The Benefits of Like-Mindedness

Why Birds of a Feather Really Should Flock Together (What's in it for the Birds!)

Birds of a Feather Flock Together

All for one and one for all.”  ― Alexandre DumasThe Three Musketeers

Fraternity. Community. Brethren.  Allies. Team. League. Group. Alliance.  Tribe. Flock. …

These words –  and many more – all describe the same basic premise and the same basic truth: Comfort, and even strength, are often found amongst like-minded individuals.

This isn’t groundbreaking  information, of course. Since the beginning of time, people have realized that there’s strength in numbers. They’ve also known that hanging out with people who have similar interests, goals, and situations to your own provides you with a comforting feeling of normalcy.

Ironically, as I’m typing these words, there are 6 doves on my windowsill.  (I keep birdseed and black sunflower seeds on the windowsill beside my computer desk. This, combined with bird and squirrel feeders in our yard provide me with endless little cuties to distract me throughout the day. Jury’s still out on whether that’s actually a good thing or a bad thing.)   While there are exceptions, generally speaking, doves will show up to dine together.  I’ve never had, say, a cardinal and dove show up together.

Birds of a feather, literally, flock together.  Even nature knows the strength and safety that comes from community.

As I said in a recent post about Finding Silver Linings, my body has decided that it can no longer tolerate gluten (a protein found in… well… many things) in any way what-so-ev-er. It calls the shots, so I’ve had to change my relationship with food entirely – the way I eat, cook, and even think about food is now completely different from the way I had for my entire life.  Suffice to say that “entire” encompasses a healthy number of birthday candles over the years.  And, no, I don’t want to think about the bonfire they could combine to build.

Early on in my Gluten Free world, I found a wonderful key to sanity and happiness:  Surrounding myself with others who trudging along the gluten free trail.

Moving hundreds of these people into our home seemed extreme, so I simply found other ways to build my own private little support group:

  • On Twitter and Pinterest, I searched out Gluten Free Magazines, Gluten Free Food Manufacturers,  authors, and website accounts and followed them.  Then I looked at different accounts that interacted with them and chose certain ones to follow as well.  Soon my Twitter timeline and Pinterest feed were filled with recipes, tips, encouragement, ideas, food reviews, etc.
  • I signed up for different e-newsletters from these same experts – now my inbox is also a wealth of information and inspiration.
  • There are several Gluten Free magazines I want to subscribe to and I’ve started a cool collection of Gluten Free cookbooks.

Doing all of the above had several benefits:

  1. I was able to see scads of smiling people who weren’t only living with their dietary limitations but seemed to love it.
  2. I’ve lost count of the number of great ideas I’ve come across that I would NO WAY have come up with on my own.
  3. There’s a lot to be said for feeling like you’re part of a community.
  4. It’s exhausting to always have to check products and recipes for gluten – when I see e-mails, tweets, and pins from these “safe havens,” it takes the guess work out of it and I feel almost normal. Okay, normal for me.

Naturally  “gluten free”  birds aren’t the only kind of birds available for flocking. Any area of interest, conviction, employment, aspiration, hobbies, dreams, causes, or needs you have can be supported and strengthened by finding like-minded people. Simply replace “gluten free” in the 3 examples above with your own personal subject….

  • parenting
  • cats
  • Christianity
  • dogs
  • self help
  • sales and marketing
  • adoption
  • blogging
  • writing
  • photography
  • empty nest syndrome
  • weight loss
  • vegetarianism
  • loneliness
  • leadership
  • yoga
  • pilates
  • meditation
  • paleo diet
  • wildlife preservation
  • tea reviews
  • bird watching
  • college tips
  • etc. etc. etc…

This is one of those things in life that, while it seems so obvious and  even simple,can make a big difference in your life.

Tip: “Hacks” is a GREAT search term (Google or Twitter) to use behind your area of interest – for example “college hacks,” “weight loss hacks,” “saving money hacks,” etc.

Handling Adversity 101: Sometimes We Aren’t UP Against a Problem, We ARE the Problem

How to Make the Voices in Your Head Work For You

Bigger Dragons

I’m a pretty big advocate of self talk – or, to be more precise, positive self talk.  For one thing, I’m ALL about positive affirmations, positive reinforcement, and… well, positivity in general.

Another reason I’m a component of self talk is that I’m dang good at it. Seriously, I’m so good at talking to myself I could go pro.  I think I can speak for all only children when I say it’s a trait we learn early and master well.

We just try not to do it when anyone’s looking. People talk, you know.

Truth be told  we all talk to ourselves – we just don’t do it out loud. More times than not, the conversation takes place quietly in the mind… kind of behind the scenes. Yet, even there, self talk is as powerful as any superhero’s superpower.

Not long ago, I was up against something (work-related) that seemed uncommonly large. I felt like a fly in the shadow of the Empire State Building. My initial thoughts were, “Maybe if I ignore it, it’ll go away…” What are the chances of that, though? How many times do we have a task in front of us that suddenly magically disappears, as though a magic wand had been waved in its direction?

Maybe I’ve watched too many fairy tales over the years.

The problem wasn’t the big task, even though he was a beaut. I wasn’t facing a problem, I was the problem.  More to the point, my attitude (or my “self talk”) was the problem.  Without even realizing it, I kept the following conversations on repeat in my brain:

  • I freaking can’t do this!
  • This is too much for one person…
  • What the what, dude?!?!
  • Why can’t this just disappear?

Round and round went the negative thoughts and on and on went the negative self talk. And since nothing positive ever springs from a pool of  negative, I never made a bit of progress.

Then it hit me, right in my laundry room. I’d stepped away from my computer to answer the dryer’s relentless buzz. While folding towels, I heard a familiar voice in my mind (the reasonable side of me that I hadn’t heard from in a while) and the words were clear, distinctive, and empowering:  “You’ve slayed bigger dragons than this.”

Clearly I have watched too many fairy tales over the years.

While finishing up the laundry, I thought of the dragons I’d slain over the years. While the dragons had employed different means of attack ( illnesses, loss of loved ones, professional challenges, staggering disappointments..) –  they all had one thing in common: They were smoked.  Put in their place. Laid out.

In fact, when I thought back on some of this dragon’s predecessors, he seemed more like a gecko.

When I returned to my computer, the big fire-breathing dragon that had been sitting on my desk was nowhere to be found. I went about the task at hand and everything fell right into place. Nothing tangible had changed – I hadn’t been granted more talent, the task had not diminished…  Everything was the same while, at the same time, nothing was the same.  The only thing that had changed was my attitude and my self talk.

The good thing is… that’s the only thing that needed to change.

The next time you’re up against your own dragon, think back to the dragons you’ve laid out… then tell him he’s next.  Don’t get in your own way with a pattern of negative thoughts or waste time throwing up wishes that the dragon would just disappear.

You’re the only one that can make that happen, slayer.

Good…. Better…. Best

As Your Choices Move Up the Scale, your Results Will Follow

Good Better and Best

Have you ever wrestled with something that was kind of in a gray (or grey for our British readers) area?  Maybe it was a habit that you couldn’t really call “bad” – but, at the same time, you certainly couldn’t call it “good.”

Years ago, a friend and I were having one of those deep conversations that can only take place over pizza. In fact, it was just me, her, two tall glasses of Coca-Cola and an extra large pizza with mushrooms, onions, and green olives.  That’s what I loved about her – she liked the same pizza toppings I did.

The girl had such good taste.

Although, like a fairy tale, it was a long long ago, I distinctly remember our conversation. We were both young mothers at the time, with lots of little girls between us – and the prospect of raising daughters, in what seemed at the time the toughest time period to do so led to many heart-to-heart “mommy conversations.” Little did we realize that late 1990′s and 2000′s would make our particular time period look like Little House on the Prairie. Even then, however, things kids were exposed to in music, television, and movies was reprehensible. We may have been pizza drunk, and we may have been incredibly young – but even we knew that life choices and decisions should be broken down into three categories:  Good. Better. Best.

Sure, watching this television show (compared to the rest) is good… but is there a better option… and, then, is that the BEST option?

Over the years, a lot of things have changed. After frequent moving on both of our parts, I’ve totally lost contact with my pizza buddy. Thanks to gluten intolerance, I no longer sit in restaurant booths shoveling pizza in my mouth and, thanks to a metabolism that IN NO WAY got better with age, I no longer drink Cocoa Colas. What is it with metabolisms, anyway? Why do they turn on us?

What hasn’t changed, though, is the fact that we should all periodically take stock of how we spend our time, the choices we make, and the the way we’re playing this game called life.

First thing we need to do is to own the fact that everything we willfully do throughout the day is because we made a choice.  If someone buys a Big Mac and large fries, they chose to eat something profoundly unhealthy.  It didn’t just happen.

If we squander our time and, at the end of the day, realize that we didn’t get a darn thing done – we chose that path. Unless someone tied us to a chair, the choice was made by only one person – and that’s the person we see in the mirror.

Every action we make or inaction we take, we choose to do so.  That’s why, whenever it comes time to talk about self improvement, self growth, or self help, the first thing we have to hold accountable are our choices.

They lead the way – everything else just follows.

One of the fastest and most efficient ways to get the most out of these choices is to give honest answers to these questions:

  • Does anything GOOD come from this?
  • If not, why am I doing it?
  • If something GOOD does come from this choice, is there a choice I could make that would bring about an even BETTER payoff?
  • If there is a BETTER choice… is it the BEST choice?

Let’s look at a quick example, because if you’re anything like me, that’s where things really begin to take shape.

I don’t have to tell you how important it is to eat healthy. You don’t look like a perfect idiot to me, so I know you get that.  We tend to kind of “misplace” this bit of common sense as soon as we drive past a fast food restaurant, don’t we? We’ll see a sign that says something like Free Drink When you Buy Two Juicy Cheeseburgers and Large Fries, and automatically say through a smile, “Don’t mind if I do.”

While the convenience of this choice might appear GOOD, I’m pretty sure we can do better.

How about ordering just one burger and an unsweet tea? That’s BETTER…. but, can we do even better than that? Is there a BEST option available?

Absolutely.

The BEST decision would be to either go home and have a wholesome, cheaper, lower calorie lunch or find a Subway and “eat fresh.”

Let me guess, it seems like a small thing, right?  But that’s kind of what choices are  - they’re the small brush strokes that paint the big picture.  Now, which is going to make the best picture – the best strokes, of course.

Same thing with self improvement – if you want the BEST you, you have to practice making the BEST choices.  Unless, of course, you just want to settle for a “good” you…

I didn’t think so.

If you want the BEST from yourself and the BEST from life, it all starts with making the BEST decisions.  Like a single unit, they will all move in the same direction.  May as well swing for the fences!

 

Perseverance 101: Drastic Results Call for Drastic Action

For a Werewolf, Not Just Any Bullet Will Do

Quote About Trying Harder

The word drastic is defined as “acting with force; violent” or “extremely severe or extensive.”

The definitions are nothing if not extreme themselves. Drastic even.

My own definition of drastic (straight from “Joi’s Southern Dictionary”) is this: A situation is drastic when nothing you throw at it sticks.

Unfortunately drastic situations can (and often do) show up anywhere. And everywhere:

  • finances
  • weight
  • relationships
  • time management
  • household duties
  • chores
  • golf course
  • schoolwork
  • yard work
  • workplace
  • health
  • baseball field
  • etc…

The tougher the opponent (re-read drastic‘s definition to remind yourself of its toughness), the tougher YOU have to be. If your enemy is proving that it can stand the test of time, it may be time to switch up your approach.

Throw something tougher at it and see if it sticks.

A few examples (because who doesn’t like examples?):

Weight. If you struggle with your weight – or, more precisely, if the scale refuses to budge in the acceptable direction – it may be time to step up your efforts… maybe even WAY up.

  • Cut bread out entirely. No wheat bread, white bread, or rye bread. Zero, with no cheating. You’d be amazed how many calories bread unnecessarily sneaks into your body.  As a bonus, when you aren’t “allowed” bread, fast food is almost entirely cut out.
  • Add a 30 minute walk into your day – without fail. No excuses allowed.  If the weather says, “Oh, no you don’t,” drive to the mall and say, “Oh, yes I do.”
  • If it’s nearly impossible to work in 30 minutes of walking or exercising into your day, get up an hour earlier, and move that body for at least half of the 60 minutes.
  • If you’re already walking (or exercising) 30 minutes each day, crank it up to an hour.  Sometimes what WORKED stops WORKING and you have to WORK more.

Sports or Hobbies.  If your hobby, sport, or favorite pastime refuses to succumb to your best efforts, first of all, consider better equipment.  We can only be as good as the tools we use. I may be one of the only women in the world who encourages her golfing husband to buy better golf clubs. If you’re going to spend time on a hobby, you might as well do it right. If you aren’t doing as well as you’d like in your game (or hobby) of choice, maybe it’s because you aren’t setting yourself up for success.

Photography is another area where your results are directly related to your equipment.

If your equipment is about as good as it gets, ask yourself, “How much time am I putting into it?”  The answer may shock you. If you aren’t devoting time to honing your craft, how in the world is it supposed to get better?!

If your equipment is about as good as it gets and you’re putting in a respectable amount of time, you might be a golden candidate for a few lessons or classes. An expert (teacher, instructor, coach..) may hold your key to success.

These are, of course, just a few examples.  Irregardless of the situation, the approach is pretty much the same – if what you’re throwing isn’t sticking, change up your approach.

  1. Throw more.
  2. Throw harder.
  3. Catch it off guard.

If there’s something that makes the fight a little tougher for you (health issues, medicinal side-effects, financial restraints…), you’re going to have to grab a big shovel and dig deep.  Basically, you can either use an obstacle as a reason to try harder or as a reason to quit.

I once read about a woman with diabetes that very, very, very difficult to manage. Her moods, along with her sugar, would fly all over the place. She had to devise a system to control her emotions (and mouth!) before she drove everyone she loved away.

If you have extenuating circumstances, you will have to fight a little harder than the next person but it will, in the end, make you a little stronger than the next person.

Bottom Line: Other than acts of God, drastic situations only respond to one thing – Drastic actions.  They’re like werewolves that can only be killed with one bullet – a silver bullet. Think about your own personal werewolves and see how many silver bullets you can come up with.

“Drastic results call for drastic action!”

 

A Few Thoughts About Starting Over

A New Way to Look at "Fixing" Things

Quote about Starting Over

As humans we’re always trying to “fix” things, aren’t we? We look in the mirror and think, “I’m out of shape… I need to fix that.” or “I hate every piece of clothing I own.. I have to fix this.”

Then we go to buy new clothes and we discover that our bank account isn’t on the same page we are. While we’re thinking a couple of new outfits is a grand idea, our saving account whispers, “No. Actually, what you have is just fine.”

I guess we’re conditioned – and possibly even designed – to be fixers, and I”m not saying that’s a bad thing.

However, sometimes life isn’t so much about FIXING something that’s wrong as it is about STARTING something that’s better. The phrase “fresh start,” alone,  is just bursting with enthusiasm and promise and the thought of “starting over” lights a candle in even the darkest situations.

In a lot of ways, that’s exactly what I’m doing with Self Help Daily.

Here’s a gross understatement:  My brain tends to go all over the place, like some kind of ambitious explorer cranked up on espresso.  Come to think of it, my brain IS an ambitious explorer cranked up on espresso. In fact, if you could peer in at my brain, it probably looks like a giant coffee bean.

I once watched my husband play a pinball game.  The ball left the starting point with a tremendous force. It then bounced wildly off of a million and one obstacles and seemed to change courses about a dozen times.

The only difference between the ball in action and my brain in action  is everyplace the ball “hit” lit up as bells rang.  My brain doesn’t cause such fanfare… although it’d be all kinds of cool if it did.

What does my overly-caffeinated brain have to do with Self Help Daily (SHD)? Only everything.  Like the pinball, my brain went off in too many different directions – taking SHD with it.  I took what started as a simple self help blog and tried to cure every disease and ill-fated condition known to man, woman, child, tree, and polar bear.

My favorite superhero is Hawkgirl and I, on occasion,  have been known to try to fly off and save the world – without the beak.

Well, I’m not wearing that thing.

I just looked over all the different “categories” I’d accumulated here on SHD over the years. I had to ask myself, “Was there anyone or anything you weren’t trying to save?”  I had a sarcastic answer, of course – Snails. I decided that I’d left them to fend for themselves.

Self Help Daily was originally about helping all of us get the best out of ourselves. Not about taking care of everything and everyone along the way. Rather, its intent was to always make the world a better place by making each one of us a better us.  My original focus was inspiration and motivation and these are the things that still drive me.

Somewhere along the way, SHD lost its way.  Each time I’d think about writing something, changing up the look, adding a quote or anything at all, I’d just get overwhelmed with a feeling of having to FIX everything that’d gotten off track.

Because I also have quite a few other websites, instead of devoting time to “FIXING” what I saw as “BROKEN,” I simply moved on to one of the websites that hadn’t gotten off track.

One that didn’t need “fixing.”

Yesterday, I grabbed a giant mug of coffee, rolled up my sleeves, and sat down at Self Help Daily with equal parts horror and determination.

When did all those comments pile up on me?

Why did I let its appearance go down the drain?

Why did I ever create a category for that?

And on and on and on…

Just when the “fight or flight” impulse hit (with a 85% swing toward flight), it occurred to me: Instead of spending all of my energy trying to find a way to STOP something bad, why not spend it trying to START something good?  Instead of focusing my attention on FIXING the old, I decided to focus my attention on BUILDING something better.

It made all of the difference in the world.

This type of mental tweak can work toward anything in life simply because yesterday isn’t where the story ends.  You still have today and you still have tomorrow – lots and lots of tomorrows! If there’s anything you’re unhappy with (money, weight, appearance, temper…), stop focusing on the negative. Don’t look at what needs to be fixed, look (instead) at what needs to be built.

Think of Spring. When Spring rolls around, it doesn’t fret over the barren trees and brown grass.  It focuses on what comes next.  It doesn’t try  to round up all the leaves that’d fallen in Autumn and try to “fix” them back on the branches.

It simply brings new leaves – focusing all of its energy on building a beautiful and colorful world. I guess that’s why I’ve always been so infatuated with spring, budding trees, robins, and everything that goes with this time of year. It’s a fresh start – vivid proof that starting over can be a healing and beautiful thing.

We could learn a lot from Spring.

And pinball machines.

Bouncing Back from Life’s Challenges and Disappointments

An Inspirational Article by Author Linda Graham: Hiccups and Hurricanes

Bouncing Back by Linda Graham
When 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 and thought-provoking, 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.)

Like It Or Not, Priorities Shape Our Actions

These Actions Go On To Shape Our Lives!

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe quote

Funny, isn’t it, how oftentimes the answer to our problems is ridiculously simple. As you know, I work full-time from home as a writer and web publisher.  My husband has a full-time job, but as for my own personal income – what I make online is it.  I may never be rolling in it, but I’m wild about the whole coffee in my pjs until the mood to get dressed hits me thing and my cats consider the arrangement the deal of a lifetime.

Nine lifetimes, even.

I recently had an issue with one of my websites.  I won’t bore you with the details because my website and I aren’t what’s important here.  You are. And if you can glean anything from our hassle, then the hassle would have been worthwhile.

I was starting to get a little stressed out over this particular website and felt like our relationship was about as strained as a jar of baby food.  When I have something on my mind and want it resolved quickly, I always do one of three things:

  • I take the problem to the shower with me.
  • I take the problem for a walk.
  • I Swiffer the house as the problem rides shotgun.

It was cold outside and I didn’t want to get wet (a given in the shower), so I shot my computer an “I’m out!” look and headed for the Swiffer Wipes.  Without fail, when I concentrate on something menial, like walking or cleaning (me or floors), my mind figures things out for itself.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” - Stephen Covey

The weird thing about my mind is that when it comes up with the solution, it doesn’t speak to me in long, poetic prose.  It seldom even adds pictures to its message.  Truth be told, the answer I need is very often simply a short sentence or even just one word.

As I pushed and pulled the Swiffer across the kitchen floor, wondering how I ever lived before these things were invented, it came to me, “If you want something to be as good as it possibly can be – you have to make it a priority, not an option.”

I literally said the word, “Ouch” out loud.  priority or option

I hadn’t really been making this particular website a priority.  I guess I really hadn’t been making a lot of websites a priority if we’re being totally honest.  The holidays have this effect on me.  All I seem to want to do around November and December each year is bake, look for new recipes, shop, browse Amazon, watch Christmas movies, buy new ornaments…  You get the idea.

Basically, I was expecting everything to be sparkly and golden without putting in any elbow grease.  What can I say, sometimes I’m a very clever girl.

After finishing the floors, I sat back down at my computer and vowed to make the website a priority. I’ve done so for a while now and our relationship has improved by leaps and bounds and, wouldn’t you know it, the website is now performing exactly how I wanted it to.

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This same common sense approach can solve just about any type of problem you can think of.

  • relationships
  • weight
  • health
  • work
  • school
  • housework

Taking any of these from bad to good or even from good to great may be as simple as making it a priority as opposed to an option.

If you want something to be as good as it possibly can be – you have to make it a priority, not an option.” – This Side of the Swiffer

Negativity is Sneaky Toxic…

It'll Infect You, Then Make YOU a Carrier!

Quote About Negativity

Day 8 of November’s National Health Blog Challenge Month!

I remember, vividly, a trip to the dentist when I was 7 years old. I was in the second grade and it was my yearly dental check up. My mom was like clockwork when it came to keeping monthly and yearly dental, eye exam, and doctor visits for her only child. Looking back, I admire that and am very grateful.  At the time, I thought she just delighted in finding fresh ways to annoy me.  On this particular visit, I remember two things in particular:

  • Something being put over my mouth and nose that smelled like Dentyne. I thought that was pretty cool and made the entire thing almost worth it.
  • I remember a huge, heavy, weighted blanket being put over my little second grader-sized body before they took x-rays of my teeth.

When they put the heavy blanket on me, I wasn’t expecting it to be so heavy. I nearly slid out of the chair. Even then I had a flair for the dramatic.

I thought about this moment recently when thinking about negativity.  I’ve always despised negativity of any kind.  I think my husband has possibly the best “code word” for negativity. He calls it TOXIC. I think I’ve written about it before on the self help blog, but I’ll briefly re-tell the story. He had gone out of town for a two day golf outing with a business acquaintance. When he came home, I met him at the door and he practically ran inside, shaking  “off” something – like someone shakes off snow or rain.  That’s when he told me that he felt like he needed to de-tox after being with this guy because he was just a constant source of negative energy and toxicity.

Every since I first heard him describe it that way, I’ve associated the negativity and toxicity together.

The world is full of a lot of fear and a lot of negativity, and a lot of judgment. I just think people need to start shifting into joy and happiness. As corny as it sounds, we need to make a shift.  – Ellen DeGeneres

Negativity = Toxicity

In the way the dentist’s assistant draped the heaviest blanket in the world over me to protect me from the x-rays, I try to throw up a virtual blanket to protect myself from toxic negativity.

Here’s the thing. I realized a while back that we generally despise in others things that we, ourselves, aren’t guilty of.

  • People who have worked hard all of their life detest laziness.  If they thinks someone’s getting a “hand out” when they could be and should be working for it (like they do), they don’t just get angry – they get HULK angry!
  • People who don’t have a racist or judgmental bone in their body see red when someone else has more than a few such nasty bones.
  • People who are grateful for everything they have – and aren’t bitter about the things they don’t have – tend to have zero patience for ingrates.
  • People who are positive want to run… not walk… away from negativity.

I happen to be a very positive person. It’s not that I haven’t seen my share of loss, heartache, and disappointment. I most certainly have.  However, I have enough sense to realize that it’s all part of life and I don’t, for a second, consider myself “mistreated” by life.  Some people groan, sigh, and complain so much I want to tell them to just go shut themselves off from the rest of the world if they have it so bad.  They seem to think they, somehow, deserve more than they have.

I really lose patience with people who complain and gripe about their lives when there are people out there right now suffering through unimaginable circumstances and just trying to learn how to smile again.  Just recently, Hurricane Sandy ripped people’s lives and families apart.  I’ve read stories of  people who have lost their homes, and far worse their children.  So, no, I really don’t want to hear anyone complain about not being able to get all the Christmas gifts they want to this year because times are so hard.

Negativity creates an air of defeat and misery. When exposed to it, it can seem overwhelming and you all but find yourself gasping for breath!

The best thing to do is protect yourself from as much negativity as possible.  Like a heavy blanket protects a small child from x-rays, common sense can protect us all from the effects of negativity.

Why Guard Against Negativity?

Simple – because if you expose yourself to something long enough (or if you, yourself, take part in the sport), it will become commonplace.  It WILL become your normal.  It’s the same with just about everything – not just negativity.  Ever see someone who dresses or behaves in a socially unacceptable way and wonder, “What are they thinking?!

They’re thinking they’re normal.

The way they look, the obnoxious way they act, their constant stream of negativity…. it’s their commonplace.

That’s why it’s so important to take inventory of your behavior, your life, your habits, and the way you treat people on a regular basis.  If we were all as honest about our own shortcomings as we are everyone else’s, we’d be able to recognize the mistakes we’re making before they cement in and become our normal or our commonplace.

I run a web publishing business from home, which means I write for, create, publicize, decorate, and/or maintain around 20 websites and blogs.  To say I spend a great deal of time online wouldn’t just be an understatement, it’d be a gross understatement.  Someone was talking about something that happened on Twitter one day and they asked me, “Did you see…..”  I had to stop them with, “Of course I saw it on Twitter… if it’s online, I see it. Just try to sneak something by me online!”

Because I’m online a great deal of time, I see a lot… a lot a lot a lot… of negativity. It seems like people think of online communities, forums, blogs, Twitter and other social media sites as their own personal place to spread negativity.  They’re like, “YEAH, BABY… I CAN MAKE THIS TOXICITY GO VIRAL!!!”

And, then.. so often they do.

There’s a domino effect to negativity – online and off. If you don’t guard against it, you won’t just become infected, yourself, you’ll become a carrier.  Forgive the bluntness, but crap spreads.  Think about reality shows. Some of the ones on today are disgusting, offensive, reprehensible, and downright embarrassing to humanity!  They didn’t happen overnight. They snuck up on us because, slowly but surely, they became our normal – our commonplace.

If you’re a bundle of negativity today – you didn’t start out that way. However, over the years, it became your “thing.”  Don’t let it identify you anymore. Shake, shake, shake, shake it off!

Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one. – Dr. Hans Selye

Ways to Guard Against Negativity

I, myself, have unfollowed extremely negative people on Twitter.  Some complaining and venting will happen – it’s perfectly natural. But when every single tweet reeks of misery and hate – I’m out. I don’t need that in my life, quite frankly.

I’ve also stopped reading a few blogs because the author or authors weren’t people I’d want to sit down and have lunch with.  In fact, if I saw them coming in the front door, I’d head out the back! They say misery loves company… so I’ll just leave the miserable to one another. I don’t need their black clouds hovering over me.

I’ve heard of a few people who deleted their Twitter and/or Facebook accounts because they couldn’t handle all of the bickering, complaining, and negativity.  Personally, I think it’s easier just to distance yourself from the offenders.  Having said that, however, it’s far better to delete them than to let them have a negative effect on you.

I’ve also heard a lot of people complain about forums and health-related communities.  I don’t visit forums often – only when I need help with a certain blog theme or plugin – but I have to admit, there are people on forums who seem to have one goal for the day: To rub as many people the wrong way as possible.  There is a female moderator (ironically there to help people… the last thing she ever seems to want to do!) on a particular tech-related forum who is so hateful, rude, and disrespectful that people have started asking for one of the other moderators in their topics!  Basically, they’re saying, “I don’t want to deal with the she-devil..”

If you find that a certain website, blog, forum, or community is uncommonly negative, my advice is to avoid it. Don’t let them rub off on you.

I have NEVER missed any negativity that I kicked out of my life. In fact, I’ve always asked myself, “Why’d you wait so long?!”  Whether it’s a mean-spirited blog or someone on a social media site who does nothing but complain, I find that, oddly enough, I never miss toxicity.

That’s my gift. I let that negativity roll off me like water off a duck’s back. If it’s not positive, I didn’t hear it. -  George Foreman

Driven to Distraction by Gnarly Gnats

Brought Back to Normal by a Four Letter Word

Perspective Quote

Most people list flies, mosquitoes, ants, bees, and spiders as their least favorite “pests.”  Spiders even pull double duty and find themselves high on lists of phobias.  I don’t understand that one, personally.  I kind of like the creepy little buggers.  I could watch one working on its web for hours. Such skill and showmanship.

I don’t really have anything against ants or bees either. In fact, I admire any species which answers to the queen.  I also admire each group’s enthusiasm and work ethic.

As for flies and mosquitoes – I’ll admit, they’re pretty bothersome.  Worst picnic guests EVER.

However, you know where you stand with flies and mosquitoes. They aren’t as deceptive, underhanded, and vile as the pest that I call the worst of the bunch: GNATS. Seriously, is anything as annoying or as hard to get rid of?

Our house is outside of the city limits. We’re, literally, surrounded by trees – many of which are apple or pear trees.  Normally, I’m crazy wild about this arrangement.  However, toward the end of summer, gnats can be a bit of a problem.  In the past, they’d make their presence known and I’d wipe out their population in no time flat. However, the army of gnats that attacked us this year have proven to be a very formidable opponent.

I wipe out one battalion and three more take their place.  You don’t see spiders or bees doing anything like that.

It’s almost funny, isn’t it?  Sometimes we can stand up valiantly to the big things in life…. only to wind up in the corner shaking and crying over something extremely small.  Okay, maybe I didn’t cower and cry in a corner, but the gnats didn’t exactly bring out my best side.  I did, however…

  • ….ask God what He had in mind when he created gnats
  • ….threaten to chop down each fruit tree with an ax
  • ….wonder just how cold it is in Alaska
  • …. hurl a word that’s normally reserved for stubbed toes

Toward the end of summer, I came across something that worked like a charm for me.  I’m not talking about a magical potion to trap or kill gnats (although I could now write a book on the subject).  I’m talking about a little sanity preserver when things are  driving us all kinds of crazy.  When we’re stomping around, making a face so ugly it’d frighten small children, and reaching deep into our bag of four letter words for one that rises to the occasion.

Thanks to a colony of gnats that kept gathering around our outside cat’s water dish, one day I came across the best four letter word of all.

There I was, swatting like a woman possessed as our cats (Hannah and Fatima)  took turns watching me exchanging bewildered looks with one another. You know… the kind of crazed expressions all kids make behind their parent’s back.  I also noticed that our inside cat (Alexa the diva) was watching me from the kitchen window.  If she had a “thought bubble,” it would have read “Poor thing’s finally snapped.”

She wouldn’t have been entirely wrong.  Angrily swatting through the air with my fly swatter I must have looked like a band leader on crack.

In the middle of great annoyance and anxiety, a reasonable inner voice finally spoke up:  “It’s just gnats.”  Yes. JUST gnats.  Somehow, the simple little word J-U-S-T calmed my psyche and made the world a more reasonable place again.  Instead of just seeing tiny flying demons taunting me as they dodged my wrath with gracefulness I almost admired – I, once again, saw the beautiful world around me.  I didn’t hear my grumbling and mumbling any longer. I heard birds singing and the wind blowing through the leaves.

One word! And a four letter one, at that.  They have such a bad rep.

Later that same day, I had a plugin catastrophe on one of my blogs. It was a plugin I used frequently on that particular blog.  I didn’t even have time to flinch.  The same inner voice who’d had so much success earlier in the day whispered, “It’s just a plugin.”

Does everything in life respond to the word just? No, of course not.  SHOULD we whip it out willy nilly in an attempt to be as care free as a hippie on narcotics?  Oh, hells no. Think about the words, themselves: CARE FREE.  That means being free of care – and when is that ever an entirely good thing? We should care about the things and people around us.  However, we should always strive to stay in control.  If we can change something that needs to be changed, we should do everything in our power to do so.  The thing is, we have to keep the right perspective.

The next time you find yourself coming unraveled over something, ask yourself if it’s really worth the effort.  I think that’s why a lot of people stay on the brink of a nervous breakdown – they lack perspective. If they’d realize that they react to standing in line with the same level of rage they muster for a broken ankle, they’d  realize they need a little perspective.  That, and a new favorite four letter word.

Just a thought. Or maybe I should say Just, a thought.