Finding the FEELING of Appreciation

Remember when gratitude journals became popular over 20 years ago? I tried keeping a gratitude journal many times over the years. Even though I was very thankful for the many blessings that I had, it was more of an intellectual exercise for me, without much feeling involved. Fast forward to today.

It took me a while to get this, but I have learned that in order for me to have a heartfelt session with a gratitude journal, I must go beyond just observing all the wonderful things in my life. I must go to a place that is not as familiar to me. I write down or think about what I am grateful for until I can PHYSICALLY FEEL it inside of me. When I write down something I’m grateful for, if it doesn’t give me a physical feeling, I redo it until it does. I either go deeper into the details, or let that one go for now and move on to appreciating something I can physically feel. When I do this, I am in the process of creating the physical and emotional feeling of gratitude, appreciation or thankfulness. The result of this is that it makes me feel good which is usually followed by smile.

So, here’s an example of what I’m talking about. I could say that I am thankful for my beautiful backyard and that would be true. However, now I choose to focus on the details because of the physical feelings it evokes inside me when I do. I think about the way the sun and the shadows show up in a lovely silhouette on my deck and lawn, the gorgeous array of colors that have a multihued backdrop of green that accents them. I think about the freedom I have to sit on my deck in a comfortable chair. I notice how the leaves and branches on the trees move when there’s a gentle breeze, making them look like they’re alive. I am grateful to nature for allowing me to enjoy it’s artwork in the form of stones and rocks in my backyard. They have so much character. Can you have enough rocks? And most of all, my favorite thing is my birdbath. It’s not really the actual physical structure. For whatever reason, I find it absolutely delightful to watch the birds fluff their feathers in the water over and over again. It makes me giggle. I think for me it symbolizes pleasure and freedom. I like to think they are flying away refreshed and spruced up for their day. Who knows, maybe it leaves them with a more pleasant feeling too.

When was the last time something made you giggle? Is there anything around you right now that you could stop and appreciate for a moment until you physically FEEL the feeling that it creates? If you’d like to take a chance on feeling happier right now, why not give it a try? You may feel like you just fluffed your feathers.🐥

With love, Jackie

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Loving-Kindness💜

Would you like loving-kindness to follow you wherever you go? Who wouldn’t right? There are very few guarantees in life, but here is one I can give you. When you begin to train yourself to think, speak and act with loving-kindness toward yourself (first) and others, it will follow you wherever you go.😉

With love, Jackie

Do You Have a Reason For Not Allowing Yourself to Feel Good?

Are there things that have happened in the past or are there current events in your life that are frequently bothering you? How can you possibly begin to change any of it right now? If you can change the situation, and you would like to, can you do it now or make plans to do it? If you can’t, are you willing to consider changing the way you think about it?

Life is like the weather. It alternates between sunny and warm, light or heavy rain, hurricanes, tornadoes or a spring breeze. Do you want your sense of well-being to be dependent upon the pleasantness of the “weather”, or would you rather feel good rain or shine? If we choose to focus on the dreadful weather we experienced in years gone by, we might miss the lovely summer day that is offered to us now.

You might say, “But that flood or storm (hurtful life experience) was memorable! Am I just supposed to forget about it?” No, we probably wouldn’t forget about it. The question is, does remembering it, re-living those feelings and talking about it serve a purpose that is helpful to you NOW? Does it make you feel better? Does it enrich your life? Does it make you more loving or kind? Does it make you more prepared for unpredictable weather conditions in the future?

The only reason, in my humble opinion, to spend time thinking or talking about past experiences is to get the lesson that they are offering us, but then to move on. For me, if I don’t move on, I am stuck in the past, bringing my past experiences into the choices I am making in this moment. If you want to know if that is a good thing for you or not, ask yourself how it makes you feel when you think about it? If it feels good to you, it’s obviously beneficial, if not, it’s bringing negativity into your life today. Once we are aware of that we now have a choice. Each choice will create a different feeling inside of us.

If we want to feel good and leave the negativity of the past behind, are we willing to consider RETRAINING our thoughts. Our thoughts dictate our actions and reactions.  Choices like blaming others, anger, complaining, rationalizing/making excuses, not taking care of ourselves, or holding any thoughts that limit us in any way will need to be escorted out (or blown up 💥) if we want to feel better. They can be replaced by something that smacks of more kindness toward ourselves, like accepting 100% responsibility for our lives, compassion toward ourselves and others, and making time to care for ourselves. All of these choices can begin with the smallest of steps. But the most important step is your intention or desire to begin to change things!

Well, you might wonder, do I really have a choice about what I’m thinking? I am here to tell you the answer is unequivocally YES! You can purposely choose “the road less traveled” and change the negative thoughts or feelings you are currently experiencing into something that feels better? It’s your life, your choice. If you like the way your life is going, stay with your current thoughts. If you want something better, why not change your thoughts to match your dreams, one small step at a time.

With love, Jackie

Are You Worth It?

If you want to find out, take a moment to ask yourself some of the following questions;

Do you take time for your precious self?

Do you feed yourself healthy food?

Do you make time to exercise your body? 

Are you true to yourself? 

Do you make time to pursue your own interests?

Do you have a career, a life, a partner or friends you love?

Do you take a moment to change critical or judgmental thoughts about yourself into kind supportive ones?

Have you been able to release any negative feelings you harbor inside about anything or anyone so you can feel better?

In the past my answer to the majority of these questions would have been “no”. How do you feel about your answers? Look around at the different parts of your life, your relationships, your job or career, your free time or lack there of, your finances, your health and fitness. There you will see reflected what you currently think you are worth. If you are not happy with the reflection in one or all of those areas in your life, you can change how you feel about it now by changing your thoughts. How do we change our thoughts?

Instead of looking at your current situation in any one of those categories, you can change your focus to what you’d rather have. How would you like it to look? Spend a few minutes thinking about how you would prefer it to be. Which one feels better, thinking about the way it is, or the more desirable way that you are envisioning? Go with the one that feels better, ALWAYS, simply because, anything we do from a place of feeling good turns out better. It seems so obvious, doesn’t it? It took me decades to figure this out and put it into practice. I was more focused on what I considered “reality” or my current situation at the time, which was not helpful and did not leave me feeling better.

Many of us spend a lot of time giving our thoughts and energy to things that don’t make us feel good. Why? Because we don’t know how to change it or that it is even possible to change it. I never even considered that. What if we decided to do something radical and change our thoughts? What if we picked better feeling thoughts on purpose and replaced the old ones that did not feel good? Who does that? I do now, would you like to join me?

With love, Jackie

Freedom

There was a moment in time when I realized I was beginning a new chapter in my life. The next thing that occurred to me was that I did not want to carry any anger or resentment with me into this “new place”. Think of it like you’re moving into a new house and you only want to bring with you the things you love, the stuff that lights you up. You also want to get rid of the stuff that weighs you down.

The most powerful thing I ended up doing was adopting a new attitude. I decided I was going to refuse to allow anger into my life. I didn’t want to waste one more minute living with anger. So, I did something radical for me. I made a new choice to automatically let go of any anger as soon as I detected it. I deliberately release it so I don’t react in anger. I decided that no matter how unbelievable it may seem, we are all doing the best we can. Besides, being angry about something that has already happened started to seem like a huge waste of energy.

As I researched a way to ditch my anger constructively, I found many people who had already come up with their own solutions. In this blog I’d like to share with you some steps I used, bits and pieces of other people’s strategies, in case it may help your heart heal too. You can use it as often as necessary to free yourself from something mildly irritating or something that has a huge impact on your life.

  1. Find a quiet place or time when and where you can be alone, in your home or car, in nature etc. Somewhere you cannot be disturbed or heard. Allow about 30-60 minutes.
  2. Make a list of anyone, including yourself, that you have anger, resentment, hatred or negativity toward for ANY reason. It doesn’t matter if the people are dead or alive. Also include any situations that you are still upset about. It doesn’t have to make any sense. Write them all down without filtering your thoughts, with the intent that you are going to shred or destroy your writings later. (Afterwards, go ahead and do that if you choose).
  3. It can be helpful, but it’s not necessary, to pick a chair, a tree, a picture of a person or situation to be the “receiver” of your anger that is going to come out in a minute. This object is like a “stand in” for the person or situation you are angry about.
  4. Imagine yourself or that person or situation there with you, as represented by the object in #3 above. Blast away at them/it verbally and uncensored for all the hurt you have experienced because of what happened, and how what happened impacted your life (remember this has nothing to do with making sense or being reasonable right now). Do this with each person or situation, one at a time. Give a voice to all of your hurt feelings; irritation, anger, rage, hatred, and fear. Feel free to cry, curse, kick a chair, punch a pillow etc. The idea here is to get all of your hurt feelings out of you.

When you feel you are done, ask yourself one more time if there’s anything else you need to say. You may want to give yourself a quiet moment until you feel ready to continue.

  1. Create an image in your mind. Imagine that at some point (in life, or surrounding death), each person will be shown a life review. What (we or) they did, why, and the impact it had will all be made clear from this otherworldly perspective. From this new perspective, it would be unimaginable for someone to think, do or say anything that might cause harm to another.
  2. If you are ready, and there is no expectation that you are, see if you can look at the “stand-in” object, for yourself or this other person who caused you harm, with eyes of compassion. You now know that these types of hurtful choices toward ourselves or another come from a painful, hurt place inside (whether we know what it is or not). Holding onto the “wrong” we’ve done or experienced is a choice and only causes harm to our precious selves. Doing this only continues to hurt us, and is not kind or loving. It also keeps us stuck in a “victim” mentality.
  3. If you feel ready, you can now choose to let go, to release yourself from the past hurt and move forward into your future with a lighter spirit. Gently send these old, harmful memories away with a kind thought or prayer for your own improved sense of well-being. If you are able, and there is no expectation that you do this, extend the same thought or prayer for the person who harmed you. We do this as a gift to ourselves (see blog “Letting Go” Dec. 5, 2015) because we no longer choose to keep past pain alive. We are done with it.

I know this process could seem like a stretch or a welcome step. It’s completely up to you if you want to try it. No one will stop you from holding onto bitterness or resentment but how does that benefit you? How does it make you feel? You can choose to let go of it. Remember that the reason we hold onto the anger and bitterness is because we subconsciously think it keeps us from getting hurt again. I can tell you from my own experience, that’s just not true. Love, contentment or happiness cannot exist where anger and resentment reside. So, what’s your choice, to live with thoughts that continually keep anger alive or to let it go and make room for feeling at ease, delighted, happier or more loving?

With love, Jackie

When Your Heart Aches

Lately I have been going through some tough times with my autistic son. His behaviors are shifting, making it more difficult for his caregivers and me to deal with him. It wasn’t always this way. We have had many years of stability in the past. This change in his behavior threatens his quality of life.

I stumbled upon an encouraging way of looking at my current situation in a blog that I follow (marcandangel.com). Though the ideas it contains are things that I am very familiar with, hearing it put another way, by another person helped quiet my aching heart the day I had the good fortune to come across this. I share it with you now in case it might be helpful to you in a similar way, now or perhaps in the future.

Details aside, whatever is going to happen will happen, whether you worry or not. So just do the best you can right now, and find peace in knowing that you are. No further judgments are needed. Sometimes you’ve got to go through the worst of times to get to the best. And sometimes the best of times come sooner than expected.” -Marc and Angel

I am a strong believer in the power of our choices. I’ve learned that I can put my focus wherever I choose. Focusing on the “problem” is what hurts. It awakens past pain and future worries. Instead, focusing on the above thought eases the pain and makes taking the next small step easier. It also leaves me feeling better. If you are in a place where you are not feeling emotionally or physically well, look at where you’ve put your focus and know that something that feels better is just a thought away.

With love, Jackie

A Bump (or Boulder) in the Road

So, you’re doing great on some new change you are wanting to implement in your life. You are feeling good about all the new steps you’ve taken. You are happily beginning to build some great, positive momentum. Then unexpectedly, something you didn’t anticipate or don’t like happens. Now what? For many of us this type of experience is the kind that usually derails us from our new chosen path. It has the potential to land us right back into our old patterns or habits that don’t serve us. (If  they did we wouldn’t be trying to change them.)

How did that “something” have the power to knock us off our new course? It happened because we resisted it when it happened instead of accepting it when it happened. Resisting it means spending time thinking about how we wished it hadn’t happened and perhaps why it shouldn’t have and how awful it is that it did. Since we can’t change anything that has already happened, how does this help us move forward? Right, it doesn’t. Wishing things could have been or could be different keeps us stuck in old negative patterns of thinking and doing.

One common examples of this is weight loss. We are beginning to make some new choices that support our desire to change our weight. We are even starting to see the scale start its much anticipated descent. Then we get overly busy with life, we have car problems, someone we love is ill, etc. We then unconsciously choose to go back to our old pattern of comforting ourselves with food. Why? In my opinion there are at least three reasons.

  1. Our new patterns haven’t had enough time to become our new default way of doing things. (see last blog titled “Rewiring“)
  2. Our “Emotional Needs Come First, Whether We Know it or Not“. See blog by this title, 3 October 2015
  3. Instead of focusing on the solution to the new challenge or situation, we focus on the problem itself. Focusing on the problem will never make us feel better or solve the problem. So why do we spend so much time there? Culturally that’s what we were taught to do. That’s what the people around us did and by default, it became part of our operating system too.

What if we’d like to change that? What if we don’t want to resist the people and events in our lives? What if we want to continue down our new path that is beginning to bring us more of want?

If you are as tired of getting derailed as I was, here’s one answer. We can train ourselves to become aware of these feelings, and allow ourselves to feel them when we encounter them. Let’s say that we are on our constructive path as mentioned above and all of a sudden, “our button gets pushed”. The one that signals to us that something undesirable has happened. Bingo, we FEEL it. That’s the pivotal moment. This is our chance to create something new, a new response instead of reacting as we have in the past. This is not second nature to us for sure. However, by training ourselves to “catch it” as it’s happening, we now have the chance to create a new outcome.

Had we responded automatically, as we usually do, we would have created the same old result that didn’t leave us feeling the way we’d like. The point is that there is a huge payoff here. By changing how we think about a challenging situation it gradually loses its power to thwart our momentum. What could be better than that? This only takes a moment and over time, it will take less than that. It’s our thoughts about the event that determine what we will choose. Those thoughts are a choice too. If it’s not you who determines your thoughts, who does?

If you are in the process of making positive changes in your life the best advice I can offer you is to be kind and gentle in your thoughts. If you find yourself derailed, ask yourself how you might approach the situation differently next time, then give that a try. Remember, any kind of change is a process that usually takes time. So why not enjoy the journey? What’s the alternative?

With love, Jackie

Rewiring

The other day I was rearranging my bedroom and I moved my laundry basket. It had been in the same place for one or two decades. Though I was clearly aware that I moved the basket, out of habit I kept going to the spot where the laundry basket had been. Why did I do this? The old pattern of “how to go to the laundry basket” was wired into my brain after doing it for so long and my new connections hadn’t had sufficient time yet to form.

The same wiring takes place regarding our feelings and reactions. We have all developed patterns in how we think, feel and physically respond to ideas, words, people, things and situations. For example, think about what happens in your body, how you feel and what your thoughts are when you smell chocolate chip cookies baking or when you see or hear an angry person shouting at someone. These patterns are wired in our brain and have become automatic.

Because of this, if we’d like to change one of our old patterns, whether it is going to the laundry basket or perhaps to stop worrying about things that might happen in the future, we need to change our thoughts long enough so that we can begin to rewire our thought process and create a new pattern, (one that leaves us feeling better). To see what your old patterns are, watch how you respond to any situation that causes a less than desirable emotion, response or outcome.

“Change doesn’t take place without rewiring of existing connections or creating entirely new connections. This is why we literally “become” what we think about most of the time…If we frequently think depressing thoughts we are building a database for depression and experiencing everything that goes with it.” –Don Carter MSW, LCSW

The same is true of feeling good. It’s the result of focusing on some believable, positive feeling or idea. It could be something that delights us, or leaves us feeling peaceful, hopeful or enthusiastic. This is where the saying “fake it till you make it” came from. The idea is to keep the focus on something that supports us instead of our (old) negative thoughts. Overtime those new, positive, repetitious thoughts will create new connections in our brain. It’s like building a muscle.

It takes conditioning, many repetitions and a certain frequency, to build muscle. It’s not possible to do it a few times and have a strong muscle from then on. In both cases your body is building something new even though you may not be able to see the results yet.

There are several ways to go about changing patterns that aren’t getting you what you want. One way is through affirmations or positive, believable statements. For example, “I will take responsibility for what I can control in a situation and let go of what I cannot” or ” I may not have the fit body yet that I want but, if I keep taking steps in that direction, I will get there.” Another way is to put reminders around your environment. The idea is to use objects that make you think differently, sticky notes, note cards, pictures, change your screen saver, anything that supports what you’re trying to accomplish.

So, if there are any small or large changes you are trying to make, don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t take shape in a short period of time, keep going. As you can see, the rewiring process takes time and repetition. The only way you won’t get there is if you stop.

“Your brain is the most modifiable part of your whole body, and you can rewire your brain by how you use it every day.” -Sandra Bond Chapman

With love, Jackie

Keep Going Until You Get to “Yes”

Do you have a project at work or at home, a habit you’d like to change, a room that needs to be cleaned or organized, something that needs to be written, shopping, household chores, New Year’s resolutions etc. that you have been putting off? Maybe it seems too big or overwhelming and it’s not something you’re really excited about doing. Here’s how I tackle those situations.

I break it down into pieces, either by time or number of tasks. Then I start asking myself “would I be willing to do this much?” until I hit something I want to say “yes” to. Here’s an example. The same process can be applied to anything. Once you have a process in place to deal with things that are “less than appealing”, that you want to get done, you can use it for anything large or small.

There’s a room in my house that I want to make into an office. Every surface in that room is covered with paper that I need to make a decision about. If that would’ve been clear to me or easy I would have done it already. Now, in order to turn this cluttered space into usable, appealing space, I need to change what was going on in there.

My first feeling when I looked in there was “ugh”. As I had put things in there over the months I had told myself I would “deal with it later” well, later was now. I was honest with myself. Thinking about spending a day or an hour doing this was a “no” for me. I asked myself how about 15 minutes, “nope”. I broke it down even more. I asked myself how I would feel about dealing with one to three things every day or every other day. That was an “ok, I can do that.” I told myself that could be as simple as three pieces of paper, shredding old tax forms, or finding a home for a book or magazine that I had intended to read but that was not happening.

After a few weeks of doing this, something interesting shifted. I began to look forward to the unveiling of my space. As I spent just a few minutes every day doing the easiest things I could find, I started to see my desktop take shape. That began to motivate me to see even more of it. Pretty soon about one third of the office was usable and attractive. I started looking forward to my three things a day. That little unveiling of just tiny bits of space began to motivate me. There was a little excitement in the idea of “what’s next?” There were days that, when I had the time, I would do more than three things because I was actually enjoying myself.

The moral of this story is you don’t have to like everything about a project or situation to get started. You can start with what seems easiest or most “doable” to you, something that you feel little or no resistance to. You can start as frequently or infrequently as feels comfortable to you.

The idea is you are starting as opposed to staying in a place of inaction. You never know what moving out of an old mindset, like “I don’t want to think about that”, into a newer one, “maybe I could do one thing”, will bring. It can be like a tiny surprise. You are also cracking open the door of possibilities when you go from “no” to “yes” even with the smallest of things. As usual, don’t take my word for it, give it a try and see for yourself.

With love, Jackie

Adding Richness to Everyday

In the past I would get up in the morning, and like a horse race when the gun goes off, I would begin my daily to do list. The goal was to get as many things done as possible and deal with everything else that came my way successfully. What I realized was, as quickly as things were checked off, more things were added. The to do list was never ending.

I can’t honestly say I don’t have a “to do” list anymore. I am quite the list maker. However, I have incorporated some new choices into my morning and evening routine. I now check in with myself regarding my choices and what those choices are creating in my life.

I begin each day asking myself how I feel. If I feel good or peaceful, I take a moment to appreciate that. If something is bothering me, I take the time to write it out, to clarify what I’m feeling. Then I ask myself two questions;

1. How would I prefer to feel and what is the smallest thing I could do to start moving in that direction today?
2. What do I intend for my day? This isn’t really so much about what I’m going to do. It’s about HOW I’m going to do it. What attitude do I consciously choose to bring to my day? Some days I might want to move through my day in kindness or pay special attention to being patient. Perhaps on a day off I might want to bring a more relaxed or playful attitude. My thought is to take a moment to reflect on what I might create throughout my day with my attitude. Without taking the time to figure out what I’m intending, it’s easier for me to unconsciously slip into worry, judgment, impatience or anger.

At the end of my day I take a moment to see if my day was reflective of my intention. If not, without judgment of myself or anyone else, why not, what happened? What might I do differently next time? I think about what I gave to others and what I received. Kind or unkind on this day, I bless everyone involved and myself.

This practice of checking in with myself evolved overtime, starting with 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening. Overtime, this brought more peace to my life so I decided to allow more time. There is now a richness to my days that I didn’t have before. I find myself increasingly aware of my thoughts, words, feelings and actions. It feels like I’m watching myself as I’m speaking to someone else. I find myself observing, am I being kind regardless of the other person’s choice? Are my thoughts without judgement? Am I stating clearly and in the best way possible what I mean to say?

If the idea of checking in with yourself sounds appealing, why not start experimenting with something that feels good to you? If you’d like, you can start with my process or better yet, choose something that feels more like you. Consider allowing yourself to be flexible as you mold it into something just right for you. On a more practical level, as one of my clients mentioned, we can just ask ourselves what’s working, or feeling good, and what’s not?

“Don’t become too preoccupied with what is happening around you. Pay more attention to what is going on within you.” – Mary Francis Winters

With love, Jackie