The Power of Gratitude – Setting Yourself Up to Feel Good

Nothing is more powerful than remembering all the “good things” in our life to counteract the distressing feelings that seek to creep in during these very challenging times. 

As we approach Thanksgiving, this can be a time to pause and reflect on the good things that are happening all around us. Clearly being mindful of and holding these things within us, letting them sink in and take root is a welcome balm to sooth and reassure us we are going to be ok. 

We can use this time as a reboot to begin to see the good that gets lost among all the hard parts we are going through right now. This upcoming season is known for the light that comes through during the darkest part of the year. Gratitude can pave the way.

Consider starting a regular “gratitude practice”. There are many ways to do this. I am offering some examples to get you thinking as to you creating your own unique practice. 

Starting a Gratitude Practice

  • Dinner Gratitude Ritual – We can start this during this Thanksgiving Time or anytime we so desire. Having a nightly dinner ritual were we all let our family know what we are grateful or thankful or happy for that happened that day. Even if you live by yourself you can take note of the good that has occurred. What a lovely way to end of the day.
  • Blessing Jar or Happy Jar – This can be named in whatever way is a fit for you personally or for your family. It can be done just for yourself or for your family. This can be set up to be done spontaneously or can be done in a routine, set time. Some families like to do this during their weekly family meeting or Sunday meal together. You can experiment and see what fits best. Very simply have paper and pen next to a jar. I like to use mason jars and start with a new one each year, labeling what year it is. Of course, one could use a box or any other container. You or your family could decorate the outside of the container to personalize it if you would like. Or it could just be a simple jar with the year marked on the lid. Having a time when you review all your blessing each year is a nice way to end the year, reflecting on all the good that has occurred.
  • Gratitude Journal – This is normally done individually. But could be a family one as well. Most folks who do these will write down 3-5 things or as many as they like of what they feel grateful or thankful for that day. These can be very simple things. In fact remembering to notice these small things can really increase our good feelings. Some people will date their entry. Before going to bed is a great time to do this activity, letting all the good things sink in from the day.
  • Notes of Gratitude to Others – This is taking your gratitude practice to another level. When we share our gratitude with others it can feel so good to see how we have uplifted another person. It is a very special gift you have given. This of course can be done verbally as well. Sharing compliments and encouragement with our own family is so very important.
  • Gratitude Affirmations – You can collect or make up these affirmations of gratitude and thankfulness. Saying them at the beginning and / or end of the day or spontaneously when you feel you need them can help to rewire your brain to see more of the good. And isn’t this what we all want – to feel good.

Expressing gratitude for the good things in your life will lead to more good things. When we focus on the good, we find more good coming into our life. I wish you the very best as you begin your own gratitude practice.

Five Strategies to Create the Best Self Care for YOU

adult air beautiful beauty

Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi

What does “self care” mean and how do you create what is the best self care for you? It is a bit confusing and overwhelming at times, figuring out what might be the most helpful wellness plan for ourselves. I am going to give my thoughts in a nutshell as to how to find the best self care for you.

First of all, what is self care?  I see self care as incorporating healthy ways to keep your mind, body, and soul strong, vibrant and healthy.  Well being is another word I sometimes use for self care.

stones pebbles wellness balance

Photo by Skitterphoto

Five Strategies to Create the Best Self Care for YOU . . . 

  1. First on the list is to recognize what is best for you may not look like what is best for your spouse or for your best friend or whatever is currently in fashion. Choose what will make the most difference for you. We are all unique individuals with varying values and goals. Think about what you feel you are missing that would help you feel better.  What areas in your life do you feel do not contribute to your well being or serve you well?  Focus on these areas to make changes that will help you to feel strong and vibrant, full of well being.   Currently for my self I have been focusing on more meditation and prayer, plus more movement. And then, adding more fun in my life:)  You may be trying to get more sleep or eat in a more healthy way or hydrate your body more.  It might be decluttering a room. You will have your own individual needs.
  2. Consider the “season” of your life and what will fit in comfortably  and dove tail with what is going on in your life at this time.  Decide what is most important and in what way you can integrate it into your current chapter of life. Basically it is about taking it a step at a time and doing what you can do and feeling good about it.   Small changes can make big difference in feeling better.  Be compassionate with yourself as you go through this journey toward more well being and vibrant energy.
  3. Be holistic in your plan for self care.  Taking care of ourselves is more than creating an exercise plan. To look at your body, mind and soul is all important. It all works together for creating what will be the strongest and most vibrantly healthy you, as we now know there is a mind-body connection. Taking it one step at a time and starting with what you feel will be the most beneficial for you keeps it from being overwhelming. And then continuing to add in what will make you feel more strong, healthy and happy.
  4. Create a plan that is flexible and evolving.  Perfection is not the goal.  It is helpful to remember it is not a competition, but an unfolding of creating what is best for you and what you value and deem as most important.  Your body and state of mental welling being will tell you where you need to start or put the most focus on. Listen to your internal gut. Being willing to try new things can help. There are many roads to self care. You will find some of these new things fit and some will not. You can always re-align yourself to a better fit if need be.
  5. Design a plan that is balanced as to your own self care and that of maintaining a healthy family and relationship life and attending to your work and to what you consider your “purpose”.  This can be tricky as many of us live very full lives and it can feel like we do not have time for self care and relationship and work care as well. It is possible at times to merge your self care with relationship care if you are doing some of these things together. Maybe you are cooking healthy food together or it might be you are doing family walks in the evening together or other activities that promote good self care. Of course, sometimes the self care is about having some quiet time by yourself.  Everyone communicating about how to incorporate every ones needs is important and keeps misunderstandings from occurring with your loved ones.

shallow focus photography of purple flowers

Photo by Brandon Montrone

Ending Thoughts

Self care is about caring for you and choosing to do what is ultimately best for you as a whole person, interweaving this with all of the other aspects of your life. It is a journey and it will shift and change as you do. I have found personally to accept that my self care endeavors will not be perfect and that is ok. Getting back up and starting again when I get off track is just a part of this evolving plan that shifts and aliens with the rest of my life. I will at time have more focus on my family and work and other times more focus on my self care. Of course having self care be consistent is most helpful, but I know at times this will not happen due to special circumstances. Life is a continuing flow of choices and a need to focus on what you deem most important at the time. All of the pieces are like a tapestry and can be woven together to create the life you want.

I wish you the best in your journey to better self care and creating your own beautiful tapestry.

I welcome comments from you as to what has been helpful for you in your journey to better self care and wellness.

Professional Disclosure: This blog is offered as educational information and is not offered as professional therapeutic services. This is not intended as treatment. For professional help contact your local mental health professional. Strom Individual and Family Therapy is not liable for any action or non action you take in regard to this article.


Play for a Calmer, Happier You and for Better Relationships

photo by noah silliman

We all want to feel happy and be connected with our loved ones. Play is a natural way for us to feel light and joyful thus spilling over into feelings of happiness and passing that on to the ones we love. Sounds pretty simple. But with our busy schedules and endless “to do” lists and activities, it may take some conscious effort to make this happen.

As this is National Play Therapy Week, February 3-9, I thought this may be a good time to share some thoughts about play and some of it’s wonderful benefits. As a Registered Play Therapist I use play in a therapeutic way in my private practice. Not only is play helpful for children. It is helpful for adolescents and adults as well. Play is truly healing and restorative. It is connecting and relationship building. Play is a wonderful preventative prescription as it requires the focus of being in “the moment”, not worrying about the past or the future.

Let’s look at ways to incorporate more play into your life. And how to do so in the most healthy ways possible.

Play for YOU to Rejuvenate and Relax

photo by ariana prestes
  1. Choose Something That You Really Like or Love, Just for the Pure Enjoyment of It. The key here is YOU and what YOU enjoy and brings YOU pleasure. This is not exercise or your yoga practice, etc. Even though these should bring you pleasure and feel good.
  2. Choose a Time That You Can Focus on the Playful Time and Let Go of the Past or the Future. Just allowing a time for you and the feeling of playfulness and joy.
  3. Choose Something that is Lighthearted and Fun. There is lots of time we spend in our life being serious. This is a  good thing. But we all need balance.   Pure fun is such a freeing  feeling that gives us a break from our worry.. So give yourself this gift.  You  deserve it!
  4. Take a Break From Your “TO DO LIST”. Doesn’t that sound wonderful. Just not doing anything on this list will open up space to be playful and rejuvenate your spirit.

Some possible playful ideas for YOU:

  • Spend time in nature, enjoying all that you love in the outdoor setting.
  • Cuddle up with and play with your animals.
  • Ride your bike or take a walk in a slow, enjoyable way, taking in all around you. This is different than exercise, more a meditative activity.
  • Spend time doing something that brings you joy. Maybe it is cooking or maybe it is painting or writing or playing music or shooting some hoops. Do what brings you joy.

“Playfully Yours” Couple Time

photo by scott web

We start out being playful and having fun in our relationships. And as time goes by, you may find this is less so. As one person said to me, “Life gets in the way.” Our lives do become more full with families and more demanding work, etc. So let’s look at ways we can keep the playful / fun in our couple relationships.

  1. Schedule Time for Fun. That may sound not too playful. But for some folks it is the only way “fun” happens. This can be a weekly date night or date day. It is a great start. This can evolve into more spontaneous playfulness
  2. Create the Atmosphere and Space for Spontaneous Playfulness. Inject a light heartened response, initiate playful behavior, be flirtatious, etc. Be a “playful person” whenever you can. All this contributes to a more light, positive feeling. Share more positive than negative to help allow for more playfulness to emerge.
  3. Recognize and Remember the Value of Keeping a Playful Connection. This is a basic core piece of a healthy, vibrant relationship. A playful connection is needed to keep our relationship alive and well. It is a component that we need to nurture and see as important.
  4. Couple Time is not Group Couple Time. Sometimes we will lump spending time with a group of friends as a couple activity. It is and it is not. True couple time is just the two of you focusing on each other and having fun and being playful together.
  5. Brainstorm What Playful Things You Want to Do Together. Update with each other what you feel you are missing or really want to do that would make you feel more connected and more happy. Then put them into action.

Family Play Time

photo by caroline hernandez

Playing together as a family is so “up there” as to healthy family functioning. It helps to build strong, connected relationships. This in turn helps as we do the job of guiding and leading our children. Children respond more cooperatively and have a stronger attachment to parents when the relationship is a balance of playful connection and positive guidance.

In our busy, full lives it can feel challenging to incorporate time for play. But we really need to do so. It may mean looking carefully at what our children and we as adults are involved in. We cannot do it all as much as we would all like to. Of course age of children and special circumstances will play into our decisions.

Things to Consider in Planning Family Play Times

  1. Consider your children and their age, choosing something that is a developmental fit / age appropriate for them. This will increase their enjoyment as well as yours. In addition, this will set the stage for a successful family play time.
  2. Think about what your children enjoy, what their passions are and try to make sure these things are a part of the mix. This does not mean we cannot expose them to new things. Alternating what is done with family play time with the different interests within the family is a good thing – helping to give children the gift of being tolerant and ok with doing a variety of things.
  3. Create a balance of at home and out of the home play times. This is a great modeling of helping children know you can  create your own fun in your own home and know you do not have to have a lot of money to do so. Of course it is fun to do adventures out of the house. But again they do not have to be grand vacations. There is lots to do locally and within neighboring towns. And of course, special vacations are great as well.
  4. Parent / Child Dates for Individual One on One Time. It can be very connecting to have one on one Parent / Child Dates or Play Times if  you feel your children crave individual time. Of course this means making sure all your children have their turn to keep harmony within your family.

I wish for you a deep rejuvenation and more happiness as you experience more play in your life. And I wish you well as you as create more playful times within your relationship.


Growing Happiness Through a Gratitude Journal That Lets the Good In

firewood pic AK July 2016 cropped IMG_7226 (2)

Life has a way of throwing us a curve ball, at times adding challenges that seem to gray every thing around us.  Due to a recent illness within my family that ended with a surgery, I went to that gray place. I was thinking to myself, “Ok you are a therapist, what do you want to do here to feel better?”  I found Rick Hanson’s book: Hardwiring  Happiness peeking through my most recent stack of books by my reading chair.  I began re-reading parts of Rick’s book and found one of my favorite parts about taking in the good. I  like to call it “letting in the good”. I really like this concept of letting the good come in even when it feels dark and gray. Our brain does gravitate to the “dark side”. As Rick Hanson likes to say the negative experiences are like velcro and the positive experiences are like teflon.  The brain has a negativity bias that is built-in to keep us safe. Understanding this principle helps us to know we have to highlight and focus on the good to experience it more easily. I’m not saying we should not let our self feel sad, that is important as well. But we have to be vigilant not to go to the “dark side” and hide from the light that is always there for us.

Out of the weeds and tangles of life great beauty can be found.


A bit later I decided to do a bit of writing in my gratitude journal as this is always a mood lifter. As I began to write I thought why not do a more descriptive writing entry in my gratitude journal to “let more of the good come in”. First of all let me say a bit about  “letting in the good”. The following is a summary of the first three of the four steps of what Rick Hanson calls “taking in the good”. In this case it is in past tense as you are remembering and recalling.


  1. Acknowledge the Positive Experience -In the case of reflecting back, bring forth the positive experience to your mind.
  2. Enrich It – Keep this time in your mind, opening the memory so you can fully remember it and enjoy it in its fullness. Think of how it personally helped you.
  3. Absorb It – Let it sink into you becoming a part of you.

You can use this process of “letting in the good” as you write in your gratitude journal. For some a gratitude journal may be more about listing what you are grateful for that has happened to you that day. In a Descriptive Gratitude Journal you would want to do the following:

  • Be detailed in your description of what you are grateful for or what positive experience you had that day.
  • Describe all the positive feelings you felt during this experience.
  • Relive this positive time in your mind. Let it stay with you, enjoying the feel of it again as long as you can. 

I hope you will try this enhanced gratitude journal writing. The good feelings will have a better opportunity of becoming a part of you, living on. And of course the more you journal about your positive experiences the more that you will draw more positive experiences to you.

Best wishes for happy days ahead!


Happy Journals, Happy Families

journal picture IMG_7984 (2) november 2015

I sometimes suggest a “Happy Journal” for a client who needs to do more focusing on the “happy stuff”. I at times will ask the entire family to partake in this simple, but very effective activity. I always like to remind folks that “what we focus on is what we get more of”. Thus, for those who want to have a happier family here is a tool to encourage your family to look for the happy in their lives.

The Set Up for Beginning Your Happy Journal Family Adventure

  1. Have a family meeting where you set down and explain what you are going to do as a family. “Because we want to focus on the good or what makes us happy, we have decided we are all going to keep happy journals. What we focus on we get more of. So here is a way to put more focus on the happy.”
  2. Have family members choose from a variety of decorative spiral notebooks or journals as to what they like the most. I would suggest that you buy a few more than you need so that there will be some choice for everyone. Plus you can pick out ones that you know will be a hit with each of your family members. If you have young children or those who like to draw you may want to include some that are blank paged journals.
  3. Suggest that everyone write in their “happy journal” everyday. “We would like for everyone to write down something in their happy journal everyday. This way it gets to be a habit for us all to think more about the “happy stuff” that is going on in our lives.” You can suggest that everyone try to think of 3 things that made them feel happy that day. Or whatever number of things that you feel would work with your family. Or you could leave it open ended, with no set number.
  4. Each person can write or draw what made them happy that day. This is helpful for those who are not writing yet or for those who prefer to express themselves in this way.
  5. Maximize or let your happy experiences grow by sharing them with one another.  This could be done in a set way or a more spontaneous way.  Some possible more structured ways of sharing might be: sharing at the dinner table every night one happy thing that everyone is planning on writing in their happy journal or sharing at bedtime with each other. Sometimes tying an activity to a routine already in place can help. In a more spontaneous way, you might ask your child, “What have you found to put in your happy journal lately?”
  6. All family members participating makes this a very powerful activity. When children and teens see there moms or dads write down what is making them happy and sharing this, they will see that this is a family value or something that is important – to focus on the happy stuff or the good.

I hope you will try this whether your family is just you as a couple or if you are a couple with a young child or if you are a single parent family or a blended one. It is all good, encouraging each other to see the happy things that are all around us!!!

Finding More Happiness Through Your Future Self

sunshine with person looking up into sun

Not really sure what it is you need to be happy or feel at peace. You might try to access your wisdom from your “future self”.  I recently had gotten away from doing my regular meditation. In doing so, I decided to try a new guided meditation. This one was through Hayhouse’s Meditation Mondays series. So I checked out  “Reclaim Your Energy Guided Meditation with Lissa Rankin – Monday Meditation. You can find this on This is where I came up with my own version of your “future self”. I have used a similar concept in the past. It was a nice reminder of how one might access more of their inner wisdom.

Your Future Self – Tapping Into Your Inner Wisdom

Your “future self” is how you see yourself in the future if things are going the way you would want them to go. You would be doing what you want and living the way you want to live, being with those that make you happy, etc. This is your brighter, how you want your life to be self. In Dr. Rankin’s meditation she uses your future self in 5 years. But you could choose another span of time if it makes more sense to you.

  1. Find a quite spot to sit by yourself and relax. Take some deep breaths and relax your body.
  2. First of all imagine your brighter, “future self”. See yourself in detail noting all the things that are going the way you want them to. Take some time. Let it soak in, how all of this feels. Consider what others might be saying to you. Check out your environment. Where are you? Who are you with? What are you doing? Revealing in what you so desire.
  3. See your NOW self going to meet your FUTURE SELF. Let them sit and talk a bit.
  4. Ask your “future self” anything that you would like to know. See what they have to say. Remember they are living in place that you see as a way you would want to live.  For example you might ask: “How can I find more time to care for myself? How did you do it?” OR “How do I heal my relationship with my teenage son?” OR “How can I feel less overwhelmed all the time?”
  5. Take in this WISDOM into your “now” self and let it find a special place within you to access when you are ready to use it.

Good luck in your meeting with your “future self”.

Five Ways to Create the POSITIVE Person YOU Want to Be

sunshine riverparks

Do you want to feel positive with a sense of well-being? Most of us do. It makes sense to want to feel lighter and calmer. Others will like you better when you are showing this side of yourself. They will find they feel positive and uplifted as well. It is such a lovely chain reaction.  So how do we get to this “happy place”?

Here are Five Basics for Creating the POSITIVE Person YOU Want to Be.

1. Be Mindful of Your “Thought Life”

One way to start the process of becoming a more positive person is to listen to what you are saying to yourself and to others around you. How positive is your thought life? Of course no one is positive all the time.  We are all human and we will have upsets. But this is really the first step in assessing where you are in your path to becoming a more positive person. So make a point to really hear yourself. Are your thoughts and feelings what you want?

2.  Stress Less – It’s All in Perception

When we are stressed, we open our self for negativity to set in. It is hard not to be negative when we feel overwhelmed or that it is just all too much. So finding ways to lower your stress level is a foundation piece. Many times it is our perception of how we view what is going on around us that makes a situation stressful. If things do not go the way you planned, it is normal to feel frustrated and lean toward feeling negative. But if you can stop and know it is all ok. It will all fall in place. Maybe just not in the way you planned. It will feel better.  If we expect perfection from ourselves or others this too will cause upset. As we all know none of us are perfect and we all do the best we can. Be kind to yourself and others. Trying to remember what is really important in the grander scheme of things can help.  When we remember that we can choose our feeling state and our reaction to something, it is very freeing and allows us to move in a confident, positive manner.

3.   Acknowledge Your Upset Feelings and Move to a Higher Positive Feeling

So now you are really hearing yourself. And you can hear the negative talk you do not like or does not make you feel good. Tuning into how you feel is an excellent guide to letting you know if  you need to regroup and go down another path. When we feel good, we are normally on the path to being the positive person we want to be. So if you are feeling badly, no need to deny it. It is good to be in touch with your core feelings. Sometimes that means you will be sad or mad or anxious. It’s ok. After recognizing and acknowledging your upset feelings, you can move on to a higher, better feeling state. It is a choice you can make. You can let go of your upset and move on.  For example: You wake up and you are feeling overwhelmed. You might say to yourself. “It is all too much. I just can’t do it.” You might acknowledge to yourself your core upset and then do a shift, “Yes I am feeling a bit overwhelmed, but I know all will fall into place. I will do the most important things first. It will all be ok.”

4.  Create an Environment that Helps You to Be Positive

Fill your self with what is positive. Things to consider are: what you are watching on tv and the internet, what you are reading, what and who you are listening to. What we surround ourselves with makes a difference. So hang with happy, positive people, watch uplifting shows and programs, read inspirational materials. It all becomes a part of you!

5.  Focus on “The Good”

On purpose focus on what is going well, what you are looking forward to, who is bringing joy in your life.  Absorb and let all that good soak in and let it be a part of you. Some concrete things that you find helpful are: Keeping a Gratitude Journal, Writing, Speaking or Listening to Positive Affirmations, Meditation. Create a “Grateful Mindset” as this will keep you focused on all that is good in your life.

Becoming more positive is a journey. The goal is not to ignore upset feelings. But to come to a place where you honor those upset feelings and then choose to let them go and move on to a higher, better place where more calmness and feelings of well-being can prevail. Best wishes on your journey!






How to Create More Peace, More Fun, More Joy

Cat resting on top of my desk papers

How high is your paper pile? As you can see mine had gotten pretty high. My kitty cat has reminded me it is time to take a break. Sometimes it takes an outside source for me to slow down and regroup. But many times I find if I listen to that small voice within I know when it is time to take a break and refresh. What are some of the signs that tell you it is time to slow down?

Here are FIVE sure signs that you may need a break.

  1. You continue to have accidents, maybe small ones, like running into things, dropping things, finding you have made mucho many mistakes in emails you have sent out, etc.
  2. You cannot find things. Maybe you find your keys in the refrigerator. Not good!
  3. You find your communication has gotten shorter and curter and more to the point. You find you are in conflict more with your loved ones.
  4. You don’t feel you are enjoying life. There is no time for that. You are too busy!
  5. You have a sense of unease that tells you that all is not well. Or you may not feel well straight up. Our bodies are “our friends”. They try to tell us when we are going “too fast” or needing to regroup. In fact, most of us will eventually just get sick and our bodies will just shut us down if we don’t listen.

There are times for all of us that we just feel it is all too much and we need a break. So why don’t we? Good question. Sometimes it really does feel like we don’t have a choice. We are under a deadline or someone else is counting on us and we don’t want to let them down. We might worry what others might think. Or it may be that we have just got in a “habit” of being too busy.

It may not really be so much about how much we have going on in our life, but how we perceive it. Are you a half full or half empty person? Our thinking effects how happy we are and how we cope with everyday stressors.

All this said, we still all need to relax and recuperate – taking time to do something that is just for us or do something that brings us immense joy. Of course the best is when we can fill our life with things that bring us joy and happiness. It is also important to note that we all have our own special speed that feels best for us. Some folks just operate at a higher frequency level. That is ok as long as it feels good and it brings us feelings of happiness.

So to end here are FIVE ways to have more PEACE, more FUN, more JOY.

  1. Put a protective shield around yourself. Imagine whatever image works for you. For example: A bright, white protective light around yourself that keeps you calm and stable and not affected by outside pressures and upsets. At a self-care workshop I did for therapists, I had one participant use a super hero cape to wrap around herself. You will have your own image come to mind. This protective shield is not to say you ignore your family or not be sensitive to others. It actually allows you to be more sensitive when you choose not to let the “yuck” stuff into yourself inner space.
  2. Let the good in. Author and Neuro-Psychologist  Rick Hanson advocates letting more of the good into our lives. Focusing on those parts of our life that bring us joy. So many times this is the little things in our lives. It is just slowing down long enough to see them and feel the wonder of “letting the good in”.
  3.  Clear the clutter, develop a space that feels peaceful for you. This may look different for different folks. But space clearing can  help in feeling more calm and creating an environment that leads to a more peaceful feeling.
  4. Remember you don’t have to be perfect. We are all human. And no one is perfect. We all do the best we can and that is enough.
  5. Take a BREAK. It is ok. Remember a break can be a 5 minute break, a 20 minute break, an evening break or a week break. They all count and help us to find that peaceful place that resides within. And as you know it will all be there when you come back. But when you come back you will have a fresh new look at it. Take a break to ENJOY yourself and your loved ones around you. They count big time in the grand scheme of things.

Note about my blog break: For those of you who follow my blog. I chose to take off from my blog for about a month to take a vacation, attend to some new projects that took some extra focus and regroup. So I am back and ready to go. In other words, I took a BREAK. And you can too. Best wishes in finding that happy balance of work and play!






Love From the Inside Out

 self love woman with word love on hand

Which is more important loving yourself or loving others?  That should cause some discussion. I think the other question is  “Where does self-love start and does one need to love themselves to be able to love others in a healthy way?”

Love starts when we are infants. How we are raised and what messages we are given about ourselves has a profound affect on how we view ourselves and if we have a good self-esteem and if we truly love who we are. Our life experiences outside of our home also plays a part in how we feel about ourselves. This affects our relationships. How we feel about ourselves will affect our choice of partners and friends, etc. It will color our view of relationships. If you did not have an optimal childhood there are ways to work through all of this and have a healthy relationship. Being with a healthy person in your relationship can help with some of the reparative work.

To sum up some of the main ideas on the issue of self-love and love of others:

  1. Love starts with loving yourself.  If you question whether you love yourself or even like yourself, then it is time to look at this and begin a love affair with yourself. This is something that cannot be taken away from you.  It is the ultimate gift we can give our self. When we feel good about ourselves just the way we are. it opens up this wonderful space to be really HAPPY. If you have had a difficult childhood, this may mean getting some help to work through this. But it can be done.
  2. If you want others to show their love to you, starting with showing your love is a good way to get this two-way flow going. When we are open with our love and support for our loved ones, then this tends to flow back to us. If it is not flowing back, then it is ok to let folks know what you need. This may be different for different folks. Many of you are probably familiar with the Five Love Languages. The basic premise is that we have a dominant preference for what makes us feel loved. For some it may be receiving gifts. Others it may be acknowledgement and praise. For some it might be acts of service (ex. helping). Then there are those that feel loved most when they are physically touched. Some thrive on quality time.  And then lastly, it may be that you are multi-faceted, like me – I like all of these!  The main point of all of this is that we can lovingly and respectfully tell our loved ones what we need.
  3. Back to loving yourself. This is where it starts and ends. You must love yourself just as you are unconditionally to feel good about yourself. Plus. if for some reason others are not giving you the love you need you can not only communicate your needs, but you can have the basic foundation piece in place “LOVING YOURSELF” which will always serve you well. You might be wondering what does this really mean, loving yourself? For me loving my self is to live authentically, choosing my work and activities to match up with what I am passionate about and what I believe in. And it means good self-care along with caring about my happiness and those I love. You will have your own definition that fits for you.

couple face to face black and white photo

Loving “from the inside out” is loving yourself first, thus allowing your love to then be given to others in a healthy way. Remember you are unique and lovable just the way you are!

love yourself on a beach

Why Hang with Happy People?

couple young laughing together

Does it matter who we spend our time with? I think it does. When we hang with happy people, we feel happier. I was just listening to an audio book on brain research and love and within this framework there was a discussion about “mirror neurons” in our brain. The mirror neurons in our brain help us to be attuned to those around us. So we search for how another feels and our brain internally mirrors that emotion. It is like we experienced it ourselves. So when we spend large amounts of time with those who are upset or unhappy we may find ourselves feeling this way also. If your friends are negative there will be a strong feel to want to be negative also. Or if your significant other is depressed a lot it may feel as if your mood tends to gravitate to this emotion. I am not saying that we all do not have times of upset and don’t  need to process this with another. We do. I am talking about those who are never happy or always upset and expressing it to all around them.

friends two couples laughing

We spent some time with some good friends for a get together at our house this last weekend. I always feel so good when I see these friends. They are happy, positive and upbeat. And I find myself feeling positive and upbeat when we end our time with them. This is not to say we are not REAL with each other about struggles and disappointments. We are.  It feels good to know there is no judgement, but there is always a shift and general positive feel that all is well.

So let’s think about how we can put more happy people in our life and how we can deal with those who are not so happy.

  1. We do have a choice who we hang with, for the most part. Yes we have to work with a certain group of people or at least unless we choose to work with another group of folks. This of course is something to consider if it an extreme situation. We can choose how much time to spend with different friends. We can choose to limit our time or not spend time with a negative friend. You do have control of how you spend your time and sometimes it may mean putting boundaries in place as to time spent with people you know that are very negative and do nothing to bring any happiness to your life.
  2. Lead the way, in choosing to focus on your own happy, positive feelings. You will find that it grows those kinds of feelings in those around you. In addition, you will find that folks will want to hang with you because it feels so very good to be around you. Happy attracts happy! Again, sharing upset feelings and being real is part of being human. The point is trying to balance and have your scales weight toward the happy, upbeat “half full” view of life. You can set the tone with those around you. 
  3. On purpose get together with those folks who are more positive by nature. Your brain will collect their happy, positive thoughts as though you had them yourself.
  4. If you are with a person who is not happy, reflect and acknowledge their feelings so they can feel heard and then gently move toward what might make them feel better.
  5. Consider your couple relationships and how they affect your own relationship. If you have couple friends who are unhappy and are in conflict with one another it can breed a feeling of not being satisfied. Like attracts like. Or I suppose in this case unlike attracts unlike.  When you are with couple friends who are loving and kind to each other, it serves as a reminder that this is what you are striving for also.
  6. When dealing with family members who are “in a mood’, try to be empathetic but avoid being drawn into the depths of their upset.  Just as with friends, acknowledge their upset, listen to what they need to say to process the upset and then invite them to a better place where they can let some good in. Let them know you love them and are there for them, this in itself can turn the tide toward a brighter outlook.  parent and teen talking
  7. If you are not feeling very happy, you might consider seeking out one of your friends or family members who radiate a feeling of caring and has a positive attitude. Yes be real and process those feelings, but be with someone who can help remind you of the good stuff going on in your life.

So . . . go hang with as many happy people as you can. You will be so glad you did!