I have always felt that no one can understand someone’s situation better than someone who has been there themselves.
Today’s expert article is written by my friend, Mary Jean Sadlak. Mary Jean is a life coach who specializes in working with women going through divorce, or beginning life after a divorce. She is warm, gracious and compassionate, and has been there and back. She has not only survived, she has moved forward positively. Today, she works with women who are either going through divorce, or re-emerging after divorce, to help them to rebuild their lives and come out the other side so that they can not only survive but thrive in this next chapter of life. Mary Jean knows it can be done, and shares some of her thoughts about that here.
There is Always Time for a Smile
So, you are working to GET THROUGH/RECOVER from your divorce, REDISCOVER who you are and of course, MOVE ON. That is wonderful! Remember, it takes time. However, with commitment, it is definitely something you can do.
Now, let’s not get so serious that we forget to smile. It is important to remember that smiling, laughing and having fun will accelerate the process of recovery and help you feel better, too. Research has shown that when we make a half smile, our brains release chemicals (serotonin and endorphins) which help us feel uplifted and positive. Smiling not only helps us feel good but it also improves our mood.
Sit down and think about what makes you feel good, makes you smile and maybe, even makes you laugh. Is it being with a group of friends or one especially “funny” or trusted friend for tea, lunch, or dinner? Is it relaxing with your family? Is it listening to your favorite music? Is it dancing to your favorite music? How about spending time with your pet(s)? Babies, little kids, puppies and kittens make people smile, know any? Go looking for fun. Even if it is a walk in the woods or a visit to a perfume counter in your favorite department store, it is worth doing if it makes you feel good. The one rule is that you do not need to spend money to have a little fun. The smallest thing can make you smile.
Sometimes, it is interesting to consider what funny things have happened in your life and even in your divorce. Not ready for that yet? That’s alright. Someday, you may find humor in parts of your past. I have memories of many little moments that now, make me laugh. Keeping a journal of “The Ridiculous Moments in My Past” can help you vent, heal and smile. On the lighter side, here are some small ways you can help yourself remember to smile:
1. Every day, repeat Thich Nhat Hahn’s very wise affirmation, “Smile, Breathe, Go Slowly”. Repeat it many times a day. Listen to what it means. Become aware of how you are feeling. Follow what it says. Let yourself enjoy the iimprovement in your feelings. Enjoy your smile.
2. Every day, read comics, jokes, funny quotes, or sayings. If you can find them, read New Yorker cartoons. Subscribe to an app or daily e-mail for a joke a day. Make a point of welcoming a little humor into your life each day.
3. Read or listen to light humorous books by authors such as David Sedaris, Erma Bombeck, Bill Cosby or whoever appeals to you. Choose humor or inspiration. Choose your reading carefully.
4. Watch funny movies. Watch funny programs on TV. Highlights of The Daily Show on Comedy Central is a favorite of mine. Choose your viewing carefully. Whatever you feel while you are watching your shows is what you will feel when you are done. Why not go for feeling good?
5. Check out YouTube for funny videos. Some of the Laughing Yoga videos based on the work of Dr. Maden Kataria of laughteryoga.org or Robert Rivest of robertrivest.com may tickle you.
ACTION STEP: Put humor on your daily agenda. Choose one thing that makes you smile and commit to doing it every day. You will be amazed at what a difference it makes in your life.
Mary Jean Sadlak is a life coach and licensed psychologist-doctorate who lives in Vermont. Having gone through a 5 year divorce, she is especially interested in coaching women who are going through a divorce or re-emerging after a divorce. Her mission is to help divorcing/divorced women find their strengths, improve their ability to take care of themselves, envision the life they want, set goals and move forward in a positive direction. On a personal note, Mary Jean loves being out in nature, hiking, exploring and looking for wildlife. Friends and family are very important to her. She practices meditation and yoga every day. Spirituality/love based thinking is a central focus of her life. For more information, or to contact Mary Jean go to: http://www.womenre-emerging.com/
Spring is Here, Summer is Coming Soon! Are You Ready?
Is This You?
• You want to lose weight and start an exercise program, you know what you should do, you just have a hard time doing it.
• You finally lost weight, and felt great, but the pounds slowly started to creep back on and you are back where you started.
• You used to be thin, you were athletic in high school or college, and have gotten away from being in shape over the years.
• You’ve attempted to lose weight, and exercise, you start out with enthusiasm, but find yourself sidetracked by challenges, or lose your motivation.
• You are frustrated and discouraged by your repeated failures to get in shape, and now you are starting to doubt your ability to make lasting changes.
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Most of us that have flown on an airplane have heard the familiar safety presentation given at the beginning of flights. It goes something like this: “In the event of an emergency, oxygen masks will drop down from the overhead compartment. Put on your own oxygen mask first, and then help those around you.” It’s natural, especially in an emergency, to think of assisting the person next to you first, especially if that person is a loved one. The reality, though, is you will be of no good to anyone else if you run out of oxygen and can’t breathe!
It’s a great metaphor for life. Many of us, especially women, are programmed to think we should be able to “do it all.” That includes taking care of a partner, perhaps children, managing household duties, finances, and increasingly, extended family, such as aging parents. Taking care of ourselves often doesn’t even make it on to the daily “to-do” list. Yet, nothing is more important, not just for ourselves, but for those around us. If we are over-extended, sleep-deprived, struggling with eating well, and finding little or no time to exercise, we are likely to end up feeling run down, chronically sick, or burned out. At that point, we are no good to anyone, not even ourselves!
What’s the answer? I believe part of it lies in our lifestyle choices. I also believe a shift in thinking may be in order. Often, we feel that if we are taking care of ourselves, we are being selfish, or self-indulgent. Actually, the opposite is true. When we make our health and well-being a priority we are, in the long run, benefitting everyone around us. Our personal wellness means we are better able to serve our families, our workplaces, and our communities. The bottom line is this: Being healthy, strong and fit means we are better able to contribute to everyone and everything around us. As health care costs continue to rise in the U.S., even health care companies have started to catch on and are creating wellness programs to encourage subscribers to implement personal wellness programs. Some companies are employing health and wellness coaches as part of their team. The coaches are available to assist individuals in creating a personal wellness plan. Paying attention to wellness and disease prevention is gaining momentum as these companies realize the benefit to their bottom lines.
Taking care of yourself, far from being selfish, may be the most important thing you do. It’s fundamental. A bonus is that when we role-model healthy behavior for those around us, especially our children, we make a positive impact on them as well. We are encouraging and supporting them to do the same. Next time you are tempted to skip your morning walk, or go for the fast food because it’s well, fast, remember this: Taking good care of you is your gift to those you love, for years to come.
Much has been written in recent years about gratitude. How gratitude affects us, the science of gratitude, the power of gratitude and its effects on the mind, spirit and yes, the body, since all are intertwined. Those who study such things – psychologists and researchers in the area of positive psychology – note that gratitude is strongly associated with personal happiness and feelings of well-being.
The Thanksgiving holiday itself began as an expression of gratitude in the early 1600′s as the early colonists celebrated that year’s good harvest, and their appreciation of it. Over the centuries, it has evolved in this country to become a time when families come together to celebrate their appreciation of each other and the abundance in their lives. Family, friends – and food – are at the heart of this holiday centered on gratitude.
So what are some of the benefits of cultvating a grateful mindset? According to University of California, Davis, psychology professor Dr. Robert Emmons, who has done extensive research on the subject, gratitude can have an enormously beneficial effect on one’s health, both emotional and physical. Grateful people tend to take better care of their health, exercise more, and have more energy. Dr. Emmon’s findings also indicate that an “attitude of gratitude” can strengthen relationships and communities, and help individuals to better manage times of stress and adversity. Grateful people tend to be more optimistic, a characteristic which in turn can help boost the immune system. Gratitude helps us focus more on what we have, rather than what we don’t have, which helps us to feel more satisfied with our lives in general, and thus contributes to an overall sense of well-being.
With all these advantages to having a grateful mindset, how can it be cultivated? The good news is that choosing to be grateful is a habit that can be practiced and grows stronger as you count your blessings. Some methods that have been used to cultivate gratitude are:
- Keeping a daily gratitude journal. Each day write down 5 things in your life that you are grateful for. These can range from the basics of life such as food, a home to live in, your family, friends or pets, to a beautiful sunset or sunrise, a favorite piece of music, or a beautiful day at the beach.
- Share your gratitude with others. Let your spouse, or a co-worker, know that you appreciate them or acknowledge them for a job well done. Or write a note of thanks to someone for the gift of their time or their wisdom. Studies have shown that those who express appreciation to others also feel more positive towards those others.
- Pray and give thanks for your blessings to God or the Divine, the Universe, or Mother Earth. Just say thank you.
- Meditate. You can practice mindfulness meditation and focus on your blessings in the moment – peace, quiet, the sound of the rain, or the wind in the trees.
Make it a practice to focus on the goodness in your life on a dailybasis. The more you practice counting your blessings, the more you will appreciate what you have, and the better you will feel.
So Thanksgiving is right around the corner and, of course, Christmas and Hanukkah are right behind it. And every year I vow to simplify my life and what I do and really make it about the spirit of the holiday this year. I like to think that I have made some progress in this area but, let’s face it, it is a busier time of year. There are certain things that won’t happen if you don’t make them happen – things like Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas trees, and the sending out of holiday greetings, if you do that sort of thing. I like to do all of them and I also like to look forward to the season, instead of strategizing about how to get through it relatively sanely. The holidays do add more to what already seems like a very full plate for a lot of us. For me, though, its significance lies in that it has become the time of year I connect with others that are important to me, both family and friends, and some people that may simply make up the fabric of my daily or weekly routine.
We have always sent out a family holiday card each year and that has become an important tradition for us. From the first year of my son’s life to the present, we have sent out a picture postcard greeting of the three of us. There are special people in my life who have never met him because they live far away, but have been able to (sort of) watch him grow up from year to year. Every year I hear from at least one person who tells me how much it has meant to them to be included in our lives this way. It’s been a great way to stay in touch, even if only occasionally, and so it is something I will keep on doing. It adds meaning to their lives, and ours, too.
Each holiday, I get together with a group of dear friends and colleagues for a dinner to celebrate the season. This year we have decided that, instead of our usual gift exchange, we will each make a donation to a charity of our choice instead. Everyone was in agreement when this sugggestion was first made, and I think it gave all of us a good feeling to know that we were going to contribute something in the spirit of the season on each other’s behalf. As heartfelt as a gift might be, it seems to touch a bit more deeply to know that maybe someone will be provided a hot meal, or a grocery card for food they otherwise might not have to eat. And, once again, it makes the holiday a bit more meaningful. I know it has been been important for me over time to find that meaning at this time of year. It makes the season richer, gives it a sense of purpose. And I’m the one who benefits. Whether it’s a homemade treat for co-workers, donating to a food or toy drive, giving the gift of your time to help out at a holiday event, or even just listen to someone and give them your full attention – whatever you do this season that brings a sense of purpose will come back to you in countless ways. You’ll feel good about your contribution, an increased sense of community, and more connected to those around you. And that adds up to feeling good.