Last week I stated that 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”. Last week I shared Part One of the article. Here is Part Two.

Why is Compassion Good for Us?

Why does compassion lead to health benefits in particular? A clue to this question rests in a fascinating new study by Steve Cole at the University of California, Los Angeles, and APS Fellow Barbara Fredrickson at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The results were reported at Stanford Medical School’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education’s (CCARE) inaugural Science of Compassion conference in 2012. Their study evaluated the levels of cellular inflammation in people who describe themselves as “very happy.” Inflammation is at the root of cancer and other diseases and is generally high in people who live under a lot of stress. We might expect that inflammation would be lower for people with higher levels of happiness. Cole and Fredrickson found that this was only the case for certain “very happy” people. They found that people who were happy because they lived the “good life” (sometimes also known as “hedonic happiness”) had high inflammation levels but that, on the other hand, people who were happy because they lived a life of purpose or meaning (sometimes also known as “eudaimonic happiness”) had low inflammation levels. A life of meaning and purpose is one focused less on satisfying oneself and more on others. It is a life rich in compassion, altruism, and greater meaning.

Another way in which a compassionate lifestyle may improve longevity is that it may serve as a buffer against stress. A new study conducted on a large population (more than 800 people) and spearheaded by the University at Buffalo’s Michael Poulin found that stress did not predict mortality in those who helped others, but that it did in those who did not. One of the reasons that compassion may protect against stress is the very fact that it is so pleasurable. Motivation, however, seems to play an important role in predicting whether a compassionate lifestyle exerts a beneficial impact on health. Sara Konrath, at the University of Michigan, discovered that people who engaged in volunteerism lived longer than their non-volunteering peers — but only if their reasons for volunteering were altruistic rather than self-serving.

Another reason compassion may boost our well-being is that it can help broaden our perspective beyond ourselves. Research shows that depression and anxiety are linked to a state of self-focus, a preoccupation with “me, myself, and I.” When you do something for someone else, however, that state of self-focus shifts to a state of other-focus. If you recall a time you were feeling blue and suddenly a close friend or relative calls you for urgent help with a problem, you may remember that as your attention shifts to helping them, your mood lifts. Rather than feeling blue, you may have felt energized to help; before you knew it, you may even have felt better and gained some perspective on your own situation as well.

Finally, one additional way in which compassion may boost our well-being is by increasing a sense of connection to others. One telling study showed that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure. On the flip side, strong social connection leads to a 50 percent increased chance of longevity. Social connection strengthens our immune system (research by Cole shows that genes impacted by social connection also code for immune function and inflammation), helps us recover from disease faster, and may even lengthen our life. People who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression. Moreover, studies show that they also have higher self-esteem, are more empathic to others, more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them. Social connectedness therefore generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional, and physical well-being. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true for those who lack social connectedness. Low social connection has been generally associated with declines in physical and psychological health, as well as a higher propensity for antisocial behavior that leads to further isolation. Adopting a compassionate lifestyle or cultivating compassion may help boost social connection and improve physical and psychological health.

Why Compassion Really Does Have the Ability to Change the World

Why are the lives of people like Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Desmond Tutu so inspiring? Research by APS Fellow Jonathan Haidt at the University of Virginia suggests that seeing someone helping another person creates a state of “elevation.” Have you ever been moved to tears by seeing someone’s loving and compassionate behavior? Haidt’s data suggest that elevation then inspires us to help others — and it may just be the force behind a chain reaction of giving. Haidt has shown that corporate leaders who engage in self-sacrificing behavior and elicit “elevation” in their employees, also yield greater influence among their employees — who become more committed and in turn may act with more compassion in the workplace. Indeed, compassion is contagious. Social scientists James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard demonstrated that helping is contagious: acts of generosity and kindness beget more generosity in a chain reaction of goodness. You may have seen one of the news reports about chain reactions that occur when someone pays for the coffee of the drivers behind them at a drive-through restaurant or at a highway tollbooth. People keep the generous behavior going for hours. Our acts of compassion uplift others and make them happy. We may not know it, but by uplifting others we are also helping ourselves; research by Fowler and Christakis has shown that happiness spreads and that if the people around us are happy, we, in turn become happier.

Cultivating Compassion

Although compassion appears to be a naturally evolved instinct, it sometimes helps to receive some training. A number of studies have now shown that a variety of compassion and “loving-kindness” meditation practices, mostly derived out of traditional Buddhist practices, may help cultivate compassion. Cultivating compassion does not require years of study and can be elicited quite rapidly. In a study Cendri Hutcherson, at the California Institute of Technology, and I conducted in 2008 with APS Fellow James Gross at Stanford, we found that a seven-minute intervention was enough to increase feelings of closeness and connection to the target of meditation on both explicit measures, but also on implicit measures that participants could not voluntarily control; this suggests that their sense of connection had changed on a deep-seated level. Fredrickson tested a nine-week loving-kindness meditation intervention and found that the participants who went through the intervention experienced increased daily positive emotions, reduced depressive symptoms, and increased life satisfaction. A group led by Sheethal Reddy at Emory with foster children showed that a compassion intervention increased hopefulness in the children. Overall, research on compassion interventions show improvements in psychological well-being, compassion, and social connection.

In addition to questionnaire measures, researchers are finding that compassion interventions also impact behavior. APS Fellow Tania Singer and her team at the Max Planck Institute conducted a study that looked at the effects of compassion training on prosocial behavior. These researchers developed the Zurich Prosocial Game, which has the ability to measure an individual’s prosocial behavior multiple times, unlike many other prosocial tasks that only measure prosocial behavior in individuals once. Singer found that daylong compassion training did in fact increase prosocial behavior on the game. Interestingly, the type of meditation seems to matter less than just the act of meditation itself. Condon, Miller, Desbordes, and DeSteno (in press) found that eight-week meditation trainings led participants to act more compassionately toward a person who is suffering (give up their chair to someone in crutches) — regardless of the type of meditation that they did (mindfulness or compassion).

More research is needed to understand exactly how compassion training improves well-being and promotes altruistic behavior. Research by Antoine Lutz and APS William James Fellow Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that, during meditation, participants display enhanced emotional processing in brain regions linked to empathy in response to emotion-evoking cries. A study led by Gaëlle Desbordes at Massachusetts General Hospital indicated that both compassion and a mindfulness meditation training decreased activity in the amygdala in response to emotional images; this suggests that meditation in general can help improve emotion regulation. However, compassion meditation did not reduce activity for images of human suffering, suggesting that the compassion meditation increased a person’s responsiveness to suffering.

In collaboration with Thupten Jinpa, personal translator to the Dalai Lama, as well as several Stanford psychologists, CCARE has developed a secular compassion training program known as the Compassion Cultivation Training Program. Preliminary research spearheaded by Stanford’s Philippe Goldin suggests that it is helpful in reducing ailments such as social anxiety and that it elevates different compassion measures. In addition to having taught hundreds of community members and Stanford students who have expressed interest, we have also developed a teacher-training program currently under way.

Given the importance of compassion in our world today, and a growing body of evidence about the benefits of compassion for health and well-being, this field is bound to generate more interest and hopefully impact our community at large. CCARE envisions a world in which, thanks to rigorous research studies on the benefits of compassion, the practice of compassion is understood to be as important for health as physical exercise and a healthful diet; empirically validated techniques for cultivating compassion are widely accessible; and the practice of compassion is taught and applied in schools, hospitals, prisons, the military, and other community settings.

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.

 

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.

 

Our country was founded on the concepts of individualism, independence, and freedom. It’s founding was fueled by the drive to not only survive but to succeed. There was stiff competition, lots of opportunity, and the desire to conquer and own. People fought hard to ‘make it’; sometimes ruthlessly, sometimes driven by necessity, other times by greed or the desire for power and control.

Through their efforts our foremothers and fathers established a great country. Yet these same principles may be just what will bring about our demise if we don’t stop, assess the state of our lives, our country and the world, and begin to evolve our consciousness. Our survival no longer depends on more individualism and independence, but on realizing our interconnectedness to all things; that our survival depends on our ability to unite for the common good of all.

Fortunately, an increasing number of people are beginning to understand that everything is interconnected; that nothing operates in isolation. Systems theories and mainstream science is beginning to point strongly in this direction.

I began to understand the interconnectedness of all things when I had to take a life science class in college. The class on environmentalism changed the way I perceived the world! It introduced me to a world within our world; the delicate web that exists among all species and the elements (earth, air, fire and water) in an ecosystem. It’s now common knowledge that even the element fire plays a crucial role in some ecosystems. Pine cones will only release their seeds when subjected to fire, and fire cleans out the undergrowth making room for new growth. Redwoods thrive in areas where there is an abundance of fog. They get a large part of their water from the moisture in the air. The interrelatedness of all things in an ecosystem is amazing, miraculous and quite revealing!

Unfortunately, too few people understand the true scope and significance of the interrelatedness of all things in the environment. The fight to save one species may seem superfluous until you appreciate the delicate balance between all things within an ecosystem. The extinction of one species impacts the life cycle of another, possibly causing it to also fail. Ignorance of this delicate web can lead to the failure of a critical mass of species and elements causing the collapse of the entire eco-system. Species are becoming extinct at an alarming rate. Think global collapse!

Our evolution as a species depends on a greater awareness of the unity and interconnectedness of all things!

The Buddhists have always known about the interconnectedness of all things; physicists now confirm it.  Nothing that happens is an isolated event.  This interconnectedness also applies to us, the human species. Scientists are now aware that even the act of observing an experiment impacts the experiment. There is also a growing awareness that the more we label something, the more we actually isolate it.  The wholeness of life becomes fragmented and separate just through our thinking about it!

Many are also becoming aware that we are mirrors for each other. Meaning that often times what you might react to about another can also be found within you. This can range from friendliness and love, to less attractive qualities such as jealousy, selfishness, attention seeking, or control issues. As we allow ourselves to become aware of this, we become aware of our own ego and, thus, become more consciously aware.

Just as an ecosystem is interconnected, so are we as humans. To denigrate, disempower, and destroy one part of our species impacts the whole. Misogyny, racism, sexism, bigotry, genocide, slavery, poverty, war, intolerance, turning a blind eye to our neighbors, be it next door or another country, hurts us all. As a species we need to raise our consciousness and realize we are all interconnected. What hurts one part hurts us all.

The Women’s March that will take place across the nation this Saturday, January 20th is an expression of unity consciousness and interconnectedness. The mission of its organizers is to create a safe and healthy environment in which to nurture all families, and to create a better society for all people of all races, cultures, gender or gender orientation, disabilities, workers, immigrants, religious beliefs, etc.

The mission moves beyond the individual need to the needs of all people and the environment because we are all interconnected. When we unite – all the people – amazing things can happen.

As more people raise their consciousness and become aware that we are all interconnected, we have the opportunity to shift as one into a more peaceful and loving world. Isn’t that what we all truly want?

If you feel called, take action and join the movement this Saturday, January 20, 2018

https://www.womensmarch.com/

Do You Care Too Much?

I have an issue with wanting to ‘help’ or ‘fix’ people. It’s probably why I do what I do for a living. I really care about the people in my life and in my practice. I’m good at helping people find their truth and live with more joy. But, I’ve had to learn how to care and offer assistance with detachment.

What I’ve learned is that each person has to go through their own process, on their own terms, and in their own time. Being an Aries who wants things done ‘RIGHT NOW!’, it’s taken some time for me to appreciate and respect another’s right to go at their own pace.

The myth of Aphrodite’s love for Adonis is a good example of how too much smothering can backfire and lead, not to ‘happily ever after,’ but to destruction and separation.

The myth of Adonis and Aphrodite is one of the great romantic legends of classical Greek mythology. This myth begins with Aphrodite recusing Adonis after his birth.  His mother was turned into a Myrtle tree and is unable to care for him. (That’s a myth I’ll save for another blog.) Aphrodite takes Adonis to Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld, to look after. Under Persephone’s care he grows into a handsome and virile young man.

When she realizes how handsome he is, Aphrodite now wants Adonis back as her lover!  A heated argument ensues between Aphrodite and Persephone. Zeus has to intercede and solicits Adonis’ input. Adonis, now a young man with a young man’s drive, wants to spend his time with a beautiful lover rather than an adoring foster mother. Adonis and Aphrodite are allowed to spend eight months out of the year together.

She is so infatuated with this young stud that Aphrodite abandons all her responsibilities devoting all her time with Adonis. She even learns to hunt, which she has no real interest in, so she won’t be separated from Adonis for even one moment.

Finally Aphrodite can’t ignore her duties and must leave to attend some crisis. Before she leaves she warns Adonis not to attack any animal that shows no fear. He agrees, but Adonis is so relieved to be on his own and, feeling quite cocky, ignores the advice of the Goddess.

Adonis unwisely takes own the challenge of a wild boar (who some think is Ares, Aphrodite’s jilted lover). Soon Adonis is the hunted one. The boar attacks! Adonis is castrated in the battle and dies from loss of blood.

Aphrodite senses something is wrong and rushes to his side. She is too late to save Adonis, however. Stricken with grief she turns his blood into a field of anemones, small red flowers, in his memory.

Surprisingly, this ancient myth has a lot of relevance today! It is an allegory for how smothering love, excessive caring, and abandonment of our own interests to enmesh with another can result in the exact opposite of our good intentions.  In wanting to spend all her time with Adonis, Aphrodite smothers him.  Rather than achieving the connection and closeness that Aphrodite intended, Adonis rebels in a passive but aggressive way. This is revealed by his relief at being finally on his own and then ignoring Aphrodite’s sound advice. In his rebellion, Adonis creates his own demise.  Aphrodite loses what she tried so hard to cling too.

This was the makings of a tragedy. How many of us have lost the object of our desire because we clung too tightly? How many of us have ended up smothering those we care for, rather than caring and loving with an open heart and open hand?

I hope you take away from this allegory what I have learned and begin to love and care with understanding and respect for another’s time, space and process … To care for and love others with detachment. Sometimes the greatest kindness you can show a loved one is to stand back and create space for them to make their own way, even when you think their choices are fraught with difficulties. Remember, you faced many challenges in your life and survived – so will they.  The greatest gift of love is believing in their ability to make it!

If you find you are smothering your loved ones because you care to much or love too deeply, then give me a call for a 30-minute complimentary consultation and find how you can love and care for the people in your life with healthy detachment. Call me TODAY! 415-819-8769 or email me.

It’s easy to make those New Year’s Resolutions. Keeping them is a totally different matter. Too often by February many of us are back to the same old habits and behaviors.  There are millions of pounds not lost, thousands of gym memberships lying fallow, and way too many cigarette packs being sold. Some of you may be thinking, “why even bother with those New Year’s resolutions this year?”  In the battle of wills, you always seem to be on the losing side!

So, what if you knew that there was a way to keep those New Year’s Resolutions?

Are you curious?

IT IS POSSIBLE to keep those resolutions and change your life! You just need a new strategy that will help you stay on track.  Here are five tips on how you can make your New Year’s Resolutions stick.

Visualize
It’s hard to make any kind of change if you only rely on your conscious, rational mind.  You can have all the right reasons, but if you don’t engage your subconscious, then long-lasting change will be difficult.

Think back to the last time you were able to make a significant change in your life.  You may have daydreamed or fantasized about what it would be like before you even took action to make that change.

Our habits and behaviors are stored in the subconscious, and the subconscious is resistant to change. Logic and rationale alone aren’t enough. You must communicate with your subconscious using both images and your imagination if you want change to happen. This is the very same stuff our dreams and fantasies are made of!

So when you are working on your New Year’s resolutions, allow yourself to delve into your imagination! Take time to create vivid images of those things you want to change.

Empower Your Resolutions with Desire
Visualizing is important. But you also have to fuel your resolutions with the proper emotion. Incorporating emotions is like adding color to a black and white movie. It fuels your goals with depth and power which will help bring your intention into form.

For example, if you want to increase exercise because you think you should exercise more, your resolution will be short-lived. This is because there’s no internal fuel to keep the desire alive through the boredom, distractions, and the busy lives we all seem to be leading. However, when you imagine how much better you will feel, how much more energy you will have, and how much better you’ll feel about yourself- then you’ll have the inner fire that will guarantee success.

The importance of passion
My grievance with The Secret is that it infers that manifesting simply involves visioning what you want, feeling the emotions of having it, and sitting around waiting for it to happen. WRONG! Envisioning your intentions and fueling them with emotions is central to successful manifesting! But doing the work, taking action, is a must!

Self-discipline is not about ‘banging your head against a wall.’ It does require, however, that you are committed to doing the work, being consistent, and following through.

This is where passion comes in. Doing the work can be grueling if you aren’t passionate about what you’re trying to accomplish. A runner can feel lukewarm about running, but will run anyway because they know it will help keep their weight down and build sustaining power.

On the other hand, a runner can feel passionate about running because they love the feel of strength in their legs, the speed of gliding over the land, and the ‘high’ of stretching their endurance to capacity. It’s the passion that fuels long lasting change. It’s like adding HD to a movie.

Achievability and believability
Sometimes our New Year’s resolutions fall short even though we visualize the outcome, feel the success of having it, and energize it with passion. This is because deep down inside we don’t believe it’s possible.

When this happens we’ve usually taken “the sky’s the limit” track, rather than making our resolution achievable and believable. Maybe you won’t win a triathlon. But, maybe you can find a running buddy who inspires you to get out and run several times a week. Maybe you can’t run five or ten miles, but you can start with a mile or two.

Doing what is believable and achievable is enough. It helps you overcome the self-defeating thoughts like: “I’m not good enough so why even try?”

Stay Positive
Implementing new behaviors can bring up a lot of emotions.  Believe it or not, there is a part of us that assumes keeping everything the same is in our best interest.  So even when you really want to change, you may feel tired, bored with the effort, irritated because you aren’t doing it right, or because it’s taking too long, or you may even feel anxious. These are resistances, and they are normal. But they don’t need to stop your progress!

Cravings, resistance, negative self-talk, it’s all going to happen when you’re trying to make a change. So when you have these thoughts or feelings, just acknowledge them as old behaviors and habits. Then focus on how good you’re going to feel when you achieve your goal, or succeed at putting into action your new behavior or habit. I’m focusing on losing those 6 pounds I put on over the year. I already know how good I’m going to feel when I can zip up those pants again! That’s what is keeping me on track.

By implementing these five simple tips you’ll find that you can keep those New Year’s Resolutions with greater resolve.  Remember to:

  1. Visualize
  2. Empower with desire
  3. Infuse with passion
  4. Make your resolution achievable and believable
  5. Stay positive

If you find that you still lack the motivation to accomplish your goals, please contact me for a free 30-minute consultation to see how transformational life coaching with hypnotherapy can help you achieve success in 2018.

Call Joy at 415-819-8769 or email Joy@joyreichard.com today.

For more information, visit my website at healingwithjoy.net.

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.