Blooming in all Seasons: Finding Meaning and Purpose in Midlife

The one thing we can all count on in this life is change. People, situations and circumstances all change; yet we struggle. We fear and resist change because we can’t see what is beyond our current situation. Isn’t it ironic that change is the one thing we can count on; yet we can’t count on ourselves to yield to it?

Language is shifting; technology is evolving faster than we change our bed sheets in some cases. It’s important to recognize the value of being open minded and understanding that change is a positive, powerful force instead of expending energy fighting against it or defending the past because it’s all we know.

“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now.”  – Actor, Hugh Laurie

For the most part, we have no reason to question our purpose when we’re young, we seem to have a road map for that chapter but once we get to midlife and beyond the route looks muddled. In midlife our purpose can be challenging to connect with because we’re so used to seeing ourselves in the role we had before. It’s vital to keep our minds and our hearts open and remember that there is no perfect time, so don’t think you have to wait until you’re ready.  

As we do our investigative work, it’s important to remind ourselves that we’re not starting over; we’re starting from here, standing on all of the experience and wisdom we’ve gained so far in life. The questions that come up in midlife are important on our journey of discovery, as the answers become our signposts along this adventure. Who am I now? What do I enjoy doing? How can I make a difference for others? This newfound freedom allows us to find purpose in hobbies, education, volunteer work or starting a business.

We all need to feel purposeful to feel fulfilled but too often, we look outside of ourselves for the answer; the fact is that we connect with purpose when we go within. We can read books or speak with a coach for guidance but it’s important to listen carefully to our own inner wisdom to hear the answer. Try asking yourself who or what inspires you: the answer might be your spouse, your grandchildren, your children, your hobbies or your friends. Then ask yourself what it is about the activity or person that inspires you. If it’s their kindness for example, ask yourself where in your life you can invest in more kindness; if it’s their appreciation, ask yourself where in your life you can be more appreciative. If it’s how you feel when you’re immersed in your hobby, ask yourself how you can invite more of that feeling. Connect with your values, your interests and what brings you joy for cues on your purpose in whatever chapter of life you’re living. 

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.” –Albert Einstein

 It’s being in the mystery: in the process of reflection combined with action that leads us to our purpose. Life is not meant to be stagnant but sometimes we have to nudge ourselves to recognize again that we are important and we matter. It’s not so much about us finding purpose but allowing purpose to find us through self-reflection.

It seems that in midlife it’s more about meaning than money. Although finances are an important part of life, remember that money isn’t everything. Some of the richest people I know are wealthy in kindness, empathy and love which makes them feel really good. Of course, we have a choice to stay in our so-called comfort zone, where life feels familiar but we limit our possibilities. Prioritizing purpose in midlife is important because our world doesn’t reflect back to us that we’re relevant. We have to claim it; we have to take up the space we rightfully deserve. There is no boutique selling meaning or purpose, it’s all inside of us. The unconventional route and the one I choose, is one of freedom and growth, staying open minded, open hearted and having some fun along the way.

Here is a link to an article in Psychology Today about finding purpose and community after retirement. There are some great questions to guide you and some helpful insight to inspire you.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/mindful-anger/201907/4-secrets-finding-purpose-and-community-after-retirement?eml

Your Imagination Can Set You Free!

Let’s play a game. Imagine we’re not in a Pandemic and you’re able to travel anywhere you want. Doesn’t that freedom feel good? Now imagine you’re planning a trip: money is no object and you can go anywhere by any means of transportation you choose. Where would you be going and how would you get there? If you have a piece of paper and pen handy, write down what you would do.

Here’s what I’m up to: I’m boarding a plane with my husband, to take us to Hawaii, where we’ll spend a few days on the island of Kauai before boarding a cruise ship to sail to Australia, where we’ll spend a few weeks; then we’ll hop over to New Zealand before returning to Canada. Perhaps you’re heading to Europe, the Middle East, the Yukon or Newfoundland. Maybe your trip is across town, to hug your parents, your children or your grandchildren.

Thankfully, there are no limitations on our imagination because we sure need it now. Those of us who love to travel are feeling the deficit but it won’t be forever; in the meantime we can dream, travel virtually and comfort ourselves with memories of our past experiences. All the photos you saved from your trips are important reminders of your freedom so enjoy them; share them too, so others can dream along with you. I mean nobody’s going anywhere any time soon, so a fun zoom call might be to share photos with other people who were with you on a travel adventure or do a presentation of one of your trips for your friends.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world” – Albert Einstein

Imagination is a powerful force in our lives. We use it all the time when we think about future events or when we remember past experiences. It’s all happening in our imagination. When the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilber invented, built and then flew the first motorized airplane, all of it happened in their imagination before it happened in real life. I know that as they were inventing the motorized plane, they were already flying it in their imagination. It doesn’t always turn out the way we imagine and that’s okay too but it’s important to have a dream or two and to plan for that dream because plans can be altered but without dreams we can feel downhearted.

It’s important for our mental wellness to keep expanding with our imagination, seeing things before they’re physically in front of us. This helps keep us curious and optimistic as well as giving us something to talk about with other people. I bet if you asked your family and friends where in the world they would like to go, the conversation would be thought-provoking and exhilarating; that’s what travel does for us, even when we can’t actually travel. Your beautiful brain doesn’t know the difference between virtual travel and real travel, so save yourself some time and save your money, so that when the time comes, you’ve got a plan.

There are many ways to connect with travel virtually right now, such as reading travel blogs, joining online travel communities, why not watch a movie or read a book set in a place you’ve wanted to visit or learn the language of a country you want to spend time in. Our lives are in a holding pattern right now but our imagination is free to take us wherever we dream of going, no passport required. Bon voyage!

What Seeds are you Planting this Growing Season?

With Easter on our doorstep and spring in the air, we’re naturally more optimistic as we head into another growing season. When we observe nature, it’s clear that there is an anticipated pattern of ebb and flow. There’s a time to pause and a time for growth. Perhaps you’re a gardener who relishes nurturing seeds that turn into beautiful plants bearing fruit or maybe you’re a bird watcher, who enjoys the season of migration, as our transient feathered friends join the hearty regulars at the feeder.

Spring is a time of renewal and growth; it’s our time to press refresh and take stock of what we love and what doesn’t work for us anymore. There’s nothing wrong with letting go of habits that don’t serve us and that relates equally to behavior and how we think. It’s easy to get caught up in ideas like this is how I’ve always done it or I can’t change now, I’m too old, regardless of how old you are. Both behavior and thinking habits are tenacious, even addictive but we’re bigger than that and we’re better than that. What nobody tells us is that we can change our mind about anything at any time and we don’t need anybody’s permission to make that move. When it comes to our habits, rather than going for bigtime change, it’s more manageable to nurture small shifts in our thinking and behavioral habits that will reap great benefit in the long run.

A breath of fresh air is a great thing to take and an even better thing to be.”  Nikunj Patel

Let’s start with breathing, shall we?  Right now, you’re inhaling one of  25,000 breaths you will take over the course of the day. We take our breath for granted until we have a problem with it but here’s the thing: we should be more aware of how we’re breathing so that we can optimize those precious 25,000 breaths. I recently became aware that my breathing needed some adjustment. I have been sucking in my belly for years to try to appear slimmer and apparently this has not been helpful for my breathing, which ultimately impacts my entire system.

Studies have shown that when we’re stressed our breathing is rapid and shallow; who hasn’t been stressed over the last year in this Pandemic pause? So I’m making time to work on slowing down, breathing in and out of the nose, expanding the belly on the in breath and relaxing it on the exhale.  Try it right now; take four or five nice slow inhales and exhales in through the nose while you expand your belly on the inhale and relax it on the exhale. This engages the diaphragm, which is a good thing. Being mindful of how I’m breathing is not a hardship and it’s a change of habit that I’m enjoying and benefiting from.

Breath is at the core of living and our thoughts are at the core of how we live, so it’s important to ensure that how we’re operating is working for us. When we fuel our happiness with thoughts and actions that make us feel good and are helpful for others, the energy of that flows into every aspect of our life. When we feel purposeful, it’s much easier to be compassionate toward ourselves and others.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s never too late and you’re never too old to feel purposeful. Start with how you invest the 24 hours you have in a day. Have you explored what interests you by taking a course or joining a group based on that interest? Can you give your time, talent or treasure to an organization in need of help? Is there something you love to do that could benefit someone else? It doesn’t have to be complicated: if you bake share your goodies with others; if you love to read start or join a book circle. If history, yoga or art is your thing, try taking an online course. Any engagement like this will spark some kind of delight that will flow into every area of your life.

We can’t forget the other support systems like getting good quality sleep, exercising and having healthy eating habits. Having healthy habits in these areas produce that same spark of positive energy that flows into all aspects of our lives.

Anything we do to improve ourselves adds value not only for us but for those close to us as well as the community around us. This is our time to refresh, renew and dance like nobody’s watching, so don’t be afraid to strut your stuff. Remember that life is for learning and growing no matter what age you are.

How Mindfulness Can Help Manage Stress

What do you think of when you hear the word mindfulness? Do you imagine a guru sitting crossed-legged on a mountain top chanting? Frankly, I think mindfulness could use a new public relations campaign, so that we can all appreciate the benefits of this simple yet powerful practice. I want to share with you how mindfulness might be something you can use every day in your life to manage stress, like a secret superpower.

It’s challenging for our busy thinking mind to understand that taking the focus off of our worries is a good thing. We “think” we have to think our way through everything but just like our body needs rest, our mind needs a break too. We’ve all been on a kooky emotional roller coaster ride, since this Pandemic pause began. Depending on your circumstances, you may be managing working from home, schooling for your children, you might be concerned about your investments, your family and friends, grieving loss of a loved one, your former life and there’s always the underlying fear that you might get sick.

Mindfulness is part of a deep-rooted Buddhist ritual; it’s a practice, just like being grateful is a practice. Once we start to notice what we’re grateful for in our lives, we’ll always find that there’s more to be grateful for but we have to develop the habit of seeing our world this way. Same thing goes for mindfulness, which is the practice of being present in the moment. Our beautiful brain is wired to anticipate what’s coming in the future and it loves to ruminate on what’s already happened whether it’s good or bad. The practice of mindfulness interrupts this ingrained pattern and allows us to be present without attachment to any of the concerns we have about the future or the past. The thing is it’s fleeting, so we have to be mindful of what thoughts are coming up and through practice, train our mind not to judge our thoughts and not to allow those thoughts to prevent us from living fully.

Mindfulness can be meditation but it doesn’t have to be. What if I suggested sitting comfortably with your eyes closed and just observing your breath for a few minutes. Breathing in and breathing out without judging anything, just observing. That’s a form of meditation and that’s not so weird is it? In my view, mindfulness is about becoming the observer of our thoughts without feeling that we have to jump in and engage with them. With practice, we become skilled at bringing our attention back to the present moment when we get carried off by a thought about something.

A lot of the stress we’re feeling these days is the result of speculative thinking because there is so much uncertainty in our world right now. Going over and over what we don’t know doesn’t soothe us, it does the opposite. So mindfulness can start by allowing for an awareness of how much time we invest in these questions with no answers. What if, instead of allowing random thoughts about all of our concerns, we focus on what we can do and choose one thing; then do it. That’s being mindful. If you pause when you notice your thoughts are taking you in six directions and just focus on your breath. Breathe in; breathe out. That’s being mindful.

Some people enjoy meditating, some love to colour. Some enjoy listening to music and for others it’s all about exercise. There’s no wrong or right way; certainly not just one way to nurture mindfulness. The key is to interrupt the constant stream of the 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts that bombard us every day and take up a lot of our brain’s bandwidth.

Beginning the day with a few minutes focused on mindfulness whether it’s writing in a journal, taking a walk outside, sitting quietly with a morning beverage or listening to a guided meditation, all of these practices can set us up to more easily manage our thoughts throughout the day. Then it’s important to move through the day, looking for the good in it and only focusing on one thing at a time. We’re very capable of multitasking and sometimes we think it’s the only way to get things done but multitasking is a myth; research has shown that it’s best for our mental wellness to focus on one task at a time.

However you choose to be mindful, whether it’s looking for ways to help others, learning something new or exercising, you’re supporting a healthy immune system, you’re preventing your cells from aging quickly and you’re taking charge because while there’s a lot we don’t know right now, there’s so much we can do to improve our mindset which is the only thing we have control over at any time. So, as you pursue your mindfulness practice, remember that your thoughts are powerful and you’re in charge of them.

Here is a list of suggested ways to practice mindfulness:

  • Take deep, slow belly breaths.
  • Do some gentle stretches.
  • Paint something.
  • Sit or walk in nature observing everything around you.
  • Move slowly.
  • Observe art.
  • List what you’re grateful for.
  • Listen to music.
  • Listen to a guided meditation.
  • Write in a journal.

Decluttering in a Pandemic: Your Guide to Feeling Lighter

Discussing decluttering a year or two ago was quite a different conversation. Marie Kondo, the Japanese organizing consultant had us all under her spell, teaching that if something didn’t spark joy in us, we should let it go. Now we’re storing toilet paper and keeping our pantry full of dry goods just in case. We’re in survival and preparedness mode and that sparks stress: an indescribable often unacknowledged tension that lies there like a blanket covering all of our lives.

There’s nothing like a global health crisis to reshape how we think, how we spend and how we live, among other things. We panic purchased to help calm the fear that rose up and took over; we’ve been watching the news to stay informed, thinking that might calm the fear but it just feeds it. Almost a year later we are more hopeful with news of a vaccine but we are nowhere near the end of this and I think we’re all tired of being afraid of something we can’t understand. Let’s be mindful that fear serves a purpose; its job is to keep us safe and our job is to manage how much of it we allow to direct our lives. If we declutter fear, we’ll be able to see ourselves through this Pandemic with more hope and optimism.

Some good news in all of us spending time at home is that we’re finally getting around to painting a room or two and switching out furniture we’ve been meaning to replace. This has been a great benefit to charities like the Furniture Bank that assist refugees and low-income families with used furniture. There’s the rise in kindness and compassion we’re seeing in our neighbours, we’re spending less time in our cars and the work world is seeing benefit in having some employees work from home. I think we’re all searching for reasons to feel hopeful that out of this chaos comes some positive change. Isn’t that the way it always works? If we look back over our lives, I think we can all see evidence that out of disorder a new order is created however we just don’t do well when we don’t know what’s coming or when.

We want to plan grand reunions, we want to know when we can hug our kids and receive a hug from a friendly soul and who can blame us? We are made to live in a community; not isolation. So let’s begin by focusing on ways we can feel empowered instead of powerless. It starts with gratitude and appreciation for what we do have and what we can do. To activate the feeling of empowerment, it’s important that we implement simple practices like letting people know we appreciate them by giving compliments, making phone calls and sending messages to those we’re grateful for. There’s a lot of power in directing our attention this way.

We also have to manage how much time we devote to the news. It’s important to be informed but cultivating calm is how we quiet fear; we cultivate calm by settling the mind through prayer or meditation, whatever resonates with you. We calm our mind through exercise and focusing our attention on what we can control; surrendering the worry thoughts about what we aren’t in charge of. It’s like fine-tuning our insides; instead of allowing fear to make us feel scrambled and overwhelmed, we can manage our feelings by focusing on calm.

As we go through the day, instead of looking to the outer world for certainty, let’s go inward and take charge of our attention and focus. Remember that how we feel is going to dictate how our day will unfold. When we begin the day with appreciation and healthy boundaries, we’re decluttering our minds and choosing to feel empowered. When we limit our exposure to stressful influences we’re nurturing our mental wellness, which is an investment worth making if what we want is to live well.

Here’s a checklist to help maintain focus:

  1. Start your day by acknowledging what you’re grateful for; name at least five things.
  2. To activate feelings of empowerment, focus on what you can do such as giving compliments, reaching out to those you appreciate and giving your attention to people and things that make you feel good.
  3. Limit your exposure to negativity such as watching or listening to too much news; avoid gossip.
  4. Cultivate calm through meditation, prayer, exercise and practicing kindness toward yourself first.
  5. If you feel overwhelmed and find these recommendations difficult, there is support for you; all you have to do is ask.

Energize your life: Dream Big!

I really want this new year to be special, don’t you?  2021 feels filled with possibility and the hope that was lacking in 2020. Even when we don’t have all the answers we’re craving; even though we are still living cautiously, life is moving forward and that’s a great thing. While we’ve had many restrictions on our freedom in the past year, I think it’s time to start dreaming again; to start planning again even if the timeline has to be adjusted.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt

We humans aren’t happy when we don’t have plans of some kind and that means using our beautiful imagination to create them. The great thing about the world we’re living in today is that we can actually have an experience without leaving the comfort of our home. I signed up for a virtual tour of Florence and Tuscany to remind me of an adventure my husband and I had a few years ago. I know it’s not the same as being there but I’ll get the feeling of having been somewhere other than my living room and that will hold me until we’re free to travel.

Science has good evidence now that virtual experiences, like the tour I mentioned, produce positive emotion, which helps to alleviate the stressors we’re all living with during this Pandemic pause. Nature programs, cooking classes and exercise classes not only relieve boredom but support the all-important social connections we all need to nurture wellbeing.

I wonder what’s on your dream list; what would bring you joy. Are you longing to learn a new language or brush up on one you haven’t used in a while? Are you dreaming of a face to face coffee date with a dear friend or a family reunion? Does your list include travel, an art or cooking class; maybe salsa lessons or are you interested in volunteering?

Dream lists are important because they give us full permission to plan without pressure. Our dream lists have been taken more seriously since Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson knocked items off of their bucket list in the movie of the same name. It feels good to plan something even if you don’t know when or how you’re going to achieve it. Having a list of dreams is enough to keep us curious and engaged as life moves forward.

Equally important, to keep ourselves inspired, is having a reverse bucket list or a reverse dream list. It’s an accounting of all of our accomplishments and achievements to date. We’re so conditioned to check items off of the To Do list and move on that we hardly recognize the dreams we’ve already brought to life. If you dreamed something and did it, that’s cause for celebration. Looking back allows us to recognize how powerful we are; how courageous and resilient we are. It’s also an indicator of where our joy can be found. It’s the fuel we require to keep us dreaming and doing.

I propose that we work on our dream lists. Start by doing your reverse dream list first and write down your achievements to date; then do your future dream list. Beside each item on that list, put one small step you can take in the direction of bringing that dream to life. Remember your dream list is just a guideline without any pressure and it’s always connected to infinite possibility. Let’s dream big and make 2021 our best year yet.

Light Up with Love and Connection during the Festive Season

The holidays are a time for celebration with those who are most important to us, whether it’s family by blood or family by choice. This year, Covid-19 may have thrown our plans out the window but let’s not be discouraged.  We’ve proven we’re resilient and we’ve learned that we do better when we’re connected to community. So let’s reflect on what matters most and make this a festive season one to remember, for all the right reasons.

Science has proven that twinkly lights and festive decorations make us feel happy. Well it may have been a very small study, just in my home. So it’s not really scientific; more subjective. My husband jokes that he lives with a Christmas elf. I start sneaking the decorations out around mid-November. I love the simple joys of the season: sparkly lights and evergreen boughs. I love the preparation too but this year we’re putting a different spin on things and I want to encourage you to do the same.

While we’ll miss whatever celebration we’re used to with our loved ones, let’s be bold and focus on what we can do to make the most of the festive season with those around us. Ask yourself how you can show up for your neighbours and allow them to show up for you?

Instead of the annual Christmas gathering we host for our immediate neighbours, we’re organizing a stay at home potluck. On a specified date, each family will drop off two dishes on each other’s porch, we’ll set up a zoom chat to toast the season and enjoy a quieter celebration but a celebration nonetheless. Oh yes the food during the festive season is another favourite of mine. Many of us have our signature dish or treat and I hope you plan to share whatever your specialty is with your neighbours and friends. Every year, I make the plum pudding that my Mum and Godmother prepared as well as the white fruitcake my mother-in law made, so I can keep their spirit close at Christmas.

The fact that we aren’t as free to go shopping this year means that we can reframe that idea too. The real gifts of the season are kindness, empathy, compassion and love. These are gifts we all have an endless supply of and actually increase as we share them with others. A small gesture for a friend or neighbor, a donation to an organization that supports people who need it, especially at this difficult time, could be an expression of your kindness and compassion. Perhaps you could offer a card or a call, a package of goodies or a beautiful heartfelt smile. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. I encourage you to hold nothing back this year when it comes to sharing yourself with those around you.

This Pandemic pause has brought stress for sure and it’s brought beautiful gifts. We know now that we are better together and some of us have learned to appreciate support from neighbours and even strangers. Let’s all dig in and see where we can make a difference for those around us, to ensure that this festive season shines bright like the North Star.

Healthy Habits for Interesting Times

Do you find that you feel more tired or are more easily upset lately? Well you’re not alone. It’s called Covid fatigue because we’re all dealing with so much unknown and that can be exhausting.  In all of this, it’s easy to forget to take care of ourselves. I’d like to offer some ideas that might be helpful when it comes to either calming your energy down or lifting it up a little.

Remember that while it’s important to incorporate healthy habits, it’s equally important not to overwhelm ourselves with pressure to get it all done right away. Let’s be gentle as we navigate through this Pandemic together.

Move it or lose it

It’s important to keep our energy up by keeping our body moving. All it takes is about 30 minutes a day, which can be broken up into segments to make it more manageable.  This helps to strengthen our muscles and having strong muscles is good for our heart health, balance, stability and coordination. Remember dancing is considered movement, so feel free to dance around the room like nobody’s watching.

Don’t skimp on sleep

While doctors recommend adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep, as we age, we might require less shut eye. I find that I wake up in the night if I’ve had too much sugar, caffeine or alcohol, so I limit all three and expect disrupted sleep when I overindulge. One of the great contributors to good sleep is our first tip: exercise. Also having a set bedtime helps: consider setting an alarm for bedtime, so your body has a predictable rhythm. I think we all know that using devices right before bed is not a great set up for good sleep. If you find it’s a challenge to settle your mind down before sleep, consider an app like Calm for some free meditations, beautiful sounds and stories. It’s very…calming.

Laugh

Stock up on laughter whenever you can. Watch funny movies, enjoy jokes and share your laughter with others too. Reminding yourself of a time in the past when you laughed yourself silly will lighten you up and research tells us that smiling, even when we don’t feel like it has a positive impact on our brain. So….smile…say cheeeeese; embrace the good old belly laugh!

Keep your tank full

Be careful not to over serve others, while we frame it as being kind, sometimes we can deplete our resources when we give too much to others. I like to be generous and give from what I have in my overflow. I’ve learned to stick to the motto: help those who help themselves. I also make sure, when I can, to support organizations that help those who can’t help themselves.

Take your vitamins

If you asked, I’m sure your doctor would say that eating a healthy, balanced diet is a brilliant foundation for wellness. Especially during this stressful time, we want to maintain a healthy immune system. At any age, we might need to top up the levels on some vitamins and minerals, depending on our lifestyle and the season. It’s best to consult a professional, to ensure that your levels are optimal. Also, as we head into flu and cold season, stock up on your favourite remedies and consult your doctor about whether you’re a good candidate for vaccines for pneumonia, shingles and the flu.

Do your chores

It’s debatable whether making your bed as soon as you get out of it is the correct answer. In coaching we recommend it but some say letting the bed air out is good too. So take the pressure off on that one but do take care of chores around your home and do it, knowing that you are going to benefit.

Perhaps it’s sorting through clothes or photographs: both can be cathartic. Take care of dishes right after your meal to feel the sweet satisfaction knowing you won’t walk into a kitchen in need of a cleanup later.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed, we can trick our brain by breaking down large tasks into manageable pieces. I suggest giving half an hour to a project, just to get into the process. It’s not a contest, it’s simply a goal, so don’t shame yourself if you don’t get things done the way your mind thinks it should be done and remember to be compassionate and patient with yourself.

Give compliments out like candy

I’d like to leave you with a little experiment that’s both easy and challenging. Given that most people are dealing with a lot these days, how about making a point to give compliments to people you encounter in your everyday life. For some, it may be the one comment they need to turn their day around. Compliments benefit the person you’re praising of course but I guarantee you’ll feel good and you’ll realize how powerful your words can be. The most important ingredient in this challenge is to be sincere when you give compliments; when you’re caring in this way, it impacts whatever environment you’re in whether it’s work or home life in a positive way. Not all conversations will be appropriate for this assignment but when you think of it or notice something, be sure not to hold back.

We’re all beautiful works in progress

I know we’ve been conditioned to think that if we don’t get it right or get it done right away, we’ve failed in some way. That’s a myth we need to bust. Nobody is perfect, in fact, it’s better to strive for consistency instead of perfection. Our job is to manage our thinking about getting things done and about taking good care of ourselves. Whatever we can do is enough but it’s important that we do something outside our comfort zone to stir up the energy, so that we can navigate not procrastinate.  Remember to be kind to yourself and fuel your attitude with exercise, laughter, fresh air and friendship. Accepting that we can’t control much right now, gives us space to focus on what we can do.  If some of these suggestions are new to you, why not give them a try, I bet you’ll feel better for it.

How to Challenge Limiting Beliefs

Are you afraid of heights, flying, insects, needles, storms or public speaking? If you are, you’re certainly not alone. Fear is as old as the human race and is deeply rooted in our operating system. Its role is to protect us against a perceived threat and may be as simple as mistaking the top of a cherry tomato for a spider or as serious as feeling that our life is in danger. 

In the spring and summer of 2020, it feels like we’ve been overserved with fear. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we have more questions than answers and we feel uncertain about the future. While fear of the unknown is real, our thoughts about it are not always real. What we think is powerful and we need to keep in mind that our thoughts lie; they lie a lot.

Unfortunately we can easily buy into negative thoughts and if we want to enjoy life, even in this time of the pandemic pause, we need to take charge of our wellness on all levels. We need to eat properly, get rest, exercise, drink plenty of water and manage negative thinking to reduce stress.

It’s important to recognize when our thoughts are inaccurate. Credit goes to bestselling author and speaker Byron Katie and her method of asking ourselves four questions when those pesky negative thoughts attempt to take over. 

Choose one thought. For example: we’re never going to get out of this pandemic.

  • Is this (negative thought) true?
  • Answer: I really don’t know.
  • Can I absolutely know that it is true?
  • Answer: no.
  • What happens when I believe that thought?
  • Answer: I feel afraid.
  • Who would I be or how would I feel without this thought?
  • Answer: I would feel that I am in charge of my future.

It’s time now to turn the thought around. Ask yourself this question: what is the opposite of that thought?

Answer: We will get out of this pandemic.

American psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen supports Byron Katie’s method; he created the term ANTs or automatic negative thoughts, referring to the gloomy or complaining thoughts that seem to multiply in our mind.

If fear based thoughts have ever held you back from trying something new, again you’re not alone. The problem is though that these thoughts, left unchecked can create an undesirable result and steal joy, when we could be having fun. When we recognize our automatic negative thoughts for what they are, we can stop the multiplying and refocus our thoughts on something more positive.

Dr. Amen has several categories for ANTs (automatic negative thoughts), among them:

-Always thinking: when we think in terms of always, everyone, never, no one, everything and every time.

– Focusing on the negative: only seeing the bad in a situation.

-Fortune telling: predicting the worst possible outcome.

-Mind reading: we believe we can read someone else’s thoughts (and they’re not good) without them telling us or without us asking.

Dr. Amen advises that once we’ve identified the ANTs, we can remind ourselves that it’s simply a thought and that thoughts aren’t truth. Then we stand up to them and don’t allow them to limit our joy and finally we flip the ANT to a PAT (positive affirming thought). In the example we used earlier: ANT (automatic negative thought) we’re never going to get out of this pandemic. PAT (positive affirming thought) we will eventually recover from this pandemic and I plan to enjoy myself every day until we do.

As with any new habit that benefits our wellness, it takes training to chase away the ANTs; the great news is that as we practice, we take power away from negative thoughts and gain control over our attitude and ultimately our happiness.

Building a community of Kindness

In this extraordinary time of uncertainty, we’ve had to adapt at a rapid rate, even though our world feels like it’s in slow motion as the pandemic pause continues. The type of change we’re facing all over the world with quarantining, physically distancing and wearing masks is unmatched and it can take a toll on us. Nobody has an answer for when the COVID-19 virus will wrap up and the not knowing as well as the changing social norms we’ve had to adjust to can make us feel anxious. In many ways we’re witnessing a different world emerging and in the transition, sometimes we can feel overwhelmed and even powerless.

Wait a minute! We’re not powerless that is unless we believe we are. Let me explain. In the previous blog, I talked about physicist and kindness expert Dr. David Hamilton’s side effects of kindness and how giving and receiving kindness has health benefits like lowering blood pressure and inflammation. He also talks about how kindness positively influences our relationships. It’s important to recognize that how we feel has an impact on our wellbeing. While we are fundamentally resilient, it turns out we flourish when we turn to others for support, whether its family, loved ones or the community we live in.

“Kindness to you is kindness to me and kindness to me is kindness to you.” Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist in Psychology Today

Over the last few decades, researchers have been studying what is now called positive psychology.  It’s the scientific study of the qualities it takes for individuals and communities to thrive. It includes examining how nurturing positive emotions such as joy, appreciation, kindness and love improve our happiness and can have an impact on the wellbeing of others. 

We have to take action to bring out the benefit of these positive forces and the great news is that it’s not difficult. An interesting fact is that kindness, appreciation, love and any expression of them connects us to others whereas judgement separates us. As humans, we’re hardwired for judgement, so we have to work at releasing the hold it has on us and switch to a more relaxed and frankly kinder way of viewing others, if what we want is to feel good in our relationships. 

Whether we’re volunteering at an animal shelter, dropping off some flowers or home baking for someone or listening to a friend share a challenge they’re experiencing, being generous helps us to see our lives as meaningful. We create opportunities to learn about others, increase our self-confidence and have some fun along the way. It can feel uncomfortable if we’re not used to contributing or being kind. It takes moving out of our comfort zone, facing fear, feeling vulnerable or uncertain to create a better result and when we take in in baby steps, it really is work worth doing.

When we give to others and receive with appreciation, we make our bond stronger. I’m sure you’ll agree that pretty much everything we do in life is about relationships, whether it’s at home, at work or in our community; how we operate in those relationships determines how we feel about them.  Just like we take care of our home or office space to make it better, doing the same for our relationships is important too. By making a contribution and operating with kindness, we create purpose and meaning for ourselves. In addition, we influence those around us to take action themselves. We have the power; we can make a difference. If each one of us takes on this responsibility, together we can create a groundswell of good that will help make our world much better. After all a little kindness goes a long way.

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