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

What is Love?

Love. Heather Edwards

Love is... Heather EdwardsThis Valentine’s Day I’m challenged to answer the question, “What is love?”. Recent personal events have stretched and profoundly changed me in beautiful and unforeseen ways. Because of this, love has a broader, richer, more complex meaning than before.

So when I’m asked the question, “What is love?”. Its definition extends well beyond a Valentine’s Day celebration of attraction, sexuality, partnership, and mating. While I appreciate that, it goes much deeper.

It’s an expression of give-and-take, mutual support, sometimes giving more than you knew you could, truly being there for someone else in their darkest hour, accepting what may be difficult to see, and accepting love in its many forms when it comes back to you.

Where do you see love? In heart shapes in the clouds, a kiss between lovers, or a mother preparing dinner for her family?

How do you experience love? Do you notice butterflies in your stomach, a warmth in your heart, or a calm awareness of your safety and wellbeing when in the presence of someone special?

How do you express love? With your words, actions, or touch?

Love is... Heather EdwardsLove is… listening, sharing, supporting, trusting, relaxing, letting go, longing, aching, forgiving, caregiving, accepting, being yourself, graciousness, excitement, warmth, kindness, truth, vulnerability, openness, strength, courage, heart centric actions, positive energy, highest vibrations, healing, grounding, helping…

With so many ways to experience and express love, what will you do today to enlighten someone about their special place in your heart? Don’t assume they already know your love or that you have plenty of time to show them. The only moment that truly exists is this one. Make it matter.

L.O.V.E. Luminous. Open. Vulnerable. Expressive.

Here’s a Love Letter from Ludwig von Beethoven:

Love is... Heather EdwardsMy angel, my all, my very self

We shall surely see each other soon; moreover, today I cannot share with you the thoughts I have had during these last few days touching my own life –

If our hearts were always close together, I would have none of these.

My heart is full of so many things to say to you – ah – there are moments when I feel that speech amounts to nothing at all –Cheer up – remain my true, my only treasure, my all as I am yours.

Ah, wherever I am, there you are also –

Much as you love me – I love you more –

Oh God – so near! so far!

Is not our love truly a heavenly structure, and also as firm as the vault of heaven?

my thoughts go out to you, my Immortal Beloved, now and then joyfully, then sadly, waiting to learn whether or not fate will hear us –

I can live only wholly with you or not at all –

No one else can ever possess my heart – never – never –

Oh God, why must one be parted from one whom one so loves.

Be calm, only by a calm consideration of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together –

Be calm – love me – today – yesterday – what tearful longings for you – you – you – my life – my all – farewell.

Oh continue to love me – never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved.

ever thine

ever mine

ever ours

Your faithful Ludwig

Share your heart. Share yourself. Share your love. Deepen your experience of each day.

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.

Neuroscience, Narcissism, & Humanism

neuroscience heather edwardsHave you ever had an experience that was so attuned to your core essence that you felt completely content, aligned, and inspired? Well, the Psychotherapy Networker Symposium did just that.

This year, neuroscience and attachment theory for healing were the stars of the show – along with other hot topics in psychotherapy like story telling, yoga, & power posing.

It fed my intellectual appetite and at times, felt like being a kid in a candy shop – I was joyfully shoving colorful treats into my mouth, riding the sugar buzz, and continuously craving more! It was Willy Wonka minus the little blue men and scary boat scene. Just the good stuff – lots of candy & neuroscience!

Sex, intimacy, and the Tango were keynote subjects. Susan Johnson, EdD, the developer of Emotionally Focused Therapy shared her methods and data which prove sex is more than just a physical act. What better? Sex, intimacy, AND professional training – um, yes, please.

Neuroscience brain scan data backed up her claims of efficacy.  James Coan, PhD shared how certain calming regions of the brain are activated and blood glucose levels are lowered by specific types of supportive interactions between people. It was fascinating.

I was blown away when Dr. Johnson revealed that her clinical framework is Humanistic Psychology, Carl Rogers’ theory of Person Centered Therapy – and exactly the same as mine.  This therapy assumes that change can only happen when non-judgement and unconditional positive regard exist in the therapeutic relationship. Every clinical concept and intervention she proposed rang with perfect resonance in my ears. [Ohhhhhhm. Insert birds chirping and angels singing.]

“But what if your client is a narcissist?”, an audience participant asked. It seemed to imply that nothing could help them.

Dr. Johnson’s answer filled me with joy. She referred back to her clinical roots and stated that as a Humanist, labels are very limiting. Humanists move beyond naming, classifying, and judging people.

The Humanist believes each client is a human being functioning the very best they can within the context of their reality. What they’re doing makes perfect sense to them in their world. It serves a definite purpose, albeit not always the most effective one. 

The Humanist meets the client where they are, and supports them in finding a better place according to them at their pace and in their way. Each person is met with openness, acceptance, and non-judgement. She stopped herself short when she said, “…and if you can’t handle that!”. I quietly smiled and felt at home again.

Labels, therapeutic tools, and therapist interventions are worthless without first developing a therapeutic relationship based on positive regard and unconditional acceptance. Once the client is heard and validated, real lasting change can happen. There’s finally hard neuroscience that proves it.

The narcissist can be extremely difficult – even abusive and/or exploitive – that’s the nature of their personality. But one must ask, what purpose does their behavior serve for them? What circumstances had to exist for the narcissist to develop this type of personality?

What fundamental safety, survival, and/or bonding need was absent or threatened as they were developing as a young child?  And what can be done to shift those factors so that the narcissistic person can live a happier, fuller, more authentic, and intimate life? …and thus, those around them.

The point at which curiosity ends, judgement begins. I’m not suggesting that anyone wait around for a narcissist to change their ways, or tolerate abuse or mistreatment. You could be waiting a very, very long time and living in a toxic relationship that is unhealthy for you.

But anybody who wants to change, can change. We are constantly evolving and adapting on a neural and molecular level. Be curious. Be open. Be cautiously optimistic. Know your boundaries and limitations. Believe that anyone can change if they want to. It begins with unconditional positive regard, acceptance, and a lot of determination, desire, and time. The data proves it.

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” – Carl Rogers

 

 

photos courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by atibodyphoto

Where is Your Relationship Headed? What’s your love ratio?

Heather Edwards Relationship Oasis

Let’s begin with a simple checklist for a healthy relationship. How many of these exist in your love life?

  • acceptance
  • empathy
  • respect
  • honesty
  • compassion
  • compatibility
  • trust
  • understanding
  • vulnerability
  • safety
  • consideration
  • compromise
  • communication
  • shared vision and values
  • passion
  • play

Yes, life gets in the way sometimes. Take time out to nurture your love. There are evidence based ways to build healthy, lasting relationships. Here are a few of them….

Dream together. Create personal rituals of connection. Honor each other. Speak AND listen. Ask open ended questions. Be curious. Remain calm during disagreement & conflict. Own your feelings.  Take responsibility when it’s yours. Take steps to deepen your friendship and intimacy. Validate each other.

Watch out for the pitfalls that ruin relationships. If any these sound familiar, it’s time to make adjustments.

  • blame
  • criticism
  • belittling
  • stonewalling
  • contempt
  • defensiveness
  • withholding
  • avoidance
  • violence

Don’t fret. It’s not too late. As long as both parties are committed to make changes that benefit themselves, each other, and the relationship, it can work out! When you share a dream of better days ahead together, you can strengthen, rebuild, and rediscover your love.

Don’t wait. Time is of the essence. If you’re curious about how sustainable your relationship is, here’s an easy tally of it’s health… According to John Gottman, healthy relationships have 5 positive interactions to every 1 negative one. He refers to it as the 5 to 1 Ratio. It’s scientifically predicted whether or not relationships last. What is your ratio?

If the scales are tipped on the negative side and you want to turn it around, practice positivity toward your partner. Refer to the first list in this blog and put those into action. If you need professional help, seek it out.

“Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears. ‘After all this time?’. ‘Always,’ said Snape.” -J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

 

photo of couple courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by Sarge Bertasius Photography

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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The Ripple Effect: Your Power Source

Heather Edwards Psychotherapist and Coach

Heather Edwards Psychotherapist and CoachAmong the hundreds of people I’ve coached and counseled, there’s a striking and honorable theme. It’s one that prompts people to seek support in becoming their best self.  It’s one that guides behavior, values, and wants. It motivates their reflection, desire for improvement, and a genuine regard for having a positive impact on the greater good.

So let’s give credit where credit is due.  After all, that’s what keeps us going.

The theme I’m referring to is the ripple effect. Regardless of the particulars that bring people to coaching or counseling, clients share a common concern about the imprint they leave on society – their family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, clients.

This collective consciousness about their personal effect on what extends beyond their immediate reach impresses me.  So much so that it inspired my book.

Heather Edwards Psychotherapist and CoachImagine throwing a stone into a pond.  The impact of that first splash dramatically changes the surface of the water.  The point of contact immediately erupts. The stone sinks. Then, emerging upward is a driving force that defies the laws of gravity.

At first it creates one large ripple which cascades into other smaller ripples, softening as they extend out from the source.  Eventually they subside, homeostasis is achieved, and still water resumes.

That stone effected a broader area than just its entry point.  And so do you. You are the source of a ripple effect. That’s your power.

Whether you swim in a metaphorical pond, puddle, or ocean your imprint reaches further than what you see. – click to tweet!

Take a moment to imagine the ripple effect of any conversation you’ve had recently. Maybe you felt frustrated and annoyed when talking with a coworker. Your words were short and curt. That started a ripple.

You might not have seen it, but the receiver of those words felt it.  She may have carried it home to her daughter, husband, or cat who then passed the negative ripple onto others, random activities, and so on.

On the flip side, maybe you took a moment to take a deep breath, refocus, practice gratitude and instead expressed appreciation to your son, wife, or colleague.  That started a ripple.  What kind of cascade did that create?  That’s where you have immense power to create positive change.

When people feel positive vibes, support, and love they respond in kind.  They let their guard down.  They open up to conversation. They reciprocate the positivity.

Heather Edwards Psychotherapist and CoachAs an example, what happened the last time you complimented someone on the style of their hair or shoes? You probably received a, “Thank you!” and then a compliment in return.  How nice!  Now everybody feels good. When we feel good we’re more motivated to work, love, and engage.

The ripple effect translates to all areas of your life.  If you’re a boss, what happened the last time you expressed appreciation to your team for their efforts?  You probably felt a renewed sense of ownership and productivity.  You may have noticed better cooperation and teamwork on projects and an overall lift in morale.  If you’re a parent, what happens when you compliment your child?

It’s way too easy to feel bogged down and become consumed by the endless demands of our 21st century lives.  So take a moment to create a positive ripple. Look for reasons to do it.  Observe what happens. You are more powerful than you realize.

 

 

Photos courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by digidreamgrafix, Paul Brentnall, & aopsan

5 Tips to Reclaim Your Life.

Heather Edwards Psychotherapist and Coach

Heather Edwards Psychotherapist and CoachIs ego, fear, or someone else’s vision keeping you stuck?

You are the expert, master, and keeper of your life.

What are your guiding philosophies?  Are you functioning from a place of blame, entitlement, lack, fear, and greed? Or from a position of responsibility, abundance, wealth, courage, and charity? And I’m not talking about money – but rather about strength, purpose and meaning.

Maybe your mind is scattered and unfocused, or it seems too late to change course now.

Maybe you forgot to ask questions and push back a little along the way. Perhaps what you want seems unobtainable. Maybe you’ve never been a lucky person, or there’s too much burdening you to see the possibilities.

Our perspective is much like a camera lens.

Sometimes we need to stop to adjust the filter, focus, or breadth of what we see. When the inner critic speaks louder than the voice of reason, self doubt sounds like the gospel truth. When hopelessness reigns as the Queen of your mental castle, it’s time to step back and adjust the lens.

1. Focus. Adjust. Zoom.Heather Edwards Psychotherapist and Coach

Switch the lens.

If what you want is to be happy, focus your energy and attention on the people, places, and experiences that lead you to feeling happy.  Doing this for just 30 seconds, five times per day, can change your brain structure and chemistry so that it’s easier to see the bright side of things.

If what you want is to be free, adjust the expectations, to-do’s, and beliefs that imprison you. What can you take off your plate, delegate or reprioritize?

If it’s love you seek, look at the bigger picture. Reach for the wide lens. You could be missing something, or someone, who’s right in front of you.

2. When you hear your inner monologue sweetly sabotaging your dreams, question it and correct it.

Ask, “What evidence do I have to support the idea that I can’t do it?” Then, flip it around and ask, “What evidence do I have that I CAN do it?”.  And, “What information do I need to make that dream happen?”.

3. Start with a top ten list.

Name your top ten most enjoyable activities – where you get lost in the flow, 10 people who inspire you – who you’ve learned from or have felt something change in your life because of them, and 10 things you can do so naturally that you can complete them without even thinking about them.

4. Identify your hidden values.

Notice overlapping activities, skills, or interests in your lists.  Cherish this crucial information as the foundation for beginning to reclaim your life. Now you are building, growing, grounding, and changing. Set one micro-goal for each day to get closer to your dream.

Heather Edwards Psychotherapist and Coach5. Remind yourself you can do this.  Commit to staying THIS course.

When you commit to daily actionable steps toward your dream, you steadily move toward achieving them.  Envision your best self.  Embrace your unique strengths. Trust you have the drive and wherewithal to see them through. Clarify your intentions daily. Watch your life evolve.

“Your field of focus determines what you find in life.” T. Harv Eker

4 Steps to Bump Up Your Life

Heather Edwards, Psychotherapist and CoachWhy is it so difficult, and so important, to know the difference between thoughts and feelings? Sometimes thoughts happen so fast that they go unnoticed.  

Instead, what we experience is a pit in the stomach, a racing heart and mind, or a sense of hopelessness that things will get better.

It’s true that negative emotions seem instantaneous. They’re automatic and natural consequences of events, right?

Wrong!  That’s just not the case!  

Although they can wash over us like a tidal wave, leaving us helplessly drowning in sorrow, fear, or numbnessthere is a choice you can make between stressful events and negative feelings.

Except for those real life fight or flight situations, where your safety or life is in actual danger, or in some post traumatic stress disorder symptoms, there is a thought process sandwiched in the middle. It comes before the overwhelming feelings, and can even be the cause of them!

1. Noticing that elusive thought pattern can change your life as you know it!

It requires slowing down, getting real about your feelings, and retracing the steps that got you where you are emotionally.  Here’s how…Heather Edwards, Psychotherapist and Coach

When you’re feeling angry, identify the situation or event which prompted it.  Then, the belief system attached to that event.

Since events can’t directly cause our feelings, what did you tell yourself about the event that negatively impacted you?

2. Question it.

How well is that belief or thought pattern serving you?  Is it benefiting you? Is it hurting you? Is it energizing you? Or is it inhibiting and alienating you?

When you hold onto idealist views, “should” statements, or perfectionism you keep yourself prisoner of those beliefs. They’re often the source of negative emotions like guilt, regret, and resentment.

Unlock the door to emotional freedom with a careful evaluation of your limiting beliefs.

3. Let go of ego and expectations.

Embrace flexibility, openness, and non-judgement.  Be present now, in the only moment in time you can affect. Focus on letting go of ideas that no longer serve you.  Here, you will find the wiggle room to grow, love, and live.

When I change my thought from, “He shouldn’t have done that!” to “It would be better if he did it a different way.” Or, “I can’t believe that happened, it’s horrible!” to “It’s not what I wanted but I’ll figure this out.” It reduces my emotional reaction significantly.

It reduces my physiological response, too – from a state of alarm including increased heart rate, tightening muscles, and lightheadedness to a generalized feeling of disappointment. It’s much easier to cope with. It keeps my body and mind healthy, and strengthens relationships through more flexibility and less rigidity, more openness and less judgment.

Heather Edwards, Psychotherapist and Coach4. And to boot – on the flip side of the emotional spectrum, when something rockin’ happens to you and you think, “It doesn’t really count ‘cuz I just got lucky.”, change it to “Whoa! I’m so psyched about that. How can I do it again?”.  Don’t rob yourself of positive experiences. Revel in them!

So what beliefs are you holding onto that are harming you? What would life be like without them? Open the door of possibilities and newness. Befriend your errors of judgement and let them go. Or reframe them into productive and supportive beliefs.

 

Notice. Question. Adjust. Reframe. Release. Rejoice.

Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net by Artur84, Master isolated images, & imagerymajestic.

Bitter Endings:  How to free yourself of lingering resentment

Fire IslandThat lingering resentment from things gone wrong is hard to shake. Whether a bad break up or sudden job loss caused the grief, it’s best to resolve it and move on. Holding onto stress has negative physical, neurological, and emotional consequences.  In a perfect world, we’d all get exactly what we want when we want it… always!   The hard truth is that unexpected set backs can and do occur along the pathway to happiness.  

Now that you’ve been snafu’d, how do you pick up the pieces and gracefully carry on? Muster the strength to let go of the negative feelings.  Shift your attention to the possibilities and positive potential.  It’s what you need to get back on track.  Here are a few tips for an internal tune-up to get your engine revving again.

Get real:  

Notice 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.  Be mindful.  Be centered, self aware, and gain clarity on the situation and your reaction.  Use that information to consider your next steps.  Don’t play the victim role.  Take the power back by responding in a way that truly benefits you in the short and long run.  What is the best case scenario?  How can you move closer to that outcome?  Take one small step today.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau

Be a friend to yourself:

Catch your internal monologue in action! The way we think affects the way we feel.  Is your self-talk blaming, judging, or critical? Tap the breaks.  Slow those thoughts down. Try this – Practice saying those negative thoughts aloud at an awkwardly slow pace. Breathe. Notice how they lose intensity when stifled in speed.  Choose one negative statement and change a word or two to shift its meaning to a positive or neutral one. For example, if you’re saying, “I can’t do it”.  Change that statement to, “I CAN do it”. Say this positive statement slowly five times.  Breathe.  Notice the sense of relief that emerges.IMG_9687

Welcome wisdom:

Acknowledge and validate your feelings while searching for a nugget of wisdom. This too is a life lesson.  Your feelings are a natural result of the events that occurred and how you thought about them.  Even when events take an unfortunate turn, it is possible to find positivity and self growth in the experience. Through a process of self acceptance, good and bad, a letting-go of difficult feelings can occur. Allow them to be – the more you deny your feelings and “should” yourself, the more energy you give to the self defeating thoughts and feelings.  

“Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is Enlightenment.” – Lao Tzu

Stop “shoulding” yourself:

Instead of blaming yourself, ask yourself what you could do better.  For example, your self talk would sound like this,  “It would be better if…”, instead of, “I shouldn’t have done that!”. Eliminate the word “should” from your vocabulary!  It’s a closed, judging word that implies guilt or wrong doing.  It may be true that you made a mistake – but what’s important is how you address it. “Shoulding” yourself keeps you stuck. Nobody’s perfect. This new, “It would be better if…” statement acknowledges the blunder and turns it into a motivating statement for self improvement rather than blame and burden.

Notice and release tension:  

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 chest and 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, or a clenching of fists or jaw.  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.

Now – back to the terrible ex or the mean boss…  That resentment you’re holding onto is not benefiting you.  It may, in fact be damaging you.  It’s no secret that stress kills. It causes illness and compromises the immune system.  Do something nice for yourself, let it go. Spend time on fulfilling activities and interests. Practice a few of the above letting-go techniques. Remember that resentment is a choice – instead, choose peace. 

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