Monday, August 25, 2014

The Quiet Power of Encouragement

The Quiet Power of Encouragement
A little boost of encouragement can lift our spirits and keep us moving forward.
Published on November 1, 2013 by Julie J. Exline, Ph.D. in Light and Shadow

My recent attempt at surfing yielded some powerful life lessons, both in terms of facing fears and avoiding regrets. Now I'd like to turn my focus to a key person who shaped my whole experience in the waves: my surfing instructor. Today, at the start of the Thanksgiving season, I’d like to share a bit about why I’m so grateful to her.

Of course, my instructor did what any good surfing teacher would do: She provided the basic information that I needed to work with my surfboard. She showed me how to position myself, how to transition from paddling to standing, and how to fall safely in the shallow water. She was also vigilant about protecting me, doing her part to ensure that I wouldn’t be injured. In all of these fundamentals, then, my instructor showed herself to be competent and effective.

And yet she did so much more than that. What really set this young woman apart was her ongoing willingness to help and encourage me. For example, given my limited upper body strength and a decided lack of flexibility in my neck and back, I found it very hard to maintain the position required for paddling. When my instructor saw this obvious problem, she quietly offered me a gift of grace: She gently but firmly hooked her foot on my board and began to tow me out into the waves.

OK, I'll admit that this was humbling for me. It was so painfully apparent that I needed the help. I couldn’t do it on my own. I came so close to being overtaken by a dark storm cloud of shame, which would have tainted the whole experience. But instead, I was presented with a lifeline for my emotions, a balm that soothed me and my bruised ego: It was my instructor’s positive attitude.

Although she would have been perfectly justified in grumbling, rolling her eyes, or at least giving me a heavy sigh, she did none of these things. Instead, she presented the situation as though towing me around was just exactly what she wanted to do. Although I don't remember her specific words, this is the message that she conveyed to me: "This is great! I need some more practice doing this. And I’ll get a good workout.”

Because of the grace that my instructor offered me, I didn’t have to struggle through the waves alone. I was able to put my head down periodically and rest. I didn’t have to hold my body up in an uncomfortable position for too long, and I didn’t have to waste precious time and energy through laborious, inefficient paddling.

My instructor's consistent encouragement and support steadied me throughout my surfing adventure. When I missed a wave or wiped out, she was gentle and patient in response. She didn’t berate me for my errors, nor did she show a trace of frustration with me or my screw-ups. She would simply watch for the next decent wave, give my board a little push, and then coach me through the steps to stand up.

Within just a few minutes, after I had managed to get to my feet a few times, she actually said, “You’ve got it!” She spoke as though I had already succeeded, and now it was just a matter of refining my skills. Wow. Talk about seeing the glass as half full!
All that I had in my glass were a few drops of accomplishment. But she chose to focus on the sweetness of those drops, not on how comically small they were or how much of the glass remained empty. And because of her emphasis on what I had achieved, I was able to join her in celebrating my successes, modest as they were.

Although it can be hard on our pride to admit it, we can all use a boost at times.
And what an amazing gift we can offer to others through encouragement! When we “en-courage,” it’s as though we actually infuse courage into another person. Encouragement can provide people with strength to look ahead, move forward, and reach for the next goal. The whole emotional tone of a tough situation can be transformed through encouragement. Somehow things seem a little brighter.

Some people offer encouragement in a boisterous way. They dole out lavish and effusive praise, bear hugs, and hearty cheers or applause. Other encouragers turn to techniques that are quiet and subtle: a soft smile, a kind word, or a light touch on the hand. But regardless of the form that encouragement takes, it carries amazing potential—the potential to lift a person's spirits while helping them to stay focused on their goals.

Of course, we can't live on a steady diet of praise. In order to improve, we need some awareness of our weaknesses and mistakes, too.
My instructor did give me practical tips to start correcting my errors: “Remember to keep that back foot flat on the board.” “You stood up a little too soon.” Mercifully, though, she didn’t point out all of my flaws all at once. She simply drew my attention to the next thing that I could work on, while remembering to praise what I was doing right.


When I think back on my surfing lesson now, the memory is one that sparkles and shimmers in my mind.

And so much of that bright energy came from my instructor—and especially from the gifts of encouragement that she gave me that day.

Shaka, my friend—and thank you.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Give Me Gratitude or Give Me Debt: it's all about perspective!

Good Morning bloggers!

Today I am sharing with you an article from's blog. This mom shares an incredible post on perspective and how each of us sees things. You don't have to be a parent to relate to this one... enjoy!

“Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.”   ―  Thoreau
So why not just laugh now? – G
“If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” — Unknown
Recently I posted a picture of myself in my kitchen, and I immediately started receiving generous messages from people wanting to help me “update” it. Along with their messages came pictures of how my kitchen could look, if I’d just put some effort and money into it.
I’ve always loved my kitchen, but after seeing those pictures I found myself looking at it through new, critical eyes.  Maybe it was all wrong. Maybe the 80′s counters, laminate cabinets, mismatched appliances and clutter really were mistakes I should try to fix. I stood and stared and suddenly my kitchen looked shabby and lazy to me. I wondered if that meant I was shabby and lazy, too. Because our kitchens are nothing if not reflections of us, right? I decided I’d talk to Craig and make some calls about updates.
But as I lay down to sleep, I remembered this passage from Thoreau’s Walden: “I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes and not a new wearer of the clothes.” Walden reminds me that when I feel lacking- I don’t need new things, I need new eyes with which to see the things I already have. So when I woke up this morning, I walked into my kitchen wearing fresh perspectacles. Here’s what I saw.
You guys. I have a REFRIGERATOR.
kitchen fridge one
This thing MAGICALLY MAKES FOOD COLD. I’m pretty sure in the olden days, frontierswomen had to drink warm Diet Coke. Sweet Jesus. Thank you, precious kitchen.
kitchen refrgerator inside
Inside my refrigerator is FOOD. Healthy food that so many parents would give anything to be able to feed their children. Almost 16,000 mama’s babies die every day from malnutrition. Not mine. When this food runs out, I’ll just jump in my car to get more. It’s ludicrous, really. It’s like my family hits the lottery every freaking morning.
kichen water faucet
THIS CRAZY THING IS A WATER FAUCET. I pull this lever and CLEAN WATER POURS OUT EVERY TIME, DAY OR NIGHT. 780 million people worldwide (one in nine) lack access to clean water. Mamas everywhere spend their entire day walking miles to and from wells just for a single bucket of this- and I have it right here at my fingertips.  I’m almost embarrassed to say that we also have one of these in each of our two bathrooms, and one in the front yard with which to WASH OUR FEET.  We use clean drinking water to WASH OUR FEET. Holy bounty.
kitchen microwave
This is the magical box in which I put uncooked stuff, push some buttons, and then a minute later- pull out cooked stuff. It is like the JETSONS up in here.
kitchen medicine cabinet
This is my medicine cabinet. Since my Lyme is in remission and each of my babies is healthy- there is nothing in here but vitamins and supplements and tea. Thank you, God. This medicine cabinet is a miracle to me. Every time I open it I feel like I should kneel down and kiss the ground. I have an inbox full of letters from mothers whose medicine cabinets look very different.
kitchen floor
Speaking of ground-  this is our kitchen floor. It’s not fancy, but it’s perfect for our most important kitchen activity: DANCING. When Chase was three a librarian asked a roomful of kids, “what do we do in the kitchen?” Everyone else called out “cook” or “eat!” But Chase yelled “DANCE!”
kitchen coffee
I can’t even talk about this thing. Actually, let’s take a moment of reverent silence because this machine is the reason all my people are still alive. IT TURNS MAGICAL BEANS INTO A LIFE-SAVING NECTAR OF GODS. EVERY MORNING. ON A TIMER.
kitchen school corner
And look you guys: LOOK. This is the kitchen corner where I keep all my kids’ school stuff.  My kids go to a FREE school with brilliant teachers and a loving administration and they’re SAFE there. The school sends flyers home about PROGRAMS and CLASSES and CLUBS to make my kids’ hearts bigger and softer and their brains sharper and their bodies healthier. This corner reminds me everyday that my kids have at their fingertips what so many around the world  are giving their lives for: quality education. When I wear my perspectacles I can’t look at this corner without a heart explosion.
My perspectacled kitchen tour taught me two things this morning: I’m insanely lucky and I’m finally FREE.
In terms of parenting, marriage, home, clothes – I will not be a slave to the Tyranny of Trend any longer. I am almost 40 years old and no catalog is the Boss of Me anymore. I am free. I am not bound to spend my precious days on Earth trying to keep up with the Joneses- because the Joneses are really just a bunch of folks in conference rooms changing “trends” rapidly to create fake monthly emergencies for us. OH NO! NOW IT’S A SUBWAY TILE BACKSPLASH WE NEED!  No, thank you. Life offers plenty of REAL emergencies to handle, thank you very much.
I’m a grown up now. I know what looks good on me, and that doesn’t change every three months. I know how I like my house. I like it cute and cozy and a little funky and I like it to feel lived in and worn and I like the things inside of it to work.  That’s all. And for me - it’s fine that my house’s interior suggests that I might not spend every waking moment thinking about how it looks.
Sometimes it seems that our entire economy is based on distracting women from their blessings. Producers of STUFF NEED to find 10,000 ways to make women feel less than about our clothes, kitchens, selves so that we will keep buying more. So maybe freeing ourselves just a little from the Tyranny of Trend is a women’s issue – because we certainly aren’t going to get much world changing done if we spend all of our time and money on wardrobe and kitchen changing.
BUT. Listen. I’m nothing if not a tangled, colorful ball of contradictions. I like a good make-over as much as anybody else. So . . . HERE WE HAVE IT. HERE IS THE MELTON KITCHEN MAKEOVER FOR YA! READY FOR THE BIG REVEAL?
kitchen one
kitchen after
Ba- BAM! Extreme home makeover! My kitchen IS beautiful because it is full of beauty. SO IS YOURS.
Today I shall keep my perspectacles super-glued to my face and feel insanely GRATEFUL instead of LACKING and I will look at my home and my people and my body and say: THANK YOU. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. THIS IS ALL MORE THAN GOOD ENOUGH, ALL OF IT. Now. Let us turn our focus onward and outward.  There is WORK TO BE DONE and JOY TO BE HAD.
- See more at:

Monday, August 11, 2014

Turning to the Positive: Personal Growth After Trauma

Turning to the Positive: Personal Growth After Trauma
Can Negative Events Make Us Stronger and Healthier?
Published on March 4, 2013 by Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. in The Mindful Self-Express

Experiencing a traumatic event, such as a molestation, cancer diagnosis, or witnessing others being hurt can be emotionally devastating. For some people, who do not have proper emotional support at the time of the trauma, the event can get “stuck: in their nervous systems leading to long-lasting distress, relationship problems, or addictive tendencies. There can be another side to stressful life experiences, however. Research shows that many people report psychological growth and positive psychological changes resulting from highly stressful events. This growth does not “undo” the negative effects, but may co-exist with them, or may be the result of therapeutic or spiritual work. Below are some ways in which experiencing a painful events can help you grow as a person.

Relating to Others
Researchers studying people exposed to events such as accidents, war zone deployment, serious illness, or bereavement have found that social support and relationships with others in the time period following the event are key predictors of psychological recovery. Difficult experiences can deepen our bonds with family and friends, and they give us the opportunity to see how deeply people care for us. We may gain a new appreciation for the relationships we have and realize we can trust others to listen, care, and help. Of course, when family and friends are unsupportive or betray our trust, the opposite effect can happen; we may feel more alone and unworthy of love. Even in these cases, we may eventually form new, healthier  relationships as a result of therapy, spiritual work, or groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. We may learn that some people can be trusted, even if others cannot.

New Possibilities
Research on posttraumatic growth has also shown that the experience of trauma may lead people into new activities, lifestyles, and/or relationships that make life more meaningful, rich, and satisfying. Some people choose to volunteer or advocate for change in areas related to their trauma.  For example, a rape victim may volunteer in a Rape Crisis organization. Others write about their experience or express their feelings through creative arts.  These activities open people to new networks or enhance their skills in ways that help them feel stronger, more whole, and more connected.They may find a sense of flow - feeling both engaged and challenged as they channel their pain into meaningful creative work.

Personal Strength
Traumas can destroy self-esteem either because of the injury they cause, or because survivors may feel they did something wrong to deserve such victimization. Children naturally blame themselves for a parent’s neglect or mistreatment, and ae adults, they can get stuck in this perspective. Therefore, part of healing is realizing that you are not responsible for your victimization. If you put yourself in danger, there are often extenuating circumstances; you may not have learned how to protect yourself emotionally or physically because you were not protected as a child. Facing our traumas can help us learn how strong we are and what we can bear. We are often surprised by our ability to tolerate difficult memories and emotions when we feel motivated by a personally important goal.

Spiritual Change
You may choose to see difficult events as a spiritual message to change the direction of your life. Traumas can provide the impetus to give up drugs and alcohol and recommit to a healthy lifestyle. Traumas can lead to a deepening of faith when people realize the limits of personal control and ask a spiritual force or God to help them.. Researcher Daniel Mcintosh and colleagues, studying bereaved mothers, found that religion hastened recovery by helping people to find meaning, and by connecting them to a supportive and engaged community. Praying or meditating can help us find a new perspective on life; to be more accepting of the present moment and hopeful fo the future.

A New Appreciation of Life
Many people also report a greater appreciation of the life they have, following trauma. Following major life stress, people begin to heal when they connect with the simple pleasures of life, such as nature walks and time spent with family and friends.  For some, parenthood provides new hope and an opportunity to do things differently. For others, realizing how near they came to dying physically or spiritually makes them grateful to be alive. Surviving a trauma may represent a second chance to rebuild your life and implement the lessons learned.

Reaching for Growth in the Face of Adverse Events

If you have experienced a traumatic event or a difficult childhood, it may help to:

Think about the personal strength that you showed to survive these events. Even if you made some mistakes or did some things you regret, you did what you had to do to survive and that is something to be proud of.
Think about the things that you have put in your life currently that make it meaningful, be it relationships, your work, your faith, or taking care of your family.Try to find everyday happiness in the life you have now.
Think about what you have learned from going through these difficulties, and about how you might use this knowledge to help yourself and other people or create something of personal or societal value.
Know that growth and hope can coexist with grief and that there will be ups and downs. Learn to anticipate and manage these. Be gentle with yourself on days when it is just too difficult to see the positive. 

About the author:
Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. is a Licensed Psychologist, and expert on Mindfulness, Positive Psychology, Anxiety, and Stress-Management. Dr Greenberg provides workshops, stress-management and weight-management coaching in person or via distance technologies and psychotherapy.

Monday, August 4, 2014

How Do You Stop Comparing Yourself to Idealized Images??

The Land of the Beautiful People
How do you stop comparing yourself to idealized images?
Published on March 20, 2014 by Mary E. Pritchard, Ph.D. in Diet is a 4-Letter Word

Last night I sat in a circle of beautiful women, college students in their 20s. We talked about the land of the beautiful people. Many of them were from Southern California and had felt pressured all during childhood and adolescence to be perfect. To be skinny, to be tan, to be flawless. And that’s why they left – why they moved to Boise, Idaho of all places. Too cold for bikinis most of the year, no beaches in sight, and a lot fewer ‘beautiful people.’

And I’m not blaming Southern California for their perfectionism, nor am I trying to say that there is anything wrong with looking a certain way. I don’t blame Southern California. I blame the media, I blame society. I blame our ideal notion of what it means to be beautiful.

And even though I spent last weekend in Southern California and too felt the pressure, the need to compare myself to the beautiful people there. I found myself lacking. I tried very consciously to not do that – to not compare myself to the perfect bodies on the beach. And it’s hard. I get that, and in talking to these women last night, I understood a little better just how hard it is not to compare yourself, not to start the fat talk or other negative self-talk when you’re standing in the face of perfection. To not feel like you’re never going to measure up. To not feel like you don’t belong in the land of the beautiful people.

I shared with you a few weeks ago that I am recovering from my eating disorder. I have been eating more and had a little freak out when I gained five pounds in two weeks. I talked to my friend, my therapist, my dietician, and I thought that I had overcome the freak out, that I was immune to the land of the beautiful people. But I wasn’t.

In the past three weeks, I’ve lost three pounds. Two steps forward, three steps back. Or in this case, maybe it’s the other way around as my weight is still up from where it was a month ago.

But it’s hard. How do you not compare yourself? How can you ignore the land of the beautiful people when you are constantly surrounded by it? One way is to escape it – by coming back to Boise, where everyone is in coats instead of string bikinis, where everyone is still pale from winter instead of tanned by the summer sun. That got rid of the visual need to compare myself because I don’t see it all the time. This is the same reason the women I was talking to last night left California.

Yet you can’t fully escape the land of the beautiful people. All you have to do is go grocery shopping and you’ll undoubtedly spy a magazine cover or two. So how do you live in the land of the beautiful people and not compare yourself, not feel inferior, not feel as though you’ll never be good enough?

I think it takes a conscious effort, a very conscious decision on your part to not suffer at the hands of the beautiful people. To not live up to some sort of ideal that you can never meet.

We discussed 4 strategies for improving your body image a few weeks ago, but I would like to add a few more to that list:

1)      Get educated about what exactly goes into those cover shots. After two hours of hair and makeup and photoshop, everybody looks like a model. Don’t believe me? Watch these two videos: Dove Evolution for Women and for Men, as well as BuzzFeed's Photoshopping Real Women into Cover Models.

2)      EnVision what you want – make a Vision Board – one focused on positive goals, not appearance because you are so much more than what you look like! Bonus points for asking your friends to help you review your vision board. They will be happy to tell you all the good things they love about you that you left out!

3)      Get comfortable in your own skin. There are several ways to do this. The first is to close your eyes and feel. Feel the cool air on your skin, the touch of the clothing on your body, the weight of your hair, your feet firmly on the floor. Get comfortable with what your body feels like right now. Once you’ve conquered that challenge, next up is Body Art. Write positive messages on your body in places you will see them to remind you of how wonderful you are. I start my day by writing “I love you, Mary!” on my hand. It’s corny, but it works to bring me back to the now and to appreciate my body for all it does for me every day. Give yourself a pep talk – especially when you are feeling down about yourself. This could be as simple as looking into your own eyes in the mirror and saying “I love you” to praising your body (especially the parts you don’t like) for all they do for you. Things like, “Thank you butt for having all that padding so it doesn’t hurt to sit down,” or “Thank you belly for having some extra fat so I’m covered if there’s ever a food shortage!” Last, but not least, if you wake up in a bad mood, dress for success – even if you’re not leaving home. Putting on a favorite outfit or piece of jewelry can help lift your mood and get you through your day feeling energized instead of in a rut.

So can you ever fully escape from the land of the beautiful people? In short, no. But you can take active steps to minimize the harmful effects of exposure to ‘ideal’ bodies. And that can go a long way to feeling better about yourself.