.com)

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Black and White Thinking

 

 

I was journaling the other day and wrote “He always says sarcastic things.  What’s wrong with him?”  And continued on my negative spiral.  A few sentences later, I caught myself and realized I was in an all-or-nothing thinking trap.

All-or-nothing thinking has its roots in survival.  When faced with a life threatening situation, we need to make a quick decision.  Fight or flight.  We don’t have time for grey areas.  But most of the situations we face these days are not life threatening.

It is important to honor and understand that part of you that is acting quickly to protect you in some way.

And it is important to learn ways to calm down that part of you so it doesn’t hijack you from being your best Self.

One way is to notice when we are caught in black-and-white thinking and ask yourself:

  • Can I be basically an intelligent person and still do something stupid?
  • Can I love my children and still get angry with them sometimes?
  • Can my partner love me but sometimes be insensitive?
  • Can one part of my life be difficult and other parts be easier and more enjoyable?
  • Can a part of my life be difficult now but in the future get easier?
  • Can some parts of an experience (such as a social engagement or vacation) be awful and other parts of it be OK? *

Of course the answer to these questions is “Yes”, but when you ask yourself these questions, you help slow things down, ground yourself and be more realistic in your thinking.  It’s a way to untangle your Self from that part of you that can get depressed.  I hope this is helpful.

 

*These questions come from the article called “’All or Nothing’, or ‘Black and White’ Thinking and Depression (http://www.clinical-depression.co.uk/dlp/understanding-depression/all-or-nothing-or-black-and-white-thinking-and-depression/)

 

 

 

 

(professional website:  http://www.BethLevineCounseling.com)

Stop Trying to be Happy

 

Stop trying to be happy.

Yep.  That’s the key to happiness.

Of course, it’s not as simple as that, but according to Susan David, author of Emotional Agility, people who focus on being happy are less happy over time.  Dr. David believes that getting to know ourselves, understanding what is really happening for us, slowing down so we can figure out how we would like to respond to our emotions are skills that help us be happier.

Here are some highlights from an interview Maria Shriver had with Susan David:

“One of the first things is showing up. Instead of trying to push our emotions aside or trying to put on a happy face—what I call bottling and brooding—instead, literally drop any struggle that you have within yourself by ending the battle. Not saying to yourself, “I’m unhappy, but I shouldn’t be unhappy.” Or, “I’m miserable in my job, but at least I’ve got a job.”

Really just open up to the fact that we have a full range of emotions. These emotions have helped us and evolved to enable us to position ourselves effectively in the world.”

Emotions offer us important information regarding what is important to us.  In the interview, Dr. David goes on to say:

“It’s important to recognize that our emotions contain data. I’ve never met a mother who’s feeling guilty about her parenting who, at some level, isn’t wanting to be present and connected with her children. Our difficult emotions [point] to the things that we value.

Instead of struggling with whether we should or shouldn’t feel something, it’s important for us to say, “What is the function of this emotion? What is the value? What is this emotion trying to tell me?”

Here’s a link to the interview if you’re interested in reading further:

http://www.dailygood.org/story/1696/embrace-authenticity-how-to-break-free-from-the-tyranny-of-positivity-heleo-editors/

I know that I am not always happy and positive so reading that my happiness does not depend on me being happy and positive all the time made me happy!  I hope it helps you, too.

 

 

(professional website:  http://www.bethlevinecounseling.com)

Neuroscientists Discover Song that Reduces Anxiety by 65%*

Need I say more?

Here’s a 10-hour version:

 

And here’s an 8-minute version with a cool video:

Let me know what you think.

*https://ideapod.com/neuroscientists-discover-song-reduces-anxiety-65-now-going-viral-listen/?utm_source=Ideapod&utm_campaign=e42b384185-Neuroscientists_discover_a_song_that_red11_12_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b72f288493-e42b384185-54776493

 

 

(professional website:  http://www.bethlevinecounseling.com)

Happiness

I was feeling down one recent weekend.  As luck would have it, I was doing some research on what makes us happy.

Turns out, we are not very good at knowing what brings us happiness.  Research by Dan Gilbert bears this out.

One of the best kept secrets on what makes us happy is doing for others.  Material goods or achievements are no match for giving of ourselves in promoting our long term happiness.

A 2012 study by Elizabeth Dunn and her colleagues at the University of British Columbia shows that toddlers under the age of two are happier when giving treats to others rather than receiving goodies themselves.  But the good news about our capacity for feeling good about giving doesn’t stop there.  The study showed that children are happier when they give their own treats away than giving an identical treat away that doesn’t belong to them.  (http://news.ubc.ca/2012/06/19/giving-makes-young-children-happy-ubc-study-suggests/)

The results of United Healthcare/Volunteer Match Do Good Live Well 2010 on-line study shows that 96% of respondents report feeling happier as a result of volunteering (http://unlimitedloveinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/ITS-GOOD-TO-BE-GOOD-2014-Biennial-Scientific-Report-On-Health-Happiness-Longevity-And-Helping-Others.pdf)

So, when my husband came home from his volunteer efforts, taking photographs of cats to increase their likelihood of getting adopted, I asked him to show me his pictures.  Immediately, I felt better as I supported and encouraged him in his efforts and hobby.  I discovered, firsthand, how taking the focus off of me and my ruminations and putting my energies, instead, into helping someone else is a free and easy way to get my happy on.

I highly recommend you give it a try and if you like, share your experience.

If my example didn’t inspire you, this video of Lilica, the dog, and what she does for her family surely will.

 

(professional website:  http://www.bethlevinecounseling.com)

Knowing Who You Are Through Actions

 

Dali is one of the most strong-willed individuals that I know.  She pursues what she wants with every ounce of energy that she has.  When I had to take my other dog, Oskar, to the emergency clinic, Dali snuck out the front door so as not to be left behind.  On walks, she sits, unmovable, when she doesn’t want to go the way I want to go.  When she desires a neck rub, she sits by my feet and communicates with body language that says it is time.  And there is no alternative for me but to massage her neck.

Pretty good for a 20-pound dog.

Though Dali is getter older and the hot, humid summer is hard on her, she still is clear on what she wants.  She lets me know when it is time to go home.  She makes it clear when she wants to sit and soak in the sun.  And she determines when it is time for her, at least, daily neck rub.

In her honor, I am taking steps to go after what I want.  I am doing art every day, whether painting or writing poetry, even for a few minutes a day.  Taking this first step gave me more energy to do more of the things that are important to me.  I started a Google Group that I’ve thought about for at least a year and am taking a bike ride at least once a week.  I feel better about myself and more competent.

 

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” Thomas Jefferson

 

(professional website:  http://www.bethlevinecounseling.com)

Speaking your truth

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I joke around that Oskar is my boyfriend (who could resist that face?). If I go upstairs, Oskar goes upstairs. If I go downstairs, Oskar goes downstairs. When he comes in from a walk that I haven’t taken him on, the first thing he does is run to find me. He’s very attached to me and that’s why I was so surprised that he went to bite me when I was wiping his paws after he was out in the snow, ice and salt that they put down to prevent people from falling, but if it is not dog friendly, can really hurt their paws.

Oskar didn’t actually bite me. He just went to bite me, but I scolded him more from being so startled that he would actually try to hurt me. He looked so sheepish afterward. Maybe it was from being misunderstood, I don’t know, but the way he looked got me thinking. I knew he didn’t want to hurt me and I realized that he must have been hurting and wanted me to stop and it was the only way he had to tell me.

Something similar happened on one of our walks. A small rock got in between his paw pads and he couldn’t walk without hurting. So I went to take it out but was only using one hand because it was so cold out I didn’t want to take off my other glove. I didn’t realize at the time that in only using one hand, I was rubbing the rock against his pads while trying to remove it. In a flash, he turned his head around and put his teeth on my hands.

This time, I didn’t scold him. This time, I apologized and said to him he must be hurting and I realized I needed two hands to make sure I didn’t cause him any more pain. He gave me a kiss.

I later thought to myself if I can be so understanding toward Oskar and why he might lash out at me, maybe I could be understanding with myself when I get angry with friends or family when I’m hurting. That happened to me the other idea. I felt rejected and instead of telling my friend I was feeling hurt, I got angry with him. And then I felt terrible for getting angry and putting him on the defensive and feeling rejected.

After the now infamous Oskar incident, I was able to be compassionate with myself and know that I was not a bad person for getting angry, my anger came from a genuine place of feeling hurt. That helped to let go of the shame I was feeling. What a relief! Afterward, I also felt more capable of being vulnerable and telling my friend straight-up the next time I was feeling hurt. It’s a lot easier that way.

Sara Bareilles song, Brave, captures the theme of this post beautifully and with a lot of flare.  I hope you enjoy dancing to this as much as I do.