Today I saw my first Robin since they flew the coop of Michigan and headed south for warmer weather. It gave me much hope that Spring is indeed just around the corner, the season of new beginnings. So I guess I better gear myself up for some spring cleaning around here.
Spring cleaning usually refers to such things as washing windows, raking out leftover fall leaves that settled in the flower bed, or purging unused items cluttering the closets. While that always brings about a wonderful sense of accomplishment, sometimes our homes are not the only things that need decluttering and cleaning up. But I’ll get into that in a minute.
Clutter causes stress
Clutter can significantly affect how we feel about our homes, workplaces, and ourselves. Messy homes and work spaces can make us anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed. Most people might not even recognize it as a significant source of stress in their lives. Whether it be their closet or office desk, excess things in their surroundings can hinder their ability to focus and process information.
Neuroscientists at Princeton University studied people’s task performance in an organized versus disorganized environment. Not surprisingly, the study showed that physical clutter in their surroundings competed for their attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress.
That is not to say everyone must have clean, empty surfaces everywhere. Some people work better when there is some clutter going on because it makes them feel inspired to get some work done. It does not distract them but instead motivates them. The main thing is to create a space that makes you feel at ease. Fortunately, physical clutter is one of the most manageable life stressors to fix.
Spring cleaning our mental state
On the other hand, mental clutter can be a little more challenging to deal with. Mind clutter builds up just like out-of-fashion clothes, dusty knickknacks, and long-forgotten Christmas decor. Therefore some of us might need a little “weed pulling” and “clearing out the clutter” in our minds that has crept in over time.
Mind clutter can often be related to the past.
What kinds of things have you shoved into the back corners of your mind but yet are choking out the good stuff you want in there? Do you have negative thoughts you have harbored over time, either about yourself, somebody else, or maybe about situations in your life? Let’s look at four steps you can take to “spring clean” your brain.
1. Purge your mental filing cabinet
Most people unconsciously keep a sizeable ugly file cabinet in their minds. The drawers fill up with mistakes they have made, people who have hurt them, people they have hurt, opportunities they have missed, and so on and so on. And this last statement could be a whole blog unto itself, but that will have to be for another time. So for the sake of spring cleaning your mind, take some time and go through those mental drawers and decide to get rid of memories of the past that are not serving you well but are dragging you down and cluttering your current life.
2. Write your thoughts down
Keeping a journal is an excellent way to free up your mind by jotting down thoughts and feelings that constantly interrupt your thought process, especially when you are trying to get essential tasks done. It could be situations you are worried about, goals you want to achieve, or concerns about a relationship that isn’t going well, for example.
3. Don’t procrastinate
Sometimes our brains get so clogged up that making even easy decisions seems hard. However, putting it off creates more clutter and can make life more stressful. And, because you are stressed, you keep shoving the decisions to be made to the back of your mind, but you know you are eventually going to have to take care of matters. It really becomes a vicious cycle, so learning how to break it is beneficial to your peace of mind.
4. Tend the garden of your mind
We need to consider our life a garden and determine what we want to grow there. As with all gardens, we know how easy and fast weeds can creep in and take over. It not only takes diligence and patience to grow desirable crops but also the right fertilizer. Fertilizer would be what you are feeding your crops. Positive thoughts will make them flourish, while negative thoughts will strangle them. Unfortunately, weeds seem to spring up overnight, while the tasty produce can take months. But I’d rather wait for a juicy tomato than eat an overgrown weed any day. How about you? The point here is pulling weeds, watering the garden, and feeding it the right fertilizer will reward you with a good crop.
Get rid of clutter, and you may just find it was blocking the door you’ve been looking for. — Katrina Mayer
Are you struggling with weeds that have taken deep root in your life and seem to be choking out what you want to grow there? If so, working with a coach can help motivate you to set goals as you move forward to an uncluttered mindset and lifestyle.
This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.
As I was decorating my Christmas tree this year, I was reminded that ornaments and emotions have something in common. And that is that each can be fragile and must be handled with care. I’ll get to the handling your emotions during the holidays part a little later on. But first, I want to share how I concluded that ornaments and emotions have something in common.
Ornaments and Emotions — FRAGILE/ Handle With Care!
A couple of years ago, I was looking for new tree ornaments to prepare for the coming Christmas season. I had been to the usual places you would typically go to find them, but nothing had yet caught my eye. Then, of all places, I happened to stop into a furniture store, and lo and behold. There they were. They were hanging on the store’s display tree. I was so excited I had found just what I was looking for.
However, my excitement was somewhat diminished when I found out the only available ones were the five on display. Even the warehouse was out (I had wanted at least fifteen). So, I decided to take the ones they had in the store and call them good. Well, long story short, when the worker helping us went to remove the ornaments from the tree, the first one slipped through their fingers and hurtled to the ground, and broke in half. Now, I was down to a precious four. A couple of days after this little experience, I got to thinking. And this was when I correlated the fragility of ornaments and emotions together.
Five things I learned from a broken ornament
1. Fragile things need to be handled with extra care.
ORNAMENTS: After the first ornament crashed to the floor, the worker taking the next ones off the tree handled them with extra precaution.
EMOTIONS: The holidays can stir up diverse memories and feelings, some pleasant and some heartbreaking, leaving us with fragile emotions. Our hearts ache over loved ones who are no longer with us. We find ourselves feeling alone due to splintered relationships, or maybe our children have grown up or moved away, leaving us with only memories of Christmases past. Or maybe living with depression make the holidays especially hard for you. Whatever the case, sometimes we need to give ourselves or others some extra love at this time of year.
2. Things can still be beautiful even when they are broken.
ORNAMENTS: At first glance, the ornament lying on the ground looked unscathed. But as I picked it up, I could see the whole back part was missing. But you know what? It was still beautiful, and I even considered taking it home and hanging it on my tree. I knew if I positioned it just right, no one would see the parts missing.
EMOTIONS: And that’s where we come in. There’s not a person on earth who has not felt broken at some time in life. Even though we started this life as a perfect little bundle of joy, we have incurred scrapes, missing pieces, and jagged edges along life’s journey. Each blemish and missing piece tells our story. It’s what makes us who we are. And each one of us is unique and still beautiful in our own way.
3. Some things can’t be replaced.
ORNAMENTS: Welp! As my ornament “bit the dust,” I knew I couldn’t replace it. “Oh well! C’est la Vie.” Now I have some old ornaments of my grandmother, who has long since passed on. And no one or nothing can replace her, but when I unwrap those ornaments year after year, they hold a special memory of her in my heart.
EMOTIONS:Throughout life, anything lost is only sometimes detrimental. Therefore, it’s a good reminder for us to emphasize things that matter. A broken ornament? “Pfft!” But taking time to appreciate what we have and cherish those we have in our lives right now? Yes, very important!
4. Sometimes, you just have to sweep up the broken pieces and move on.
ORNAMENTS: Okay, I’ll be honest with you. Once I told the salesman, “I’ll take all of them,” in my mind, that meant the ornaments were mine. In other words, “BE CAREFUL WITH THEM!” So, when the first one was “yanked” (maybe a slight exaggeration) off the tree, I was a little miffed (okay, more than a little)! But what could I do about it? The damage was done.
EMOTIONS: There’s a lot of water that’s gone under the bridge called life. So as you gather with family and friends over the holidays, don’t let past hurts and injustices overshadow this season’s joy. Forgive, forget and move on!
5. There are more important things than ornaments.
ORNAMENTS: Sure, it bugged me that the store didn’t have the number of ornaments I needed. And then more annoyed when they broke one. But after my initial huff, I realized it was no big deal. Good grief! It was just an ornament!
EMOTIONS: There will always be little annoyances in life and things that don’t always go according to plan. By putting things into perspective, we will learn not to “sweat the small stuff.” Too often, things like looking for the perfect ornament or the busyness of getting everything done for the holidays receive more care and attention than where it truly belongs. And that is our family, friends, and the other people in our world.
“The only way to get over the pain is to face it, embrace it, hug it and learn the lessons embedded within it.” ― Adele Theron
Wow! Who knew you could learn so much from a broken ornament? Honestly, I believe that little ornament means more to me now than before it broke. There are many broken people in our lives and around the world. One of them might even be you. Yes, it is Christmas time, but only sometimes is it the most wonderful time of the year. And even though adversity can make us stronger, sometimes, getting there requires a little extra help and special care.
If you are dealing with fragile emotions as we head into the holidays. A time of year that can come with expectations and a whole array of emotions, working with a coach is an excellent way to learn and develop coping skills to help manage them.
Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. So, therefore, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. And I believe together; we can help you move forward to find the beauty even in the shards of brokenness.
This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.
In honor of this month being November when we celebrate “Thanksgiving,” I thought, what better topic to discuss than just that? Giving thanks, being grateful, and gratitude. And why practicing gratitude can be beneficial to our emotional and physical well-being.
“Thank You!” Two little words can mean so much — or maybe not. I would hazard a guess to say that on occasion, we all probably throw that phrase out there without much thought or feeling behind it. How so, you might ask? Let me explain.
Do you remember, as a young tot, your parents teaching (and reminding) you to say “Please” and “Thank you?” I know I taught my children to say it. And it is good manners, and we should do that. But, if I am honest with myself, I’m not sure if I was always teaching them to practice gratitude or just teaching them good manners. I mean, after all, what parent wants their children to be thought of as rude and ungrateful? I want to think that my intentions were always for the right reason, but I’m not 100% sure.
A lesson to be learned
When I was about six years old, I was excitedly waiting my turn to open my Christmas gift in front of the whole family. You know, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Grandmas and Grandpas — the entire gang. And when I finally ripped the paper off and opened the box, the only thing that popped out of my mouth was, “I already have one of these!”. Well, needless to say, my parents did not appreciate my candor and outright honesty!
The “talking to” I got on the way home must have made a big impression on me. And I’ll tell you why. Because when I finally had kids, they knew the drill. It didn’t matter what was in that gift when they opened it. They were expected to smile and say, “Thank You!”. In fact, my children got to the point where they would pipe in and finish my little mantra before any family gathering where there would be presents. So the goal was to teach my children that even if they didn’t like what they got, they should recognize that the gift giver thought enough of them to give them a gift, and for that, they were to be grateful regardless of what was inside.
So, how important is it to be grateful? Robert A Emmons, Ph.D., is the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. He is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and the founding editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology. In addition, he has researched and written many books on gratitude that reveal why gratitude is good for our bodies, minds, and relationships. I want to share a couple of key points of his research.
What practicing gratitude can do for you
1. Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present. Gratitude makes us appreciate the value of something. When we do that, we can enjoy its benefits and will be less likely to take it for granted. We notice the positive more, allowing us to appreciate life’s pleasures as they come.
2. Gratitude blocks toxic, negative emotions. Emotions like envy, resentment, and regret can destroy our happiness. You can’t be grateful and envious at the same time. They are conflicting feelings. Research that was done by Emmons’ colleagues Michael McCullough and Jo-An Tsang suggests that people with high levels of gratitude have low levels of resentment and envy.
3. Grateful people are more stress-resistant. An interesting finding in several studies showed that people with a grateful disposition in life recover more quickly in the face of severe trauma, suffering, and adversity. He believes gratitude gives people a perspective that guards them against post-traumatic stress and lasting anxiety amid negative life events.
4. Grateful people have a higher sense of self-worth. When you are grateful or practicing gratitude, you sense that someone else is looking out for you or maybe has somehow provided for your well-being. You are mindful of your network of relationships, past and present — people who have helped you along the way to where you are right now. You can change how you see yourself when you acknowledge how others have contributed to your life.
If you look for goodness, you will find it
There is goodness in our world. We have all benefited from it in some way. Of course, it doesn’t mean that life is perfect and that we don’t have discouragements and burdens along the way. That would be unrealistic. But we can strive to make it a habit to be present in our daily living and recognize all the good things in life that we get to enjoy.
It can be such simple things that we take for granted every day. For example, the next time you brush your teeth, consider that all you have to do is turn the knob, and instantly you have fresh, clean water. You didn’t make that happen — it took lots of people to make that happen.
Another part of practicing gratitude is figuring out where the goodness comes from. When it is not because of something we did, we must acknowledge others. Or even higher powers, if you are of a spiritual mindset, to give thanks for the many gifts received. Whether big or small, they have helped us to attain goodness in our lives.
Gratitude takes practice, just like any other skill. Thanksgiving Day is an excellent time to start, but don’t stop there. Keep practicing it daily so you can reap the benefits all year long. I’ll be right there with you practicing it too!
“Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: It must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.” — William Faulkner
Working with a coach is an excellent way to learn and develop new techniques to incorporate into your life as part of a healthy mental and physical lifestyle. And now, in closing, it would be appropriate to give thanks to you, my readers, for reading my blogs. I hope you find them informational and inspiring. So, “THANK YOU!” for checking in to see what’s new, and I wish you all a very “Happy Thanksgiving! “
Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know I am here to help. Therefore, please don’t hesitate to contact me or schedule your phone call today. I’d love to work with you as you make daily changes regarding gratitude that can lead to big results in improving your satisfaction and success in life.
This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions Of West Michigan.
Would you say that your thinking is more negative or positive? Well, if you said negative, you’re not alone. Not that there aren’t any positive people out there. Because there are, but for the most part, our brains have a negativity bias. They naturally tend to zero in on the negative more than the positive.
For example, You might have positive experiences like your boss praising you frequently for your work. Still, if he expresses concern over a particular area of your job performance, you can’t stop thinking about it. Or, you might have insults stuck in your brain somebody slung your way decades ago.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will.” Wow, isn’t that the truth! I believe that you could also apply that quote to mean that if you are always looking for the bad in every situation, you will find it. So why not flip the phrase into “If you look for the good in people or life situations, you will surely find it.”
TURNING NEGATIVE THINKING INTO POSITIVE THINKING
Positive thinking boils down to being able to acknowledge both negative and positive events but choosing to focus on the positive aspects rather than the negative ones. It is not avoiding or ignoring an adverse event but dealing with it by allowing the appropriate amount of time for the negative emotions to surface and then moving on from it by focusing on the positive.
Even though the process is simple, it does take time and practice to create new habits. So let’s look at some ways to think and behave more positively and optimistically:
▪ Acknowledge what areas need to change. What areas of your life do you typically have negative thoughts about? Maybe it’s family, a relationship, a work environment, or even your daily commute to work. Whatever it is, start small and focus on one area of your life that you can start approaching more positively.
▪ Check in with yourself. Throughout the day, take a moment and evaluate how you have been thinking and acting. If you find that your behavior has been primarily negative, change course and put a positive spin on it.
▪ Surround yourself with positive people. Spend time with people who inspire you to be a better person. Look for people who will be supportive and make you feel good. Negative people can sap the energy right out of you and make you doubt your ability to manage stress in healthy ways.
▪ Practice positive self-talk. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Don’t talk to yourself in a way you wouldn’t talk to someone else. When a negative thought about yourself comes into your mind, be reasonable with yourself and respond with affirmations about what is good about you.
▪ Look for the humor. It’s okay to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. Look for the funny in everyday situations. When you can laugh at life, you will feel less stressed.
▪ Live a healthy lifestyle. Follow a healthy diet to fuel your mind and body. Find time to exercise at least three times a week. Exercise is proven to affect your mood and reduce stress positively. It is also helpful to learn techniques that manage stress.
PRACTICE POSITIVE THINKING EVERY DAY
I like to say just a few essential words about practicing positive self-talk as it relates to positive thinking. And that is, positive thinking often starts with positive self-talk. Self-talk is that constant chatter in your head that never stops. It is automatic thoughts that can be positive or negative coming from logic and reason or misconceptions stemming from a lack of or wrong information.
If the majority of your thoughts running through your head are mostly positive, you are probably an optimist (someone who practices positive thinking). That’s great! You can be an example and inspiration to others who aren’t, so keep it up!
On the other hand, if the thoughts running through your head are mostly negative, you more than likely are a pessimist and would benefit from the suggestions listed above to become more positive.
By practicing positive self-talk daily your inner voice will eventually contain less self-criticism and more self-acceptance, which will probably help you become less critical of the world around you.
In June, I wrote a blog titled 5 Steps To Overcome Harmful Self-Criticism”. It provided information about self-criticism that you might find helpful. Or, if you have read it and are still struggling with critical self-talk, maybe rereading it would benefit you as a refresher course. We all need reminders at times.
Filling your head with more positive thoughts can make a big difference in how you see AND react to things in life. You can better handle everyday stress more constructively when your state of mind is generally optimistic. And we all know how stress can play havoc with our health. So, it is not surprising why researchers believe that having the ability to think more positively may contribute to the widely observed health benefits.
“Choose to be optimistic; it feels better.” — Dalai Lama
In closing, I would like to give you an exercise that can help you on the way to becoming more positive. At the end of your day, share with someone close to you one great moment that you experienced that day. If you can make this a habit, it will encourage you to be on the lookout for positive moments throughout the day. This exercise is also a great way to increase feelings of gratitude for even the simple things in your life. Things that you might not even realize that you’ve been overlooking.
Also, while writing this blog, a specific song kept coming to my mind. It’s an oldy but still a classic. It’s called “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive.” Give it a listen and let the words get into your brain. And when your thoughts want to turn in a negative direction, hopefully, the words will return to you, and you can turn the negative into positive.
If you want to develop a more positive view, working with a coach can be very helpful. A coach can help you explore and walk through various techniques to help you see the bright side of things more easily.
I’m looking forward to your call.
This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.
Back in March, when old man winter was stubbornly refusing to leave, I wrote a blog about dealing with “the winter blues.” And now that spring has finally sprung, I’m a little curious. Did “the blues” fade away, or are you perplexed to find they still hang on? Or maybe, feeling blue was never your issue. Perhaps you lean the other way and deal with feeling stressed out, anxious, and overwhelmed. Either way, I have something you might find interesting. And that is, spending time in nature has been found to help with anxiety and depression.
Let me ask you a question. How much time do you spend outdoors? If you are like most adults, it’s often limited. However, according to researchers, you might be surprised to know that the average American spends as much as 90% of their life indoors.
People don’t realize just how much time they spend indoors. With modern technology, we can work from home, shop online, do our walking on a treadmill in front of a tv, and communicate with our friends. I mean, good grief, you don’t even have to leave your house to get groceries nowadays.
So, with that being said. Let’s say you are dealing with anxiety or depression. What can you do about it? Here’s where spending time in nature comes into play. I want to introduce you to a term you probably haven’t heard before. And that is “Ecotherapy.”
Have you ever heard the term “Ecotherapy?” It actually goes by a couple of different names but boiled down; it basically means — contact with nature. So it is a name given to a wide range of treatment programs that aim to improve your mental and physical wellbeing through outdoor activities in nature. And here’s the best part — you don’t have to pay for it, it’s free! And you can access it anytime!
Ecotherapy can make a significant difference in how you feel. For example, it can help you feel more grounded, provide an alternative perspective on life, and allow your mind and body to relax. It can:
- lessen feelings of anxiety and stress
- reduce depression
- decrease anger
- improve your mood and self-esteem
- increase your emotional resilience
One technique called “green space therapy” or “green time” involves spending time in areas with grass and trees, such as a park, yard, soccer field, or farm. Outdoor activities could include walking, backpacking, gardening, playing games, sports, or even tackling a backyard project.
I have even found that taking my work outside sometimes can make a big difference. I can sit at a desk or table and look out the window and see nature all around, but when I go outside, I can feel nature.
And somehow, it can lift my mood. Especially now that spring has popped, being in the yard or park watching the squirrels chase each other, hearing the birds chirp, and watching the bees and butterflies flit from flower to flower, somehow makes me feel more peaceful and contented inside.
And who can deny the calming effects of listening to the wind rustling through the trees? Or burying your toes in warm beach sand and listening to the waves breaking on the shore? (I know, there’s a sappy song in there somewhere!)
Nurture Yourself Through Nature
Depression can make you feel like you are in a dark place. And I don’t want to make light of it and imply that just going outside will take it away. However, what can it hurt to try and maybe help yourself in the midst of it? Someone expressed using ecotherapy this way, “I do ecotherapy to get sunlight onto my skin and into my mind. It shines light through the dark fog of depression.”
I thought that was awesome! It’s like the solar lights that you put in your yard, and all day, it soaks in the sunshine (to power up) and then takes that energy to shine through the darkness of night.
A study done by researchers at the University of Essex found that, of a group of people suffering from depression, 90 percent felt a higher level of self-esteem after a walk through a park in the country, and almost three-quarters felt less depressed. Another survey by the same research team found that 94% of people with mental illnesses believed that contact with nature put them in a more positive mood.
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature-the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” — Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
I encourage you to discover (or rediscover) the therapeutic effect nature offers. Exercising, playing, working, gardening, backyard projects, swimming, etc. In truth, the opportunities are endless out there. You just have to open the door and walk through it.
Working with a coach is an excellent way to learn and develop coping skills to help manage unhealthy emotions. Therefore, I’d love to hear from you if you suspect those emotions are hindering your success personally or even in the workplace.
Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. So I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. And until we meet, if you’re able, step out into nature to energize your mind and body.
This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions Of West Michigan.
Anxiety is something that everyone from time to time experiences because it’s a natural stress response. But when you have too much anxiety, it can get in the way of living a healthy and happy life. And believe me, as someone with anxiety, I know how overwhelming it can be at times. But that’s why I’m so grateful that I have learned how to manage my anxiety over the years — not eliminate it, but manage it. But, of course, everyone’s situation is different. Still, I would like to share some simple calming exercises for anxiety that can help manage your stress. And help you regain control over your thoughts instead of letting anxiety have the upper hand in your life.continue reading
You might ask, what is the best remedy for anxiety? Well, the short answer is there is no “best” remedy for anxiety relief. Or I should say, there isn’t one best anxiety relief that fits all people. However, don’t quit reading or despair because my number one tip on finding your best remedy for anxiety is that there’s a whole host of strategies for you to try. You just have to find the best remedy that works for you.continue reading
I laid my head back on the back of the recliner and said to my husband, “ My anxiety is causing me anxiety!” I said it in a humorous way, but I think there was some truth to it too. Have you ever felt that way? If you have, stay tuned because we will look at how to cope with your anxiety about anxiety.continue reading
Living with anxiety is easy—said no one, EVER! Okay, it might not be easy. However, you’ll be pleased to hear that while you can’t exactly get rid of anxiety, you can learn how to manage it. So when your anxiety is triggered and the uncomfortable physical symptoms like racing thoughts, nervousness, and pounding heart begin to start, know that there are helpful anxiety-reducing techniques that can bring you immediate anxiety relief.CONTINUE READING
If you were to wake up tomorrow morning knowing you had to face a big bully no matter where you went, how would you handle it? Would you anxiously worry and fret about what the bully would do or say to make you feel awful? Or would you decide to shut the bully down? Now, what if I told you that bully was you. Let me explain. If you are relentlessly self-critical, you are essentially bullying yourself. In other words, you are the bully and the anxious victim. Yet, you probably have never thought about it in those terms. So, let me show you how self-criticism and anxiety feed off each other.CONTINUE READING