Routine vs Ritual

What is the difference between a routine and a ritual? A routine is a regularly followed sequence of actions. Many of us go through our daily and nightly routines mindlessly, or on autopilot.  A ritual is a practice that is done for a higher purpose, so rituals are often approached more mindfully and respectfully. What if we started treating our routines more like rituals? Afterall, everything we do is ultimately for a higher purpose. We don’t just prepare and eat dinner for the heck of it, we do it to take care of ourselves, to nourish our bodies, and to experience pleasure. In your morning routine, notice all the little things you do to take care of yourself. You brush your teeth for your lifelong health, you dress to feel comfortable or confident, maybe you drink a cup of tea or coffee to feel alert and energized. Routines are stock full of things that you are doing to contribute to your own well-being and optimal fulfillment. And if you treat these actions with more respect and mindfulness, they will ultimately serve you even more. 

Thought Ladders

Have you tried repeating affirmations, only to end up disappointed? Affirmations are a new trend in pop psychology that can be really helpful—if done correctly. Take, for example, you are struggling with depression. You constantly think “I am sad ” or “it’s not possible to be happy,” and you want to change that. Maybe you came up with the affirmation “I am happy,” and you try to replace the sad thoughts with that phrase. You can repeat that phrase all day long, but if you don’t believe it, it won’t do the trick. Instead, you should choose an affirmation that you can actually believe, such as “it is possible to be happy” or “in time I will grow to be happy.”  Or, maybe it’s easier to remove yourself from the affirmation all together, and say something like “it is possible for people to be happy” or “people can change from being depressed to being happy over time.” Now, when you have a sad thought, you can replace it with that phrase, and actually believe it. With practice, your brain will start going to that thought more naturally than the sad thought, and your belief in your potential for happiness will expand. Then, from there, you can come up with a more happy thought, like “I am happy sometimes” or “happiness comes easily to me in certain situations.” Eventually, perhaps along with some positive life changes, you can get to affirmations such as “I am often happy” or “I am a generally happy person.” It’s like climbing up the rungs of a ladder, from mildly happy thoughts to powerfully happy thoughts, until you get to the place you want to be. And remember, be patient and kind to yourself along the way.

Thoughts Aren’t Facts

It is important to trust yourself, but it is equally important not to trust yourself in certain situations. Do you constantly hear a nagging voice in your head? It is important to realize that that voice is not you. It is just your stream of thoughts. You are not your thoughts—they are temporary, and they change. Rather, you are the conscious observer of your thoughts. Your brain spits out thoughts all the time, and some of them can be lovely, and some of them can be ugly. It is your job to decipher which ones serve you and which ones do not. When a thought arises that is critical, you don’t have to believe it. You also don’t have to push it away and ignore it. You can approach it with curiosity and gently accept it, and then say to yourself, “no, thank you, not for me.” Say, for example, you think “I am not good enough to have this job.” You can react by saying to yourself “it is interesting that that thought arose for me, but I actually do not want to accept that as truth.” Scary thoughts don’t have to be threatening—you can simply say to them, “thanks, but no thanks.”

Everything is Temporary

Sometimes, when we’re going through a hard time, we fear that it will last forever. But the reality is that brain-states come and go, like waves in the ocean. Sometimes we don’t see how we’ll reach the calm after the storm or the light at the end of the tunnel. But, instead of getting disheartened by that, you can put deep trust into the fact that everything is temporary, because that is one of the conditions of being a human. Our situations change, and even if there are certain things we can’t change, our brains are built to adapt. It’s in our biology to shift and grow. We can savor the beautiful moments in life, and when we’re in a hard time, hold out for the peace we are bound to feel eventually.

Be Kind to Yourself!

Are you hard on yourself whenever you make a mistake? Do you focus on your shortcomings rather than your accomplishments? The next time you find yourself beating yourself down, try speaking to yourself as if you are your best friend. If your best friend got a C on a test, you’d console her and remind her that a C won’t ruin her life. If your other friend felt bad about not exercising for a week, you would assure him that missing one week won’t diminish his progress. Sometimes it’s easy to be especially hard on ourselves. As we all know, mistakes are something everyone makes. They are necessary to learn about life. However, we tend to have higher expectations for ourselves than other people. When you notice the self-criticism rising, take a step back, breathe, and tell yourself what you would tell your friend.

Powerful Emotions

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

A quote from the late Maya Angelou that describes the longevity of feeling within the human experience. Despite everything we experience in life, the most lasting memories are the ones associated with intense emotion (whether positive or negative). With this knowledge, be mindful of the strength your thoughts, words, and actions can have on others. Adversity can be the greatest teacher of our capabilities and potential. While the “light at the end of the tunnel” can be hard to see, once we reach it, it’s important to reflect on how we got there. Appreciating our path to success can prepare us for the next obstacle that stands between us and our goals.

Stopping the Happiness Treadmill

Have you ever found yourself jumping for joy after hearing great news but felt the feeling dissipate quickly? Positive psychologists refer to this as the “hedonic” or “happiness” treadmill. Unfortunately, happiness does not usually last, but do not fret, there are ways to combat this process… by incorporating a variety of new experiences into your daily life and, most importantly, appreciating them. Savoring your positive experiences and the happiness you already have can make a world of difference.

2020 Is Coming to an End!!!

“I want you to know that you are not alone in your being alone.” – Stephen Fry 2020 has been a crazy rollercoaster of a year for the entire world. Literally. COVID-19 has affected billions of people in various ways. COVID-19 has caused many people to feel alone, unmotivated, and downcast. Human interaction is incredibly important but has been taken away from us for health reasons, for the most part. However, with all of the negativity this year has brought, it’s important to remember that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. People in your family, community, state, country, continent, and planet are all trying to handle this change at the same time you are. In a way, our world has never been more connected, as we all have to work together to overcome this obstacle. It’s important to try and stay in touch with your family and friends as COVID-19 continues to be an issue. Additionally, try to look at the situation as a glass half full. There’s an FDA approved vaccine that has already started to be administered to people in the USA! Imagine how much more you’ll enjoy eating inside at a restaurant. Every hug after 2020 will feel a tiny bit more important. We won’t have to obsessively use hand sanitizer every waking moment until our hands are as dry as the desert. Even breathing normally and comfortably (without a mask) will be appreciated after this virus is gone. Additionally (tongue in cheek humour to come), you could use this story as a potential guilt-tripping method for any future children or grandchildren who complain about everyday things that we didn’t have for an entire year! This year has been incredibly tough, but we got through it successfully and will continue to overcome future challenges together!

Sleep Hygiene

Do you find yourself tossing and turning in bed for hours before finally falling asleep? Do you wake up multiple times throughout the night for no reason? Do you get up in the morning feeling less than well-rested? Small adjustments to your daily and nightly habits can make remarkable differences in your sleep, causing these problems to dissipate over time. Such sleep habits can collectively be referred to as “sleep hygiene,” and here are some suggestions to improve yours!

  1. Avoid napping, as it makes falling asleep at night harder. If you feel that you must nap to make it through your day, do so earlier as opposed to later, and limit your nap to 30 minutes.
  2. Use the bed only for sleeping and sex. This helps your body and mind associate your bed with sleep rather than other activities. Then, when you get in bed at night, it sends the signal to your brain that it is time to fall asleep.
  3. Cut off screen time an hour before bed. The artificial blue light emitted from electronic devices suppresses the release of melatonin, the body’s sleep-inducing hormone, and thus messes with the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Many devices now have a night-shift mode, in which you can set your device to emit a warmer light at a certain time each night. Making use of this is helpful.
  4. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine within 6 hours of bedtime.
  5. Exercise, but not right before bed! Exercise is extremely helpful for sleep except for when it is done within a couple hours of bedtime. The adrenaline released from working out makes it difficult to wind down.
  6. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every night and morning, including weekends and days off as much as possible. Your sleep-wake cycle relies on consistency.
  7. Establish a bedtime routine. This could involve meditating, taking a bath, reading a relaxing book, or listening to soothing music before bed. It could also involve small things, such as laying out your clothes for the next day or putting on your favorite-scented lotion. Participating in these activities serves to separate sleep time from the more stressful or exciting activities of your day. Over time, these activities will become associated with bedtime, and doing them will cue your brain and body that it is time for sleep.
  8. Ensure your bedtime environment is conducive to sleep. This involves creating a dark, quiet, cool sleeping area. If there is uncontrollable noise, consider getting a sound machine, fan, or noise-cancelling headphones, or using comfortable ear plugs.
  9. Avoid using sleep medication when possible. They can create a dependency and worsen sleep problems over time.

Some of these habits may not be achievable for you right now, but sleep hygiene does not have to be perfected in order to be improved. Focus on the adjustments that are doable for you, and within weeks you should see improvements in the quality and quantity of your sleep.

From Codependence to Healthy Interdependence

Is your emotional well-being reliant on one or a few people in your life? Maybe it’s a romantic partner. Maybe it’s a family member or a very close friend. Here are some signs you are experiencing codependency: you are hyper-aware of how you are making others feel and how they are making you feel; you feel responsible for the emotions or actions of others; you (perhaps unconsciously) attempt to control the behavior of others; you have low self-worth; you feel loved or needed through fixing others’ problems; you have difficulty saying “no”; you are a people-pleaser; all your focus is placed on your partner or other people; you betray yourself for others; you feel like you give more than you receive; you have a fear of rejection or abandonment; you are indecisive and fear you will regret any choices you make; you are scared of being truthful to yourself and others.

So, what does healthy interdependence look like in relationships? Interdependence involves recognizing the importance of the bond you share with other individuals, but showing up in those relationships as a whole, complete individual. Interdependent partners communicate well, are not demanding of one another, and feel worthy outside of that relationship.

How do you move away from codependence and toward interdependence? The first step is recognizing that you are not responsible for the actions and feelings of others, and they are not responsible for yours. Draw your focus inward, and do the work to meet your own needs first. Begin setting boundaries for yourself; know that it is not selfish to take time just for yourself or say “no” when it feels right. Engage in self-care. Do something for you, without the goal of receiving validation from others. Speak your truth, even if it is scary. Take accountability for your emotions and fears, and begin to understand the underlying reasons for them. Most importantly, be patient and kind with yourself, because shifting dependency patterns can be a scary, time-consuming process. Remember that your relationships will become healthier and more fulfilling as you do the work.


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