The Benefits of Alone Time and the Power of Community to Heal Loneliness

How do you feel about being alone? Your answer may be a clue to how you’re wired as a human being. Some of us spend so much time alone that it’s uncomfortable to be around people and some of us spend so much time with people that it’s uncomfortable to be alone. We like to put people into categories such as the ones psychoanalyst Carl Jung created: introverts and extroverts. If you enjoy hobnobbing at a party, you’re categorized as an extrovert and if you aren’t fond of small talk and would prefer a good book cuddled up on your couch at home, you’re categorized as an introvert.

It’s not only about our behaviour, but also about how we recharge our batteries. Some of us need to be around other people to feel energized and some of us need peace and quiet to refuel, so we can handle being around people. Some of us are a little of both and can switch back and forth quite easily. I mention all of this because as human beings, we love a good category. We appreciate it when things are clear cut and easily defined but what it is to be human is not that. Being human is complex and multi-faceted. We’re all unique. Categories are helpful as a guide to point us toward what each one of us needs to thrive. It helps to reflect on situations where we feel most energized or relaxed. Were you alone and enjoyed the day so much you lost track of time? Perhaps that’s a hint that you enjoy being alone. Were you with others who shared a common interest whether it’s a hobby or work?  Did it fill you up or tire you out? Reflecting this way can help us understand what our needs are.

“What a lovely surprise to discover how unlonely being alone can be.” Ellen Burstyn

I’m more introverted than extroverted. I chose a very public life in broadcasting and public speaking as a career and in many ways, it’s been a terrific education. I need alone time to replenish, manage stress and reflect. Alone time helps me feel more creative and energized so I can be at my best when I’m around people. I’ve learned how to be more extroverted when I’m in social situations (practice helps). People have such interesting stories, and I learn a lot from them. I’ve learned that my story can be helpful to others as well. So, encouraging myself to be more social has had a lot of benefit.

We humans are meant to live in community and to be interdependent. We’re meant to rely on one another; not to be isolated. Research tells us that a certain amount of alone time is beneficial, especially as we age. When we’re alone, we’re more focused and away from other people’s opinions and influence. Being alone is a state of being, and being lonely is an emotional response. While loneliness is part of being human and it’s something we all feel from time to time, we all experience it differently. Some of us feel lonely for a short time and others feel lonely for long periods. Some of us feel lonely when we’re with people, especially when we don’t feel those around us care for us or understand us.

Feeling lonely can contribute to mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and sleep challenges. Conversely, mental health challenges can contribute to feelings of loneliness. Because this aspect of our lives is unique to each one of us, there isn’t one solution for all. Life events outside of our control, important holidays, and big changes in our lifestyle can magnify feelings of loneliness. Being kind toward ourselves or being self-compassionate is an excellent starting point, then opening up to people we trust, not overwhelming ourselves with tasks, resisting the impulse to compare our situation with anyone else’s and instead recognizing that our situation is unique, and the remedy will be unique as well. Learning to take excellent care of ourselves by speaking kindly toward ourselves and about ourselves, taking it slow and not pressuring ourselves to have all the answers might be an effective prescription to start with. Getting exercise without overdoing it, listening to beautiful music, watching lighthearted entertainment on tv, or going out for a walk with a friend might be more your style. Remember procrastination is fear in disguise and deliberately taking small steps to complete a task can help to calm fear.

“The loneliness you feel is actually an opportunity to reconnect with others and yourself.”  Contemporary philosopher – Maxime Legace                  

Loneliness is an epidemic, in our current North American social climate, despite or maybe because of the many ways we are electronically connected. But human connection is something we haven’t been able to replicate digitally, and I hope we never do. Instead, I hope we choose to connect in community whether it’s with our family or our family of choice, so that we can see how much we have in common and help one another along the way.

Life is much smoother when we accept that we’re all unique and that includes our needs. I love alone time to refuel while my friend needs to be around people to fill her tank. We don’t judge one another, instead we respect each other and encourage each other to do what’s right for us. While I’m an independent minded woman I know that I need people as much as they need me. It’s my responsibility to make sure I take good care of myself and sometimes that means spending time alone and sometimes that means sharing what’s happening with my friend.

We’ve been conditioned (I say conned) to think that when we’re independent, we’re strong, but in learning what our needs are and how to be vulnerable with others, we discover our true strength. Having the courage to be vulnerable sets us up to receive support from our community and it’s feeling that we’re part of something bigger than ourselves that builds sustainable strength. It’s knowing that we’re all in this together and together we can do anything.

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

Self-Compassion for a Happier Day

I pride myself on being a pretty good cook, having taken care of most of the meals for our little family of two over the last thirty-something years. I love to try new recipes, visualizing them in my imagination and relying on my experience in the kitchen to improvise when I feel confident to do so. Occasionally, things go sideways, and the dish doesn’t turn out as I envisioned. I used to feel bad about it, sometimes I’d scold myself, or point out the perceived mistake before anyone else could say anything.  I wanted to protect my feelings from being hurt. It’s exhausting to feel we must cover up when things don’t go as planned. My little story is a small example of the many situations we find ourselves in where things don’t go as we imagined, or we feel we’ve messed up somehow. The most natural response is to frame it in a negative way and be critical of ourselves. This just sounds like human nature, doesn’t it? But does it have to be?

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein

It’s that old school conditioning around perfection; it was part of my education growing up but not part of my experience because nothing I was or did could ever have been perfect. That’s how I thought about myself and my life when I was young. The concept of perfection was always out of reach back then, but I have since learned that perfection is nothing more than an illusion. Take nature as an example: we understand that nature is perfect in every way with her rhythms and her beautiful creations but there isn’t one straight line in nature. Think about that. When we observe nature, we can see that there are no mistakes; life in nature is gloriously flawed and we’re comfortable celebrating that.

In nature, nothing is perfect, and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.  – Alice Walker                         

While we are part of nature, she feels more like a great teacher because our human experience is different. Unlike animals in the forest, we don’t trust our intuition or our natural rhythm, we rely on our thoughts mostly and sometimes that’s where we get ourselves into trouble. When we make a perceived mistake, our critical thoughts step in to tell us that we’re wrong, that we don’t know how to do whatever it was we were trying to do.

But without our perceived mistakes, how would we learn to do better? How would we know what’s for us if we don’t try different experiences? Nobody nails it on the first go. Life is complex and finding our joy in it takes some practice.

 “Self-compassion is nurturing yourself with all the kindness and love you would shower on someone you cherish.” -Debra L. Reble PhD

 In her book titled Self-Compassion, Dr. Kristin Neff PhD says that having compassion for ourselves, meaning treating ourselves as we would a cherished friend when they’re struggling, helps us to feel stronger and more resilient. Initially this idea rubbed me the wrong way because of the deeply ingrained conditioning I had around independence and perfection. As a young person, I learned to be independent and to strive for elusive perfection. But as I reflected on the idea of compassion and did a little research, I shifted my perception. The word compassion comes from a Latin word meaning to suffer with and research shows that human beings are naturally compassionate because to greater or lesser degrees, we all suffer. We know how to be there for other people when they’re going through it but recently, I’ve been learning through Dr. Neff’s book about the great benefit of having compassion for ourselves. The idea takes the focus off independence and perfection and places it on interdependence and acceptance. We need each other and we need to accept others and ourselves as we are and what we are is gloriously flawed.

 “Suffering is part of life. May I be kind to myself in this moment. May I give myself the compassion I need.” ― Kristin Neff PhD, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself

There are close to 3,000 studies now on the concept of self-compassion and its benefits for our well-being. Dr. Neff says that there’s a difference between acts of self-care like taking a bath or having a massage and self-compassion. The latter is a state of mind; it’s not something that requires resources or taking any action. It’s a way of thinking that is invested in our own best interest. The tricky bit though is we must learn self-compassion because we’re so wired for self-criticism, the evolutionary system that weirdly makes us feel safe. Since learning about the idea of self-compassion, I know which voice I don’t want in my head when things go sideways – a voice that belittles me; what I want is a friend who supports me. Self-compassion then becomes a practice, where we shift our inner dialogue when we mess up from negativity and self-criticism to support and kindness. Let’s face it, nobody gets through life without some challenges and when you can learn to rely on yourself for some compassion you’re far more inclined to be comfortable sharing that support with others.

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

Mindset Trumps Circumstances when it Comes to Happiness

Each one of us sees life through our unique perspective, formed by our beliefs and our experience. The lens we view life through is called our mindset; it plays an important role in how our reality is shaped. I’m not sure what it was like growing up in your family, but I wonder if you had the experience of your mother telling you that if you made a face at her, your face would stay that way. Anybody? While our Mum’s threat seemed serious at the time, our faces are pretty much a-okay today despite having frequently contorted them in displeasure at her attempts to discipline us kids. Nonetheless, a seed was planted, and I often wondered if I was temporarily getting away with it; perhaps one of these times, my face would stay that way. Now that I know better, I recognize that it’s one of the many myths I sort of believed as a kid.

Another one that was tough to take was while on family vacation we had to wait an hour after eating before going swimming. According to the Mayo Clinic there is no scientific evidence to prove this concept. My husband bought this myth as a kid too and he suggested it was out there to give our parents a break after a meal, so they didn’t have to supervise us kids swimming. How about one more? Were you taught that we only use 10% of our brain? That was my understanding too but according to a neurologist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, we use virtually every part of the brain and most of our brain is active just about all the time.

“There is only one cause of unhappiness: the false beliefs you have in your head, beliefs so widespread, so commonly held, that it never occurs to you to question.” – Anthony de Mello                                                        

According to Dr. Jacob Towery, clinical instructor in the department of psychiatry at Stanford University, our mindset is helpful when it comes to filtering information, it can also work against us when we hold on to ideas that are no longer relevant for us. Dr. Towery explains that we can change our mindset to shift out of distorted thinking, so that we can make room for more happiness in life. I love this idea, it reminds me of the concept of neuroplasticity, which describes how our brain can adapt or change over time with new information and new ways of thinking. This is why I believe that mindset trumps circumstance when it comes to our happiness.

“When you have your health, you have everything. When you do not have your health, nothing else matters at all.” – Augusten Burroughs

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying or said it yourself “when you have your health, you have everything.” I know I’ve said it without giving it much thought but now that I know better, I’ve stopped saying it. It’s another myth I want to bust. Having good health is not everything; having a healthy mindset is. Ask yourself is the reverse of that saying true? If I don’t have good health, I have nothing? The truth is that all of us at some point in life will encounter health challenges but that doesn’t mean we can’t be happy or that we don’t deserve to be happy. When we put our mindset in charge instead of allowing our circumstances to dictate how much happiness we’re entitled to, the results are impressive. Those of us who work at having a healthy mindset appreciate the value of community and the importance of having mutually beneficial connections with other people. Research tells us that a healthy mindset points us to appreciate the gifts we have in our lives every day, nourishes resilience and is a great support as we navigate the trials of daily living and any health challenges we encounter.

“If you accept a limiting belief, then it will become a truth for you.” – Louise Hay

We’ve been so conditioned to put the emphasis on the wrong thing that we forget what truly matters where our health is concerned. Our health is not only physical, but also emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual. We should all pursue a healthy lifestyle and that includes not only what we eat and how we move but also having healthy thoughts about ourselves and others. I think it’s equally important to say healthy things about ourselves and others, to surround ourselves with people who want only the best for us and to engage in hobbies and activities that support a healthy mindset so we can continue to learn and grow. Life is much more fun this way.

I believe everyone is entitled to a “pity party” for a short time when the wheels come off but let’s not unpack our bags and stay there. An important aspect of having a healthy mindset is having the courage to ask for help when we need it and at some point, we all need it. Recognizing that all humans have an innate desire to be helpful can make it easier to ask for help. Acknowledging that we all need support at some time means you’re not taking anything away from anyone, rather you’re giving someone the gift of being able to be there for you in the same way you would be there for them. Let’s revisit the saying I mentioned earlier and reframe it so it’s true for us. When you have a healthy mindset, you have everything because with a healthy mindset you can navigate anything.

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

The Power of Wonder and Awe

Do you remember that feeling as a child, when you saw the Christmas tree for the first time during the holiday season? Maybe it was your first flight or seeing your child or grandchild for the first time that made you feel something beyond words, something that transcends everyday life. It’s a feeling that we describe as awe or wonder; it’s magic that leaves an imprint.

Although we each have our own precious moments of awe and wonder, we are inclined to leave it to the world to bring these special moments to us. Recently I visited Canada’s National Gallery where it’s pretty much non-stop wonder for me. Visiting the aboriginal exhibit, seeing how early craftspeople made tools and garments leaves me feeling overwhelmed because their resourcefulness and skills are so impressive. Seeing the work of Canadian artists who capture the essence of a boreal forest with colours that don’t exist in nature, but they convince us otherwise leaves me speechless. We are swept up in wonder; as we participate in this creative connection and we allow ourselves to step away from our ruminating mind, to stand in awe. I love to visit the National Gallery because I know that I’ll be inspired to look at life differently.

“The key to a wonderful life is to never stop wandering into wonder.” – Suzy Kassem (writer)

Think of a wedding, where family and friends gather to celebrate love between two people. It’s such a joyful and powerful experience for those in attendance, often moving them to shed happy tears. That’s awe and wonder in action. Sometimes watching a sunrise or a sunset can inspire a strong emotional response. We can call that everyday wonder because these events happen every day. Research tells us that nourishing awe and wonder in our lives is a healthy coping tool, often strengthening our connection with others when we share the experience.

Being in nature is not only awe inspiring, its medicine for us humans. Japanese culture promotes forest bathing or shinrin-yoku, shinrin: forest and yoku: bathing, where people are encouraged to experience the wonder of nature without distraction, walk at a slow pace and notice their surroundings. The benefits of this practice include improved immunity, lung, and heart function as well as memory, and focus. Forest bathing is an excellent antidote for stress and anxiety and is helpful with recovery from injury.

“Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.” -Stephen Hawking (Cosmologist)

I’m old enough to remember dial telephones and party lines. I love those experiments where they put young kids in front of a dial telephone and ask them if they know how it works. Most of the time they have no idea and that’s just to demonstrate how far we’ve come and how quickly technology has been evolving.  I asked Chat GPT, an artificial intelligence language model that has been trained to produce human-like text, to tell me how a rotary phone works and in seconds I had a pretty thorough explanation. While Artificial Intelligence or AI is one of mankind’s greatest achievements, it comes with plenty of warnings. While we need to embrace technology to stay relevant, as a society, we need to be cautious around its use. Sure, it can respond to questions effectively and efficiently, but I wonder who’s curating the information being shared. I wonder about AI’s impact on our workforce, but I don’t doubt the positive impact it can and will have in our world.

“You will enrich your life immeasurably if you approach it with a sense of wonder and discovery and always challenge yourself to try new things.”  – Nate Berkus (designer)

To be alive today is to live in an era of wonder. We’ve witnessed some of mankind’s greatest successes but we’re also experiencing some detrimental effects from some of these great accomplishments. Because so many of us are connected to our devices, there’s a loneliness epidemic and while there are and will be many innovations to help connect us as humans, nothing is better than human to human connection. At least for now, there’s no heart and soul in what Chat GPT produces and this is what we humans require. Let’s embrace these technological innovations with a beginner’s mindset and not get disillusioned because while change is inevitable, our world is a pretty remarkable place. Let’s choose an approach of wonder and awe about it instead of deciding to be afraid of it.

There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle. – Albert Einstein

Let’s be life-long learners, excellent students of wonder and awe in our every day. As corny as it may sound, there’s magic in seeing the beauty in nature: watching a bird feeding or flying, noticing the intricacies in a flower and marveling at it all. See all your life as the miracle it is and take your sense of wonder with you wherever you go and hopefully you’ll inspire others to do the same.

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

Taking the Scare out of Retirement and Swapping it for Enthusiasm

Dame Judi Dench said, “It’s the rudest word in my dictionary, “retire.” And “old” is another one. I don’t allow that in my house. And being called “vintage.” I don’t want any of those old words. I like “enthusiastic.”

I do too, Dame Judy. I really like it. How many of us resonate with the word retired?

There’s a hidden implication that needs to be addressed when it comes to retirement and aging in general and that is that as we get older, we become irrelevant. But that’s only true if we say it is right? Personally, I am firmly opposed to this silly notion and hope that together we can plant some ideas to redefine an outdated concept.

Some of us have lived our lives in service to our families and our communities, to our bosses and the companies that employed us and need an opportunity to rest and recover from all the activity. I celebrate that pause for sure. But to thrive, human beings need to have a purpose at every stage of life and what we conventionally refer to as retirement can be our best chapter yet.

“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.” -Fred Rogers

I’m at an age now where many of my contemporaries are either preparing to or have stopped working full-time, to savour all the freedom that comes with this new phase of life. When they talk about retirement, it has a very different tone from how their parents might have framed it. We are, as Dame Judy suggests, enthusiastic about life: we have hobbies, personal and professional pursuits, activities, social circles, and in my observation that sounds more like having a passion for living fully. Let’s look at the word retired: it has the word tired in it and most of us are anything but tired. Far from it, we’re ready to embrace the adventures awaiting us. Even working out of necessity can be more enjoyable because our life experience has taught us to recognize our limits and create a work life more aligned with our capabilities and interests.

Some of us may have forgotten how to be playful, having defined our success by providing for others, meeting deadlines and being driven by pressure. This chapter is not that; it’s an opportunity to grow into a new version of ourselves, where we call the shots and where we measure our success with a different ruler.

“Retirement is not in my vocabulary. They aren’t going to get rid of me that way.” – Betty White

American actress, comedienne and producer Betty White was an icon: a beautiful, talented woman who enjoyed a career in television for almost seven decades. She was a champion in animal rescue, had an enviable optimism and a wicked sense of humour. Plainly put, Betty White knew how to be playful and make the most of a life filled with purpose. She had her share of loss and struggle, but it was always her enthusiasm for living that shone through.

The new measure for our success in this third chapter of life is focused on productivity from a different viewpoint. We all have the same number of hours in a day; it’s what we do with that time that will make the difference and this is where purpose comes in. It seems that when we’re young our purpose is easier to connect with, as we build our family, our career, and our social circles but in our third chapter it’s more of a challenge. Our social circles change for various reasons, our family structure shifts too, and we can be left feeling lost or we can begin an investigation to find new meaning. People often advise us to get back to hobbies we enjoyed when we were young, which can be a clue but connecting with our purpose is not like finding a lost quarter, it’s more like uncovering a mystery.

“Retirement isn’t the end of the road, but just a turn in the road.” –Unknown

There’s more great news about this chapter in our life adventure: we’re the choosers, we’re the deciders and we have more sovereignty over key decisions like where we live and how we live.  One of the challenges we face is that we prefer our comfort zone over growth because it can be uncomfortable but the key to living with enthusiasm is taking risk, there’s no growth without it.

Moving forward into this exciting time of life means we get to try new things, meet new people, perhaps adopt a pet, experiment with language, musical instruments, volunteering, and work opportunities. We have amassed a lot of experience and hopefully some wisdom to help steer us as we navigate. While it may be some time before we find a new word to best describe this potential filled chapter of life, we are breaking ground and we’re doing it by living joyfully, practicing spontaneity, connecting with purpose, and placing importance on connection and community. These are the building blocks of a brilliant third chapter and the exciting part is we’re creating it together. 

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

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.

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

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.


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