8 Ways to End Your Isolation

8 Ways to End Your Isolation

8 Ways to End Your Isolation

I was recently inspired by a 70-year-old client who was dealing with boredom in retirement.  Someone suggested she use meditation and she tried it but found she was already to “internal.”  She felt she needed to G.O.A.L. (get out and live).  She volunteered with a program through UNLV.  She started a walking group with other members in her retirement community.  She starting going to $5 movies on Tuesdays.  She realized that the happiest time in her life was when she was the busiest.  You have to be waking up and going somewhere.  Wake up and leave your house and you’ll be happier.

It’s time to break free of the imaginary chains you put upon yourself! Isolation is a punishment handed down to prisoners who commit infractions and many of us voluntarily place those constraints on ourselves. Though introverts have a hard time opening up and exploring all that daily life has to offer, it’s easier than it seems. You’ve got to get out and live each day to the fullest. Ideally, you should be getting at least 4 hours of time spent outside of the home every day, especially if you’re not working. And that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go broke spending money on expensive experiences. There are plenty of things you can do right now that don’t cost a thing. Here are some ideas to help you get the recommended four hours per day away from the comforts of your “safe place” (aka home).

  1. Go for a walk around the neighborhood
  2. Visit a local park and bask in sunshine
  3. Head to the mall to “window” shop
  4. Stop by a nearby library to see what’s new
  5. Browse aisles of home improvement stores
  6. Take the dog out for a walk or a quick hike
  7. Exercise outdoors – Do some yoga in the park
  8. Sit in a parking lot of your favorite store and watch people come and go

See, there’s lots you can do without having a big budget to work with. A few other recommendations include checking out bulletin boards and community calendars to discover new events, workshops and classes. Chances are your community already hosts festivals and functions year-round. If not, why not get involved by volunteering or putting together a group of organizers. Meetup.com is a directory of people’s gatherings and lists just about any kind of activity you can imagine. One client was in to astral projection and he found a group through MeetUp.

Leave fear behind – go out and get to know your neighbors. Just remember you don’t have to force yourself to be a social butterfly. Occasionally venture outside of your comfort zone and you’ll be surprised at how your life improves. The worst thing you can do is stay home and never talk to anyone. Get. Out. And. Live.

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Small and Simple Things

Small and Simple Things

Small and Simple Things

Tonight I (re)learned a powerful truth. My wife’s truck wouldn’t start.  We’ve been fortunate enough to not have major car troubles for a long time but tonight I thought our luck had changed for the worst. She was off to a meeting and when she went to start her Yukon XL, our massive 8-seater SUV, it wouldn’t crank.  When she called I was immediately worried that even if it was something as simple as a dead battery it could mean a minimum of $120 to get her back up and running. I tried to jump start it with my truck, no dice. I started Googling and watching YouTube videos about what could be happening.  Was it the starter?  The alternator?  My teenage memories of working as an auto-service tech in our family’s service station came back to me and I recalled my father’s wisdom on such things, but wasn’t able to figure it out. My son was with me: my 14-year-old sidekick who always brings a positive attitude and good luck. After about half an hour, he suggested we pray and so I asked him if he would do that.  Every time we’ve been in this situation and he’s remembered that, miracles have occurred.  Seriously.  Tonight was no different. It took a while but what I found out was that the issue was due to the most unlikely culprit: a 2-amp fuse.   I was reading things that mentioned the possibility that the ignition switch could have been bad.  Or the electronic control module.  Or the on-board computer.  I was reading that some of these could cost up to $500 to fix.  Despair was starting to set in. I knew that I should start with the smallest things: fuses.  I bought a fuse tester and tested all the big ones that were suggested.  The 40-amp starter fuse, the 25-amp ignition fuse, and all the rest, including a 175 amp “mega” fuse.  I skipped over and over the smallest one, this little gray 2 amp fuse and I was certain that could not be it. I was wrong. This repair cost me $4.99. It just didn’t make any sense.  This was the smallest fuse in the entire vehicle and the only one this size. After it was all done, I had remembered that in church today a speaker spoke of “small and simple things” often having the most important impact in our lives.  In this case, it was the tiniest of electrical parts on a ginormous automobile used to transport our family of eight. I also remembered my son’s faith and his little prayer, invoking the Almighty to help us. What a significant thought, that by small and simple means, great things can come to be.  Sometimes it is the prayer of a child.  Sometimes a kind word, a thoughtful gesture to a stranger, a tiny dose of medication, a mindful approach to food and sleep, a seemingly insignificant amount of effort, or a teeny little fuse that you can buy with the spare change in your cup holder can get you powered back up again on on the road to where you’re going. I am so thankful that this wasn’t some huge and expensive ordeal and I will have to remember that so often it is the littlest of things that make all the difference. What small things are keeping your engine from running like it should?  

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Health IS Happiness

Health IS Happiness

Health IS Happiness

Health IS Happiness

Ever noticed how sick you feel every time you’re stressed or worried? Your entire body suffers. Even the slightest pain gets worse. This goes both ways. When you’re ill, you can’t focus anymore and your mind starts wandering. Anxiety, depression, and mood swings affect your daily life and worsen your symptoms.

Health and happiness are strongly connected. A healthy mind, healthy body connection is the key to a fulfilling life. By taking care of your health, you’re putting yourself on the path to success and well-being.

The Happiness-Health Connection

Decades ago, good health was defined as the state of being free from illness. Today, it has a more complex meaning. According to science, it’s a state of complete emotional, physical, and social well-being, not just the absence of disease.

When you’re healthy, you’re happy – and vice-versa. Ancient cultures understood the notion of a Sound Mind in a Sound Body. Modern research confirms this connection.

Let’s take stress, for instance.

This lifestyle factors affects you both emotionally and physically. Chronic stress raises the hormone cortisol levels in your body, leading to a myriad of problems. It’s a major contributing factor to heart disease, weight gain, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, pain, and inflammation.

Stress affects your brain too. It plays a key role in the onset of depression, anxiety, fatigue, and sleep disorders.

Furthermore, it increases the risk of addictions and impacts your mood. Under these conditions, you cannot be happy. Over time, you lose interest in the things you once loved. Nothing motivates you anymore, and everything seems pointless.

As we have mentioned earlier, the relationship between health and happiness goes both ways. When your emotions are out of balance, so is your body.

Experts agree that most diseases have a mental component. For example, studies have found that people with severe mental illness are prone to many different physical health problems and have a shorter lifespan compared to healthy individuals.

Irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease, chronic pain, hypertension, and psoriasis are all considered psychosomatic disorders. Stress, anxiety, and other psychological factors can trigger flare-ups or worsen their symptoms. For instance, many IBS suffers experience increased pain and digestive distress during times of stress.

Taking care of your body is just as important as taking care of your mental well-being. Physical and emotional health go hand in hand.

Simple Steps to a Healthy Body and Mind

Now that you understand the happiness-health connection, take the steps needed to boost your well-being. Simple lifestyle changes, such as cleaning up your diet and practicing meditation, can make all the difference.

Emphasize good nutrition and exercise. Ditch the junk from your diet and eat whole, “real” foods. Leafy greens, fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, lean meat, and wild-caught fish should come first on your list.

Next, make exercise a habit. We’re not talking about endless workouts or fancy gym machines. Find an activity that you enjoy, and stick to it. Brisk walking, jogging, Yoga, Pilates, strength training, swimming are all an excellent choice. Remember that consistency is the key.

Adopt a positive mindset and stop stressing over every little thing. Make time for the things you love and learn to say No when you have too much on your plate. Get more rest so your body can heal and function at its peak.

Take a break from your daily routine once in a while. Be kind to yourself and practice gratitude. Do whatever it takes to relax and keep stress at bay, whether it’s reading, sleeping, or spending time with your loved ones.

It’s in your power to stay healthy and happy. Make these changes now. Your future self will thank you.

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This Is My Mission

This Is My Mission

This Is My Mission

I have often asked my clients to create for themselves a mission statement. I’ve never shared this before but here is mine. I encourage everyone to define their values, figure out what is important to you and write it down. Making this video was just one way for me to further reinforce what is important to me. I hope you enjoy it.

Let me also add that I am still very much a work in progress, myself. This is not some narcissistic, braggadocios claim; this is simply what I demand of myself, what I am working toward.

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Just Keep Checking the Boxes

Just Keep Checking the Boxes

Just Keep Checking the Boxes

We often hear of people talking about “just checking the boxes.” Some of the tasks in life have to do with basic necessities and people talk about just checking the boxes as if it is a bad thing. I have recently found, especially for myself, that checking the boxes is one way to really get things done.

In the world of electronic media and social interaction through technology, I have rediscovered paper. What I find is that there are too many distractions on my phone and so even the most clever of apps often get me sidetracked to something else, especially as new notifications come in. At the beginning of the new year, I wanted to have a planner that I could custom design. In my younger days, I used the Franklin Covey system of planners and really enjoyed having the paper to check the boxes. What I didn’t like was the big bulky outer cover and notebook. Those things were beefy.

So I wanted to design my own daily planner pages and I did that on New Year’s Eve. My nine-year-old son and I stayed up until about 5 a.m. and he and I rang in the New Year while my wife and babies were sound asleep by about 9:30 p.m.

I decided that I would make a list of all of the roles that I have and create some little reminders and icons that I could look at everyday and have a visual hard copy reminder of the things I need to be doing. This includes whether or not I check my mail, whether or not I drink 8 glasses of water, whether or not I’m checking my pH levels and tracking my food intake.

As part of my monthly goals, I have that I want to call my parents at least twice a month. Now this is where some might be critical of my desire to just check the boxes. The truth is, I forget to call my parents and I want to change that. It’s not that I have anything against speaking with them or that the other duties in my life are more important, they are often simply more urgent.

So here is a little glimpse of my daily planner. I am a creative type and enjoy making things and when it comes to my own productivity and growth, I thought it was time for me to design something that was exactly the way I wanted it to be, with exactly the fonts I like to look at, with exactly the colors and spacing exactly how I want them to be.

My morning ritual consists of writing out some things that I feel gratitude for and the end of my day consists of journaling some inspirational thoughts that I have read throughout the day. You will see boxes where I am checking whether or not I “dressed for success” as well as spaces to write what ideas I have for the future.

So I’m only about four months in, but I am extremely happy with the little system I have created for myself. I bought the TUL system from an office supply store and I love the little disc binding that it has. I did have to buy a $40 hole punch but I highly recommend this if you want to customize your planner pages or any kind of notebook that you may use, because it can be used like a traditional loose leaf notebook but it doesn’t have the bulk of the notebook binding, and it can be opened all the way up like a spiral-bound notebook.

So, yeah I check the boxes! It keeps me focused. What kind of boxes should you be checking off?

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153 Years of Wisdom on Valentine’s Day

153 Years of Wisdom on Valentine’s Day

153 Years of Wisdom on Valentine’s Day

I guess I was in a talkative mood.

My wife eventually got upset with my enthusiasm but I felt compelled to survey three different couples at the Cheesecake Factory while she and I were waiting for our seats on Valentine’s Day. I wanted to find out a little bit about random people’s relationships, especially ones who were celebrating them on Valentine’s Day.

The wait was supposed to be an hour, but I knew this was where my wife wanted to eat so we chose to stick it out and wait for our table. Knowing that there could be a wait, I dropped my wife off at the door and tried to find a parking spot but even that was a challenge. As I’m circling the parking lot, I noticed a young couple walking toward the front door. A few minutes later as I’m still looking for a place to park my gigantic family vehicle, I noticed the couple coming back to their car. Knowing that they had likely changed their mind because of the wait, I ask them what they were told about the wait times.

The young man, probably in his mid-twenties, said there was a one hour and 15 minute wait. Seems like he and his girl didn’t want to wait that long to eat. I wish I could talk to this guy in about 5 years and see how the relationship worked out. Maybe he is too impatient, or maybe he is smarter than most and has an efficiency about him that will help him somehow in his connection with his woman.

Knowing that we were going to be waiting a while, I introduced myself to an older couple sitting in the waiting area amid crowds of people, mostly young couples. Earlier in the day and at the beginning of that night, I heard someone say that Valentine’s Day is for young people. As I noticed all of the young lovers hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm, I started to think that Valentine’s Day IS an event for the younger generation of love birds.

But the couple that I spoke with, an immigrant couple from an eastern African country, I can’t remember the name but it was near Somalia and Egypt. He was a distinguished looking man, maybe a man with a fairly simple job who had put on his very best sport coat, slacks, and collared shirt for his date with his beautiful wife. She was very pretty, and looked much younger then she must have been. I introduced myself and said that I work with couples as a therapist and simply asked: “What’s your story? How long have you been together, and what are the things that have made it work.?”

The husband said that they had been married for 30 years. Suddenly I realize that Valentine’s Day is not for young people, but that those who celebrate it well, end up being like these people who had been married for three decades and had four children. I asked the husband what he felt was the biggest contributor to the success of their relationship. He said, “keep the negative energy away from your home.” He said if you’re having a bad day at work, leave it at work.

“Don’t bring any negative energy to your wife.”

“Listen to her. Listen to her.”

With his East African accent, I felt like I was speaking to a spiritual giant of some kind; a Gandhi type of person or someone with immense wisdom. I thanked the man for sharing and as their buzzer went off to finally get a table he said, “I’ll see you here on Mother’s Day. We will be here on Mother’s Day.”

The next couple on my left that I asked the same questions had been married for 25 years. They were from Mexico and he works as a mason. I asked him the same questions and again the man is the only one who spoke to me.

He said what has helped them in their relationship is to say you’re sorry. He says “you have to apologize in order for things to work out.” Things are going to get hard, stress will come along, things will get unpleasant at times, but he said if you just “admit your mistakes, you can make it.”

The third couple I spoke to was after we got seated. We were at a table that seemed to be cramped in between two other couples and an awkwardly close positioning. The couple of my right was a biracial couple, he was black and she was Hispanic. I asked him the same questions, “what’s your story, what has made things work for you, and what advice do you have for me and my wife?”

After talking to this guy, I realized that while the answers of all of these three men seemed somewhat simplistic, they really gave me some profound truth. This man said they had been together for 20 years and I couldn’t believe it again, because they looked so young. He said that the key to the relationship, was: speak your mind.” “Don’t hold anything back. Don’t leave anything unspoken. If you’re feeling good, say it. If you’re upset, say it. If you’re worried, say it. He said, just be honest and tell the truth about everything.”

We exchanged a couple of laughs and I asked him “okay what about for the woman–is there anything that your wife has done in order to keep things good between you?”

He said, “the same thing. She’s got to tell me what she’s feeling. She has to tell me where she’s at so I know how to deal with her.”

I was so proud of myself even though maybe I looked stupid. These three couples who had been together for a combined 75 years, gave me some profound insights. Here’s what they said

1. Keep your negative energy away from each other. Do not let any negative energy into your conversation or into your home. Refuse to let negative energy plague your relationship.

2. Listen to each other. The African man said listen to her, and she will listen to you.

3. The Mexican man told me to apologize when you’re wrong. He shared some examples and other insights, but that was his basic message, just say you’re sorry when you’ve done something bad.

The third couple said come on speak your mind. Don’t leave anything unsaid. Just tell it all, outright, flat-out, without hesitation. Say what you feel.

As I listen to these three men, I was at first a little disappointed that I didn’t get anything more substantial in their responses. They seemed a little simplistic. And then I realized how much time I spend in therapy with couples, trying to teach these very same principles. These were profound truths that these men shared with me. They shared them with a smile. They felt honored to be asked about how they had made things work for so long in their lives.

Two other examples: my Aunt Bobbie (married almost 50 years) and a spiritual mentor (married 54 years):

My Aut’s FB post on Valentines day: I see everyone’s flowers and candy, but I think I had the best Valentines Day, my sweet hubby of nearly 50 years worked along beside me as we cleaned out the flower beds beside the sidewalk, we talked and laughed, and huffed and puffed, as we hoed and raked, and it looks pretty good. You see candy goes to the hips and I would rather have a living plant to enjoy longer. Wonderful day babe, love you lots, now get the Bengay and rub my back…

How awesome is that? Work together. Do a project side by side. Sweat a little and do something that really makes a difference in your daily environment. Then back rubs. 😉

Lastly, a spiritual teacher I look up to. This is from Jeffrey R. Holland’s V-day post:

“I have been married for 54 years.

“I believe the staying power in romance and marriage requires more than any of us really have. It requires something more: an endowment from heaven.

“You want capability, safety, and security in dating and romance, in married life and eternity? Be a true disciple of [God]. Be a genuine, committed, word-and-deed believer in Him. Believe that your faith has everything to do with your romance, because it does.”

Hearing and seeing these things taught me one important thing as I reflected on my work with people this Valentine’s Day: things work out long term for folks all the time and there is PLENTY to be hopeful about.

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