How Something as Simple as Gratitude Can Chase the Blues Away

Plus a Review of Living a Life of Gratitude by Sara Wiseman

Lving a Life of Gratitude

When you’re feeling blue, you don’t just want to feel better, you want to feel better INSTANTLY – as in 10 minutes ago. One of my favorite tricks for picking yourself back up is, at once, ridiculously easy and ridiculously hard.

Easy because it simply involves expressing gratitude and hard because that’s the last thing we feel like doing when we’re feeling down.  And yet, it’s the best – and fastest – way to snap out of a really rotten mood.

A while back, I was feeling kind of like a grump’s grump.  I could’ve given Oscar the Grouch a few pointers on sourness. I honestly can’t even remember what put me in such a way, but I distinctly remember just sitting and fuming on my living room couch for the better part of the morning.

It finally occurred to me that it really wasn’t much of a way to spend the day – especially one so close to Christmas. I decided to give my favorite “mood zapper” a try and, sure enough, after thinking of a few things (more like people) I was grateful for, the dark cloud lifted and whatever had gotten  me off course that morning suddenly didn’t seem so important.

The thing is, we can only entertain one dominant thought at a time – whether it’s a negative one or a positive one is just about entirely up to us. If we put our energy into focusing on positivity, there isn’t any room left for negativity. It has to pack up its nasty little bags and leave.

Good riddance.

A book I was recently sent to read and review fits perfectly with this approach AND it takes it one step further.  Living a Life of Gratitude (Your Journey o Grace, Joy & Healing), by Sara Wiseman, is a beautifully written book with a very powerful message.

What I love most about this lovely little book is this: It will help you to focus on gratitude, joy, and hopefulness BEFORE negativity has a chance to take root.

From the Introduction:

In the moment we give thanks, everything changes.

Our hearts crack open. We are flooded with love and light. And in that exact instant, we shift from our negative state to an awareness that positive, joyous, and brimming with bliss – we experience the Divine healing that is our birthright.

The trick is to learn how to create this moment not just once in our lifetimes, but over and over again.

The secret is found in gratitude – in the surrender to the grateful heart, the open heart, the heart that willingly walks in the magic and the mystery – not just for a moment or moments, but at all times. – Living a Life of Gratitude (Your Journey o Grace, Joy & Healing), by Sara Wiseman

From the Back Cover:

In the moment that we give thanks, everything changes . . .

. . . Our hearts crack open. We are flooded with love. And in that exact instant, we shift to an awareness that is positive, joyous, and brimming.

Sharing uplifting stories that travel from the beginnings of life to the end, Living a Life of Gratitude shows you how to open your heart to a journey of reflection that will help you slow down and appreciate life for what it is. Whether you use it as a source for discovering inspiration or for strength in times of struggle, this book is a guide to finding light and love, even when you least expect it.

I hope you’ll click through one of the links and read more about Living a Life of Gratitude (Your Journey o Grace, Joy & Healing), by Sara Wiseman. Read the reviews and even take a look inside the book.

One of the most important resolutions we could all make this year is one that few… very, very few… will actually make, and that is to simply be more grateful for all that we have and all that we are.

There’s a lot of peace, contentment, and joy in simply being thankful.

Daddy Nickell Tips, Just in Time for Thanksgiving

Unique And Inspiring Ways To Teach Kids How To Give Thanks

Gratitude is on everyone’s mind this time of year. Isn’t it a shame that the thoughts that are so strong and prevalent during November and December don’t stay as strong and prevalent the rest of the year?!

I have to admit, when I was younger, I never really realized just how beautiful a gracious and thankful heart is.  I remember one Tuesday morning I was having lunch (pizza!) with the pastor of our church, his adorable wife, and a few of our friends. Somehow the subject turned to being thankful ans expressing gratitude. Southern preachers do many things with great passion and eating is certainly amongst them, but between bites, our pastor said, “A Gracious heart is a beautiful thing.”  I remember this so clearly because:

  1. It was BY FAR the shortest sermon he ever preached.
  2. It made me realize that, indeed, a gracious heart is a beautiful thing.

My three daughters, in their lives, preach the same sermon this wonderful man did over pizza.  My daughters are so incredibly gracious and thankful that it never ceases to leave an impression on me and I always think of the “Mini Pizza Sermon.”  Graciousness is beautiful.  They express the same gratitude whether I fix them a mug of hot chocolate as they would if I bought them a purse that costs way more than any purse has a right to cost (seriously, what’s up with purses?).

When I read the article below, the tip, “Model the behavior” jumped out at me. I believe that, over the years, my girls saw that my husband (“Daddy” to them!) and I simply don’t take anything for granted. We are always genuinely thankful for anything we have as well as for anything anyone does for us. I think that, more than anything, this helped them to become so beautifully gracious.

I notice graciousness in others and always realize that it speaks absolute volumes about an individual.

Below is a timely article that’s being shared with Self Help Daily’s readers.  It’s written by Robert Nickell (a.k.a. Daddy Nickell) and offers fantastic tips on helping your kids find ways to give thanks. More importantly, it tells how you can help your kids to be more thankful.

Creative Ways Your Family Can Express Thankfulness on Thanksgiving and Beyond

by Daddy Nickell

Thanksgiving is almost here, and parents everywhere are wondering how they can teach their kids how to express thankfulness on the holiday and beyond. Rather than just going around the table and saying a quick list of things they are grateful for, moms and dads want creative and unique “I’m Thankful For…” ideas that will get the kiddos in the spirit of giving thanks! Daddy Nickell

From his experience in raising 7 children of his own, parenting expert Daddy Nickell has tried-and-true tips on ways to teach your kids how to give thanks:

Creative ways to express thankfulness on Thanksgiving:

  1. Thankfulness jar: Put out a decorative jar with a notepad and pen. Have family members write down things they are thankful for and read the notes at Thanksgiving dinner.
  2. Thankful turkeys: Do the old-fashioned hand turkey or be more elaborate, but have children write something they are thankful for on each of the turkey’s feathers. Use them as place cards or decorations.
  3. Alphabet list: Go around the table and have everyone say something they are thankful for. Be creative and use the alphabet to keep things going (each person has to say something they are thankful for that starts with the next letter in the alphabet.
  4. Dry-erase board display: Have a dry-erase board on prominent display where people can write what they are thankful for.
  5. Thankful songs: Choose a popular tune, such as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” and have each child sing a song starting with the words “I am thankful for…” This will get your kids’ creativitiy going and is sure to bring joy and many laughs!

Ways to teach your kids how to always give thanks:

  1. Model the behavior. Say “thank you’s” yourself. Remember to thank your children when they make their beds or clean up their messes. Tell them they make you happy when they follow the rules and bring you joy when they sing and dance. Demonstrate thankfulness in your own life.
  2. Make them wait (or work) for it. When kids get everything they ask for the minute they ask for it, they don’t appreciate it. If you make them wait a couple of days or until their next birthday, they will be incredibly grateful for the gifts when they receive them. Children also appreciate things more when they have contributed work or money towards them.
  3. Work thankfulness into your daily conversation. Talk to your kids about how blessed you are to live where you do and remind them how special and important they are to you. Helping a child appreciate what they already have will help them be thankful for their life.
  4. Volunteer. Whether it’s bringing cookies to a neighbor lady, or filling food bags at a homeless shelter, your children will benefit from seeing the joy they can bring to those less fortunate than themselves.
  5. Write thank you notes. Somewhat old-fashioned and definitely on the out, thank you notes require the children to think about each person and why they appreciate them and the gift they gave. It takes time, and every kid loves receiving mail.
  6. Reward thankfulness. Recognize your child when they remember to say “thank you,” especially to a stranger. Tell them how proud or impressed you are with their behavior.

Daddy Nickell’s tips will help all parents teach their kids to be thankful on Thanksgiving and beyond! Use them to ensure that your kids make giving thanks a part of their daily life.
Author: Robert Nickell (a.k.a. Daddy Nickell), father of 7, offers his “5 cents” worth of advice to expectant and new parents. Daddy Nickell is the founder of DaddyScrubs.com, delivery room duds, gifts, and apparel for dads, and the Daddyscrubs.com blog, where he covers topics about parenting and the latest baby and kids gear, all from a Dad’s perspective.

About Daddy Nickell
For his blog, Nickell writes from a father’s perspective on topics such as bonding with your child and what the father should expect during pregnancy and infancy. Daddy Nickell also contributes his parenting expertise to national talk shows and daytime television shows. He has been featured on “Good Morning L.A.,” “Good Morning Texas,” “Daytime TV” ABC15 Phoenix, MSNBC, WZZM 13, San Antonio Living, KSBI TV, and as a syndicated columnist for national newspapers, parenting magazines and websites including Baby Couture Magazine, Oh Baby! Magazine, City Parent Magazine, The Bump, Parenthood, and Homeschooling Parent.

You can also see DaddyScrubs on YouTube, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter (@DaddyScrubs) and Pinterest!

If You’re Looking for Normal, You’d Better Lace Up Your Dancing Shoes

Right, Left, Right, Left, Right, Left...

Normal

Fist of all…. hello! I’ve been away from Self Help Daily so long I feel like I almost need to introduce myself. Don’t worry, I haven’t been mad at you… you didn’t say or do anything wrong.

In fact, it’s not you. It’s me.

Well,  more to the point – it’s summer. This happens every summer, like clockwork. I get ridiculously busy in the garden, we have 110 places to go, and my Kentucky blog keeps me hopping with SO many events and activities going on.  Granted this year has been worse than ever because not only has all of that been going on, I’ve had more work to do.  Even those of us who have the luxury of working from home can run out of hours at the end of the day.

Not complaining mind you. I am not – and will never be – one of those people who complains about having to do anything whether it’s working in the garden or working at my computer. I thank God every day I’m able to do both.

The next time you feel like complaining about being busy, visit a Nursing Home.

Anyway, I’ve gained on all the craziness and am now ready to get back down to business.  For better or worse, you’re stuck with me.

You know what’s on my mind today? Normal.  I started thinking about this popular, yet elusive, subject about a week ago. An online buddy e-mailed me about some stressful things going on in her life.  Apparently she’s had a great deal of stress and anxiety at work and at home (never any good when life double teams you). Within one paragraph, she mentioned life getting back to normal three times.

Then in the next paragraph she mentioned not knowing what normal felt like two times.

I couldn’t help thinking, by this time, that she was expecting a suitor to show up at her door that just wasn’t going to show.

We’re all like her in a lot of ways, aren’t we? Seriously, how many times have we all wished for things to get back to normal or for our situation to be more normal?  Heck, don’t we even sometimes wish for people in our lives to be more normal?!

The problem is, in our minds, we paint a much grander picture of NORMAL than it actually is. We envision pretty much a modern day Garden of Eden. Everything’s peaceful, beautiful, and totally free of anything remotely stressful. We envision having more money than we can spend, more hours in the day than we can use, and… come to think of it – even though we’re eating more food than usual, we’re losing weight!

That’s not NORMAL, though. That’s a fantasy.

In reality, normal is different things to different people.  When I think of “normal,” I think of everyone in my family feeling good and being happy. No bickering, complaints, or clashing of wills. Everyone has everything they want and more than they need. Health, happiness, and harmony – it’s all I really ask for.  Well, that and a full coffee pot.  My normal may not seem all that ritzy to the next person, but to me it’s Heaven on earth.

Just because there are extra cares, concerns, stresses, or anxieties in your life doesn’t mean it’s suddenly ABNORMAL. It’s just a little to the right or a little to the left of NORMAL.  Your peace of mind will be a lot sounder if you can truly grasp the concept that a great number of your days are going to be spent to the right or to the left of normal. If I were to be completely honest, but we haven’t just had “one of those days” in our family or even “one of those weeks.”  We’ve had “one of those years” – and it’s just July. One broken refrigerator, 1 broken washing machine (3 times), 2 broken lawn mowers, one nasty case of poison ivy, one gall bladder surgery, one dental extraction, 2 broken cars…. the list goes on, but I’m getting a migraine!

We’ve been to the left and to the right of NORMAL so often this year it’s almost like we’re line dancing through life. To the left… to the right.. to the left… to the right…  That’s okay with me, I’ve gotten good at this dance by now.

Waiting for the Inevitable Return to Normal

Some people ride the tide and wait to be carried back to “norm,” while others fight, kick, spit, and try to swim upstream like they’re salmon.

I’ve found that when you’re doing the left/right dance, it’s best to stay busy.  Be proactive.

When we say we want life to be normal, we’re actually saying that we want __________ to be gone or ____________ to be better. We want solutions to problems – and, a lot of times, we want the problems to fix their darn selves. WORK for it? FIGHT for it? CHANGE? You’re kidding, right?!

Your Action Plan when NORMAL is Eluding You:

  • Don’t panic. Keep breathing – in fact breath deeper than normal. It helps keep you calm. Seriously. When in stressful situations, our body kind of has a mini-panic attack. The pulse races, muscles get tense – it’s as though our entire body is ready to take off at any given moment. The fight or flight reaction kicks in and our body is convinced it has to gear up for whichever way we decide to go.  When we calm down and take deep breaths, our mind tells our body, “(S)he’s got this. Cool your heels.”  Your pulse will slow down and the entire body will relax. You’ll feel 110 percent better instantly.
  • If there’s something you can do to actually help bridge the gap back to normal, do it.  Sometimes it’s as simple as making an appointment with a doctor, mechanic, dentist, or (ahem, ahem) washing machine repairman (as in one that knows what he’s doing!). The amazing thing is as soon as we do all that we can possibly do, not only do things start “getting better,” they start “looking better” almost immediately.
  • Keep living. Keep loving. Keep laughing.  If we were to only enjoy life on the days when everything’s going right, we’d be miserable grumps most of the time.

The third point brings me to one last analogy.  I read a wonderful story recently of a farmer who lost his arm in an accident on his farm. The picture accompanying the story showed this farmer showing of his prosthetic arm – smiling ear to ear and looking like the happiest man in the world.  If one were to look at the picture, without reading the story, they’d feel sorry for the man. They might even wonder why he’s smiling so broadly.

Easy! He’s smiling because he’s glad to be alive. He actually came thisclose to dying that day. Closer than thisclose but I have no idea how to illustrate that. At the end of the story, I realized that the start of every single day must seem like an unopened gift to this man.  As I got up from the article and began to cook supper, it hit me – the start of every single day IS an unopened gift.  Not just to him, but to all of us.

Whether that day is filled with exactly what we wanted or filled with things we never asked for, it’s still a gift.  It’s hard to be unhappy when you find yourself smack in the middle of a beautiful gift that’s denied to many.

The farmer said something that really stood out to me. He said, “I do everything I used to do. I just do it differently now.”  Just is the word that seals it for me. It’s so matter-of-fact and so beautifully simplistic.  Almost in a by the way tone, he says he just does things differently now.

This man didn’t just dance his way back to NORMAL, he redesigned the entire dance floor.  He was an inspiration to me and I hope that the thought of him will serve as an inspiration to you.

Keep smiling and, by all means, keep dancing. It’s the only way you’re going to get anywhere…especially if NORMAL is your destination.

How to Use Positive Affirmations to Create More Positive Energy

And Why It's A Whiz Bang Idea to Do So!

 Quotes About Positive Affirmations

 

No doubt you’ve heard about positive affirmations.  You’re probably even a believer in the power of positive affirmations. But do you actually use them?  Do you give yourself the extra boost that comes from creating more positive energy in your life?

Positive affirmations is more than just a buzz phrase composed of two highly attractive words. It’s a phrase that packs a real wallop – to the tune of having the power to transform your world.

Now that’s a wallop.

Before we get to positive affirmations, let’s think for a minute (but just a minute, okay, because they’re bad news) about negative affirmations. Negative affirmations are equally powerful and pack their own kind of wallop – as in knocking you down, kicking you in the liver with steel toe boots, and then spitting in your face.

I told you they were bad news.

Negative affirmations are those unkind, hurtful, and destructive little things we frequently say about ourselves.  Sometimes we say them out loud but we usually play them for an audience of one, ensuring that we’re the only ones that hear them. Problem is, we’re the only ones that NEED to hear them for them to do their damage.

Imagine, for a scary minute, that someone followed you around all day and all night.  Each time there was a lull in the conversation, they’d lean in and whisper something like, “You’re too fat for that outfit…” or “You look really old, you know that?”  How about the one we all love to hear, “There’s NO WAY you can do this… absolutely NO WAY.”

So long, self esteem. Nice knowing you!

We take on the scary role of this evil stalker every single time we cut ourselves down with negativity.  The sooner we learn to stop in our tracks before any negative venom comes spewing out of our mouths, the better.  What’s the best way to make the negativity stop?

Simple. Replace it with positivity.

Pull the plug on negative energy and fill your life up to the brim with positive energy.

If we train ourselves to get into the habit of practicing positive affirmations, we’ll begin to build ourselves UP rather than tear ourselves DOWN. But notice the words “train” and “practice.”  They’re our cues that this is a pro-active exercise, not a passive mindset.  You don’t tell yourself one day, I’m going to start being more positive, then expect it to happen magically.  That’d be like using shampoo one night and expecting your hair to stay clean for the rest of your life.

When you implement change in your life, you must be mindful of it each day. You have to purposely commit to making a positive change on a daily basis. If you’re one of those who tends to bash yourself regularly, this so-called daily basis may be more of an hourly basis.

So, if the best way to get rid of negative affirmations is to replace them with positive affirmations, where do you start?  Let’s start at the heart of the matter.  What area or areas do you criticize, condemn, and ridicule yourself in the most?  Is it your appearance… your age… your education… your job? Do you have bad habits or shortcomings that you consistently beat yourself up over?  Is there a particular aspect of your life you want  to improve? The answer(s) to these questions will give you an idea of what positive affirmations you need to focus on.

It’ll also put the negative affirmations on notice – they’re about to get a much-needed makeover.

The best positive affirmations are those that are short, direct, clear, and assume the desired outcome has already happened.  For example, if an individual feels held back by shyness and wants to be more outgoing,  a few positive affirmations would be:

  • I’m Outgoing and Confident.
  • I am confident.
  • I am a confident person.
  • I boldly voice my opinions.
  • I stand up for myself.

Experts say that one of the most important things about choosing positive affirmations is to keep any and all negative or potentially negative words out of the mix.  That’s why using an affirmation like, “I am confident” is better than saying, “I am not shy.”  The word shy is the very concept you’re trying to avoid! If you say, “I am not shy” throughout the day, you are still reenforcing the shyness.  Whereas if you say “I am confident,” you are reenforcing the word confident?

See the difference? It may seem small, but it’s actually huge.

Someone may ask, “How about using the words I FEEL confident?”  While that’s still a better choice than “I am not shy,” I personally think it’s still second-best. Why?  Too much wiggle room.  If you say “I FEEL confident,” it kind of implies that it’s a momentary thing.  As in, you’re wearing your favorite blue top, so you FEEL confident.. but when you change back into your white one… the confidence might just bottom out!  Saying you “feel” a certain way isn’t the same as saying you OWN the train and OWN the situation.

Again, it seems small – but it isn’t.

Finally, choose TOP SHELF adjectives.  This would mean going with, “I make great decisions” rather than “I make good decisions.”  Using good rather than great implies room for improvement and, while that may be true, you don’ t want to dwell on that in your affirmations.

So, make your positive affirmations…

  1. 100 percent positive – without a single negative or undesired trait mentioned
  2. direct and to the point
  3. free of wiggle room!
  4. top shelf

A unique approach

I once heard a positive affirmations cd that was filled with positive affirmations in the form of questions.  The man would say things such as, “Why am I so happy?,”  “Why do I make the right decisions?,” etc.  The thought process behind these questioning affirmations was, apparently, that you’d be forced to focus on the answers.  I can see how this approach would be fantastic for a lot of people.

So, now you know the importance of positive affirmations, how can you sneak them into your life?

While there are some truly wonderful Positive Affirmations available for downloading and using immediately, you can also come up with your own.   If you use these, just be sure you repeat the affirmations, yourself, and don’t merely listen to someone else stating their affirmations.  That really won’t do you much good, will it?

The best way to have custom, personal affirmations is to make them yourself. In addition to using affirmations for personal areas you want to improve in, use general affirmations such as:

  • I love my life!
  • I love my personality.
  • I have a great sense of humor.
  • I am great at ____ (writing, cooking, your job…)
  • I am fun to be around.
  • I love who I am.

You just have to remember to use these affirmations daily – several times a day, in fact.  Some people have suggested recording yourself as you slowly and confidently say your affirmations and playing the recording several times a day. I can’t say I’ve ever done that, myself, but it seems like a pretty cool idea.

I’ve also read that a lot of people write their positive affirmations on index cards or notes of paper, then leave them in random places where they’ll be reminded to use them.  While I certainly use index cards for motivational quotes, inspirational words, and reminders, I think of positive affirmations as a really personal thing – for my eyes only. However, if you don’t have a lot of other eyes around, index cards could serve you well.

The most important thing is to surround yourself with as much positive energy as possible. Come on, how could that be anything but a great thing?!?!

The Names We Call People are A Lot Like Post It Notes

For Better or Worse.. They Just Might Stick

I can still feel the impact of a musical friend who one day called me ‘musical.’ No one had ever called me that. I didn’t really play an instrument. I was no soloist. Yet . . . I instantly felt known and loved. . . . [He] noticed, validated, and appreciated something deeply true about me.”  These words were written in an article by Mark Labberton and beautifully remind us of the importance of “names” we assign to one another.

Whatever “names” or even “images” we assign to other people carry a lot of weight, and for better or worse, you’d better believe they stick. Power of Names

Long before I considered myself a writer, I thought of words as little pieces of puzzles. The end result of piecing them together might be a letter to a loved one, an essay at school, or a few lines in my diary about the impossibly cute boy who worked at an arcade in town.

Naturally I never thought about my effectiveness with words. I simply knew I loved being in their presence.  I remember when I actually began to feel like, maybe… just maybe… they enjoyed being in my presence as well.

My aunt (one of the sweetest people in the world, by the way) was always one of my favorite family members to write letters to.  She loved to hear about my pets, friends, school, clothes, etc. If I had an interest in something, she wanted to know all about it.  One Christmas (I believe I was around 14-15), she and my uncle came in for Christmas. Right smack in front of the entire family, she launched into how much she loves getting my letters. She said I had a “gift” for writing.   She went on to say that she kept all of my letters.  Then my mom said that she kept all of my poems and short stories that I’d written in school.

I thought, “You KEPT all that crap???”

My aunt told me, “You should be a writer,” and my mom replied, “She already is.”

I have no idea what gifts I unwrapped under the tree that year, but I know that two of the most important people in my life gave me one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten – belief in myself.

Since that day, whenever I’ve written anything I’ve sat a little taller and felt a lot more confident.  Whenever I’d get anything less than an A+ on an essay, I’d think, “Well, you obviously don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m the writer here.”  Even today if someone tells me they think I should have said this or that in a blog post, I think, “What do you know? I’m a writer. Go away.”

Many years passed between the day my mom and aunt made me feel 10 feet tall.  I became a wife (to the cute arcade boy) and mother of three beautiful daughters.  I threw myself completely into these roles. The only writing I did was letters and curriculum for my daughters, who I home-schooled all the way from Kindergarten to 12th Grade.

When I decided that I’d very much like to be a web publisher and blog writer, I remembered what my family had said all those years ago.  Their words gave me confidence to try.  I’d always see so many great authors online that there were times I’d kind of doubt myself. Right around this time, a friend of my husband’s who happened to have a great reputation online as a web publisher said that he was “in love with my writing.”

This compliment was like a shot in the arm and I felt positively sassy again.

Words carry so much weight! Whether they’re words we say to our children, our spouse, ourselves, or people we barely even know.

Power of NamesThink of words like this: When you call someone “dumb” or even say they did a “dumb” thing – it’s as though you’re writing the word on a post it note and pinning it to their top.  They WILL live down to your expectations.

When you call someone “gifted,” “smart,” “witty,” etc… they WILL live up to your expectations.

Think about things people have called you. No doubt both good and bad names come to mind.  That’s a perfect illustration that these labels stay with us and a wonderful reminder to watch what words come out of your mouth.

Now for a harder exercise – think about the names you have called other people or the titles you’ve given them.  If you’re the sort of person who has pinned far more negative words than positive, make it right. If you think you’ve been particularly harmful to someone’s self confidence or fear that someone doesn’t think you believe in them – don’t let another day go by without clearing things up.

Words have the power to change lives.

“If you wouldn’t write it and sign it, don’t say it.” - Earl Wilson

 

The Storm Will Pass. The Spring Will Come.

Beautiful Quote (and Reminder!) from Robert H. Schuller

First Robin of Spring

Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in a low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come. – Robert H. Schuller

I thought of this great quote by Robert H. Schuller recently. Like everyone, I was growing a little anxious for spring to arrive. The cold days just seem to linger and linger and linger. To make matters worse, we kept getting little teases of warm weather. I’d put my cardigans and sweaters in the back of the closet, only to have to dig them back out when the temperatures would dive again.

Don’t get me wrong, I love winter. But she just about overstayed her welcome this year!

When I saw the first robin of spring (something we bird lovers always watch for), I thought about this wonderful quote.

The spring will come. It always does.

When we lose loved ones, we can’t even imagine EVER smiling again, let alone laughing. Yet, after a while, we do both. When we’re in the throes of a stomach flu or sinusitis, we can’t even remember what it’s like to feel good.  And, yet, when we DO feel better, we’re convinced that it’s the best we’ve ever felt in our life!

The spring will come. It always does.

If you’re going through a difficult time right now – whether it’s related to health, grief, relationship problems, or one of life’s other monstrosities – keep reminding yourself that it won’t always be like this. Better, brighter, happier days are ahead.  Storms never last forever and, very often, they leave a beautiful rainbow in their wake.

The spring will come. It always does!

Bouncing Back from Life’s Challenges and Disappointments

An Inspirational Article by Author Linda Graham: Hiccups and Hurricanes

Bouncing Back by Linda GrahamWhen you read (or hear) the words “bouncing back,” what do you think of? I suppose it’s because I’ve had three daughters, but when I see/hear the words, I initially think of “bouncing back” from a 9 month pregnancy, labor, and recovery.  I imagine the time and effort it takes to “feel whole” again.

This imagery can actually accompany anything that we need to “bounce back” from.

I remember when my husband’s mother passed away.  When we went to a ballgame soon after and my husband was taking business calls as he ate popcorn and got ready to throw out the first pitch, I thought “he’s returning to a type of normalcy.”  Put another way, he was “bouncing back.”  All of us who have lost loved ones know that, at some point, you have to get up and carry on. You have to find a way to smile again and look at the future with hope as you make peace with the past and present.

Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, a health set-back, financial thunderstorm, or relationship disaster – we either bounce back or we stay down.

Staying down just isn’t an option, right.

A very talented author, Linda Graham, MFT, has written a fascinating, thought-provoking, and challenging book wonderfully titled Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being.

From the Back Cover of Bouncing Back:

Resilience is the ability to face and handle life’s challenges, whether everyday disappointments or extraordinary disasters. While resilience is innate in the brain, over time we learn unhelpful patterns, which then become fixed in our neural circuitry. But science is now revealing that what previously seemed hardwired can be rewired, and Bouncing Back shows us how. With powerful, time-tested exercises, Linda Graham guides us in rebuilding our core well-being and disaster-proofing our brains.

Below is an article that was written by Linda Graham. It sort of “sets the stage” for the book.

Hiccups and Hurricanes: Bouncing Back from Life’s Challenges

By Linda Graham

We are all called upon to cope with hiccups and hurricanes in our lives — losing our wallet and car keys, discovering mold in the bathroom, missing three days at the office to care for a sick child — and we do. We are resilient heroes in our own lives every day as we skillfully navigate the disruptive, unwanted changes of the washing machine going on the fritz or the car needing a new transmission.

Occasionally we have to respond with grace under pressure to greater troubles and tragedies: infertility or infidelity, a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, losing a job, a son wounded in combat overseas.

The way we can bounce back from such everyday disappointments and extraordinary disasters is through resilience – capacities innate in the brain to respond to the inevitable twists and turns in life flexibly and adaptively.

Modern neuroscience is revealing how we can harness the brain’s capacities of neuroplasticity to rewire our habitual patterns of response to strengthen what I call the 5 C’s of coping:

  1. Calm: You can stay calm in a crisis.
  2. Clarity: You can see clearly what’s happening as well as your internal response to what’s happening; you can see what needs to happen next; and you can see possibilities from different perspectives that will enhance your ability to respond flexibly.
  3. Connection: You can reach out for help as needed; you can learn from others how to be resilient; and you can connect to resources that greatly expand your options.
  4. Competence: You can call on skills and competencies that you have learned through previous experience to act quickly and effectively.
  5. Courage: You can strengthen your faith to persevere in your actions until you come to resolution or acceptance of the difficulty.

More than 80 exercises in Bouncing Back allow you to do this rewiring safely, efficiently, effectively.  The tools and techniques drawn from mindfulness practices and relational psychology create and accelerate brain change and strengthen the parts of the brain we need to cope.  You recover a deep resilience and well-being that will last a lifetime.

An example: Keep CALM and Carry On

The fastest way to regulate the body’s stress response and return to a sense of calm is to activate the release of oxytocin in the brain.  Oxytocin is the neurostransmitter of safety and trust and is the brain’s direct and immediate antidote to the stress hormone cortisol.  Oxytocin can be thought of as the neurochemical foundation of resilience.

The fastest way to release oxytocin and mitigate stress is through safe touch in a soothing relationship.  Fortunately, neuroscientists have demonstrated many times that even remembering or imaging someone we love and by whom we feel loved is enough to release small but regular doses of oxytocin.

Exercise: Hand on the Heart

We come into steady calm by experiencing moments of feeling safe, loved, and cherished and letting those moments register in our body and encode new circuitry in our brain. This exercise offers a way to evoke those feelings.

1. Begin by placing your hand on your heart, feeling the warmth of your own touch. Breathe gently and deeply into your heart center, taking in a sense of calm, peace, goodness, safety, trust, acceptance, and ease.

2. Once that’s steady, call to mind a moment of being with someone who loves you unconditionally, someone you feel completely safe with. This may, of course, be a partner, child, or parent; but if the dynamics of those relationships are complicated and the emotions mixed, you may choose any true other to your true self: a dear friend, a trusted teacher, a close colleague or neighbor, a therapist, your grandmother, a spiritual figure like Jesus or the Dalai Lama, or your wiser self. Pets are also great for this exercise.

3. As you remember feeling safe and loved with this person or pet, see if you can sense in your body the positive feelings and sensations associated with that memory. Really savor a feeling of warmth, safety, trust, and love in your body.

4. When that feeling is steady, let go of the image and simply bathe in the feeling itself for thirty seconds. Savor the rich nurturing of this feeling; let it really soak in.

The Neuroscience:

Breathing deeply, gently, and fully activates the calming branch of our autonomic nervous system, the parasympathetic branch. The parasympathetic modulates the body-brain’s fight-flight-freeze response when we feel threatened or agitated. Breathing, or pranayama, has been a core practice in yoga and meditation to relax the body and steady the mind for over 3,500 years.

Breathing positive emotions into the heart center steadies the heart rate, restoring the equilibrium of the body so that we can remain present and engaged. In evoking a memory or image of feeling loved and cherished, we evoke a sense of safe connection with others; the oxytocin immediately
reduces our stress.  That evocation also activates the prefrontal cortex, which triggers the hippo-campus to search for explicit memories of moments when we have been held, soothed, protected, encouraged, believed in, times when we have reached out for help and received comfort and support

Through safety and trust in connection, we come back into our baseline equilibrium. From there, with our higher, thinking brain calm and alert, we can mobilize quickly, act skillfully, and take care of business.

Based on the book Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being. Copyright © 2013 by Linda Graham. Reprinted with permission from New World Library. www.NewWorldLibrary.com.

*    *    *    *    *
Linda Graham, MFT, is a licensed psychotherapist and meditation teacher in full-time practice in the San Francisco Bay Area. She integrates her passion for neuroscience, mindfulness, and relational psychology through trainings, consultations, workshops, and conferences nationally. She publishes a monthly e-newsletter, Healing and Awakening into Aliveness and Wholeness, and weekly e-quotes on resources for recovering resilience, archived at www.lindagraham-mft.net.

Find Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being on Amazon!

One Small Step Can Open a Whole New World

Don't Let Life Slip Away from You!

No Line Bifocals

I know, better than anyone, that my advice isn’t worth pure gold. Even on my best day, I’d never suggest that anything I have to say is worth a $20 bill. Someone once suggested that I charge people to read certain articles on Self Help Daily. I was relieved that he suggested it in e-mail, so he didn’t have to see me throw my head back and laugh as I said, “Oh, that’s a good one!”

I don’t have an over-inflated sense of myself or anything about me… well, I take that back. I’m beyond cocky about my cooking. I’m pretty sure that if anyone ever told me something I cooked or baked was less than a 10 on a scale of 1-10, I’d grab them by their neck collar and throw them out of my kitchen, all the while asking them how they managed to live to this point with absolutely no taste buds.

I’d offer to set up a fund and solicit money to buy them a new tongue – one with taste buds that actually function. I’m just charitable like that.

In all seriousness (an area I seldom visit), the advice I’m about to lay on you is golden. It’s the best advice you will get all year.

I’m not being cocky.

I’m not being grandiose.

I’m simply being honest.

If you have anything in the world that stands between you and enjoying the world to its absolute fullest, I plead with you to take the one small step to navigate around it.

I have been needing new glasses for years. YEARS. But, like most people, I kept seeing other things that I’d rather spend time and money on. Looking back, I know just how ridiculous I was. I’d even go as far to say that I was foolish.

Since I’d last gotten a pair of glasses, my vision has changed a great deal. I could tell when driving or riding in a car, for example, that I couldn’t read signs I was pretty sure I once read. When reading a book or the back of a cereal box, for that matter, I always had to take my glasses off or peek over the top in what I always termed my “annoyed librarian look.” The kind of look a librarian throws to kids who aren’t talking with their “indoors voice.”

The vision change happened so gradually I wasn’t fully aware of just how much I was missing. I knew that I had been slacking off on my writing and reading, but I guess (somehow) I never attributed it to the simple fact that trying to SEE the words I wanted to type and read had become such a challenge.

I knew I needed stronger glasses and I knew I needed bifocal lenses. But I kept putting it off – for years. And years. It wasn’t vanity because thanks to AMAZING technology, today’s bifocals look exactly like all other glasses. “No Line Bifocals” look the same as all other glasses. It boggles the mind, but NO ONE knows you’re wearing bifocals except you. You know it when you can actually read without taking off your glasses, you know when the text on your phone is clearer than ever, and you know when you don’t whip out your annoyed librarian look while reading small print.

More than anything, I think I was afraid of being able to adjust to bifocal lenses. I envisioned myself getting seasick just walking through the room. I pictured myself floundering in a distorted world that suddenly seemed like a house of mirrors.

I got my beautiful new No Line Bifocal glasses this weekend and am relieved to say I’m neither seasick or floundering. What I am is amazed.  Absolutely amazed.  A whole new world has, literally, been opened up for me and I realize, now, that I didn’t even realize, then, just how much I was missing.

As soon as we left Lenscrafters, I found myself reading billboards and restaurant names from FAR away.  Because my vision had deteriorated slowly, the world had, in a sense, slowly slipped away from me.  But the story has such a happy ending, I can’t even feel sad for the time lost – I’m too excited for the time saved!

If you need glasses, bifocal lenses, hearing aids, or anything else that will help open a whole new world for you, again, I’m pleading with you to simply take the small step needed to walk through the door.  The world may be slowly slipping away from you and, because it’s been so gradual, you may not even completely realize it.

My mother experienced gradual hearing loss beginning at a very young age. Although everyone needed to repeat things to her several times, she always seemed to think that people were mumbling.  Everyone, thinking of what all she was missing, kept telling her to get her hearing checked because she needed hearing aids.  No one did it in an ugly manner, of course – only jerks do that.  Personally, I never even minded repeating myself.  If someone actually cares enough about what I say to ask me to repeat it… I’m flattered!

However, my mom (who was such a character, I can’t even tell you – she was the very definition of a PILL!) did what just about everyone with hearing loss did. If she’d already asked someone to repeat themselves several times – she didn’t want to keep on asking, “What?” or “Excuse me?”  She’d simply kind of guess at what they’d said and either laugh or or answer with something she hoped would fit the situation.

Sometimes she’d be so off base I’d have to laugh.  She’d answer my dad at times with completely off the wall responses and I can still see the befuddled expression on his face.  One time he told her that the heat needed to be turned up “a couple of notches” and she said, “I’m going to the store later.”  He said, “Okay. Let’s go with that.”

To which she replied, “Of course you can go with me.”

He then looked at me and whispered, “Help.”

While we sometimes laugh at moments that surround vision and hearing – at ourselves as well as others – let’s be honest. It’s not all that funny, is it?  While we may tell ourselves, “I’m as blind as a bat!” or while someone may tell us, “You can’t hear a lick!” – I don’t think anything that stands between someone and life is anything to laugh at.

My mom, to her credit, did make an appointment for a hearing test. She got a couple of hearing aids and, honestly, tears kind of come to my eyes when I remember the look on her face when she heard birds singing for the first time in what must have been 20 or more years.  We were in front of her house and she said, “Listen!  The birds are singing!”

I thought, Momma, they’ve been singing all along.

So often, she’d ask us, “Have you always been able to hear that?”

She started calling her hearing aids her “ears” and would often say something like, “We can go in a minute… just let me put my ears on.”

The world had slowly slipped away from her and she didn’t even know it.   You, while reading these words, may be in the same boat as my mom (hearing loss) or with me (vision problems).  The world could be slipping slowly away from you, and that really breaks my heart.

If the only thing standing between you and hearing aids, glasses, reading glasses, or bifocal lenses is vanity – let me give you a wake up call.  No one cares. They really don’t.  I think a lot of people are afraid of looking “old” or of being perceived as “old” when it comes to glasses and hearing aids.

Duh!  There are grade school kids who require glasses and hearing aids.  Besides, I’ll give you another little wake up call.  If you’re in your fifties, you aren’t keeping that a secret from anyone, no matter what you may think.  The world will know you’re there and, guess what… again, they don’t care! Fifties and sixties, today are like the yesterday’s forties.

Never be ashamed of your age… be proud.

Besides, let’s be honest, who will be perceived as older, the one who has to do the “annoyed librarian” move or the one who simply sees what they want to see.  Who’ll be perceived as older, the one who says, “What?” or the one who gives a perfect answer every time, right on cue?

Today’s glasses and hearing aids are made so stylish, anyway.  With people living longer, companies are making sure that these products are as fashionable and discreet as ever. Trust me, you’ll be blown away.

You’ll want to kick yourself for not taking that first step sooner. When you’re seeing or hearing everything you’ve been missing, you will feel like a whole new world has opened up right before you.  Think of the scene in the movie Avatar when Pandora opens up for the first time.  It’s like that… only better.

You’ll find that you have more time to actually LIVE and enjoy life. You may not realize just how much effort it takes to try to do things others take for granted. I spent so much time taking glasses off, putting glasses on, walking closer to see what I needed to see, etc. I never realized how much effort I was having to put into life!  The same is true for those who have hearing loss. They have to ask others to repeat what they said (and subject themselves to some people who get annoyed when they have to repeat themselves), they have to try to read lips (my mom mastered this trick), they have to, nervously, throw out an answer and hope for the best.

That’s a lot of effort. It’s also a great big fat (and needless) barrier between yourself and life.

Please don’t live on the sidelines any longer. Make this the week you call for an appointment. There is LITERALLY a whole new world waiting for you to step into it. You just have to make that first step.  As I’m typing these words, I see my computer screen more clearly than ever. The words are sharp and clear.  Every now and then, I glance out of the window my my desk and window and see the birds and trees that I love so much. They had been slowly fading away from me and I can’t tell you how overjoyed I am to have them back.

When things fade away gradually, you never realize it fully until you have them back again.  I stopped reading the signs on the way home because it occurred to me, my husband has seen them all along. He doesn’t need me to read them to him!  So, I silently read them to myself and felt so much joy that I had trouble containing it.

The world is a joyful, beautiful thing. Please don’t let it slip away. I feel so strongly about this that it hit me this morning – if my words and our story (mine and my mom’s) can make just one person take that first step, every minute I’ve ever put into Self Help Daily will have been more than worth it.

 ”Listen!  The birds are singing!“  (Momma, they’ve been singing all along.)

It’s All in the Attitude, Don’t Bother Looking Anywhere Else

Adjust Your Attitude - Adjust Your World

TractorIf you’re looking for happiness, peace, and even a better life, look no further than your attitude. Your attitude is the driving force in your life.  By the way, the picture of the tractor will make sense in a minute.

When it comes to quotes or stories, I’m ALL about giving credit to the original source. However, some stories and quotes are so good that they’ve been around the world so many times no one knows where they originally came from.

One of my favorite such stories is this one:

A woman woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and noticed she had only three hairs on her head. She said,  “I think I’ll braid my hair today.” She did and she had a great day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that she had only two hairs on her head. “Well, I think I’ll part my hair down the middle today.” She did and she had a wonderful day.

 The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that she had only one hair on her head. “Hmmm. I think I’ll wear my hair in a ponytail today.“  She did just that and had a fun day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that there wasn’t a single hair on her head. “Yes!” she exclaimed, “I don’t have to fix my hair today!

Now that’s what I call a great attitude!

When I sat down to write (well it’s actually typing, isn’t it?) an article about attitude, my mind started sorting through my favorite quotes and stories about attitude.  My aunt’s quote, after she learned she had breast cancer, “I never ask why me, I ask, well…why NOT me?” was the first quote to spring to mind. She was immediately followed by the story about the woman with three dwindling hairs.

By the way, my aunt beat cancer and it hasn’t had the audacity to knock on her door again.

You know how, in life, people tend to give an inordinate amount of credit to certain people – whether it’s credit for things going right OR for things going wrong?  In the grocery store the other day, a man in the cereal aisle read the price of one of the cereals aloud, then followed it with, “Thank you very much, Obama.”  He’s no different than the woman I heard blaming President Bush for a tornado that tore through the Midwest.   I’m certain President Obama didn’t price the cereal and I pretty sure President Bush didn’t summon up a tornado.

People just love to “pin” things on people, don’t they?!

Having said that, I may be just as ridiculous sometimes as these two – not when it comes to blaming people, but when it comes to blaming character traits.  I tend to blame 80 percent of people’s suffering on having the wrong attitude.  Bad attitudes are my “fall guys.”

Before you try reasoning with me, I’ll admit, there are other negative traits or habits that can cause problems.  Sometimes people procrastinate, sometimes they’re hard-headed, sometimes they’re lazy. Heck, sometimes they’re simply as dumb as a bag of rocks!  You don’t have to look hard or branch out far to see that.

However, I maintain that A LOT of problems we face can be handled with adjusting our attitude.

A sour, defeatist, poor-poor-me attitude only increases your suffering. It also pushes people about as far  away as they can be pushed.  If you’re feeling sorrow or grief, by all means express it – just be certain not to wallow in it.

Feel the pain (whether it’s grief, remorse, or a good old-fashioned broken heart), take a deep breath, get up, and get on with life.

No matter what has happened in your life, you MUST have the attitude that the best is yet to come. You MUST tell yourself that, while your yesterdays were great, they don’t even hold a candle to your tomorrows!

Have I ever told you about a baseball pitcher we once knew? When we lived in Louisville, Kentucky, we were season ticket holders for a AAA team – the Louisville Bats (Riverbats before that). For those unfamiliar with baseball (I don’t even know you anymore!), if a player is on a AAA team, they aren’t playing major league ball yet (or making the “big bucks”).  Many are thisclose to the majors, but many are also thisclose to AA.

Anyway, as far as pitchers go, our guy was “okay.”  When he was on the mound for our team, my whole family would practically hold our breath – willing him to be brilliant, simply because we liked him so much.  I’m thinking it would have been impossible not to.  He was the kind of person who you just KNEW got out of bed smiling in the morning, daring the world to knock the smile off of his face.  He always had something to say and seemed, genuinely, thrilled to have the honor of being a part of the beautiful thing we call life.

A lot of baseball players in the minor leagues would have nasty attitudes. They’d snarl, almost seemingly pouting. They wouldn’t sign autographs for fans and they wouldn’t stop to talk to you if their life depended on it.  However, a lot of guys (like our smiling pitcher) were having fun with life and had great attitudes.  One of the nicest, coolest guys to ever come through the system was Adam Dunn – if you follow baseball, I know you’ve heard of him.  His attitude could not have been better.

Leave it to me to get side-tracked with baseball talk. I’m obsessed with the game. Could you tell?

Think of people in your own life who have great attitudes. The people who are so darn happy and upbeat that you get in a better mood simply from being around them. They’re the complete opposite of the vampires, aren’t they? Vampires are, of course, the ones who try to suck the fun out of life. If you aren’t careful, they’ll try to suck as much out of your life as they do their own. You’ve been warned.

I’m going to give you a little peak into an approach I’ve frequently taken in life.  I call it looking for the UP side to any given situation. I’ve had a pretty eventful life and, along the way, I figured something out.  Looking UP is the key to happiness (and sanity!). Looking DOWN is the key to misery.

Whichever way you face… you go.

When I lost my father (who was far too young to have died), I held on to the thought that he was in Heaven now and would never be sick again.  I also kept reminding myself that I’d never have to go through losing my dad again and would never see him sick or hurt. Years later, I would have to rely on the same approach with my mom when she suddenly decided to move on to Heaven. When my oldest daughter got married and moved out of the house (what was she thinking?!), I refused to think of how much I missed seeing her beautiful face each day and thought, instead, of how good her new husband is to her, how much he makes her laugh, and how much I love both of them.

Would feelings of sadness creep in from time to time? Of course!  But when they did (or do), I immediately focus on the positives.  Sometimes you have to really, really, really look hard. In fact, sometimes all you can say is, “Well, the sun’s shining…”

Years ago, I taught Sunday School for little bity people. My class was made up of 4, 5 and 6 year olds. I was talking to them about always being thankful and about telling others how thankful and happy they were. One ridiculously cute  little boy happened to be (shhhh, don’t tell anyone) one of my favorites.  He wasn’t the best behaved, mind you. In fact, he never sat still and didn’t hesitate for a second to say what was on his mind.  What can I say, he amused me and kept things interesting. His name was Zachary and I’d have taken 20 of him. As they were coloring pictures after our story about thankfulness and happiness, he raised his little hand. I thought, “Here we go…” after asking him what was on his mind.  He said something about having a bad day and not feeling happy. No doubt, he’d been in trouble with his dad that morning – Heaven only knows what’d he’d gotten into!

I told him that he should think about something that makes him happy when he felt upset. Something that he was thankful for.  I asked him to name something that made him smile – because that would be something he was thankful for. He thought about it for a minute, went back to coloring (obviously still thinking), then looked up with a smile on his face. He said tractors made him smile and that he was thankful for tractors.  His grandparents were farmers and his dad, no doubt, had a tractor too. They obviously meant good times to this little live wire and maybe even represented a favorite loved one.

I looked all week for a coloring book with pictures of tractors, but when I put the picture of a tractor in front of him with his crayons, his face lit up so brightly it made the work more than worth it!

We all have things that make our faces light up. We all have things that make us smile – from the inside, out. As much as is possible, always try to focus on these things – especially when you’re going through a rough patch.  When having a rotten day, think of the woman with three hairs, then two hairs, then one hair, then no hair!

Don’t let bad situations get the best of you – they don’t deserve it. Turn the tables on life by turning the dial on your attitude.   Remember, you GO in the direction you’re facing.  Don’t look down… look up!

So, How Do You Look at Problems?

This Quote Suggests Looking at Them a Whole New Way

Smiling Breakfast

“Expect problems and eat them for breakfast” - Alfred Montapert

In addition to one of my favorite photo ops (love it when my food’s in good spirits), you’re looking at one of my favorite quotes of all time.

Simple. Basic. Understated. Golden.

Easiest way to set yourself up for a mad case of the blues?  Expect life to always be in as good a mood as my bacon and eggs were.

People who are completely thrown off their axis by traffic, bad drivers, long lines, and high grocery prices kind of amuse me.  Seriously, man. That’s life.  I’m not sure why we seem to think we should be immune to any sort of inconveniences, but it seems to me that people’s fuses are getting shorter and shorter.

I have absolutely no idea what we could contribute this to. Some people say it’s because people aren’t “conditioned” to be patient any longer.  I guess you could make a case for this theory – we are kind of a drive thru and microwave society, aren’t we?  Give it to me NOW! I have no intention of waiting or being inconvenienced!

The sooner we realize that life doesn’t OWE us anything, whether it’s a carefree day or a new dining room table, the sooner we’ll be at peace.

EXPECT problems… because they are going to come, but instead of letting them eat away at you, plate them and eat them before they even see the fork coming.

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