From Scarcity to Abundance – Healing after loss

heather edwards grief loss wellness“How do you want to die?” These are the haunting words spoken by her doctor after being diagnosed with stage four cancer. Three months after her passing, I’ve turned toward and through my grief seeking peace.

Grief takes time. It can feel overwhelming and eternal. But it eventually changes. The cloud lifts. Clarity and lightness return.

Our love for those who have passed before us never dies and perhaps that’s what keeps us moving forward. They’re never really gone. They live on in memories, moments, and a felt sense of connection to them.

While sitting on the edge of loss and wholeness, I’m struck by the flood of ideas about cultivating a robust authentic life. It’s an integration of real science from multiple areas of psychology, neuroscience, trauma treatment, somatics, and mindfulness.

It takes effort to embody them sometimes. But that’s natural, too. From time to time, we are all challenged by real trauma and loss that interrupts our natural flow toward health and happiness. So today’s blog is a free association about the science behind wellbeing. Take a moment with each concept and consider ways to incorporate it into your everyday life.

Love

Abundance

Passion

Connection

Meaning

Movement

Wellness

Happiness

Authenticity

Showing up

Trust

Courage

Mind body

Engagement

Purpose

Flow

Yoga

Gratitude

Relationships

Silence

Meditation

Nature

Stillness

Reflection

Mindfulness

Notice

Observe

Let go

Drop in

Presence

Groundedness

Openness

Non-judgement

Hear

Sense

Experience

Positivity

Light

Choose

Imagine

Act as if

Family

Friends

Support

Animals

Sunsets

Music

Nutrition

Wholeheartedness

Boundaries

Yes

No

Truth

This moment

Vulnerability

Freedom

Breathe

Love


Since our bodies and minds naturally move toward wholeness, healing, and wellness a concerted effort can only accelerate the process. I’m not suggesting ignoring or numbing the painful feelings. That’s part of the hard work. It’s necessary to feel them. It makes the other side of those feelings more joyful when they’re reached. The contrast, the conflict, and the competition of emotions beckons us to examine them and welcome them.

heather edwards grief loss happinessIn the words of Rumi…

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.

meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,

translation by Coleman Barks

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.

—————————————————————————–

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

Thanks Giving: Donate your coats

thanks givingLast Saturday, my husband and I were outside enjoying a 70 degree afternoon among the crisp fallen leaves of autumn. It was magical. The warm, full sun cast dancing shadows on the ground through the trees. Acorns, a light cool breeze, and the fresh scent of earth filled our consciousness. It hardly felt like a November afternoon. We were visiting family for an early Thanks Giving.

Eight hours later, the wind picked up, the temperature dropped 30 degrees, and sleet began to fall. We were hardly prepared for this dramatic change. We were away for the weekend and he didn’t have a coat. I only had warm-weather shoes and no socks! It was a stark reminder of the brute strength of winter.

It called my attention to those in need. “On a single night in January 2015, 564,708 people were experiencing homelessness nationally — meaning they were sleeping outside or in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program.”, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.  New York Cares reports that today more than 60,000 New Yorkers spend their nights in shelters, and 25,000 of of those individuals are children. 

I’m thankful to have a roof over my head and a warm winter coat. It’s a luxury that not everyone experiences every night. I am truly grateful.

Since living in NYC, I’m confronted by the harsh reality of homelessness the moment I step outside. There are two men and a woman who have become regulars in the park next door. While we sleep comfortably in our beds, they sleep on wooden benches, covering themselves with blankets and plastic, or nothing at all, no matter the weather.thanks and giving

Due to this, and inspiration from my generous and loving late mother-in-law, it’s with a heavy and hopeful heart that I am sponsoring a Thanks Giving coat drive with Oasis Day Spa through New York Cares beginning November 28 to December 10, 2016. It’s a small gesture that can make a significant difference in the lives of our neighbors who could die without it.

Our goal was 25 coats, – but since we’ve almost reached it before the actual start date through social media – we’ve increased our goal to 50 coats. New York Cares reported record numbers of donations this year just in time for the blizzard in January, “Collecting 100,000 coats enabled us (NY Cares) to distribute coats earlier in the new year, delivering 70,000 coats before a blizzard hit NYC in January 2016.” Let’s do it again! Express your thanks through giving.

This kindness not only helps the less fortunate but it helps you, the giver. Positive psychology proves that acts of kindness improve our sense of well-being and life satisfaction. It’s one of the seven habits of happy people.  Martin Seligman demonstrated through his research at UPenn that people who help others through charity, volunteering, or simply assisting a neighbor or coworker with a task experience greater happiness. Others suggest that lowered depression and longer life expectancy occur as a result of giving.

thanks givingSo, warm your heart and spirit by increasing the positive emotions, safety, and well-being of others. If you’re local to NYC, drop off your new or lightly used coats at my office – Heather Edwards Mental Health Counseling, 1 Park Avenue, Inside Oasis Day Spa, New York, NY 10016. If you’re outside New York City and want to help, contact your local charity to give to those in need.

From the bottom of my heart, I’m wishing you and those you love a happy, warm, & healthy Thanksgiving!

Until next time,

Heather xo

5 Steps to Happiness Through Xin – Heart & Mind

Heather Edwards HappinessThe quest for health and happiness today seems like an uphill battle. Each day, the national and international issues gracing our headlines challenge the equilibrium of our hearts and soul. Breaking news alerts of yet another terrorist attack, policemen murdered in cold blood, and the battle between Trump and Clinton for the White House burdens our psyche, sending shock waves through our collective central nervous system. It’s unnerving and overtime, with repeated acts of horror and chaos, it depresses 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.

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.
  1. 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. 
  1. 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?Heather Edwards Happiness
  1. 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.
  1. 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 judgements 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.

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.

——–

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

Retrain Your Brain – Better Stress Management

Heather Edwards stress“I can’t take it anymore!”

“I need a vacation!”

“Maybe I’ll sell everything and move to an island!”

Have you had similar thoughts?  I know I have.

This. Is. Stress.

We ALL experience stress. It’s NORMAL in our highly opinionated, fast paced, multi-tasking, master of all domains world.

In fact, I just had a perfect storm of stressors in my life that created exhaustion and overwhelm. But I’ll spare you those gory details.

What is stress??? The dictionary definition is: A state of mental or emotional strain resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.

Sound familiar?

Your nervous system is activated.

This is your fight or flight reaction.

All functions aimed at survival take priority.

And stress kills, right? Wrong!

Research is demonstrating that it’s what we do with stress that kills us.

When there’s a perceived threat in our environment, stress happens – and then our bodies resume normal functioning when that threat is gone.

In the case of poor coping, that stress response lingers, leading to an extended activation of your nervous system and potential health consequences – like heart disease, diabetes, and depression.

It’s imperative that you hit the reset button after the stress trigger has left the building.

The catch is that our brains are evolved with a negativity bias.Heather Edwards stress

We naturally scan our environment for potential danger.

It’s kept us alive as a species since early man.

And It makes our brains function like Velcro for the bad and Teflon for the good, according to Rick Hanson, author of Buddha’s Brain.

In other words, the bad sticks and the good slips away.

Since We don’t face the same physical threats to our survival as early man – like being chased down 5th Avenue by a rhinoceros- we must work harder to hold onto the good and let go of the bad.

Here’s one way to do it…

It’s a technique using the neuroscience of retraining your brain.

We know that our brains are very plastic and can be shaped, literally by the way we think.

When you spend time focusing on the good, you begin changing your brain’s physical structure.

You develop new neural pathways, that naturally notice the good unfolding around you.

It’s just like taking a walk in a meadow.  Imagine a winding pathway through the grass. The more you walk that path, the deeper and wider it becomes.

The neural pathways in your brain develop the same way. The ones you travel most often become the most ingrained.

So travel the ones that bring you health, positivity, and peace.

My favorite way of doing this is by writing in a 3 step journal.

1.The first step is – what I’m feeling today. Check yourself and write about that.

2.The second step is – what I’m grateful for today. Take stock of what you already have. This creates an abundance mindset.

3.The third step is – my intention for today. Focus on what you want and walk that pathway into the fresh day ahead.

Heather Edwards stressIt takes about 5 minutes. When you commit to this it  jump starts positivity.

Your neurons fire in ways that feel good. The pathways to happiness are reinforced.

It’s uplifting, empowering, and grounding.

And Despite the happiness saboteurs around and within you, it invites THE GOOD to stick around longer, and for peace and calm to become your pathway of choice.

 

photos courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by nenetus, vectorolie, dan.

3 Ways YOU are Like Your SMARTPHONE

Heather Edwards Oasis SmartphoneUnfinished business. Open loops. Running Apps. Depleted energy. Less productivity. Divided attention. Ugh. It’s downright overwhelming when you take a moment to realize how many tasks are competing for your time and focus every minute of every day. Ironically, ignoring them only creates more stress, and tackling them all at once creates overwhelm.

So how are you like your smartphone?

  1. You’re Multi-Talented  – After all, we are the creators of phones and apps. You can manage your homefront, a job and freelance work, your own business, self care, social commitments, romantic curiosities, attend that class at the gym, and learn an instrument in one fell swoop.
  2. You’re Uber Productive – You can do laundry while listening to a podcast and writing a blog, calling your mother, emailing your boss, launching your project, walking the dog, and leaping tall buildings in a single bound. Well, maybe not the last part.
  3. Your Battery Power (Energy) is Limited – Regretfully, you can run out of juice. 🙁 Welcome to the downside of your multi-talented, uber-productive self. Keep reading for tips on preserving your energy so you can take on the world.

According to David Allen (my new hero), author of Getting Things Done, every undone thing depletes your energy. Even when your attention is not focused on those open loops or unfinished business, it continues to live in the back of your mind draining your psychic battery. This is your subconscious mind continuously poking you. “Hey! What about that thing you you started? And that idea you had?”.

Heather Edwards Coach Oasis SmartphoneThink about that smartphone. What happens to the battery when multiple apps are running in the background? Yeah, the ones you forgot about when something more urgent popped into your conscience. That’s right. Your phone slowly but surely loses power, dies, and then you panic. The same thing happens to your energy.

If you’re like me, during the course of your day, you’re constantly multi-tasking. It seems like you’re uber-effective and staying atop the task mountain. But, in reality research shows that you lose at least 20% of your productivity when your attention is divided between multiple tasks.

It’s counterintuitive but, in order to maximize productivity – slow down, take a breath, and finish one task before beginning a new one. (click to tweet!)

Finish what you’ve started. Close the metaphorical mental Apps.  Here’s how:

  1. Take an inventory of your unfinished business. Brain dump it onto paper.
  2. Decide if it’s actionable, can be filed for another day, or trashed. Do it.
  3. Consider how much time each actionable item requires. Be realistic.
  4. Open your calendar. Designate uninterrupted blocks of time.
  5. Schedule it. Commit.

This might take an entire day, several days, or a portion of a few days to check them off your list and clear them from your subconscious mind. But when done, you’ll have a full bar of battery power.

Heather Edwards Psychotherapy Coaching OasisCheck your smart phone apps right now. Count the open apps – email, facebook, instagram, pinterest, safari, evernote, twitter, Game of War… they’re draining your battery. If this analogy mirrors your state of mind, then close the apps. Take a moment to pause and choose one thing to focus on. See it through. Enjoy a renewed clarity and actual sense of accomplishment. Now you can get started on the next item.

 

 

 

Photos courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by nenetus, nokhoog buchachon, artur84.

Toolbox for Health and Happiness

happiness toolboxMy excitingly educational cousin, Jessi Haggerty, RD asked me to share my toolbox for happiness and stress management during the cool and blustery months of fall and winter. Schedules, expectations, and priorities change with the waning of the long and happy-go-lucky days of summer. It’s an exciting lifestyle shift for many, and an anxiety provoking one for others.  How does one maintain the relaxed, positive glow of summer throughout the other three seasons?  Follow these tips for a quick tune up when your psychic engine starts to sputter…

10. Positive Affirmations.  

Look out for #1.  Remind yourself of your worth.  Find a mantra that gives you energy and a forward focus.  I like these… I am basically alright as I am.  I am free to make mistakes.  Shoulds, oughts, and musts are irrelevant.  My basic job in life is expanding my awareness. – from Self Esteem by Matthew McKay, PhD & Patrick Fanning.

9.  Friends and Family.  

Nurture bonds with those you love and trust.  Express gratitude.  Develop relationships with the people important to you.  A strong support system can get you through the tough times.   Don’t be afraid to lean on them or seek out their guidance.  Remember that you would do the same for them in their time of need.

8.  Purpose.  

Identify what is most meaningful to your core self.  Define your values.  Find an organization to join that contributes to a higher purpose.  Martin Seligman, PhD and the school of Positive Psychology identified this as one of the necessary components of well-being.

7.  Keep it Simple.  

When feeling overwhelmed by chores and responsibilities, break them down into smaller steps.  Focus on one thing at a time. Make a checklist, organize your calendar, set timers and reminders on your phone.  Relying on your memory can create stress.  Get it out of your head and into a simple system.  Remember the words of Bill Murray in What About Bob, “Baby Steps”.

6.  Accomplishment.  

Notice the hundreds of things you complete in a week. They all count!  Did you make your bed today?  Check.  Feed the cats or kids?  Check.   Got up and went to work?  Check. Give yourself credit for all your accomplishments, large and small.  “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau

5.   Mindfulness.

Awaken your inner Buddhist.  Be aware of your mind, body, spirit connection.  Pay attention to how you feel emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  Acknowledge, validate, and adjust your thinking, feeling, and activities, if needed.  Take five minutes per day to meditate and focus on breath.  Schedule quiet time.

4.  Flexibility.

Beware of the inevitable snafu in your plans!  When it happens, pause and adjust your expectations.  Remind yourself that it will be okay.   Change is good.

happiness toolbox II3. Engagement.  

Get involved in an activity that gives you energy.  Find that sweet spot where time flies by without recognition.   What do you love to do? If you don’t have a hobby or interest outside of work, find one.  Explore the arts, sports, music, or gardening!  Lose yourself in the flow.

2.  Positive Thinking = Positive Feelings.

This is the premise behind neuroplasticity of the brain. Our brains have a negative bias.  Despite this, we can affect our feelings and thoughts by shifting our attention to the positive. According to Rick Hanson, PhD this has a global effect on organizing the brain as a whole.  Take in the good whenever you can.  Soak it up. “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” – Buddha.

1.  Exercise and Diet.

Exercise has a positive chemical effect in our bodies.  It boosts feel-good hormones such as endorphins and reduces the stress related hormones like cortisol. It builds bone density, muscles, and energy.  A healthy diet has similar effects on cholesterol, blood pressure, and organ health.  The two combined increase self esteem, well-being, and stamina.

Use one or all ten of these tips to get through the stressful moments in life. Use them everyday to maintain momentum and keep focused on being your best. It can be tricky deciphering the ebbs and flows of your demanding life, but don’t fret. There are a myriad of resources available to you.  Keep your toolbox within reach.