We can always choose to perceive things differently. You can focus on what’s wrong in your life,
or you can focus on what’s right. – Marianne Williamson

 

Once upon a time, I was a negative person. I was very reactive and went wherever my mind took me. Sometimes that was down a deep rabbit hole of what 12-step programs call “Stinking Thinking.”

The lens through which we view our lives can influence the situations in which we find ourselves. Positive thoughts can create more positive circumstances. Conversely, negative thoughts often fuel increased dissatisfaction and disappointment.

Before I discovered hypnotherapy and metaphysics, I was stuck viewing life through a negative lens. Now I know, and teach my clients, that your mind is a muscle. We have the ability to create our own reality. Each one of us is in charge of our thinking. If we can change our thoughts, and our attitude, we can literally change our lives.

I have included some negative thinking behaviors below. By becoming aware of your negative thinking behaviors you can begin to change your thoughts and create a happier and more peaceful life for yourself.

 

1.  Avoid “black and white” or “all or nothing’ thinking.

When we view people and/or situations as “black and white” or “all or nothing” we do ourselves, and the people we encounter, a great disservice. Our perspective is rigid and narrow. There is not much room for interpretation, flexibility, or negotiation. In reality things are often more gray and, if we allow for it, can offer a fresh perspective from which more options can be realized.

Words like always, never, impossible, terrible and perfect are examples of “all or nothing” thinking that can trap us in a handicapped and limited way of perceiving the world. It can lead to an emotionally unbalanced perspective of the circumstances we might find ourselves in.

Here are some statements that offer more “grey”:

Even though I sometimes do dumb things I am still an intelligent and competent person.
Even though I love my partner, sometimes I find him extremely frustrating.
Even though I like parts of my job, there are other parts that I find boring.

2. Stay away from exaggerations and over-generalizations.
“You are always late.” “You are always so critical.” “I can never do anything right.” These are examples of over-generalized or exaggerated statements. The telltale signs of an exaggerated statement includes worlds like never, always, should or everybody. Over-generalized statements are a form of negative thinking. They are accusatory and can create discord in a relationship. A way to reframe, “You are always so critical,” might be to say, “At this moment I am experiencing you as being quite critical of me. I have noticed in the past that you are frequently quick to criticize, but seldom voice your approval. I would appreciate it if you would spend more time applauding me for the things I do well.”

The second statement is more truthful and less exaggerated. As a result, it can lead to a more positive outcome.

3. Is it more important to be right or happy?
There are some people who seem to have a need to be right. This can lead to an argumentative attitude and can create discord in their relationships. There are some issues that deserve our full commitment. But there are others that in the larger scheme of things aren’t worth fighting about.

For instance, I have some political and spiritual convictions that are very different from the rest of my family. I could engage in heated debates and bring discord to our time together. However, I love my family. I don’t get to spend as much time with them as I would like. I find we have plenty of things in common to talk about. I would rather spend my time strengthening our bond than arguing about who is on the “right” political or religious side.

To find peace, happiness and closeness we sometimes need to just let things go. I can still maintain my convictions without having to argue about them.

4. What is the good in that bad thing that just happened?
I have a friend who has had a lot of adversity. Yet he is one of the most positive people I know. His secret – he always tries to find the good in whatever bad thing happens to him.

We can choose to have a positive or a negative mental filter. Persistent pessimism can become a habit if we aren’t careful. Chronic negative thinking can become the lens through which we view the world – the proverbial glass that is half empty.

Too often we think that we are supposed to have a perfect life of success and happiness. The reality is that we learn our lessons and grow wise though the challenges we face during our walk upon the earth. It is not the challenges we face that counts; it is how we choose to view and deal with them. We can claim victimhood (and there was a time when I played the damsel in distress!), or we can figure out what resources we have and work towards a resolution. When we do the later, the lessons we learn and the resiliency and inner strength we build is invaluable.

I had two friends. Both were laid off when their companies closed. One went into a depression, coping with alcohol and prescriptions drugs. He lived a wasted life. The other, though also depressed, drew on her resources, developed a strategy for getting back on her feet, followed through with her plans, and is now a much happier and fulfilled person. She found the good in the bad thing that happened to her. So can you!

5. Don’t should on yourself.
When we should on ourselves we are passing judgment, often negative ones, about our actions and behaviors.

When we say things like “I should make more money, I should have made better choices, or I should have done better in school, we are only seeing the negative and are unable to see what might be positive. Should statements put our thoughts and attitudes in a box and constrain us from seeing other options. When we are stuck in the negative we are out of balance; our perspective is skewed.

In reality, we often make choices based on what we know at a given time, or on what resources or abilities we have at the time. I have found that people are generally trying to do the best that they can in any moment. Blaming ourselves for lack of knowledge, or ability, or resources is pointless and debilitating. It would be better to replace the should with something more positive like, “I did the best that I could with the skills, knowledge and ability that I had at the time.” This is a more supportive and truthful statement.

6. Celebrate.
We seldom take time to give ourselves a much needed and deserved pat on the back. We go from one achievement to another with hardly a moment to recognize what we have accomplished.

When we stop after a productive day, a productive session with a client, or a meaningful conversation with a child and tell ourselves we did a “good job,” it affirms that we are OK. That we have value. That we are successful in our lives.

It is important to celebrate the good things when they happen. Setbacks do and will happen. Challenges and obstacles will present themselves. This fact makes it all the more important to stop and congratulate ourselves for our success no matter how small. Emotional health is about balance and realizing that good things do happen. Remembering this can help us to deal more effectively and have hope when we are challenged.

If you are struggling with negative thinking that is keeping you stuck in unhappiness and disappointment, then give Joy a call to find out how you can create a happier more fulfilling life for yourself. Call 415-819-8769 or email Joy today.

Do you still carry a grudge over something that happened years ago?

If so, you just might be the person who is suffering the most!

I’ve been doing a series of articles on the qualities we need to cultivate in order to achieve a higher state of ‘Being-ness.” According to many well-known metaphysical teachers, we are living during a monumental time in which humanity is experiencing a shift to higher consciousness. We are shifting from 3rd dimensional consciousness to 5th dimensional consciousness.

When a person reaches 5th dimensional consciousness, it’s claimed that they will experience a permanent state of peace, bliss, love, and joy. The catch is, however, that in order to “ascend” a person must first cultivate a consistent state of being that is compassionate, forgiving, loving, tolerant, and accepting. This has led me to question what these traits actually are, and how they might benefit humanity.  The following is the second article in a two-part series on Forgiveness.

Holding a grudge can harm you
There are some negative consequences of holding onto a grudge. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you continue to carry a grudge you might actually pollute other relationships and new experiences with your anger and bitterness. There is a danger of allowing your old toxic memories of past wrongs negatively impact what is going on in the present. This might lead to depression or anxiety. Or it could morph into feeling that your life lacks purpose or meaning. For some it might cause you to feel disconnected from spirit or your spiritual beliefs. Finally it might hamper your ability to maintain valuable and enriching connection with others.

How can you reach a state of forgiveness?
Forgiveness comes when you make the decision to be honest with yourself. It takes making the conscious effort to reflect on the situation with more compassion while attempting to view it from a much larger perspective of yourself, the other party, and the situation.

To begin, you might reflect on the particulars of the situation, such as how you’ve reacted, and how the resentment and bitterness has affected your life, your health and your well-being. Has it enriched your life with joy and meaning, or has it kept you cycling in anger and bitterness? Then you might consider the value of forgiveness and the impact it could have on your life. Sometimes by actively choosing to view the other person with compassion while trying to understand them and their situation, you will find that the ability to forgive will naturally happen. This is easier if you move away from viewing yourself as the victim and eliminate any belief that the offending person has any control or power over your life. In reality, they only have power if you give it to them.

As you let go of grudges, you’ll no longer define your life by how you’ve been hurt. You might even find compassion and understanding.

Forgiveness isn’t easy
I’m not claiming that it is always easy to forgive. This is especially true if the other person doesn’t want to admit wrong and/or doesn’t speak of his or her own sorrow. If you find yourself stuck and having trouble forgiving, then try one or several of these suggestions:

  • Consider the situation from the other person’s point of view.
  • Ask yourself why he or she would behave in such a way. Perhaps you would have reacted similarly if you faced the same situation.
  • Reflect on times you’ve hurt others and on those who’ve forgiven you.
  • Write in a journal, pray or use guided meditation — or talk with a person you’ve found to be wise and compassionate, such as a spiritual leader, a mental health provider, or an impartial loved one or friend.
  • Be aware that forgiveness is a process and even small hurts may need to be revisited and forgiven over and over again.

Forgiveness and reconciliation
It’s important to remember that forgiveness doesn’t always lead to reconciliation. If you’ve had a close relationship with the offending person prior to being hurt, then forgiveness might lead to reconciliation. This doesn’t always happen, however. Sometimes you are able to forgive, but the relationship never quite seems to go back to the way it was.

If the offender has died or is unwilling to communicate then reconciliation might not be possible to achieve. Sometimes reconciliation isn’t appropriate. Still, forgiveness is possible — even if reconciliation isn’t.

Forgiveness isn’t about getting another person to change his or her actions, behavior or words. Forgiveness is more about how it can change your life by helping you to find greater peace, happiness, and emotional and spiritual healing. Forgiveness can also take away the power the other person might still wield in your life.

Forgiveness is a process that takes time
Remember, forgiveness is a process. Your ability to forgive may not happen overnight. Nor can you force someone to forgive you if you should realize that you just might have to take some responsibility for what happened.

People need to move to forgiveness in their own time. Whatever the outcome, allow yourself to move to a state of forgiveness. Forgiveness is important for your own health and well-being. Then commit to treating others with compassion, empathy and respect.

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was YOU!

If you are harboring bitterness, anger, and/or resentment and are having a hard time letting it go, then give Joy Reichard a call to find out how she can help you move to a state of forgiveness so you can find more peace and happiness in your life. Email Joy today or contact Joy at 415-819-8769.

Adapted from words of wisdom obtained from a Mayo Clinic article on forgiveness.

According to many well-known metaphysical teachers, we are living during a monumental time in which humanity is experiencing a shift to higher consciousness. We are shifting from 3rd dimensional consciousness to 5th dimensional consciousness. When a person reaches 5th dimensional consciousness, it’s claimed that they will experience a permanent state of peace, bliss, love, and joy. The catch is, however, that in order to “ascend” a person must first cultivate a consistent state of being that is compassionate, loving, tolerant, forgiving and accepting. This has led me to question what these traits actually are, and how they might benefit humanity. To better understand ‘compassion’, I was drawn to an article in Psychology Today, “Compassion: Our First Instinct, Science shows that we are actually wired for compassion, not self-interest”.

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“Decades of clinical research has focused and shed light on the psychology of human suffering. That suffering, as unpleasant as it is, often also has a bright side to which research has paid less attention: compassion. Human suffering is often accompanied by beautiful acts of compassion by others wishing to help relieve it. What led 26.5 percent of Americans to volunteer in 2012 (according to statistics from the US Department of Labor)? What propels someone to serve food at a homeless shelter, pull over on the highway in the rain to help someone with a broken down vehicle, or feed a stray cat?

“What is Compassion?
What is compassion and how is it different from empathy or altruism? The definition of compassion is often confused with that of empathy. Empathy, as defined by researchers, is the visceral or emotional experience of another person’s feelings. It is, in a sense, an automatic mirroring of another’s emotion, like tearing up at a friend’s sadness. Altruism is an action that benefits someone else. It may or may not be accompanied by empathy or compassion, for example in the case of making a donation for tax purposes. Although these terms are related to compassion, they are not identical. Compassion often does, of course, involve an empathic response and an altruistic behavior. However, compassion is defined as the emotional response when perceiving suffering and involves an authentic desire to help.

“Is Compassion Natural or Learned?
Though economists have long argued the contrary, a growing body of evidence suggests that, at our core, both animals and human beings have what Dacher Keltner at the University of California, Berkeley, coins a “compassionate instinct.” In other words, compassion is a natural and automatic response that has ensured our survival. Research by Jean Decety, at the University of Chicago, showed that even rats are driven to empathize with another suffering rat and to go out of their way to help it out of its quandary. Studies with chimpanzees and human infants too young to have learned the rules of politeness, also back up these claims. Michael Tomasello and other scientists at the Max Planck Institute, in Germany, have found that infants and chimpanzees spontaneously engage in helpful behavior and will even overcome obstacles to do so. They apparently do so from intrinsic motivation without expectation of reward. A recent study they ran indicated that infants’ pupil diameters (a measure of attention) decrease both when they help and when they see someone else helping, suggesting that they are not simply helping because helping feels rewarding. It appears to be the alleviation of suffering that brings reward — whether or not they engage in the helping behavior themselves. Recent research by David Rand at Harvard University shows that adults’ and children’s first impulse is to help others. In fact, when we are taxed, our first impulse is to help others, suggests research by Francesca Righetti of VU University Amsterdam. Research by Dale Miller at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business suggests that this is also the case of adults, however, worrying that others will think they are acting out of self-interest can stop them from this impulse to help.

“It is not surprising that compassion is a natural tendency since it is essential for human survival. As has been brought to light by Keltner, the term “survival of the fittest,” often attributed to Charles Darwin, was actually coined by Herbert Spencer and Social Darwinists who wished to justify class and race superiority. A lesser known fact is that Darwin’s work is best described with the phrase “survival of the kindest.” Indeed in The Descent of Man and Selection In Relation to Sex, Darwin argued for “the greater strength of the social or maternal instincts than that of any other instinct or motive.” In another passage, he comments that “communities, which included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members, would flourish best, and rear the greatest number of offspring.” Compassion may indeed be a naturally evolved and adaptive trait. Without it, the survival and flourishing of our species would have been unlikely.

“One more sign that suggests that compassion is an adaptively evolved trait is that it makes us more attractive to potential mates. A study examining the trait most highly valued in potential romantic partners suggests that both men and women agree that “kindness” is one of the most highly desirable traits.

“Compassion’s Surprising Benefits for Physical and Psychological Health
Compassion may have ensured our survival because of its tremendous benefits for both physical and mental health and overall well-being. Research by APS William James Fellow Ed Diener, a leading researcher in positive psychology, and APS James McKeen Cattell Fellow Martin Seligman, a pioneer of the psychology of happiness and human flourishing, suggests that connecting with others in a meaningful way helps us enjoy better mental and physical health and speeds up recovery from disease; furthermore, research by Stephanie Brown, at Stony Brook University, and Sara Konrath, at the University of Michigan, has shown that it may even lengthen our life spans.

“The reason a compassionate lifestyle leads to greater psychological well-being may be explained by the fact that the act of giving appears to be as pleasurable, if not more so, as the act of receiving. A brain-imaging study headed by neuroscientist Jordan Grafman from the National Institutes of Health showed that the “pleasure centers” in the brain, i.e., the parts of the brain that are active when we experience pleasure (like dessert, money, and sex), are equally active when we observe someone giving money to charity as when we receive money ourselves! Giving to others even increases well-being above and beyond what we experience when we spend money on ourselves. In a revealing experiment by Elizabeth Dunn, at the University of British Columbia, participants received a sum of money and half of the participants were instructed to spend the money on themselves; the other half was told to spend the money on others. At the end of the study, which was published in the academic journal Science, participants who had spent money on others felt significantly happier than those who had spent money on themselves.

“This is true even for infants. A study by Lara Aknin and colleagues at the University of British Columbia shows that even in children as young as two, giving treats to others increases the givers’ happiness more than receiving treats themselves. Even more surprisingly, the fact that giving makes us happier than receiving is true across the world, regardless of whether countries are rich or poor. A new study by Aknin, now at Simon Fraser University, shows that the amount of money spent on others (rather than for personal benefit) and personal well-being were highly correlated, regardless of income, social support, perceived freedom, and perceived national corruption.

Stay tuned for next week’s article in which I will share how compassion is both good for your health and can help change the world.

Excerpted from “Compassion: Our First Instinct, Science shows that we are actually wired for compassion, not self interest“, Psychology Today, posted Jun 03, 2013 Emma M. Seppälä Ph.D.

 

I have long been a fan of Wayne Dyer. He introduced me to the concepts of manifesting and unity consciousness thinking about 17 years ago. I have read many of his books and appreciate his wisdom. I found this article on his blog and wanted to share his thoughts with you. I hope you also come to appreciate his wisdom. (I’ve made a few of my own changes and additions and have put them in parenthesis.)

 

One Indivisible Family

by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

“No man is an island, entire of himself; every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main….”

John Donne, 1624

Are you familiar with these classic lines? Here seventeenth century metaphysical poet John Donne expresses the idea of oneness and unity consciousness. Ancient mystical wisdom tells us that in the garden of the mystics, distinctions such as I, you, he, she, and they do not exist. To reach a higher state of awareness and bliss in our lives, we must understand the truth of that first line, “no man (or woman) is an island.” That can happen only when our ego gets the message.

Our ego insists that we are separate from others and defined by where our boundaries stop and others start. Similarly, our ego tells us that we are separate from our environment and that we are here to sort of push it around as we desire. Yet mystical teachers and poets are always reminding us of our connectedness and the oneness of everything and everyone. We must look beneath the surface and beyond appearances to grasp the unity consciousness they speak of.

Imagine a wave or a drop of water considering itself apart from the ocean. It is weak when separated, but returned to its source it is as powerful as the ocean. Thinking of ourselves as separate from others, we lose the power of our Source and diminish the whole of humanity. When you see yourself as connected to everyone, you stop judging others and begin to see all of us connected to the same unseen silent life force.

Compassion becomes an automatic reaction when you see all of humanity as one undivided and indivisible family. Viewing all others as family members lets you feel more compassion and love toward them. John Donne’s words remind us that we all need each other.

Here are some unity consciousness ideas to practice:

  • Stop viewing yourself as distant and apart on the basis of your geography, or your isolation from those who are struggling elsewhere. When you become aware of someone suffering on another shore, say a prayer for that person, and see if you can experience in your heart your oneness with that person.
  • See (the Divine) in everyone and everything and behave each day as if (the Divine) in all things truly mattered. Try to suspend your judgments of those who are less peaceful, and less loving, and instead know that hatred and judgment are the problems in the first place.
  • Use fewer labels that distinguish you from “them.” You are a citizen of the world and a member of the human family, and when you stop the labeling process you begin to see (the Divine) in every garden, every forest, every home, every creature, and every person, and inner peace will be your reward.

If your judgmental thinking is getting in the way of you enjoying a loving, joyful and peaceful life, then please contact me to request a 30 minute complimentary consultation to find out how I can help you embrace the life you want. Call 415-819-8769 or email Joy TODAY!

For many the holidays bring up nostalgic memories of family fun and good cheer. For others it can be a time of loneliness, sadness, and depression. Unfortunately, the holiday blues are a very real phenomenon.

Here are some of the risk factors of holiday depression,

and how you can avoid them!

Comparing Your Insides to Someone Else’s Outsides

Both in real life and on social media, it can be difficult to avoid comparing yourself with others around Christmastime. If you have a less-than-perfect family, a past trauma from this time of year, or just a less-than-full holiday dance card, comparing your holiday experience with those of others is a recipe for increased sadness and isolation.

Often, these comparisons tend to be skewed — and they tend to make us feel bad about ourselves. That’s because a person’s basis for comparison is not based in reality. Why?  Because – bottom line – most families have issues of some sort or another! I know mine did. And most people didn’t have the perfect Christmas that they would like to have had, or even remembered that they had. So ease up about comparing yourself to the Christmas others had in the past and begin to plan for a good Christmas experience for YOU this year.

Slacking on Self-Care

For many people, December is the busiest time of the year. When work pressures pile up and the calendar gets full with social obligations, the routines that normally keep us healthy and happy — yoga class, morning runs, healthy home-cooked meals, a meditation practice — are usually the first thing to fall by the wayside.

In addition to increased stress, eating poorly and drinking excessively can also exacerbate issues like stress, anxiety and depression.

“Take care of yourself and don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.

Try these suggestions:

  • Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese, or drinks.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.

I would like to emphasize the importance of avoiding binge drinking. Alcohol is everywhere during the holidays! If you’re struggling with feeling down, it may be wise to avoid drinking as much as possible because alcohol is known to worsen, not relieve, symptoms of anxiety and depression.

No “ME” Time

Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.

Some options may include:

  • Taking a walk at night and stargazing.
  • Listening to soothing music.
  • Getting a massage.
  • Reading a book.

Experiencing Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

If you tend to start feeling down when winter approaches each year, and those negative feelings don’t go away after the holidays are over, you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Many people who think they are suffering from a case of holiday blues may actually be suffering from SAD, a form of depression that’s brought on by the change of seasons. Many people miss the exposure to natural light and can sink into sadness. But SAD shouldn’t be dismissed as mere “winter blues.” Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of this disorder to find a treatment that works for you. Also you might look into full spectrum lighting. Full spectrum lighting duplicates the visible wavelengths of sunlight at noon and uses both high clarity and balanced color phosphors. It has helped many people overcome SAD.

Family Grievances and Conflict

The holidays are a great time to be tolerant and set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations.

Declare an amnesty with whichever family member or friend for whom you feel past resentments. It’s seldom helpful to tell your relative about every resentment on your laundry list of grievances, especially during the holiday celebrations. And don’t let your relative do that to you, either!

Try to be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.

If you know there are going to be conflicts, prepare a neutral response, such as, “Let’s talk about that another time,” or, “I can see how you would feel that way.” Then escape to the restroom, offer to help in the kitchen, or go hang out with the kids. And it always helps to call a good friend if you need a sympathetic ear.

Post-Christmas Credit Card Bills that Put You in a Tailspin.

To avoid the after Christmas sticker shock create and stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.

Try these alternatives:

  • Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
  • Give homemade gifts.
  • Start a family gift exchange.

I have a large extended family. Years ago we decided to have a family Christmas get-together the Saturday before Christmas with a family gift exchange. We set a price and it’s been working great ever since. It’s made my life easier, and we still enjoy the holiday fun!

Missing the Holiday Action

Feeling like you are under-scheduled or under-planned for the holidays?

This is a great time to help others, and make some friends while doing it. Volunteer to serve holiday dinner at a homeless shelter. Work with any number of groups that help underprivileged or hospitalized children at the holidays. Sing in a choir that visits hospitals or senior residences. There are many opportunities for doing community service. It’s hard to be depressed when you are doing community service. Helping others can be a great high, and it builds self-confidence too.

If the holidays are challenging for you, please give me contact me at 415-819-8769, or email Joy@joyreichard.com for a complimentary 30-minute Consultation. Find out how Healing with Joy can help you have a merrier holiday season.

How many of you faced the early morning crowds on Black Friday like I did to get a good start on the Christmas shopping?

I picked up my 80-year-old shopping buddy at 8:30 AM and we shopped till we dropped!  We finally drove back to her house to drop her off with all her packages at 7:45PM! We scored! And had lots of fun doing it! It’s been our annual tradition for the past few years.

I have great memories of holidays. My parents, though not wealthy by any means, took pleasure making the holidays special. There would be a lot of secrecy, and shouts of “don’t come in this room” when my sister or I would try to barge in. Of course we were curious about just what were they doing in there!

We decorated the tree together as a family with lots of laughter and fun. Then Christmas morning we’d get up really early. Wide eyed with anticipation we’d gaze impatiently at all the colorful presents anxious for our parents to finally get up.

I have fond memories of the holidays… But, unfortunately, not everyone does.

While colorful images of merriment and joy fill storefronts, TV screens and magazines, for many the reality of the holidays isn’t so cheerful. Between stressful end-of-year deadlines, family dysfunction and loss, poor eating and drinking habits, and increasingly cold and dark winter days, it’s not unusual for the holiday season to feel not-so-merry-and-bright.

Constant reminders of the holidays being a merry time for ‘others,’ can serve as a painful reminder of all that might be lacking for some. For this reason, the month of December can be a particularly difficult time of year. This is especially true for those dealing with family conflict, loss, break-ups, divorce, loneliness, illness, and mental health issues.

Feelings of depression and negativity affect many people at the holidays. Unfortunately, the holiday blues are a very real phenomenon.

Here are some of the risk factors of holiday depression,

and how you can avoid them!

Setting up unrealistic expectations.

Hoping for a picture-perfect White Christmas holiday is setting you up for not only disappointment, but potentially depression.

“People have this anticipation or fantasy of the holiday that you would see on TV,” psychiatrist Dr. Mark Sichel, author of Healing from Family Rifts, tells The Huffington Post, adding that his practice gets much busier after the holidays. “Actually, it’s never exactly as people anticipate and it’s often disappointing. There’s often strife within families that comes out at holiday times.”

When it comes to family, it’s especially important to manage expectations during the holidays and avoid hoping for things to be perfect. If holidays tend to be a time of conflict in your family, or you’ve recently experienced the loss of a loved one, putting pressure on your family to all get along or to be cheerful could lead to disappointment and additional anxiety.

Being mindful of what you do have to be thankful for — your sister who always makes family gatherings bearable, getting a week off of work, or just the promise of a fresh start with the beginning of the new year — can help combat feelings of deficiency and lack. “Realize that the holidays do end — and take stock of what you can be grateful for,” says Sichel. “Having gratitude is probably the best antidote against depression.”

Trying to do too much

During the holidays, the pressure of trying to do everything (i.e.  planning the perfect holiday, trying to make it home to see your family, saying yes to every event, meeting those year-end deadlines) can be enough to send anyone into a tail spin. And if you’re prone to anxiety and depression, stress (and a lack of sleep) can take a significant toll on your mood.

A heightened pressure of trying to get everything done perfectly, and the fear of not being able to get it all done, are some of the most common triggers for the holiday blues, Sichel states.

“Being bogged down by perfectionism” can contribute to feeling down, says Sichel. “Many people feel they just can’t do the right thing, that family members are always disappointed in them.”

Planning Something Special for Yourself

Being a single adult with two grown sons I learned through trial and error to ensure that I did something special for me during the holidays. Sometimes it’s a splurge shopping spree the day after Christmas with my shopping buddy, Barbara. This always includes a nice lunch, and maybe dinner, as we delight in our great buys and each other’s company.

At other times it’s planning a special treat like the ballet or symphony, or even a walk on the beach. And once in a while I will plan a special trip with a traveling buddy. This year I’m going to San Diego with my friend Cynthia! Other people deal with holiday blues by having a Christmas gathering for all the other people who don’t have a place to go.

Missing those nostalgic Christmases when the kids were young, or regretting not even having those memories, can cast a gloom on the holidays. By asking yourself “what would make ME happy this holiday season,” you can come up with some creative ideas to have your own heart-warming Christmas experience.

Check back next week for some additional ideas on how to maintain good cheer during the holidays.

If the holidays are challenging for you, please contact me at 415-819-8769, or email Joy@joyreichard.com for a complimentary 30-minute Consultation. Find out how Healing with Joy can help you have a merrier holiday season.

 

This is the time for Thanksgiving Reflections of gratitude for the abundance in our lives. Yet many times our attention turns to what we don’t have rather than what we do ‑  and for good reason!  The season of non-stop shopping is almost here.

With Thanksgiving the race to get ready for the next round of holidays begins.  Thursday we will be celebrating the season of plenty. Then, with the advent of the first official days of Christmas shopping, we enter five frenetic weeks of searching, finding, ordering, and buying those perfect gifts for our loved ones.  We go from celebrating abundance and gratitude at Thanksgiving to experiencing the overwhelming requests of needs, wants, and desires.

Before we head to the mall, some reflection would do our souls good, not only to count our blessings, but to continue focusing on them.  Money will be spent on many things in the next few weeks, but it can’t buy the most important gifts:  good health, a loving relationship, close family ties, caring friends and community, the fulfillment of creative expression, and inner peace.

We often forget these things, not because we are ungrateful, but because we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life.  The things that money can buy will never fill the deep need within us for acceptance, love and connection

How about making a commitment this Thanksgiving and throughout the holidays to do it aa bit differently this year?  I know it’s good for the economy for consumers to madly spend money. It fuels our capitalistic system. But few of us really need more stuff!  Most of our closets, drawers, and garages are already stuffed with things. Way too many things

Sadly it only takes an hour or two to open all the presents bought during the five week holiday spending spree. Hours of shopping for a couple of hours of surprises and pleasure! Does this really make sense?

So why not do things a bit differently this year? We can scale down the Holiday spending splurge. Instead we can hold on to those Thanksgiving feelings of gratitude a bit longer by generously reaching out to those around us with feelings of well-being, tolerance and compassion.

Did you know that it takes fewer facial muscles to smile than to frown? So why not practice smiling more, being kinder, gentler, and more patient?  Instead of getting caught up in the holiday rush, reach out and re-connect with a friend, acquaintance or relative that has drifted away. Why not even smile at the retail clerks. Their job must be grueling this time of year with longer hours of impatient customers. Or you can reflect on how you can enrich your relationships with quality time – truly sharing and caring – the whole year long.

This Holiday Season spend less time rushing, buying, and doing. Instead make an effort to be present and mindful of what is truly important. This Holiday Season give the gifts that money can’t buy – understanding, connection, love, and peace.

Happy Thanksgiving

Joy Reichard

I view the Tarot as wisdom cards. This is especially true of the Devil card.

The Tarot is a pack of playing cards (most commonly numbering 78), used from the mid-15th century to present in various parts of Europe to play card games. From the late 18th century until present time the tarot has been used by mystics and spiritual seekers as a divination tool, or as a map or guide for mental and spiritual pathways to greater understanding and personal growth. The Devil card is just one of these divination cards.

This is a time when our shadow stuff, our inner thoughts and feelings of shame, guilt, rage, prejudices, regret, etc., is being brought up to clear. At least this is what my astrologer friends claim. We are in challenging times: personally, nationally, politically, and globally. I see it in myself, my friends, in what my clients are bringing to the table, and in the world around me. Even Gaia, Mother Earth, is protesting, and protesting violently. Whatever is going on cosmically, for my friends, my clients and I, this challenging time is very personal, and is often disruptive and painful.

I came across the Tarot about fifteen years ago when I was going through a major life transition that was intense and painful. I thought there must be something wrong when I kept pulling the Tower and the Devil cards. That was until I began to understand the true meaning of these cards and came to befriend them. I’m sharing what I learned from the cards in hopes that it might be helpful to those of you who might also be going through a challenging time.

The Devil

The 15th Major Arcana card of the Tarot is the Devil card. It speaks to the shadow side of ourselves that is held in bondage to our addictions, greed, negativity, insecurities, self-doubts, and fears (rejection, abandonment, not being good enough, not being loved, etc.). These shadow self-perceptions and beliefs keep us stuck in an old story. We cycle in it, even though we try to escape. But by some seemingly dirty trick, or act of self-sabotage, we keep getting pulled back into it the same old story.

How many of you find that you keep dating the same type of man or woman? Or have the same types of trouble at work? Or can’t seem to stop eating too much, drinking too much, or watching too much TV? Or have dreams and goals, but can’t find the motivation, or the courage, to risk doing something about it?

This is the Devil!
The Devil isn’t an external entity cursing your life! It is your own subconscious mind that is holding you back. It keeps you stuck in the shadow beliefs of your subconscious that basically say you can’t have what you want because…”you’re not good enough”, “you don’t deserve”, “you don’t really matter”, “there is something  wrong with you”, or some variation of the above.

None of this is true! It’s all part of the negative story you carry in your subconscious. You have the power to change that story! You just need to realize it is a story that is based on old beliefs about yourself.  This is what the Devil card is signaling when you pull it. Now, my astrologer friends tell me, is the time to clear it!

How do you change the story?
Changing our story requires going inward and being honest with ourselves. The first step is to realize you are being plagued by an old story we tell ourselves that involves addictions, greed, negativity, insecurities, self-doubts, and fears (rejection, abandonment, not being good enough, not being loved) etc. Once you realize that you are stuck in an old pattern, sit quietly and allow your mind to become calm by following your breath.

Once calm begin to feel whatever feelings are coming up. Acknowledge that you hare having these feeling. Then ask yourself is this feeling familiar? Does it fit into an old pattern? Are you really justified in having that reaction? Or are you feeding the emotions by creating a story around your feelings?

The importance of the PAUSE
It’s so important to pause when we are having an emotional reaction. Then acknowledge the feelings. Then ask, “do I need to react in the way that I am feeling?” If you are justified, the pause will help you decide on the most appropriate way to respond rather than lashing out. If not justified, then you can toss the feeling away as being irrelevant or an over-exaggeration of what is really going on in the situation.

Often times it is our own negative thoughts, or the stories we tell ourselves, that is the Devil creating our pain, distress, unhappiness, ill-will, and feelings of rejection.

Look for next week’s ezine to learn about the Tower and how it impacts our life.

If you would like help to free yourself from your shadow beliefs and change your story, please schedule a 30-minute complementary consultation today with Joy Reichard (415-819-8769). Learn how you can live a more joy-filled life.

Most of my articles focus on women and the female perspective. Sadly, this ignores about 50% of the population. Men are also trying to find their way in our changing culture. I believe these changes are requiring men to develop more compassion. Yet, what is required of men to become more compassionate? For that answer, I turned to an article written by Kozo Hattori that was published in the Great Good, ‘What Makes a Compassionate Man?’

What does it take to foster compassion in men? To find out, Kozo Hattori, the author, interviewed scientific and spiritual experts.

I remember being a very compassionate child. While watching The Little House on the Prairie, I cried my eyes out when Laura couldn’t give Pa a Christmas gift. But 12 years of physical abuse and being forced to the confines of the “act-like-a-man box” wrung most of that compassion out of me by the time I reached adulthood.

Although I was what therapists call “high functioning,” my lack of compassion was like a cancer that poisoned my friendships, relationships, business affairs, and life. At the age of 46, I hit rock bottom. Unemployed and on the verge of divorce, I found myself slapping my four-year-old son’s head when he wouldn’t listen to me. As the survivor of abuse, I had promised myself that I would never lay a hand on my children, but here I was abusing my beloved son.

I knew I had to change. I started with empathy, which led me to compassion. I committed to a daily meditation practice, took the CCARE Cultivating Compassion class at Stanford University, and completed a ten-day silent meditation retreat. I read and researched everything I could find on compassion. I found that the more compassion I felt, the happier I became.

Convinced that I had found an essential ingredient to a happy and peaceful life, I started to interview scientific and spiritual experts on compassion, trying to find out what made a compassionate man. Interviewees included Dr. Dacher Keltner, co-founder of the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center; Dr. James Doty, founder and director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University; Dr. Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness; Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence; and Thich Nhat Hanh, the Zen Buddhist Monk nominated by Martin Luther King Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967.

From these interviews and research, I compiled a list of what makes a compassionate man.

1. A fundamental understanding of compassion
>Most events I attend that discuss compassion are predominantly attended by women. When I asked Thich Nhat Hanh how we could make compassion more attractive to men, he answered, “There must be a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of compassion because compassion is very powerful…Compassion protects us more than guns, bombs, and money.” Although many men in society see compassion and sympathy as feminine—which translates to a weakness in our patriarchal society—all of the compassionate men I interviewed view compassion as a strength.

Dr. Hanson noted how compassion makes one more courageous since compassion strengthens the heart—courage comes from the French word “Coeur,” which means heart. Dacher Keltner argues that Darwin believed in “survival of the kindest,” not the fittest. Dr. Ted Zeff, author of Raise an Emotionally Healthy Boy, believes that only compassionate men can save the planet. Zeff argues that “the time has come to break the outdated, rigid male code that insists that all men should be aggressive, thick-skinned, and unemotional”—an excellent description of the act-like-a-man box that I tried to live in.

The compassionate men I interviewed agree with the Dalai Lama when he said, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

2. Compassionate role models
All of the compassionate men seemed to have role models that supported their compassion instinct. Marc Brackett gives credit to his uncle, Marvin Maurer, who was a social studies teacher trying to instill emotional intelligence in his student before the term emotional intelligence was coined. Over 30 years after teaching in middle school, Maurer’s “Feeling Words Curriculum” acts as a key component of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence RULER program. Similarly, Marshall Rosenberg, author of Nonviolent Communication, constantly mentions his compassionate uncle who cared for his dying grandmother.

A role model doesn’t necessarily have to be living, or even real. Chade-Meng Tan, author of Search Inside Yourself, cites Ben Kingsley’s portrayal of Gandhi as a role model for compassion. Dr. Rick Hanson posits Ender from the science fiction novel Ender’s Game as a compassionate role model. Certainly, Jesus and Buddha are obvious role models of compassion. The key is to treat them like role models.

Role models are not meant to be worshiped, deified, or prayed to. They are meant to be emulated. They pave the way for us to walk a similar path. Can we turn the other cheek and love our enemies like Jesus asked us? Can we transcend our ego and see all things as one, like the Buddha did?

In contrast are individuals who were not guided by positive role models. In his book From Wild Man to Wise Man, Franciscan Friar Richard Rohr describes what he calls “father hunger”: “Thousands and thousands of men, young and old…grew up without a good man’s love, without a father’s understanding and affirmation.” Rohr, who was a jail chaplain for 14 years, claims that “the only universal pattern I found with men and women in jail was that they did not have a good father.”

Scott Kriens, former CEO of Juniper Networks and founder/director of the 1440 Foundation, concurs: “The most powerful thing we can do for our children is be the example we can hope for.”

Stay tuned for Part Two of “What Makes a Compassionate Man” in next week’s ezine. In the meantime, if you are a man who is struggling to find out how to be more compassionate in a patriarchal society, please contact Joy a call for a 30-minute complimentary consultation. Email Joy or call 415-819-8769 today.

You can find the original article at https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_makes_a_compassionate_man

As a transformational coach I often hear about upsetting events and distressing circumstances in the lives of my clients.  Some of my friends wonder how I’m able to keep my distance emotionally when I hear these troubling stories. Through my own personal and spiritual journey, and my experience with 12-step programs, I was introduced to the concept which is called compassionate detachment.

Compassionate detachment is a mindset from which all of us can benefit when we exercise it in our relationships. It is a healthy way of relating to others which lets them know that you have a loving and caring concern for their predicament, while holding the belief that they have the inherent ability to deal with their own problems and become responsible for their own issues. Simultaneously you strive to maintain a sense of detachment about the outcome.

The important thing here is to stay detached so that you don’t step in and attempt to resolve their problem, their pain, or their issue for them.  This doesn’t mean, however, that you care any less for them. Nor does it mean that they, and the outcome, aren’t important to you.

Too often, many of us out of genuine concern will jump in and attempt to ‘rescue’ a friend. We might do this by giving advice, money, shelter, trying to ‘fix’ their feelings, or interceding for them in some way. Though our intentions may be good, in the long run we are doing our friend a disservice. By jumping in to rescue, we can end up disempowering the person we are trying to help. How? By not giving them the time, space, and self-confidence they need to develop their own ability to take care of themselves.

In addition, when we are in the rescue mode we tend to be working on our own agenda – on what we think might be best for our friend… which might not be what is best in the long run. Or we might like the feeling we get from being ‘needed.’ It might make us feel important. That is not necessarily helping our friend, however. In the end we could end up encouraging a dependency on our help rather than supporting their self-reliance and independence.

Rather than jumping to fix a problem, try listening compassionately without offering advice, or trying to fix the situation. Offer caring words of sympathy and be ‘present’ with them as they share what may be troubling them deeply. Many times a person just needs to be heard. Allowing someone to feel truly heard can be the greatest gift that you can give a friend.

So often my clients come to their own solutions just by having a safe space in which they can talk through an issue. In reality, we all have the answers within ourselves; we just need to be given the space, time, and belief in ourselves so that we can find them.


 

If you are struggling with some difficult challenges, give Joy a call for a 30-minute complimentary consultation to find out how she can help you. Call 415-819-8769 or email Joy today!