100 days of happiness

self esteem

The 100 days of happiness challenge really did make me happy.

So, two years ago, or so, I did the 100 days of happiness challenge. The gist of it is to take a photo a day, each day, of something that made you happy for 100 days.

Each day I would wake up wondering what picture I would take each day. I have dogs who I really love hanging out with and doing stuff with, but I knew I didn’t want 100 pictures of my dogs. photo

So, more than just being 100 pictures of things that made me happy, it became a quest for adventure to ensure that no two pictures were the same. I approached my happiness as a project and I put work and effort into and it all paid off.

I had to actually look for stuff I wanted to do. I couldn’t just sit at home and binge-watch Netflix or HBO Go. Not that anything is wrong with watching tv… but I wanted more out of life.

So, I decided to re-visit this challenge on New Year’s Day. On New Years Day I walked to the abandoned MASH 4077 film set in Malibu Creek State Park. We walked about 6 1/2 miles and enjoyed being out in the fresh air and sunshine.

img_5018


This morning I intended to get up and go the Rose Parade in Pasadena, but I overslept. Normally I would say forget and have coffee in my pajamas and spend the day being lazy, but I knew I had a picture to take. So, I was forced to make secondary plans and get out of the house.

My husband and I went out for a lovely French breakfast and we decided since my goal was new or interesting activities, he would take me to a local golf course, Woodley Lakes, and gave me instruction on putting and chipping. If it were not for the 100 days of happiness challenge, I definitely would not have joined him at the golf course.

img_5047

I do know yet what I will do for tomorrow, but the good news is that I know I will do something. The possibilities are endless and they do not have to cost any money and I do not have to be in competition with anyone else and with what anyone else is doing.

I could make a new recipe that I have always wanted to try. I could paint or draw something. I could go to the beach or the local Japanese garden. The point is that I will get up off of my couch and I will do one thing tomorrow that I am looking forward to doing.

If you cannot thing of anything to do, all major areas have websites that could help you out:

For the next 100 days, my goal is find something happy and enjoyable within each day and my motivation is to have 100 photos at the end of the challenge that I can arrange into a photo album to have printed so I can look back on my good times when I need it.

When going home hurts

Stress Management

The holiday season is in full swing.

In the United States, Thanksgiving through the New Year is a magical time of year for family, love, friends, and celebrating life. Hanukkah started last night and Christmas is tomorrow. Everywhere I look, I see holiday lights, candy canes, Santas, and other festive decorations.

For those of us who were raised in abusive or neglectful homes, this time of year can be very stressful and confusing. We feel nostalgic for a childhood we never had (but saw in all of those Christmas movies). We have a hope that this year will be different. This phone call home will go smoothly. This time so and so will be nice to us.

To make it more confusing, many people who were raised in abusive homes would not identify themselves as survivors of abuse. This is mainly because there are different types of abuse.

Physical abuse includes:

  • punching, shaking, kicking, pinching, hair pulling and many other terrible examples.

Sexual abuse includes:

  • unwanted touching anywhere that is typically covered by a swim suit or underwear. Sexual abuse also includes being forced to watch others engage in sexual acts against our will.

Emotional abuse is:

  • when people try to break our spirits by calling us names like “stupid”, “worthless”, a “mistake”, “fatty”, and even worse. Emotional abuse leads to feelings of shame, guilt, depression, anxiety, and anger. Emotional abuse is often not recognized as often as it should.

Physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse can all cause life-long problems, but especially when they are inflicted on us by the very people who are supposed to love us and keep us safe. Some of us continue to live and interact with our families on a regular basis and some of us have to make the decision each year whether or not we want to go home for the holidays.

Part of us really wants to go home. Part of us wants that love and validation that we have never been given. The other part of us already knows it will, in all likelihood, not happen that way yet we go home anyway, out of duty. Because during the holidays, that’s what you do, the holidays are all about family after all.

How do I fix myself?

I recommend developing coping skills first and foremost. You cannot dig into all of the deep pain of a broken childhood without having coping skills already in place. A mental health professional can help you learn, practice, and use these skills correctly.

Coping skills include (but are not limited to):

  • Yoga
  • Using music effectively
  • Exercise
  • Hiking
  • Reading particular books
  • Meditation
  • Learning to use and guide your thoughts and imagination
  • Guided Imagery
  • Support groups

 

 

Farewell to 2016: A time for introspection

self esteem

Ahhh, It’s the winter solstice; the longest night of the year. Traditionally, this time of year is associated with introspection and rebirth.

As 2016 comes to a close, let’s look back at how we grew throughout the past year.

What did 2016 represent to you on your path?

Was it a struggle? Maybe yours was uplifting and encouraging.

What did you learn about yourself in 2016?

Maybe you realized you’re an empath. Maybe you finally realized and accepted that you’re a little selfish.

What do you need to forgive yourself for?

These could be things you did directly or things you allowed to happen through silence.

When did you feel most alive this past year?

What were you doing? Who were you with? What was sacred about it?

What are you passionate about?

Animal rights? Childhood obesity? Literacy? Social justice? Human rights? Women’s rights? Homelessness? Veteran’s Affairs? The arts? The elderly? LGBT causes? (I could literally go on forever with examples).

What are you doing to pursue your passion?

Maybe you can find a way to make it your career, find an organization already working in that area to volunteer with or to donate money (no use re-inventing the wheel if you don’t have to). Or maybe it’s a regular hobby. You could also write big posts trying to educate others and spread your passion.

Are you happy with where you are in life right now?

What parts of your life are going well? (GREAT! Do more of that!) What could be improved? Time management? Better diet? Increased physical activity? Do you have the right amount and the right types of friends? How is your job? How is your sleep? How is your sex life?

Who and what are weighing you down that you need to get rid of AND how will you do it?

Are there toxic people who make you feel lonely or shitty? How does your boss make you feel? Are you spending too much money?

What self care actions can you practice on a daily basis in 2016?

Being more social? Being less social? Getting more sleep? Massage? Yoga? Meditation? Therapy? Eating better? Swimming? Bubble baths? Pleasure reading?

What do you want to let go of in 2016?

Self doubt, fear, self criticism, shame?

To what do you want to dedicate 2017?

Independence, artistic pursuits, self acceptance?

And finally, what is your plan for achieving your 2017 goals?

If you are at a loss for how transform your life and your relationships, I can help and this is a perfect time of year for this project. Call or text me.

Is life passing you by?

Stress Management

Here are 4 amazing and simple tips to increase your gratitude and create a life you love:

(Because if you are anything like me, you might wonder where the heck your year went, what you did and where you went)

Make a memory box

Buy some nice stationary and some pretty ribbons and write or draw positive events that happen. Store them in a special box, then, review them next New Year’s Eve. It could be a lovely tradition for yourself or for your family. Once a week (or once a month) create time and a space for yourself to add to your box. 

You can take time to decorate your box and really make it special. You could also include ticket stubs, photos, or trinkets from outings.

*Pro-tip: you can also pull them out and look at them any time you are feeling depressed, discouraged, or need a pick-me-up.

Become a photojournalist

Take one photo a day every day for the whole year to document your life experiences.

You can collect these photos in Instagram, Snapchat, or a special photo album on your tablet. Set a reminder in your phone to remind you if you need help remembering. This project will also help you look for the positive things in your life throughout the day as you decide which one photograph you are going to take for that day.

At the end of the year you will have 365 photographs that sum up the good in your life.

*Pro-tip: at the end of the year, load the photos on to Shutterfly (or some other similar website)  and create a keepsake photo book to printed and mailed to you.

Keep a diary

Jot down one positive thing that happens to you each day in a journal. It can be a beautiful paper journal you purchase just for this project, or you could use Evernote (or any similar app). You could write about anything that you consider a positive thing. An amazing book you read, a new outfit, dinner with someone special, a particularly good film you saw, a vacation, a promotion at work, etc. Again, set a reminder in your phone if you need help remembering at first.

*Pro-tip: Review your year. What were the highlights? Times with friends? Times of growth? Times of solitude? Use those insights to create more experiences you will love in the upcoming year.

Create your vision board or bucket list.

Make a list of things you really want to do or have in your life. But, here’s the catch, you have to actually work on doing or getting them. This isn’t about documenting your dreams, it is about turning your dreams into goals. Actively develop a plan for how AND when you will achieve these things on your list.

Include big things like a specific car you have always wanted, getting a specific degree you would like, or a trip to another country. Also include smaller things that you have always wanted as well. Maybe a nearby city you have always wanted to visit, or a day trip to a local winery, a specific restaurant you want to try, stargazing on a new moon, starting that yoga class.

*Pro-tip: you can make these tips circular by using your vision board or bucket list to create opportunities for amazing photo or journal entries and then using your diary to help define what goes on your bucket list. 

Are you a Catfish?

self esteem

As many of you probably know from the MTV reality show, a catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.

You may be asking yourself: Why would anyone want to be a catfish?

Well, as it turns out, there are two main reasons people catfish: either someone does it because they are scared no one would want them for who they are, or they do it specifically to punish others.This blog will focus on the first type.

The first type of catfish thinks and feels like they are not good enough on their own. A catfish can be male or female pretending to be either male or female. Usually the catfish thinks that if they used a real photograph of him or her self, no one would want to be friends with him or her.

As a society, most of us have put such an emphasis on what people physically look like that we reject or mock people who do not fit our idea of what is acceptable. How tall are they, how much do they weigh, what skin tone do they have, what do their teeth look like, what color is their hair, do they have acne? (Thanks to this, the beauty industry makes billions of dollars off of us every year.)

So, those of us who feel deep shame over who we are go find a picture of some person we think is beautiful and bang! we have our profile picture. And usually it is only the profile picture that is a lie. With a successful mask in place, we are finally free to be ourselves. We can search for other people who like the same things we like or have the same philosophies we have. We can finally let our guards down and be ourselves.

Online relationships can be so much easier than face to face relationships. Sometimes it is easier to talk to strangers about things that make us feel because, if they are a stranger we don’t have to care what they think of us. If we do not click then we simply block or unfriend them until we do find those people we click with; our tribe.

I am not sure how many of you have tried opening up to someone else online, but it is less intimidating not having to look someone in the eye when you share your deepest thoughts and emotions, especially if there is a chance you might be rejected for them.

So, the benefits of being a catfish include:

  • a safe place where the lonely can open up

  • finding validation for your true inner self

  • a place where an outcast can find friendship

  • an outlet where online acceptance can increase self esteem

But, there are many risks to catfishing. Sometimes the risks outnumber the benefits.

Some catfish experience internet addiction because these online friendships are the only support they have. They have to spend more and more time online or texting with strangers which takes away from real-life experiences they could be having. Catfishing also sets people up for continued rejection because once the other person figures it out, they often want nothing to do with the catfish. This loss fulfills the catfish’s idea that no one wants to be their friend and they end up feeling more isolated and more alone. If you are a catfish, you do not have to pretend to be someone else.

You are enough.

Here are some easy ways to meet your emotional and social needs:

  • Do what you love you’ll run into others who love the same stuff you do
  • join a club or meet up for a topic that interests you
  • volunteer one day a week at an animal shelter
  • volunteer one day a week at a food pantry
  • Doing something that benefits others increases our self esteem, relieves our depression, and helps us connect with others.

We aren’t victims of circumstance. We’re creators.

relationships

Are codependency, love addiction, and narcissism the same thing?

Narcissists, love addicts, and codependents share some central things in common:

  • they all need to be needed

  • they all struggle with feelings of not being good enough

  • they all have deep childhood wounds

Narcissists need to be adored and valued because they feel inferior. On the other end of the spectrum, codependents adore and value others in hopes that the object of their affection will give that same love and adoration back to them.

The general difference between people who are considered “codependent” versus who are considered “love addicts” is that even when a person has secured a loving relationship, it is not enough.

It is not enough that one person loves and adores a love addict, it is never enough.

“Love addicts” are on a quest to make everyone love them. They are trying to fill a deep emotional wound and, eventually, they discover it cannot be filled even with all of the love in the world because the one thing they lack is their own love and approval.

This is similar to the “charming” mask worn by narcissists. Narcissists are well aware that they “act” nice as a way of trying to make everyone like them. You see, narcissists are also seeking all the love and approval in the world. This is because they are growing in their own sea of negative emotions including insecurity and shame.

Some narcissists can actually recall when they purposely shut their feelings off because they felt too many negative emotions.


On the other end of this same spectrum, people with love addiction or codependency issues complain that they always hurt and cannot turn their feelings off. They feel EVERYTHING.

Codependent people are naturally pleasers and want to feel safe and protected. I suspect this is one of the central reasons these two opposite personality types find each other. Narcissists are naturally controllers. In other words, codependents and narcissists are opposite sides of the same coin.

When the codependent person is a passive woman and the narcissist is an aggressive male, we have the magic combination of potential domestic violence, though this same combination also applies to same sex couples.

It seems passive or codependent individuals are naturally attracted to the strong, aggressive narcissistic type. It’s natural for weaker or more passive people to want to feel protected.

And the smooth, debonair, sexy narcissists in their masks pretending to be cool and smooth attracts the codependent like a moth to the flame.

Narcissistic, aggressive types need to have power and control and the codependent, passive type need to feel like their partner is in control. This includes being in control of them. It brings the codependent a sense of secondary power to think that they are with someone who is powerful.

 power-and-control-wheel-updated-1011x1024

So, one way to consider this is that narcissists make up for their lack of self esteem by taking control and acting dominant and with their need for power and control comes a need for respect.

Codependents make up for their lack of self esteem by acting submissive. In this way, codependents and narcissists coming together are like two puzzle pieces fitting together.

 equality-wheel

If the narcissist and the codependent cannot grow and develop healthy boundaries together, the risk for physical violence and emotional abuse, etc will remain high.

Treatment and recovery are possible if both partners are willing to take off their masks and be vulnerable to each other. It takes honesty and vulnerability to achieve a truly fulfilling relationship for everyone involved.

Design a life you are crazy about

Stress Management

Today is National Stress Awareness Day.

I am sure there will be a lot of tips on breathing, eating healthy, and mindfulness (all of which are good) BUT, I would just like to remind you to also think in the macro…

Life is what we make it.

It can be relaxing,

It can be adventurous,

It can be stressful,

It takes a little bit of effort, but our life can be whatever we decide to make it.

Step One

Figure out exactly what kinds of things make you happy.

Maybe it is music.

Maybe it is travel.

Maybe it is animals.

Maybe it is the beach.

Again, this list could be endless.

Step Two

Figure out the specific things in life that cause you anger, anxiety, or depression and work to limit these factors in your life as much as is possible. We will never be able to avoid everything in life which causes us stress, but we can actively reduce these stressors.

Maybe there are specific people in our lives which cause us to feel angry or unloved. We can work to limit the amount of time we allow them into our lives or remove them all together.

Maybe it is our job that requires changing.

If bills freak you out, maybe you schedule one or two days a month specifically for opening mail and paying debt followed by something relaxing.

Step Three

Schedule things which bring you joy, peace, or excitement  into your weekly calendar or to-do list just like any other chore or activity. Consider these activities promises to yourself and honor them as you honor promises you make to others.

It can be really helpful to space these activities throughout your week either as little rewards or as ongoing stress reducers. For example, a tentative schedule could look like this:

 Sun

 Mon

Tues

 Wed

 Thurs

 Fri

 Sat

Hike

Pay Bills

Sauna

Read a Book

Yoga

Dinner out

Beach

Play Golf

 Gym

 Manicure

 Bubble Bath

 Tai Chi

 Live Music

 Road Trip

 Try Meetup .com

 Pay Bills

Try new recipe

Draw or Paint

 Get Massage

 Plan Vacation

 Bike Ride

 See Movie

Create New Playlist

 Volunteer

Netflix binge

Clean your car

 Laundry

Call Parents

Could you or should you?

Stress Management

Choice and judgement go hand in hand

I woke up with a memory from my past life this morning. I was still in a very strict evangelical religion and we were doing an icebreaker at the beginning of a small group study. The icebreaker that particular night was, “If you could be any crayon in the box, which one would you be?”.

 

I said that I would be the crayon that has different colors in one crayon. This was actually a pretty telling answer for me because I have always felt like I don’t really belong to any one group of people. I have always had trouble fitting in and I was trying to express that I have a loud side and a creative side and a thoughtful side etc.

51haoeuxyll

The pastor’s wife got very irritated with me and said I was cheating. Cheating. Because my answer didn’t fit into the one-color crayon idea she had in her head, I was cheating. She said I was wrong, I was cheating, and I had to pick another crayon.

I find that we do that to one another in life all the time. People do not have ideas or opinions we have so we think they are wrong or bad or broken. And, most of the time, we do not even realize we are doing it. We use words like “should” “must” or “have to” to express our ideas or preferences as if they are fact or as if there is only one way to do something.

So, what do we do?

Well, knowing we all do it and that we are not intentionally trying to be jerks (most of the time) helps. But, it is not enough.

While I believe in and encourage non-violent language and “verbal judo”, I’m not usually one who advocates for trigger-warnings or safe-spaces because, let’s face it, we all have to adapt and get by in the real world.

What I mean is that while it is nice to be aware of our own language and how we speak to each other, we cannot “police” the language of other people, so the work is best done on ourselves.

I work with people who want to learn improved communication skills. I help people learn the difference between “coulds” and “shoulds” in order to be better life partners, better co-workers, and better parents. I help clients see their world from other points of view and help them to learn the difference between their musts and their possibilities.

I also work with highly sensitive people and empaths who want to improve their stress management skills. Clients learn to have better boundaries and how to not take the ideas and opinions of others as facts and criticisms.

Learning to agree to disagree in a world that is constantly trying to put us in black and white boxes is a skill we all benefit from having.

Come to think of it, maybe a better answer to my crayon icebreaker should have been white, since the color white is in fact all colors of the rainbow in one.

darkroom-color-2

Reconnecting with the world around you

Stress Management

Mindfulness

One of the ways that we reconnect with the world around us is through Mindfulness. Simply put, mindfulness is staying present and in the moment without:

  • fantasizing or daydreaming to escape your life

  • blocking upsetting thoughts / feelings with constant music or tv

  • numbing your thoughts and feelings with drugs, alcohol, or self injury

Mindfulness is being in the moment. Feeling what you feel, seeing what you see, hearing what you hear, smelling what you smell, and tasting what you taste. It is experiencing your life using all senses available to you.


As I sit here I can hear birds, airplanes, wind chimes, an occasional car, a dog barking in the distance, and the clicking on my keyboard.

I feel cool air,  an occasional breeze from the open window, the firmness of my chair, the feel of my clothing against my skin.

I smell my coffee, incense

I see my computer screen, my dogs, a hummingbird, some bees, flowers, a tree, a roaming kitten

I taste my coffee, some chocolate, gum.


Ways to reconnect with the world around you:

  • play with a child
  • carve a pumpkin
  • turn off the tv
  • dance
  • draw
  • teach tricks to an animal
  • garden without a radio or iPod
  • practice carpentry
  • play with the pets
  • paint
  • put down your phone
  • turn off your electronics for an hour
  • wash dishes by hand
  • eat gobstoppers
  • Go on a walk without your phone
  • touch your food, feel the lettuce
  • walk barefoot
  • float in a pool of water and notice how the water feels on you
  • take a sculpting class
  • go stargazing
  • watch an eclipse
  • meditate outside in nature
  • make biscuits from scratch with your bare hands
  • find an outdoor yoga class