I just finished reading Dr. Kristin Neff’s book, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. I had received referrals to it from all kinds of other sources, I thought it was high time to read it. I am so glad I did.
Neff weaves together aspects of her own story, along with extensive research on the myriad effects of self-compassion on our lives. The most relevant point to me is that the relentless pursuit of self-esteem ends up leading to unhappiness and stress, while self-compassion leads to happiness and well-being.
I am going to save you the lengthy review but just say that I plan to use her guidance as I head into the holidays. We need to have compassion for ourselves because this can be a difficult time of the year. People have expectations, and holidays do not always live up to the hype.
Sometimes family members can push our buttons and we can react emotionally in certain circumstances. We need to be ready to extend ourselves compassion for the times when we may not do everything perfectly. We are human. Humans make mistakes. All we can do is try our best.
Rather than beating ourselves up if we get angry with someone, we will have better emotional resilience if we are kind to ourselves and forgiving of our mistakes. All of this makes so much intuitive sense for me, but her research backs up her claims as well.
So on this Wednesday of much travel and preparation for Thanksgiving, remember self-compassion. Blessings and safe holidays to all.
This question can strike fear into the hearts of some people. If it has been some time since you experienced either spontaneous or cultivated joy, you may feel scarcity or grief.
If you have been living someone else’s idea of a “good life” but not your own, you probably feel a lack of joy. Or if things seem to be not going as planned in your life, and you feel a sense of numbness or sadness, joy seems far away. You may be like a poor kid looking through the windows of the candy store, knowing that joy exists (not in the form of candy, actually) but believing you cannot have it.
However, joy can be a daily practice as much as a feeling or an experience. I first learned about this from Martha Beck in her book The Joy Diet: 10 Daily Practices for a Happier Life. I pulled out her book from my shelves last summer and started cultivating joy more intentionally when I realized my work life was no longer bringing me joy. For years, it had provided me with growth, challenge and satisfaction.
Then it seemed the minor annoyances I was tolerating started to grow into major annoyances. The bureaucrazy (yes, this is Freudian slip, and also deliberate) felt more overwhelming. On balance, the joy did not outweigh the suffering anymore. I no longer felt I belonged in that place, in that position.
I started finding joy in doing art projects at home, meditating, writing, doing yoga, reading books, and listening to podcasts that fed my brain new ideas. I started taking more joy in my relationship, planning my wedding (which took place last September). Instead of working late, I left the office early, enjoyed evenings on the patio, which is quite lovely in Minnesota this time of year.
My focus on finding and appreciating joy daily led me to the place where I am now. I feel healthy and more balanced than I have in years. My sleep has improved considerably, with much less insomnia than before. My eating habits have improved, and I struggle less with fighting cravings for sugar and junk food. Those things had been a “buffer” to my feelings and did not allow for me to sit with the reality of the change my soul was calling forth.
Joy is always not in the big, bright moments of happiness. These can be a part of a joyful life. However, it is often in the small, quiet moments of gratitude for the abundance that surrounds us. Joy exists in moments of internal peace and in finding our center. Sometimes there is suffering embedded in joy, and it is an almost bittersweet experience. I would not trade it for any material thing.
Now and then the hubby and I escape to Bemidji in order to visit family. But I am a little bereft when I have no place in which I can escape for solitude. So I sometimes search out an AirBnB so we can have a retreat. This time around, it’s a cute little two bedroom apartment. I really love the plaque over the headboard (which is crafted from a refurbished piano, very creative in itself)!
Since I love the message, I decided to post and take a holiday from writing my usual Sunday haiku.
Happy weekend, amigas/os! Enjoy your limited time on this earth. Treat it as the precious resource that it is.
There is an exercise recommended by Brooke Castillo, who produces the Life Coach School podcast, on “wanting from abundance” that I tried this morning as I was considering a dream I had last night. That one went into my handwritten journal. Not ready to interpret that one for y’all yet.
When most people are asked what they want, they immediately jump to a list of what they lack. They start listing off things like a new car, maybe a different job, perhaps other things that the would put on their Christmas list.
But the exercise she has people do is to list 25 things they want, where more than half of those things are what they already have. I am sharing my list with you as an example:
Time to write in the mornings (check)
A caring and wonderful husband (check)
Two cats (check)
A dog (someday)
Cozy place to live (check)
A home of our own (someday)
Time to camp and be outdoors this summer (check – planning on this)
Personal laptop for writing (check)
Enough money so I don’t worry about day-to-day necessities like food, utilities and clothing. (check)
Health care coverage (check)
Travel to the U.K.; travel to Spain (someday)
Time planned with my hubby to do fun stuff (check – upcoming long weekend trip to Arizona 4 weeks from now)
Work outside a corporate environment (someday)
Opportunities to practice my Spanish (check)
Ability to travel to other countries for work (check)
Ability to express my ideas and connect with similarly-spirited people (check)
Ability to sleep 8 hours every night without struggling with insomnia (work in progress)
Live in a safe neighborhood (check)
Access to good yoga classes (double check!)
Close relationships with friends and family (want to put more time into this)
More time to read (define more…)
Healthy body (check)
Plans for our summer vacation (work in progress)
Clean air to breathe every day and clean water to drink (check)
Ability to work from home on occasion (check)
Enough money to pursue my creative passions instead of working full time at a corporation (work in progress)
Okay, that was more than 25. Once I got going, I started thinking of even more things. 16 out of the 26 are things I already have. Some are things I am working on, and a few I have an actual plan sketched out to get them.
What I really love about this exercise is that we want from ABUNDANCE instead of a scarcity mind-set. We acknowledge that many of the amazing things we already have in our lives are also things we want, things we are grateful for. Imagine if I took some things OFF this list! Goodness, realizing the abundance and privilege that allows me to live this glorious life makes me feel rich, fortunate and happy.
When you think about what you want today, consider the things you already have that make your life splendid. Consider not just on what you want someday, but what you want (and have) today. Your entire energy and vibration will change. And perhaps you will start to attract possibilities, opportunities and ideas to add a few of those items from the list that you do not yet have.