Go Play! -The Tenth Tenet

WTen Tenets of Wellness.  We’ve looked at these powerful guidelines to living a life full of meaning and one in which physical health is important, and also part of a greater whole.

This is the last of the tenets, Go Play!   Here’s a question: When was the last time you really played? If you are like most adults, you may be waiting for someone to give you ‘permission’ to lighten up or some time in the future when you aren’t so busy.

But guess what? That permission comes from within you.  You can even make a conscious effort (Tenet No. Four) to bring humor and playfulness to work with you.

As an adult you may be wondering, what does play mean?  The definition of play is the same, whether you are nine or ninety: play is an activity that you do for enjoyment and recreation, rather than for a serious or practical purpose. So it’s not really the activity itself that defines play but why you are doing it.

Dr. Stuart Brown, a clinically trained psychiatrist, heads up the National Institute of Play. In a 2014 interview with National Public Radio he explains “Play is something done for its own sake,” he explains. “It’s voluntary, it’s pleasurable, it offers a sense of engagement, it takes you out of time. And the act itself is more important than the outcome.”

For adults, play is a very individual thing. For some people, play could be stamp collecting or reading books and for others, it could mean biking, hiking or boating. A 2017 study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences underscores that not all adults play alike and classifies adults who are playful into distinct four types.

These playful adult types are Other-directed, Lighthearted, Intellectual or Whimsical. Other-directed people are those who like to hang out with friends, family and colleagues. Lighthearted adults are those who don’t think much about the future consequences of their play. Intellectual adults are those who like to play with ideas and thoughts, and Whimsical adults are those who are interested in strange or unusual things and also get enjoyment from everyday observations.

Play can be part of ‘serious business’ as well. Google, the giant of the search engine world, has long recognized play as an adjunct to helping its employees be more innovative, and to foster team building and cooperation. They were one of the first big companies to set up ‘play stations’ and scatter them around their campus, featuring ping pong and foosball tables as well as billiards.

So how can you incorporate more play into your life? One way is to think of activities you enjoyed as a child, then find ways to bring a version of that back into your adult life.

Another way is to schedule lessons in something you think you’d enjoy learning, such as fencing or horseback riding. Or schedule a date with a friend to explore a new city or a museum.

The important thing is not what you do, but that you do it for fun. Now go out and play!

And if you want to share your thoughts on how you play, leave a comment below. I’d love to hear!

Make the most of January!

Are You Ready?

I usually spend at least part of December reviewing the year just past and planning for the year to come.  I try to reflect on what went well, what didn’t go as well as hoped, and how I might approach things differently in the future.  I’ve learned not to be as afraid of so-called “failures” as I might have been in earlier years, because I believe nothing is wasted.  Things that may not have worked out as originally planned have often led me to new learning and insight and, just as often, a new commitment or opportunity.  So it’s all good.

I’ve don’t typically make New Year’s resolutions simply because, at least for me, I know that if it’s time to make a change, any day of the year will work if I’m ready to commit. If I’m not ready, really ready, to make a change and do whatever it takes to follow through, a date on the calendar isn’t going to do it.  But that’s me.  The idea of a new year, a clean slate, is appealing to many and can be a benchmark to get started.  Research in goal setting shows that the more specific a goal is, the better the chance of attainment.  If January 1st works as your target date, by all means, go for it.  It’s important, though, to make sure your goal is realistic, and that you have the support you need to set yourself up for success.  That’s true of any goal-setting strategy.  This isn’t really about New Year’s resolutions, though.  There will be lots of articles written about that this time of year.

What I wanted to talk about here is commitment and what that means.  Because, make no mistake, real change requires commitment.  And commitment often requires work of the hardest kind.  It requires planning, dedication and determination.  It requires doing things you don’t always feel like doing and continuing when you want to just throw in the towel.  It’s hard stuff.  I know from personal experience. I’ve been there more than a few times.  Change isn’t easy.  And what can be even harder is staying changed, maintaining those hard-won victories over ourselves.  The good thing is that change, real change, change that sticks, can happen.  And getting through whatever it takes to get there is worth it.  So, commitment – are you willing to commit?  That’s the real question.  Because once you commit, really commit, reaching your goal is just a matter of time.

Surviving A Holiday Setback – Five Positive Psychology Practices to Make Your Holidays Merry and Bright

Somehow it doesn’t seem possible that the holidays are here and we are once again approaching the end of the year. (Seems like I say this every year!) For many of us, the holidays are a time of family gatherings, shopping, parties and more. Everywhere you turn, from magazines to social media to movies to malls, the images seem airbrushed and arranged to make it seem like everyone is enjoying a perfect holiday experience.

But that’s not necessarily so for everyone. Perhaps you’ve experienced a recent setback in your life. This might range from something as major as having experienced a death in your family, or experiencing a financial downturn, to grieving the loss of a pet, to feeling overwhelmed with everything you have to get done. Whatever the case, you are just not feeling it!

Even if you haven’t experienced a setback, getting through the holidays can often bring family or financial tensions to the surface, making things feel not so merry. So – What are your choices if you are faced with a difficult time in your life or situation to deal with?

The most obvious might be to just give in to whatever it is and skip the celebrating this year. And that’s ok to do, it really is. Just be aware that if you choose this route, this time of year along with those inescapable holiday images and sounds, may amplify your feelings of sadness or isolation or whatever negative emotion you are feeling. It can be hard to keep painful feelings from getting to you this time of year if you’re going through a difficult time, but there are things you can do to keep yourself from spiraling down further and maybe even finding some joy here and there.

Here’s where some of the rich gifts of positive psychology can make all the difference in your experience this time of year. Positive psychology principles won’t make everything magically disappear, but giving yourself the gift of acting on some or all of the following five holiday positive psychology practices can make a huge difference in how you experience the season:

One – Practice Self-compassion
The first thing to do is to stop beating yourself up for how you’re feeling and show some self-compassion. What is self-compassion? While self-esteem is rooted in how you think about yourself, self-compassion involves treating yourself with kindness and understanding when you make mistakes, are under stress or are not feeling like you think you ‘should’ be feeling during the holidays.

Treat yourself with the same understanding you would extend to a loved one or good friend if they were in the same spot. Most of us are much, much too harsh on ourselves and would never subject our loved ones to the type of inner dialog we regularly direct at ourselves when we are going through a tough time. As human beings, we are not supposed to be perfect.  Further, it is through mistakes that we learn and grow.

Two – Be Grateful for the Good
Even in the midst of the most difficult circumstances, you can choose to see the good. One of the best ways to do this is to practice gratitude. You can keep a gratitude journal or simply go over the things for which you are grateful in your mind.

These do not have to be big things!   The positive effect on your mood does not depend on how big or small something is. Savoring and feeling grateful for that warm, first cup of coffee or bringing to mind a cherished friendship can do wonders for how you’re feeling.

Three – Make Room to Feel
Part of self-compassion is giving yourself permission to feel whatever you are feeling at the moment.  But instead of wallowing in your emotions when pain comes up, try approaching this mindfully.

Accept your feelings of sadness or loss, as hard as this can be in the moment, just sit with it. Accept that this is really, really hard right now, at this moment. You’ll likely find that as you sit with your painful emotions, they will shift. Painful feelings don’t go away if we ignore them. The more we are able to face and accept what’s going on, the more likely we are to move through the feelings sooner.

Four – Create Meaningful Memories
Even if you are operating on a tight budget this year, you can still create meaningful memories. Why not make some homemade gifts for loved ones or friends or offer to organize a holiday potluck?

Window shopping costs nothing and sometimes going out with the realization that you are simply not going to purchase anything (except maybe a peppermint hot chocolate!) can bring you a sense of immense freedom while allowing you to participate in the holiday mood.

Five – Give Away Some Happiness
As humans, we are happiest when we can participate in making someone else happy. Making someone feel special costs absolutely nothing but your time. Delivering a basket of homemade treats to a struggling single mom, or an elderly neighbor, and taking a few minutes to sit down and talk with them can be a priceless experience. And you’ll benefit from the good feelings of knowing you made a difference

If you are under the spell of a holiday setback this season, please accept the gift of these five positive psychology precepts. Absorbing and applying their lessons might turn out to be the best gift you can give yourself.

I love to hear from you, so leave a comment below and I’ll be sure to answer.

With warmest wishes for the best of the season,
Suzanne

Perfectionism Is Not Required -The Ninth Tenet

Constantly striving for perfection, in any endeavor, is a set-up for failure. First, perfection in anything you do is nearly impossible to obtain. So, when you attempt something and you don’t get ‘perfect’ results or do it “100 percent,” you have no choice but to see those results as a failure, no matter the outcome.

There are good sides and bad sides to perfectionism.  All of us want our work and most other things we do to be the best it can be. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having high standards. In some professions such as pro sports, medicine and science, perfectionism is encouraged.  No one wants their surgeon to perform a “just ok” appendectomy.

But here’s the downside.  Holding yourself to an impossibly high standard, always demanding perfection and never allowing for mistakes, doesn’t serve you and is going to practically guarantee your unhappiness. This is nowhere more evident than when you begin a wellness program.

Many people are tempted to adopt an all or nothing attitude when they begin a wellness program. That is often a recipe for disaster, as the first time they succumb to a tempting treat, they throw up their hands and their nutritional plan is out the window. Or maybe they don’t exercise one day, so they just give up and stop exercising altogether. They didn’t “do it perfectly,” so now it’s totally out the window.  Maybe this has even happened to you in the past.  As a somewhat “recovering perfectionist,” I know it’s happened to me!

If you recognize this perfectionistic trait in yourself, how do you overcome it?

The first thing to do is recognize that this trait was instilled in you at an early age by what Transactional Analysis (TA) recognizes as a Parental authority figure. This figure is often your actual parent or parents, but could also have been another significant authority figure in your life – a teacher, Scout leader, religious figure or other important adult. As children, we want so badly to please these authority figures that this Parental voice is instilled into our heads.  Even if your parents or other authority figures are long gone or are no longer a major influence, their ‘parental voice’ can still speak to you.  So, if you can’t always be perfect (no one can!) you end up feeling like a failure, fall into all or nothing thinking, and are haunted by a sense of never being “good enough.”

In coaching, we call this voice the “inner critic.”

If this sounds familiar, do you need full-fledged therapy to get you on the right track and out of your perfectionist trap? Probably not. Working with a good coach, especially one trained in positive psychology coaching with a good understanding of the inner critic, can help you set realistic goals and a plan to reach them, imperfections, detours and mistakes included.  And we all have them!

Change your mindset when it comes to so-called “failure” or mistakes.  Some of our best opportunities and learning come from what we might first view as a failure.  If you look it as an opportunity to learn and grow, it only becomes a detour on your road to success.  It’s a result of what you have done at this time. It’s not who you are!  Maybe you will decide to do it differently next time and that will be the key.

I like this quote from Dr. Brene Brown which is good advice for all of us:

“You’re imperfect and you’re wired for struggle but you are worthy of love and belonging.”  

You are good enough.

Solo Time Is Essential – Tenet 8 – and Thanksgiving Wishes!

In several of the Ten Tenets, Michael Arloski mentions the importance of reconnecting to the natural world. In number eight, he talks about how spending time alone is important.  He also says that being alone with yourself, especially in nature, is essential for really getting to know who you are and where you are going.

Let’s take a closer look at why that would be true.  In the hyper-connected world we live in, alone time has, for some, become not only un-obtainable, but nearly unthinkable. A 2014 study at the University of Virginia published in Science found that when participants were given the choice of being alone with their thoughts or subjecting themselves to electric shocks, a full two-thirds of the men and a quarter of the women chose to shock themselves instead!

Times of solitude aren’t for everyone. Dr. Kenneth Rubin, a developmental psychologist at the University of Maryland, explains that for solitude to be useful, certain preconditions have to be satisfied. The period of solitude has to be voluntary, you have to be able to regulate your own emotions, you have to be free to break the solitude and rejoin a social group whenever you want, and you have to be able to maintain positive relationships in a general sense.  Basically, you must be a stable, mature person who already has solid social connections.

It’s likely you are a stable, mature person and can see the benefits an occasional period of solitude might offer.  What is it specifically about solitude in nature that allows us look more deeply into ourselves than alone time spent indoors or in a city environment?

There is ample evidence that being in nature is good for us, both physically and mentally. The Japanese people have a delightful term they use for spending time in the woods. They call it shinrin-yoku or ‘forest bathing’ and a 2010 study published in Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine backs up the benefits of this practice – lowered blood pressure, and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in people who walked in the forest contrasted to those who walked in a city environment.

Richard Louv, a journalist and author of nine books who coined the term ‘nature-deficit disorder,’ is on a personal quest to bring the power of nature back into our daily lives and the lives of our children. As he puts it, “The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”

Native Americans over the centuries embarked on a journey of solitude in nature called a Vision Quest in order to reveal the nature of their life’s purpose.  Most of us aren’t going to be doing that any time soon, but we can still reap the benefits of quiet time in nature.  A morning walk in a quiet park, a hike on a nearby trail, even a solitary tour through your local botanical gardens can be restorative.   When I lived in south Florida, one of my favorite places to spend time was Fairchild Tropical Gardens, a dazzling collection of tropical and sub-tropical plants, trees, tropical fruit, orchids and other flowers.  Living in Colorado, I’m fortunate to have access to many beautiful forest trails.  There’s always a way to spend time in nature and I find it increasingly important as the pace of life seems to continue to pick up speed.

Ask yourself how can you add some alone time in nature to your routine. You will be repaid many times over.

 

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As we come into this time of Thanksgiving, I always like to let you know how much I appreciate all of you – those of you who read my articles, comment on and share them, my clients, and those I have met throughout my coaching journey.   It means so much to me that you take time out of your busy lives to read my words and share your thoughts, and for that I am truly grateful.

Enjoy this time of Thanksgiving with family and friends!

International Consortium for Health & Wellness Coaching

Congratulations to the 1,000+ health & wellness coaches who are the first in our country to become National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coaches. You have followed a standard of excellence in this growing field!

From Self-Sufficiency Comes Confidence -The Seventh Tenet

This tenet is one of my favorites from Michael Arloski’s Ten Tenets of Wellness.  From an early age, we strive to become self-sufficient, first learning to walk, then run. As adolescents and young adults, we strive to forge our own identities and learn how to become independent.

So what does the Seventh Tenet – From Self-Sufficiency Comes Confidence, mean to you today, as an adult? By now, you have already likely mastered learning to support yourself, and are independent and out in the world, either working at a job or as an entrepreneur.

In our modern world, where we are dependent on our cars to get us where we want to go, on  smartphones to connect to the world, computers that allow us to work anywhere, climate controlled houses and offices that keep us comfortable, and on electricity itself to keep everything running, we may not be as self-sufficient as we like to think.  Just let the power go out for an hour or two!

Climbing one of Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks this summer with Matthew!

Even if we haven’t been directly affected by the any of the natural disasters that have plagued the planet lately, we’ve watched others who have had to cope with hurricanes, tropical storms, earthquakes and wildfires. What would you do if you suddenly found yourself without shelter or food or clean water?

The Seventh Tenet tells us that when we cultivate increased self-sufficiency, we gain confidence and power that will overshadow fear. He tells of the Australian Aboriginal people that believe that if you cannot just walk out onto the land and adequately feed, clothe and shelter yourself, a deep, primal fear will grip your soul.  Ok, must of us likely won’t find ourselves in that situation, but you get the idea.  It’s about the confidence that comes when we cultivate self-sufficiency and independence.  We know we can take care of business if we have to.

Consciously choosing to cultivate skills – learning to grow some of your own food, bake bread from scratch, going hiking in the wilderness, even learning to do some mechanical tasks like changing the oil in your car or fixing a flat tire on your bike – mastering skills such as these, will give you confidence and power that will carry over into other areas of your life.

I’m not recommending you go to survival school or a Navy Seal style boot camp to take advantage of the lessons this tenet offers. Choose something that’s learnable but out of your comfort zone, something that preferably reconnects you to the natural world. Perhaps it’s completing a ropes course high in the trees, starting a vegetable garden, or pitching a tent, even if it’s in your own backyard, and spending a night under the stars.

Try it out.  Challenge yourself. Pick something and commit to it. As Dr. Arloski says, “Recognizing our interconnectedness, we grow tremendously when we can care for ourselves on many different levels…We need to learn these skills and teach them to others, especially our children.” More self-confidence and self-respect will surely follow.