I am participating in a cohort experience led by the insightful couple, Sara and Otis Woodard, who create the podcast Practice Life (www.practicelife.org) These past couple of weeks I have been religiously practicing a Loving Kindness Meditation for people in my world. Our small cohort has had some challenges finding a common time to meet over Skype to discuss our strides and pitfalls in furthering our individual goals, causing frustration and uncertainty. An email from Otis has stuck with me in the ensuing days. He writes about hoping we are keeping on track, "And, if not, that you get right back to getting it back on track, as getting off track is predictable. What isn’t predictable, but is exceptional, is wasting no time to get things... back on track. (Notice that once things come off track, that we often go into a funk and can’t seem to muster the time or energy or focus to simply get right on getting things going again. It’s all part of the process. So if you are struggling, just get going again. Simple like that.)"
Otis' breaking it down resonated with me because, indeed, our scheduling is not the only place I lately have felt off track. It's tax time and while I have been in business for 10 years, I still find that OVERWHELM visits me when I need to total up my numbers, gather all supporting documents and put a numerical measure on what I consider to be my vocation. I notice that I have a way of experiencing yet-to-be-organized-documents as something personal about ME. It goes to the heart of what I think many of us experience: "Can I do this?" which quickly goes to: "I don't think I can," which lives close to "I am not good enough." If there were a topographical map for my thoughts, these three would be neighbors, indeed, neighbors who throw loud, raucous parties that last into the late dark hours and blast their stereos again when the rooster crows. The three thoughts, canidothis, idon'tthinkican, and iamnotgoodenough fill the air of this neighborhood in my brain, causing my heart beat to rise, my focus to fall, and my procrastinatoids (is there such a chemical? I think it's leaking out all over!) to overtake my usual Get It Done Neighborhood Watch Squad. I find myself folding laundry, sweeping the floor, responding to email inquiries, and training our poorly behaved dogs--all things that, in reality, I would never choose to do. They just feel better than confronting that neighbor iamnotgoodenough. When I stop, I realize, I AM NOT IN REALITY--I am in my thoughts, and they are not loving, or kind.
I chuckle, knowing that for my last girls' group I illustrated the momentary but sometimes persistent nature of our thoughts as clouds moving across the sky. I asked the girls, lying on their backs, to identify thoughts they sometimes have, and their poignant words floated out for all to hear. These minds have the same thoughts as I do, only in the trappings of a chapter book reading, learning to write cursive, I forgot my lunch box, afraid of the dark, when can we go inside? it's too bright out here elementary school kid without much say in her own schedule. I want them to know that their thoughts are ONLY THOUGHTS, manifestations of their prefrontal cortex which keeps alert so that they can survive the perceived threats to their lives. Thousands and thousands of years ago, as we know, we needed to be alert to every threat. Now we just need to follow the generally agreed upon rules of society and we will survive to the best of our capacity.
I, an adult, who (mostly) manages my own schedule, needed Otis' reminder to do the unpredictable and the exceptional, and muster my energy for getting right back on track. It starts for me with noticing that my thoughts have--if you'll accept that cloud metaphor--clouded over my sunshine-y energy and caused a short cloudy period. I can create my own gust of wind by DOING THE THING I need to do. Taxes, let's say, and to face the reality of what the bottom line means. With a bit of a push from Otis, and a gust of wind, I notice new thoughts passing fast: "I am doing what I love in my work. I am a mental health practitioner, not an accountant. This is a once-a tax-time experience, not a daily ritual." I now notice these thoughts as they float by and I get right back to work, grouping receipts, adding numbers. I am evaluating digits, NOT my self-worth. It is in the action that I can find a way to get right back on track. And all the while, I can do my loving kindness meditation.
May I be happy. May I be safe. May I be free from pain and suffering. May I live a joyful life.
May (my tax person) be happy. May she be safe. May she be free from pain and suffering. May she live a joyful life.
May (my emotionally taxing person) be happy. May she be safe. May she be free from pain and suffering. May she live a joyful life.
May (my beloved person) be happy. May she be safe. May she be free from pain and suffering. May she live a joyful life.
May all beings be happy. May all beings be safe. May all beings be free from pain and suffering. May all beings live a joyful life.
It all seems smoother in the sky when I do that, fewer clouds and more spaciousness within and out.
Below is the text of a talk I gave to the wonderful group at the McMinnville Soroptimists on February 2nd on Mental Health. The women in that group showed great enthusiasm for their mission to empower girls and women locally and internationally. I am so happy that such a group exists in Yamhill County and look forward to participating in some of their future events.
Here is a view from my small window regarding mind health. I'd love to hear your comments!
There is a lot of talk about mental illness in our communities, but today I want to turn the spotlight on mental health. What is Mental Health, or mental wellness?
The answer is not as easy to find, actually. I, for example, did not, in two years of a master's program in social work at PSU, ever come across a course with a title containing the words “health” or “wellness.” We are not a necessarily a culture of talking about and cultivating mental wellness. It seems that there is much more of a focus on the problems of the mind than the health of the mind and few know what it takes to have optimum mental health.
Mental health is defined as a state of well being in which an individual realizes her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to her community. Nice definition, sounds great. We know some of those people, right? Thanks to a combo of good genes, safe upbringing, not too many tragic events in their lives and a few other influences, some folks just seem able to cope and make of themselves what they want while contributing in positive ways to their community.
Some of us are perhaps more on the edge of mental wellness, or even, “struggling.” We didn't win the lottery with our genes, our childhoods were, perhaps, stressful, and we have learned to cope but not always in the most healthy of ways; we've done OK becoming who we wanted to be. So, what more can we do now to optimize our own mental wellness--because we can fortify our minds, right? What even is the mind?
The mind. In 1992, respected psychiatrist and neurobiologist Dan Siegel attended a gathering to discuss the mind. Here 40 well-respected scientists, many Nobel Prize winners: anthropologists, neurologists, doctors, physicists came together to discuss The Mind, and it became apparent that no one had a working definition of the mind that all of them could agree on. Neurologists talked about the brain, and anthropologists talked about collective culture and physicists talked about energy exchange, and so on. So Siegel spent several years studying many of these disciplines and coming up with a definition of the mind. Years into this process, the disparate members of that conference of smarty pants finally agreed on this definition:
“The mind is our inner subjective experience and the process of being aware. It's a process that regulates the flow of energy and information within our BRAINS, our BODIES and our RELATIONSHIPS, it gives rise to our mental activities like emotion, thinking and memory.”
The mind is not just the brain. It is also the body and the body’s sensory material and the intangible information that relationships with others also gives us.
Siegel more recently collaborated with David Rock from the Neuroleadership Institute, to suggest how we can boost our mind’s health. They modeled their suggestions on the Healthy Platter that Harvard Med school published to teach people what foods to eat each day to be physically well. (on your handout)
The Healthy Mind Platter has seven essential mental activities necessary for optimum mental health in our daily lives. They make up the full set of ‘mental nutrients' that your brain needs to function at it's best.
Focus Time: When we closely focus on tasks in a goal-oriented way, taking on challenges that make deep connections in the brain.
Play Time: When we allow ourselves to be spontaneous or creative, playfully enjoying novel experiences, which helps make new connections in the brain.
Connecting Time: When we connect with other people, ideally in person, or take time to appreciate our connection to the natural world around us, richly activating the brain's relational circuitry.
Physical Time: When we move our bodies, aerobically if possible, which strengthens the brain in many ways.
Time In: When we quietly reflect internally, focusing on sensations, images, feelings and thoughts, helping to better integrate the brain.
Down Time: When we are non-focused, without any specific goal, and let our mind wander or simply relax, which helps our brain recharge.
Sleep Time: When we give the brain the rest it needs to consolidate learning and recover from the experiences of the day.
By engaging every day in each of these, you enable your brain to coordinate and balance its activities, which strengthens your brain's internal connections and your connections with other people. There's no specific recipe for a healthy mind--each individual is different and our needs change over time too. The point is to become aware of the full spectrum of essential mental activities, make sure that at least every day we are incorporating some of the right ingredients into our day, even if for just short periods of time. This cultivates mental wellness.
I should also say that 20 years ago, doctors believed that once our brain mass reached its full capacity for growth (at around 45 years old) that our neural networks would start their decline and there wasn't much we could do about it. Now we know that our brains can keep building new neural networks until we die. There is a decline in overall brain brain mass as we age, but we can keep building to continue learning and being well. Activities that are novel and that a person puts great effort into, the dynamic action of learning and engaging, has the potential to facilitate this neural plasticity and improve cognitive functioning in even the eldest of adults. I highly recommend that this week, you try a new game or puzzle or try to memorize something and stick with it. Such activity is not dissimilar to being at the gym and doing repetitions with light weights to keep your building your muscle mass to slow the decline and keep well.
Back to this Healthy Mind Platter, it might be interesting later on today to think about your daily life and estimate what percentage you dedicate to these seven categories. Perhaps there is some that you need to boost!
I'd like to focus on three of the ingredients on the platter: Physical Time, Connecting Time and Time In. I hope you leave here with ideas about what you COULD be doing to take keep your minds well. Research shows that it takes at least 21 days to make a habit. If you look around the room, you might find a person or two who can support you in your change by encouraging you, participating with you or nagging you, which, to be honest, sometimes works! In one study, people paired with a workout buddy did better on aerobics tests. Another study showed that team playing can also raise athletes' pain tolerance!
The work that you Soroptimists do as an organization most likely impacts each of you in ways that, hopefully you have taken the time to understand. As individuals who are dedicated to empowering girls and women, it is vital that you take care of your own brains first and foremost. Author and teacher Miranda J. Barrett writes, “Much of your strength as a woman can come from the resolve to replenish and fill your own well and essence first, before taking care of others.”
First: Physical Time or…. EXERCISE! Here are some benefits of exercise:
-improves self-confidence or self-esteem.
-If you exercise outside, you can enjoy being outside and gain Vitamin D, which helps fight off depression.
boosts chemicals that prevent decline in cognition, memory and learning.
-improves overall brain performance in decision making, higher thinking and learning
-sharpens memory (in one study, running sprints improved vocabulary retention for adults.)
-helps control addiction through dopamine receptors
-can help in addiction recovery, can distract you from the behaviors you are avoiding
-helps you sleep more soundly
-helps reboot your body clock so that your circadian rhythms are restored, which get messed up by things like chronic insomnia, working night shifts, chronic alcohol use.
-helps you get more done: research shows that workers who exercise regularly are more productive and have more energy
Studies have revealed that exercise is as effective as medication for depression relapse prevention, so if you’ve already struggled out of depression and want to stay out, it’s vital.
Enough proof that exercise is good for our brains and bodies? As the famous Oregon shoemaker used to say, “Just Do It!”
Second, the benefits of Connecting Time. As women, we instinctively know that connecting with others is an important part of being human. But staying emotionally involved to trusted others is VITAL. As a therapist, the connection that a client creates with me is probably the best tool she can use for making change. A therapy client can create a relationship with her therapist that acts as both a springboard for making desired change and a warm safety net to count on when life becomes most difficult. I probably worry most about clients who isolate themselves, because I know that they have really hard work to do to be emotionally well and supported. So, I encourage people to spend time being authentic with others. I would guess that joining Soroptimists would be a wonderful way to connect with others around shared values and meaningful work. When discussing connecting time, one caution for women generally, is that they pay attention to their energy level when with others and that they alter or end relationships that do not contribute to their mental wellness. Toxic relationships are bad for your mind. It’s also key that you listen to how much time you want to spend with others in general; some of us are introverts and need only short periods with others to fill up on Connecting Time. This may be tricky to do with family, but you can limit or alter time with family, friends and coworkers who do not add vibrancy or goodwill to your life. Connection is as much about connecting in ways that work in your life and about defining boundaries and reaping the support and intimacy possible.
Lastly, my favorite serving on the Healthy Mind Platter: Time In is when we quietly reflect internally, focusing on sensations, images, feelings and thoughts, helping to better integrate the brain. Many of you have probably heard the word MINDFULNESS, of late; it is the darling of the psychology world and a great way to do Time In.
Mindfulness came to the US from the east, from the Buddhism of India and Tibet, Nepal and Myanmar. There are other origins too, Christian Devotional Meditation works toward self-awareness with God. And by now, there is nothing religious about the allowing work mindfulness. Mindfulness, defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn, is the act of paying attention, on purpose in the present moment without grasping to judgment. Mindfulness, in this case, is simple, actually. I pay attention to what's happening in this moment, and this moment, and this moment, and I am open and alive to as many of the sensations available to me through my eyes, ears, nose, mouth, skin and body. Then I will be really happy!!! Right? NO! I work with many people who judge themselves as bad because they are deeply sad, or in pain, or angry. They believe they are crazy because they have annoying thoughts or uncomfortable sensations in their bodies as they start to use mindfulness and pay attention! We are not supposed to be happy all the time, in fact, pain, sadness, sickness, jealousy, disappointment, loneliness, death are all part of a full life. We can pay attention to it without judging or critiquing, without applying our analyzing brains. If we can live experiencing life around us with less judgment, then we may create fewer thoughts that cause suffering for ourselves. The goal is to allow and to work at NOT attaching analytical thoughts to the information that your brain and body give you in the moment. Bare, gentle, welcoming attention without critique, judgment,diagnosis, prognosis, comparison, evaluation, ranking, trying to make it different, trying to make it stop etc etc
Mindfulness is so simple, yet so hard! Why is this so hard?!!! Well, our brains are designed to keep us alive by thinking, judging, valuing etc, not just experiencing. Many thousands of years ago our busy brains fit perfectly in our environment. They were on alert for anything that might keep us from being able to reproduce... a poisonous mushroom, a threatening grizzly, lightning, a steep cliff. Our brains back then noticed and remembered the scary stuff so that we could just plain survive. Our brains now still use the same old tricks, they have not evolved fast enough to recognize that being in front of people giving a speech, flying in an airplane or listening to a blameful partner, being behind on tasks at work are not risks to our lives. Our brains still plan how not to die (we call that catastrophize), stay focused on misperceived danger (ruminate), prepare to make a break for safety (panic) keep focused on one particular detail (obsess) when they’d be better service to our bodies if they could distinguish between true threats to our lives and just uncomfortable experiences that we would certainly live through.
Experts are now documenting how our brain waves change when we practice mindfulness. Functional MRI scans of the brain show that after an eight week course of mindfulness practice, the brain's amygdala shrinks! The amygdala is the alarm that warns our body when the oldest evolved part of our brain perceives danger. Our bodies jump to attention with hormones coursing--our hearts beat fast, we don’t think clearly, we sweat, clench, our chests tighten, stomachs flip, legs try to run. This is The Famous Fight, Flight or Freeze that evolved to keep us safe in a real emergency. We still experience how fight, flight or freeze impacts our body, our brain, and even our relationships in the moment and over time. High blood pressure, heart disease, panic attacks, thickness in our middles, difficulty with high pressure situations, general anxiety, difficulty in relationships, unpredictability all enter the picture when our amygdalas fire too often and our bodies and brains respond. So... repeated mindfulness quiets that alarm system and makes the prefrontal cortex—the center of awareness, concentration and decision-making--thicker, more active. In other words, our more thoughtful functions begin to dominate our primal responses to stress! This is your brain on mindfulness, more thoughtful, less reactive, more grounded and less anxious. And your body on mindfulness is healthier as well. Mindfulness practice reduces the biomarkers of stress and inflammation which are associated with disease. There is so much research out there now about chronic stress and its negative impact on our physical wellness. Now, I remind you, mindfulness will not make a pain free life. Pain is part of life. But research into Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction shows that people who practice mindfulness can deal with pain better because the two regions that are normally connected, the part that notices the unpleasantness of pain and the part that thinks it all through appear to become uncoupled in long-term meditators. Meditators are able to lessen both the aversiveness of the pain stimulation and the stressing nature of it. We don't block the uncomfortable experience, we rather are better able to refrain from engaging in thought processes that make it painful.
This means that if we can make mindfulness a habit, we can have a calmer, more grounded, less reactive way of being in the world, we can fight symptoms disease in our bodies and we can cope more positively with pain. How might this change things? Well, imagine the last time you flew off the handle and yelled at someone without taking note of the potential impact? Or imagine how you let yourself get lost in thought about some potential terrible thing that you feared was going to happen and you spent too many wakeful hours in bed, trying to forget your worries and fall asleep. Or remember when you were so regretful of that mistake you made that you could not let go of the guilt and it haunted you for months, even impacted your physical health by aggravating Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Our minds and our bodies are inextricably linked! Life is an ocean there are plenty of big waves. The waves can repeatedy crash us onto the shore, giving us a face full of sand. OR, we can use a Time In practice like mindfulness to learn to ride the waves of our experience. Sitting meditation, walking meditation, yoga and body scans are all ways to meditate on what is actually happening in the moment and to ALLOW.
There are so many ways we can support our brains. Here’s a call to action. Doing something today will get you started supporting yourself. With consistent effort, you might notice changes over time that lend themselves to feeling well and healthy. I wish you not luck, but good old fashioned effort towards doing something to support your brain, body and relationships!
Today I sat to write my Second Blog Post. I whipped the first blog out almost effortlessly; the start of a new year begs for a blog whose focus is resolving to change! That was low-hanging fruit, as they say. And now, for my second blog...uh-oh, had I picked all the easy citrus? I wanted to introduce one of my favorite topics, mindfulness, but what to say that hasn't been said, and by folks more eloquent than I?
Mindfulness, says Jon Kabat-Zinn, is the act of paying attention, on purpose to the present moment without grasping to judgment. My clients have heard me say this many times before in our striving to allow what is happening more room on the stage filled with our distractions and defenses. It's so simple, I tell my clients, and so difficult, this mindfulness. Our brains are wired to keep us safe, and so our neocortex turns our attention to that which might cause us the most danger. My life is pretty darn easy, all things considered (no attacking bears, poisonous mushrooms, unsurvivable winters just around the corner) and so my mind focuses naturally on the things it interprets as danger—not being good enough, getting things screwed up, failing at my roles, unintentionally causing harm to my children. I am physically safe, but my darn amygdala keeps firing, setting off the alarm that causes my body flush with hormones that ready me to fight, flee or freeze. Too much of that, and I am noticing symptoms. Difficulty concentrating, chronically upset stomach, waking up with a start, heart fluttering. My intervention is to notice without judgment, the sensations in the moment, as the practice of mindfulness teaches. I aspire to thicken my neocortex and weaken the link between my amygdala and the rest of my brain so that I am calmer, less fight-or-flighty over thoughts about forgetting my kids' lunch or missing an appointment. (http://www.scientificamerican.com/video/how-does-meditation-change-the-brai2013-10-30/)
Here at my small desk, today, I wonder how I can bring all this home to my Tiny Blog Audience? (I call you that because it goes with my office on the farm and let's face it, it's my second blog, and you, my audience, are tiny).
There at my computer in my Tiny Office, I wrote a couple of fruitless paragraphs and stared out the window when—I am not making this up—I spotted a bald eagle flying above the pond just to the north of me. I immediately and harshly corrected myself, sure that I was wrong. “It's a hawk, Drama Queen, the sunshine just makes it appear to have a white head and tail feathers. Calm down, Conclusion Jumper!” [tightness below my rib cage] I slipped out of my office to spy more closely, [heart beating faster] and soon it circled straight above me, in its effortless way on the invisible currents of air. [expansiveness in my chest and upper back] I was not mistaken! A bald eagle!
Let's just get side tracked for a moment. A month ago, at a California zoo, I heard a mother tell her small son, right in front of one of these magestic avians, that the bald eagle was extinct. I remember feeling the sensations in my body then [heaviness in my stomach] at the mere idea of extinction, the finality of it. I remember now [heat in face, chest drawn in slightly] how I had laughed behind her back at the mistake this mother made, knowing that she didn't have her facts straight, that bald eagles had recently been removed from the endangered species list and are now on the "least concern list" (http://www.buzzle.com/articles/endangered-bald-eagle.html.) How self-righteous, I. [tightness in my chest]
Remembering that day and how easily I jumped from the seemingly intolerable Tiny Experience of grieving the loss of the bald eagle [heaviness, a “pit” in my stomach] to a more enjoyable Tiny Experience of laughing at someone else's expense [lightness, movement fluttering in my lungs]. I understand this now as my learned effort to distract me from my own sadness. This small example of how a thought leads to an uncomfortable feeling expressed in my body first by a sensation causes me to distract myself from it by a small, unkind action. When viewed in the context of children who feel hurt turn to take it out on someone else or (gasp! can it be?) a group that feels violated creates violence to get revenge for their loss of power, I begin to see how healing begins with ourselves. By paying attention and learning to accept, tolerate and comfort ourselves through even the slightest of body sensations, we can keep the unkind acts from jumping out and emanate a centeredness that is peace. And so, we begin by noticing the smallest physical sensations [these things, adjectives describing a part of our bodies]. We let them be noticed, without rushing to judge or fix them. This is the process of listening to our bodies so that we may integrate our whole experience before for we act in a way that does not add peace and kindness into the world.
That eagle today reminds me to circle, circle back to my body, my guide to what IS. I notice the [expansiveness in my chest and the lift in my face] when I open to the lesson I was not expecting, from this visitor I was not expecting. How humbling, how wonder-full.
May I be like the eagle, silently gaining perspective by circling, circling, seeing and allowing, without judging or pouncing. May I use nature to guide me, and may I trust my own strength to keep me above that ground where thoughts mire me or where uncomfortable feelings tangle me in unkind action.
May we all extend our wings, rising higher than the suffering on the ground. May we move the current above to create winds of change. May we light on our goal with precision and strength to sustain us, but not take more than we need.
For a chance to create those winds of peace within ourselves and our community, please join us at 4e Yoga Studio in McMinnville on Saturday, January 24th for a Yoga and Meditation for Peace. (See the Upcomers page for details.)
This January, as Americans everywhere are making plans for changes they want to make in their lives, I will be celebrating ten years of being in independent counseling practice in McMinnville, Oregon. Ten years ago I was pregnant with my first child, dreaming of what our life might be like with a new baby and how I might still be able to do some of the work that had given me meaning over the previous ten years as a social worker. As a beneficiary of feminist work in our country, I was determined to "do it all." Indeed, I have had the privilege of great support from family and friends and have been lucky to to establish my own counseling practice and to meet some of Yamhill County's residents. It has been a decade full of the rich opportunity to connect with clients as they seek to improve their lives and relationships in ways meaningful to them. I am honored by the opportunity to continue working closely with individuals and families as they identify how they want to change over time. My re-envisioned goal for 2015 is to help clients build their capacity for wellness so that they may thrive. I believe that our contemporary lives have lost some of the essential components of wellness. We are seeing all-time high rates of medication use for depression, anxiety, sleeplessness an chronic pain. My therapeutic work is about joining the power of connection between people with the essential awareness of the present moment to create and experience that enlarges a client's sense of what is possible. In 2015, I'll be folding in more of the natural world to help clients increase emotional grounding and peace as well as promote physical health and wellness. I'll invite more clients to walk in nature, to sit under the stars for their session or to brush Willy, our friendly Apaloosa. There is no denying our deep connection to nature and so I will use it to help my clients come back to themselves at their most aware and powerful.
If you, like me, are wishing to make a change in your life in some way, perhaps starting with noticing the tiny (or large) part yourself that knows that you would be happier with that change. Perhaps you will choose to give life to that part, like planting a tiny seed, you'll nurture that little insight with a sprinkle of compassion and hope. Is there one small thing you can do today to honor that little insight and turn it into action toward change? It is my hope for you that you will believe in that part of you that yearns to do something better, and that you will act on it. Here are five tips to help you nurture that tiny sprout: 1) Visualize the difference. Our brains benefit from any time we spend imagining the way we want ourselves to be. Instead of telling yourself to stop nagging your child, play the film in your head of you talking calmly to your child, leaning down slowly to get to his level and surprising him (and yourself!) with a gentle smile. 2) Step-by-step. Break your hopelessly large desires-to-change into small steps so that you can manage a small pro-action each day. If you want to get more active, make an appointment to fix your bike, or take a short walk. 3) Awareness without judgment. Pay attention to yourself. If you notice that as you take your bike to be fixed you feel organized, allow yourself to really feel that, expanding that fleeting thought into a 45 second experience. If you don't take as long of a walk as you wanted to, busy yourself in not judging by paying attention to how it actually feels to walk, rather than assessing the outcome. 4) Effort and Self-Compassion. If you notice that you are overeating in the late afternoon, don't beat yourself up, and make a plan for that difficult time of day. If you are beating yourself up, for goodness sake, notice that and introduce another voice that is kinder and less brutal. (No child ever thrived from an adult berating her, so use what you already know to support your efforts.) The kind voice is a good beginning. Also recognize that your desired change requires time and, likely sweat equity. You are going to mess up doing the hard work to change, so plan on it and give yourself some forgiveness along the way. My husband reminds us that it's OK to make mistakes, just try to make new ones as you keep working instead of the same old ones! 5) Cultivate Support. Think of the one or two people who comfort and/or inspire you, and use their energy to help you keep up any good work. Steer clear of those who suck your life force, you'll gain more momentum by being around positivity! If you don't readily think of someone who can support you, seek professional help. We counselors are trained to be the person running alongside you reminding you of all the fabulous strengths you've already shown and troubleshooting the inevitable pot holes and rocks in the road. Change takes time and effort, and I wish for you that you make a bit of it happen in 2015!