Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The World Is So Wounded

We don't have to look far to find the wounds inflicted by greed, hate, and war. It is all around us and all around the world.

We must take a stand against what creates these wounds, creates poverty, homelessness, child neglect/abuse, human trafficking, mass murder, terrorism, and on and on.

What are you doing to heal the world? There ARE things you can do. What keeps you from acting on them?

Let's heal the world for the children and their children.

Share ways to make healing happen.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

So, You Aren't Dead Yet

If you are still living and breathing you can do something to make the world better. Really.

So, what have you done in the past week that makes the world better in some way? I really want to know. I want us to share ideas of what we do or can do to make this a better world.

You probably can't cure cancer or bring an end to war in the Middle East. By you can do SOMETHING. 
Think smaller. Start where you are and ask yourself what you can do to make something better for someone.
As I've said before, drops of water will wear away stone. So each act of kindness, no matter how small, creates a kinder world. Every voice to support peace, when joined with others, can drown out the sounds of war. Every time you stop to calmly listen to someone in distress you help calm the distress in the world. 

And even pennies can help provide for those in need of food, shelter, or medical care. It may take a lot of pennies, yes. But together they will buy what is needed. You don't have many pennies? That's o.k. Ask others to help. But don't underestimate the importance of your pennies.

I am on a fixed income. But I manage to help provide items needed by the unsheltered homeless in our city. I buy a few items myself. But I also ask my family and friends to help. I'm always amazed at how much we manage to collect. At Christmas we collected 202 new winter neck scarves! We even gift wrapped each one. It was amazing.

Now I'm collecting money to send needed items for bed-fast American Indians on a poverty ravaged reservation. In a month I've collected $355! All by just asking folks to help. The first of February I will order the items and have them shipped to the reservation where a home health aide will distribute them to 8 poor, elderly, bed-fast Indians in the area of Mission, SD.
You see, I can't resolve the issue of homelessness. But I can help a few homeless people be a bit more comfortable. And I can't resolve the deep poverty of the Indian Reservations in SD, but I can make a difference in a few lives.
And I can vote for candidates that are compassionate and dedicated to righting the wrongs in our country and world. We each have a say, so don't dismiss the importance of your vote. We have seen recently how much difference even one vote can make. Get out and vote in every election. And encourage your family and friends to vote as well.

You can do SOMETHING.

What have you done lately? 

What will you do in the coming weeks? 

Please share your ideas.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

How to Ease Into Aging

Aging doesn't have to be traumatic. It is a normal life stage and we can ease into it by fully embracing our personal power to choose how we think and what we feel, what we believe, and how we behave.

Aging is when the adventure of living changes from gaining to losing. We are still growing older and it is still an adventure if we are willing to see it as such. The adventure is still unusual, as we've not done it before; it can be exciting if we take on the new challenges boldly, it is hazardous as the risks become greater. And how we respond to all of this is determined by our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.

When we experience the loss of our former roles, for instance when we retire, we have the opportunity to take on different roles. And often we have the choice to make big changes in the direction we've been going. We can choose to be in a bigger or smaller role. We may take on greater responsibility for aging parents for  grandchildren or returning adult children. We may volunteer in a very different way than how we earned our living before. We may take a greater role in politics or in leadership in organizations. 

And if our aging has diminished or physical abilities we may choose to take on the role of mentor, educator, or adviser to others. We may learn a new skill less physically demanding skill, like computers, handcrafting, tutoring. (I started this blog!)You may choose to market those new skills and/or teach them to others. You may take on the role of caring about others in new ways, like phone calls, cards, letters to folks who may be lonely or may think they have been forgotten. And at the very least you could choose to be someone's sunshine by giving them your smiles and amiability. Always ask yourself, "Well, if I can't do that, what CAN I do instead?"

You could choose to examine your thoughts and beliefs in ways you never took the time to do before. And this might lead to changing those thoughts and beliefs that do not serve you well. Our behavior choices are influenced by what we believe. And often those beliefs are no longer relevant. What we thought was true about ourselves may have changed in ways that open you to more confidence and willingness to try new things. You may find yourself changing the "I can't" to "I'll at least try." You may find yourself more willing to take risks that you had voided when you were responsible for raising and supporting your children, or when you feared certain behaviors might cost you your job and means of earning a living that supported more people than now.

You may discover you need fewer things and more people. You may begin to focus on developing more friendships and social connections. You may determine that your values have changed, that some things that were very important to you ten years ago are less important now. Identifying your values goes a long way in what you choose to do in this stage of life. There may have been things you would have done or supported in the past but didn't because you had concerns about what others would think about you - and now what others think may be less important to you.

One of the best things you can do for yourself at this stage is to take the time to explore your own thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Get to know the you that you are now. And then use your personal power to act in ways that help you to grow emotionally and spiritually. Open yourself to loving what you find in self-discovery and to love yourself enough to choose what thoughts, feelings, and beliefs benefit your personal growth most.

Just because you are aging doesn't mean you must stop growing. You aren't dead yet. That means there is still room to grow.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Getting Older: The Adventure

The dictionary defines adventure as "an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity."

Our adventure of growing older begins at the moment of conception. The miracle of conception and birth certainly fits the definition of an adventure. And it happens rapidly. To think of all that develops in the nine months before we exit the womb is just plain amazing. We start as a single cell and become a human being that can eventually climb mountains. How amazing is that?

And we grow older from the beginning, each moment of life giving us the opportunity to do more, to be more. As youngsters we often wish we were older than we are. We are in a hurry to grow up, whatever that means to us.

And for at least half of our life we are growing in the literal sense of the word. We grow physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, etc. For at least half of our life growing older means getting more of something - more strength, more freedom, more opportunity, more relationships, more money, even more things.

We think of growing as expansion. Our world stretches and our opportunities reach farther and farther. We see ourselves climbing higher and seeing more.

There are difficulties to be overcome, risks to take, and much to be done. We are busy achieving, serving others, raising children, taking on responsibilities. Life is full of experiences and activity. We are growing, older.

And then we reach the point of aging. That point comes at different times for each of us. It is when the adventure changes from gaining to losing. We are still growing older and it is still an adventure if we are willing to see it as such. The adventure us still unusual, as we've not done it before; it can be exciting if we take on the new challenges boldly; it is hazardous as the risks become greater.

This is aging. We begin to experience more and more losses. We lose our former roles, especially after retirement or when we become dependent on others for care. We lose physical abilities. We lose strength, freedom, opportunities, people, finances, even belongings. It is not uncommon for people to sink into depression at this stage of the adventure as they focus on their losses.

What is helpful, yet often difficult to do, is to view each loss as an opportunity for change. Yes, change is the basis of growing. Nothing grows without changing. Growing older through aging is more change that appear to happen too rapidly. But if we consider the speed of change in the womb, change in aging is not so rapid. It just seems so because we don't desire it.

So how do we embrace those changes? How can we age more comfortably, with greater ease?  How would you do that? Please leave comments with your ideas.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Age Isn't Maturity

Old doesn't equal mature, not by a long shot. People who are mature claim their personal power to choose their behavior AND be responsible for the consequences. They don't blame other people and things for their circumstances. They are humble without self-effacing.

Aging does give your time to develop maturity. Although not everyone takes advantage of that. If you haven't matured by the time you are fifty you will have a tough time being seventy. Because with age often comes situations that are very uncomfortable and blaming others only makes it worse. By then we need to accept that what happens to us is not as important as how we deal with it.

Good parents model responsibility and teach it to their children by giving them logical/natural consequences for their behaviors. If they don't, the kids grow up spoiled and angry complainers tha blame others for everything in their life.

If you grew up like that, you can re-parent yourself by recognizing your personal power to choose,  by learning to take responsibility for all of your choices, by making choices based on their likely consequences, and by accepting your own limitations.

Growing old is easier if you are grown up!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

How Depressing!!!!


As in my profile, I'm in my seventies and aging is a very personal issue for me. So I am looking at it in a variety of ways.

So, much of what I've seen so far is very depressing. I'm beginning with looking at what aging is. Have a look at this:

I won't stay in this perspective long! But I'd like to know what your thoughts are about aging. Please give me some perspective from your place in life. What does aging mean to you?

Sunday, January 7, 2018

3 Ways to Have a Happier New Year

You can make happiness happen in this coming year. You have the power to create your own happiness. You don't have to wait for circumstances to change or for someone to make you happy. Use your personal power to be happy.

It really is "all in your head" because how you think is more important to your happiness than the circumstances of your life. How we think about what happens is our personal power over the effects of those circumstances. While we may not be able to control what happens, we can control how we think about them.

Sonja Lyubomirsky writes about Happiness Activities in The How of Happiness, a Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want 

Happiness Activity #1: Expressing Gratitude
Gratitude is the antidote to your negative emotions and it neutralizes "envy, avarice, hostility, worry and irritation."  Robert Emmons (Gratitude and the science of positive psychology in Snyder, C.R., and Lopez, S.J. [eds] Handbook of Positive Psychology) defines gratitude as "a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life."

Let's go with that definition and practice looking at your life through that lens. Try noticing how fortunate your circumstances are and how much worse they could be. Identify those who have helped you through some of the rough patches and let them know you are grateful. Make a list of at least five things you are grateful for in the past week or day. Make it a habit to count your blessings daily. Practice thanking people for doing what they do that makes life easier or better for someone. After a few weeks you will find your physical and mental health have benefited from your expression of gratitude.

To learn more about how gratitude creates your happiness and ways to become more grateful, read Lyubomirsky's book, Chapter 4.

Happiness Activity #2: Cultivating Optimism
Being optimistic doesn't mean coming to believe your life is perfect and will always remain perfect.
You can be realistic and optimistic. It may mean that even though there will be ups and downs you know you will make it through and everything will turn out all right in the end. It may mean posting positive  optimistic thoughts on your wall or chanting optimistic affirmations. It may mean  expecting there will be abundant good things and fewer bad. It means believing that your goals can be accomplished somehow, even if it means working hard to achieve them. It may mean identifying your strengths and acknowledging that you may have weaknesses but can overcome them. It is about knowing you can get there and thinking positively about how you will do it.

It is more than wishing for positive outcomes. It is planning for them by acknowledging your role in making it happen. An athlete doesn't just wish they will win. They train and practice and plan for HOW they will win. Being optimistic is an important part of making your own happiness.

Want to know more about how to be more optimistic? Read Chapter 4 in Lyubomirsky's book!

Happiness Activity #3: Avoiding Overthinking and Social Comparison
"Self-focused rumination", now there's a phrase for you. It means thinking too much about the why's and what ifs in your life, about the possible meanings of what others said or did, about your blunders, about what you did or didn't do, etc.

This is a tough one for me as I tend to be constantly thinking about something. And when I go to bed at night I tend to review the day with an eye for what I did or didn't do, "shoulda, woulda, coulda."
The only way I've found to interrupt that thinking is to start my gratitude list. What works for you?

Social comparison can be deadly. If you are always comparing yourself to someone else, you miss the whole picture. You are more than those aspects of yourself that you use for comparison. And you are uniquely you! No one can be a better you. And you can't be someone else. So keep looking at your personal strengths and review your accomplishments by looking at what you did that was right and what you learned about how to improve in the future.

First, stop ruminating about how you compare to someone else. Detach from focusing on comparisons with others. Redirect your attention somewhere else. Read or watch something that is funny or suspenseful, listen to upbeat music and move with it, do physical activity. Get absorbed in something else.

If you have trouble stopping this behavior you might try something I was told to do by a therapist. Set aside thirty minutes of each day to ruminate on these negative thoughts. So when throughout the day you find yourself thinking negative thoughts, tell yourself you can stop the thoughts now because you can think of this later during your scheduled time. I was encouraged to write them down during that thirty minutes and I discovered after several days that I was ruminating about the same things in the same ways. It became monotonous and fruitless. I soon stopped ruminating. Instead I began using the time to give myself positive messages and to plan ways for coping in the situations I tended to ruminate about. That was much more productive.

There are more suggestions on how to avoid overthinking and social comparison in Lyubomirsky's book. If this is an area you need to work on, read chapter 4.

So is any of this helpful for you? Do you want to know more activities for creating your happiness? Or should I go to another topic for future blog posts? Please let me know in comments!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

For a Happier New Year

What is happiness anyway? Charlie Brown said that happiness is a warm puppy. But I think it is much more than that. I like the definition given by Sonja Lyumbomirsky in her book The How of Happiness, a Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want.
"I use the term happiness to refer to the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one's life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile."
Happiness is not easy to measure.It is inherently subjective and defined by the person. No one can determine how happy you are, really.  And, in spite of what you may have thought, no one can MAKE you happy but yourself. Happiness is not a destination, something you must FIND.  forty percent of our happiness is determined by intentional activity on your part, strategies that you can implement to remake yourself as a happier person.

Nor does your happiness lie in changing your circumstances. Happiness occurs from the inside out, no matter what your circumstances. There are people living in desperate circumstances that can still be happy people. They don't depend on their circumstances to determine how they think or feel. My grandmother could always find something positive in every situation, even the most difficult ones. She was a happy woman. No, she wasn't a jolly woman. She was genuinely happy no matter what.

And while some people seem to be happy from birth, or unhappy from birth. But happiness is not generic. For the most part it is learned.

Circumstances  account for only about 10 percent in how different folks feel.* So whatever happens in 2018 you can be happier.

If you seriously want to have a happier life, I recommend Lyumbomirsky's book. It can help you find your current happiness set point and then show you how to raise it. Learn what activities that fit your interests, values, and needs that you might choose to increase your happiness. I'll describe a few of them in my next blog. But using the book yourself is a great place to start.

   * Sonja Lyumbomirsky, The How of Happiness, a Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want.