Thursday, June 19, 2014

What Helps People Heal?

What helps people heal?  I asked in my journal a few weeks before I met my husband back in early 1998.  —not so much physically, but emotionally and Spiritually…it was not the first time I’d pondered that question.  I had spent two years in a PhD program in Industrial Organizational Psychology digging in to the basics of psychology and work team effectiveness.  But, I wanted more, to go deeper…so I delved in to Counseling Psychology…I spent two years learning theories and training in a group Psychiatric practice…placing people in drug studies for the FDA at the same time training under a Jungian therapist….still asking…what really helps people heal…

By this time in 1998, I’d worked for several years in a well-known Psychiatric Hospital and Treatment Center….learning so much about healing….and yet, still wanting more…asking what helps people heal?

My husband introduced me to many forms of healing and in fact we own a Wellness Center together today.  Through several modalities, I’ve seen people’s lives transformed.  Yet, I am intrigued at this point in my life by one methodology that I’ve known about for decades.  We’ve all heard the expression, “You are what you eat,” right?  I’d like to talk to you today about how “You are what you think.” 

Although I’d heard that our thoughts could have an impact on our lives through the power of positive thinking back in the 80s and studied cognitive behavior therapy in graduate school, it has been a subject that has evolved for me over the years.  I’d like to share with you some of what I’ve learned.  Maybe you’ve heard about this form of therapy or already practice this form of being aware of your thoughts now, but I invite you to listen with an open mind because I’ve found that even if we’ve heard something 1000 times, in that 1000 and first time, we can hear it in a completely new way and have that ah-ha experience.   The one where you’re ready and able to apply the knowledge and make the changes that heretofore had eluded you.  That’s been my recent experience with how thoughts affect our lives and that is my wish for you, today as well.

My intention today is to either educate you or remind you that our thoughts impact our feelings and our actions for better or for worse. 
We have both healthy and toxic thoughts and it is possible and in fact essential that we actively choose the thoughts we allow to rent space in our brains. 

Dr. Caroline Leaf is a Cognitive Neuroscientist with a PhD in Communication Pathology.   She has studied and researched the Mind-Brain connection since the 1980s.  She explains that the brain is part of the Physical Body and is controlled by our mind.  Research is mounting for evidence of neuroplasticity—that is the ability of the brain to change.  Neuro meaning brain and plastic being to change.  So the old saying, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks…”—not true.  Or that excuse you may have heard yourself use, “It’s just the way I am…” –not so true either. Research shows now that our thinking can alter genetic expression.  That’s a bold assertion.  We are designed to be able to change our brains, but it does take some effort.  In fact, it takes a full 21 days to physically break down a thought and create a new one. 

If you’re into quick fixes like I am, you may want some proof now that what I’m saying has some truth to it.  Let’s try an experiment right now with how our thoughts can impact how we feel.  Let me ask you this…have you ever been attacked by ANTS?  No, I’m not talking about the little black or red bugs that visit you at your picnics.  I’m talking about the more incessant pests called Automatic Negative Thoughts.  They are cynical, gloomy thoughts that run like background noise in your head.  You probably aren’t even aware that they’re there.  Have you ever caught yourself in some situation and your ANT is “I can’t handle this”  “I just can’t handle this”—maybe your boss is making demands you think are unreasonable, your relationship is stressful, or you’re experiencing a financial challenge.  You inner chatter screams, “I can’t handle this” and your body listens.  It sounds the alarm and sets off the stress response alerting all systems of the danger.  Pupils dilate, blood is routed away from the stomach and to the large leg muscles and arms to more easily fight or flee.  But, we can’t haul off and punch our bosses or our significant others or run from challenges…or at least we shouldn’t.

Wanna know how to squash the “I can’t handle this” ANT? You notice when you’re saying it and consciously choose the thought, “I can handle this” and I like to tack on a validating statement such as “I can handle this…even though it sucks…or I can handle this even though it’s not what I’d prefer”….this tells your body that it’s not in a state of alarm and all your systems can work more effectively.  You can try this little experiment at home…say “I can’t handle this” and see how you feel…then catch yourself and say “I can handle this…even though it stinks.”  And notice how you feel….

Our thoughts precede our words and actions.  There are many more examples of how toxic thoughts pollute our lives.  I hope that you are more aware of the impact your thoughts have on  your life and the importance of taking time to notice them and choose more empowering ones to help you design your Best Life.  I promise that as you do this you will live a life filled with more peace, purpose and power…and experience healing in all its forms.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Power of Expectations

I’ve been working on the concept of Teamwork in our home.  More specifically, I expect my kids to want to cheerfully do their chores because we’re all on the “Home Team” and to “win,” we need to work as a Unit.  But...not really.  As my husband and I were talking, I admitted, “I really don’t expect them to cooperate.”  This explained a lot as to why my methods had been so wildly ineffective.  I truly didn’t believe they would do what I asked.  My tone of voice and micro-managing checking behaviors are evidence of that.  Our expectations for our children can have a profound effect on them, so this is a subject worth exploring.  I have found that when I center myself and get intentional before I ask them to do something, I parent with a more positive tone and allow them the opportunity to complete their work. 

I’ve also been noticing this power of expectations more with clients.  It’s amazing how cunning our self-sabotaging behaviors can be.  “I really don’t expect this relationship to work out,” a client said to me.  “I’ve been with them almost as long as any relationship ever…this is usually the time it falls apart.”  How does that belief show up in our behaviors?  It can be ever so subtle.  You don’t respond to their text, you are aloof when they go to kiss you, you rationalize engaging with people you know are attracted to you. 

Our expectations matter.  As our perception changes, our behaviors change and therefore our realities change.  If you’re looking to make some shifts in your life, ask yourself first, “What do I really expect or believe that could be getting me the current results I’m getting?"  If you’re brutally honest with yourself, you may just discover that you have been getting the results you were truly expecting. 

Wishing you the willingness to choose more empowering expectations on your Journey toward living your best life!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Put Some Zing in Your 2014

Can you believe we’re nearly three weeks into 2014?  The Chapter of your life entitled 2013 is closed and a fresh page was turned to on January 1, 2014.  What have you written onto those blank pages so far?  Have you been intentional with your time?  Have you used your precious moments to further your own vision for your life or have you frittered them away with mindless activities?

Let’s take a few minutes to focus our thoughts on what we’d like our 2014 to be about.  Each month, each week, each day, each hour are segments that quickly seam together to become our year. 

Our Year in Review In Reverse

Imagine it is December 31, 2014.  It was your best year ever.  You focused on what you could control and accepted the rest (and had the wisdom to know the difference…Serenity Prayer, Anyone?).  So, what was it about for you—your 2014?  I know I can get pretty overwhelmed and beat myself up when I feel like I’m not accomplishing the goals I set for myself.  I’ve found that focusing on a few areas instead of too many is helpful.  So, let’s use the zoom lens to get clear about your priorities for 2014.  What are the one or two areas that you will regret not addressing if you don’t finally take action and move forward on? 

As you are pondering your Vision for 2014, ask yourself END goal questions.   A means goal takes us to an end goal, but as the saying goes, “it’s a means to an end.”   An end goal is a fundamental value and priority in your life.  For example, if vibrant health and energy is an end goal for you, then losing and maintaining a 10 pound weight loss could be your means goal.  Or, if financial freedom is an end goal for you, then getting a job at XYZ Company could be a means goal for you. 

MindValley Founder and CEO, Vishen Lakhiani, shares a goal setting exercise that focuses on three key End Goal areas:  What we want to Experience, How we want to Grow, and What/How we want to Contribute.  He suggests we set a timer for 90 seconds and turn off our logical thinking brain to creatively and freely fill in our answers to the three areas.   I took three separate sheets of paper and listed my focus at the top: 

                What do I want to experience in 2014?
                How do I want to grow in 2014?
                What or How do I want to contribute in 2014?

What a powerful exercise. 

I wish you the clarity, courage and willingness to take the next right actions to put some zing in your 2014.