This was first published on KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — This pandemic holiday season is unlike anything we have ever experienced before.
It is a well-known fact that depression is linked to social isolation, and it typically increases around the winter holidays anyway, but this year we are adding masks, COVID-19 restrictions, quarantines, stay-at-home orders, family conflicts over gatherings, cold weather, dark days with less sunlight, and end-of-year deadlines. This time of year will be especially hard on people who are dealing with job loss, loss of income, divorce, separation from loved ones or mental health issues.
A School of Public Health study this summer found that the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. has more than tripled the prevalence of depression symptoms from 8.5% of adults before the pandemic to 27.8% over the summer. The numbers during the 2020 holiday season are expected to be even higher.
If you are finding this holiday season is bringing more depression than joy, here are some things you can do to get through it:
Completely change your expectations
Whatever image you had in mind for the holidays, think about dropping that. Instead, plan on this year being unlike any Christmas you ever had.
We've never experienced anything like this pandemic, and we must go into the holidays with a sense of adventure. You may miss the family gatherings you are used to, but if there wasn't an expectation of family gathering it wouldn't matter to you. Decide that this year has no "shoulds" around it. It shouldn't be like any holiday you've had before and remember, and different isn't necessarily bad. Embrace the different and go with it.
Whenever you feel disappointed, remind yourself that it's your expectations causing the disappointment, and you can change your expectations. This is a good life skill to practice during this interesting time.
Drop the traditions and do something different
Don't decorate the way you have in years past. Try something crazy to mark the year as unlike any other. We put decorations in places we have never used them before. Put lights up in weird places and it feels really good.
If you can't have the traditional Christmas Eve or Christmas Day gatherings, do something so totally different. You won't even miss the usual way. Some families are not even decorating at all and are planning to order in Chinese food and eat at a low table in the living room, or something else they have never done before.
Keep counting your blessings
No matter what we have lost this year, we still have so much to be grateful for. Keep focusing on what you still have over what you've lost.
Focus on ways things could be worse
This is a strategy I learned from positive psychologist Dr. Paul Jenkins. No matter how bad things are, there is always a way they could be worse. Focusing on the ways things could be worse naturally makes you feel better about what you have.
Scale back and simplify
Drop all the extra things that aren't necessary. Everyone expects this year to be different, so let this be the year you don't do half the stressful holiday tasks you usually do — unless doing them keeps you busy and happy. Just drop anything that is making you feel stressed, anxious or worse.
Take a break from social media
If seeing pictures of other happy people living lives that look better than yours is making you feel worse, drop social media for a few weeks. It would be good for you on many levels. Instead, write heartfelt email letters to friends and family expressing your love and gratitude for them. Enjoy the letters you get back. They may lift you up more than scrolling through social media ever did.
Limit media exposure
Get some great books to read, do a puzzle, knit or crochet, work on some home improvement project, take up painting, or spend time outdoors. Do things that involve the real world around you instead of binging more Netflix or watching more movies.
Get regular exercise
Exercise will have an immediate effect on your mental and physical health. Even though it's cold outside, you can bundle up and get some fresh air every day. If you spent even a little time exercising daily, you will feel better about yourself on every level.
Avoid drinking or indulging in unhealthy treats
Poor nutrition and too much alcohol always make depression worse. Instead, find some healthy recipes and make good food to enjoy and take the time to savor it. If you are eating healthy meals and getting exercise, you can treat yourself to some special holiday treats and feel good about it.
Get some sunlight
Too much time without sunshine and a lack of vitamin D will affect your mental health. Go up to the mountains — above the inversion — and feel some sun on your face. Talk to your doctor about a vitamin D supplement. If you have seasonal depression, you can also talk to your health care provider about trying light therapy.
"A light therapy box mimics outdoor light," the Mayo Clinic explains. "Researchers believe this type of light causes a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of SAD (seasonal affective disorder)."
Get outside in nature as much as possible
Don't stay holed up in your house for weeks on end. Walking in the park or around your neighborhood daily will lift your spirits and give you needed exercise at the same time.
Talk to a therapist
I cannot stress enough how much this will help you. If you have never tried therapy before, you might be skeptical. But therapy can do wonders to help you process your feelings and the thoughts that come with them.
Create a schedule and follow it
People who have structure to their days and follow a schedule feel more fulfilled and productive, and this helps with depression. Even if you don't have much going on, schedule a time to wake up, cook and eat, exercise, read, watch something (for a limited time) and then move onto other activities. Having structure makes the day go faster too.
Avoid family conflicts
Everyone is functioning in a loss state right now, which means we are all more defensive and more easily bothered. Knowing this, you can recognize that when grouchy behavior shows up it's not really about you. Then you can choose to walk away instead of taking the bait and creating more conflict.
If certain people trigger you more than others, make a plan to avoid interaction with them as much as possible. The one good thing about the pandemic is you can bail on any social gathering and everyone will understand. Use that explanation if necessary to protect your mental health.
Deal with loss by trusting in the good
You can always choose to focus on the growth any experience brings. You can choose to trust the universe that the lessons this year brought us will be blessings in the future; and though things are not as we like them, they are perfect for right now.
Nothing exists that was not created to help us evolve and grow. Remembering this helps us see loss as a blessing in disguise. Sometimes it is a very good disguise, but there will be some good from it.
Arrange social connection via technology
You need connection with other human beings. Contact friends or family members and arrange time to communicate through Zoom, Facetime, or some other video chatting platform.
You need this kind of connection to battle the isolation, so ask for it. Let people know that you really need to talk and ask if could they arrange time for you. It is important that you realize asking for help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness. Be brave enough to ask for help, friendship or connection when you need it.
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
Have you noticed in yourself (or others) a never-ending pursuit to change your situation and get something better? Do you find yourself believing if you could just get “there” or have "that," you’d be happy? But when you get “there” you realize you are already wishing you were somewhere else even further along?
The truth is, as long as you believe “better” is somewhere else, you will never be truly happy or present.
As I mentioned in last week’s article on dissatisfaction, humans naturally seek change and improvement because it ensures evolution and the human race continuing. You’re wired this way for a reason, but it doesn’t always serve you. The good news is when you become mindful of this subconscious instinct, you can stop believing that somewhere else is always better than where you are now.
You must understand that where you want to go or what you want to get isn’t necessarily going to be better; it often just gives you a different set of problems. Think about the young woman who says, “I am finally getting married, and all my problems will be over.” Every married person can attest that her problems aren't really over, just replaced by different problems.
This is the nature of life: No matter where you are or what you have there will also be things you don’t have that you wish you had. Likewise, there will be things you do have that you wish you didn’t have. This might be a letdown for you because your subconscious mind really believes in a magical future where everything is right. But don’t worry, I’m going to explain how to get your happy back today.
In my work as a human behavior expert, I have come to believe there are 12 types of people in the world and four value systems we can be wired for. Understanding these four systems can show you what you subconsciously believe you need more of to be happy. Remember, seeing your craving behavior is the first step to changing it. Which of these value systems resonates with you?
People-focused people: If you are this type of person, you tend to crave more friends, better or deeper connection, influence, adventure or comfort, and a better love interest. If you are this type, you don’t like to be alone and are often seeking more time with your current friends or new humans to be in relationships with. You believe once this happens, then you will be happy.
Task-focused people: If you are this type of person, you crave solutions to problems, things being right, projects completed and jobs done. You get frustrated with jobs like dishes and laundry, which are never finished. You don’t feel safe and satisfied until jobs are done and off your plate, but your never-ending to-do list means you can’t ever get there. You seek accomplishments, money that is a reward for hard work and better performance. You believe once these goals are met, then you will be happy.
Things-focused people: If you are this type of person, the things you own are the scorecard of your worth. You can’t get enough, newer or nicer things. You could have high standards and need the right labels or brands, You could be a shopaholic or a collector. If you could just build, create, buy, or own something better than exists now, then you would be happy.
Ideas-focused people: If you are this type, you crave solutions, change, order, better systems, more knowledge, learning around an obsessive hobby, or just being right and making sure people know it. You seek change in the world and better behavior from other people, then you will be happy.
Does one of those groups sound more like you? Take a minute and own what you are currently seeking that your happiness depends on. Sit in your craving for that and consciously decide how much happiness you are willing to give up today, for that craving. What if you chose to be happy right now without that thing? The truth is, if you can’t set aside your cravings or need for something else and choose to be happy now, you never will be.
In his song "Beautiful Boy," John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." You can still have goals for the future and strive to achieve them, just choose to see where you are today as your perfect classroom too. Don’t waste too much time wishing you were somewhere else or you will miss the amazing sunset, fulfilling moment, or precious time with loved ones today.
A gratitude practice that might help is making a list of everything you are grateful you don’t have and everything you are grateful you do have, and choose to focus on those.
You can do this.
First published on KSL.COM
I have a hard time being with my siblings and their spouses. We don’t have the money they have and we admit we are pretty jealous of the lives they lead compared to ours. It is hard being the ones who make the least amount of money in the family and can’t keep up with them all. They keep planning things like trips that we can’t afford. It’s becoming so bothersome, I am starting to pull away from them all. All my friend’s lives are significantly easier than ours too. Do you have any advice on how to handle these feelings of jealousy and that life is unfair?
If you look behind the jealousy, you may see this is a fear of loss problem. Some of my readers still question this simplified system around the two core fears, but after 18 years in personal development, I promise it makes understanding and changing human behavior easier.
Fear of loss is the feeling you get whenever you aren’t getting (or didn’t get) what you wanted from life. You might feel taken from, robbed or treated unfairly. If you get a more difficult journey than your friends, you may perceive it as a loss. But it’s only a loss if it does you wrong, hurts you or takes away what you should have had. This may feel like a loss to you because you assume you could have had (or should have had) something better. That assumption is the key to changing your jealousy.
Should you have had something else? Could you have had something better? Is your life journey ruined or off track from where it might have been? Is life supposed to be fair?
I encourage you to play with some different perspectives and assumptions and see if it changes how you feel. I believe how we feel is totally dependent on how we look at it and perspective is easy to change — even when you can’t change the situation. Here are a couple of ideas that might help you feel better about your journey:
1. Everyone deals with challenges in life. Some people whose lives look easy from the outside may actually be challenging on the inside, though they might be good at hiding it. Those whose lives really are "easy" might be experiencing ease right now, but their challenges might still be coming. Life is a classroom and the purpose of the whole thing is to learn and grow. We can’t grow when things are easy. Challenges, setbacks, loss, and unfairness are all parts of this educational experience. Try to remember that this is not a shopping excursion, a contest to get the most toys or a sightseeing trip. This life is a school and if we keep that in mind, then it may change our expectation and keeps our viewpoint more accurate.
2. The Buddha reportedly said, “It is your resistance to 'what is' that causes your suffering.” What I believe he meant by that is if you expect life to meet your expectations and give you whatever you want, then you're going to be disappointed.
If you keep resisting what you're getting by being upset about it, then you're likely going to suffer. If you're tired of the way this feels, then you can choose to believe that the universe is a wise teacher constantly conspiring to bless you with wisdom and educate you. Trust that the universe will only bring you experiences that serve you. This means there is no loss and no unfairness because you are always getting what is exactly perfect for you. If you're getting your perfect classroom experience then there is no loss.
You also have to give up comparing your journey with everyone else’s. Remember, they're in a different classroom and they're learning completely different lessons than you are. You only have two perspective options when it comes to your journey: You can compare, be jealous and resist “what is," which may make you suffer, or you can accept “what is” and even have gratitude for it, which may create peace and make you suffer less. How do you want to live?
3. Buddha also said it's your craving (for what you want, but don’t have) and your aversion (toward what you have that you don’t want) that make up your resistance to “what is” and cause your suffering. I recommend you get out some paper and make a list of everything you don’t have that you wish you did. Make another list of everything you have but wish you didn’t. Then, make a list of everything you are grateful you don’t have and all the things you're grateful you do have. Then, sit and look at all of these lists. All of these together make up the true nature of life. Every moment you are alive you have all four of these in play, and you always will. Your happiness depends on your focus. If you choose to focus on what you're grateful for, then you could be happy all the time.
4. Make a new rule against comparing yourself with other people. There's no level where comparing yourself to others serves you. Be consistent in choosing to believe that each of us is getting the perfect classroom journey meant for us. Also, remember life is a package deal and each life path comes with some blessings and some trials. If you had another person’s blessings, then you would also have to take their trials, and trust me, you don’t want them.
5. Carefully choose your thoughts. Choose to think only positive, loving thoughts about yourself and other people. In doing this, you're choosing abundance and blessings for everyone. Choose to see the world as abundant and overflowing with enough for all. Every time a jealous thought pops up in your head, try choosing gratitude instead. Gratitude is one of the most positive emotions you can choose. When you live from a place of gratitude, you are accepting love from the universe and opening the door to receive more.
Also, remember that there are many people on this planet who would give anything for your life and would be jealous of you. It’s all about perspective. Count every blessing and trust the universe that everything that happens to you is happening for you.
You can do this.
Coach Kim Giles is a sought after human behavior expert who speaks to groups on improving people skills. Get a free Worksheet to help you fight fear of loss and have less jealousy here.
This was first published on KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — I am often asked about the subconscious need to be perfect that afflicts many people in today’s world and in our community. Many people feel they have to do it all and perfectly, all the time, without fail, to have any value at all.
These high standards create a lot of stress, worry and frustration, which will inevitably strain your relationships. It can make the people in your life feel like they can’t do anything right. It can make them feel they aren’t important to you — since it feels like you care more about tasks and things than you care about them.
If you are constantly stressed and frustrated with everything in your life, the people around you could possibly feel it’s about them. Perfectionists tend to trigger huge fear of failure in their families and co-workers.
Some people who have perfectionist partners tell me they feel like they’re failing whenever their spouse isn’t happy. They tend to feel subconsciously responsible for their happiness. Others say they are giving up because no amount of help or effort changes the perfectionist's stress level, so why try.
These spouses often struggle with feeling inadequate and eventually they get tired of being a disappointment. I tell you this, so you will understand why your high expectations could possibly drive a wedge in your relationships.
Let go of unrealistic expectations
If you want to have healthy relationships, you are going to have to lower your unrealistic expectations and learn to be flexible and go with the flow — and you can do it. You just need some practice and to work on eliminating the fears that cause the perfection problem in the first place.
The fears in play are the fear of failure (the fear of not being good enough) and the fear of loss (the fear of not having things the way you want them). The fixes to these two fears are simple, but they take some practice to implement.
Your value never changes
Perfectionists must learn to take their value out of their performance. What I mean is let nothing you do, no task, no project, no clean house, dirty house, or job undone, changes your value as a human being at all.
You have got to separate your value from everything going on around you. If your children make bad choices, if your partner struggles with problems, if your business falls apart, you lose your job, lose money, or have a meltdown — none of that changes your value. You are still the same you — with the same value as everyone else on the planet.
Practicing believing this can change your life.
Eliminate your fear of failure
Some perfectionists have a subconscious policy or rule in their head that says "I literally have to be perfect at everything to even be OK." So if they don’t do everything perfectly, they can really feel like a failure.
Fear of failure is eliminated when you decide to see human value as unchangeable. When you commit to seeing all human beings as having the same infinite, absolute value, it means you cannot fail or have less value than anyone else, no matter what you do. Again, this takes practice choosing to believe it all day every day, but the more you work at it the easier it gets.
Fear of loss is eliminated when you choose to believe the universe is on your side and always brings you the perfect classroom journey for you every day. If everything happens to serve and grow you, then nothing is a loss. There is no loss — you either win or learn from everything.
Practice reminding yourself daily of these three truths:
1. Perfect isn’t possible. No one will ever get there. This means continuing to strive for perfection can set you up for a whole lot of misery. You must take perfect off the table. It isn’t real, and the sooner you get used to imperfect the better.
2. Your value can’t change. However close to perfect you get, it doesn’t really matter. You have the same value as everyone else all the time, either way. (This is if you decide to see human value this way, and I highly recommend you do.)
3. Your high standards on everything are straining your relationships and could blow them apart if you don’t work on this. Your need for perfection can make it difficult to live or work with.
It is your job to work on your mindset every day. You may want to make some signs declaring these truths and post them in your home, office and car.
You also need to give yourself official permission to be imperfect. As a life coach, my clients find it's powerful to literally create a permission slip on paper and post it somewhere they will see it every day.
Give yourself permission to make mistakes, leave things undone and have a messy-looking life — and let none of it affect your value. Be patient with yourself and do something every day to let go and lower your unrealistic expectations.
Use mindfulness techniques to work on changing your thought process. Try leaving the sink full of dirty dishes all night, or skip mowing the lawn for a few weeks and let the grass grow long. Then every time you see those dishes or that long grass, acknowledge the stressful feeling and practice letting it go. Remind yourself your value isn’t attached to that and that all is well.
This letting-go practice can really serve you.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim Giles explains how to separate your self-worth from your stuff.
I live in a smaller old home in an area where lots of beautiful new large homes have popped up over the last several years. I generally love where we live and the people who live here, but I hate that I feel the nagging impulse to "keep up with the Joneses." I understand it's fear-based, that I'm wanting to feel like I'm just as good as those around me. But I'm hoping you can give some helpful advice to navigate this. It's hard when my kids have friends over and I perceive they aren't having as much fun because we don't have all of the fun "stuff" that they have. I know I shouldn't care, but I do. How do I explain to my kids that we don't have what others around us have and that it's OK? How can I teach them that their own worth isn't tied to stuff?
You need to teach your children where the belief that your value is tied to your appearance, performance and property comes from, and then, how to change it.
This belief actually stems from a simple, but foundational belief about human value and how it’s determined. This is a foundational belief that impacts how you see yourself and everyone around you, and it's critical to understand. Somewhere along the way you, as a child, might have gotten the idea from your parents and watching the other big people around you that human value can change. You started to believe it could go up and you could feel better than other people, and it could go down and you could feel less than other people.
This idea that human value can change also lead you to another negative belief — that some people have more value than other people. These two beliefs are wreaking havoc in your life and with your self-esteem, and they are also responsible for most of the problems on this planet. All of the terrorism, war, racism, discrimination, and even the political divide in our country are all at their core, caused by this idea that some people have more value or are more important than other people.
This is a belief that really needs to change.
Since we all believe human value can change, we also believe you can earn more value by looking good, doing well, or having nice things. We believe that good-looking, thin, tan people have more value than other less attractive, larger people. We believe people who live in big houses, make more money, or have more success, have more value than less successful people. But understand these are not facts or truths, they are just beliefs.
Let me clarify the difference. Truths can be proven and don’t change. Beliefs are just ideas that exist in our heads — they can’t be physically proven — and we can change them whenever we want to or whenever we learn something new. It’s important to understand the difference because every day you are basing your self-esteem on flimsy, though widely held, beliefs, which are not real and are not doing you any good.
This is also a system you can't beat. As long as you choose to believe human value can change and some people have more worth than other people, you will always be afraid you aren’t good enough. No matter how hard you try to improve your appearance, performance and property, you will always find people who have more or have it better. You will never win, nor feel good about yourself using this system.
So I recommend you choose a new system for determining the worth of human beings. I recommend you choose a system or belief that serves you and humanity more and makes you feel better about yourself, too. My suggestion is you adopt the belief that all human beings have the exact same intrinsic value and that value can’t change, no matter what they do or have.
Choose to separate your value from appearance, performance and property altogether, and base human value on something that doesn’t change, like your uniqueness. Anything on this planet that is a one-of-a-kind is extremely valuable, if not priceless. You are a one-of-a-kind, original, the only YOU there will ever be. You are irreplaceable and therefore of infinite, absolute worth — just like everyone else.
When you start to see human value as unchangeable and remind yourself and your children every day that property, performance and appearance don’t mean anything about your value, you will very quickly feel better. Because you are changing a foundational belief across the board applying to everyone, you will start to internalize it and also apply it to yourself. This is the beginning of real self-esteem.
Now, in order to make this powerful change work in your family, you also have to give up judgment of other people too. Every time you or a family member start to gossip or criticize another person, remember their mistakes or faults don’t change their value. If anyone mentions the fact that other people have larger homes, better clothes or more toys, simply remind them property doesn’t determine value and those people have the same value we do.
Making this belief sink in and take hold so you really believe it just takes time and repetition. The more you talk about it, the better — but it doesn’t change the reality that there may be less to do at your house.
I would focus on making sure there is good energy, safety and love for all people when they hang out at your house. Focus on the one thing you have to give, no matter your financial position: LOVE. Be the house where everyone feels valued and important. In the end, people care more about how you make them feel than how many toys you have.
You might also want to read this previous KSL.com article I wrote about that contains a parable about self-worth and houses.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is a human behavior expert, author and speaker. Learn more at www.12shapes.com and www.claritypointcoaching.com Take the Survey and find out your relationship shape today.
My spouse has pointed out that I’m never happy where we are and I always wish we were further along and somewhere else. He says no matter what’s happening, I act like we are behind schedule in life and am frustrated. I can see it now that he has pointed it out and I don’t like this about myself. I’m always stressed, bothered and feel under pressure to get to the next level faster. I also feel like I didn’t make the right choices in the past and because of that, we are behind, too. I can see this makes me hard to live with at times, but I have no idea how to change it and actually be happy in the now when I honestly don’t like where we are now and do wish we were somewhere else. How can I be happy in the now and still work towards being where I want to be? How can I stop saying “I’ll be happy when…”? Any advice?
This is a great question and this is something we all struggle with at times. Here are six ways to change your perspective on where you are today so you feel more content:
1. Meditate to focus on the present
Imagine a timeline, mapping out your life, with a dot (on one spot) that represents today. Notice that everything behind that spot is in the past and you cannot change it. As matter of fact all of the time, choices and experiences to the left of the dot that brought you to where you are today, are set in stone because you cannot change the past. You also cannot change where you are today. That is a fixed point, which is a result of past choices over and gone.
2. Accept you are in control
Standing in that spot today recognize the only thing you have control over is your mindset and you have only two mindset options. You can be in fear and believe the past was wrong, that you are off track, and somewhere you shouldn’t be (which will make you miserable, stressed and sad), or you can choose to believe the past was your perfect classroom journey and it played out perfectly, as the universe delivered it, to help you learn perfect lessons you apparently needed (which will make you feel more content and in peace).
3. Choose a perspective
There is no way to prove either of these perspective options are truth. So, they are both just ideas, but you are required to choose one. If you don’t consciously choose one, you will subconsciously choose one, and it will probably be the fear mindset, which makes you miserable. If there is no provable truth around whether you are on track or off track, so you might as well choose a mindset that brings peace.
4. Focus on improving today
Now, look at everything in front of the dot. Starting right now, in this moment, and moving forward, you have the power to make choices and create different or better circumstances. This is where you get to focus on improving. This present moment is the only moment where you have any control or power. So, make sure, in every moment, you are choosing to be both content with the past (seeing it as your perfect classroom) and motivated to do your best with whatever is in your control, in this moment, to make the future better.
5. Don't focus on the past
Do not waste any time wishing you could change the past. That is a complete waste of your time and energy. It does not good and it distracts you from the good choices you could be making right now.
6. Make goals with a positive mindset
Set optimistic intentions on what you want to create in your future. Choose to believe wholeheartedly that this intended future is possible for you. Feel confident and peaceful around this happening, but don’t attach your happiness to it. You still must stay in trust that the universe knows what it’s doing. If the future you intended and hoped for is what is best for you (your education and growth) you will get it. If what you intend is not your perfect classroom journey, you won’t get it, but that will be OK because you will always get something that is better for you in the long run.
If you find yourself unbalanced (feeling grouchy, bothered or unsatisfied) around where you are now, you know immediately you are not trusting the universe nor using your power to choose your inner state in this moment. Quickly reclaim that power, be responsible for how you are feeling, and choose a positive mindset like gratitude for what is right, optimism about the future or trust in God. How content you feel right now, is totally up to how you are thinking about it and looking at it. Change your perspective and you can change how you feel.
You can do this.
I love your radio show. It is the only reason I am not completely a mess right now. I could use some help though on a specific challenge I am going through. I feel like I need some tools to deal with disappointment. My husband’s job sent us away to live in another country and I’m miserable. I do not like living here at all. I am really struggling as I hate everything about this experience. It has meant putting my education on hold and I’m totally out of my comfort zone. There was a job opening back home and I got so excited that we could move back, and then my husband didn’t get it, which has just shattered my mental well-being. How can I cope with all of this better?
Life can be miserable, disappointing and frustrating at times, but a part of our suffering over these disappointments may be self-inflicted. Even though you cannot change the situation, we believe you can change the way you see and experience it.
The answer to lessening your suffering lies in changing your perspective about the nature of life altogether. We are going to help you do that by recommending you adopt a new policy about the nature of life: It is what it is.
If it was supposed to be something else, it would be.
If you look at the universe and the planet we live on, you will see perfect order everywhere. Everything from the smallest insect to the largest planet in the galaxy — they do what they do, when they do it, for a reason. The entire universe is perfect order, beauty and purpose. Can you see that?
Do you really think your life is an exception? Is your life really a bunch of bad luck accidents that mean nothing and serve no purpose?
There is no way to know for sure. There is no absolute, provable truth on whether there is order in your journey or it’s all just random bad luck. This means you can choose a perspective for yourself.
You can choose to believe there is perfect order in the universe and everything happens for a reason.
With this mindset you will spend your time looking for the lessons and the blessings, instead of complaining about, resisting and regretting that things aren’t different. But you are also going to have to change your expectations, which are nothing but thoughts and illusions you make up and become overly attached to. They aren’t real. You must let go of your expectations so you can make peace with life as it is.
We recommend that you get some paper and write down all the expectations you had for your life (write every small thing you expected to be different than it is). Then tie that paper to a balloon and let it float away up into the sky and let those expectations all go.
Decide to embrace what your life is right now as perfect. This doesn’t mean you give up working to make things better, though. You can keep working on improving things and finding another job in the states, while at the same time understanding that you are where you are for a reason. There is some beautiful lesson you are meant to learn by being exactly where you are right now.
Here are four more things you can do to change how you feel about your life:
1. Accept responsibility for creating the expectation that your life should be different than it is. You created this illusion so you can uncreate it. Choose a mindset based in truth about the nature of the journey. This will produce less self-pity and suffering. Live in optimism that things will get better, but also in trust that what is — is perfect, for some reason.
2. Practice gratitude. If you are going to compare your life with other people’s — at least make sure you compare yourself with those who have less or have it worse than you, not just those who have more or better. There are plenty on both sides. Choose gratitude for what you do have and count your blessings daily.
3. Accept there is meaning and purpose behind every experience. See if you can list 10 positives that the hard situation in your life has created. Look for how your experience could be improving you. Choose to focus on being a better person.
4. Understand that your journey doesn’t define you or have any effect on your value.Your current experience is just a location on your journey. It is a class you were signed up for, but it doesn’t have any bearing on who you are or your value. We believe you aren't being punished with these experiences but you are being blessed by them. You just don’t know why or how yet.
5. Forgive life for disappointing you. You might want to write a letter and vent about your disappointments. Write that you aren’t happy, but you don’t want to live in bitterness, regret, rejection, resentment, judgment, criticism and pain any longer. Choose to embrace what is — and live in love, trust, acceptance, forgiveness and peace instead.
Every moment of every day you must consciously make this choice. Some days when things are rough we live five minutes at a time. Decide for the next five minutes you will accept your situation as a blessing and choose some form of joy. The anger and sadness might creep back in, but you have the power to choose again. As you practice this it gets easier and lasts longer.
We know it’s not easy, but it is that simple.
You can do it.
"I am a 29-year-old single man, living in Utah with no family and I am often lonely. I adopted a dog three years ago and she has helped me tremendously, but still at times I get down. What advice can you give to those that are looking to be able to enjoy life to the fullest without yearning to be in a relationship? What could I do to live a more mentally healthy life and turn off the empty feeling that without a relationship, my life isn’t good enough? I see your advice tends to be more towards couples, but I hope to hear your take on this."
The idea your life isn’t complete without a relationship is just belief. Even if your religion emphasizes marriage, the truth is that many people, besides you, don’t have families and are undertaking a solo journey.
There is no universal law that states "Happiness can only happen in a relationship and being by yourself is lonely or sad." That is not truth — it’s just a belief.
How you feel about every situation in your life is dependent on your beliefs and perspectives about it. You can tell yourself that being single is sad and be depressed every day, or you can tell yourself another story. You can choose a story that focuses on the upsides to the solo journey — and there are many.
There are pros and cons to being in a relationship, and there are pros and cons to being single. One is not necessarily better, easier or worse than the other.
You could choose a story about how wonderful it is to have freedom and time to take care of yourself and do things you like to do. You can always choose to focus on the positives. You could also choose to believe you have the exact same value as every other human being on the planet, in a relationship or out.
One life outlook can make you miserable and one can make you feel better. How do you want to live?
Here are 10 other ways to increase your happiness as a single person:
1. Stay away from media that depicts happy couples, families, romance and relationships and shows they all as blissful. It’s not reality. Being in a relationship is just as hard (or harder) than being alone. It just has a different set of challenges. Be realistic about how challenging relationships can be and appreciate the good parts of having some freedom and alone time.
2. Remember you aren’t really ever alone. There are people all around you. You may not have a romantic partner, but you have friends, co-workers, family and other humans you could put effort into spending time with. Make more friends and build your circle of support.
3. Start a bucket list. But don’t stop with 10 things. Write a list of at least 150 things you would like to do, see, learn, eat or experience before you die. With a list that long you will have to get started today making your life full, interesting and fulfilling.
4. Plan trips and travel alone or invite friends to join you. Getting out and seeing the world enriches your life in ways a stable relationship never could. One isn’t better or worse they are just different.
5. Join meet up groups and take classes. Learn new things, make new friends and take on passion projects or service opportunities.
6. Get more exercise. I often ask clients to imagine their family disappeared and they were all alone in the world, what would they be doing with their time. On the top of everyone’s list is more exercise. Those are the things you need to be doing now. Spend all the time you would be putting into a relationship, taking care of yourself.
7. Eat better, be healthy and make self-care a priority. Did you know singles are more likely to be fit and healthy than people in relationships? They eat better and get more exercise. One study showed singles gained an average of 14 or more pounds when they started a relationship and singles get more sleep too.
8. Focus on what you do have. Practice gratitude daily. See the magic and beauty in the small things of life.
9. Work on your home space and make it your own. Decorate and create a space where you love to be.
10. Remember that nothing lasts forever. Every chapter of your life changes eventually. When life is dark you can count on it — the next light chapter is coming because nothing lasts.
Claim your power to choose your attitude moment by moment each day. Choose joy, choose to focus on the good in your life and count the small blessings. Even if it means choosing joy for just five minutes at a time.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cunningham are the human behavior experts behind www.12.shapes.com. They host a weekly Relationship Radio show
This was first published on KSL.com
I am going through a divorce and it’s really depressing to be here over Christmas. I haven’t even had it in me to put up the tree. It’s the worst time of year to feel alone. Do you have any advice for how to make this a Merry Holiday when I’m lonely?
That is a hard situation to be in, but you must decide now if you are going to give into the sadness story or reject that thinking and choose to focus on the positive. You may have to make this choice every five minutes, as the sadness might creep back in, but you can do it and it gets easier with practice. Here are fourteen ways you can make your holiday season easier to get through.
1. Focus on what you do have — not what you don’t have.
How you feel is directly tied to how you're thinking about your situation. Focus on gratitude for everything you have every day. Take some time and write them in a journal each day if necessary.
2. Focus on self-care.
All that time and energy you would be spending on someone else, you can now spend on loving and caring for yourself. Take advantage of this and treat yourself extra good. Take bubble baths, get massages, buy great lotions and some fresh clothes (use the money you would have spent on presents for a significant other).
3. Don’t create a story around loss or victimhood.
And don’t dwell on the fact that you don’t have anyone to kiss under the mistletoe. That depressing storyline is an attitude option, but it’s not your only choice. You could choose to feel whole, happy and fulfilled. You really can. The one thing you always have power over is your thoughts. Think happy, whole, fulfilled thoughts about how great your life is. If negative story comes in, thank it for showing up with an opinion, but no, thank you.
4. Plan activities with family and friends.
Don’t sit home. Plan things you want to do and invite people to join you. Schedule in all your down time with activities you enjoy.
5. Do service.
When you focus on others, you forget about your problems. There are lots of wonderful places to volunteer and donate time around the holidays or you might pick a cause to work or gather donations or gifts for them.
6. Make sure you get lots of exercise, eat well and sleep.
These three things help all of us have more balanced mental and emotional health. If you feel down, go for a walk, get outside and move, or make yourself a healthy meal. These are important areas of self-care that make a huge difference in how you feel about yourself and life.
7. Get a great book to read over the holidays.
Getting lost in a wonderful adventure or interesting storyline, keeps you from dwelling on your own life too much.
8. If family gatherings help you, then go.
But if they make you feel worse, don’t go. Don’t attend anything from obligation.
Instead, go out with upbeat friends or plan a party and invite everyone (who has nowhere to go or feels awkward) to join you. Some people call these “A Misfit Toys party”, but we would rather think of them as “Celebrate your perfect classroom even if it’s nonconventional parties”.
9. Create brand new traditions.
If the old ones don’t work right now, don’t create a sad story around that. Decide to create new interesting traditions and decide they will be just as good, just different.
10. Limit the alcohol.
Even though it can numb sad feelings, in the end it will leave you feeling more depressed. Eating healthy and working out would serve you more. Plan fun activities and get high on life, being with friends or having adventures.
11. When the inevitable questions begin about what you’re doing and are you dating, have a response ready that is positive and happy.
You might say you have decided to focus on loving yourself right now and it’s been really good for you. Or have a joke planned and then quickly start asking questions about them and keep them talking as long as possible. If you keep the focus off your life completely by asking questions about everyone else, the parties will be easier.
12. Buy yourself some awesome presents that are just what you wanted.
Get out of town. Sometimes the best way to handle the holidays is to plan a trip and skip the whole thing all together. Go on a fun adventure, a cruise or trip and focus on pampering yourself while you’re there.
13. If tears come, let yourself have a limited amount of time to cry it out.
Cry really good and loud and let all the pain out. You will be amazed at how much better you feel.
14. Watch funny movies, comedians or YouTube videos.
Laugh as much as possible! This really helps you stay upbeat, especially after that good cry.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cunningham are relationship and human behavior experts, authors and speakers. They host Relationship Radio every Thursday on VoiceAmerica.com Empowerment Channel.
I got divorced years ago and since then I have been working on my self-confidence and self-worth, and I have become a happier, busier woman. My parents keep asking me if I am ready to find another man. They don’t seem to like my answer that I’m happy being single. I’m sick and tired of the online dating and the way it’s done now. The bottom line is I’m done with dating and I don’t know how to tell my parents that and get them to support me. How would you recommend I tell them (again)?
Before I recommend a way to get your parents support for your choices, I want you to understand how social norms or unwritten cultural rules can drive our thoughts, feelings and behavior, and how we all allow these socially accepted beliefs to create cognitive dissonance and suffering in our lives.
From the moment you were born, you have been gathering data about yourself, others, and the world around you. Everything you saw, heard or experienced helped you create conclusions about the rules in your family and community. You learned which behaviors earned you love, attention or approval. You learned what to do to avoid suffering or rejection. Your whole life you have been creating subconscious policies and procedures about living in your world.
The problem is many of these ideas, policies or rules are just ideas and many of them are not serving you either. Many of these beliefs are not even based in fact or reality: they are simply thoughts that have gained more power than they should. But they have been with you for a long time, and you have followed them simply because you didn’t know there was another option.
The following are some examples of these unwritten rules you might have adopted:
Here are 5 ways to challenges your unwritten policies and start consciously choosing new beliefs:
1. Remember you are the only one entitled to know the path through life that’s right for you.
Never let anyone tell you how you should live, what you should want or what you should do next. They are not in the same classroom as you, so their truth isn’t going to be your truth. Give yourself permission to explore many mindset options and choose the way that feels right to you.
2. Be unique.
Own that no one else on the planet will ever get the same journey as you. No one will ever have your genetics, your body, your family, your upbringing and your experiences. We believe this means your perspective and your truth are unique to you, and no one else can see the world the way you see it. This is why you must choose your own way and not let others make your choices.
3. Trust yourself.
Trust you have an inner guidance system (an inner GPS) that will always guide you toward your perfect classroom. It will nudge you and pull you toward the experiences you need to grow and learn in the ways you need. If you ask others for advice, do so because you want to research the options, not because you trust their judgment more than your own.
Once you clarify your options, write each one on an index card and place them in front of you on the table. Then one by one take an option off the table and throw it away, listening to your gut about which you should ditch. Do this until there is only one option left. This kind of exercise helps you practice listening to your own inner guidance system.
4. Let everyone else be unique and trust themselves too.
We all have a tendency to think everyone should see the world the way we see it. “What’s wrong with them that they can’t see what I see? It’s obvious.” They can’t see the world the way you do, because their unique journey has fashioned a unique perspective that you can’t possibly see.
You must give everyone permission to be on their perfect classroom journey. The more you do this, you will also be empowered to claim your journey. Refrain from any judgment about their choices; honor and respect their right to be where they are, and feel what they do.
Remember though, that though we are all very different, we have the exact same intrinsic worth and that cannot change.
5. The amazing and unique souls around you, who choose a vastly different path than yours, are often in your life to teach you tolerance and stretch your ability to love.
It’s easy to love people who agree with you and live like you and by your rules, but it’s much more challenging to love someone who is different. When you choose to see these people as different, but equal in value, and allow them to even teach you something, there will be an amazing richness in your life. They will give you fresh viewpoints and broader understanding of the human experience. Embrace them as they are and let their different choices teach you something.
Once you claim the right to live by the dictates of your own conscience, values, beliefs and preferences, and allow the people around you to do the same, you can then ask the people in your life to honor you, too.
We recommend you sit down with your parents and ask them some questions about why they feel so strongly about you dating and finding someone to love. Really listen to them and honor their right to think and feel the way they do. Spend some time here, and let them know you can understand why they might feel that way. Then ask if they would be willing to let you share what you feel about it, and if they would be willing to honor and respect your right to choose the right path for you. We think you will be surprised how supportive they will be if you share your feelings and ask them to support you moving forward.
We agree that for many people living as a single person can still be a rich, beautiful, happy and fulfilled life. Happiness does not require marriage or a life partner, though many people find great happiness that way. We think you should focus on building the life you want to live — you only get one shot at this life so be true to yourself and live big.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cunningham are master coaches and the creators behind Claritypointcoaching.com and www.12shapes.com They host Relationship Radio every Thursday on Voice American and on iTunes.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.