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

How did the Holidays roll around so fast this year?! I can’t believe I’m already sharing Christmas lists with my family, but then we have our big Holiday celebration on December 16th … Where did the time go?

With the days getting shorter as the Winter Solstice approaches, it’s time for reflection, assessment, wrapping up of the old year, and gestating ideas for the New Year. It’s best to take an hour or two to do this BEFORE the hustle and bustle of the Holidays. This is the best time to review what you’ve accomplished this year, and begin setting your goals and objectives for next year.

As crazy busy as the Holidays can get, taking time out to thoughtfully assess my successes, my incompletes, what I can let go of, and what I want to accomplish in the New Year helps me end the year with a sense of completion. It helps me stay grounded and focused during the whirlwind of activity and fun with family and friends at the holidays. Then when the New Year hits I can truly celebrate because I’ve already been gestating my goals and objectives. I know where I’m heading and what I need to do in the upcoming year.

I highly recommend this introspective practice of making plans for the New Year. The benefits you reap are much greater than the time it takes!

If you’re curious about the process, I’d love to share what was given to me by one of my mentors.

First, find some quiet time where you do nothing but reflect and think. For me, the best time is during meditation. You might prefer a leisurely walk along the beach or a hiking trail, or sitting quietly with a latte at a local coffee shop. Whatever works for you is great, but the idea is to set aside time to be alone with your thoughts.

Then let your mind float over what you have completed this year and fantasize about what you’d like to do next year. I’m reaching a point that if something feels too hard, or like too much work, I pass on it. Instead, let your mind float to those things you feel excited and enthusiastic about. You can tell what they are because you’ll start feeling energized and the juices will start flowing! I find that when I reach this stage I can’t wait until I can sit down at my computer, or with pen and paper, and start jotting down ideas!

This leads to the third step in the process: start putting those goals, projects and ideas on paper. Don’t worry about the order or time frame. At this point just do a ‘brain dump.’ Sometimes you might get it all down at once. Other times you might find that you’re updating, revising, expanding, and contracting your list over several days. It’s all good! You primary focus is to get down all the ideas and goals that feel exciting and energizing.

Once you have all your ideas down, then start organizing them into goals and the steps, or objectives, that need to be completed in order to achieve them.  Oh! BTW they should be S.M.A.R.T. goals.

What?  What’s a S.M.A.R.T. goal?

Specific – This means you should have a clear understanding of what it is that you will do and what the end product will look like.  For example, last year my goal was to continue doing a weekly e-zine providing useful information to my following. A weekly e-zine is a specific goal, and the e-zine itself is the end product.

Measurable w/Measurement – This means you should have some idea as to whether you will meet the goal or not. For example, I’ve been about 90% successful in getting out a weekly ezine. Considering I’m human and have a busy schedule, I feel quite proud that I’ve been able to send out a weekly ezine almost every week during my second year of trying to execute this kind of an aggressive goal.

Achievable – This means that there is a high probability that you can be successful at achieving your goal. For example, since I’ve been 90% successful in getting out a weekly e-zine, then it was an achievable goal.

Relevant – This means that your goal should serve a purpose, or have an impact. For example, my purpose was to share useful information. Frequently I receive positive feedback from my readers which validates that my ezine has relevance.

Time-Oriented – This means, “When will you achieve this goal? What is the start and end date?” For example, the time-bound goal for my ezine was ‘weekly.’

Evaluating your goals to make sure they are S.M.A.R.T. will help you stay practical and reasonable about what you can accomplish so you don’t fall victim to overwhelm and burn out, get sick, or give up!

Once you’ve evaluated your goals, then start organizing them into 3, 6, 9, and 12 month goals. Now it’s time to begin identifying and scheduling weekly steps or objective. At this stage I tend to drill down the weekly objectives for just 3 months at a time. I always keep the larger perspective in mind, but I’ve found that ‘life happens while we’re busy making plans to do something else.’ Goals and objectives often need to be fine-tuned and re-evaluated as the year progresses. One year I had knee surgery, another year I fell in love (not a good excuse for being knocked off track, but I had fun!), and another year the recession hit. It’s important to keep some flexibility in your schedule so you can adapt and re-assess as needed.

Set a time to review your goals and objectives weekly. This will help you stay on track with the little objectives so you can hit your targeted big goals in a timely manner. Mondays are a great day to do this. It’s the first day of the week. A quick review of what’s on your schedule on Mondays will help you stay on track so you can have a productive week, and a prosperous year!

With everything else that you have on your schedule, I can hear many of you groaning about having one more thing to do! But I promise you, if you take time to do this, not only will you complete your year on a high, but you will ensure that you have a more successful, prosperous, and happier New Year.

If setting your goals and objectives for the New Year feels too overwhelming, then give me a call and schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation to find out how I can help you get organized and on track for a prosperous 2018.  Call Joy at 415-819-8769 or email me today!

In my last email I talked about the Devil card in the Tarot and how it kept showing up at a time when my whole life was going through a time of break down and transition.

The Devil card is the 15th Major Arcana card of the Tarot. It speaks to the shadow side of ourselves that is held in bondage to our addictions, greed, negativity, insecurities, self-doubts, jealousies, 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 that we tend to cycle in, even though we are desperate to escape.

Some are saying that we, as a collective, are going through a time of break down and transition. The Tower card may be apropos to what we are experiencing at this time.

The Tower
The Tower is the 16th Major Arcana card. It is an image of disruption and change. Politically we are seeing this on a collective level. This disruption can also be experienced personally. It is generated by the battle inside you that is fighting the Devil, your own demons, to free yourself from that domination.

Vicki Noble likens this card to the great Hindu Goddess Kali Ma. She is a terribly ferocious looking goddess with a garland of skulls around her neck and a girdle of arms around her waist. She has four arms, is dark skinned, and splotches of blood stain her body. In one hand she carries a sword, another a pair of scissors, and in the third a bloodied head.

In the West, dark and black have been associated with fear, suffering, death and evil. Our fear of the dark Goddess is a projection of that fear.  In the Hindu world view, however, the dark color is associated with the sacredness of the earth and its female nature. Kali’s symbolism, far from being foreboding, is filled with important imagery for those seeking greater awareness.

  • Red – Kali often bears the color red because she is associated with the life force energy of our body, our blood, and to the fire of creativity.
  • Garland of heads – The garland of severed heads or skulls represents the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. They symbolize the repository of knowledge and wisdom that is available to us.
  • Sword – The sword is the sword of wisdom with which she cuts the chains of our shadow beliefs that keep us cycling in the old stories.
  • Severed head – Symbolizes freeing ourselves from the negative degrading stories of our subconscious so we can embrace the universal consciousness of the Divine Mother and Father and our own divinity within.
  • Waistband – The waistband of human arms symbolizes the necessity for performing good deeds, not out of co-dependency or wanting to feel self-important, but because caring for others and doing good deeds civilizes us, improves the condition of humanity, and opens our hearts to the flow of love.

Kali is that transformative energy of The Tower that can liberate us from the negative stories of our shadow selves.

When the Tower card is drawn it signifies that we have an opportunity to confront our beliefs that no longer serve us so we can change our stories. Even though it feels very disruptive, it tells us that we can still confront our shadow, that part of us that keeps us stuck in reactive and often unhelpful behaviors of jealousy, envy, greed, obsessiveness, anger, etc.

When we face these inner demons, learn the stories behind them, and are willing to release them because they no longer fit into the life we want to lead, then we can step into a higher vibration where joy, satisfaction, fulfillment and wellbeing resides.

On a collective level we are seeing this disruption play out with our governing bodies and in the media. This is forcing us to face the shadow aspects of ourselves and our country. It’s breaking down those areas where we might have been complacent or asleep, and is challenging us to re-evaluate our values, our truths, and what we stand for. It’s not an easy time. Nor is it meant to be. Yet it is a time of great opportunity, an initiation, to be a part of the movement to transform the world to one that will be a better place for all of us. Are you willing to be part of that challenge?

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.

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!

Most of us don’t like to make mistakes or to fail. Some of us hate failure so much that we don’t even try. We hold back because we don’t like the feelings that failure brings up.

In the past it was part of our karma to reflect, to feel bad, to regret our past mistakes and failures. This was so we could “hit bottom” and then have an epiphany that would inspire us to change. This is the reason monks and nuns had the knotted ropes so they could flagellate themselves and bring into their physical reality the pain of their failures, or the pain they thought they should feel.

In the past, our transformation into being a better person depended on owning our shadow traits, feeling bad about them, and making amends. This was a significant evolutionary insight for 5000 years ago. It served humanity well as we went through that period of advancement in consciousness.

Now we are moving into a new dimension of consciousness.

The time of repeatedly returning to the past for self-flagellation is DONE!!!

Now is a time to create — to bring forth a new era.

We each have our own special gifts. The world needs our gifts and talents. We are going through a challenging time in our global history. Environmentally, socially, politically our world has probably never been more challenged.

We can’t create if we keep cycling back into low vibrations where our thoughts sink into the abyss of our past mistakes, failures, embarrassments, etc.

They just suck us into feeling bad about ourselves.

When we succumb to the bad feelings that old painful memories bring up, our vibrations are lowered. We can’t ascend in consciousness, which is a higher vibrational state, if we are stuck in low vibrations. Make sense?

It’s time to deal with mistakes and failures in a new way.

Have compassion and forgiveness for yourself because you are on a very human journey. Only the tough and resilient choose to incarnate here on the earth-plane. Earth is considered a boot-camp for those souls who want to accelerate their ascension to higher consciousness.

Rather than flagellating yourself for mistakes and failures, or avoiding them altogether out of fear, start thanking the universe for each lesson you learn. Be compassionate and understanding of yourself and others. You, like everyone else, are doing the best you can on this journey to greater awareness. Staying in compassion, acceptance and love is how you raise your consciousness which will in turn help bring in the new era.

To help you do this I am providing a Daily Practice that will help you transform your failures into opportunities. I encourage you to commit to a 21-day practice. It will transform your life.

Daily Practice to Transform Failures into Opportunities

  1. Every morning, light a candle before your day starts and say: “I am a spark of the Divine. I light this candle to remind me that I become more enlightened from every challenge with which I am confronted. There are no problems or failures, only opportunities from which I can learn and grow.”
  2. Every night, light a candle and either write in your journal or say out loud three things that you are grateful for during your day.
  3. If you had a challenge, or if something didn’t work out as planned, then say or journal …
    • Today I experienced ________________. From this experience I learned _____________________.
    • Then affirm, “There are no problems or failures, only opportunities from which I can learn and grow.”
  4. Finally, feel compassion for yourself for this very human journey you are on. Give thanks for the opportunity to grow in awareness and understanding.

 

Last week I mentioned that at one time my attitude was so toxic that it literally polluted my life. Fortunately I had an epiphany that enabled me to realize that I was the source of my own misery. I was able to change my attitude and thus my life. I was still going through a difficult time, but my change in attitude helped me find solutions and improve my situation almost miraculously.If you are going through a tough time, remember that you always have a choice no matter what the circumstance may be. And the choice is this:You can either choose to let worry and upset fester at the expense of your life and well-being. Or, you can choose to see your situation in perspective, stay positive, and let go of anxiety and apprehension.

Sounds good, but how do you withstand those huge waves of negativity, let alone stay positive under the weight of an overwhelming challenge? Last week I gave 5 tips to help shift your attitude. You can read those HERE. Here are 5 more suggestions to consider:

6. Get enough sleep. During a stressful time, you might be tempted to skip on sleep, either voluntarily or not. But in reality, plenty of good quality sleep during a stressful time is even more important that the time you will gain by skimping. Adequate sleep will help you remain energetic, clear-headed and focused so that you’re able to figure out your next steps. When tired you’re more easily irritated and impatient, and you’re more likely to make mistakes or use poor judgment.

7. Limit bad news intake. Being constantly fed with gloomy news is enough to make even a dog panic for no reason. Today’s TV news is full of doom and gloom. Somedays it’s a virtual reality show of misadventures. Though it may seem entertaining, it can also be depressing and erode your positive attitude. Keep bad news, especially TV news, to a minimum as much as you can.

8. Join forces with others. When bad things happen, it is easy to become close-minded. But chances are, you are not alone during difficult times. There are likely to be many people who feel the same way as you do even though they may not voice this out loud. For instance, if you are worried about job security, recruit the help of your boss by discussing the implications of the crisis on your job and what you can best do to keep it. Your boss will appreciate your proactive approach and may even be glad that there is someone who shares the same sentiment. If you are unemployed, besides making trips to recruitment and government agencies to cast your employment net, connect with others who are in the same boat as you. Take this lull period to expand your network. The many talented friends that you will make during hard times could become lifetime friendships, and even turn into unexpected help in the future. And if you are an employer, this is a great time to boost your business with skillful and experienced people to help you ride out the crisis.

9. Get close to nature. Finnish researchers found that spending time in your favorite outdoor area and woodlands are more relaxing and restorative than time spent in your favorite urban settings or city parks. Taking a meditative walk through the woods is also a great way to clear the mind and regain mental balance.

10. Re-evaluate the meaning of your life. Tough times present hard but valuable lessons that can force us to re-evaluate the meanings we have been attaching to our lives. When facing adversity ask yourself:

• Are the meanings and goals I’ve been living by before this difficult time really worthwhile? 
• Through this challenge, what are the things that I’ve found to be really important? 
• And, what are those things that are not as important as what I once thought they were?

I’ve been through my share of difficult times. None of them were any fun! Yet, when I look back at those times I realize that they have been the source of some of my greatest insights and biggest lessons. I do believe it is possible to learn our lessons through ease and grace, but until that time, I find that maintaining a positive attitude helps me to find solutions more easily so I can more consistently live a joyful life.

I would like to leave you with these words from Viktor Frankl, the world-renowned psychiatrist who wrote Man’s Search for Meaning:

“Man is not free from conditions. But he is free to take a stand in regard to them. The conditions do not completely condition him. Within limits it is up to him whether or not he succumbs and surrenders to the conditions. He may as well rise above them and by so doing open up and enter the human dimension… Ultimately, man is not subject to the conditions that confront him; rather, these conditions are subject to his decision. Wittingly or unwittingly, he decides whether he will face up or give in, whether or not he will let himself be determined by the conditions.” 
— An excerpt from Psychotherapy and Existentialism

May your spirit grow stronger in the face of crisis!

If you are challenged with negative thinking, then contact Joy for a complimentary consultation to find out how your can reframe your thinking and live a more positive and happy life. Contact Joy at 415-819-8769 or email me today!