The best way to have a good year is by living life fully on a daily basis, and by letting the good days accumulate, one by one. And it doesn’t have to be New Year’s Day to make the resolution to have a good year. Start anytime. Today, for instance.
1. Take time and slow down. Be mindful of the present moment.
2. Care for your body. Eat well, exercise, treat yourself to loving, nurturing self-care.
3. Spend quality time with family and friends. Communicate, keep in touch. Say “I love you.” Tell people you appreciate them.
4. Take time to renew yourself. Take a walk, read a poem or a good book, listen to music. Bring beauty into your life. Retreat from your daily routine.
5. Clean up what needs to be cleaned up. Make amends, fix what’s broken, clear away clutter, forgive what needs to be forgiven and let go.
6. Commit to a project you really want to do. Learn something new, or go for what you want. Set achievable goals and work towards them every day.
7. Give yourself to a cause. Volunteer at a nonprofit, a community group, a place of worship, or lend a hand to an individual or family who could use your help.
8. Practice your spirituality. In whatever form you express it, practice daily.
9. Laugh every day.
10. Take time to dream. What will make this a great year?
We can’t control the weather, death or another’s thoughts, much as we might like to. But our lives are rich with choices that we make every day. The choices that we make in these 10 important areas are the rudder that steers our life.
- Our actions. We alone are responsible for what we do.
- Our words. Spoken or written, the words we choose impact our lives and the lives of others.
- Our beliefs. Our thoughts, values and beliefs form the basis for all of our emotions. We can change our beliefs.
- Our values. What’s important to us is our call. No one else can tell us what to value.
- Our work. Although many of us complain of being trapped in a job or profession, we do actually get to choose what our work in the world is.
- Our friends. Those we associate with say a lot about what we think of ourselves. We can choose to have friends who bring us down or who support us.
- Our input. We can select our sources of news, turn off televisions and radios, and/or ignore advertising.
- Our time. Though it sometimes feels like we have no say, we do choose every day how we will use the 24 hours that a day gives us.
- Our basic health. We can’t control our genetic make-up, but we can choose to exercise, sleep enough, eat healthy food, get routine check-ups, etc.
- Our legacy. All that we choose while alive—our actions, words, etc.—will become the gift we leave when we die.
Some people can spend hours dwelling on the wrongs done them, the injustices, the slights, insults, indifferences, and just plain bad treatment. They can think of a particular instance and, sure as Pavlov’s dog, up comes the same feeling the original occurrence caused, and they get mad all over again. They hold onto their resentments with the same tenacity that dog’s hair might cling to a cashmere sweater.
Resent comes from the French word sentir, to feel or experience. To resent something or someone is to feel again the fear, the anger, the hurt, the humiliation, the pain of the original experience—real or imagined. Carried along with us, this feeling gets packed away in a bag labeled “Grudge” or “Blame.” It’s a bag full of judgments where other people are always wrong and at fault, and, after a while, it can make for a pretty heavy load.
“Of all the futile and destructive emotions to which human beings are prey, perhaps the most universal is resentment,” said Theodore Dalrymple in his essay, “The Uses of Resentment.” Resentment eats away at self-esteem and peace of mind. It replaces hope with bitterness and opportunities for growth with stagnation. If a person can blame someone else, then they don’t have to take responsibility for themselves.
Of course, we don’t always have control over what happens to us, especially during childhood, but we do have control on how we choose to respond to it today, and how we will deal with it.
A life filled with resentments chains the one who would be victim and stifles any change that could make life easier, more productive and joyful. “Resentments,” as the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous puts it, “keep us from the sunlight of the spirit.”
From one perspective, any time a resentment takes up emotional space, it indicates there’s something at issue that has not been resolved. Maybe the best thing is to slow down and try to see what part of it is still trying to get your attention.
Getting rid of old resentments isn’t as easy as simply saying, “Resentment, be gone.” Judgments, the need to be right, not taking responsibility for certain actions or behaviors, a feeling of being special or entitled, vindictiveness or a need for revenge, a simple (or not so simple) misunderstanding, or an inability to forgive—all these might be in the way of releasing resentments.
Sometimes holding onto a resentment is a way of avoiding pain. Examining and fully experiencing resentment provides the opportunity to see the original event in a new way, which can unlock the doors that have held it at bay.
Write your resentments down; talk about them, not in a blaming way, but with a willingness to see all sides of the issue. Determine what the lessons are, what needs to be let go of, what needs more work. You may begin to see where empathy can create wholeness and where forgiveness can heal.
When actor David Duchovny was treated for sex addiction in 2008, it brought attention to a topic that few people had ever discussed at a water cooler before.
Similar to food addiction, sex addiction (sometimes referred to as “sex and love addiction”) involves a natural part of life that the afflicted individual takes to extremes, harming self and sometimes others.
Drawing another parallel to food, sex addicts may overindulge in sex or sexual activities (similar to binge eating) or they may isolate themselves to the point where they curtail almost all activities where they might face temptation or opportunity (similar to anorexia).
Some people are suspicious about sex addiction and don’t want it used as an explanation or excuse for criminal sexual behavior. The New York Times, however, reported in 2008 that sex addiction is being considered for inclusion in the 2012 version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a widely accepted reference in the medical industry.
What Does Sex Addiction Look Like?
Sex addicts find themselves unable to control or manage behaviors, such as compulsive sex, masturbation or viewing pornography. Some sex addicts also engage in illegal acts such as child pornography, voyeurism, molestation, rape or incest.
Sex addiction does not necessarily lead to sex offending. Moreover, not all sex offenders are sex addicts. Roughly 55 percent of convicted sex offenders can be considered sex addicts.
Sex addicts may feel so compulsive about carrying out certain behaviors that they become extremely anxious or irrational if they don’t do them. Sex takes over their entire lives, and they spend practically every waking moment either acting on their urges or trying to control them.
Decades after the sexual revolution of the 1960s, many sexual behaviors are still stigmatized in various communities; that stigma leads people with sex addiction to feel even more ashamed, isolated and depressed about their feelings and actions.
What Causes Sex Addiction?
There are different theories as to what causes sex addiction. In an article for the PsychCentral website, Michael Herkov, Ph.D, cites research that shows that as many as 82% of sex addicts suffered sexual abuse as children.
Much research has been done to support a biochemical explanation. The rush of good feelings that people experience from sexual acts may be exaggerated in the brains of sex addicts. It’s similar to how alcoholics can be triggered to want more by even a small taste of alcohol.
Once the compulsion is triggered by exposure, the obsession takes over. And that exposure doesn’t have to be physical; it could be thinking about or seeing something that reminds the addict of that rush.
Addicts also have other issues or problems in their life that they feel incapable of dealing with. The preoccupation with sex provides an escape from those problems.
How Does Someone Recover from Sex Addiction?
- If you are struggling with sex addiction, the first step is to admit there is a problem and ask for help.
- Be kind to yourself. You didn’t choose to have this problem, but you can choose to do something about it.
- There are many resources available that promote sexual health and offer assistance to sex addicts who want to recover, including your therapist and 12-Step programs such as Sex Addicts Anonymous, and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.
- You can also speak to your doctor, a clinic or an anonymous help line for resources in your area.
If Someone You Love Is a Sex Addict
It is very troubling to suspect that someone you love is a sex addict. If it is your partner, then the issue encroaches on your own intimate relationship with the person. If it is another family member or friend, you may be embarrassed or ashamed to be connected with the problem.
In all cases, sex addiction is affecting your relationship and your life. And you need as much help and support as the person with the addiction. There are meetings and support programs available for you as well, including S-Anon.
Seeking help for sex addiction takes courage, but it can mean the end of suffering in silence, and the beginning of a new life, including healthy, loving relationships and hope for the future.
Most of us have an Inner Critic, an internal “voice” that judges our actions or inaction, tells us what’s wrong with us and how we should or should not be. This constant judgment can lead to debilitating feelings of guilt, shame and anxiety. While it’s difficult to silence the critic completely, there are ways to cope with it. Answer these true/false questions to discover how well you handle your Inner Critic.
True__ False__ 1. I can’t seem to do anything right. I feel depressed and incapacitated by the constant nagging, judging voice inside me.
True__ False__ 2. I don’t necessarily realize I’m at the effect of my Inner Critic, but I often compare myself to others and never quite measure up. I feel inadequate.
True__ False__ 3. Just when I’m about to embark on something new and exciting, such as a job or relationship, my Inner Critic kicks up doubt and fear to prevent me from pursuing the opportunity.
True__ False__ 4. I have difficulty staying in the present moment because my internal judging voice loudly intrudes, dictating what I should and shouldn’t do.
True__ False__ 5. Because of that voice, I second-guess my choices and actions and don’t trust myself. As a result, I worry that I’ll make a big mistake and something bad will happen.
True__ False__ 1. I see my Inner Critic as a misguided ally who wants to help or protect me. I look for the positive intention behind what it says and embrace that rather than the negative message.
True__ False__ 2. I’ve gotten to know the themes my Inner Critic harps on, so I can distinguish those voices from other more useful internal dialogue.
True__ False__ 3. It’s helpful to notice when my Inner Critic is present. I breathe deeply and center myself to release fear and anxiety and return to a more peaceful place.
True__ False__ 4. Giving my critical inner voices funny names and descriptions —such as Taskmonster or Paula Perfectionist—helps me diminish their power and not take them seriously.
True__ False__ 5. As I’ve become skilled at handling the Inner Critic, it bothers me less often. I still hear it sometimes, but I don’t believe what it says and it rarely affects me adversely.
If you answered true more often in Set 1 and false more often in Set 2, you may wish to learn some effective ways to handle your Inner Critic. Please call if you’d like support in exploring this further.
[Used with permission, ©2012 Claire Communications]
“I love you. You… you complete me.” From the film Jerry Maguire.
Whether this quote melts your heart at the thought of such commitment or makes you cringe at the idea of a power imbalance, the fact is, we all relate to people in different ways.
Most people would say they want (or have) a balanced relationship with their significant other. But what does a balanced relationship look like and how do you maintain it?
First, people tend to relate to one another in one of three ways: Dependently (or codependently), Independently and Interdependently.
Dependent/codependent: In these relationships one person sets aside his or her personal welfare to maintain the relationship. This dynamic implies that the codependent person in the relationship can’t survive independently of the other person.
Independent: In this configuration, the couple lives mostly separate lives. For example, they have different friends, are rarely together and make decisions autonomously. They may live separately as well and they are fine with that arrangement.
Interdependent: In this type of relationship, two people are intimate with one another but don’t compromise or sacrifice themselves or their values. This dynamic is about collaboration and cooperation. Each person is self-reliant (physically, emotionally, financially, etc.) and, simultaneously, responsible to the other.
While it’s possible to find happiness, at least temporarily, in all three types of relationships, the Interdependent relationship is generally considered the model for a balanced relationship.
What do you do if you don’t consider your relationship to be balanced? Take heart. With a little information and effort it’s possible to attain a balanced relationship.
Try starting with this approach:
1. Find Inner Balance by:
- Focusing on what you can control (your thoughts, feelings and actions) not what you can’t (others’ thoughts, feelings and actions).
- Noticing how you feel and, as clearly as you can, communicating those feelings.
- Recognizing and owning your issues, which will help you recognize your partner’s as well. You can be empathic and supportive without having to “fix” everything.
2. Create and Maintain a Balanced Relationship by:
- Staying present and empathic even when your partner is upset.
- Stepping back from conflicts to avoid escalation, assess the problem and make positive changes.
- Reframing the actions/reactions of your partner. For example, seeing a loved one as anxious and fearful, instead of cruel and controlling, paves the way for a more sympathetic, less confrontational approach.
- Being a good listener and focusing on the only person you can change—yourself.
Keep in mind that balance, like a relationship, is dynamic not static. It’s impossible to keep balance 100% of the time in every situation. Even a balanced relationship can, at times, feel like more work than play.
Remember, sometimes the focus will be more on you, other times more on your partner, and still other times when what’s best for “us” needs the focus rather than either individual.
Like a wave, there is an ebb and flow to relationships. But once we are aware of what balanced relationships look like we can better manage that dynamic.
The holidays of winter often bring to mind the image of a full table—and a full stomach. We gather with friends and family and feast merrily on pies and potatoes, turkey and ham and all of the fixings that many of us dearly enjoy. There is another side to that pretty picture, however.
What if our extra consumption of calories during the winter is fueled not by good cheer and companionship, but by anxiety? And, further, what if it’s not the gathering of loved ones that we most look forward to, but the food that we can’t get out of our minds?
Also, while we may welcome gatherings with friends and family, they do bring with them extra stress and preparation. Add to the mix the anxiety caused by a sputtering economy, and many of us might find ourselves reaching for “comfort” food.
An anxiety-provoked behavior, such as overeating, is an attempt to cope with that anxiety, but as with most such behaviors, it can become a problem itself. Overeating can become a compulsion and lead to health issues such as diabetes and obesity.
This is not to say that you should reflexively turn down that second piece of pumpkin pie, but if you were dreaming of that pie for days, and if, in fact, you care more about that pie than the people around you, then you may have a problem that needs attention.
According to Overeaters Anonymous, here are a few other common markers of compulsive eating:
- Do you eat when you’re not hungry?
- Do you go on eating binges for no apparent reason?
- Do you have feelings of guilt and remorse after overeating?
- Do you look forward with pleasure and anticipation to the time when you can eat alone?
- Is your weight affecting the way you live your life?
- Do you resent others telling you to “use a little willpower” to stop overeating?
- Despite evidence to the contrary, have you continued to assert that you can diet “on your own” whenever you wish?
- Do you eat to escape from worries or trouble?
- Does your eating behavior make you or others unhappy?
If you think that you might be overeating compulsively, it is possible to recover. Help is available through the 12-Step programs Overeaters Anonymous and Food Addicts Anonymous, as well as a therapist or counselor.
With the help and support of others, you can uncover the reasons behind your compulsive eating, find other strategies for coping with anxiety and get on a food program that can sustain and, even, restore your health.
While you may still have those dreams about that second piece of pumpkin pie, you can also live a happy, healthy and fulfilling life without it.
The Internet is a wonderful tool. You can network with colleagues, reconnect with old friends, and accomplish in minutes such tasks like research, which used to take days.
So what’s the problem?
The Internet becomes a problem when we lose productivity, we become addicted to it, and when it becomes a substitute for real experiences with people, places and things.
Real Life vs. Web Life
George spends five to eight hours a day on the Web, traveling among his pages on several social networking sites. He presents himself alternately as an assertive and confident Casanova, an opinionated law student and a successful entrepreneur.
In real life, George is none of these. Painfully shy and self-critical, George keeps to himself.
“I feel more like myself when I’m online,” he says. But what he really means is, “I feel more like who I wish I was.”
Every time Cynthia’s husband heads upstairs to the office, her stomach tightens and her jaw clenches.
Cynthia confronted Victor after reading an email from a woman she had never heard of, who apparently lived in another country. Victor denied having an affair. After all, he had never actually seen the other woman, much less touched her, and he had no plans to do so. “A bunch of typed words don’t amount to an affair,” he maintained. To him, it was just talking and exploring fantasies.
But to Cynthia, the intimacy expressed in the email was more threatening than a purely sexual relationship. She wondered why her partner couldn’t be that intimate with her.
Four-year-old Eddie spends hours behind a computer screen studying whales and porpoises; he can identify almost anything that swims. But Eddie has never seen a real fish, although he lives near the ocean and a world-class aquarium.
Like a pint-sized hermit peering out of his window, Eddie, like huge numbers of children today, is learning about nature on a computer screen, not from direct contact with the natural world. His experience is only a simulated experience, which increasing numbers of people are willing to accept as sufficient.
Handling email and surfing the Web can eat hours from every day. Every hour behind the keyboard is 60 minutes not spent doing something else. There’s also an impact on your productivity. If you’re surfing the Web or answering personal emails at work, you’re stealing from your employer. If you’re self-employed you may be squandering valuable focus and energy on things that don’t matter.
Repetitive Strain Injuries
Repetitive Strain Injuries are cumulative and can strike overnight. Practice good ergonomics no matter what, and if you feel any burning or numbing in your arms or hands, get off the computer and take a break. Find out about special stretches you can do and never work through pain.
Counteracting the Tide
There is no question that the Internet is here to stay. As our culture continues its dive into this brave new world, what can we do to avoid being swept away? Here are some things to try:
- Save your personal email for the end of the workday and set a time limit beforehand for how long you’ll spend online.
- Plan activities at night and on weekends so that boredom doesn’t send you to the computer.
- Take a class in something you’ve always wanted to learn, such as astronomy, fencing, or photography.
- Volunteer at a food bank, teach reading to adults who never learned, or join groups that pick up litter.
- Take up yoga or dancing to help your body cope with all that sitting at the computer.
- Explore a creative pursuit such as writing, painting, or cooking; try something you’ve always wanted to do.
- Go hiking, camping, or to sporting events; spend more time outside.
- Plan family outings to parks and local festivals. Check your local paper to learn what’s going on.
- Make weekly no-screen dates with your spouse or partner. Look into each other’s eyes over dinner and share about your week.
Ultimately, it’s a matter of balance and awareness. Explore the amazing worlds to which the Internet offers access, just don’t forget to spend more time in the real one.
We all go through challenging times at various points in life—whether it’s a health crisis, the end of a relationship, job loss, financial difficulties or the death of a loved one. To cope with such difficult times, self-care is vital but, too often, we are hard on ourselves instead. Answer these true/false questions to discover how well you support yourself during difficult times.
True__ False__ 1. Although it doesn’t really help, when I’m facing something difficult, I often self-soothe by over-indulging in food and alcohol.
True__ False__ 2. During tough times, I get caught up in “putting out fires,” and self-care goes out the window.
True__ False__ 3. It’s easy for me to mentally spin out of control with worry and worst-case scenario thinking.
True__ False__ 4. I can’t face my friends and family when things aren’t going well; I tend to isolate.
True__ False__ 5. Shame and blame take over when I’m facing a difficult situation; I either feel it’s my fault or someone else’s.
True__ False__ 6. During hard times, I get scared and feel immobilized and depressed.
True__ False__ 7. I can’t understand why bad things happen to good people; it’s not fair.
True__ False__ 8. In the midst of bad times, I lose perspective and have a hard time trusting that things will get better.
True__ False__ 1. No matter what’s going on, I’m committed to staying on track with my self-care routines.
True__ False__ 2. Caring for myself includes asking for and receiving support from people who love and care about me.
True__ False__ 3. I share my feelings and what’s going on with people I trust.
True__ False__ 4. I have tools to help keep myself positively focused.
True__ False__ 5. No matter how intense the situation, I take the time to do things that make me feel better, such as working out, getting a massage, spending time in nature.
True__ False__ 6. I surround myself with supportive people and uplifting materials.
True__ False__ 7. When times are tough, I look for any deeper or broader meaning behind the outer circumstances. That helps me keep the situation in perspective and even use it for my own psychological growth.
True__ False__ 8. I trust myself to be able to handle whatever comes my way.
If you answered true more often in Set 1 and false more often in Set 2, you may wish to get more support around caring for yourself. Please call if you’d like assistance in exploring this further.
The body holds much of the information we need to function at our best, but too often we ignore its messages and plow ahead with what our minds tell us. Perhaps because we’re not taught from early on to pay attention to internal messages as well as external demands, we frequently ignore our body’s communications.
So we take an extra-strength aspirin rather than investigating what’s causing our head to ache. We use caffeine or sugar when we feel tired, rather than hearing our body’s message about needing rest or recognizing our fatigue as an early symptom of burnout we’d do well to heed. A look at our pets may be all the message we need about the value of naps.
We fail to take into account the thousand little messages communicated to us by how we’re holding ourselves: the mouth that’s pinched and tight rather than relaxed. The fact that our shoulders are up around our ears, the knot of tension in our stomach as we promise to do something when closer consideration might tell us we are already over-extended.
These days we’re notorious for putting deadlines ahead of the protests of aching bones or inadequately nourished bellies. (Is there hidden wisdom in calling a due date a deadline in the first place?) Instead of asking our body what it wants, we go for the quick fill-up or the comfort food that may be the last thing we really need.
So what to do to give your body an equal say in how you use it?
Start with the breath. Breathing consciously is a major part of body awareness. Turn off thoughts and just let yourself experience the inflow and outflow of breath. Label them, “In. Out. In. Out.” Note how and where you are breathing or failing to, a clear sign something important is going on.
Allow yourself quiet time. Sit for ten minutes just observing yourself, even (especially!) in the middle of a busy day. Take a walk or a nap. Allow time to do nothing. Soak in a hot tub rather than taking a quick shower.
Get a massage. It’s not self-indulgence to be massaged; it wakes up the whole nervous system and helps you tune in.
Use your journal to dialogue with your body. Ask your body how it’s feeling and what it wants. Give that sore wrist or stiff lower back a voice and let it tell you what its message is.
Eat when hungry, sleep when tired. Take a week and really pay attention to your body’s most basic needs. Do your real rhythms for eating and sleeping conform to the habits you’ve established? If they don’t, change them!
Do a body inventory to relax. Start with your toes and work upwards. Scan your body from the inside. Or try tensing each part slightly, then relaxing it to release residual tension.
Practice mindfulness. Get used to tuning in to your physical self, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing.
And if your body suggests rolling down a grassy hillside or taking flight on a playground swing, why resist? Its impulses hold the key to our well-being!