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- 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.

 

7 Paths to Peace Amidst Terror

Heather Edwards Psychotherapy, & Coaching Anger. Fear. Helplessness. Rage. Suspicion. Guilt. Despair. These are just a few of the negative emotions felt all over the world since the Paris and Beirut terror attacks last week.

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.

You want this to go away. Yet you obsess about what’s next and what it means for your future. It marks the beginning of World War 3. It’s something you didn’t foresee in your lifetime.

Questions abound. Is it best to stay home? Should I avoid the city? 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 by the horrific events of last week. It’s all too similar to what we experienced on September 11th, 2001.

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 223.4 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 ease your experience of this chaos?  

Here are a few tips for creating peace, hope, and safety in your internal world and possibly your outer world, too…

Heather Edwards Psychotherapist & Coach1. Meditate:  Sit comfortably. Close your eyes. Take three belly breaths. Tune into the sensations of your in-breath and out-breath. Notice 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. This removes the chaos and struggle and strengthens the part of your brain responsible for kindness, compassion, peace, and calm.

2. Focus on the Good: Neurons that fire together wire together. Brain studies demonstrate that what you focus on grows stronger. 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 will strengthen those feelings. The choice is yours.

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 gratitude and what you hope for the future. It can shift the energy in a positive direction.

4. Get Naked: Your physical body stores stress and trauma in the form of pain, inflammation, and disease. Release it. Have sex. 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 system. This clears the way for better coping 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. Seek Inspiration: Whether in a fond memory, a quote, speech, poem, mantra, song, or dream find the nugget of positivity that resonates with you. There is safety, clarity, and hope in the words and images that move you. Use them to transcend today’s calamity and envision a better tomorrow.

Heather Edwards, Psychotherapy & Coaching - Terror7. 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.  

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.

 

Photos courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by stockimages, imagemajestic, and Jeroen van Oostrom. 

Got Jealousy?  How to stop the downward spiral.

jealousy pictureWhen in the presence of someone taller, richer, smarter, thinner, younger, prettier, or anything else-er… jealousy has the opportunity to rear its ugly head.  Let’s face it, we can’t be all things all the time.  That would be downright boring anyway.  But what about those feelings of insecurity, self doubt, and low self worth that emerge when our defenses are low?  Let’s break them down into their composite parts and root causes.  As a Therapist and Coach, it helps to dissect emotion, its triggers, and resulting behaviors. So let’s begin with a few related outcomes…

Insecurity:

When we listen too closely to our inner critic, we naturally feel insecure and unsure of ourselves. It’s uncomfortable and can stifle us from taking risks, stepping outside our comfort zone, and stretching toward new levels of achievement.  What to do?  Challenge it!  It’s healthy to check yourself, but if you’re obsessing about mistakes made or are fearful of acting on the wrong decision, it’s time to consider other possible explanations and ideas about yourself and the task at hand.  Acknowledge your negative self talk and substitute that critical gremlin’s loud mouth with statements of encouragement and wisdom. Open your mind to best case scenario and successful endings to the story.

“The task we must set for ourselves is not to feel secure, but to be able to tolerate insecurity.” – Erich Fromm

Comparison:

When we compare ourselves to others, we are setting ourselves up for a fall.  It’s a mean trick our brains play on us.  Typically we notice the strengths of others while honing in on our own shortcomings.  When you compare the two – someone’s strengths against your blind spots and challenges – you naturally end up with unfair comparisons and a recipe for discouragement.   An example of this is, “Her hair is so pretty, I bet all the guys like her.  I’m overweight and miserable in my job.”  Say ‘hello’ to the metaphorical apples and oranges argument!  Stop and question the assumptions you make.  Catch the unfair comparisons in action.  You never really know the details of someone else’s life story and therefore, comparing it to yours is fruitless (pun intended!).

Remember the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Self Worth:

When insecurity and unfair comparisons combine, the result is low self worth.   This can be disastrous to your mental health, relationships, and personal growth.  Take a step back.  Get off the couch.  Realize your potential and the possibilities.  If you’re feeling lonely, expand your friend group.  If you’re feeling incompetent, expand your skills and expertise. If you’re feeling unfulfilled, choose an activity or interest to explore.  Identify one goal you can and will accomplish this week to get one step closer self improvement. Take a class or join a meet-up group.  It will improve your quality of life – and your self worth.  Don’t capitulate to the unwanted negative feelings.  They will loose their strength and influence when you take your power back.

“A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.” – Mark Twain

Take-Home Message:  peaceful yoga girl

You are in control of your thoughts and feelings.  Jealousy is a product of the way you think about the events of life.  When you feel the pang of insecurity, low self worth, or jealousy, pause and practice gratitude.  Switch your attention to three things you are thankful for right now, in this moment.  I’ll share mine for today – the warm weather, my family, and my cats.  Now what are yours?

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” – Cicero

“1st Image courtesy of anankkml/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

“2nd Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.