Eating Disorders and Holidays

For many people the holidays are a time of joy and celebration. It is a time to gather with family and friends, catch up on each other’s lives, and share a few laughs. For most people, highlights of the holiday season includes the food and sitting down to enjoy a traditional holiday meal. For people with eating disorders, however, the holidays are often not quite so enjoyable. In fact, they can be the ultimate nightmare. For many sufferers, the holidays bring tremendous stress, anxiety, and fear.

It is common for people who suffer from eating disorders to experience an increase in symptoms of their illness as the holiday season approaches. This may be due to stress over the impending festivities and/or anticipation of the presence of challenging (often high calorie) food in the weeks to come. Many sufferers tell themselves that if they lose a few pounds prior to the holidays, they will be able to allow themselves to eat like everyone else. In reality, this approach rarely works and the eating disorder reasserts itself during the family time.

The following is an account of the holidays as written by Colleen Thompson:

“Whether it was Christmas, Easter or any other holiday, I could never relax and enjoy the day because I knew the moment would arrive when I would have to sit down at the table and face all that food. Usually with my in-laws I could get away with not eating very much. I especially liked having people over to my house, because I could keep busy in the kitchen and spend less time at the table. When I was with my own family, I would sit and eat with everyone else, but the meal was never enjoyed because I was always too busy adding up all the calories in my head and the fear of getting fat would grow stronger with each bite of food. I always looked forward to the moment I could leave, so that I could rush home and purge. The days following the holidays were just as bad. The guilt I would feel was enormous and I would feel desperate to try and make up for all the calories I had consumed. I would really restrict my intake and I would exercise more. Holidays were a time that I just never looked forward to.”

Holidays and intense periods of time spent with family can be stressful for all people, not just those who suffer from eating disorders. Holidays often place pressure on families and this pressure can result in frayed tempers. For families who have a member who is affected by an eating disorder, the pressure and resulting stress can be even greater. It is important for family members to remember that food-related situations are stressful for sufferers of eating disorders and to try above all else to remain calm and loving during fraught times.

It is an unfortunate reality that many eating disorder sufferers dread the holiday season. Fortunately, this can be improved with proper treatment. After recovery, sufferers can progress to a stage in which they enjoy and look forward to holidays once again.

Planning Ahead

In the midst of the problem however, good planning will help make the holidays a little easier. Below is a list of suggestions to help cope with the holidays:

  • Talk to your treatment team and help identify what difficulties you may expect and problem-solve some strategies for dealing with them.
  • If you are following a meal plan try to stick to it over the holidays. Try to anticipate some of the situations that will make following it harder, such as time in transit, time changes, and not having access to your usual foods. If you are traveling, plan how or where you will get the food you need.
  • If you are traveling, it is wise to pack some snack foods both for the time in transit and to have upon arrival at the destination until you can go shopping.
  • Make a list of things you can do to help relax and distract yourself from the feelings of fullness after a big meal. e.g. go for a walk, take a bath, read, visit a friend, go for a drive, etc. If you are traveling be sure to bring some of your distraction activities.
  • Have the phone numbers of your treatment team and friends available to you.
  • If you need to be at a function with certain people who make you uncomfortable, plan some ways to excuse yourself from their immediate presence. Put your own health above anything else at all times.
  • Try not to count calories and try to avoid the scale.
  • If you feel yourself starting to panic because you are feeling too full or if you allowed yourself to eat foods that you consider to be forbidden, remind yourself it is okay to eat what you did, that food will not make you fat, and it is normal to eat more during the holidays. Most people do and it really is okay.
  • If you end up bingeing or purging, do not beat yourself up over it. Just put it behind you and move forward. Try to get back on track at the next meal.
  • Prepare responses to people who may say something to you that would make you uncomfortable.
  • If you feel you need to, set some boundaries for yourself by telling people ahead of time that you do not want anyone to comment on your appearance or your eating.
  • Be sure to plan some time for yourself to do something that you enjoy. It is very important to take special care of yourself during the holidays.Holidays are a very stressful time for people with eating disorders and it is important that you do whatever you need to do in order to make them easier on yourself.

    As you progress in recovery there will come a time when food will no longer prevent you from enjoying the holidays. You will be able to think of them as a time to gather with loved ones. You can make your own special memories, and you may even be able to start looking forward to them.

    HAPPY HOLIDAYS

    (What if:)

    H unger means you eat when physically hungry instead of emotionally hungry.

    A ttitudes about your size has to with the size of your heart instead of the size of your body.

    P eople accept and value you for who you are, not according to how you look.

    P roblems are resolved in ways other than stuffing your feelings with food.

    Y ou spend as much time and energy on helping others, as you do on how you look.

     

    H appiness comes from within rather than from expectations of others.

    O ccasions for the holidays emphasize relating to others instead of emphasizing food.

    L ove of self means you deserve to treat yourself in the best humanly possible way.

    I dentity of self involves more than how you look.

    D isapproval of self is changed to approval of who you are.

    A cceptance of what one can not change includes your body features.

    Y ou treat yourself as you treat your best friend.

    S ociety values you for being you without emphasis to your weight or size.

    Written by:
    Sharon Sward, Past President of Eating Disorder Professionals of Colorado
    Author of You Are More Than What You Weigh

How To Stop Binge Eating…What Actually Worked For Me

Can’t stop binge eating? I’ve been there. Once, I ate an entire 1/2 gallon of cookies and cream ice cream in one sitting. For real.

There was a time in my life when episodes like this (though maybe not quite so bad) were not uncommon. And by “not uncommon” I mean weekly – sometimes twice a week.

It’s not something I ever talked about much. After all, what girl in her right mind would brag about downing almost 2,000 calories of ice cream all by herself… all in one sitting?

There’s a ton of shame surrounding binge eating. It’s shameful because deep down we all feel like we should be able to willpower our way through it. And shameful because society says being a “good” woman means eating light salads and being happy about it.

And boy was I ashamed. I’ll be the first to admit, it’s much easier to talk about this because I was able to stop binge eating. It’s much harder when you’re right in the thick of it. At the time, there was nothing more I wanted to learn than how to stop binge eating. But I was too ashamed to talk about it.

But I’m here to say, if you’re still stuck between restriction and binging – you’re not alone. You’re just human, and it’s okay. The shame we feel about binge eating actually just keeps us trapped in the vicious cycle, so one of the most important things you can do is give yourself a little slack.

Not because binging is a healthy behavior – it honestly isn’t – but because shaming yourself isn’t healthy either. And two wrongs don’t make a right.

So, yes, for a long time I hid my binge eating from the outside world. For all the general public knew, I was a salad-loving, tofu-eating health nut.

I wouldn’t dare let on that every day I non-stop thought about all the food I shouldn’t be eating. It was a constant obsession. And at the end of the week, I would helplessly succumb to four slices of bacon pizza with extra cheese, followed by a generous slice (…or two) of cheesecake with raspberry sauce.

For a long time, I thought something was seriously wrong with me. After all, normal people didn’t do this.

Funny enough, it’s when I stopped obsessing about my eating habits that I stumbled across a real (though perhaps boring) solution for how to stop binge eating.

HOW I STOPPED BINGE EATING FOREVER

As far as I was concerned, I had no power to prevent binge eating. In those moments when my stomach felt like a bottomless pit (even when I technically felt full), willpower wasn’t even a word in my vocabulary. And I didn’t learn to stop binge eating by getting more willpower, believe me.

I also didn’t do it by distracting myself (Hungry? Go paint your fingernails! Then you can’t eat the cookies because your nails will be wet. Yeah, well, tell that to the cookie crumbs lacquered into my hot pink nails…).

Nor did I learn to stop binge eating by instead eating a piece of fruit or cheese or a raw carrot or whatever. If I wanted to binge on brownies, a carrot wasn’t going to stop me. Best case scenario? I end up eating the carrot and then the brownies. There was never once an occurrence when I ate the carrot instead of the brownies.

To be truthful, binge eating was the least of my problems a few years ago. I had acne worse than I did as a teenager. I had crazy (i.e. scary) mood swings, I couldn’t handle stress worth a hoot, and I had insomnia that left me crippled with zombie-like fatigue during the day.

There came a point when I decided enough was enough. I needed some serious health intervention and I needed it yesterday.

That’s when I changed my approach to getting healthy. I bucked against mainstream advice (because all that salad and tofu didn’t seem to be helping much). And in exploring alternative ideas to what constitutes “healthy” I also flushed out the source of my binges.

HOW TO STOP BINGE EATING… THE BORING WAY

So if you can’t stop binge eating, what is my crazy solution? Eat!

Yes, eat. Mostly real food and enough to sustain your body and your activities. And don’t exercise more than you can support with good food and good sleep.

That’s just way too simple, right?

Since back in my binge eating days, I’ve learned that the biggest key to health is… balance. I know, it’s not as exciting as an ancient berry from South America, but it’s the real thing.

I also learned that when I jumped to extremes, my health (mental and physical) suffered for it. And I learned to listen to my body, because not everything they say is “healthy” was the right choice for me.

Did you know… girls who diet are 12x more likely to binge eat? This is not a coincidence!

So I quit dieting and overexercising. I quit restricting food groups and going on restrictive diets. I quit labeling food (and by extension myself) as good or bad. And I quit working out to “work off” last night’s fettuccine alfredo.

All this did not happen overnight. It was a slow (sometimes painful) dance of two steps forward and one step back. But eventually, I was able to strike a pretty comfortable balance of eating well, enjoying a wide variety of foods in moderation, and being active in a way I really enjoy (and not overdoing it).

I knew I was on the right track because I experienced a lot of health benefits in the process.

And something else happened during this time. Without even trying – without even thinking about it – I stopped binge eating.

It didn’t happen all at once. At first, my binge eating episodes just occurred less frequently (like maybe 3-4 times per month instead of twice a week). Then a few weeks would go by without a real binge. Then a couple of months. Pretty soon my all-out binges were few and far between.

Now? I can’t even remember the last time I really binged on something. It’s been that long.

Why? Because I was finally listening to my body and giving it what it needed: plenty of quality food, good rest, and the right amount of exercise. I found my balance.

I really like the motto of Amber Rogers from Go Kaleo: “Eat the food.” I find it funny that the more I tried to control and restrict my eating, the more often I would end up binge eating and feeling out of control.

And the more I paid attention and ate what my body needed to thrive (when it comes to both nutrients and energy), the more binge eating became a thing of the past for me.

BINGE VS. SPLURGE

When someone says to me, “I can’t stop binge eating!” I always want to clarify what a binge really is. Eating a bowl of ice cream (even a big one) is not a binge. Neither is eating a couple pieces of pizza. These are splurges, not binges.

Splurges are totally normal and can be part of eating healthy. I still splurge on a hefty slice of cake or a couple slices of bacon pizza sometimes. (I just don’t eat the whole pizza or cake anymore.)

So remember not to sweat the small stuff and just enjoy your food!

Article By: Elizabeth Walling

How to Get in Touch with Your Emotions

We’re not always encouraged to get in touch with our emotions. We strive to turn a happy face to the world, keeping up the facade displayed on our social media pages. We often feel pressure to put on a front for “likes” so we show people the fun vacations and the pretty food, not the crying baby or the embarrassing work meeting. It’s seems important to show our best selves to others and to appear strong, independent, and upbeat.

We then fall into the trap of comparing our real lives with “highlight reels” of others on social media all while feeling pressure to keep up our own “everything is great” exterior. Sometimes though, these images we portray to others don’t show the whole picture. We might be depressed or have a bad day or lose a job. This all leads to us to potentially feel isolated from other people. So what is the importance of both understanding and sharing our emotions?

How To Get In Touch With Your Feelings
You may be thinking, “OK that’s great, emotional awareness matters, but how do I become more aware?” The following are some suggestions for learning more about your feelings and how to talk about them in helpful ways.

Name The Emotions You Experience.
Often we think of the easy ones, such as anger, happiness, sadness, fear, but as we become adults, our emotions become more nuanced. Learn to identify less commonly named ones, including shock, shame, anxiety, disgust, boredom, amusement, desperation, doubt, etc. Use a thesaurus or search for a mood chart online to give you new ideas.

Learn To Identify Your Feelings Correctly.
We may automatically assume that we are angry if we yell, but it’s possible to cover up feelings of sadness or embarrassment with things that look like anger to make us feel less vulnerable. Take the time to look below the surface symptoms and see what’s really going on underneath.

Track A Particular Emotion Throughout The Day.
Pick a feeling and follow it. Let’s say “joyfulness.” Jot down how many times you feel joyful throughout the day. Write notes about who you’re with, what time it is, where you are, what you’re doing, and how intense the emotion is. This can be a helpful exercise in learning what to embrace or avoid in your daily life to help manage your feelings better.

Push Through And Seek Support When It Seems Difficult.
If we’ve buried our emotions for a long time, it can be very painful to face them. Often it can seem like things are getting worse before we learn to deal with how we feel. Don’t give up before you receive the healing benefits of getting more in tune with yourself! Seek help from trusted friends, counselors, religious organizations, and support groups if it seems too difficult to do alone.

Express Emotions In Healthy Ways.
Once we’ve learned to name and track emotions, we need to learn what to do with them. Understanding our emotions may lead us to have healthy conversations with loved ones. We can share what we’ve learned about ourselves to others, receiving support and providing empathy for one another. Other ways that people deal with emotions include exercising, meditating, prayer, creating or listening to music, writing poetry, painting, or journaling. Find out what helps you to process your emotions, and be as creative as you want!

Pay Attention To Your Body.
Take a moment to pause right now. Take a deep breathe. What does your body feel like right this moment? Often we experience physical sensations that are associated with emotions, and we can learn to recognize our feelings based on our physical symptoms. For example, anger is often felt between the chest and head, while fear is usually felt between the stomach and chest. These sensations can include tightness, numbness, agitation, and nausea. Different people will have different physical sensations so learn what your body is telling you about your emotions.

Is Emotional Awareness Important?
Emotional awareness is an often neglected skill. Some studies show that only 1 in 3 of us has the ability to correctly assess our feelings. This is significant because our emotions usually point towards important truths about ourselves. Our feelings come from our deepest desires, hopes, needs, and goals. If we don’t know what we’re feeling and why, we risk leaving crucial needs and longings unmet, potentially perpetuating a cycle of anger or unhappiness. Keeping feelings hidden can also lead to emotional breakdowns. Imagine a pipe that is blocked, emotions building up like water, trying to get through to the other side. Eventually the pipe will burst, causing chaos. Lack of emotional awareness can also lead to unhealthy ways of coping, such as addiction, overeating, negative relationships, and angry outbursts.

The Myth Of Negative Emotions
A lot of people believe that it’s only healthy to have positive emotions, such as happiness, joy, and contentment, but that negative emotions like fear, anxiety, or sadness are inappropriate. We need to dispel this myth if we are going to get in touch with our feelings. Anger, for example, is not inherently negative. It can show us when we have an unfulfilled need or a frustration with crossed boundaries. A person that feels angry should examine where the anger is coming from so he or she can resolve the issue. Anger becomes a problem only when it is exhibited un-checked, hurting us and those around us. If you’ve watched the Pixar movie Inside Out, you’ll have learned that sadness isn’t always negative either. It can help us be more empathetic, more sensitive to the needs of others. It’s not the emotions that cause problems for us, but the way they fester and burst if we ignore them.

How Can Teenagers Deal With Emotions?
When we’re children, we experience very basic emotions, without many words to express ourselves. The older we get, the more complicated our emotions become. We are eventually able to have multiple feelings at the same time and have a wider spectrum of emotion words to use. When we are teenagers, we are learning how to deal with these new moods. It’s important to remember that our peers are experiencing these same changes. We’re not crazy because we don’t always immediately know why we’re crying or becoming angry. It can help to use some of the above tips, to journal our thoughts, and to talk to a trusted adult who has gone through this before.

How Can Being In Tune With My Feelings Help My Relationships?
Talking to your partner about how each of you expresses different emotions can help you learn to recognize feelings in each other. A person could assume that his partner is happy when she talks a lot because this is how he behaves, but she may actually talk more when she is nervous and uncomfortable. Conversations about emotions can teach people to care better for each other.

We all have emotions every day, even when we do not realize it. They are powerful indicators of our needs, goals, longings, and desires. When we are in tune with them, they can point us in directions of growth so we can reach our full potentials and receive the support we need. Ignoring these feelings may be easy in the moment but can have serious repercussions for our relationships and our mental health. Learning about our emotions can help us be more empathetic people, know our strengths and weaknesses, make better choices, and ask for what we need.

Article by: Jeremy Bergen

What My Dog Taught Me About Self-Acceptance

“Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” ~Lao Tzu

We all have recorded messages playing in our heads, from long ago.

Listen to parents talking to young children. Often the message is less than approving.

“Don’t put that in your mouth!”

“Go wash your face right now.”

“If you keep acting like that nobody will like you.”

“Look at Cindy, how well she’s doing. If you worked harder you could do as well as her.”

Those examples are kind compared to what many people will have heard growing up.

Many of these messages enter our brains before our conscious memories are fully formed. They may be buried somewhere in our minds, but they are real.

Of course, parents have to train young children. That’s part of their job. But not all parents balance their criticism with approval.

So, we often grow up anxious for approval, uncertain of our own worth, always feeling that there’s something fundamentally wrong with us, perhaps feeling more or less unlovable.

This self-critical stance interferes with the warm, loving, mutually accepting, and deeply satisfying relationships we crave all through life.

Are relationships really that important? The Harvard Study of Adult Development followed people for as long as seventy years. Some thrived, some sank.

What was the common factor among those who flourished for decades, in every way? Warm, supportive relationships.

I sucked at relationships as a child. I don’t mean romantic relationships, just friendships. I was the awkward kid who got left out of playground games.

Yet, there was a part of my life that was quite different. It was full of love and joy.

Let me tell you about Jolly.

Jolly was about two feet tall, hairy, with patches of brown, black, and white. For me, it was love at first sight. He was bouncing around frantically, his tail wagging so furiously that it might have fallen off.

I pestered my parents until they agreed to get him for me.

In no time at all, I was experiencing why dogs are called our best friends. Jolly was completely in love with me, judging by his behavior.

If the day had been particularly frustrating for me, Jolly didn’t care. He’d jump on me as soon as I came in the door, tail wagging at dangerous speeds, squealing with delight, trying to lick my face, running up and down the room before repeating the performance, barking with joy, inviting me to play with him.

Sometimes a teacher would tell me off in school.

Jolly didn’t care. To him, I was still the most wonderful person in the world. He would still burst with joy when I got home, bury me in licks, desperate for me to play with him.

Sometimes I would return feeling really low because other kids had been particularly nasty to me.

Jolly would still jump on me when I opened the door. He would still wag that tail dangerously fast. If he could talk, I believe he would be spewing out love poetry to rival Shakespeare.

I didn’t even have to go out of the house for him to find me fascinating and totally lovable. It was enough if I went to the next room and came back. He would still be almost bursting out of his skin with joy at seeing me again.

It was as if he could see something in me that I could not see for myself.

However, it took me decades to digest and fully accept the lesson that Jolly was teaching me.

Medical school taught me the neurological pathways and brain areas that are active during criticism, but I didn’t fully embrace Jolly’s message until some decades later.

For many parents, and for the world, success in life is something that happens in the future of a child. The child grinds out one day after another, chasing that distant glimmer of success.

The child becomes a young adult, and still they’re chasing that distant success. Work hours are long, relationships suffer, tempers are short, nerves are frayed, emotions run high. Still, success remains like a finishing line that’s continually moving away.

The young adult grows toward middle age, perhaps with children by now, and still they’re chasing success. For themselves and now for their children too.

No matter how much they’ve accumulated, there’s always the possibility of accumulating more. Keeping up with the Joneses is an endless game. At the root of it all is the little child’s longing for approval.

“They’ll discover I’m a fraud.”

“If they really knew me they wouldn’t like me.”

“If only I could get that next promotion or close that big sale, people would start respecting me more.”

“If only I did better, I would become truly lovable.”

Scratch under the surface, and there might well be a self-critical little child longing for acceptance.

We experience the stresses and strains of life as burdens that drag us down.

We get annoyed at ourselves for not doing better.

We beat ourselves up for experiencing difficult or unpleasant emotions.

We’re hooked on self-help books and programs because we’re anxious about our flaws.

We long to be rid of our flaws and imperfections, because we believe that will make us more lovable.

What would Jolly say?

“I don’t care. Yes, you need to lose thirty pounds, but right now I love you and want you to know that you are completely worthy of my love.”

“Yes, you could do with twice as much money and a much bigger house, but right now you are already totally lovable.”

“Yes, you could do with fewer of those low moods, less anxiety and less anger, but right now you are already worthy of honor and respect.”

“Yes, you’ve had some messy relationships and screwed up in many ways but right now you are totally worthy of love.”

The more I learned to accept myself with all my flaws and imperfections, the more relaxed I became about difficult emotions and setbacks in life.

The more accepting I became of my own imperfections, the more accepting and loving I became toward others.

The more accepting and loving I became toward others, the more they responded with warmth.

The child that was left out on the playground is now a much more self-accepting person despite his flaws, often a source of love, comfort, laughter, and joy to others. That is fertile soil for warm, supportive relationships.

Supportive relationships, as research has found, are the key to wellbeing now and for decades to come. They help keep your body and brain working well for longer.

At our core, we’re a mess and we’re always falling short of our aspirations. That’s part of being human. It’s okay.

Jolly would want you to know that you are totally lovable, regardless.

Article by: Joe Almeida of Tiny Buddha

How Forgiving Yourself and Others Changes Your Brain

“Be quick to forgive, because we’re all walking wounded.” ~Anonymous

People often behave in ways that we find irritating, annoying, or worse. This can happen especially with people close to us.

They can speak with little consideration for the impact of their words. They can criticize us and pounce on our mistakes. Sometimes they do unfair things that seriously disadvantage or damage us. Or they let us down when we’re counting on them.

All these behaviors can lead to us feeling wounded. The scars can persist for years or even decades. The closer the offenders are to us, the greater the impact tends to be.

Most of us would like others to understand us, to act reliably, and to be approachable when things go wrong. We’d like them to be kind in dealing with our mistakes or offences. We’d like them to understand that we aren’t set in stone, that we aren’t just the sum total of our mistakes.

We deserve a chance to recover and show our better side. We’d like them to be more understanding and put a more favorable interpretation on what we did or failed to do.

However, it can be different when others behave badly. Often, we spend a lot of time and energy going over the way we were wronged, mistreated, disappointed, disrespected, or disregarded.

Dwelling on the perceived wrong kindles the fire of a grudge. The more we dwell on it, the bigger this fire grows.

Can this fire burn us?

When I was in high school, some of the coolest kids formed a band. Everyone wanted to be in that band. I played the piano, so I too wanted to be in it.

One of my closest friends also played the piano, but not as well. It became a bit of a tussle between us. I was chosen, to my delight.

When we started playing gigs, a piano was not always available. So I took to the melodica, a little instrument into which you blow. It has a keyboard.

We started playing gigs, with quite a good response from audiences. Everything was going well, until we were invited to play a gig in a venue right near my home.

The melodica was at the band leader’s house, because we rehearsed there. I asked for it to be brought to the gig.

On the evening of the gig, my bandmates turned up. Unfortunately, the melodica could not be found. Apparently, it had been brought to the venue by the band leader but had disappeared.

This was a bitter blow. I had so looked forward to strutting my stuff before a home crowd. I rushed around to various people who might have a melodica, but could not find one.

The gig happened without me. I was downcast.

Eventually, the real story came out.

The melodica had been brought to the venue. The close friend I mentioned, who also played the piano, had simply taken it away and hidden it.

I was outraged. I felt betrayed, violated, and angry. I felt ready to run my friend over with a large truck.

We didn’t speak for a couple of years. Then I got an apology of sorts. Somehow, things were never the same between us.

I went off to medical school and our paths have never crossed since.

What happens to your brain when you cling to a grudge?

The parts of your brain that specialize in criticism grow more active. They feed on your thoughts about the grudge. The neurons involved lay down more connections, strengthening this response.

The next time someone behaves in a way that you disapprove of, your brain more readily jumps to criticism and judgment.

All that is understandable, you’re not alone in practicing criticism. But there’s a price to pay for this practice.

The same parts of your brain that criticize others also criticize you. You tend to become more unforgiving about your own mistakes. Self-acceptance recedes. It becomes harder for you to like yourself.

Further, this can lead to a cycle of mutual criticism between you and people who matter to you. It tends to weaken the supportive relationships we all need.

A recent study among 5,475 men and 4,580 women aged over 50 showed that a single point increase in negative social support score resulted in a 31 percent rise in the risk of eventual dementia. Negative social support is where you experience a lot of critical, unreliable and annoying behaviors from others, especially people close to you.

What can you do to start breaking this downward spiral of mutual criticism and self-criticism?

First, ask what stresses or problems may have led to the undesirable behavior. Try to find explanations that weaken the impact of the “bad” behavior on your mind. This is as true for self-criticism as for criticizing others.

Perhaps there were circumstances that led to you acting in regrettable ways. If you regret it, don’t wallow in the regret. Find explanations to understand why you did what you did.

Give yourself the gift of forgiveness, strengthen your resolve to do what is good and important going forward, then move on. This same gift of forgiveness may be given to others, recognizing that all human beings are vulnerable to errors or even terrible behavior.

Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation with the offender. Reconciliation is the re-establishment of mutual trust. That requires a further step as part of negotiation.

But forgiveness can proceed regardless of reconciliation and mutual trust.

The more you practice understanding and forgiveness, starting with yourself, the more you strengthen the self-reassuring parts of your brain. These are the same parts that show empathy and compassion to others. They make you more accepting of yourself, with all your flaws and stumbles.

We all have flaws and stumbles. That’s okay. It’s part of being human.

If I could go back to my youth and replay my friend’s apology, I hope I would respond with more understanding. After all, if our positions had been reversed and I’d been blinded by envy, who knows what I might have done.

For a better quality of life right now, with more self-acceptance, and for a lower risk of cognitive decline, try loosening your grip on grudges. And be gentle with yourself when you slip up in this effort. The steering wheel of your life often requires a little time, patience and practice before you can turn it reliably.

I’m still practicing. That’s okay.

Article by: Joel Almeida

Why We Resist Change

One reason that people resist change is because they focus on what they have to give up rather than what they have to gain.

-Rick Godwin

15 Podcasts to Listen to on Your Work Commute

I never thought I’d ever become a podcast person. No images? No videos? Just a voice talking to you? It sounded pretty bland to me, and I didn’t think it could capture my attention.

That is, until I decided to give one a go. And then another. And I quickly fell in love with them—they were perfect for winding down after a long day, as an alternative to watching TV in bed (and a healthier one in my opinion), and while making my way to and from work, which is quite a long and boring trek for me.

I found myself laughing out loud on public transportation, tearing up at 7 AM in the morning, and telling everyone I knew they had to listen to so and so episode right this second. (In related news, have you heard This American Life’s “Captain’s Log?”) Basically, they’re the perfect mix of entertainment and education—and they’re completely free!

So, if you want to try one out, learn something new to tell your co-workers (hello conversation starters!), and even become better at your job (yes, there are podcasts for that), check out what The Muse team is listening to right now!

1. Fresh Air by NPR

Fresh Air always has great, in-depth interviews, and I love the wide range of people it features on the show. Terry Gross has been interviewing people for so long, so she’s awesome at researching her interviewer and asking them a wide range of questions. She also asks them direct questions (a.k.a., she doesn’t beat around the bush). And her voice is also really soothing to wind down after work. The episode I recommend is with John Krasinski—he talks about his start as an actor, and how he got his break on The Office.

2. Reply All by Gimlet Media

It’s a podcast about the history of the internet, and all the quirky things people have done with it since its invention. I recently listened to a fascinating episode about the inventor of the pop-up ad, and how he feels like he ruined the internet with it.

3. Bill’s Monday Morning Podcast by Bill Burr

If you love stand-up comedy, you’ll like this podcast. It actually makes me look forward to Mondays. It’s like going to the bar with your friend after work and hearing him rant about the stuff going on in the world, be it pop culture, politics, or sports—in a hilarious way. Once in a while his wife Nia will join in and add some good opinions and laughter. There are two episodes each week, Mondays and Thursdays.

4. Magic Lessons by Elizabeth Gilbert

I became kind of obsessed with Elizabeth Gilbert after reading her latest book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear—which is all about powering through the challenges of being creative to do great work—and so was thrilled to find out she was starting a spinoff podcast. In each episode, Gilbert is helping an individual figure out how to deal with his or her creative blocks, calling on the likes of Martha Beck and Neil Gaiman for extra inspiration. While the podcast is geared toward artists, I think the advice can be powerful for anyone looking for more creativity or confidence in his or her work!

5. How To Build The Future by Y Combinator

As someone who values building great products, it’s super valuable to hear from other people who have built super valuable products and their views of the world. And as someone who really believes that software is eating the world, it’s super helpful to hear how the people who have built amazing software think about the world around them, and how they were able to build great things. I highly suggest everyone listen to the Mark Zuckerberg episode.

6. Still Processing by The New York Times

This is hosted by two culture writers from the New York Times, Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris, who talk about pop culture, entertainment, politics, and more. They’re only a few episodes in, but their thoughts about the movie When the Bough Breaks is hilarious and their interview with RuPaul during episode three is so refreshing.

7. Presidential by The Washington Post

This show covers the journeys former presidents took to get into The Oval Office, their personalities, and their decisions while in office. Best of all, the host always asks, ‘What would a blind date with this person be like?’ which is a great way to get insight into what these historic figures were like outside of the public sphere.

8. The Fantasy Footballers by Fantasy Football Podcast

I like this podcast because the guys who run it have a ton of passion for fantasy football and for entertainment. I listen to a ton of podcasts, but this one is different in that the hosts aren’t jaded by the need to put out a set number of shows a week—they’re completely dedicated to their community and to quality production, which goes a long way in a somewhat niche market.

9. Dhamma Talks by Amaravati

I listen to this a few times a week. I don’t consider myself a Buddhist, but Buddhist thought resonates with me a lot. It was initially surprising to me how correct and relevant the teachings of Buddhist monastics are for modern secular life. I suppose we all have the same human mind. Ajahn Amaro (in my opinion) is one of the best!

10. SPONTANEATION by Paul F. Thompkins by Earwolf

Thompkins is an incredibly funny interviewer. The basic format for this show is that he has really funny improvisers, as well as one special guest, to do a long-form improv together. It’s a very fun way to get my mind off the mundane tasks that I sometimes have to do at work. I recommend you check out episode #60 with Jon Hamm.

11. The Limit Does Not Exist by Forbes

This show’s about choosing your path, and why you shouldn’t limit yourself in your career. The two awesome hosts focus on interviewing people they call ‘human venn diagrams,’ who have a foot in more than one industry. Each episode is an inspiring take on expanding your creativity, your curiosity, your skill set, and your goals and ambitions—and they host some pretty amazing people in the career space.

12. Pistol Shrimps Radio by Earwolf

I’ve recently been enjoying this podcast with Matt Gourley and Mark McConville. They do commentary on women’s rec league basketball games in LA for a team called the Pistol Shrimps, and know absolutely nothing about sports—so hilarity ensues. In the last offseason, they called the shots for mini-golf games with the Pistol Shrimps players.

13. Note to Self With Manoush Zomorodi by WNYC

It’s a smart and insightful look at how we use technology and its effect on modern life. There are so many aspects of modern technologies (from phones and iPads to emails) that are only just now beginning to be researched and that so many people don’t understand fully. Things like what’s the deal with crazy privacy policies, or is your phone listening to you? Plus, there are several really great themed episodes about mothers in the workplace (‘Taking the Lead’) and how to stop information overload (‘Infomagical’). And they’re short—20 to 30 minutes long—so perfect for when you’re running an errand or working on a semi-mindless task.

14. Death, Sex, and Money by WNYC

To quote the NPR podcast’s official description, ‘It’s about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation.’ It manages to be both incredibly interesting and educational all at once, and I always walk away with a better understanding of other people’s lives. Not to mention, it provides great filler when you’re stuck in a boring conversation.

15. Invisibilia by NPR

I enjoy this podcast because they talk about things that influence everyone’s day to day life but never really stop to think about. The hosts do a great job of looking at the topic from the perspective of science and society. Often, I finish each episode with a different understanding of a previously held assumption or belief. My favorite episode so far was ‘The Problem with the Solution.

And my suggestion? Millennial by Radiotopia—it’s perfect for 20-somethings who are trying to make their way in the world—without falling on their faces.

Article by:  Alyse Kalish of The Muse

15 Self-Care Ideas When Everything Seems Impossible

A lot of people think self-love is selfish or egotistical. I used to believe that I was unworthy of my desires and I didn’t matter. I spent a lot of time taking care of others and even more time trying to fit in and be seen, but the truth? I wasn’t seeing myself.

I was a victim of a lack of self-love and hated who I saw in the mirror. For almost three decades, I was at war with myself. I heard the term “self-love,” but it felt like a buzzword, a “wouldn’t it be nice,” but that clearly was not for me. The idea of loving myself was foreign because I was too consumed with self-hate.

I decided to go on my own personal journey to be more kind, compassionate, and loving toward myself. I called it the “Self-Love Experiment,” which turned into my new book by the same name.

What I discovered in my own experiment is that self-care is the foundation for self-love. At first, saying I love myself felt hard, so I replaced the word love with care. I would say, “I am practicing self-care,” and this led to a beautiful lifestyle where I was able to learn that I am worthy, beautiful, and enough as I am.

If you struggle with low self-esteem or lack confidence, you can turn your self-doubt into self-love by practicing more self-care. Here are fun, totally doable self-care ideas to help you ramp up your self-love quotient.

1. Celebrate the little victories.

Spend some time celebrating how far you’ve already come. The little moments along the way are special, and when you can appreciate them, you will feel more grateful.

2. Forgive yourself.

Are you holding on to anger? Maybe you feel like you should be further along or more on track. Place your hand on your heart, close your eyes, and say, “I am sorry I am so hard on you. I know you are doing the best you can. I forgive you and will be more kind and compassionate to you.”

3. Bring creativity to cooking.

Maybe you’ve been eyeballing that fancy wellness Instagram account or you have marked some pages in your favorite cookbook. Getting creative in the kitchen can help you feel more balanced. Being creative fills a need and deep desire to express yourself. When you do this in the kitchen, you also nourish your insides, and when you do this it is reflected on the outside. A more balanced, healthy, and happy you, coming right up!

4. Learn something new.

Is there a course or book you’ve been wanting to read? Keeping your mind fresh by educating yourself and learning more will help you feel more compassionate toward yourself and others.

5. Make a list of things you love about yourself.

When was the last time you said something nice about yourself to yourself? Most of us have a running dialogue of not being good enough and wanting to change things we dislike about ourselves. Instead of letting your insecurities get the best of you, start to be kind to yourself by listing things you love: whether it’s a body part, intellect, ability, or something else. Do this as often as you can, and soon enough you will feel more free and loved.

6. Do something you’ve always wanted to do.

Book that one-way ticket to Europe. Start penning that book or leave the job you hate. These are all things you might have in your heart but are afraid to act on. Following through on the dreams and desires are important for building self-trust and respect. Go for it; your future self will thank you.

7. Move the way you feel.

Don’t be afraid to have some pep in your step. Get in touch with your inner child—you know, the one who loved skipping down the street, jumping up and down, or twisting and shouting and didn’t care what people thought. Dance and sing like no one is watching!

8. Dance to an upbeat playlist.

Creating a playlist to align with your mood is a wonderful way to uplift yourself. Pick your favorite artist and dance it out for added fun.

9. Have a one-on-one with yourself.

Schedule special you time by asking yourself, “When do I feel like my best self? What am I doing and who am I with?” Schedule time each day to tap into that part of you that feels alive, joyful, and happy.

10. Write a love letter to the pain part of you.

Write a letter to the part of you that is struggling—the part you would like to change—and allow yourself to free write and address what is causing you pain. This will give you more self-compassion and understanding, which can help you heal.

11. Choose something different within your routine.

Get out of your comfort zone by doing something different today. Order something new on the menu, take a different route home, call a friend you haven’t talked to in five years, let yourself follow your heart and be amazed at what happens when you do.

12. Read a good self-love book.

There are some great fall reads and classic go-to’s from self-love authors. Pick a book you’ve always wanted to read and curl up with, even if it’s not self-help, as long as it’s uplifting and leaves you feeling better. Curl up with your favorite furry friend and tea, coffee, or green juice.

13. Create a vision board for your future.

Use Pinterest, vision board apps, or cutup images from magazines to create a vision board, a creative way to dream about the life you want. Vision boards are great for manifesting and attracting whatever you desire because they invite you to actually visualize your lifestyle, focus on what you want, and think about what it takes to get there.

14. Center yourself.

Do you ever get nervous or overwhelmed with self-doubt? Chances are your ego is acting up and in overdrive. To realign with your heart center, the balanced part of you that knows all is well, place your hand on your heart and repeat the mantra, “I am safe and loved. All is well,” or a version of this that resonates with you.

15. Kick-start your day with gratitude.

Start your day with things you appreciate. List them out or simply go through them in your mind. Being in gratitude will help you feel more focused and balanced.

These tips are inspired by Shannon Kaiser’s new book, The Self-Love Experiment: Fifteen Principles for Becoming More Kind, Compassionate, and Accepting of Yourself.

 

 

How to Become a Better Person in 7 Days

January is rife with talk of becoming a better version of yourself, but the discussion usually focuses on the 12 months ahead. The issue with this long-term approach is that it places the emphasis on what you’ll do one day, rather than what you’ll do today.

“The time to start is today,” writes Lolly Daskal, the president and CEO of Lead From Within, in an article for Business Insider. “The alternative is a sad one: to look back one day and wish you had done better.”

To create a framework to challenge yourself and self-reflect, she’s devised seven simple questions—one to ask each day of the week. “If you can ask them with courage, answer them with truth, and put to use what you learn from them, the next seven days will be your master class on becoming a better person,” she says. Are you ready for the challenge?

Day 1: What do I sound like?

“The way you sound is the best indicator of how you think. Do you express negativity or optimism? Complacency or joy? Acceptance or judgment?” Daskal says.

Day 2: What do I still need to learn?

Learning is a lifelong pursuit. Acknowledge that there are infinite things you can learn, and the people around you can all offer a unique perspective and insight to grow your knowledge.

Day 3: How can I be more purposeful?

Living each day with purpose will help you to remain present and focused. What can you do today to be more purposeful? What do you want to achieve?

Day 4: How can I become a better role model?

“It’s not about making yourself into someone you’re not but about being genuine with who you are, with all your weakness and strengths, and living from that truth,” Daskal says. Aspire to do every task, no matter how great or small, to the best of your ability.

Day 5: Who do I need to forgive?

Holding onto anger or resentment can provide serious emotional blockages that can appear in other areas of your life. To truly become a better person, ask who you need to forgive in order to focus on what matters.

Day 6: How can I lace everything with love?

“Give freely of yourself without expecting anything in return,” she says. “Make today the day you lace everything you say and do with unconditional love. There’s no greater game changer.”

Day 7: How can I cultivate an attitude of gratitude?

You cannot always control what happens to you in life but you can control how you perceive and learn from it. Reflect on the week that’s passed, and focus on all that you’re grateful for.

Article written by: Sophie Miura, Author of “The Self-Care Ritual That Every Therapist Swears by.”

31 Ways to Beat The January Blues

A happiness tip-a-day keeps the blues away…

Happiness expert Andy Cope, author of The Little Book of Emotional Intelligence offers 31 brilliant tips to keep us thinking positively as 2017 begins…

  1. Mondays are bad and Fridays good. Really? The average life span is 4000 weeks and a seventh of your life is spent on Mondays. Flip your thinking. Friday is, in fact, another week closer to death, while Monday is an opportunity to make a dent in the universe. Mondays…. bring ‘em on!
  1. Upgrade your knickers so every bit of underwear oozes confidence. Stop saving your special pants for a special occasion and wake up to the fact that life is the ultimate special occasion.
  1. Be a hugger. The average hug lasts 2.1 seconds but for the love to transfer a hug needs to last 7 seconds or longer (but warned, counting out loud spoils the effect).
  1. Be a lover not a hater. It’s so easy to be negative, and join in the barrage of hate on social media. Go with Michelle Obama; ‘when they go low, you go high’
  1. Do an act of kindness for someone else. This can be as simple as letting someone out in the traffic or buying flowers for the bus driver.
  1. If you have small children practice what Gretchen Rubin calls ‘gazing lovingly’. This means downing tools at the end of the evening and standing at your children’s bedroom door, watching them sleep (the modern world dictates that you only ever do this with your own kids and there is an age limit of 10. After that, the general rule is that you NEVER go in your kids’ bedrooms, just in case!)
  1. Practice the 10/5 principle; smile at everyone who comes within 10 feet of you and make eye contact & say ‘hi’ to everyone within 5 feet.
  1. Say nice things about people behind their back. This is a double-whammy because it gets back to them plus people think you’re a lovely person (which, of course, you are).
  1. Write a list of 10 things you really appreciate but take for granted. ‘Health’ and ‘relationships’ will almost certainly be on there. Stop taking them for granted!
  1. Every morning, appreciate that you don’t have toothache and that your kidneys are working. Being able to get out of bed is the best thing ever (linked to point 9).
  1. Write a list of the top 10 happiest moments of your life and you’ll realize that most of the things on the list are ‘experiences’ rather than ‘products’. Set a goal to have more experiences.
  1. Think of someone who has really helped you (given you time or supported you). Write them a letter, from the heart, that says how wonderful they are and what they mean to you. Read it to them.
  1. Instead of asking your partner/kids ‘how was your day?’ change the words and ask (with enthusiasm), ‘what was the highlight of your day?’ Then listen with genuine enthusiasm.
  1. Walk tall and put a smile on your face (not an inane grin, you will scare people!) Your brain will immediately think you are happy and you’ll feel a whole lot better.
  1. Change your aim. Stop setting your sights on ‘getting through the week’ or ‘surviving until my next holiday’. Raise your game. Set your aim to ‘enjoy the week’ or ‘to inspire people.’
  1. Write down your top 5 personal strengths. Be aware of them and start seeing opportunities to play to them more often.
  1. Reduce your moaning and always remind yourself it’s a 1st world problem.
  1. Watch out for the 90/10 principle. This states that 10% of your happiness depends on things that happen to you while a whopping 90% depends on how you react to these events. Make a conscious choice to be positive.
  1. When setbacks occur, ask yourself, where is this issue on a scale of 1 – 10 (where 10 is death). If it is death, you are allowed to feel down. Anything else, get over it.
  1. Most people have an internal voice that is very critical. Challenge it. When your inner voice is telling you you’re an idiot, firmly disagree. Find a positive inner voice (note, this conflict is best done in silence in your head. And if you have lots of inner voices, you need to see your GP).
  1. Spend less time on electronic friends and more time with real flesh and blood ones.
  1. Praise your children for effort rather than ability. For example, if they get a good grade in Math, don’t say ‘Genius, you are the next Einstein.’ Do say, ‘Brilliant! That shows what you can achieve with hard work.’
  1. Practice the 4-minute rule; that is, be your best self for the first 4 minutes of arriving at work, being in a meeting, getting home, etc. Your brilliance is infectious.
  1. Lose the word ‘try’. Instead of setting a resolution of ‘I’m going to try and lose some weight’ or ‘I’m going to try and get a bit fitter,’ go with ‘I’m going to lose some weight’ or ‘I’m going to get fitter.’ Yoda was spot on when he said, ‘Do or do not, there is no ‘try.’
  1. Appreciate that your happiness is bigger than you. It has a ripple effect and infects people 3 degrees removed from you.
  1. Read a bedtime story to your kids like it was the most exciting book in the world (note, it is doubly important for sons to see their dads reading books).
  1. Reframe situations. For example, a leaking gutter means you have a house; paying tax means you have some income; your teenage son spending hours on his X-Box means he’s not wandering the streets, etc. However, don’t overdo reframing otherwise you become Pollyanna; ‘Whoopee, grandma’s dead, what a fabulous opportunity for a funeral and some lovely sandwiches.’
  1. Rather than a New Year’s resolution, set yourself a HUGG (huge unbelievably great goal); this is something that is massive and that inspires you (to write your novel, to run a marathon, to be the best Mom in the world, etc).
  1. Ask yourself, if there was a version of you sitting on a cloud, watching you go about your tasks today, what advice would the ‘cloud you’ give the ‘earthly you’? How would they say you should walk, talk, think and behave? Take that advice.
  1. Be genuinely interested in other people (ask loads of questions about them). In a bizarre twist of quantum psychology, people will find you insanely interesting.
  1. Make sure that you use more positive than negative language. The ratio needs to be about 5 positives for every negative, so catch people doing things well and tell them.