Psychology Today: 5 Steps to Happiness

Heather Edwards Happiness

Psychology Today – Mark Banschick, MD. Article By Guest Blogger, Heather Edwards Reclaiming Happiness

Guest blogger Heather Edwards has a five important tips that’ll help you align with your heart’s desires.

The quest for health and happiness today seems like an uphill battle. Each day, the  issues gracing our headlines challenge the equilibrium of our hearts and soul. The politicsof the moment burdens our psyche. Many worry about jobs, paying for college or for rent; and the world continues to show its openness to violence, depressing our sense of peace, love, and hope for a better tomorrow.

We’re further misaligned by our own personal demons. Whether it’s illness, relationships, or finances, each of us has a complexity of individual struggles.

At times, it’s overwhelming.

Reclaiming Happiness:

Let’s go back to base camp. Hit the reset button.

Clear your mind of the negativity that surrounds you. Refocus. Try these five basic acts of goodness for your body and mind to revisit the quest for health and happiness in the short and long term…

  1. Honor your body. When you need rest, rest. When you need hydration, hydrate. When you need movement, move. Ignoring your basic physical needs leads to illness overtime. Sleep cleanses the neural pathways in your brain. Water cleanses your blood stream of toxins. Healthy meals provide essential nutrients to your organs, muscles, and bones that keep them strong. Don’t skip meals because you’re too busy.
  2. Surround yourself with people who lift you up. Healthy relationships support healthy lives. You need to feel supported, loved, and connected to those around you. Get inspired. People who dream, aspire, and grow help you do the same. Shed the toxic relationships in your life. They will inadvertently kill you through negativity and stress.
  3. Focus on gratitude. Noticing what you already have creates a sense of peace in your life. When you stay focused on the positive, you naturally shape your entire outlook toward the good around you. The way you think affects the way you feel. The way you feel affects the way to behave. The way you behave affects your character. So who and how do you want to be?
  4. Get out into nature. There is evidence that staring at a tree reduces anxiety. It takes you out of your head and into the moment. Nature is awe inspiring. That’s an expansive, open, gracious experience. Go to the beach, look at a flower, google pictures of a mountain. It’s calming and can reset your mindset.
  5. Mindfulness = Heartfulness. Be truly present. In Chinese, heart and mind are the same word – xin. It is believed that if we are functioning with an open mind, we are also functioning from the heart. When you let go of opinions, wants, and judgments you experience freedom. Approach each moment with curiosity, openness, and generosity. Accept the reality of what is, instead of fighting against what you already know to be true. Just be.

These actions won’t directly change the circumstances of your life, but they will change your relationship to them. Just a moment of peace, love, and joy each day cumulatively strengthens your body and psyche. In the end, it makes a healthy heart and mind. And that makes the world a better place for everyone.

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Heather Edwards, MA, LMHC, is a therapist and life coach located in New York City. She can be reached for consultation at: 347-515-3966

www.NewYorkPsychotherapyandLifeCoaching.com

Follow me on Twitterhttps://twitter.com/nyctherapy

Psychology Today: 5 Ways to Happiness

Heather Edwards Happiness Psychotherapist CoachTime to get inspired. 5 Ways to Happiness.

This Psychology Today piece is by guest blogger: Heather Edwards. It is meant as wind behind your sails. It’s poetry, an action plan and modeling.

And, yes, it’s time to get going.

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Throughout the years, people have asked me how I do the intensive work that I do. This question perplexes me. I wonder the opposite.

How could I not do what I do?

Power Of Inspiration:

I am inspired by the healing, wanting, dreaming, changing, and transforming that happens in the therapy and coaching room everyday.

The person who leaves my office is not the same person who entered it 45 minutes earlier. They have a new insight, idea, peace, or focus to carry with them into the world.

Yes, it is sometimes difficult work. And it is always challenging. It ebbs and flows. But when you meet someone where they are — whether it’s a high point or low one — it validates them. It invites them to go somewhere else – somewhere better with you.

The Art Of Listening:

Non-judgment. Open awareness. Empathy. Compassion. Belief. That’s what I bring to the room.

Sure, I have a toolkit of therapy and coaching techniques, but those are rendered useless without the former as a foundation. With Carl Rogers as my teacher, I learned how to listen. When you truly hear someone, you can help someone.

Manifest Positive Intentions:

My mother is a birdwatcher, wildlife painter, and lover of life, family, and friends. I consider myself to be very similar in my passions. I’m not in the woods with binoculars, or in my artist studio with a paintbrush, but I’m in my office with eager people ready to stretch their wings and fly. They want to create. They want freedom. They want joy, purpose, and relevance. So do I.

It’s exhilarating, unpredictable, and yet, grounding.

Stay Grounded:

Trust. Authenticity. Courage. Hope. Intention. Abundance. Expansion. That’s what happens in the therapy and coaching room. It’s moving. It’s life changing. It’s what keeps me there and invites me back.

Balance:

Two sides of the same coin… Frustration/Hope…  Sorrow/Love…  Fear/Safety… And so on…  Spin it however you want. Whichever side of that coin faces up when the spinning stops, remember its source. A positive place, a wanting of light.

Embrace what you want.

Go deep down inside your gut.

Live. Love. Glow. Give.

Gratitude. Abundance. Positivity.

Believe in it. Embody it. Make it your truth.

 

Photo Source: iStock

Psychology Today – Better Grades

Heather EdwardsHere’s another Psychology Today publication with Dr. Mark Banschick. This was posted here on January 10, 2016. It’s chock full of simple tips for acing your semester!

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You are back from break, and school has been a problem, with too many distractions, friends, sports…sometimes a boyfriend or girlfriend, or even a break-up.

It is not working.

If you’re in college or grad school, no one’s supervising, which is great, butwhen you get distracted, it’s all on you. Even if you are in high school, it’s best to be self motivated.

So, now as you pick up the pieces from last semester and committing to a program of success.

Consider some tips from guest blogger,Heather Edwards(link is external).

Create a Routine:

Establish a study time, place, and structure that works from the start of the school year. The earlier you begin a routine, the easier it will be to stick with it as a matter of course.

Set aside a specified block of time each day to review notes, complete assignments, prioritize your work, and get tutoring if needed. Avoid counterproductive behaviors like going on-line to social networking sites, texting friends, and leaving your study space.

Stop distracting behaviors – like checking emails, before they become habits.

Minimize Distractions & Obstacles:

What is getting in the way of your effective learning? Identify the pitfalls. Studies have shown that loud noises and flashing lights are a huge external distraction of focus and attention. Find a study space that reduces these.

Set up timed email and Facebook notifications, or turn them off on your phone and computer. Silence your ringer, wear ear plugs or head phones.

Are you distracted visually by other students in class? Are you feeling rushed or constantly late? Is your mind wandering when it needs to pay attention? It can help to sit in the front of the classroom, arrive early, and participate in class discussions. Take a deep breath. Focus your attention on your attention. Avoid getting caught up in thoughts about your friends or weekend plans.

Proactively identify and determine strategies to reduce these snafus.

Study Tips:  

Stay organized – know your due dates. Prioritize your time by being aware of deadlines.

  • Review notes immediately following class – it will help encode the new information, or otherwise make it stick.
  • Highlight what you don’t know so you can return to it for further exploration.
  • Study in peer groups – the discussion and support can improve retention.
  • Write notes on flashcards.  Review them in alternating order.
  • And, get adequate rest.  A wakeful mind is a smarter mind.

Believe in Yourself:

Remember that you can do it!

Self-discipline is the hardest part. Notice the other things in life to which you apply your full focus and intention – like watching a movie, playing a sport, or listening to a friend. You can apply that same dedication and effort to grades. It might not come as naturally, but with practice and reduction of avoiding behaviors you can develop a a strong study habit, and thus better grades.

Reward Yourself:

This is the foundation of Behavior Modification. It’s what inspires and strengthens behavior patterns. Study time is simply that – a behavior you want to reinforce.

Set a goal for yourself – and a special treat when it’s complete. When you finish reading a chapter or writing a page of a paper, call a friend, go for a bike ride, or have a tasty snack. You deserve a prize for your accomplishment. It will give you something to work toward in the short term and will payoff a hundred fold in the long term.

Psychology Today – The Narcissistic Injury

This is a re-post of my article published in Psychology Today on December 7, 2015.

Heather Edwards Psychology Today

You Feel Stung, and Badly:

Someone says or does something that hurts deeply. You feel unseen, betrayed, invalidated, or simply criticized. You may feel it’s unfair or that you deserve it. Either way, you are having a tough time recovering.

It eats at you. The hurt somehow sticks. You feel ashamed that you can’t just let it go. Or respond in a healthy way. So you either nurse the wound privately, or you lash back in an over-reaction.

  • This is the Narcissistic Injury.
  • It’s common – and you need not be a Narcissist to feel its sting.

In this post, Heather Edwards(link is external) gives us ways to recover.

OUCH! It hurts!  Like a psychological punch in the gut.

It can feel like an existential crisis, an emotional assault, or a plain and simple embarrassment. You approached a situation or a person with an, “I got this” attitude and then Whamo!, it took a hard right south. You feel stupid, ill prepared, and less than worthy.

Your best friend calls and you are happy to help with whatever she needs. After all, you’re a good listener. You pick up the call, and instead of a warm hello…you get a nasty critique about your personality. “It’s always about you.” Or, “I just can’t believe what you did to me yesterday.”

Hi…You Suck.

It hurts.

You would have been fine if you knew a criticism was coming…but you didn’t, and it hurts because its partially true, and you weren’t ready. A psychological punch in the stomach.

The wound cuts deep. You feel deflated. It’s painful, because you trusted. The flip side for some of us who feel good about ourselves is the tendency to take criticism too hard.

The response is either self questioning or pointed rage.

  • Both are over-reactions.

You are studying for an important exam.

You put in days upon days and you are prepared. You walk into the exam…”let’s slay that beast.” A week later you find out that you did miserably. Your confidence drops into the toilet, feeling depressed.

You wonder if you even have what it takes to succeed.

  • Sometimes egos take a beating when they are too expansive.

It is okay to flub an exam. It is not a sign of moral weakness or even ineptitude. You are narcissistically wounded, and feel hurt to the core. It is as if your confidence was your enemy, like your trust was in the previous example.

It’s empowering to feel strong and confident:

It’s what you want, but how do you temper it so that it’s balanced, wise, and not overbearing? After all, you don’t want to be perceived as cocky, self-absorbed, or the “n” word – narcissistic! Ugh!

This is a conversation that comes up in the therapy and coaching room. Most want to know where to draw the line between self-care and self-ishness – and between pride and a braggardly pretention.

All emotions serve a purpose:

While ego keeps you moving forward, it can also defeat you. So be strong and self-assured, but season it with genuine regard for others and an open flexibility. If ego lies on a continuum of possibility, with extreme humility at one end and extreme pride on the other, then there’s a healthy amount in the middle that establishes balance.

It’s good to experience a sense of accomplishment, worthiness, comfort, and pleasure in who you are and how you indulge yourself:

Extreme pride, however, can lead to uncaring behaviors, or a bulldozer syndrome. Extreme humility can lead to victimization – or a doormat syndrome. Neither are attractive, healthy, nor desired. And both are destructive to relationships.

Here are a few tips for finding the sweet spot in your ego…

  1. Practice empathy – Take a walk in someone else’s shoes. Imagine what their experience of this moment is like. Consider the impact of your words and actions on them. If you’re unsure, ask them how they feel. Really listen.
  2. Get crystal clear on boundaries – Know what’s okay and not okay with you. Get comfortable with saying, “No”, “Yes”, and “Let me think about that”. Be assertive, not passive nor aggressive.
  3. Hit the reset button – Start an “Improve & Remove” list. Notice what you want more of, and what you want less of in your life. Be proactive. Develop a plan. Take action.
  4. Be open. Be aware. Stop judging. – Just be present. Drop into the now. With a mindful awareness of your values, intentions, and goals and an unconditional acceptance of others, you can stay grounded and keep your ego in check.
  5. Focus on the good – When you’re feeling the metaphorical smack down, get up &brush yourself off.  Remind yourself of your worth and lessons learned. Discover thewisdom in the experience and vow to do better next time. Don’t fall prey to fear, judgment, and self doubt. Those too need to be acknowledged, measured, and balanced.
  6. Know your truth – The more internalized your values have become, the easier it is to confront, deal with or simply walk away from something that is truly wrong.

In a 2011 Study by Ronningstam E. cited by NIH, there are “two sides of character functioning [in NPD], which include both self-serving and self-enhancing manifestations as well as hypersensitivity, fluctuations in self-esteem, and internal pain and fragility… they co-occur with depressivity and perfectionism.” This demonstrates there is a painful internal experience of NPD, not just the outward observable traits by which it is typically known.

Finally, as evidence of the universal struggle with managing ego, hear from the celebrated and wise among us:

“Because of its phantom nature, and despite elaborate defense mechanisms, the ego is very vulnerable and insecure, and it sees itself as constantly under threat. This, by the way, is the case even if the ego is outwardly very confident.” – Eckhart Tolle

“Never let your ego get so close to your position that when your position goes, your ego goes with it.” – Colin Powell

“All bad qualities centre round the ego. When the ego is gone, Realization results by itself. There are neither good nor bad qualities in the Self. The Self is free from all qualities. Qualities pertain to the mind only.” – Ramana Maharshi

“Every normal person, in fact, is only normal on the average. His ego approximates to that of the psychotic in some part or other and to a greater or lesser extent.” – Sigmund Freud

“Whenever I climb, I am followed by a dog called ‘Ego’.” – Friederich Nietzsche

Psychology Today- Coping with Terrorism

Heather Edwards, coping with terrorismThis article on Coping with Terrorism was published in Psychology Today on November 29, 2015 by Mark Banschick and Heather Edwards…


The bloodshed seems nonstop.

In the last few weeks, tragedy struck Beirut, Paris and Mali. A Russian airliner was bombed out of the sky over the Sinai Peninsula. We watch as hate spurs stabbings in Israel, and far away Milan.

The Global Terrorism Index:

According to a study by the Australian-based Institute for Economics and Peace(link is external), global terrorism is on the rise. That’s probably not a surprise to you.

  • Terrorism related deaths are up 80 percent last year.
  • The economic cost of terrorism is up 61 percent.

We read the newspapers and watch the news. By and large we are all safe.

Yet, threatening images are invading our lives, and we all must try to cope. Some of us go into denial. Some keep vigilant, others become news junkies.

Fear does not equal weakness. It is a biological response designed for self-preservation; trying to anticipate and survive. But there is a line that marks an over-reaction.

In this piece by Heather Edwards(link is external), we are guided to regulate our emotions, deal realistically with the risk of danger, and continue to live life fully.

Denial. Anger. Fear. Helplessness. Rage. Suspicion. Guilt. Grief:

These are but a few of the negative emotions felt all over the world since the Beirut, Paris and Mali terror attacks. We try not to think, we become hyper-vigilant, or we feel guiltybecause we’re okay when someone else isn’t.

Fight-Flight, denial, revving up, ignoring…what do you do?

Like a suction cup, you’re glued to the TV, Internet, and radio:

You are scared. And you’re angry that you’re scared. Layering feelings upon feelings. It means they won. Terrorists want us to fear each other, going out, and seeing people from different groups. Terrorism breaks down culture, and makes us tribal.

It is an attempt to kill the best of democracy.

You want this to go away:

Yet, you obsess about what’s next and what it means for your future. Is this the beginning of World War III? It’s something you didn’t foresee in your lifetime. Are these attacks a harbinger of things to come, or will they fade out into history?

Questions abound. Is it best to stay home?

Should I avoid the city? Can I fly to France, Turkey…to Iowa? Are the subways safe? Can I freely discuss my concerns? How do I know if the person next to me is a terrorist, or not?

Here in New York City, people are re-traumatized:

It’s all too similar to what we experienced on September 11th, 2001.

In Washington DC, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, the pain of 9/11 does not remain permanently buried. You worry that a new era of terror is coming.

According to PTSDUnited.org, 70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives…

“This equates to approximately 223 million people. Up to 20% of these people go on to develop PTSD. As of today, that equates to approximately 44.7 million people who were or are struggling with PTSD. An estimated 8% of Americans − 24.4 million people − have PTSD at any given time. That is equal to the total population of Texas.”

Since you can’t change the events that have already happened, and you can’t control what other people do, how can you cope in the face of such terrible unknowns?

Here are a few paths to peace, hope, and safety in your internal world and possibly your outer world, too…

1. Meditate:

Sit comfortably. Close your eyes. Take three belly breaths.

Tune into the sensations of your breath, and only what you hear, feel, smell, taste, and see. Allow thoughts to pass through your mind without judging, evaluating, or solving anything. Simply observe your experience. Gently allow the present moment to pass through you and coexist with you in its entirety. It removes the chaos and struggle and strengthens the part of your brain responsible for kindness, compassion, peace, and calm.

2. Focus on the Good:

Brain studies demonstrate that whatever you focus on is strengthened. If you want to feel calm, focus on calming thoughts. If you want to feel safe, focus on safety thoughts. If you want to feel happy, focus on happy thoughts. When you focus on fear, anger, and hatred you strengthen those beliefs and feelings. The choice is yours.

Remember, from a calm place you are best able to make good decisions.

3. Write it Out/Draw it Out:

Get those negative thoughts out of your head. Write them down. Scribble or draw them. Dump them onto paper. Journaling is cathartic and clarifying. It provides relief from distress and a safe place to channel negative emotions. Balance it with notes of gratitudeand what you hope for the future. It can shift the energy in a positive direction.

4. Get Naked:

You must live normally. You must find a center.

So have sex or otherwise exercise. Your physical body stores stress and trauma in the form of pain, inflammation, and disease. Release it. Go to yoga. Take a walk. Play the drums. Get a massage. Climb a tree.

Movement helps express and relieve tension. It keeps energy flowing in your body and supports a healthy nervous and immune system. This clears the way for better coping strategies to emerge.

5. Reach Out:

Call a friend, Counselor, Pastor, relative, or other trusted person for support. Remember you are not alone. When it’s too difficult to manage your emotions and put healthy coping skills into play, take action!

There’s no shame in being proactive about your mental health.

Without it, everything else suffers.

6. Get Treatment if Needed:

As mentioned above, millions struggle with some variant of PTSD, which can be triggered by a terrorist attack. If you find yourself regressing or having panic attacks when hearing about one of these terrible attacks, do consider getting help.

Terrorism is terrifying. All the more so for those who have been traumatized in the past. Much can come to the surface.

7. Seek Inspiration:

Whether its a fond memory, a quote, speech, poem, mantra, song, or dream find a nugget of positive energy that resonates with you. There is safety, clarity, and promise in the words and images that move you.

Use them to transcend today’s calamity and envision a better tomorrow.

8. Turn toward those negative emotions. Acknowledge them. Validate them:

They are real. But then temper them, distract yourself from them, channel them, look for the middle ground. Life doesn’t only exist in hardships, extremes, and struggle.

While chaos is happening around you there are beautiful things unfolding, too. Discover them. In modulating your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, you impact not only you, but also the greater good. Embrace courage, conviction, and belief in peace, love, and freedom.

9. Stay Abreast of What’s Happening:

Terrorism is making itself known to us. Politics aside, it is wise to take your centered self and better understand the dangers, or the lack thereof. The best protection is awareness. And, the best action is preventative. That being said, take advice from trusted sources, and live your life nevertheless.

We have much power within. And, it can guide you to making sound choices.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see.”

Leading by example inspires others to do the same. You can institute positivity in this time of chaos.

By finding your center in this scary moment, you can be of service to yourself and others.

And, that is for the good of all.

 

Psychology Today: 4 Ways to Clear Your Mind

By Heather Edwards – Guest Blogger

As I sit down to write this blog, I’m struck by three common themes in conversations with clients, family, and friends. Most of us have clarity about how we want to feel – happy, free, grounded. But instead, we end up frustrated, overwhelmed, and burdened. We get stuck and confused about how to internalize fleeting positivity in an enduring way.

In the quest for the seemingly elusive states of calm and life satisfaction, several common toxins manifest. But you can change them! Or better, clear them out.

Take stock of your life and notice which ones prevent you from living fully. Here are thetop four culprits. It may be time for a cleanse.

Toxic Relationships:

Let’s face it: Relationships of all sorts – friendships, family, and colleagues – can become toxic. Judgments, opinions, and expectations can kill camaraderie. Is there someone in your life who limits you? Do you feel boxed in when you’re with them?

Mind you, this is their box, not yours. When you notice a constriction rather than expansion of your ideas and actions, you’re probably in a toxic relationship. Your gut feeling can be the purest read of your interactions.

Replace Negative With Positive:

Consider ways to shift the negative energy of unhealthy relationships by setting boundaries, saying what you want, or even cutting ties.

Be with the people who support you, believe in you, accept, and encourage you. Imagine what life would be like if nobody stood in your way.

Toxic Beliefs:

How are you getting in your own way? When you listen closely to your internal monologue you might hear, “I can’t do it. I might fail. It’s too hard. I’m not strong enough, smart enough, or pretty enough.” Move toward your power, not away from it.

Say hello to fear, doubt, and uncertainty. Challenge it.

Replace it with power thoughts. Be a bitch (or the equivalent) and kick it to the curb! You don’t deserve to fall prey to the negative thinking. You can do anything you want to do. It begins with believing you are capable, worthy, and enough.

Toxic Over-Commitment:

Guilty as charged!

I’ve experienced all four of these toxins in my life, but this is the one I struggle with most. We all complain that there’s too much on our plate. We’re over obligated and sometimes over responsible.

C’mon! When you already have a meat, grain, vegetable, fruit, and dash of dairy on your plate, you don’t need more potatoes!

So take a breath. Step back. Evaluate the big picture. Even at the risk of letting someone down, start removing the extra beans. Prioritize. When you’re overextended, you won’t be successful in any of your commitments. Instead, you’ll be bloated and tired.

How many of these four toxins exist in your life? When you mindfully notice the myriad of distractions, limitations, and influences in your life that get in your way, you can honestlyevaluate what serves you well and what doesn’t.

Give yourself permission to say “no”, set boundaries, and make room for change.

You’ll be happy you did.

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This piece was a contribution by guest blogger, Heather Edwards(link is external), MA, LMHC, who is a therapist and life coach located in New York City. She can be reached for consultation at: 347-515-3966

www.NewYorkPsychotherapyandLifeCoaching.com(link is external)

Follow me on Twitterhttps://twitter.com/nyctherapy(link is external)

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Psychology Today – Regret: 8 Ways to Move On

Regret, Feeling Stuck and Breaking Free
Post published by Mark Banschick M.D. on May 01, 2015 in Psychology Today.

Whoopsie!  You screwed up royally.

You behaved in a way that negatively impacted you, a situation, or the people you love. You can’t let go of the guilt and self loathing for what you did. You believe you must be a bad person. You’re feeling stuck, undeserving of love and happiness, and downright fraudulent. You’ve convinced yourself you’re a monster.

The negative thoughts and feelings that accompany the memories of that-thing-that-you-did are creating more problems. You’re damaging yourself – your low self worth causes increased stress and depression. You’re damaging your relationships – believing you don’t deserve to be loved actually builds walls between you and the people most important in your life – it blocks genuine intimacy.You’re damaging your career, health, spirit, and future happiness by holding onto those negative thoughts, opinions, and judgments about yourself.

So how does it benefit you to continue the daily self deprecation? Well… it doesn’t.

Let’s hear what Heather Edwards has to tell us about overcoming regret. We all make mistakes, and it can eat away at us. Consider eight ways to move on.

The Past Impacts the Present and the Future:

Since we can’t change the past, we can focus on transforming the present moment and positively impacting the future.

  1. Accept that humans are fallible creatures. If you are reading this, you are part of the species. You will make mistakes – some big, some small. Your regret demonstrates that you care. This is a good thing. Prolonged regret however, can interfere with all areas of your life – relationships, career, health, etc. Find your mantra.  Believe in it. It might sound something like this, “I am a fallible human. I make mistakes. Nevertheless, I am loving and lovable.”
  2. How am I benefitting from self hatred? If you, the situation, or the people you love are not benefitting from your self-loathing, then stop it.  Do something else. What would be better?  Consider what you really want – happiness, love, acceptance, achievement, belonging, generosity, gratitude. Focus on that. Stop “should-ing” yourself. Stop rehashing the unchangeable past!
  3. Catch the negative self talk in action! It can seem so automatic that it’s not noticed consciously, at first. Slow down those negative messages. Hear your internal monologue. Do not accept those statements as fact. Deliberately challenge them and change them to positive statements. Perhaps even the opposite thought is closer to the truth. When I say to myself, “I’m an idiot! I never should’ve done that!” the resulting feeling is shame. When I say, “Whoa, I could’ve done better. I’ll try something else next time.” The result is empowerment to strive harder in the future.
  4. What triggers those negative thoughts?  Do certain people, situations, or memories trigger the negative self talk? Prepare ahead of time with your mantra and affirming statements so that you are empowered to stay strong when confronted by them. Practice deep breathing, positive imagery, or take a time-out to regroup and rebuild your inner core. “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” – Alice Walker
  5. How do my thoughts affect my feelings and behaviors? Buddha, Norman Vincent Peale, Gandhi, Lao Tzu, William Shakespeare, Miles Davis, Steve Jobs, Carl Sagan, and Albert Einstein all recognized the power of thoughts! They shape our intentions, feelings, motivations, and behaviors. Make your thoughts work FOR you, not against you.
  6. Focus on gratitude. Start a journal. Write about three things each day that you value and appreciate. Spend more time and energy thinking about the positive than the negative. You’ll notice a gradual shift in feeling calmer, freer, and happier.
  7. Who am I and how do I want to be? Embrace your positive qualities. Pause and take stock. How did you get to where you are in life? What attracts people to you? What makes you funny, loving, reliable, smart, interesting, or a multitude of other desirable things? Own up to your values and contributions. They exist. Cherish what makes you special.
  8. Genuinely apologize and forgive yourself. Regret and resentment keep you a prisoner of negative thoughts and emotions. Allow yourself the freedom to accept your imperfections, mistakes, and lapses of better judgment. Apologize to those affected and trust that you will be a stronger, wiser person going forward. “To err is human, to forgive, divine.” – Alexander Pope

Learn Something Useful:

In regards to that-thing-that-you-did… well, without mistakes, you aren’t living life. Without mistakes, you aren’t growing, stretching, and changing. Without mistakes, you aren’t trying new things and exploring new ideas. There is no perfect human being. Let it go. Allow it to be part of your past. Start fresh now. Focus on the future and the life you want!

The Value of Mistakes – Four Teachings:

  • “Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” – James Joyce
  • “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” – Mahatma Gandi
  • “We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future.” – Steve Maraboli
  • “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.” – Rita Mae Brown

 

Psychology Today: Overcoming Fear

Heather Edwards Overcoming FearThis article was featured in Psychology Today on January 7, 2015.  Click here to see it on PT!  
Get Past Your Fear:Psychology 101 teaches students everywhere that besides food, water, and air, the most basic of human needs is SAFETY. Just watching the news can be traumatizing.  News and media build their audience by sensationalizing real and/or perceived threats to their viewers’ personal and public safety. We’re easily captivated by the shock and horror of natural disasters and man’s relentless capability to commit heinous acts (like terrorism or videos of beheading etc.).Headlines can scare us, like the recent massacre in Paris. They grab our attention, shake us up, anddare us to let go. We must be able to learn what we need to know, and yet live our lives.

Our psyche also carries fears. Some people are frightened by the possibity of rejection, others by the dissapproval and still others fear disasters of some sort.

What do you do with the barrage of threats that hit you every day? Where do you find refuge? How can you create a sense of peace and live in an optimistic way when you’re bombarded by fears from both the outside and inside?

  • No place to run; no place to hide.

Here are a few suggestions for keeping your feet on the ground, your head lifted high, and getting-on-with-it amidst the chaos – and dangers – of everyday life.

Enjoy Positive People.

Scary things are in the world, but so are good people. Feed off the energy of those good souls and their attitudes. We feel happier around happy people. Find the people in your life that encourage the experiences and state of mind you crave. Strengthen those relationships. Let them know how much you value them. Replay the positive messages you’ve heard from those you love and respect. Believe in yourself.

Recall the revitalizing messages that give you energy when you hear the voice of fear, self-doubt, or criticism in your head. Write yourself a letter of encouragement. Practice being a friend to YOU.

All you need is love. It’s a great line. And, it helps a lot.

Meditate or Pray.

Take a time-out to redirect your thoughts to the present moment. Be mindful of your existence in the immediateenvironment. Focus on your breath and how it feels filling your lungs and belly, leaving your body through a slow exhale. Notice any tension in your body as you breathe. Notice surrounding sounds and smells and let them go. Five minutes each day may truly help you feel more at peace and less stressed out.

Or, if you are person of faith, find a place to pray. Talk to your maker. Let your imagination allow you to know that He or She cares and is there in your life. Let your fears be lifted by the power of a loving God. Or, just say a thanksgiving prayer, and be cognizant of all that you do have. Breathe deeply and let your creator touch your heart.

Both prayer and meditation have been shown to relieve anxiety.

Relish Happy Moments – Past, Present, and Future.

Write about them. Spend a few minutes each day reminiscing about good times and future plans and goals. This can change your brain structure in positive waysWriting about cherished memories and ideas strengthens the neurological pathways responsible for positive-thought processes. It also gives you another way of appreciating them. Our brains naturally attend to negative aspects of our environment to keep us safe. Retrain your brain to notice the joyful, empowering ones more easily!

Accept that Fear is a Feeling.

Bad things do happen in life, but they may not happen to you. When anxious, notice your feeling. Label it. Let it go. Use your imagination to allow feelings to drift by like a cloud in the sky or a leaf on a stream. Don’t get caught up in that feeling. Simply notice it, name it, and let it go. That moment of emotional distance from your feelings can result in a more peaceful, productive, problem-solving state of mind.

Celebrate Each Day.

Appreciate the people, places, and activities that feed your soul. Notice even the tiniest of pleasures. Be an active participant in life. Let others know that you value them. You’re not alone in feeling negative feelings. It’s a normal part of life. That’s what makes it so important to demonstrate gratitude and nurture the sources of your well-being at every opportunity.

Laugh & Smile.

The act of smiling forces a chain reaction of muscular, hormonal, and neural activity that is associated with happiness. It therefore is difficult to hold onto negative feelings when smiling. Laughter is associated with strengthening the immune system due to the physiology involved. Here is some information about this…http://www.yalescientific.org/2011/05/can-laughter-be-therapeutic/

Try smiling right now! It can actually lift your mood.

Distract Yourself.

The more time and energy you devote to fearful or negative thoughts, the more power you give them. The effect can be stifling for positive behaviors. Do what makes you smile. Go for a walk. Spend time with old friends, family, or neighbors. Treat yourself to a show, dinner, massage, or yoga class. Do the opposite of negative thoughts and behaviors. You deserve to feel good!

Stay Grounded.

Truth is, there are things to be frightened about. The world is not perfectly safe, and intelligent precautions are part of living a good life. I put on seatbelts out of love for myself and my family, and I would do so even if there was no law demanding it. Living life with safety in mind, is not the same as living in a state of fear.

So, find solid ground. Enjoy life, feel close to those you love, recognize that fear can make things bigger than they are and accept that we can control much less than we might think. There is freedom when fear is put in its place.

 

Psychology Today – Power Thoughts that Change Lives

Heather Edwards Power ThoughtsThis article was originally published in Psychology Today on January 4, 2015.  Click here for link!

Making a Fresh Start:

Whether you kicked metaphorical a** or languished in distraction and misdirection, a fresh start for an abundant life is on the horizon.

  • In fact,everyday offers a real opportunity.

So, let’s get ready for new beginnings with this new year. Let go of the frustrations, pitfalls, or unexpected roadblocks that occurred in 2014.  If it was a good year, use your accomplishments – no matter how small or seemingly mundane – as fuel for a BREAKTHROUGH year in 2015.

The Power of Intention:

EMBRACE intention. BELIEVE that you can and will make steady gains toward a more fulfilled life. Let go of anger, fear, and regret. CHOOSE to focus on the good. Take your POWER back. CHANGE one thing today that will make tomorrow and next year better. START small but consistently. Just start. Use your ENERGY wisely. Define WHO AND HOW you want to be. DETERMINE your path. ENJOY the journey. If what Buddha said is true, “What you think, you become”, then begin thinking more positive and inspiring thoughts.

Ten Power Thoughts:

  1. Infuse life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope.  Make your own love. – Bradley Whitford
  2. Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later. – Og Mandino
  3. Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground. – Theodore Roosevelt
  4. Set your goals and write them down. Now you’re one step closer to achieving them. – Richard Branson
  5. A jug fills drop by drop. – Buddha
  6. Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. – Thomas A. Edison
  7. It’s more fun to experience things when you don’t know what’s going to happen. – Louis C. K.
  8. Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy. Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives. – Tony Robbins
  9. You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. – C.S. Lewis
  10. The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change. – Carl Rogers

From Mind to Action:

What now? Start imagining a life that feels exciting, peaceful, and yet, inspiring. Grab a pen and jot down your ideas. Uncensored. Free-associate all the things in life that you love. What do you notice? What themes emerge? Those are the people, things, and activities that bring you the most joy. Make 2015 about that. What one step can you take today to spark the forward trajectory?

Taking Care of Problems:

And, it you are held back by depression or anxiety, an uneven relationship or a job dilemna, consider taking the active step to get the help you need. Sometimes the greatest action is in repairing what’s getting in the way!

A Case for Wonder:

Welcome wonder, accomplishment, and uncertainty into your life. Seek novelty. It demands your attention and seemingly slows down time. It requires use of all five senses, which result in a here and now experience. This awareness influences your being. It develops a grounded and inspired baseline – you choose whether positive or negative. That experience sews the fabric of awareness and satisfaction. Use it to discover and actualize your best self.

Your spirit is more powerful than you realize.

Psychology Today – Saying Goodbye to Hurt

Hurt

Lingering resentment from things that have gone wrong is hard to shake. Whether it’s the result of a bad break up or a job loss, it’s best to find some resolution.

It would be wonderful if we all got exactly what we wanted, and when we wanted it.  But, the hard truth is that good things often take a lot of time and usually a few set backs along the way.

Once you’ve made a strong commitment and things still don’t work out, how do you pick up the pieces and carry on?  To find your center again, you’ll have to muster the strength to let go of negative feelings and shift your attention to a world that is more positive.

So, how do you get that betrayal or toxic boss out of your head?

Here are seven useful steps.

Start by noticing your experience of the situation:

How does it affect you? What are your thoughts? What are your feelings?

What’s happening in your body? Instead of looking outward for a quick fix look inward. Pay attention. Care for yourself. By watching your body and internal dialogue you can become aware; and its useful. If you start spinning out, you can notice it and reach out for some help. If you are down, you can talk about it. And, if you follow your breathing and slow down, you may just start to feel more grounded.

Catch your internal monologue in action:

The way we think affects the way we feel. Are those self-statements blaming, judgmental, or critical? Practice slowing those thoughts down by saying them out loud at an awkwardly slow pace. Breathe. Notice how they lose power when stifled in speed. Choose one statement and change a word or two in it to shift its meaning to a positive or neutral one. Say that statement slowly five times. Breathe. Notice the sense of relief this creates.

Acknowledge and validate your feelings:

Are you feeling angry, betrayed, or unappreciated? Those feelings are real!  They are a natural result of the events that occurred and how you thought about the situation. Even when events take an unfortunate turn, it is possible to find a nugget of wisdom, positivity, or self-growth in that experience. First, accept how you feel. Say, “I feel hurt!” Own it. Don’t fight it. Through a process of self-acceptance, a letting-go of those difficult feelings can occur. The more you deny them and “should” yourself, the more energy you give to the self-defeating thoughts and feelings.

Drop the word “should” from your vocabulary!

It implies guilt or wrongdoing. It may be true that you made a mistake. We all do, from time to time. It’s a fact of the human condition. Nobody’s perfect. Instead of blaming yourself, ask yourself what you could have done better. Your self talk would sound like this,  “It would be better if I had…” instead of “I shouldn’t have done or said this or that!” This new self statement acknowledges the blunder and turns it into a motivating statement for improvement rather than blame.

Notice your body:

Take a few moments to be still. Take three deep grounding breaths into the bottom of your belly and exhale completely. Do a body scan, beginning at the top of your head and working down through your torso, through your arms and legs and to the tips of your fingers and toes. Is there tension or discomfort anywhere? Some people feel a tightening in their shoulders and neck, others feel a knot in their stomach, and sometimes a clenching of fists or jaw occurs. This is where we store anxiety and stress. Practice simple breathing exercises for 5 minutes each day with special attention to relaxing and releasing those tense places.

Grieve Your Loss:

If you have been hurt or rejected there will be grief going forward. You lost a job, or a good friend, or the stability that you craved. Maybe you lost hope…for now.

Grief involves denial, anger, depression and then acceptance. Sometimes it involves forgiving, either yourself or someone else. It may shift over time from one feeling state to another. It’s grief and its normal. Over time grief allows our souls to heal. When done right, grief provides us the healing to move on. You will find your strength again.

Finding a Spiritual Way Through the Hurt:

Now, back to the terrible ex or the mean boss… well, trust that Karma is real and give that resentment up to the universe. It’s not benefitting you to hold it. It may, in fact be damaging you. The more time and energy you spend on negative thoughts, feelings, and experiences, the more ingrained they become in your DNA and brain structure. Let it go, like water under the bridge.

There is something bigger than our hurt, than our grief. This insight does not come quickly. And, it may be fleeting. But, over time, the hurt will diminish and you will become yourself again.

In the words of Buddha, “The mind is everything. What you think you become.”

 

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This piece was a contribution to Psychology Today by guest blogger, Heather Edwards, MA, LMHC, who is a therapist and life coach located in New York City. She can be reached for consultation at:

www.NewYorkPsychotherapyandLifeCoaching.com

Follow me on Twitter! https://twitter.com/nyctherapy

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