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Reinventing yourself is a Valuable Investment with a Great Return

We’re into the second month of 2024 and people are already breaking the New Year’s resolutions they made a month ago. In my humble opinion, New Year’s resolutions are a weak plan that serves to make us feel bad, when we don’t see quick results. How about we try a different angle? Instead of overwhelming ourselves with commitments that make us feel like we’re not enough, how about we focus on reinvention, which concentrates on shifting out parts of ourselves that are no longer serving us. Too many people stick with the limited notion that this is just how I am and who I am, take it or leave it, which is fine if it makes you feel good, but I think it reflects another limiting belief that we don’t have the capacity to reinvent ourselves. 

Here’s some great news: you can choose where you want to remodel your lifestyle, your friends list, your thinking habits and begin laying the groundwork for the next great chapter in your life. We humans are far more powerful than we give ourselves credit for. Yes, changing something in our lives so that we improve ourselves and our circumstances may feel uncomfortable, but the reward is considerable.

Has anyone ever told you that you can do anything? If they did, do you believe it? Sometimes the idea that we can do anything we want frightens us because it’s such an abstract concept and so hard to feel that it could be real. Does it mean I can be an astronaut or live by the beach? Does it mean I can join a band or climb a mountain? Well, yes, yes, yes, and yes if you have the will, commitment, time, tenacity, and resources to devote yourself to making these projects your reality.  

Likely your first reaction to becoming an astronaut is to scoff at such an idea but before you do, consider that becoming an astronaut may not be for you and just let it go. Every one of us is in a unique life situation which I like to describe as being in our own lane. There’s only your lane for you and in that lane with your gifts and your skills is where your best crack at reinvention lies.

“If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything is ready, we shall never begin.” – Ivan Turgenev (novelist, poet, playwright).

Some of industry’s most successful leaders talk about the challenge of getting buy-in from their staff when it comes to reinvention or change. It’s a well-researched fact that we humans don’t like change but think for a second and realize that the way we got to where we are as human beings is because of change. These same leaders of industry also talk about how to get their teams on side, when it comes to change. First, they say, as leaders, they must see the value in it and then they must keep it simple for their teams. When a big idea is simplified, it makes it easier for our busy thinking mind to grasp a fresh perspective. Our thinking mind is so good at coming up with all the reasons why we shouldn’t change anything. As CEO of your life, it’s important that you’re convinced that there’s value in reinvention and it’s key that you don’t overwhelm yourself with big sweeping change. Instead focus on small shifts so that you can remain accountable to your goal instead of feeling overwhelmed and slipping back into habits that no longer serve you.

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” -M. Scott Peck (psychiatrist, author)

 

Having clarity about what we want in whatever chapter of life we’re in and having goals for our future is key to successful reinvention. Often clarity emerges from us examining our discomfort or recognizing what we don’t want in our lives. If you’re a chronic complainer or find yourself in the company of complainers, at some point there’s a recognition that the habit of complaining never brings joy; it only brings more situations to complain about. Recognizing that this habit needs to shift out if you’re ever going to feel satisfied and joyful is a big step. We should always feel pleased with ourselves when we recognize habits that are no longer serving us and are working against our joy. Then, by having compassion for ourselves, we can begin to replace complaints with questions or compliments. These can be directed at ourselves by speaking kindly to and about ourselves, and can be addressed to those around us, so that we gradually ease our way out of the habit of complaining and into a mindset and an approach that invites more joy.

We should always be curious about the world we’re living in, regardless of age. The National Institute of Aging studied curiosity along with other factors such as physical health risks in a group of 1200 men over 65, to see if curiosity made any impact on the quality of their lives or their longevity; a similar study was done following 1000 women. The results showed a correlation between physical and psychological health in curious people and concluded that curiosity impacted longevity. The study also showed that curious people were better prepared to respond to challenges encountered as they age such as change in living arrangements or mobility.  Curious people displayed better coping skills with new experiences, were more adept at forging new friendships and were more resourceful when it came to problem solving.

“If you are not where you want to be, do not quit. Instead, reinvent yourself and change your habits.” Eric Thomas (pastor, author, speaker)

Do you find yourself spending too much time alone? Isolation and loneliness can have a serious impact on our physical and mental health, so if this sounds like you it’s time to look at how you can reinvent your lifestyle. Let’s use the example of volunteering to up level your life and provide meaning for you and impact for others. Begin with researching services, clubs and organizations in your community and find groups engaged in something that really interests you. Perhaps contact someone within the group to find out more information and invite a friend to investigate with you a little further in person. It won’t take long before you’ll know whether it’s for you. If it is for you, you’ve opened the door to potentially making new friends and of course being of service is rewarding all around. You’ve just expanded your circle, created connections, and enhanced your community. You’ve just reinvented yourself.

Reset, Refresh, Reframe for 2024

I joke around with our neighbours’ kids that adulting is hard. I’m kidding and yet it’s true. Being an adult is a complex experience in part because we are emotional beings. As humans, we’re wired for safety and survival, we tend to view our circumstances as either negative or positive. Even on the sunniest of days, when we get the perfect parking spot and cruise quickly through checkout at the store, once someone cuts us off in traffic or we get some bad news about one of our kids the day becomes about the negative experience and that’s what we play over an over in our thoughts.   

Our thinking mind loves to categorize and judge because of our need to feel safe and in charge. When something interferes with our plans or some unexpected situation arises, our thinking mind will examine all the ways in which this perceived obstacle might be threatening. It looks for the worst that could happen and we’re left to figure out the next steps for our safety.

Our thought process can be exhausting.

When we allow our thinking mind to lead in this way, we pile on stress, which can cause analysis paralysis because we’re over thinking. We invest our time in examining situations from every angle in the hope that at some point, a solution will magically appear. When an answer does bubble up, we second guess it, never feeling fully confident that it’s the right one, so we procrastinate a little longer, hoping that at some other time we’ll feel better about addressing our circumstances.

Yup. This is what it is to be human, when we allow our thinking mind to lead us by making decisions either mindlessly or based on other people’s expectations and values.

“Most of our stress and suffering come not from events, but from our thoughts. Reframe from negative thoughts, and stress subsides.”
–Martha Beck

Because our thoughts are so powerful, and researchers estimate we have between 60,000 and 80,000 of them a day (most of them negative for the reasons I describe above) they’re worth investigating. In the 1960’s American psychiatrist, Aaron Tempkin Beck helped patients who were struggling with depression to shift from a negative mindset to a positive mindset. The process was termed cognitive restructuring and over time became known as simply reframing, to portray the process of shifting the focus of our thoughts, to ultimately nourish a more positive mindset. Reframing can really help us experience everyday life differently and will influence how we feel about ourselves without changing any of the facts of whatever situation we’re dealing with.

“Our key to transforming anything lies in our ability to reframe it.”
-Marianne Williamson

Many people who consider giving up their family home experience anxiety over the unknown and feel their self-worth and sense of accomplishment is tied directly to owning their home. Who they will be without the identity of being an independent homeowner. The concern is real, but we can ask a better question than who will I be without being a homeowner?  We can reframe the situation by asking who do I get to be without all the responsibilities that come with owning a home? The first question is big and ambiguous while the second question has immediate answers such as: I’ll have more time to connect with friends and family; I’ll have more resources to do the things I really want to do. In short, I’ll be free and it’s from that mindset that we can make sound decisions about the next right steps for ourselves. That’s the power of reframing.

“I am not failing — I am growing! Do you have the ability to reframe failure as growth in order to achieve your goals?” 
-James C. Collins

I think we can all agree that as human beings we’re tough on ourselves when it comes to making mistakes. We learn early in life that the goal is to make our lives run smoothly instead of recognizing that life is a bumpy ride, and it goes more smoothly when we embrace the notion that mistakes are simply opportunities to learn. Let’s reframe the idea that life is happening to us (victim mentality) to life is happening for us (student of life mentality).

Motivational maven Mel Robbins teaches the five second rule: from the second we have an idea to do something, change something or take action on something, we have five seconds before our thinking mind steps in with all the reasons why not. Five seconds to get out of the chair and move our body, five seconds to book the tickets, make the reservation, call that friend before our thinking mind steps in to say you can do that later or not at all. Understanding how we’re wired helps us stay a little ahead of our powerful and negative thought bias, so that we can reframe the situation and decide to take action.

“Attitude is the ability to reframe the experience to empower you to future victories.”
-Orrin Woodward

As I’m getting older, I hear people say that if you have your health, you have everything and that’s one last point I’d like to reframe. While we do our best to maintain our health, things happen, and we can easily be taken down. Our attitude and our perspective on life as it is, is where we can really mine for gold. When life serves up lemons, we can tap into our attitude, to help us focus on what’s going well instead of what’s wrong; we can lean on our friends, family and community which are essential ingredients when it comes to making life-lesson lemonade. Interdependence is a key pillar of living a fulfilling life, especially as we age. Instead of imagining the worst-case scenario, we can reframe and ask what’s the best that could happen? When we choose to think this way with wisdom, clarity, self-compassion and acceptance, we empower ourselves to see the beauty and experience the bounty in our lives. We affirm that we are better together and that’s a great way to begin a new year.

This Wellings blog by Kathie Donovan was exclusively written for Wellings Communities and appeared first on MyWellings.com.

Celebrations for Every-Day Living

Long before the calendar flips over to December, my mind is focused on the festive season. I love everything about this month of celebrations. Whether it’s St. Nicholas Day, Bodhi Day, Hanukkah, Yule, Christmas, Boxing Day, or New Year’s Eve there are countless opportunities to gather and celebrate together.

It’s a time typically when we do our best to gather with family and friends or friends who feel like family. We bring out all the good stuff from special food and décor to heirloom dishware, and silverware, often kept stashed away until such special events. In our home, growing up, we celebrated Christmas and when we were children, there was the promise that if we were on our best behaviour, a jolly man in a red suit would reward us with gifts. That worked on me when I was a child, but now I know that the spirit of Santa Claus is in all of us. I think we’re all deserving of gifts; there’s a lot we can do for ourselves and share with others with minimal financial costs attached.

While the special occasions on our calendar are unique and I for one look forward to many of them, we can turn any day into something special by adding in a few of our favourite joy snacks, which help to lift our spirits and when shared with others become an instant party.

“The most beautiful things are not associated with money; they are memories and moments. If you don’t celebrate those, they can pass you by.” – Alek Wek, Model and Designer

Let’s set the mood. If you have favourite festive treasures, take them out so you can enjoy them for as long as possible. I wait until December 1st to decorate in full force but a few of my favourite things start to show up around the end of November. During the holidays, I often have a pot of water on the stove; I add a few cloves, some orange peel and cinnamon to create a festive ambience.

In this dark month when we long for the return of more sunlight, we can delight ourselves with twinkling lights, which instantly add a festive touch. You can put them around a window, across a mantle, decorate a plant with them or place them on a shelf. They have some kind of special magic that says festive mood to me. I’ll sometimes put them on during the day, especially if I’ve invited someone over for a visit. Candles are fantastic too; I love the warm glow they add to a cozy winter day.

“Every day is a good day. There is something to learn, care and celebrate.” – Amit Ray, Walking the Path of Compassion

Music makes such a difference in my life, especially around the holidays. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but I love to have either the classic crooners on or some festive instrumental music playing. I find music enhances a celebration and instantly lifts my spirits, even gets me dancing sometimes. Music is a big part of the season for me and now that I’m not doing much Christmas shopping, I make sure to book tickets for a few seasonal concerts and have them on the calendar to look forward to in December.

We’ve set the scene but what to wear? It used to be that dressing up for a special occasion was the norm, however today just about anything goes. If you’re the only guest at this party, you can dress however you like, go formal, casual or wear your favourite pajamas (festive themes are always a hit). If you’re inviting guests, the same thing applies. You can ask them to dress up or dress casually or invite them to come in their favourite pajamas. You might consider an ugly sweater for added fun. Remember the rule is that there are no rules when it comes to spreading joy.

Food is certainly a focus of the festive season, regardless of what you celebrate. It’s a great opportunity to share family recipes and traditions. If you’re inviting guests, why not ask them to bring a dish that is part of their festive tradition. It’s a great way to get a conversation going and it’s fun to learn about how others celebrate the season. If you’re having a solo event, either bring out your favourite snacks, order food you love or have breakfast for lunch or dinner. Some of us enjoy being in the kitchen and others appreciate food but don’t love preparing it. It’s all good; remember the rule is that there are no rules.

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is life to celebrate. “ – Oprah Winfrey

While in some ways, it feels like the wheels have come off in our world and there’s no disputing that times are tough. If we want to feel joyful, we must bring joy and when we share happiness with others, we’re tapping into the Santa Claus spirit I mentioned earlier. There are so many fun things we can do to spread joy in our families and our communities. Sharing stories about favourite family gatherings or gifts can spark beautiful memories and sharing those memories can help forge deeper connections with others.

Gift giving is a focus for some festive holidays. Consider wrapping a gift for yourself or donating a gift to a worthy cause. If you’re inviting guests, you can ask them to either bring something to donate or collect money to contribute to a group in need in your community. These seemingly small acts can make a big difference in someone’s life and that’s the spirit we’re focusing on when it comes to celebrating every day. Don’t wait for a special occasion, you are the special event and I’m so glad you’re here to share some of your joy in the world. That’s a beautiful gift. Wishing you a very happy holiday season.

This Wellings blog by Kathie Donovan was exclusively written for Wellings Communities and appeared first on MyWellings.com.

Forgiveness is a Gift we Give Ourselves

“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” – poet Alexander Pope

Hands up if you have nothing to forgive yourself or anyone else for. Welcome to the club if you put your hand up.  I find there’s always some dust bunny hiding in the back of my mind, a feeling I’ve gotten so used to living with that I don’t see where I need to forgive myself or anyone else. We’re so conditioned, especially in North America, to get over or move past hurt that we bury some of our feelings instead of dealing with them. Research tells us that over time, this type of emotional stress can be linked to mental illness, digestive and immune issues as well as heart disease.

I love what poet Alexander Pope says (above) about erring. To make mistakes is what it is to be a human being; to forgive ourselves and others for making mistakes, is a whole other story.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in the mistake making business all my life. I’ve always been independent-minded and very curious; it’s a mix that has helped me achieve some goals and it’s put me in plenty of precarious situations as well. It’s only in the last couple of decades that I’ve become curious about what lessons I was meant to learn from those situations. Before then, I just thought everything was my fault or someone else’s fault and I felt either disappointed in myself or let down by somebody else.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” —Lewis B. Smedes, ethicist and theologian 

This game of blame, as researcher Dr. Brene Brown shares, is nothing more than a discharge of pain and discomfort. Oops that was me, repeatedly. I felt hurt by something someone did or I felt let down by myself and quickly assigned blame. It seemed like the right thing to do because when I blamed someone else, I felt better and when I blamed myself, I felt that familiar feeling of shame, which I thought was doing something about it. Wrong. Blaming myself was a missed opportunity to explore how I could hold myself accountable for the outcome and that would have felt vulnerable, which I was not familiar with. Vulnerability is another one of those feelings we’re not encouraged to investigate, at the risk of appearing weak.

What I’ve learned though is that being vulnerable is, contrary to popular belief, a strength. When I do presentations and share my story, some people are surprised to hear that I struggled, I mean really struggled as a young person. I had a bit of a stoic nature because nobody around me growing up talked about what was really going on in our lives. My parents taught us that there were home secrets and that was that. So, I invested quite a few years blaming them for the results I saw in my life. It seemed logical until I learned that everything in my life came back to me, so it was my responsibility to forgive them and myself for holding on to so many misguided ideas.

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a constant attitude.” —Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Forgiveness for me is not a one and done, it’s a process. First, we must recognize where we’re holding on to anger, bitterness, or resentment. Then we must ask ourselves why we’re holding on to it. What benefit is there for us in holding on to these feelings? Then we acknowledge that forgiveness is not for anyone else but ourselves. That’s where we start the process of forgiveness and choose to no longer allow whatever bitterness, anger, or resentment we’ve been holding on to, to take up space in our life. It doesn’t mean we forget what happened, it means that we choose to see the situation through a different lens. We are choosing to put ourselves and our own peace of mind ahead of everything else. You’ve heard me say that we all need to be reminded that we are important, and we matter, right? Well, here’s another way to demonstrate that to ourselves.

“Forgiveness is the greatest gift you can give yourself.” –  poet Maya Angelou.

One of my friends has had a years-long challenge with one of her adult children. It’s a complicated situation and my friend has tried every way she knows to reconcile the relationship. Nothing seemed to stick; even after brief moments of connection things would inevitably revert to a strained rapport. Recently my friend heard someone talk about making amends to their family for their behaviour and my friend decided to write a letter to her child, outlining the ways in which she saw herself as responsible for any pain or resentment her child might be feeling toward her. She made it clear that she held herself accountable for the ways in which her child may have felt neglected or let down by her. She read the letter to me; it was powerful. She owned her part in the demise of their relationship and that’s all she could do. She began the process of forgiving herself for whatever mistakes she may have made, perceived or real. She delivered the letter and released her feelings of resentment and frustration with it. I know she felt better about the situation and my hope is that in sharing her story, perhaps you might recognize that there’s some dust bunny somewhere in your mind that has been living rent free for too long and it’s time to go.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”  – Mahatma Gandhi, Indian leader, and activist.

It takes great courage and self-compassion to begin the process of forgiving ourselves and others. The great reward is that in clearing out the clutter of misunderstandings, missed opportunities and resentments, we create space for more goodness and more joy to move in.

This Wellings blog by Kathie Donovan was exclusively written for Welllings Communities and appeared first on MyWellings.com.

Moving Through Grief

Grief has many facets, and it shows up in our lives in various circumstances, many of them unexpected. Grief is a feeling that we all experience at some point in a life well lived. We may encounter it due to job loss, loss of a loved one, a treasured pet or loss of property, to cite a few examples. While there are tools professionals can offer us, each person’s grief journey is unique. It’s a bit like happiness because learning to grieve is as important as learning to be happy. They’re different sides of the same coin and both are powerful components of the human experience.

“Grieving doesn’t make you imperfect, it makes you human.” – Sarah Dessen

In North American society we aren’t encouraged to grieve for long; rather we are prompted to pause briefly and get on with life. Other societies create space for people to grieve and to help them heal in community. There’s no one way to be in this mystery of grief and sometimes we need professionals to help us navigate. Say you lost a job you loved. That situation requires grieving because you loved your job and it’s gone. There’s no shame in mourning the loss and feeling all the feelings that come with it. When we pretend that we’re just fine, we’re ignoring an opportunity to heal something and that pain, if not acknowledged properly, will stick around longer than it would if it was addressed.

“Grief is love not wanting to let go” – Earl A. Grollman

When we lose someone close to us, the void is so painful that we ask ourselves how we can go on living without them? Initially it feels as though the world stops and in a way your world does stop, so that you can acknowledge your true feelings and accept the loss. It’s unrealistic to think that we move on from grief, rather we get used to new circumstances. I love how American singer songwriter Andy Grammer honours his late mother. When he goes out for breakfast and sees women his Mum’s age in the restaurant, he offers to pay their bill and shares with them how it’s his way of keeping his Mum’s generous spirit alive. Isn’t that the most beautiful way to live with grief? We know that kindness is a powerful force that not only enriches the recipient of our acts of kindness, but we benefit as does anyone who witnesses it or anyone we tell about it. Honouring our loved ones to keep their spirit alive will look different for each of us. Think of the person you want to honour, think of their best qualities, and find some way to share those qualities with others through you. 

The one thing we must acknowledge about grief is that it’s real, whatever we’re feeling is real and feelings don’t have an expiry date. Sometimes we hold on to grief because we’re afraid of who we will be without it or we’re afraid of experiencing more loss. But once we begin to slowly move back into life, we can take the spirit of our loved ones with us and keep them close by honouring them in our own special way.

“Be the things you loved most about the people who are gone” – Unknown

Let’s talk about the loss of freedom and independence as something we all grieve for. Even school children grieve at the end of summer before they get into the excitement of a new adventure once they get back to school. Similarly, as our children grow up and move out on their own, we call it “empty nest” but it’s really grief we’re feeling and it’s very real. We grieve when we give up certain things like having a big home to move into a lifestyle without as many responsibilities and with more time to enjoy ourselves. On the surface, especially to those in the foundation building years of life, this can look like living the dream but in truth we are surrendering a part of ourselves that we felt defined us as guardians of the family home, and we may not know who we are without that identity. While it’s important to acknowledge that this transition is challenging and that what we’re feeling is legitimate and perfectly normal, it’s also important to carefully merge into a new lane on this amazing road trip of life.

“What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes part of us.” – Helen Keller

What we can’t see because fear is blocking our view is that we are granting ourselves an opportunity for a new identity. We have more bandwidth in our mind for creative pursuits instead of worrying about eaves troughs and snow removal bills. I’m joking a little but there is so much potential to embrace in the third act of our lives. If our choice is to move into a community like Wellings, we’ll have a ready-made social life where we can make new friends, we’ll have the freedom to do what we want when we want. Because we’re not focused on all the chores we had as a homeowner, we can enjoy trying new hobbies and experiences for the fun of it. We’re free to create a new identity for ourselves, one that incorporates all our previous experiences with a hefty dose of courage because we’re embracing the unknown. It’s there, on the other side of fear, that our new freedom waits for us.

Here are a few parting thoughts to consider as we move through grief:

  1. Have compassion for yourself. Whatever you’re feeling is real, so be gentle.
  2. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Nobody can accurately predict the future and as much as we would love to control it, we can’t. Accepting discomfort creates space for us to make mistakes and learn as we go. See tip #1.
  3. Stay connected with people you love and who are willing to be good listeners. Sharing what’s on your heart with someone you trust helps with healing.
  4. Move your beautiful body. We know that sitting for too long can be detrimental to our health, especially when we’re feeling down. Take a walk preferably in nature to elevate your spirits.
  5. Laughter, like kindness, is good medicine. Watch funny movies or television shows that make you feel good, read a lighthearted book, or spend time with someone who loves to laugh.

This Wellings blog by Kathie Donovan was exclusively written for Wellings Communities and appeared first on MyWellings.com.

How Talking to Strangers Can Benefit your Social Fitness

How do you feel about small talk or talking to strangers? Are you good at it or do you dread it? Some people are gifted this way and find it easy to engage with someone sitting beside them on a plane or waiting in line for coffee. You can feel that they’re relaxed, and it puts whoever they’re speaking with at ease. We’re not all built this way and for anyone who feels socially awkward or shy, talking with strangers can be a challenge. The great news is that when we’re prepared, small talk is easy and sometimes it magically transforms strangers into friends. 

“Friendship begins with small talk; then grows into a long and deep conversation, the next thing you know you care so much.”
-Unknown

I used to feel overwhelmed when I thought about all the strangers I was going to encounter at networking events. I had all the same feelings you likely have if you feel socially awkward like I do. What am I going to say? How do I start a conversation with someone I don’t know anything about? Are these people going to judge me?

Now I know that yes people are going to judge me because that’s how we’re wired as human beings. Until we get to know someone and discover what we have in common, our brain tells us to be afraid. What I have found though with years of networking behind me is that we have more in common than we think we do. It’s a matter of engaging and we do this by asking questions of others and sharing information about ourselves. I’ll have some tips that I’ve found useful on this topic for you a little later.

There’s science behind why it’s beneficial for us to talk with strangers and engage in small talk but without looking to science we can say that when a stranger wants to chat with us, it’s likely because they’re curious, we look interesting or both. Just a few questions and answers shared, and we know whether this is a relationship for the moment or one that could evolve into a friendship. Either way we’ll learn something, right?

“Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.”
-Margaret Wheatley, Organizational Consultant

Research on small talk shows that we underestimate how much we’ll enjoy conversations with strangers and how much those conversations can nurture a feeling of connectedness with other people, which is key for thriving, especially as we age. A study conducted at the University of Michigan shows that engaging in small talk can make us feel smarter, happier, and healthier. A surprising result was that casual conversation contributes to a lower risk of heart attack. It stands to reason because we’re connecting with other people, which inherently has a lot of benefit, at any age. It bears repeating that as human beings we are made for socialization and not isolation, so it’s important that we push ourselves beyond what’s comfortable or familiar, so that we can expand our knowledge base, social circle, and our own courage.

You’re only one conversation away from learning something new whether it’s about a family member, an acquaintance, or a community member. I remember recently sitting in a small group of Wellings members, after my presentation at Wellings of Picton. The woman beside me and I struck up a conversation; I learned that she had experienced a car accident a few years ago that impacted her life and her move to Wellings gave her new friends and a community that cared. She was excited about the music we were about to listen to and said that she was looking forward to kicking up her heels, even if only figuratively. A new Wellings member joined the group and introduced herself as Flo, spelling her name with a wide smile; she started asking questions to get to know the people in the group. She joked that her grandson loved Wellings and said that this type of community would be great for young people too. I think he’s on to something. Anytime we can create community and connection we are alleviating some of the stress we all feel in our daily lives, which is magnified when we’re isolated and lessened when we’re in community.

“Smile at strangers and you just might change a life.”
– Steve Maraboli, Behavioral Scientist

It’s important for us to initiate connections with our family, our peers, friends, and our community members, some of whom we may not know yet. While it may feel uncomfortable initially, with practice we become confident and reaching out becomes easier.

Here are a few tips I’ve found helpful when it comes to being prepared for conversation.

  1. I like to open conversation with a compliment whenever possible. It creates an immediate connection; make sure it’s sincere.
  2. Look for commonalities in whatever situation you’re meeting this person. Make sure you’re curious and have a genuine interest in them.
  3. Have a few topics of conversation in your pocket, so you can talk easily. In Canada weather is a great topic to open with and it seems everyone has an opinion. I like to keep it light and focus on what’s good.
  4. Talk about why you’re there, whether it’s a party, a meeting, or some other social event.
  5. Ask open ended questions rather than questions requiring a yes or no answer.
  6. Ask them to tell you a little bit about themselves.
  7. Genuinely listen to their answers and demonstrate it by using verbal and non-verbal feedback like nodding your head and following up with another question.
  8. Wrap up graciously by saying something like “it was a pleasure to meet you” or great chatting with you” and then add that you have somewhere to be or that you’re going to chat with someone else.

I think it’s important to be positive and enthusiastic when we’re getting to know someone. Small talk is the first step in figuring out whether we’re aligned with a new person; it’s also a great tool to deepen a relationship with family or community members without things getting sticky. We don’t have to tell our life story right out of the gate. While we all have an interesting story to share, we can save that for a time when we feel it’s appropriate to go a little deeper with someone, once we get to know them.

What’s really worked for me is practice. The more I’m prepared before I initiate conversation, the more relaxed I feel, and the more I enjoy these encounters. There are so many things we can learn, so many beautiful people we can get to know and so many wonderful stories and shared experiences to uncover when we take a chance and open a conversation, simply by asking “how are you doing?”

This Wellings blog by Kathie Donovan was exclusively written for Wellings Communities and appeared first on MyWellings.com.

The Importance of Having a Healthy Outlook on Life

Are you a glass half full or a glass half empty person? We’ve been conditioned to see glass half full people as optimistic and glass half empty people as pessimistic but why not just put more water in the glass to fill it up? I believe we all have some pessimism, and some optimism in us and it’s our choice to decide how we want to see what’s in the glass. Having a healthy outlook on life means accepting that as humans, we experience the full spectrum of emotions, and we’re responsible for our approach and our response to what happens on this life adventure. 

I consider myself to be a practical optimist. I choose to be hopeful and to have faith that even when things appear to be tough, there’s some growth coming out of it. I may be delusional about what’s possible but I’m owning it because I believe we are all capable of great things. I believe we are all capable of calling on courage to move through fear and we are all capable of calling upon kindness and compassion to override judgement of ourselves and others. Despite how I was conditioned to see life, I chose to flip the script and see possibility instead of limits. Every day now I choose to feel empowered instead of feeling like a victim. While I can’t single-handedly shift outcomes for the world, I can shift the outcome for myself and for situations in my corner of the world in part by having a healthy outlook on life. 

No doubt, there’s a lot more uncertainty in the world today. I love to understand what’s going on in my life and sometimes, when I don’t have all the information, my mind will fill in the blanks with some worst-case scenarios to prepare me in case things go sideways. That’s because as humans, we’re wired for survival and our thoughts set up imaginary circumstances to protect us. But if those scenarios have no basis in fact and are not true, it’s up to us to manage them wisely.  

Fear was so predominant during the Pandemic and in its wake we all have many unanswered questions. Unfortunately, we may never get the answers we’re looking for because some questions don’t have definitive answers. It’s best to accept that uncertainty is part of life and get comfortable being uncomfortable. It’s possible to be hopeful and optimistic without having all the answers. 

Because we are wired for survival, it explains why there is so much focus on bad news and why we prefer to stay in our so-called comfort zone. It may not really be comfortable but it’s familiar and familiarity feels safer than the unknown does. When we embrace uncertainty and accept that change is not a bad thing but a sure thing, we open ourselves to a life filled with possibility, where we can choose not to be so hard on ourselves. Having a healthy outlook on life means that we’re softer and more accepting of ourselves and others. It means that we can make space in our daily life to care for ourselves: body, mind, and spirit. We choose to speak softly to ourselves and others instead of being critical. We can give ourselves permission to celebrate whenever we choose courage over fear, and we allow ourselves to make mistakes. We recognize that in fact we can do many things our thoughts previously told us we couldn’t do.   

Here are some ideas to consider when it comes to nourishing a healthy mindset.  

  1. Choose to invest your time with people who make you feel energized not drained. 
  2. Watch what you consume in terms of media. It’s important to be informed about what’s going on in the world but being addicted to news can be toxic. 
  3. Be open minded and recognize that every person has their own experiences and their own viewpoint. We don’t all have to agree but we must be respectful. 
  4. Watch complaining in yourself and tolerating it in others. Complaining is a sign that something needs to shift and it’s really a statement about what we don’t want. Determine what you do want and take some small action in that direction. 
  5. Don’t allow fear to lead, instead call on courage to proceed when things feel uncertain. 
  6. Make some form of exercise part of your routine. It helps with freshening the mind and the body.  

Let’s go back to the glass half full analogy for a parting thought. If you notice someone in your life seems to have a glass half empty, pour some of your goodness into their glass by doing or saying something kind to comfort them. If you feel that your glass is half empty, open yourself to receiving support from someone who may have a very full glass to share. Being available to receive from others is really a gift we give to them when we’re in a time of need and it takes a healthy outlook on life to recognize that when we receive kindness from others we’re filling their glass too. 

This Wellings blog by Kathie Donovan was exclusively written for Wellings Communities and appeared first on MyWellings.com.

Joy Snacks for Pleasure and Longevity

What lights you up about Spring and Summer? After feeling like we’ve been through three winters (LOL) Spring’s arrival helps us to feel lighter. I like to call it the season of hope because there’s so much possibility all around us: in blossoms on the trees and flowers poking out of the ground. It’s so easy to be impressed by Mother Nature when the earth is smiling this way.

I love walking the trail near our home year-round but especially at this time of year. I welcome the sound of a stream rushing, birds singing, the different shades of green; creatures moving through the woods. These are all what I call joy snacks: the small moments of gladness that remind us of all the good there is to appreciate in life. Perhaps you experience something similar on your walks or as you move through your day. I sure hope so.

I think of joy snacks as a valuable ingredient in the recipe for sustainable happiness and here’s why. It’s all about the good feelings we experience when we encounter someone or something that makes us feel joyful. Think babies smiling, someone complimenting you or someone holding a door open for you. These everyday encounters cause our brain to release neurotransmitters or feel-good chemicals into our nervous system. There’s dopamine, known as the feel-good hormone and serotonin, often called the happiness chemical. Easy breezy activities like showing appreciation or kindness, receiving a compliment graciously, going for a walk, or smiling at someone all invite more production of these feel-good hormones and help lift our mood.

“Smiling can trick your brain by elevating your mood, lowering your heart rate, and reducing your stress. The smile doesn’t have to be based on real emotion because faking it works as well.”
-Dr. Diana Samuel MD

Joy is a magical thing and sometimes it’s challenging to believe we deserve it. We’re so conditioned to think that life is difficult, and joy is frivolous. We must become intentional about joy and teach ourselves to be clever joy detectives, packing as much of it as we can into every day. Let’s talk about exercise as a joy snack instead of a chore. Exercise encourages us to focus on the present moment; the experience takes our mind away from thoughts that might make us feel fearful or stressed and the magical piece is that we always feel good after exercise. Instead of looking at exercise as a “got to do it thing,” why not think of it as a “get to do it thing” because you know there’s joy involved. This is especially true when we exercise outdoors in nature and share the experience with someone else.

“The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.”
–Russel M Nelson

Our ability to experience joy is always there but it may very well be buried to protect ourselves from feeling hurt or disappointed. I understand that because before I became a joy detective, I felt the need to protect myself but not any longer. I’ve learned that joy helps to expand my perspective on life instead of living with a limited perspective, which happens when we’re focused on negative and fearful thoughts about ourselves and our life circumstances. So, joy is medicine that helps us lift our outlook on life to be more positive and optimistic.

In a recent chat with a woman at Welling, she confessed that meeting so many new people in the community made her feel uncomfortable because she couldn’t remember everyone’s name. I suggested she start greeting people by saying hello, friend. Her face lit up in recognition of the fact that folks in her new community really are her friends and it took the pressure off because now she doesn’t have to feel uncomfortable about remembering everybody’s name. That was a tasty joy snack.

There is so much benefit to being a joy detective. Not only do we experience something that feels good, but when we feel joy, we’re inspired to share it with others. We become more open minded and curious, our creativity expands, we spend less time focusing on what’s wrong because we’re looking for what’s going well. We’re more connected to other people, which improves our social fitness and when we’re joyful, we become more resilient, which sets us up for more positive experiences in the future both in our thoughts and the activities we choose to participate in.

I love to share joy snacks with other people, whether it’s having a meal with friends or surprising fellow walkers on the walking trail I mentioned earlier. I leave quarters on the posts of a little bridge that goes over a stream. I imagine someone seeing the money and feeling joyful, as they put it in their pocket, thinking about what joy they can create for themselves or imagining how they might pass the joy along to someone else. So, my challenge to you is to become a joy detective in your own life. Look for ways to pack as much gladness into your day as possible and when you can, offer a joy snack to someone else. You’ll make their day and light yourself up as well.

This Wellings blog by Kathie Donovan was exclusively written for Welllings Communities and appeared first on MyWellings.com.

The Game of Fitting in Versus The Feeling of Belonging

Have you ever felt like you didn’t fit in? I know I did in school, in some workplaces even in some friend circles. As I was trying to fit in, I felt unsure because I didn’t listen to myself. I looked to others for cues on how to behave and what to say. I felt lost and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. We are conditioned (I say conned) into believing that if we work hard to fit in, we will be rewarded by being accepted. We are social creatures, and we need to know that we matter to our tribe. We all want to feel accepted.

I like to remind people that we are all important and we matter but for some of us, it’s a stretch to really believe that because we’ve habitually modified our behaviour to try to fit in or we’ve put others needs before our own, so we don’t see how important we are; we don’t see that we matter. We need to recognize that belonging is different from fitting in. It takes courage and effort in the unlearning, to understand that being ourselves is the secret to belonging.

“Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”– Dr. Brene Brown PhD

I just finished reading media personality Paris Hilton’s memoir. When I saw the book, my first thought was that she’s too young, followed by she’s so privileged, why would anyone want to read about her experience? I was curious; I bought the book and I’m so glad I did. The great-granddaughter of Conrad Hilton, founder of Hilton Hotels has a reputation as a privileged wild child with a very rebellious spirit……that’s all I knew about her until I read the book. Her parents Kathy and Richard wanted Paris to fit in when her behaviour was taking her off the path, they had in mind for her as a Hilton. They tried everything they could to protect her but nothing stuck. Finally, they had her kidnapped in the middle of the night by two thugs, who transported her to a wilderness school for troubled kids, in the middle of nowhere California. She ran away, was captured, and was sent to another even more remote and wild so-called school.

It was all her parents could think of doing, to keep her safe and while it was done with good intentions, nobody caught that Paris had ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Her brain operates differently; she was not meant to fit in. She received the diagnosis around age 20; with treatment, the pieces fell together, and Paris soared. Her mind is hyper creative, she’s accomplished a lot and thanks to the humiliation she experienced at the wilderness camps for troubled kids, the paparazzi following her every move doesn’t scare her. In fact, Paris knows how to cooperate and make the relationship with the media work for everyone’s benefit. She belongs in the spotlight and the world accepts her there. Paris, just like all of us, was not meant to fit in; she was meant to be her true self. When we’re authentically ourselves, we’re not looking to fit it, we’re finding where we belong.

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”-Mother Teresa

Dr. Brene Brown PhD, an American professor, author, and researcher has spent decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She talks about the contrast between belonging and acceptance. Acceptance relies on others recognizing us, which is unpredictable at best, whereas belonging comes from within ourselves, as we get to know who we really are. In the process of getting to know ourselves, we learn about our strengths and our gifts; we develop confidence. Trying to fit in makes us feel unstable because it’s dependent on other people’s approval, while belonging feels solid.

If you want to deepen your sense of belonging instead of struggling to fit in, here are a few suggestions to try.

-Experiment with new things. When we step outside of what we consider our normal habits we always learn something, whether it’s discovering a new hobby or it’s that what we’re trying is not for us. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, start somewhere by researching or taking a class on the subject. We are never too old to learn, to dream, to experiment and to grow.

-Ask yourself what makes you feel connected to others. Is it your love of books or movies, your interest in history, food, flowers, or music? Look for groups in person or on-line to explore, learn and connect with like-minded folks.

-Be courageous. Say hello to your neighbours. Meet new people. Start conversations by asking people about themselves and really listening to what they have to say. You might be surprised by how much we have in common.  We’re all human beings going through this life adventure with its high peaks and deep valleys.

-Be kind. We need to learn to be kind toward ourselves first because we’re human and life is challenging. When we learn to treat ourselves with kindness, it becomes easier to treat other people with kindness and graciously receive kindness when it’s offered to us. Our acts of kindness may seem innocent, but kindness is the perfect expression of belonging.  It implies that we have enough within ourselves and can happily share with others to elevate their day.

In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Dr. Brene Brown teaches us that the greatest barrier to belonging is fitting in. She reminds us that while there are over seven million people on planet earth, there is only one you and you belong just as you are. You have experiences and knowledge that are yours alone; no one else on earth can be you. It’s the most beautiful reminder that you are important, and you matter whether it’s your home life, your work life, or your friend circle. Once you understand this truth, you’ll never need to fit in again.

This Wellings blog by Kathie Donovan was exclusively written for Wellings Communities and appeared first on MyWellings.com.

How to Be There for Someone Going Through a Rough Time

We’ve all found ourselves in a situation where the wheels come off unexpectedly for someone we care about. What do we do? What can we say? Because there’s no handbook on the subject, sometimes we feel so awkward, we do nothing. It’s in our nature to want comfort from others and to comfort people we care about when things go sideways. Let’s try to cut through the awkwardness so we can feel empowered to take meaningful action and be supportive.

“Promise me you’ll always remember that you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”  -A.A. Milne 

Connection and community are key elements of what I call sustainable happiness. We are made to be social, and we want to feel like we still belong when we are going through something. We need to understand that when someone is going through something tough, it is about them and not about us. When we focus on our discomfort around their situation and do nothing, that’s when we are making it about us. Understanding that distinction allows us to put our concerns aside so we can say and do things that express the compassion and empathy we feel for the person going through a rough time. 

Oprah Winfrey taught me that we can’t take anything off anyone else’s journey. The lessons in someone else’s experience aren’t meant for us, they’re meant for the person going through it. What we can do is walk beside them to soothe, support, validate and hold space. It’s important that we read the situation carefully, to know how we can offer the best support.  

If the person is comfortable talking, let them talk and ask questions that allow them to share without you having to inject your opinions or advice. Listening may very well be one of the greatest gifts we can offer another person. Let them know you’re listening by giving them physical cues like nodding your head or asking them to tell you more. Place your hand on their arm if it feels appropriate, to reinforce that you’re there for them. Repeat back to them what you heard them say to show them you are listening. As uncomfortable as it may be, resist the temptation to give advice, just be a good listener. That’s enough of a gift.  

If the person isn’t comfortable talking or talking with you, be respectful, don’t take it personally, rather find something you can do for them. Perhaps send a note, an email, a text, or a phone call to remind the person that you’re thinking of them. Just because someone isn’t comfortable talking don’t stay away; take some kind of action. Investigate how you can help by asking friends and family what that person might need. Preparing food can be helpful if you learn what they like or what food restrictions they might have and remember that flowers are always a beautiful symbol of hope. 

“We’re here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark.” – Whoopi Goldberg 

Remember that being there for someone is about helping them get through it, not forcing them to get over it. Grief has no specific expiry date, and we need to feel whatever it is we’re feeling when we’re grieving a job loss, a relationship or friendship ending or a death. When we’re trying to comfort someone, we want to ensure that we don’t get into toxic positivity by reminding the person how lucky they are. Let them feel all their feelings without judgment. Down the road, perhaps you can help them reframe their situation so they can move forward but in the middle of a storm we really need a safe place to hold on to. People going through a rough time need us to be grounded in strength; not in the soup with them. 

“Sometimes it’s okay if the only thing you did today was breathe.” -Yumi Sakugawa

Life can be messy and while it’s uncomfortable, that’s part of the adventure. Resist the temptation to say to someone going through a rough time “let me know if I can do anything for you.” It’s really an empty offer because while it sounds like you want to do something to help, you’re placing the responsibility on the person going through it; chances are they won’t ask. Instead say, “I’m sorry about whatever happened because you are”. It’s genuine and meaningful for the person. Then take some initiative and offer something specific or circle back at another time with a more tangible offer of help.

It’s important to remember that friends are meant to comfort and not necessarily provide counseling. Should you find yourself in a situation that is beyond your scope, help connect the person you care for with some professional help. 

What we really want to do for someone going through a challenging experience is to let them know that they are part of a community, that they’re important and they matter regardless of what’s happening in their life. Simply validating someone’s feelings when they’re sad or overwhelmed lets them know that it’s okay to feel whatever they’re feeling and reminds them that they are accepted as they are.

This Wellings blog by Kathie Donovan was exclusively written for Wellings Communities and appeared first on MyWellings.com.

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