The Many Faces of Addiction

The battle of addiction exists for everyone. Yes, everyone — even you.

We hear a lot about opioid addiction and how it is the next plague. And I agree — it is.

I work as a pharmacist in an inner city, addiction care pharmacy. And I have seen up close and personal, opioid addiction in my own family.

Lest you think this can never happen to you, any of your children, family and friends, think again.

Maybe you judge these poor souls who are battling an inner demon bigger than themselves, as weak, stupid, pitiful but hell, not worth sweating about. Then think again.

These people are us.

There is the Ann, a healthy, happy young mother, who sees her young, vibrant two-year-old child run over and killed. The pain nearly destroys her. The medication helps and numbs her, so she can quiet the screaming in her head. Twenty years later she is wrecked, her body destroyed, her mind cracked into schizophrenia and destructive mood disorders, and her values? Gone. Sold on the street for another hit.

There is Linda, violently assaulted at age 15, who decides the world doesn’t care, the pain and fear will kill her, who starts taking drugs at a party, because frankly ‘who cares anymore’. Little does this young girl know that her future self is picking dirty needles off the street, selling anything she can (including her precious self) and then going to the pharmacy to take her daily hepatitis medication.

Then meet Ed, a highly successful businessman, who attends a party with good friends. Too much alcohol and one bad decision later, Ed finds himself on the slope to heroin addiction. He loses everything. His job — gone. His family — very much gone. His friends — gone. His house — gone. The car- gone. Finally, his dignity and self-love are gone.

Now Ed is in and out of hospital because the daily morphine he picks up at his pharmacy (prescribed to keep the opioid addiction at bay and reduce the cravings), is misused. He hides the little beadlets in his mouth, goes out of the store and spits them out. Then he injects them — and of course, all the bacteria lurking in his mouth.

The infections cause him even more widespread damage to his body and mind, and hospital time.

These are just three of the patients I see daily. (Names have been changed). The list is long in my pharmacy. And everyone has a story. No one just wakes up one day and decides “ today I am going to become a drug addict”.

No — the path to drug addiction is a painful one.

But it’s not just drugs that form our composite face of addiction.

All of us humans on the planet are addicted to something.

Being right. (Oh — yes, that is an addiction).
Alcohol
Smoking (Technically a drug, but it is a tough one to quit so I’ll put it on its’ own).
Shopping
Food
Sex
Power
Arguing
Anger
Gambling
Work
etc. The list is long.

The definition of addiction is this:

Addiction is a condition in which a person engages in the use of a substance or in a behavior for which the rewarding effects provide a compelling incentive to repeatedly pursue the behavior despite detrimental consequences.

There are many treatments for addiction, but the mental battle must be fought.

Twelve-step programs have a lot of success. There is a lot of personal responsibility that occurs in following the steps. (I recommend Russell Brand’s book Recovery: Freedom from our addictions. He teaches the 12 step program in his unique way and free from the traditional language. Expect an F-bomb or two!)

Change requires you to accept the fundamental truth that you are responsible for everything that happens in your life. Everything.

Until that acceptance happens, you live in victimhood. Victims have no power.

Personal responsibility gives you endless power. It is the only real power we have as humans.

Helping yourself, or others, overcome addiction should allow them to pick up the gauntlet of personal power.

But we also need to stop judging and start helping those with severe addiction.

Most of them got there by mistake, through the path of trauma. They don’t need your judgements. Learn their story and find the connection to the human within.

They need connection not judgements. Believe me, their self-judgement is hard enough.

Remember there is a human face behind the addiction. So many faces.

💙Michelle

How to Determine Your Core Values

Your important life assignment.

In a previous article ,I explained what values are and their importance.

Now, lets go over how to figure out your personal values.

Step One: Read the list of values I have included at the end of this document to familiarize yourself with possible values

This is only a list. There are more possible values. Search the internet for other lists if you need more options.

Step Two: Ask yourself the following Questions for Self-Reflection:

Please take your time with this and write your answers down in your journal.

1. What is most important to you in your work?

2. What is most important to you in your relationships?

3. What is most important to you in your social life?

4. What do you look for in a new friendship?

5. What do you look for in a new romantic relationship?

6. What do you look for in social activities/events to attend?

7. What do you want for your future long-term relationships?

8. What do you want from your life as a whole?

9. What are some of your favorite activities and why?

10. Describe a perfect day.

11. List 10 things that make you angry/drive you nuts. Then look at what is missing or being violated in that situation.

12. Write down some personal fantastic experiences in your life: What were some moments where you felt connected and joyful or full of meaning and significance. Consider these meaningful moments — peak experiences that stand out in your memories. What was happening to you? What was going on? What was being honored in your life?

13. Look at the way you live — your code of conduct. What unspoken rules do you follow?

14. What’s most important in your life? What must you have in your life to experience fulfillment? What are the personal values you must honor or a part of you shrivels up? Look at the list of possible values and see if any make you feel alive.

15. Look at the people you admire and see what common values keep popping up. These are values that are striking a chord within you. Write down the qualities of the people you admire.

16. Looking back at your life, what are things that you would take a stand for — even if it meant losing something or someone in the process. Write these things down in your journal.

17. Look at your greatest failures, disappointments and moments of depression and sadness. What happened? Was there some violation of something you believe important? What was violated?

As you answer these questions, look for commonalities that stick out.

Step Three: Make a list of these values. Try to narrow the list down to your top ten.

Step Four: Prioritize Your Top Ten Values:

This is done by doing comparisons between your top values. (This can also help you narrow down your list to the top ten.) And don’t be rigid here — you can make a list and prioritize it and then as you think about the list and live the list, some changes and tweaks will be made as you go along.

For example, say Creativity and Authenticity are two of your top core values. To determine a ranking ask yourself:

“Would I rather be creative or be authentic?” And choose. And do this with each value against the others. Keep comparing and asking for choices between your top values. The priority will become clear and you can make a prioritized list. I realize these are hard choices — but be tough — imagine that the choice HAS to be made.

Having your values listed in priority will help you as decisions come up that could possibly place one value over the other, for example you could be offered a very creative role in a company, yet have to dress and act in a manner that is very inauthentic. Knowing that authenticity ranks higher for you than creativity can help you realize that even though the job offers you the creative position you want, you would have to give up too much.

Remember: Even if some choice in your life could honor one of your values — if it dishonors another (especially one higher in your list of priorities) it still may not be the right choice for you.

Knowing your values AND their priority gives you clarity.

Step Five: Double Check if the values you choose resonate with you:

  1. How do they make you feel?
  2. Do you feel they are consistent with who you are?
  3. Are they personal to you?
  4. Do you see any values that feel inconsistent with your identity? (Are they actually someone else’s dream/plans for you, such as a parent, authority figure, friends, society, etc. and not yours?)
  5. Check your priority ranking. Do you feel like your values are in the proper order of importance?

Step Six: Now Start Using your core Values

1. Use them when making difficult decisions.
2. Use them to decide how you spend your free time.
3. Use them to guide you in how you live your life.
4. Use them to decide who you will spend time with. Etc.….

“People can’t live with change if there’s not a changeless core inside them. The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value.” — Stephen R. Covey

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
― Gandhi

Sample List of Value words in random order:

Acceptance Creation Gratitude Accomplishment Creativity Greatness Performance Structure Accountability Credibility Accuracy Curiosity Happiness Playfulness Support Achievement Decisive Adaptability Decisiveness Harmony Potential Sustainability Alertness Dedication Altruism Dependability Honesty Ambition Determination Honor Productivity Temperance Amusement Development Hope Professionalism Thankful Assertiveness Devotion Attentive Awareness Discipline Improvement Quality Timeliness Balance Beauty Boldness Effectiveness Innovation Recognition Traditional Bravery Brilliance Empathy Insightful Reflective Transparency Calm Candor Endurance Integrity Responsibility Trustworthy Capable Careful Enjoyment Intensity Certainty Enthusiasm Intuitive Reverence Uniqueness Challenge Equality Irreverent Charity Cleanliness Excellence Clear Clever Exploration Knowledge Comfort Expressive Commitment Fairness Leadership Sensitivity Common-sense Family Communication Famous Community Fearless Compassion Feelings Competence Ferocious Concentration Fidelity Confidence Connection Foresight Meaning Consciousness Fortitude Moderation Skillfulness Consistency Freedom Motivation Contentment Friendship Openness Solitude Contribution Control Generosity Conviction Cooperation Giving Courage Goodness Courtesy Dignity Imagination Purpose Thoughtful Discovery Independence Realistic Tolerance Drive Efficiency Inquisitive Recreation Tranquility Empower Inspiring Energy Intelligence Restraint Ethical Experience Kindness Focus Fun Genius Organization Spontaneous Grace Growth Persistence Success Hard-work Health Humility Prosperity Thorough Individuality Reason Toughness Joy Justice Satisfaction Victory Lawful Learning Liberty Logic Love Loyalty Mastery Simplicity Maturity Optimism Order Originality Stability Passion Patience Stewardship Peace Poise Power Present Teamwork Respect Results-oriented Understanding Rigor Risk Security Self-reliance Vision Selfless Serenity Welcoming Service Sharing Significance Wonder Silence Sincerity Skill Smart Spirit Spirituality Status Strength Surprise Talent Trust Truth Unity Valor Vigor Vitality Wealth Winning Wisdom

Have fun with this assignment! It can change your life!

💙Michelle

What Are Your Personal Core Values?

And why is this important?

Many people talk about getting clear on your values or using values as a guide in your life, but perhaps you aren’t clear what values are anyway? And why are they important?

Values are the individual beliefs that people hold and the things that people deeply feel are important in their lives. These beliefs are the underlying motivations for how people act and behave. We can also define values as the preferences in your life. We create them throughout our lives, starting in early childhood.

Values vary between individuals, but there are common and shared values that occur within a family, culture, group or country. One example of a shared value is ‘patriotism’, common within a country. Many family members share similar values because of their upbringing.

Everyone has values, some people just are more aware of what their values are than others. Being aware of what your most important values are — your core values — provides a valuable guide for living a life that feels meaningful and can greatly help with decision making.

Making decisions that go against one of your core values will cause a sense of “distress” or “discomfort”, or feelings of guilt or even a loss. Following one’s core values brings meaning and purpose. They uphold your sense of personal responsibility, giving you a sense of “self-worth.”

Your values will evolve over your lifetime, as your circumstances change, however many do remain constant. Values form a vital part of your personality as they can, and should, determine how you live your life.

Discovering your own values, these things important to you in life, is a process of self-discovery that ideally everyone takes. You will feel better when you live a life in alignment with your values. With so much emphasis placed on happiness in our society, we each need to learn about what our deep core values are — to enable ourselves to live a full and meaningful life.

Once you determine what your core values are and have prioritized them, an important part of the process, you can use your values to guide your life.

Author Stephen R. Covey states:
“People can’t live with change if there’s not a changeless core inside them. The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value.”

Spend your time and energy on things that nurture your values. Doing so will ensure that you experience a sense of meaning and more satisfaction with what you are doing and how you spend your time.

Realistically, not every activity you have to do will or even can be a match with your values. However, to live a more fulfilling life, try to spend most of your time doing things congruent with your value system.

If you don’t find meaning in an activity, perhaps none of your values are being met, or worse, are being violated or disregarded. You need to pay attention to these activities and your feelings. Knowing that something is violating a value is a massive hint from the universe or your inner knowing that you need to change your life.

If you can’t change the activity itself, at least not right away, such as your stressful job, then try to find some aspect of your job that can somehow align with a value you hold.

For example, if connection is a core value, you can try to reach out more to co-workers or customers and find that moment of human connection, even if it’s only fleeting. Doing these actions consciously can reduce your job dissatisfaction and even provide a moment of meaning, for both of you. This can be a game changer and greatly increase your life satisfaction.

So what are your values? How do you figure that out?

My next article will be about how to determine your core values, an important personal assignment for a healthier life.

I’ll leave you with some examples of core values. There are too many to list here. Search the internet for a list of core values and you will find many to browse through. Become familiar with what values are, which words describe the values and you will have made a head start into the inner dimension of self-discovery.

Some common values are:

Creativity
Assertiveness
Determination
Calmness
Equality
Compassions
Contribution
Courage
Authenticity
Connection
Growth
Security
Love
Family
Loyalty
Optimism
Significance
Strength
Trust
Honesty
Giving…

and so many more.

Everyone wants to live a life of meaning. Finding out your core values is a key step to making sure you are doing your best to live the life that is best for you. You are unique and your values are unique to you. There is no right or wrong here.

Once you find out what they are, and remember they can change and evolve as your life changes and evolves, they can be a lighthouse to guide you to a beautiful life.

💙Michelle

Start and End Your Day with the Right Questions

And Create a Powerful Shift in Your Life!

Living life by design, instead of by habit, can be challenging. One way to shake off the shackles of “going through the motions”, one boring day after another, is to look at the questions you routinely ask yourself.

You may just get more of the same old, same old in your life if your questions follow along the lines of: “What should I watch on Netflix?”, “Should I get take out or just heat up these leftovers?”, “Why do I always have to do everything around here?”, “Why doesn’t anyone listen to me?”, “Why can’t I lose weight?”,”Why does this always happen to me?”,etc.

You get the point. These questions lead nowhere, maybe to complaisance, resentment, anxiety and depression but they certainly don’t lead to positive change or outcomes.

The questions you routinely ask yourself can be a powerful force for change in your life. Asking different questions leads to different results. They spark a different mental outcome.

Asking questions is the first way to begin change. — Kubra Sait

Morning questions can be a journaling exercise, or simply questions to think about as you go about your morning routine, perhaps while getting ready for work.

Pick one or think/write about them all. Depending on time constraints, you may only be able to ponder one of these questions a day. Mix them up. Keep them positive and focused on meeting your values.

Try writing them on index cards and putting them around your home. In your car, by your bed, and in your bathroom. This will remind you about them and stimulate the mental exercise you are looking for; Asking and thinking about good questions.

Ideas for Morning questions:

  1. What are my goals for today?
  2. What are the 5 most important things for me to do today? What is their order of importance? “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” — Stephen Covey
  3. What new knowledge can I gain today?
  4. What one trait would I like to excel in today?
  5. What challenges might I face today? What is the best way to face them?
  6. What is important for me to remember today?
  7. What thoughts, words and actions will make today a great day?
  8. How can I honour my values today?
  9. How can I help someone today?

Before bed, use questions as part of a reflective process. Once again, you can journal your answers, or simply spend some time pondering some or all of your chosen questions. There is power in sending your brain to sleep with good questions, rather than worries or ruminating about anxieties.

Evening Questions:

  1. What am I grateful for today?
  2. What was my greatest moment today?
  3. What did I do today to further my major goals?
  4. What positive traits did I express today?
  5. What have I done today to improve?
  6. What positive message can I give myself tonight as I fall asleep?
  7. What lessons did I learn today?
  8. What could I have done differently?
  9. Did I help anyone today?

These are all just examples. Make your morning questions specific to you and your challenges and goals. Make sure they are positive and will challenge you.

One of the fastest ways to find the solution to an issue or challenge you are facing is to ask the right questions. — Robin S. Sharma

It’s time to shake up your hum-drum life and get a different result, by changing the questions you ask yourself!

Michelle 💙

man in red crew neck sweatshirt photography
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com
 

Let It Go…

This is not Disney; this is your life.

Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. — John Lennon.

Oh, so true John. And life can leave you feeling stressed, angry, sad, resentful, hateful, jealous, lonely, depressed, confused, deceived, betrayed, hurt, etc…

The list of negative emotions that we can feel throughout our life is huge!

Something I know intellectually and am working on emotionally is the skill of letting go.

Sometimes, it’s just so hard to let go of these feelings.

We want to feel angry and we have a really good reason! But does being angry for a long time serve us?

No. It doesn’t hurt the person who did you wrong. It just hurts you.

You are the one whose heart is angry.

I do think anger is a useful emotion and we do need to feel our anger and delve into it. And go through it. But we don’t want to become stuck.

Same with any negative emotion. It is important to acknowledge the feelings and really feel them. And move through them. Being stuck is the problem.

When we realize that we have become stuck in an emotion or several emotions (and that will take some honest introspection) what can we do?

Let them go.

These are some ideas that may help:

Acceptance. Stop expecting your life to be any different from what it is now.

It is what it is.

Acceptance doesn’t mean we don’t aim for a better life. We do need to have goals and plans. But we don’t say or think — “ This shouldn’t be this way.”

Shouldn’t is the word that keeps us stuck. Why shouldn’t it?

It actually is this way. Accept this and move on.

To really accept things you MUST stop living in the past.

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The past is gone. You cannot change it. Stop wishing you could change it.

The time has come to make peace with the past. Feel the emotions and process the past, change what you can, and then live in the present.

Make your life now the best you can.

Take responsibility for your life.

You can only change yourself. And where you are in your life is partly due to the choices you yourself made. Yes, other people can wrong you and they do and some events are way beyond our control.

Your life is your responsibility. When we blame others, we have no power. When you claim responsibility for your life and your circumstances and your feelings — that’s when you take your power back.

Own Your Shit!

Which means you need to figure out what your shit is.

For example, you have a relationship that didn’t work out? What was your role? When you figure this out, then you lessen the chance you will do the same damage in the next relationship. And you have the power to make changes.

You will never change another person. So stop beating your head against the wall.

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Remember you have the choice on how you respond.

I recently wrote about personal power, and I said this:

Your attitude, your reactions are your key to your personal power.
Working on developing positive, life-affirming reactions to times of stress will help lessen the depression, anxiety, and confusion that comes in these times of trouble.
Of course, we won’t be perfect.
The first step is to be aware of your knee-jerk reactions. Then work on putting a pause between the event and the reaction.
Over time we can lengthen that pause.
Or change our reaction.

Or as Joel Osteen says:

Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed or offended. But what you’re doing when you indulge these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness. You can choose to not let little things upset you. — Joel Osteen

There are many other ways you can work on letting negative emotions go.

Forgiving others.

This can be a lifetime pursuit but realize that holding on to anger and hurt only hurts yourself.

The thing about forgiveness is this — it doesn’t mean what happened was okay, or that you will forget. It doesn’t mean you can have (or want to have) that person in your life, ever. It doesn’t mean you allow them to influence you at all. It just means you are releasing the negative emotion and freeing yourself from the bonds of anger or hurt.

It is hard. I am working on this. Like I said in the beginning, these are things I know intellectually, but admit to struggling with in my life.

I need constant reminders to put me back on track. I have several negative emotions that I feel stuck in right now and I am aware of them. I will probably need time to get unstuck as some of these wounds are fresh. But some are old and I need to release them — let them go. For my sake.

I am mostly writing this for myself, so don’t feel bad if you suck at all of these ideas. I certainly do! Most of us do. But as we work on them, hopefully, the letting go process can begin.

Michelle💙

 

How the Art of Meditation Can Change Your Life and How to Do It!

By now we have all heard that regularly practicing meditation is one of the most effective ways to manage stress and take care of our emotions and mental state. It has become a popular, mainstream recommendation for the health of the body and mind.

When you fit meditation into your day, you bring much more of yourself to all the other hours of your day — you bring your whole self rather than your stressed-out self. — Jeff Kober

But what is meditation?

Mention meditation to someone and you might hear one, or many, of these responses:

“I’ve tried meditation, it doesn’t work for me. I can’t turn off my thoughts.”
“I’m not a yoga person.”
“That’s just woo-woo stuff — not for me.”
“I don’t have time for that, I am way too busy.”
“I’m religious, I don’t do that weird stuff, it isn’t part of my religion.” and many others…

Have you encountered any of these, or thought them yourself, when you hear the recommendation to meditate?

Many of us have these thoughts. Most people say or think at least one of these when they start or hear about meditation.

In rebuttal:

Meditation is not about the elimination of thoughts, as most of us commonly believe at first, but more about the awareness of your thoughts.

Meditation is part of the eight-limbs of yoga, yes, but you don’t need to do the physical practice to yoga to benefit from meditation.

Meditation can help us use our time more effectively, making it vital for the busiest of folks.

Meditation doesn’t have any weird “magic” or “channeling” or “woo-woo” involved. It is a science-based training of the mind.

If you belong to a religion and are scared that meditating is heretical, think of this. God asks you to pray. Meditation is taking the time to listen. All good conversations require this two-way street.


Most of us have what is commonly referred to as a “monkey mind”. What is a monkey mind? Think of a monkey, always darting here and there, never still, always curious, always looking.

This is a metaphor for our minds, always on, always thinking and searching for answers and asking those questions which our minds just never seems to stop generating.

Our thoughts are like these monkeys, running here and there, always on. Meditation is about learning to calm down our monkey minds.

Many meditation teachers speak about this wandering mind. We can think of our mind wandering as training, the more it wanders the more times we can practice bringing it back.

It is the act of bringing your mind back to the present moment that teaches and calms your mind.

The practice of meditation is simply becoming aware of our thoughts wandering and bringing them back (again and again) to your breath.

Over time you will find that your thoughts wander less. But they will always wander. You are human and that is the way the mind works.

Meditation brings attention to our thoughts. We can start to have more control over them, to a point, and thus over our emotional states.

Many books and articles have been written about meditation and I encourage you to read a few. These can help start and deepen your meditation practice.

Some books I recommend are:

  1. 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works — by Dan Harris
  2. Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life — by Jon Kabat-Zinn
  3. Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life — by Thich Nhat Hanh
  4. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment — by Eckhart Tolle
  5. Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha —
    by Tara Brach

and many more.

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Meditation is the conscious effort to slow down and listen. It is a way to change your mind. It will help you become more aware and focused.

Learning to meditate can be a lifelong endeavor and the goal isn’t a perfect meditation practice, but merely the act of practicing meditation that gives the desired benefits.

People think meditation is a huge undertaking. Don’t think of it like that. Deepak Chopra

How does meditating regularly make our life better?

What’s in it for me?

One of the reasons that meditation is a healing practice is that you must be fully present — in this moment only — which can prevent us from worry, guilt, fear and a host of other potential negative emotions. This living in the present moment can enable the body/mind to heal itself, regenerate and allows the brain to rest. Practicing mindfulness, a lifelong pursuit, will pay you back tenfold.

Some benefits of meditation are:

• Improved sleep
• Decreased blood pressure
• Decreased cortisol release (a stress hormone — flight or fight response)
• Increased concentration and ability to focus
• Increased positivity and a decrease in negative feelings
• New outlook on stressful situations
• Increase in ability to deal with stress
• Better awareness of oneself and one’s thoughts and actions
• More present moment awareness
• Improved patience and more able to tolerate others
• Enhanced creativity

Meditation may help people manage symptoms of:
⁃ Anxiety
⁃ Asthma
⁃ Cancer
⁃ Chronic pain
⁃ Depression
⁃ Heart disease
⁃ High blood pressure
⁃ Irritable bowel syndrome
⁃ Sleep problems
⁃ Tension headaches

The benefits of meditation have been written about for many years and are well documented.

Meditation can help us embrace our worries, our fear, our anger; and that is very healing. We let our own natural capacity of healing do the work. — Thich Nhat Hanh

Many studies have shown the various benefits and many physicians, health clinics, and agencies now recommend a regular meditation practice for their patients.

Ok, so meditation is good for me, but exactly How do I meditate?

There are many ways to meditate.

Find a comfortable position; sitting is the most common. Make sure your position is comfortable and sustainable. Don’t think you have to get yourself into the full lotus position here!

I often meditate just sitting comfortably with my legs up on my couch.

There are no rules. Just be aware that lying down and trying to meditate can be difficult as we usually will just fall asleep! But hey, maybe you needed more sleep!

Here are some of the most common techniques for meditation:

1. Breath awareness meditation.

This is one of the most simple ways to withdraw the senses and start a meditation practice.

Simply feel the breath as it enters your nostrils, cool and fresh. And then be aware of the warm breath leaving your nostrils. Keep your focus on the breath in and the breath out.

As a variation, some people find counting the in and out breaths helpful. For example, counting ten breaths and then resetting to zero and then begin again, counting to ten.

If your mind wanders, which it will, simply bring your attention back to your breath. It is the bringing back of our attention that is the actual training and calming of our minds.

Just begin again.

2. Mantra meditation.

A mantra is a sacred or meaningful word, words, syllables or sounds that are repeated to elicit a feeling or response. This is most useful when you partner it with a breath meditation.

On the inhale, you say the first part of your mantra and the exhale on the second part. Then the mantra is repeated over and over while you keep bringing your focus back to your breath or the words.

Some examples of mantras:

“I am” (or “So-Hum” in Sanskrit)
“Peace — Love”
“Re-Lax”
“Let-Go”
“Inhale-Exhale”
“I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.”
“Aum (Om) (Sanskrit — vibration of universal consciousness)
Countless others — make up your own meaningful phrase.

Pick a mantra that works for you, is positive and has personal meaning.

Work on just that one mantra for a few sessions, it takes consistency and time for meditation benefits to work. Mantra meditation is often less about the actual words and more about the vibrational benefits of calming sounds repeated over and over.

3. Guided meditation.

There are countless apps and YouTube videos that offer guided meditations.

Find a comfortable position and listen and follow along with the guidance.

Some apps I like are Insight timer, Calm, and Omvana. There are many others, find ones you like, relate to and resonate with!

Remember:

The important thing with meditation is just to keep on beginning again. Don’t be hard on yourself, all minds wander, just bring back your awareness.

Aim for a daily practice, it doesn’t have to be long. Try 5–10 minutes at first. You can work up to longer sessions after a period of time if you want. It’s important not to let this be a chore or a burden. It is training for your mind and the benefits far outweigh the efforts.

Meditation is a habit that will impact your life in a positive way. And remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Ever.

There’s no substitute for the practice of meditation. — Wayne Dyer

Just keep bringing your mind back to the moment. That is the training. And that is the practice.

Michelle

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Claim Your Personal Power

We all need to feel like we have some control over our lives.

However, life and circumstance can and will throw situations our way that change our plans. And this can make us feel so powerless, angry, confused, depressed and anxious.

Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.
— John Lennon

It’s good to plan for the future, our relationships, set budgets, plan for big expenditures, plan trips, careers, education and more.

But don’t be surprised if it doesn’t turn out the way you hoped.

Despite all those well-laid plans – events, illnesses, or even other people’s choices can and will change some of these plans. Many times these challenges will only delay our plans, but sometimes they change them forever.

Resiliency is the ability to bend with those changes. Resiliency is:

The ability to recover quickly from depression or discouragement. The ability to spring back.

This springing back, either to your original state — or to a stronger, more evolved state, is part of being resilient.

I wrote about resilience here and how to cultivate it:

Being resilient is a way to claim your personal power.

What is Personal Power?

First off — what it isn’t:

Power is not Force.
Power is not abuse or violence.
Power is not control.

Many confuse personal power with control. It isn’t that, ever. So what is it?

Personal power is:

*Faith in oneself.
*Faith in a higher power or energy or universe or God — whatever you believe. And that you have this with you always.
*Having the courage to have your own opinions and have the strength necessary to express and maintain them.
*The ability to look within and examine your own life, actions, thoughts and the consequences of them. In short — can you stop blaming others?
*The courage to be yourself — your appearance, your desires, your own sense of sexuality and safety; and the image you project to the world.
*Being able to maintaining your principles, values, dignity and faith — without draining your energy.

And most importantly,


*The ability to choose your response to challenges and trials that come your way.

Viktor Frankl, author of the great Man’s Search For Meaning stated it best:

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Choosing our attitude then is always part of our personal power.

As Viktor says, EVERYthing can be taken away. People can die, people can get serious illnesses or disabilities, people can cheat on you and leave you, jobs can end, money and possessions can be lost and more — but we always have the choice on how we REACT to these circumstances.

Your attitude, your reactions are your key to your personal power.

Working on developing positive, life-affirming reactions to times of stress will help lessen the depression, anxiety, and confusion that comes in these times of trouble.

Of course, we won’t be perfect.

The first step is to be aware of your knee-jerk reactions. Then work on putting a pause between the event and the reaction.

Over time we can lengthen that pause.

Or change our reaction.

This is the work of a lifetime. And working on this — not achieving perfection— but being on the path of reclaiming and owning our own power — owning our reactions and attitudes— will lead us back to peace.

Happiness doesn’t depend on any external conditions, it is governed by our mental attitude.
— Dale Carnegie

Love and Blessings,

Michelle💙

How to Find Out If Your Friends are Real

Just find a crisis or two…

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.


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 plenty 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.

I hope we all have, and can be, a true friend.

Michelle💙

Self-Care 2.0

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.

To summarize:

  1. Sleep more
  2. Eat healthy
  3. Exercise
  4. Breathing techniques (Pranayama)
  5. Friends
  6. Pampering
  7. Journaling
  8. Therapy
  9. Laughter
  10. Warm bath

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.

1. Physical

2. Emotional

3. Spirititual

4. Financial

5. Career

6. Relationships

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.

2. Emotional

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.

3. Spiritual

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.

4. Financial

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.

5. Career

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.

6. Relationships

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.

Ask yourself:

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.

Love yourself.

Michelle 💙

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