Could You Care Any Less?

Friend 1: “I hurt myself in the gym…my back is killing me.”

Mother: “I spent the morning with the grandkids. My head is throbbing.”

Neighbour: “There’s rain coming…I can feel it in my knees.”

You hear all of this (and more) during the week…how do you react? What do you feel? Do you give a S#!%?

Many areas of the brain are involved in the experience of pain. These areas have been thought to form a distributed pain-processing ‘neuromatrix’ centred on the portions of the cerebral cortex related to the sense of touch. Previous neuro-imaging studies have reported that the pain neuro-matrix in patients with FM show augmented activation in response to actual pain.

i-cant-tell-if-im-dealing-well-with-life-these-days-or-i-just-dont-give-a-shit-anymoreBut, in a recent study, both control and FM subjects underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while observing a series of colour pictures depicting others’ hands and feet being injured, and a matched set of control pictures that did not show any painful events. Compared with healthy subjects, patients with FM showed less response to pain-related versus neutral stimuli.

So, when it comes to other people’s pain, it appears that we may empathize less with others in pain, possibly in order to lessen arousal and aversive self-oriented emotions.

When the Going Gets Tough…

There’s a lot to appreciate in everyone’s life even when things are tough…

One of the most tragic things about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses outside the window.

Dale Carnegie

Who wouldn’t rather be happy than sad, positive than depressed, calm than anxious?

But there’s no difference, in fact, between various emotions. It’s all just energy and the surest way to hold onto negative feelings is to judge them, analyse them or try to pretend they’re not happening. We can’t be cheerful all the time – that’s a plain fact of life – but we can be happy.

Even in the darkest hour, we can find the peaceful sanctuary that lies within each of us.

7520956914_db9ee248daIt’s picking yourself up and dusting yourself off and starting again that counts. I guess it all comes back to balance again – there must be enough in life to make our hearts lift and our spirits soar, whether it be a hug from a friend, a beautiful piece of music, a puppy or a child’s playfulness, the sight of the ocean, trees, flowers, a lover’s smile and so many more.

Conquer Your Fear

Subconsciously, we set tests up for ourselves, especially in areas that we know are our weakest. What we fear, we will always see. If you’re constantly worried about money, you will eventually have a financial crisis to deal with; if you’re afraid of rejection and loneliness, you’ll experience relationship breakdown, and if you’re afraid of tangible things such as a particular insect or object, you will see nothing else. So, the important thing is to conquer your fear before it cripples your life.

If you want to overcome a certain issue or problem, for a while, it will get worse as your negative ego struggles to keep it in a dark place. It’s a test of our resolve – will we cave in or hold strong? If it’s the former, we’re simply not ready so don’t lose heart and if it’s the latter, there will be rewards in the improvements in life that will become clear.

daemon_hammerWe humans seem to like to learn our lessons by being hit over the head by a mallet, instead of gently and effortlessly.

Learning is a lifetime’s occupation and yes, we repeat many lessons as we go along. But we must never get impatient or critical of ourselves, just start again and use the newfound knowledge to do better, feel better, relate better, live happier.

Look for the Gift

Prosperity comes in many forms and sometimes it’s heavily disguised. When life seems at its hardest, that’s when we have to look for the unexpected gift.

Have you seen the movie Serendipity? In it the woman says that in Greece, they don’t write obituaries when someone dies; they just ask one question, ‘Did the person have passion?’ It represents risk, or, taking things to another level, adventure.

See the Magic

What about magic? Is that another wishy-washy concept or something real and tangible? I (try to) always believe that things will come out right in the end – and they generally do. Try to see the magic in ordinary, everyday things; look at the world the way a child does or imagine seeing again after years of blindness.

all around you

Self-talk

When you behave in undesirable ways, feel ‘upset’ or have physical symptoms, ask yourself these questions:

  • What am I doing to create this situation?
  • Are my emotions helping or hurting me?
  • What am I telling myself?
  • What are the facts?
  • Am I exaggerating or distorting?
  • Are there other explanations?
  • How likely are my worries?
  • Whose problem is this really?
  • What have I got to learn from the situation?
  • Am I failing to trust?
  • Am I giving in to negative thoughts?
  • Am I running into the future?

Remember to appreciate your daily blessings and not find a whole lot to criticise about your life, which is really quite wonderful most of the time.

Turning the Negative Positive

If you are a negative self-talker, you may not even be aware of it. Thinking the worst can be second nature after years of doing it. But it can be influencing how you live life and keeping you from being HAPPY!

tumblr_lsu3w4LS7D1qc0yn6o1_500Self-talk isn’t just mindless chatter. It has a way of creating its own reality. Telling yourself you can do something can help it happen. Telling yourself you can’t do something can make that come true – it’s called a self-fulfilling prophecy. Tell yourself you’ll never lose weight and it can be like eating a whole bag of chips. Tell yourself it’s too hard to find another job and you’ll likely watch TV instead of updating your resume.

“Self-talk dictates how you relate to yourself and how you show up for other people,” says Beneduce. Franco Beneduce is a certified life coach and group facilitator in San Francisco. As he coaches people on successful life strategies, he sees how your self-talk (the conversations you have in your head) either supports or undermines your progress toward their goals.

Let’s say you think you have nothing interesting to say. If you keep telling yourself that, other people are going to see you that way, too. In fact, people who think negatively tend to be less outgoing and have weaker social networks than positive thinkers. Multiple studies link positive emotions with more satisfying relationships, more romance, and lower rates of divorce.

Negative self-talk can be a runaway train. Your mind goes around in circles replaying a negative event or your own shortcomings. “People who ruminate dwell on negative feelings,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of California in Riverside. You may think that you’re getting in touch with your true feelings, but bad feelings have a way of getting worse the more attention you give them (sort of like a pimple that you just keep squeezing!)

The more you focus on negative events or shortcomings, the harder it is to put them behind you. Research shows that happy people put bad days behind them.

Stop_negative_self_talk___think_positiveThe problem is if negative self-talk came with an off switch, you could just flip it; but it doesn’t. It takes a plan and some work to tone it down.

 

Here are four ways to make it happen:

  • Distance yourself. You can’t banish negative self-talk forever, but you can take a step back from it. When you notice negative self-talk occurring, Beneduce says address it like you would an opinionated third party. You might say, “Thanks for sharing,” or “It’s interesting you feel that way” and move on.
  • Distract yourself. “Over-thinking involves focusing on a train of thought that goes around and around,” Lyubomirsky says. “You can stop that train of thought by focusing on something else.” Try doing a crossword puzzle, or any other activity that fully engages your mind.
  • How to Begin Handling Your Self Talk and Feel GreatCall them on it. Give your negative thoughts the third-degree and they could crumble. You might ask yourself, “Is that really true?” or “Is there another way to look at this situation?” You may also look for benefits. If you missed that job promotion, are there any lessons for the future you can take from the situation? Or could another opportunity come out of it?
  • Save them for later. Set aside a time of day for negative self-talk. If you hear yourself doubting, blaming, or comparing yourself to others at another time of day, tell yourself you will come back to the conversation later. When the appointed time arrives, your negative thoughts may have lost all their oomph.

Beneduce admits he’s not immune to negative self-talk. When he works with large groups, he knows everyone will be watching him. If he’s on, the day will go well, but if he’s off, he flops. So going in, he tells himself, “I am confident. I have the skills I need. I am going to trust myself.”

Sometimes he’ll write three words on a piece of paper to reinforce it. Throughout the day, he glances at them: “Fun. Smart. Effective.” And that is what he projects.

You can do it, too!

can

Bliss Myths

Want more happiness in your life? And who wouldn’t?

The first step may be to change your views about what happiness really is…

Myth 1: Either you have it or you don’t.

There’s evidence that suggests genetics contributes to about 50% of your happiness set point — the level of happiness that seems most normal for you.

But that’s a far cry from 100%, says Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, author of The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want and professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside.

“If you do the work,” Lyubomirsky says, “research shows you can become happier, no matter what your set point is. You probably won’t go from a one to a 10, but you can become happier. It just takes commitment and effort as with any meaningful goal in life.”

Not only can you become happier, she says, but it gets easier over time. Work on nurturing relationships, writing in a gratitude journal, committing random acts of kindness, or developing a program of morning meditation or exercise.

make-happiness-a-habitChanges like these (proven methods for enhancing happiness) can become habits after a while, which means they eventually take less effort.  Have a look at yesterday’s The Pursuit of Happyness.

Myth 2: Happiness is a destination.

Happiness_journeyMany people think of happiness as a destination or acquisition – whether it’s a diagnosis, money, or a new medication. Sure, things like these can contribute to happiness, but not as much as you might think, Lyubomirsky says. They account for only about 10% of your whole happiness picture.

donutIf you’ve done the math, you now realize that about 40% of your happiness is in your hands. Lasting happiness has more to do with how you behave and think – things you control – than with many of life’s circumstances.

Robert Biswas-Diener, co-author of Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, agrees.

“Happiness isn’t the emotional finish line in the race of life,” he says. It’s a process and a resource. Biswas-Diener says there’s a mountain of data showing that when people are happier, they become healthier and more curious, sociable, helpful, creative, and willing to try new things.

“Happiness is not just an emotional flight of fancy,” he says. “It’s beneficial for the long run, serving a real function in our lives.”

In psychological lingo, this is called the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, says Michael A. Cohn, PhD, a post-doctoral researcher with the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Cohn recently conducted a study with 86 college students who submitted daily emotion reports. The researchers measured the students’ ability to flexibly respond to challenging and shifting circumstances and used a scale to assess life satisfaction. The study showed that positive emotions increased resilience – skills for identifying opportunities and bouncing back from adversity – as well as life satisfaction.

Myth 3: You always adapt to your happiness set point.

It’s true that people tend to adapt fairly quickly to positive changes in their lives, Lyubomirsky says. In fact, adaptation is one of the big obstacles to becoming happier. The new doctor, approval for Disability, friends’ support – all can bring a temporary boost but then recede into the background over time.

But why? One reason, Lyubomirsky says, is that we evolved to pay more attention to novelty. For our ancestors, novelty signalled either danger or opportunity – a chance for a new mate or food, for example. We’re attuned to contrasts, not sameness. But that also means we readily adapt to positive experiences that happen to us, Lyubomirsky says.

“I argue that you can thwart adaptation, slow it down, or prevent it with active ways of thinking or behaving,” says Lyubomirsky, who, after moving to Santa Monica, Calif., found herself adapting to her beautiful surroundings. To counteract this trend, she put effort into appreciating the view she saw when running on a path overlooking the ocean. She says she now savours that view every day, trying to see it “through the eyes of a tourist.”

To help thwart adaptation, you can also use novelty to your advantage. For instance, if your home has become a little ho-hum, you might try rearranging furniture or hosting parties for a variety of friends. Voluntary activities like these are most effective because they require you to pay attention, Lyubomirsky notes.

Myth 4: Negative emotions always outweigh the positive ones.

For quite some time, research has indicated that negative emotions are more powerful than positive ones, Cohn says. For example, studies show that people don’t have equal reactions to winning $3 and losing $3, he says. The loss tends to have a stronger effect than the gain.

Negative emotions might edge out positive emotions in the moment, Cohn says, because they’re telling you to find a problem and fix it. But positive emotions appear to win out over time because they let you build on what you have, a finding reinforced by Cohn’s recent study.

“We found that as positive emotions go up, there comes a point where negative emotions no longer have a significant negative impact on building resources or changing life satisfaction,” Cohn says. “Positive emotions won’t protect you from feeling bad about things, nor should they. But over time, they can protect you from the consequences of negative emotions.”

This may not be true for people with depression or other serious disorders, although they do show benefits when positive emotions are added to conventional psychotherapy, Cohn notes.

Myth 5: Happiness is all about hedonism.

There’s more to happiness than racking up pleasurable experiences. In fact, helping others (the opposite of hedonism) may be the most direct route to happiness, notes Stephen G. Post, PhD. Post is co-author of Why Good Things Happen to Good People: The Exciting New Research That Proves the Link Between Doing Good and Living a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life.

“When people help others through formal volunteering or generous actions, about half report feeling a ‘helper’s high,’ and 13% even experience alleviation of aches and pains,” says Post, professor of preventive medicine and director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, N.Y.

“For most people, a pretty low threshold of activity practiced well makes a difference,” Post says. This might involve volunteering just one or two hours each week or doing five generous things weekly (activities that are above and beyond what you normally do).

First documented in the 1990s, mood elevation from helping is associated with a release of serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin, a “compassion hormone” that reinforces even more helping behaviour, Post says.

Could compassion be rooted in our neurobiology? A National Academy of Sciences study showed that simply thinking about contributing to a charity of choice activates a part of the brain called the mesolimbic pathway, the brain’s reward centre, which is associated with feelings of joy.

“Although just thinking about giving or writing a check can increase our levels of happiness, face-to-face interactions seem to have a higher impact,” Post says. “I think that’s because they engage the [brain’s] agents of giving more fully through tone of voice, facial expression, and the whole body.”

Myth 6: One size fits all.

If you’re seeking a magic bullet or mystical elixir to enhance your happiness, you’re bound to be sorely disappointed. There is no “one size fits all” for happiness. Instead, there are many ways to boost your happiness. Here are options to try:

  • how-to-follow-your-bliss-inspirational-imagePick an activity that is meaningful to you, Cohn says. Whether you choose an activity that promotes a sense of gratitude, connectedness, forgiveness, or optimism, you’ll be most successful if your choices are personally relevant to you. And, he adds, this may also keep you from adapting to them too quickly.
  • Assess your strengths and develop practices that best use these gifts, Post suggests. Are you a good cook? Deliver a meal to a shut-in. A retired teacher? Consider tutoring a child. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
  • Vary your activities because promoting happiness is largely a question of finding a good fit, Lyubomirsky says. To that end, she helped Signal Patterns develop a “Live Happy” iPhone application that starts with a short survey to identify the happiness strategies that you’re suited to, such as journaling or calling someone to express gratitude. “You can lose your will [to do those activities] if it’s not a good fit,” Lyubomirsky says.

responsible-happiness-blogAnd when it comes to happiness, maintaining your will (and acting on it) might just put a pleasurable, meaningful life well within reach.

Energy (and Persistence) Conquer All

We have all learned that we only have a certain amount of energy (spoons, pennies, etc.) and we need to make a conscious choice each and every day about how we’re going to expend our energy. But, sometimes, we don’t even realise that we are wasting energy on certain emotions…

Are you wasting your energy on stress, fear, anxiety, bitterness, anger, or jealousy?

These emotions have all been linked to FM (and heart disease, high blood pressure, depression and a host of others.)

There are some wonderful emotions – Love, Hope, Joy – we just don’t seem to lose sleep and energy over them.

It’s the negative emotions that drag us down, leaving us feeling tired and fatigued. Yes, we sometimes need a good cry but, how tired and worn-out do you feel afterwards?

You are NOT alone – we all know (in our heads) that we have each other (and 700 more in the VISIBLE Army); you can see it in the supportive comments here, on Facebook and in the Forum – we all have fears and anxieties….

BUT we all have the ability to create our own realities. Everything we do, everything we feel always begins with a thought.

Thoughts lead to emotions and ultimately, behaviours. Thoughts, especially in humans, are not particularly independent: if someone says to you, “I know that Fibro is caused by…,” subconsciously, you analyse the statement – Do I know this too? Why does he think I care that he knows this? Is there anything else about this that is significant that I am missing? I know that; does he think I’m stupid?

So one simple thought can mean much, much more than that one thought. If the thing the person said was something you didn’t know, it might make you feel stupid, but it isn’t the feeling “I am stupid” that is draining your energy; it is the thought over and over again in your head “I am stupid” that is doing the damage. (This is what cognitive therapy is about.)

Therapeutic pioneers shared one important belief: clients must challenge what they think, feel, and how they behave based on the power of cognitive understanding. The belief behind the theory was that distressing emotions are typically the result of maladaptive thoughts. Change the thought, and the emotion and behaviour will also be different. Change the negative thought and the negative emotion will no longer drain your energy.

So it’s the thoughts that we need to work on:

  • Practice thinking positive thoughts when negative emotions sneak up and you feel yourself sinking.
  • Realize that having negative feelings will just hurt you, not them. So there is no reason for you to have any negative feeling.
  • Practice thinking about what you let in your mind (and life).
  • Realize that you can’t please everyone. In fact, nobody can. Sometimes you need to just let some people go. Realizing this will relieve you from a lot of unnecessary burden so that you can focus on the people who you can positively interact with.
  • Practice thinking positive thoughts all of the time – listen to motivational audio program to feed positive thoughts into your mind; Talk to a positive friend who can encourage you; remember your favourite quotes to give you inspiration and motivation (or have notes with these quotes around you – on the bathroom mirror, on the fridge, on the car dash-board, etc.).

It’s definitely not easy but it will let you conserve your energy for the good things in life……

 

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

I received a message from some-one today that had me thinking (not always a good thing!)…you know how you can have a bad day (or even just a blah day)? It can be a pain day; an emotionally draining day; a mentally challenging day, or just a depressing day.

And even when you say to yourself: that’s enough, time to stop feeling sorry for yourself…your face keeps leaking (that’s what I call it, because sometimes it’s for no reason whatsoever and the word crying doesn’t feel like the right word anymore).

I think (but I’m no expert) that sometimes it’s okay to own your pain (emotional and physical). It’s okay to feel like crap and let it out – it seems to me to be a normal response to what we go through each and every day. (That’s why I can’t handle all those over-the-top positive pages – I mean, really, who is THAT positive all of the time?)

Yes, we have to be careful not to let it over-take us too often. Yes, we have to make sure that we have the necessary tools to handle both the ups and downs.  Yes, we need to recognise that our emotions are not us – they are something within us at the moment. As long as we realise that it WILL PASS.

We enjoy the ups – in fact, we write about them non-stop (when we have them), we congratulate each other, and we wish each other better times. But downs are part of life, too – and sometimes you just NEED to feel like this – so we should be able to embrace them (carefully), wallow in them (if we want to), and cuddle up in bed with them (and a heat pad) for a pity-party under the covers.

We need to HONOUR THE CYCLE: the world turns, the tides ebb and flow, the seasons change… Like the universe, our bodies are just a smaller version of it all. Things die and change and it hurts, but it is necessary to allow space for the new energy to move in.

Life is NOT always a rose garden!

Tears on My Pillow

 

Ready to cry… or bite some-one’s head off at any moment – flip of a coin will decide which way it falls.

Need to turn off the computer before I respond to some innocuous comment with a tirade. You know, those lovely, well-meaning comments (can I say saccharine sweet? (like early Kylie songs!) – that right now are grating on my nerves):

  • Gratitude is definitely the basis for a positive attitude!
  • I used to have more UNHAPPY days BECAUSE of it. Now, I have more HAPPY days in SPITE OF it.
  • Since we only get to go around one in this life .. I am Determined to make the very BEST of everything .. And to EnJoy as much as possible .. as Often as possible!!
  • Welcome to today everyone!!! It is a new day! A new start! Did you know that you do not have to wait for a new day to have a good day if you are having a bad day?
  • Putting a SMILE on, is NOT about faking it. When I say smile, I mean really ‘smile from the heart’. Make it count, even when you don’t feel like it, do it anyway.

But, if I turn off my computer, I’ll be all alone with the really bad tv shows and the inside of my mind.

Oh…what to do?