Wondrous and Wise Words

Here we are well into 2020! Both a new year and a new decade and a great chance to reset. Historically, resolutions fail and are very hard to sustain. The antidote I suggest to clients is simple- words.

I have been a lover of words (real and imagined) since Dr. Suess was a childhood entryway to my long love affair with books. Words have power- for good and bad effects. Gary Chapman, famed author of the book, The Five Love Languages referred to words as either bullets or seeds in a lesser known book- Love as a Way of Life.

This cautionary tale reminds us to be careful with our words both to others and how we speak to ourselves. Bullets tear through flesh. Seed take root and grow when they are given the proper conditions for growth.

Rather than create yearly resolutions, why not create a word or phrase every month? This is a successful practice I utilize with my clients- children and adults.

A dear childhood friend and I share our new word/phrase as one month closes out and a new one begins. For January 2020, she chose Conscious Consumption. After the indulgences of the holidays, this was her pick for a couple reasons. One, for her to eat more healthy, consciously and mindfully and two, to use her current resources wisely. She planned to use up pantry and freezer food items and buy only fresh produce and perishables to save money. Bet there will be some fun mystery meals on the menu. Instead of buying the two family dogs much needed new dog beds, she crafted beds from old pillows and blankets. She sent me a picture of both pooches blissed out on their plaid beds.

Holidays are centered around celebration and that often leads to excess. Focusing on this phrase reminds her that her health and finances can and will recover. The phrase has potency as well as simplicity.

How can we choose a word or phrase that makes an impact?

Try this.

1- List ten important values in your life. They can be broad like family or specific- two nights of quality, screen free family time per week.

2- List some goals that would make an impact in your life. Better eating. Managing stress. Exercise. They can be professional, spiritual, personal, physical or emotional in nature.

3- Narrow down the one goal that would make the biggest impact in your life now.

4- Pick the word or phrase that best reflects this goal and honors your stated values.

5- Several times per week, reflect on how well you embody this word or phrase. See what you can do to improve. Acknowledge what you are doing well.

Pick an accountability partner. My friend and I discuss our words throughout the month. It is a fun way to bond and a powerful practice to share with people in our lives.

Words, words, they’re everywhere

Choose them wisely and with great care

Serious Stress? Serious side effects? We’ll see.

We live in an age of abundant (often too much) information. That will be the subject of a future blog. Today, I am going to address one of the most important pieces of information I Iearned back in 2013, when I discovered Ted talks. I have passed it along to countless clients.

Nearly seven years ago, Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist, gave a compelling talk about stress. Other people agreed as it has amassed almost 22 million views. It is worth watching.

To summarize the first part of the talk, Kelly referenced a landmark study involving roughly 30,000 adults over an eight year span. It focuses on the death rate of people based on their self described stress levels coupled with their belief about the impact stress has on them.

Most people DO believe stress is harmful so some results are in line with that thought. People were asked how much stress they had experienced in the past year and the choices were- a little, a moderate amount or a lot. So it would stand to reason that the higher the stress level the higher the risk of death. And those who believed stress negatively impacts health had a 43% increase in death when they had rated their previous year as high in stress.

Here is where is gets interesting and hopeful. Some people also rated themselves high on stress but they did NOT perceive that stress would negatively impact their health. These folks had the lowest mortality rate of the study even lower than those who ranked themselves to have a low level of stress but a high belief that stress is damaging. Behold, the power of a strong belief system. Whether positive OR negative.

If we currently believe that stress is harmful, what can we do to shift that mindset? A first step is to address the steady stream of thoughts flowing through our minds. Many of us have abundant negative and self critical thoughts. Sometimes that inner critic is the loudest voice- which may be the voice of a parent who was hard to please, peers who were unkind, a teacher or coach who was negative. Then, we adopted that voice as our own. One of my clients has a parent who was so disparaging with words, it has taken him decades to drown our that voice and replace it with a positive and encouraging one.

When our self talk becomes more positive, we can shift outdated thoughts that we now know can be dangerous to our health and well being.

I compare the untrained mind to a not yet housebroken puppy. With consistency and persistence, we can train the pup to be a joy not a nuisance.

Sometimes, our first thought when confronted with an unexpected crisis is- “I cannot deal with this situation!” Better to replace it with, in your own words, a phrase like, “I will find the resources to handle my challenge.”

Affirmations like this work but they have to be believable. A brain will call fraud if you go overboard and say, “I am the master of the universe and I will zap the stress away!”

Find your positive inner voice. Change how you view stress. Work at this daily. And see how you transform.

The power of the mind is great
Turn it into a positive state

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