Friendship is something we all need. And as we get older, true friendships seem harder to find. And how do you know when you have a real friend?
Don’t you find children generally make friends easier than adults? They are less cynical, less bitter, and more trusting.
Children care less about what people think and thus can approach people with more openness. Openness and trust is critical in close friends.
Close friends, different from acquaintances or casual friends, are those with whom you share your inner thoughts, dreams, challenges and pain. They are by your side — through thick and thin, no matter what. Cliche as it sounds.
The mettle of friendship is tested when one of you goes through a challenging, painful time of life.
Some people cannot handle dealing with someone who is sad, scared or depressed or angry. These “negative” emotions scare them and can actually make some people upset.
How dare we bring them down? How dare we expect them to reach into their soul and actually, gasp, support us?
Some of our friends will listen to us cry, rant and rave. Over and over. They don’t ask “ Why aren’t you over this already?”
Processing and dealing with complex, difficult issues takes time. Our emotions during times of grief for example, move from anger to sadness to depression and back around — there is no linear timed response to a loss, no predictable path.
These friends, who continue to listen, to advise, to love and to wrap their arms around us; they are the true friends. The ones to keep — forever. They have been proven in the battle of life.
These friends love us. We must love them back when they need us. And of course, we will.
But those people who — when you are upset, grieving or scared — instead find excuses not to pick up the phone, come over or offer any support — these are not your friends.
When my son was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago, most of my friends and family stepped up. They showered me with love and support. Even from a distance. They phoned me, listened with empathy and didn’t expect me to heal from the crisis overnight. They gave me time, over and over. They still continue to listen as I trod this path of change right now.
Except from the one who was supposed to be closest to me. He stood there, expressionless when I wept about cancer and my son.
He was expressionless and supportless when I worried about my son’s surgery.
He left when things progressed to chemotherapy. Things were too hard, for him.
How do you know if someone loves you?
Look at their actions.
One of the most impactful quotes I have ever heard was from the great Maya Angelou:
When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
Your true friends will show, through their actions — or their inactions — who they are and how much you mean to them.
We must pay attention and believe their actions. I had plently of warnings over the years. We all do. Believe the actions of others.
And be a friend yourself. Show your friends that they are important and you love them. People are watching your actions.
Our world, our lives need more true friendships.
Friendships will strengthen our lives and our culture, our communities and our world.
Taking care of yourself is one of the most important things you can do to enrich your life.
Different areas of your life will require more care than others from time to time, but it is vital to think about all aspects of your life when making goals and plans.
Self-care is important at all times in our life.
However, remember when you go through crappy and stressful times of life, that is the time to step up the self-care game, not ignore it.
I wrote about self-care when times are hard earlier as I have several difficult situations I am dealing with now. These ideas are mostly soothing and relaxing techniques that we can use throughout our daily lives but especially in times of stress.
In self-care 2.0 it is time to expand on these ideas.
Look at the following seven areas of life. They all require attention or you can experience negative consequences down the road.
7. Personal development
Self-care 2.0 requires that you think about taking care of all these areas of your life.
Are you spending quality time and effort on each area daily? Weekly?
Daily might not always work out, but I suggest thinking about these areas in terms of your weekly goals or focus.
1. Physical self-care
You only get one body. Take care of it. Sometimes, even after all we do, our bodies can get sick — life happens. If that happens though, hopefully you have a strong, healthy body to help you in your fight for wellness.
Put thought into the care of your body. Illness, disease and the inability to function physically can put a damper on your overall life satisfaction and happiness.
People often only appreciate their health when they lose it.
We all know what we need to do, but the advice is rarely followed:
Eat well — increase healthy fats, decrease trans-fats, eat proteins from healthy sources, limit sugar, etc. The diet advice is there. Listen. Diet is the biggest influencer of your health and BMI.
Work on getting to a healthy weight. Being overweight increases your risk of many diseases and increases your chance of injury and physical limitations.
Exercise daily — Do Something! Even 10 minutes a day is better than nothing.
Take some supplements — I recommend Vitamin D (2000 IU’s daily), Magnesium, Omega-3 fatty acids (find a pure source please!), and a good multi (not a drugstore brand ok?) as a minimum.
Are you feeling depressed? Anxious? Angry?
These emotions are ok. However, if they are impacting your life, your career, your relationships or more, then you need to deal with them.
Get counselling. Perhaps you need medication. Exercise can help. Group therapy. Whatever. Deal with your emotions. It may take your whole life to learn coping mechanisms that work — and that’s ok. Just take the first step to heal troubling emotions.
Identifying how you are feeling.
Journal about your feelings. Start sentences in your journal with “I feel….”. Identifying our feelings is the first step to emotional maturity.
Try to incorporate more stolen moments of joy in every life. Cultivate gratitude.
I was raised in quite a strict religious home and have since decided that was not for me. And I’ll admit to feeling doubt and confusion when people have mentioned a spiritual life.
Spirituality, however, is not religion. We all can, despite our beliefs or because of them, experience spirituality in our daily life. This can make our life more joyful and mindful.
Anything that feeds your soul, your inner-self, is considered a spiritual practice.
For some it is church. For others, it is meditation and mindful movement. I find a deep inner journey during some yoga classes. When I am focusing on my breath and the postures only, my mind becomes still.
Nature can be a great way to move your awareness within.
Paying attention to your finances is part of self-care. Overspending, neglecting to think of your future and ignorance of where you stand financially and where you want to go, is neglect.
When you are planning your life, take time to think about your budget, your retirement (hey — don’t wait until you are in your 50’s to plan for this!), and your savings.
Make a plan to pay down your debt slowly. Put something away for the future on every pay cheque.
Think about your financial goals and touch base with them often. Check-in and evaluate how you are doing. If you have gone off-course, then get back on track.
No matter where you are at in your career, you can do things to make it better.
Take some classes, smile more at work, go back to school, make work better by improving workflow, or whatever.
People usually have many work-related goals. Think about how much satisfaction your job gives you. Work on that.
The quality of our relationships often determines the quality of our life.
If your relationships are healthy and strong — then don’t neglect them. Keep them tended. Relationships are like a garden, they need water, nutrients and sunlight to thrive.
Put in time. Time is an element of healthy relationships that cannot be replaced with gifts or anything. If you have no time for the important people in your life, what is that telling them? Are they really a priority?
Work on your communication skills. Practice opening up to those people who are close to you. Be authentic.
7. Personal Development
This area touches on areas such as confidence, self-love, and improvement.
While not suggesting you aren’t enough as you are — because you are enough — there are things we all want to improve on.
What do I want to be like? Is what I am doing making me a better person?
Who do I admire and how can I emulate and grow like they did?
Self care matters.
Think about your whole self while you make your daily, weekly and yearly plans and goals. Only focusing on one or two areas of life causes imbalances in your life and possible negative consequences.
Self-care doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Keep it simple. Keeping these seven areas in mind, while giving extra care to your self during periods of stress, can help you have more moments of peace and security.
Ah, the feeling of happiness. It’s like a bubble of sunshine.
But like the bubble, it is elusive and cannot last.
And that’s ok.
Happiness isn’t meant to be around ALL-THE-TIME. We would get used to that state and it would mean nothing.
The contrast between pleasure and pain; joy and suffering; happiness and sadness; wealth and poverty; sickness and health, is there so we can get through the hard times and relish the good times.
I just finished reading Glennon Doyle’s beautiful memoir — Love Warrior — where she emphasizes while life provides us much to be happy for, it also holds pain and suffering for us all.
“You are not supposed to be happy all the time. Life hurts and it’s hard. Not because you’re doing it wrong, but because it hurts for everybody. Don’t avoid the pain. You need it. It’s meant for you. Be still with it, let it come, let it go, let it leave you with the fuel you’ll burn to get your work done on this earth.”
― Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior
Our society is obsessed with happiness — just look at the self-help section in a bookstore. While this can be a good thing if you are one who sees the glass as half-empty all the time, it can also be an unreasonable goal.
All of us have will have painful aspects of our life. We can look at other people and think “they have it all figured out”. But they don’t. We are all struggling through life.
My son had a bout with cancer earlier this year. I am going through a painful personal trial right now. Life is difficult at times. My challenge is to grow through the pain. And have faith that the sun will shine again. (It really is behind those clouds!)
The pain of my son’s diagnosis gave me clarity on what is really important in my life. I appreciated the gift of my child’s life. Even more.
“So what is it in a human life that creates bravery, kindness, wisdom, and resilience? What if it’s pain? What if it’s the struggle?”
― Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior
We need to accept that challenges will come our way. Our suffering is caused, according to Buddhist wisdom, by holding on to the way we think things should be — attachment.
If we can accept what is, and love what we have now, we can lessen our suffering. We can try to find happiness and joy in everyday moments to help increase your happiness. Even amid the pain.
The pain, grief, anger, sadness will still come. We can use it to make us stronger, more compassionate, and more appreciative of what we have.
We can only appreciate the sun when we experience the rain. We aren’t meant to be happy all the time.
Into every life a little rain must fall. — Ella Fitzgerald
It’s a given that pain and suffering will come to all of us.
Emotions can ride the roller coaster of uncertainty — all the time.
Anger. Grief. Fear. Numbness. The cycle can take a day or a minute.
When hard times hit, when life takes a 180-degree turn, we need to take care of ourselves.
If you don’t, who will? If your well is dry, you can’t be there for my children, my friends, or my extended family. The old ‘put your mask on first’ analogy rings true.
What does self-care mean? How can I, and you, incorporate more of it into our daily lives?
Self-care is taking care of your body, mind and spirit during times of stress. It is finding out what you need and taking steps to make sure your needs are met.
Taking care of yourself is vital to reacting to life with resilience and strength.
Put yourself at the top of your to-do list every single day and the rest will fall into place. -Unknown
There are many things that can be classified as self-care. We all have different needs and so our self-care will look different from others.
There are some basics that we all need.
Make sure you are getting enough sleep. This can be hard when your mind is racing, but sleep is the revitalizing force in life. If life is hard and you are feeling sorrow or anger, try sleeping more. NAP!
Eat healthy foods. The temptation will be there to grab that bucket of ice cream or bag of chips and dig in, but you will feel better and stronger when you fuel your body properly. To deal with the stress hormone cortisol you must nourish your body with whole foods and not processed food.
Exercise every day. Go outside for a walk. I wrote about the benefits of walking before, and it’s wonderful for stress reduction.
Learn some physical calming techniques. An effective technique for self-calming is diaphragmatic breathing which is breath focused awareness and training.
Begin by taking deep breaths into your abdomen area — feel your abdomen rising and falling, not your chest. Relax as much a possible. Avoid using your shoulders and ribcage.
Do this often throughout the day and whenever you feel an increase in anxiety, stress, grief or anger. This can be done as part of a meditation practice (an excellent self-care practice) or devote a minute to breath awareness. Mindful breathing helps to lessen the impact of the stress response.
Try yoga. A powerful exercise that also works on healing your mind.
5. Talk to your friends and social group. Do not isolate yourself. Friends will make you feel connection, which we all need. Especially if facing a crisis such as a loss of a relationship. I have needed more support from my friends and family as I face this challenge, and thankfully, they have responded with love and support.
6. Pamper yourself. Get a massage. Enrol in a paint night with some friends. Have people over for a rousing game of Catan!
7. Journal. This can help you process your feelings. Denying your feelings or trying to stuff down emotions will just prolong the healing process.
8. Get some therapy. You will live with yourself all your life. Deal with your issues now. Even if it was totally the other person’s fault, and you are probably kidding yourself, you have insecurities or baggage that you need to take out and examine.
No matter where you go, there you are. — Confucius
9. Find something to laugh at every day. The idea that laughter is the best medicine is true. Laughter releases endorphins which are the body’s natural painkillers. Laughter can lighten the load, even if only momentarily.
Watch a funny movie or TV show. Read a funny book. I love Calvin and Hobbes. The BEST cartoon!
10. Have a warm bath. Listen to music you love. Dance.
Do things you love.
Find out what your needs are and meet them. Ask for help.
Taking care of yourself is important all the time, and especially during hard times.
Self-care doesn’t have to cost you money. Allocate time for yourself daily. Have more compassion for yourself when you feel that life is sucking you dry.
If you are going through a hard time, commit to giving yourself self-care time daily.
Fitness and Health. These words inspire many of us to get off the couch. Or make us feel guilty for not getting off the couch!
There are so many fitness crazes out there, so many exercise programs. These can confuse us and also be full of contradictory information and advice. What to do and where to start?
Walking is a simple way to get your fitness started. Many people will want more challenging exercise and training, but for some of us, walking will be a huge part, maybe our entire fitness program.
Walking daily is a goal that almost all of us can do. We can all make the time and our lives will be richer for it.
Walking has tremendous benefits for our health and for our peace of mind.
Benefits of a daily walk:
Walking is free — you can do it anywhere and you don’t need special equipment besides shoes you can walk in. Although, some people like walking in bare feet, nothing wrong with that! You can ground with the earth and connect with the energy of the earth. Just walk barefoot only in safe areas, such as a clean beach if you are lucky enough to live close by!
You can walk at any pace. You get to choose the speed and intensity of your walk.
Walking is low impact and has a low risk of injury.
Walking helps reduce your blood pressure and makes your heart healthier.
Walking reduces the risk of developing diabetes.
Walking improves fitness. I suggest slowly increasing the pace of your walking. If your health permits keep working up the pace until you are walking briskly. This brisk walking can improve physical functioning and improves cardiac fitness.
Walking will help your brain, improving your cognitive functioning.
Walking can help you with depression and anxiety. More well-being anyone?
Walking helps to keep your body weight stable and lowers your risk of obesity.
Walking with friends is an excellent way to maintain friendships. It can strengthen social connections and reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness. Loneliness can be harmful to your health. I wrote about loneliness here.
Walking can spark creativity. Many people have great ideas while out walking.
Nothing like a nighttime stroll to give you ideas. ~J. K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, spoken by the character Mad-Eye Moody
12. Walking gets you out in nature. In Japan, people have started a movement called “Forest Therapy”. Scientists studying this have found that strolling through trees can lower the stress hormone, cortisol, and improve the immune system.
Those who think they have no time for exercise will, sooner or later, have to find time for illness. -Edward Stanley
If we take 30 minutes daily to get outside and walk, our health and happiness will improve.
For those of you who feel that you are ‘Just too busy right now…’; I urge you to put your health and well-being above your other priorities. Health really is of the greatest importance.
If you really cannot spare 30 minutes, as you are far too busy to get out there; perhaps you could try taking a “walking” meeting, or getting some phone calls done while out walking. Or go walk at lunch or before work in the morning.
The benefits are worth it.
That’s all for now — my walk awaits!
Michelle Fyfe has been a pharmacist for over 25 years and is passionate about using holistic, natural methods of achieving true health; developing new, healthy and simple lifestyles with a side effect of increased energy, happiness and fulfillment. She is working on her first book called: The Five Keys to Health — A Pharmacist’s Guide to Holistic Living.
We have felt discouraged from time to time. It is a universal human emotion.
It comes from having plans or goals that aren’t just falling quickly into place. Or maybe it feels like things are just taking way too long. And we start to doubt ourselves.
We think about giving up. Quitting that project. “That idea was stupid anyway.” “Why did we actually think we could succeed?”
Discouragement can lead to depression and despair if it occurs often enough or if we are already battling with these in our lives.
There are some things that make discouragement worse:
Not being rested. If we are tired or sleep deprived things just seem worse than they really are. We aren’t able to put things in their proper perspective.
We keep missing our goals — we aren’t feeling successful in many, if any, areas of our life. If we have problems in one area of our life and then something unrelated also isn’t working out it is easy to become discouraged.
We have a poor, or no, support system. Everyone needs a sounding board and at least one person to believe in us. A cheerleader to lift us up when we fall. If people close to us aren’t supportive, discouragement is easier.
Fear — of what people will think, fear of failing, fear of succeeding and fear of not being good enough. Fear makes our risk of getting discouraged or giving up worse.
We are believing everything we think. Our thoughts are these little-untrained monkeys running around giving us random stuff. “I am not _______ enough” is the most common self-defeating thought we have. (Fill in the blank with your own specific belief.)
If you are feeling discouraged about your project, your writing, your creative endeavours, or your life, then now is the time to look at your discouragement as a catalyst for change. Use this time of feeling down to start again.
Here are some useful things that you can do to turn your discouragement into inspiration and positivity:
1. Use it — it is a message. Look at what you are doing. Change something, in your approach, your message, your timing, whatever. Reorganize things, even just slightly. Try a new approach.
2. Take care of yourself. Make sure you are getting enough sleep. Sleep affects our mental state profoundly. If you aren’t getting enough — fix this first. I promise it will be worth it.
There is no easy answer to how much sleep you actually need or should get. We are all different and our need for sleep can vary widely.
On average, adults need about 7 hours per night, with the general range being 7–9 hours. Older adults have the same basic needs. A child needs more sleep, as do teenagers.
3. Find a support group or person. It can be even here on Medium. People who see what you are trying to do and will only offer constructive criticism and praise.
Stop hanging around and feeding the haters and non-supporters. Just say no.
People need to feel valued and listened to. Our creative endeavours and ideas and goals are babies. They need to be treated with care.
Don’t be afraid to get constructive criticism. We need this to improve.
Ask for help if you need it — a mentor, or even a helpful, friendly voice — can be a huge asset.
4. Start questioning your thoughts. Often we can get stuck in negative cycles of thought and, worse yet, believe them.
You don’t have to believe your thoughts. Start questioning the ones that are causing you depression, discouragement and stress.
Just start by noticing the thought and then just ask, “really?” or some other version.
And, yes, you are enough.
5. Go for a walk outside. Or do something physical. Moving can help release more positive endorphins, plus you get a break.
And don’t forget to really breathe. Breath is a bridge between our body and mind (yoga philosophy here) and we often our breathing is shallow. Breath deeply and mindfully on your walk.
6. Stop comparing yourself to others. It is very easy to get discouraged when you look and see how well other people are doing.
7. Remember your successes. Even if they are small. Remind yourself of the strengths you have. Celebrate your wins. We all have them.
If you really cannot think of any, ask a loved one to tell you some! Be proud of what you have accomplished so far!
8. Remind yourself of the big picture. Rome wasn’t conquered in a day. Good things take time. All the cliches have a common element. Persistence wins.
James Dyson, inventor of the Dyson Vacuums, failed more than 5000 times trying to find the version of his vacuum that actually worked. It took more than 15 years to be successful. Now he is the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company.
Do not underestimate the power of patience, persistence and looking at the big picture.
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. Winston Churchill
Michelle Fyfe has been a pharmacist for over 25 years and is passionate about using holistic, natural methods of achieving true health; developing new, healthy and simple lifestyles with a side effect of increased energy, happiness and fulfillment.
We all want to be healthy. Often we take our health for granted. Many of us will ignore taking care of ourselves until we develop some kind of illness or condition that slows us down.
It is a shame that we wait.
Health is not valued till sickness comes. Thomas Fuller
There are some easy ways to start a healthier, happier and more fulfilled way of life.
Start cooking more meals at home and eating out less. You will not only get more nutrition, eat fewer calories but you will save a ton of money.
2. Stop drinking any type of sweetened drink. Coffees, soda pop, juices, whatever. If it is sweetened, even artificially, stop drinking it. Or at least slowly start to wean yourself off of these liquid calorie and sugar bombs.
3. Move your body for at least 30 minutes a day.
Walking is nice.
4. Decrease sugar consumption. I’ve written about the dangers of sugar before here, but I want to stress it again. Sugar is literally poison and is strongly addictive.
5. Connect with someone, a real person, every day. Loneliness and isolation aren’t healthy and contribute to anxiety and depression. My article on loneliness talks more about the health risks and what you can do to battle it.
6. Eat fruits and veggies. Lots. Daily. There is a plethora of scientific evidence showing the benefits of a high intake of plants.
7. Supplement your diet. I recommend a Vitamin D supplement, Omega-3 supplement and a good well-rounded multivitamin. This ensures any gaps in your diet are mostly covered. Other supplements can possibly help if you have certain medical conditions.
8. Work on your sleep. Try to clean up your bedtime routine so that you can get 6–8 hours of sleep. We all have a sweet spot. Find out how much sleep you need for optimal alertness and health.
9. Find your passion and try to spend as much of your free time following this. Passion will fuel your creativity, happiness and fulfillment of life.
Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you. Oprah Winfrey
10. Avoid negative people, negative substances and negativity in general. If you focus on being positive in the world and bringing mostly positive things into your life, your life will feel more blessed.
How are we using social media? It can make a huge impact on our lives and the lives of our network and so it’s a good idea to evaluate your usage.
I use it to keep in touch with my family and friends. It has become much more routinely used that a simple text or (gasp!) a phone call. I sometimes wonder if I even need a phone plan — maybe I just need access to wifi? Anyway, I digress.
My concern is the content that we are contributing to these social media sites.
Are we posting content and comments — oh especially those comments — that make the world a better place?
My personal unease comes from the fact that so much of what we see on media, social media too, is negative and critical.
Yes, there are numerous things in society that we don’t like and DO need to change. But I believe that change MUST start with myself. And then spread to my close family and friends, then our community, then the country, then our world.
As globalization expands and borders blur, our messages on social media can impact someone in another part of the world instantly.
Don’t we want to impact positively?
The butterfly effect — where a small initial change can lead to a more dramatic and far-reaching change — can happen with social media.
If we promote hate and violence, and our comments are hateful, racist and condescending — are we spreading a seed of hate, through the butterfly effect? Perhaps we are.
I am not saying ignore the negative and upsetting news stories. It’s not good to hide our heads under the sand.
I am simply hoping that more and more people will spread helpful ideas, positive ways to change things, good news, and be supportive with their global brothers and sisters.
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi
Because social media is so pervasive in our society today we can affect a change simply by promoting positive change within our circle of influence.
Maybe we don’t need to make that hurtful comment. Or share that hurtful story. Maybe we could all find solutions instead? Helpful solutions.
I have resolved to not promote any story of hate or negativity. I want our world to be more positive. And it starts with me — and my social media activity.