Monday, August 24, 2015

Breaking Up? You Did the Right Thing

If you have lived and loved, you have also suffered.

And often the most painful experience is that of enduring the end of the relationship.

Since this is a perennial concern, I'll give you a couple of things to keep in mind.

You will miss them when they are gone. Even if you initiated the break-up. Even if the relationship went badly. You will miss them.

This is the time when most of us have called and apologized. At least once. And perhaps found ourselves back together again.

And we have done this knowing that nothing has changed to fix the relationship. We are still the same people that could not keep it going the first time.

But time to reconsider and hope for better, has lead us to believe it will work the second time.

And when it doesn't, we regret going back.

So what are we left to ponder?

If the relationship did not work well enough the first time, why do you think it will work this time?

And here I mean, what has changed to improve the chances that it will give you what you want?

Hope and promises and even some exceptional making-up, are not proof of meaningful change.

And our feelings of sadness for the loss of our relationship can lead us to make irrational decisions.

So, even though you are sad and missing your former companion, think with your head and not your heart.

Yes, you shared some good experiences.

And you can have strong feelings about them following a break-up.

But your feelings don't mean you were meant to be together.

As always, don't take your feelings too seriously. Think with your head.

Write the reasons down as a reminder of why it didn't work. Refer to them when the urge to call them arises.

Talk to trusted friends about your feelings. They often see things more clearly.

Stay actively engaged in your own life. Especially with those people and activities that give you your strongest sense of meaning and purpose.

Expect some feelings of loneliness. And sadness. But don't panic.

Your suffering will end, eventually.

And you will be able to recognize a better partner from what you have learned.

And hopefully, you will be a better partner too.

Stick to good decisions that you make for yourself. Trust your best judgment.

Go live and love well.

And let me know how it goes.

-- Rich

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Personal Guidelines for Enduring a Crisis

I recently sent these guidelines for self-care out to a friend who was suffering the loss of an old friend. I felt like I had to give some ideas for what she might do to help care for herself in a very difficult time.

These painful events can leave us feeling like we just want someone to give us concrete answers about what we should do next. 

We might often wish for someone to take us by the hand and show us the way to feeling better.

Yet I'm always aware that much of what I say to help folks in pain can sound trite or grossly inadequate out of context. So know that I take these guidelines seriously for using them myself and recommend them to others dealing with feeling that life is at a low point due to grief. 

I hope you find them helpful when you need reminders of how to find your way.

  • Stick as closely as possible to your normal routine. It helps us feel normal.
  • Recognize that you are working on a plan of taking good care of yourself. You are not adrift.
  • Look for things to feel good about. Count at least three every week starting today. List them in a journal regularly to help sort things out.
  • Recognize that feeling bad right now is normal and it will not last forever. You will feel better but first you will feel bad until you are finished with those feelings.
  • Remind yourself not to take your feelings too seriously. This was good to understand that we need to avoid thinking that we are our feelings, since we are not. Like dreams, they will come and they will go.
  • And get physically active to a modest degree. Don't join a gym necessarily, but get a short walk in for yourself. Not a forced march just a casual walk around a park or arboretum etc. Move regularly and for the fun of moving, not just as part of a  goal.
  • Tell yourself you are doing these things for your own good health and taking care of our physical self reminds us that we are working to care for our whole self.
  • Sitting and brooding always makes us feel worse. If you notice that is what you have been doing for a while, recognize that is time to move even for a short time. No big commitment needed. Just move and intermingle feeling painful emotions with breaks to move and rest your worried mind by looking at some thing pretty and hopeful. Maybe watch a favorite movie as a break.
  • And of course visit a friend or have them visit you. Enjoy a fun activity for a short time if that's all you feel like. Or meet someone for a short lunch. Better to do something positive and uplifting even briefly, than not at all.

I hope these are reminders of what you already know would be helpful for you. And remember, despite how you feel right now, you will feel better.

Email me if you need help getting through.

Go live well. Today.

-- Rich

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Thanks to Dogwood Wellness in Sylva, NC.

My thanks to Dr. Graeme Potter of Dogwood Wellness in Sylva, NC, where we met recently to discuss our mutual work. 

Dr. Potter is focused on Integrative Medicine and her practice is very warm and inviting. 

If you are a local resident, consider Dogwood Wellness for your health care needs. And let me know how it goes for you there. 

Live well

Thank you Ottawa,Ontario.

Cathedral of Notre Dame and Giant Spider, Museum of Art, Ottawa
Many thanks to the good people of Ottawa, Ontario, for your generosity and hospitality during my recent vacation there. I stayed downtown and could walk to anywhere easily.

I enjoyed your Poutine Festival, Bywater Market, Rideau Canal, your University, and just walking the city streets. I loved your wonderful museums! They are always a favorite stop of mine. The light show at the Parliament House was fun too despite the glitches.

Thank you again and I hope to be back.

Thursday, May 21, 2015


The process of communicating with anyone is built on a series of individual expressions of interest in connecting with us. We must recognize these expressions, also called bids, to connect and then respond positively to them, if we want the connection to grow.

Think of the last time you met someone that you really liked instantly. Maybe you felt like you already knew that person. Something about the way you both communicated was inviting.

It might have been their level of interest in you.

One of the first things we notice is when someone invites us to connect with them.

This is true when seeing your long time friend or when you are meeting someone for the first time. They either are interested in connecting at that moment or they are not.

In a casual social setting that might look like them smiling at us, making eye contact, reaching out to shake hands, and possibly speaking in a slightly higher tone of voice.

We might feel the warmth of their interest emotionally. All of this occurs naturally and without our noticing anything but their interest.

They are clearly interested in connecting with us. And these individual efforts add up to a chain that pulls us closer, if we respond to them positively.

Even our long time marriage partner can choose to respond to our bidding process with enthusiasm or indifference.

Do they respond quickly and kindly or are they slow to respond? Do they seem irritated to be asked to connect?

These can be indicators of a persons level of interest in communicating or a persons level of recognition that this is what we need.

Often, they do not recognize the bidding is occurring. And it is a necessity.

Very often, an unresponsive spouse does not recognize that these bids are important. They can even joke about the need to constantly reassure their partner.

If they do not take the bids seriously, over time, resentments can build as one feels the other refuse to connect.

Positive relationships are built on positive responses to our bids. And the quicker the better, in general.

And we are all different in what type of bid is important to us. A lengthy conversation or simply choosing to be in the same room can be viewed as a satisfactory response to a bid.

This process works much the same way in all of our interactions. The individual efforts might change but the intent is always to connect. Or to give the signal that they do not want to connect.

Think of your dearest friend. What are some of those things you like best about them?

Very likely one of those things is that they respond to your bids to connect quickly, consistently, and positively.

In fact, why would we want a friend that did not?

Be aware of your own bids you send out and how.

If your partner does not understand the importance of responding to you, tell them how you feel.

Explain the process and ask them to help make the relationship better by responding to you.

Our connections with others are usually the foundation of our personal happiness. Maintaining them needs to be a conscious effort.

Bidding is a basic, yet critical process that either builds a relationship or allows it to decay.

Depending on how we and others respond.

In general, we like people who like us. And they display that like by a willingness to connect.

We all send out  individual bids, or offers, to connect. Just as I am by writing this post.

Others then choose to  respond to them positively and consistently if they want the connection to grow.

Let me know what you think. Go use this to live well.

-- Rich

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Living Well: Every Day is the Time for Courage

It's not just for crisis or war or conflict. Courage is to be used right now. It can help propel us thru issues large and small. But we may have to remind ourselves that our courage is still there.

Everyday life can wear us down if we are not caring for and renewing ourselves.

Even if we are doing all the right things, we will be forced to confront all of life's challenges.

All those fears we thought were long behind us, due to our age or social standing or whatever. They have faded over time.

But They can arise, often surprising us. And we will face them. There is no alternative.

But this time will be different. We understand how fear affects us. We will not automatically react to it again as we might always have.

We can make conscious choices about how to cope with it. And our courage is often what provides us with hope to continue forward.

When we get beaten down, We can get into a role of feeling victimized by life. And this can become a habit of a kind.

This is a dangerous thought to believe as it can lead us to despair and hopelessness.

But stop this thought immediately and see it for what it is. It's just your fear. Like a well-known person in our life that can only complain about the state of things without taking action to change them.

That is fear. And we all have it. About something or other. But you are not your fear.

Use this awareness to take heart and use your courage to face it.

Courage is for you to use right now. It is not just for extraordinary situations. Or
amazing people. It is for you to call on today.

Know you are not your fear and it is not you. Watch the fear when you meditate on it. The black cloud of fear will dissipate.

And you will plan and choose and take action to move through it.

You are as courageous as anyone who ever lived. Or anyone you ever saw do something amazing or wonderful.

Get used to connecting to your own courage and use it daily to do something important like changing that distressing thought or changing a bad habit. Or connecting to someone. Or saying what you need to say. Or confronting that limiting belief you have held for so long.

Exercise your courage and use it to save yourself from deepening troubles and you are helping to save the world.

You are courageous because you are human. You are one of us. And you will use your courage to do something special today.

If you choose to do so. Now. Go live well.

And let me know how it went.

-- Rich

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Your Healthy Self: We Must Be Constantly Renewing Our Lives

We each have inevitable losses of jobs, family members and friends, activities we loved, or our own physical abilities over time.

If we only see these losses as they accumulate, without letting in new components of a good life, we can get discouraged or worse.

We get busy dealing with the life issues in front of us, since they are the most urgent. The work, the coordination, the striving for more and better. Even fun can become something we have to squeeze in to our busy lives.

At some point, our lives can feel like we are living in the cloudy fish bowl that is never cleaned.

Unless, we add something new and fresh and hopeful. Some new element of the life we want that will grow to make things better.

And these can be relatively small efforts. Sprinkle them into your daily life as you have time.

Do something new. Meet someone. Take up a new hobby or physical activity. Consider yourself from a new perspective. Read a book you would not usually read. Write your autobiography. Share your whole self with others.

Learn and understand
Try and do
Contemplate and be

Any one of these might be enough to add greatly to the enjoyment of your life. Use them all.

They can be simple and one time events. Or they might lead to lifelong commitments.

Just don't forget that we all need these and we must make them happen for ourselves.

Don't drift and don't wait for a good life to be available. Make it happen with what you have right now.

You've already started.

Go live well and let me know how it's going.

-- Rich


Friday, April 10, 2015

Our New Amazon Store Is Open!

We now offer Self-Help Books, Yoga Products, and Exercise & Fitness equipment to help you live well via our Amazon Store.

Take a look by clicking the links on the right side of this page or CLICK HERE.

And thank you for supporting this blog.

-- Rich

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Personal Growth 201: You Are Not Your Thoughts or Feelings

This post introduces a controversial topic to some and even threatening to others since it is a major departure from a facts-only perspective and crosses over into our personal belief system. It is based on a concept of the meditative tradition. That is a raw nerve for many, so don't bother reading this post if that is your position. For the rest of us, it can be the beginning of a better life built on greater understanding of how we humans work.

When I first heard the statement, "You are not your thoughts or feelings", I was confused, and it took some explanation before I started to understand it.

After all, don't we think and feel almost every minute as we live our lives?

Most of us start off believing that our selves and our thoughts and feelings are one and the same.

We move through our lives with our thoughts and feelings leading the way or even scanning behind us. They operate like antennae for us, sensing what is ahead or what has happened.

We make decisions, large and small, based on what we believe our thoughts and feelings are telling us.

And at some point in life you will be forced to admit, "they" can be wrong. You will think of this as an isolated mistake or misjudgment. But it is often our over-reliance on the limits of our thoughts and feelings.

They can lead you off track and even make it difficult to enjoy life if you believe they are in charge.

And the rule of thumb is that the more stress we are under, the more "in charge" our feelings and thoughts can become.

Until we recognize that they are not.

Our thoughts and feelings are hugely important and valuable of course, but they are not "You". And you need to be in charge of your life, rather than your thoughts and feelings.

Some have described our thoughts and feelings as having a gap between one and the next. Think about how your thoughts and feelings can change quickly as if two recordings have been spliced together.

Many of us have a chaotic mind, developed from past experiences or the pace of modern life, that jumps from topic to topic, image to image, or even from one fear to the next.

More stress tends to equal a faster pace. And over time, we can believe that this is our natural state of mind. Thoughts and feelings can flash before us, through us, at high speed.

And the feeling of being on the verge of being out of control, will distress us.

We can, temporarily, feel good about developing the ability to speed ourselves up to keep pace with the chaos.

And this belief, and it's practice, can become a burden that contributes to depression, anxiety, or exhaustion.

Thoughts and feelings are elements of who you are and facets of your biology and your experiences but they are not "You".

You do not have to be at the mercy of your thoughts and feelings.

It can be helpful to conceptualize our thoughts and feelings as arising from our minds in a way similar to that of our dreams. They come and go. We might take them as useful and we might not. And all of that is okay. It is a given for most of us in fact.

In dreams, we might be both participant and observer. And the situations of our dreams can vary from ecstatic to terrifying and everything between.

And like dreams, thoughts and feelings can be influenced by everything from how much sleep we got or what we had to eat as well as the facts.

We can easily choose to take our dreams seriously or not.

Similarly, do not take your thoughts or feelings too seriously. See them in the context within which they arise. And use them as bits of information as you might an interesting dream.

You are not a slave to your thoughts or feelings. They come and go and you can and should, choose which to take seriously and act on.

And which to set aside.

Those decisions are the basis of your living well according to the needs of your core self.

You have some control, and a lot of choice in dealing with your thoughts and feelings.

And the first step is to understand that fact.

"You" are the observer or experiencer of your life, much as you are an observer of your dreams, and there is much more to you than what you think and feel.

Wearing our feelings and thoughts as a second skin can make us vulnerable to their whims. We become reactionary to their needs. We can make rash decisions and lash out too quickly, especially under stress.

What to do?

- Slow down
-Know that you have a choice about your thoughts and feelings.
-Set aside those that distress you. They are not in charge.
-This is how we humans work and this process is not a threat to you.
-You are learning, so give yourself a break.
-Be gentle with "You".
-Exercise for short term stress relief.
-Write out your feelings, even briefly, and set it aside until tomorrow.
-Meditate for longer term smoothing out of life's concerns.
-Be in nature to reconnect with our shared human pace.
-Be with others that make you feel good.
-Make relaxation a priority. Daily.
-Do something for fun. Yes! Fun! Daily.

This is a topic that can become more confusing as we think about it. So consider it in short intervals if it confuses or frustrates you.

And admittedly, it is much easier to accept when you are not under great stress. So ponder these ideas when you can be peaceful enough to consider them.

As I complete this writing, my two dogs are alert to the sounds of the garbage being picked up outside. They growl with ears up. They are their feelings. And they react according to their fears and perceptions, even as I reassure them all is well.

We humans have a choice about how to respond to life and not just react similarly.

I hope this is helpful. Go live well. Right now. And let me know if you need help or have questions.

--- Rich

Friday, March 27, 2015

Coping 201 - Put Life Into Perspective: Take the Long View to Cope with Life Challenges

Do you remember that last time you felt everything was going wrong for you?

You probably thought your troubles would never end, and that even one more would push you over the edge.

Most of us refer to this as being stressed out or simply being overwhelmed.

Illnesses, financial woes, and parenting issues, are all too common in modern life.

What can we do to deal with our overwhelming challenges?

One thing we can do is to put our problems into a long range perspective.

When you feel good, take the time to think through the sequence of events from the last time you had a period of feeling overwhelmed.

You will likely see that you were hit with several stressful situations.

And they happened close together, so that you never felt you had fully recovered from the last one before the next one struck.

And worse yet they overlapped in time so they formed one big problem.

They didn't have easy answers or quick fixes so you were forced to cope with them for a long time.

And you were probably tired or worried before they all started, so you were not at your full coping strength when you were hit with these challenges.

This is the general pattern for most of us when the process of feeling overwhelmed happens.

We will feel as if this is our personal process of disaster.

In the midst of our pain, we might even say to ourselves something like, "my life is falling apart" or "my family is crumbling" or "my marriage is going down the drain."

That is our own mental voice reminding us of how terrible things are. As if we needed such a reminder!

It is best not to take our thoughts or feelings too seriously in these times of distress. Recognize that our own negative thoughts will bring on more negative thoughts.

Remember that our human brains have evolved to look for danger. This is part of what has allowed our species to last this long.

So when we believe we are in danger, in the form of our challenges, we will tend to look for even more threats.

Unknowingly, we are creating an avalanche of distress.

Another part of the explanation is that when we feel overwhelmed, we will also feel vulnerable, as if the next problem might be the one that destroys us.

And the feelings seem entirely real when we are overwhelmed.

But they are not usually a true reflection of reality.

Instead our minds have seen the problems, and determined they are too much to handle and screamed at us, you can't handle this!

But you are resilient. It is a characteristic of your species.

Start with your awareness of what is happening. You might say something to yourself like, "I have a lot going on right now and I know I'm feeling stressed. But this has happened before and it will end."

Remind yourself you have dealt with these issues before and you know they can bring on these feelings. But you work through them.

Imagine looking back on this time after two years have passed. Everything is less intense in the rear view mirror of our lives.

And we do not have to be slaves to our feelings. Or our thoughts.

Look around you in a calm moment and notice that while you might feel distressed in general, nothing is physically threatening you right now.

You will feel safe and calm again and do those things to help you feel that way.

Be with friends and family that you enjoy
Be in nature, as it is our original pace
Meditate and/ or do yoga
Read your favorite books or watch your favorite movies that relax you
Life is to be enjoyed. Have some form of fun. Daily.

Plan to deal with the challenges and put your plan into action.

Make problems manageable by breaking them into workable pieces.

Taking action puts some control back in your hands. Even if it is simply choosing to take care of yourself. That is usually the best place to start.

We all get better with practice so make it a habit by sticking to these practices consistently and repeatedly.

Keep in mind, that coping can provide some relief from emotional pain, but nothing healthy makes life entirely painless.

We get through painful periods. We can't avoid them all. That fact too, needs to be one we accept.

We are all in this life together and we share these challenges even though, when they happen, they might make us feel totally alone.

You can tell yourself, "I am feeling what others have felt and survived and I will survive too."

Move to having a fun, pleasurable, or relaxing experience as soon after as you can.

Remember you are unique and you are one of us, fellow human. You are precious, and you will get through this.

And let me know if you need help.

Go live well and enjoy,

-- Rich


Thursday, March 19, 2015

New Self-Help Book Reviews and Recommendations Site is Now Up!

Lots of folks ask how they can keep their personal growth efforts going outside of our therapy sessions.

I have always recommended a variety of books as a way to keep their thinking and understanding growing.

I've never bothered to write up a definitive list until recently and I've started putting those books up on a site that is just getting started.

Read my opinion of the books and even buy a copy via Amazon, from the link in the review. Just click on the book cover!

A small commission earned on the sale of each book will help keep these sites going.

There are only a couple of books listed so far but more will be added frequently, since I have already read them all, unless otherwise stated there.

The site is so new it doesn't have a domain name yet, but you can click the link below to get there.

Let me know what you think of the site and the books you've read. Thanks for reading and good luck on your efforts to Live Well.

Click here, Your Self Help Book Reviews

-- Rich

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Living Well, Off the Treadmill: My Conscious Choice is Yours Too.

When I was in my teens and 20's, I could not get enough mental stimulation. I wanted more information about everything. And my mind moved nimbly from thought to thought.

Even trivia was fun for me. Who was dating whom? What was happening this weekend? What should I wear? What did I want around this and that issue?

I loved to wallow in the multiple layers of information as it gave me a sense of connection to all that was happening and the people involved. And I loved to speculate about what might or might not happen next in all these layers of possibility.

Managing the complexity was a fun challenge.

Now, I can imagine that style of thinking as a tennis match played with 10 or 20 balls in motion, where the object of the game was simply to hit the ball back over the net before I was overwhelmed by them. And I was good at that game because it was fun and I liked being a part of it.

At some point, life became more serious and that entertaining information transformed into needing to get daily things done. Important things.

Even though it was no longer fun, I continued the pace and the tiring effort.

And my mind still ran at full speed as it always had. But now I found myself thinking of solving problems and finding solutions to difficult questions, day in and day out.

And I recognized the chaotic functioning of my mind was a very inefficient way of finding solutions. Simply hitting the ball back over the net was not enough. I had to be concerned with where it went and all the other consequences of hitting the ball at all.

The game was no longer a game of course. Suddenly, I was aware that this was my life. And it was racing ahead of me as it carried me along.

And I didn't even see that this pace was largely within my control. So, years went by and I became pretty good at keeping up with the challenge. But I didn't enjoy it.

At some point, I recognized that I was not where I wanted to be, despite all the effort I had put forth. I was still playing the game without any benefit to myself now.

In fact, playing this game actually kept me from enjoying important aspects of life. Like thinking one thought at a time. Or being with family and friends and enjoying simple pleasures.

And my chaotic mind seemed permanently set to this fast pace to keep me playing on. But it was tedious and I knew I needed more to satisfy me.

I wanted to slow down and so I did. And the slower pace meant I got less done and I had to learn that it was okay to get less done. It was getting the right stuff completed that mattered.

And I tried to learn to see the value of being rather than simply doing. Over a period of years, I got better at doing less and enjoying it.

People around me were not always happy with my choice of doing less. They took it to mean they would get less from me and in some cases, this was true.

But in the important relationships of family and friends and community, they got more of me and my time and attention.

So slowing down was a key step as was learning to recognize that doing more is not inherently better.

But doing the right things to make your life the one you want to live, is the priority we each must understand.

And if you have drifted into a life that runs too fast and too far from what you want, you can get back on your own authentic track.

Slow the pace. Recognize what is most important to you. Plan to spend most of your time doing what gives you the most satisfaction. Avoid complicating commitments that would further someone else's agenda, but not your own. Meditate. Simplify.

I consciously chose peace and tranquillity with family and friends as my focus over hectic activity and a chaotic mind. It's all a matter of perspective and conscious choice.

Be conscious. Know what you want. Choose for yourself. Focus on being your best and happiest self and do those things that help you feel it. Be with people who support your good choices.

And ask for help when you need it.

Live well now my friend. It's a choice and only you can make it.

Enjoy! And let me know how it's going for you!

-- Rich

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Relationship Limitations: Your Partner Refuses to Change

One of the most dangerous threats to any relationship is that we tend to avoid changing ourselves, our routines, and our perspectives.

We might believe that we should not have to change or simply that our positions are already the best since they have evolved over time to serve us well. But they can also become the hardened positions of an inflexible mindset that does not allow for our partner to change or our relationship to evolve.

In some of the most misguided thinking about this, some individuals will state with pride that they do not change. This is sometimes made in jest but it represents a perspective that is purposefully limiting to their perspective.

We must adapt to new situations and new environments as they arise, and if your partner chooses not to change, that is a major limitation to what can be accomplished together.

We have looked at communication as a foundational skill in building our relationships. But those conversations must lead to positive change so that our relationships adapt to new needs.

If your partner states that they have reached the limits of their adapting to your needs, you need to recognize what it means for your relationship. You will have to adapt to that reality by choosing to change your own perspective on your partner and possibly, what your relationship can be.

This change process takes a great deal of patience and commitment. It also takes a conscious effort to adapt to your partners needs without sacrificing your own. And it takes both of you doing that to be satisfying.

Change in relationships rarely happens in a straight line. There will be some meandering as new efforts take hold and gain traction. Know what you want, say it out loud, expect positive change from yourself and your partner.

Have compassion for them and yourself. Accept and acknowledge the difficulty inherent in making those changes. Give yourself and your partner the credit you both deserve in adapting to give each other what you want.

And ask for help when you need it.

You can do it! Live well together.

And let me know if you have questions.

-- Rich