Five Self-Care Tips for the Sandwich Generation & Caregivers

Five Self-Care Tips for the
Sandwich Generation & Caregivers
By Debbie Lyn Toomey


Do you remember your first job?

I do. My first job was working at a local sub and pizza shop. It was great! I gained so much from that job that if I didn’t work there, I wouldn’t have had a Junior prom date, met my future husband, or learned how to make a killer sausage, pepper and onion sub. The wide range of multitasking life skills that I learned from making subs prepared me for what lay ahead in life as a wife, mother, professional, and daughter of aging parents. It helped me accept being sandwiched. I am a part of the sandwich generation, a generation that has her own family and aging parents.

Sandwiched

The term “sandwich” generation was coined by social worker, Dorothy A. Miller MSSW. She described them as a generation of adults who are “sandwiched” between their own parents and their grown children and subjected to mental, emotional, or financial stress. The Pew Research Center states that, “one out of every eight Americans between the ages of 40 and 60 care directly for an aging parent while an additional seven to ten million Americans help their parents or other aging relatives even from a long distance.” This number is expected to increase due to the number of aging baby boomers.

Full

Don’t get me wrong! I am not complaining. In fact, I consider myself extremely lucky. My life is full. It’s wonderful to live close to my parents because we get to look out for each other. For example, my three boys help out with the garden, snow shoveling, and heavy lifting. At times, I make extra food to drop off to my parent’s house and vice a versa. It’s a win-win situation. I get to look after all the people that I love closely. I consider it an act of love, a duty, and a blessing; not a burden.

Burnt

Life is good when everyone is healthy. It’s not so good when someone gets sick or needs surgery. I remember getting a case of “walking pneumonia” after helping to take care of both my mother who had her first hip surgery and also my father who needed emotional support. The stress from worrying about my parents, working a full-time job and taking care of my own family made me get sick. It wasn’t until I saw the doctor weeks later, after feeling weak and short of breath, that I found out I had pneumonia!

Stress

The stress of it all made me sick. I felt worried about my parents. I didn’t sleep well from working different shifts at the hospital and also from being worried. I became impatient and irritable with my family about little things because I was tired. I would cry when no one was around because I didn’t want people to think I was weak or afraid. This negative spiral of stress and worry eventually made me ill. I will never forget that time because it was then that I realized how important self-care is for caregivers.

Five Tips

My bout with pneumonia gave me a self-protective and self-loving view of health for the caregiver. Here are five tips that can help the sandwich generation or caregivers become more stress resilient:

1. Positivity: See this time in your life as special because you are at the peak of your life. A time when you know better and can do better for those you love. The more you see the good in this situation the better. It will fuel your spirit instead of making you feel bitter and burdened. See all the good in your life.

2. Sleep: The more sleep you can get the more you will be effective and emotionally fit. Sleep is your best ally during these stressful times. Take naps when needed. Close your eyes and rest.

3. Savor: Open your eyes to all the love you have around you during this time in your life. Be grateful to have your kids, your spouse, and your parents around. Someday, someone will not be there and everything will change. Open your eyes and your heart.

4. Outlet: Give yourself permission to feel angry, frustrated, or resentful. You are human and these are normal feelings to have when something is not right in your life. A great way to let go of these emotions is talking with someone who cares about you. Give yourself permission to be human.

5. Exercise: Physical activity is great outlet for stress. It is a great use of your energy and it will make you feel better about doing something proactive towards your health. Take walks or go for a run to clear your mind.

Privilege

Next time you are eating at the dinner table with those you love, think about how lucky you are because life can change in a single moment. It’s a privilege to be a part of the sandwich generation because it’s an opportunity for me to help out my parents and also a way for me to further demonstrate to my boys how families take care of each other. I hope you enjoyed these the five tips. If you need further support on how to take care of yourself during these difficult times, contact me at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com for coaching.

Mindfulness: 5 Ways to Overcome Barriers of Effective Communication By Debbie Lyn Toomey

 

Mindfulness: 5 Ways to Overcome Barriers of Effective Communication

By Debbie Lyn Toomey

What?

Huh?

What did you say?

These questions are what my aging parents ask me when I am talking to them. My mother, a three-time cancer survivor, lost most of her hearing from the side-effects of the chemotherapy, and my father lost his from aging. I have to be mindful when I talk with them so that they are able to hear me. That said, what if you are trying to converse with someone who has great hearing but who is not fully listening to you? Don’t take it personally. It’s not you. Nowadays, there are many obstacles that get in the way of effective communication. Here are three noteworthy barriers to consider and five solutions to help you become more successful at verbal communication.

Screen Time

The more you understand the about barriers, the more you will be able to use the right skill to enhance your relationships and increase your success. According to a Nielsen report(2016), the average American spends almost half the day on a screen. To be exact, an average US adult devotes about 10 hours and 39 minutes a day consuming media. This number is expected to increase. Whether it be a phone screen, computer screen, or television screen, it is still something that people compete with to get the undivided attention of others.

Age of Distraction

Another barrier is our decreasing attention span. More and more people are taking medications to help with their ability to “focus.” Why? Because we are living in the age of distraction. Distraction from technology that we have for personal use and professional use. In 2015, Time magazine wrote an article about Microsoft’s report on attention span. It was an article that caught the attention of the world showing that a goldfish has a longer attention span than the average human. It stated that the attention span of an average human has decreased to eight seconds mainly due to the widespread use of smartphones.

Pet vs. Master

While it might sound comical at first to have a simple house pet win over its master, the truth is not funny! In the 2015 Microsoft report, a goldfish was able to sustain its attention for 9 seconds. One second more than its highly-evolved competitor. Moreover, this report shared that our attention span has deteriorated from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds today. 2000 was around the time of the mobile technology revolution.

CPA

Another cause for the impaired communication is our need to stay in the know of what is going on all the time. This is what Linda Stone in 1998 coined continuous partial attention (CPA). Unlike the heralded act of multi-tasking where we are trying to do more than one activity at the same time to be more efficient, CPA relies on the need to not want to miss anything. This need to not miss out on any new connection or news makes us feel as though we must be constantly connected to media. According to Stone, CPA makes us feel alive when we are connected and plugged in. CPA is another barrier that inhibits our ability to fully listen and engage with another person.

Still There?

I hope I haven’t lost you yet. Are you still reading this article? If you are, thank you! Because I have 5 solutions to help you overcome these barriers so that you can have more effective communication and connection with people in your life. Some might think that what I am about to share are all common-sense-solutions. They are right! But as I mentioned in my book, The Happiness Result. More time, More health, More love, More success, common sense is not so common these days.

5 Ways

The key to all of these solutions is mindfulness. The more we create purposeful actions toward better communication, the better our interactions will be. The 5 ways for better communication are:

1. Mobile device: Put your mobile device away when you are about to talk with someone. PERIOD.

2. Eye contact: When you are talking with someone, make sustained eye contact with the individuals for about 3-5 seconds. Eye contact, according to James Wirth, social psychologist, provide us with some of the strongest information from social interactions. Be mindful and make eye contact.

3. Listen: Be silent when the other person is talking with you. Avoid interruptions like giving your opinions right away. Use this silent time to actively and empathically listen to what your mind and heart are telling you. Listen to the words being said and watch his/her body language (active listening) and try to pick up on his/her emotions (empathetic listening). Shut up and listen up.

4. Summarize: Once the individual is done speaking, rephrase or summarize what you heard. This will ensure that you fully understood the content of the conversation and show the individual that you were engaged with the conversation. Show you care and summarize.

5. Concise: Remember you have only 8 seconds to captivate someone’s attention. Therefore, speak clearly and concisely. The clearer you are expressing yourself, the less likely a misunderstanding and misinterpretation will happen. This is one of the basic elements of being a competent communicator. Get to the point.

Keep Practicing

Next time you feel that you are not being heard or people are not listening to you, be mindful of the common obstacles that stand in the way of communication in this age of distraction. Try the 5 mindfulness solutions that I shared with you and above all else, keep practicing. Effective communication and mindful listening are skills. They require practice in order for you to master them.

To learn more ways to add more time, more health, more love, and more success in your life, get a copy of my book, The Happiness Result. It will give you 7 awesome skills to live your best life. Click here to get the book www.TheHappinessResult.com.

7 MINDFUL GIFTS: “The Present IS the Gift”

7 MINDFUL GIFTS: “The Present IS the Gift.”

How to Reduce Stress and Save Money this Holiday Season.

By Debbie Lyn Toomey

just-for-you

Stop!

Look.

 Listen.

Breathe this holiday season.

Just because it is the busiest time of the year, it doesn’t mean you have to be hustling and bustling. Don’t you do enough of that the rest of the year anyway? One of the best practices to do this time of the year is mindfulness. What better way to fully enjoy the spirit of the season than to combine this graceful technique with gift giving?

New Tradition

This year, I invite you to start a new tradition. I call it “The Present IS the Gift.” This simple tradition will help you reduce the pressure and panic that comes from little time or energy when getting ready for the holidays and buying gifts. Why not “bag” that old negative feeling and shift to a positive one? Replace stress with savoring the moment. And instead of buying expensive gifts that will lose value after a few weeks, try giving priceless ones that will be treasured by both you and the recipient for many years to come. Too good to be true? Not really. In fact, this tradition is guaranteed to be fun for you and those who are lucky enough in your life to receive this special present. This new practice will help you end the year merry and begin the new one with prosperity.

Fun and Free

The practice of mindfulness is about being in the present moment and savoring the experience. So why not add an element of mindfulness to the way you think about the gifts you are going to give? Be creative with your gifts and challenge yourself to make if fun and free. In this day of instant gratification, many people can get what they want 24/7. It’s getting more and more difficult to buy something special for someone. That is why the more unique you can make your gift, the more enjoyable and exciting it will be for both you and the other person. Mindful gift giving ideas are activities that have the power to boost your communication, increase your level of happiness, and enhance your relationships. In other words, a mindful gift is a gift that keeps on giving.

 The Presents

 Here are 7 Mindful Gifts that will get you started in “The Present IS the Gift” tradition.

  1. Date: Dedicate a day for the lucky recipient. If you can, take a day off from work just to spend quality time with him or her. This will give you a break from your normally busy life and make the recipient feel extra special.
  1. Declutter: Out with the old. In with the new. This invites new and positive energy into your special someone’s life. Got friends or family who have been trying to declutter but are too overwhelmed and busy to do it alone? Present them a homemade card that says you will be there to help get the job done.
  1. Donate: Instead of buying gifts for each other. Suggest to your core group of family and friends to donate and adopt a family. Help others in need.
  1. Deed: Create a homemade coupon that promises to do a nice deed. They can pick from any of the following: to look after baby, ailing parent, house, pet, or plant. This will allow your special family member or friend a way to go away without worrying because they know you are looking after who (and what) they care about most.
  1. Deal: Make a deal with your family member or friend to start a mindful practice. It could be doing a 30-day challenge of some sort that will keep you connected daily for a month. This is a win-win deal that will make both you and the recipient motivated to keep moving forward towards your ultimate goals.
  1. Deliver: Write a gratitude letter to someone that inspired and supported you in the past. Deliver this letter to that person and ask the person to read it out loud. This practice has been proven to have lasting feeling of happiness and wellbeing for both the writer and the receiver of this wonderful letter.
  1. Dish: Dedicate a special evening for your loved ones and make a full course homemade dinner for them. This is a great way to spend quality time with the awesome people in your life. Also, you can make and freeze one of their favorite meals and wrap it up. Your special dinner will surely be appreciated after a hectic day at work.

It’s not too late to begin “The Present IS the Gift” tradition. This practice will help you and those in your life feel less stressed, and more connected to you in the coming year. Remember, mindfulness starts with awareness. The more aware you are of the stressful and wasteful “same old ways” of doing things, the more mindful you can be in giving a more heartfelt and thoughtful gift this year.

If you need support with how to add more mindfulness to your life for stress reduction and productivity, email me at INFO@HEALTHANDHAPPINESSSPECIALIST.COM today to find out how we can work together. Until then, I wish you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season.

 

 

Happiness and Quality of Life: How to Live a Regret-Free Life

Happiness and Quality of Life: How to Live a
Regret-Free Life

By Debbie Lyn Toomey
work-life-coaching-4-74941
What does a well-lived life mean to you?

Is it a life that gives you freedom to be yourself and express yourself?

Is it a life that is filled with meaningful moments from having a balanced life?

Is it a life that is surrounded by family and friends?

No matter what your answer is, I’m sure that your version of a well-lived life is not filled with sorrow or regrets. While it’s not easy to live a life with no regrets, there are ways to lessen them so that you can live a quality life. As a nurse of over 25 years in a major hospital in Boston, I’ve taken care of my share of terminally ill patients. Patients who were given months, weeks, or sometimes days to live from disease or complications from their underlying issues.

Patients

From time-to-time, I witnessed patients who were fortunate enough to be surrounded by people they loved. Loved ones who took turns making sure that they were never alone. Then there were other end-of-life patients who laid quietly on their hospital beds with no family or friends visiting them. Their last moments on this earth were spent with strangers who took care of them shift to shift. I often wondered what went through their minds. As they laid on their last bed not knowing what ever happened to their loved ones and probably wondering when did their series of unfortunate events began. Did these dying patients have regrets? If so, what were they?

Regrets

Bronnie Ware, a palliative nurse wrote a book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. In the book, she wrote about the most common regrets of the dying. Based on her findings the core issues with the dying had to do with the lack of courage to be who they were, to express themselves in front of others, too much time spent on career and not enough time spent connecting with friends and nurturing their own happiness.

Happiness Soothes

I have discovered personally and professionally that happiness skills can help us become the best version of ourselves. There are many practices in the field of Positive Psychology, the science of happiness and optimum human performance, that boost courage, increase mindful work-life balance, and enhance connection with those who (and what) matters most in life. In fact, purposely applying simple happiness skills can soothe negative feelings into positive ones.

Regret-Free

In my book, The Happiness Result, More time, More health, More love, More success, I covered seven A.W.E.S.O.M.E.™ (Authenticity, Wonderment, Empowerment, Self-Compassion, Optimism, Mindfulness, & Enjoyment) pillars to create an awesome and well-lived life. To get you started on your journey to a wonderful life there are some practices you can begin to gain the quality of life that you deserve. Adding these simple exercises into your life can make your life regret-free.

They are:

  • Courage Boosters: Take Risks. Do something new thing every week. This can be big or small. Doing this will exercise your courage muscles and add more excitement into your life. Look at your bucket list of “What I want to do” and get started. Start with something small then build into bigger ones. The more you do this the bolder you will be in all areas of your life. Just as negative emotions impact your life, so do positive ones. The more positive experiences you have the happier your life will be overall.
  • Mindful Work-Life: Use happiness as your balancing scale. Notice when stress is building up and use relaxation techniques to help you feel better. Take deep breaths when unexpected challenges “knock the wind” out of you. While work-life balance is never a 50-50 equation, be mindful of what is tipping your scales. Honor your happiness and use it to measure what is most important to you. Doing this will offer you healthier choices to add more happiness to your day.
  • Connection Enhancers: Initiate connection with friends. Don’t wait to hear for them to ask you to connect. A nice thing to do is invite a friend to do a week long (or longer) happiness practice with you. Doing this fun practice will ensure that you both connect. Start by sending each other a daily text message that says “breathe” or “smile”. Notice how these simple reminders help you build a stronger relationship with your friend and make your day so much brighter.

Quality of Life

While there are so many scientifically proven self-help techniques available to us, they will not work unless we decide to commit to practicing them. A happy and meaningful life starts from within. It is our life’s work to live the best way we can with the “cards that we were dealt.”  Life is not perfect but we can have micro-moments of perfection by taking simple actions that add more love, laughs, and meaning to life.

Mantras to Live By

Here are helpful mantras to live by. Pick one or more to help you create a regret-free life.

“I am free to be me.”

“I am safe to speak from the heart.”

“Happiness adds quality in all areas of my life.”

“I have fun with my friends.”

“I deserve to be happy.”

 

More Results

Learn more ways to cultivate a happy and regret-free life and get The Happiness Result, More time, More health, More love, More success.   

Great news! Coming at the beginning of December 2016 is The Happiness Result’s companion journal that will help you manifesting your goals by helping you stay focused and motivated. It’s called, The Happiness Result, Goals, Gratitude, and Success Journal. Both books will help you gain the happiness result you are looking for.

Please share this article with family or friends who can benefit from it.

Source: The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing

 

How Harry Potter Added Mindfulness & Magic to My Family Vacations

How Harry Potter Added Mindfulness & Magic to My Family Vacations

by Debbie Lyn Toomey, author of The Happiness Result

HarryPotter
My family and I recently had a vacation and instead of flying to our destination, we decided to drive. It didn’t take us very long to agree upon Acadia National Park in Maine. We went 3 years ago and had to go back because we had such a blast on our previous visit. Because this road trip was going to be a 4 to 5-hour drive for us, we planned on ways to make it comfortable and enjoyable for my 3 boys, my husband, and me. We made sure to carefully pack all of the essentials. In the trunk went our luggage, beach chairs, and the $1.50 kite that I bought on sale at the end of last summer. Also, within our reach were our sweet and salty snacks and an assortment of drinks that were sure to please everyone on the trip. Finally, in the front, we had our old Harry Potter book on tape. Cassette tape that is.

Mad About Harry

The Order of the Phoenix was the only Harry Potter audio book that we had on tape. Although we had the other ones on CD’s, it was the story that we wanted for our long drive. Luckily, our family minivan had a working cassette tape player that we often used to listen to 70’s music. We had our first experience with listening to the Harry Potter audio book 12 years ago when we did a 7-hour drive all the way up to Toronto, Canada to visit relatives. It was then that my husband became interested in the Harry Potter stories and my whole family fell in love with the audio book series.

I still smile to this day as I recall my husband’s face as he drove us to Toronto. He was listening so intently that our bathroom breaks ended up happening only after the end of the exciting parts of the story. Listening to the Harry Potter audio books made what can seem like a long and boring road trip into a fun and memorable adventure for everyone.

Serious Blackness

I recall yet another family vacation where Harry came along with my us. It was 8 years ago and we were staying at our condominium in New Hampshire. My family had just finished clearing off the dinner table after having a tasty assortment of leftovers we collected over the previous days. It was a perfect night to stay in because of the heavy rains that were expected to come. Just as we were about to discuss which “oldie but goodie” movie to watch that evening; the lights went out. In fact, the whole condominium complex was seriously dark all around us. The only light source that we had was from outside: the full moon that came out from the clouds after the rain had stopped.

Lumos Maxima!

Luckily, as if I had my own magical wand, I grabbed my iPhone and it created a source of light for us. It gave us light similar to the charm, “Lumos” that the Harry Potter characters would say when they were in the dark and needed light. Thankfully my mobile phone gave me enough light to help me find my Yankee Candles jars and lighter easily. In order to keep my youngest Max, who was 3 years old at the time, from getting scared we decided to make the most of it by gathering around the kitchen table to play cards and listen to more of Harry Potter in my boom box that had newly replaced D batteries.

Eventually, the rain stopped, but only a few of the condominium complex’s emergency lights went on. Curious about the bright lights from the nearby town that was a couple blocks away, my family and I set out on an adventurous walk to get some much needed ice cream. What a night! What was supposed to be a quiet evening watching old movies became a magical one filled with storms, Harry Potter, and a walk to the nearby town in darkness. I would say it was an evening almost worthy of a Harry Potter chapter.

 To Harry!

As a parent, I noticed how something as simple as listening to an old Harry Potter audio books gave my whole family yet another common interest to enjoy together. Whether it was going for a long drive or listening to it as we played cards, it gave what we were doing together a greater sense of meaning and pleasure. To be silly, my family and I still do a playful toast with our best British accent and say, “To Harry!” mimicking a scene in the book. It never ceases to bring a laugh out of everyone.

 Mindfulness

As a Health and Happiness Specialist, someone who teaches and writes about mindfulness for today’s busy people, I have noticed how listening to a great story can captivate the attention of a group, similar to the practice of mindfulness listening. It’s a kind of listening where one becomes so engrossed in the story that your whole being comes to life with the story. It’s mindfulness concentration at its best. Further, listening to the Harry Potter stories had the power of gathering people together and appreciating their special time. I am forever grateful for the mindfulness and magic that Harry and his stories added to my family vacations.

How about you?

If you’re wondering about how to make your family time extra special? Try this.

  1. Encourage your family to listen to an audio book during your time together.
  2. Involve the whole family to pick an audio book and chose one that everyone will enjoy.
  3. Make sure to have a way to listen it both inside and outside the car.
  4. Hit “play” and start listening.
  5. Notice how your family reacts to the activity.
  6. Intermittently discuss what’s happening in the story.
  7. Share what went well by doing this together.
  8. If your family enjoyed this, repeat next time with another audio book.

I’m confident that once you start a family activity like this, it will become a tradition as it has for me and my family. Enjoy! Please leave your comments below and share with us some ways that you create lasting and meaningful memories with your family.

To learn more about ways to gain more time, more health, more love, and more success in the midst of your busy day, be sure to get my upcoming book, The Happiness Result. This book was created with today’s busy people in mind to help them use 7 simple techniques for creating an awesome life. Go to www.TheHappinessResult.com to read the reviews and sign up to be notified when the book is available for purchase.

The Secret Sauce to Savoring the Holidays for Busy People

by Debbie Lyn Toomey Speaker, Author, Trainer

2 Key Ingredients (2)-53277

 

How many times have you heard yourself or others say any of these statements recently?

“I cannot believe the holidays are here already!”

“What can I do this year so that I can enjoy myself for a change?”

“How am I going to get all my work done and still have time to shop for presents?”

Yes, folks it’s true! It’s the middle of November and it’s officially the holiday season. While it may seem like Father Time sprinted through 2015 (instead of marching), there are ways to have him slow down so we can relax, reflect, and rest and enjoy the end of the year before the new one begins.  My “secret sauce” will help you can gain more time to cherish this wonderful season. 

Bitter-Sweet

If you’re like many busy people, you’re probably still trying to remember what you did last month! Realizing the fact that the holidays are suddenly upon us can be enough to make some people cringe and even cry. Although traditionally this is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” some people find it difficult to be happy for various reasons such as:  having too much on their plate from work- life responsibilities, lack of financial stability, and lack of support from others. Unfortunately, the holidays can be a bitter sweet time of the year where it can feel like salt has been added to deep unresolved wounds.

Too much!

Time does have a way of escaping us because of our busy work and life schedules. It’s becoming more and more difficult to stop and slow down.  I’ve coached many busy people who fall into the same old trap of doing and planning. The mere thought of sitting and reflecting takes a back seat because it seems like an unproductive use of our time. As mentioned in my forthcoming book on living a productive and positive life, “Our time management skills are constantly being challenged because of the compounding distractions that are coming from all directions as well as our shortening attention span. Our lives are filled with so many distractions both external and internal multi-sensorial stimuli. The external stimuli come from two main sources: technology and team. Our techie toys are so distracting that even the mere presence of them on our desk tempts us to touch them and use them when we don’t need to.  The teams of people in our personal and professional lives can be a source of support or stress.  As if those distractions are not enough, we also get internal distractions that bombard and overload us with negative thoughts that ruminate and keep us from feeling good and proud of ourselves. These inner distractions add to self- sabotage, keeping us from producing easily and effectively.”  We have so much to contend with in our daily lives that for some the holidays can become more of a burden instead of a blessing.

Special for Everyone

Yes, the holidays are upon us and with them come their own sets of stressors such as shopping for “that perfect gift,” having a reasonable financial holiday budget, decorating, and going to parties. While some love this time of the year, studies have shown that there is an increase in depression, suicide attempts, and drug and alcohol use for others. No one is safe from the stress that happens during this time of the year.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), women experience a higher level of stress than men during the holidays. It is because women tend to take on the work burden to ensure the best possible holiday traditions are celebrated.

The Secret Sauce for a Health & Happy Holiday Season- Gratitude & Mindfulness (6)-11180

 

What’s in that Sauce?

Although stress is unavoidable, there are two ways of adding sweetness to the holiday season that will get even the busiest CEO whistling his favorite holiday tune as he greets his team. These two ingredients create such a rich combination that they can’t help but awaken all the senses. The two special ingredients that make up the secret sauce are: gratitude and mindfulness. When added together they can: turn bitterness into sweet, make the tough into tender, and heavy into something light. This secret sauce combination is the easiest and most practical way for today’s busy professionals to relish and savor the holiday season so that they have more time to celebrate, communicate, and connect with those they care about.

 Yummy moments

Gratitude and Mindfulness are great ways to bring purposeful awareness, attention, and appreciation to your holiday experience. Together they will give you: more time to be productive, an increased sense of purpose in your actions, and greater positivity in your day. Practicing gratitude is a heart-centered practice that can make you feel connected, blessed, and special.  Practicing mindfulness can make you feel more alive, awake, and allowing. Both of these two techniques combined have hundreds of studies that prove their ability to improve health, boost happiness, enhance relationships, and increase productivity during the holiday season. The beauty of these two practices happens during the millions of micro-moments throughout the day. The “practice” happens when we purposely remember what is happening within us and around us—without judgment. Exercising these new habits will deepen your neural pathways and ensure sustainable success in creating positive experiences in your life.

Recipe for a Sweet Holiday Season

Directions:

  1. Ask yourself what you want this holiday season to look and feel like for you. Just like with any recipe that you’ve never made before you might first have to look at the picture so that you will have an idea of what the dish will look like.
  2. “Prepave” your holiday festivities with the feeling and images of what you would like it to be for yourself. “Prepaving” is a way of creating and attracting what you want through visualization and positive emotions. Feel as if it is happening now. Have fun using your imagination to visualize and tune into what your holiday celebration is going to be like. There’s no right or wrong way of doing this. Picture yourself purposefully being aware and appreciative of what’s going on around you so that you will experience the beauty of the season so much more.
  3. Practice and play with the secret sauce ingredients throughout your days and nights.
  4. Enjoy adding other quality ingredients to this special sauce such as: creativity, courage, and self-compassion.

Key Ingredients:

1. Gratitude:

According to gratitude expert, Robert Emmons, gratitude is defined as a “felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.” In other words, it’s more than just saying “thanks.”   This year instead of sitting in traffic just to shop from place to place, save yourself some time and lots of misery by staying at home.  Instead of shopping for gifts why not make them in a form of a gratitude letter to those you care about. This practice has been proven to boost levels of happiness for a weeks and weeks for both the writer and the recipient.

Here’s how to get started. Think of that special someone in your life that you need to get a gift for. Get a piece of paper (preferably a nice stationary) and write down how they have impacted your life in a positive way. Write from your heart and elaborate as much as you can. When you are done put it in an envelope and personally deliver it to that person and ask them to read it in front of you. Notice their expression. Notice yours. Notice how this loving practice can turn your holiday into a magical one. Try to do this to for as many people as you can. Schedule a time every evening during this holiday season to write out one letter to deliver in person. If you allow yourself to do one letter at a time, you’ll notice what may seem like a burden in the beginning will become a blessing in the end.  The practice of gratitude will make you feel blessed and blissful. Once you get into your gratitude letter writing routine this holiday season notice how you look forward to doing it each day or night. This delicious ritual will gift you the special time to relax, reflect, and remember so many golden moments that you’ve shared with your loved ones. You’ll thank yourself for doing this!

2. Mindfulness:

According to mindfulness expert, Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Any activity when done purposely and with a beginners mind is considered a mindfulness activity. In other words, activities such as washing the dishes, walking, or watching can be a mindfulness activity as long as the person purposely aims to notice and experience that particular activity fully and without judgment.

Here’s how to begin this practice. During this holiday season, purposely gift yourself about 20 minutes of mindfulness by focusing on one of the five senses at a time. Start with mindfulness seeing and purposely notice all the shapes and colors that you see around you. Once you see something that catches your eye, look even closer. What do you see? Do you see any intricate patterns that make up that particular object? Notice the different shades of colors that meld together to make the colors that you see. Is that object manmade? If so, think about how that particular item made it there in front of you. Look with a beginner’s eye and notice as much as you can in that period of time. The next time you plan your mindful sit, try another sense like taste. Practice savoring when you are eating all the delicious food during your holiday festivities. Imagine as though it was the first time you’ve tasted that food. Notice how long it took you to chew it and swallow it. Try to figure out the flavors that were used in that particular dish. Notice how slowing down and savoring your food helps you stay on track with your diet because you are appreciating each bite and notice when your stomach is full. Practicing mindfulness during this holiday season might just be one of the easiest ways to keep the extra pounds off by mindfully noticing what goes in to your body. Imagine going into the New Year without having to add “lose holiday weight” in your New Year’s Resolution!

Adding gratitude and mindfulness will surely add more richness to your holidays.  This delicious combination of ingredients will kick up your festivities a notch so that you can have your cake and eat it too– without guilt. Once you begin practicing these techniques, you will notice that you have more time for more important things and people in your life. Cultivating gratitude and mindfulness in your busy life will not only make you healthier and happier but also add more harmony to your life.  Begin today and look around you. Challenge yourself to find something new that you haven’t seen before. Have fun and have yourself a healthy and happy holiday season!

Do you have a way of making this holiday season fun and stress-free? Please share your suggestions with me below. Thank you in advance!

 

Breathing Technique to Feel Better

Have you ever had one of those days where nothing seems to be working out well and you are left feeling frustrated and fuming?

Next time you’re feeling angry or anxious, try this breathing technique.

It’s called Belly Breathing. This technique reminds you to take deep diaphragmatic breaths. This will help you feel calm, cool, and collected.

Here’s how:

  • Place your hands on your stomach.
  • Inhale through your nose.
  • Notice your hands move as your stomach expands.
  • Exhale through your nose.
  • Notice your hands move as your stomach flattens.
  • Repeat until you feel better.

Try the Belly Breathing technique anywhere and anytime you notice you’re feeling out of control or stressed. This technique will surely make you feel so much better and in control of yourself. The more you feel in control, the happier you will be.

Need coaching to help you sustain your feelings of wellness and well being? Contact us at info@ultimatehealingjourney.com today.

7 Lessons Learned on How to Thrive in the Cancer Journey

Do you have someone in your life that models strength and optimism?

Do you know anyone that has risen above adversity and came out smiling and laughing?

Do you know someone diagnosed with cancer three times who still does not define their life around cancer?

My mother Amelia is that person to me. She was diagnosed with three cancers in a little over 5 years. In those years, I witnessed the grace and grit that helped her to cope, connect with her family deeply, and feel in control during uncertain times. She is a three-time cancer survivor. She is the healthiest and happiest person I know – even though she had cancer.

The Healthiest and Happiest Person I know

My mother always valued health and happiness and made living a healthy and happy life, a personal mission. It was a hobby of hers to seek ways to maintain and sustain health and wellness in her family. She was always on her feet moving about and laughing at herself doing something silly or laughing at my father’s funny jokes and stories. She took the subway to work and was on her feet all day long working in a pharmacy until she retired at the age of 75. My parents’ basement resembled a YMCA gym with weights, stationary bikes, treadmills, and the latest Total Gym. I remember growing up hearing her take exaggerated deep breaths as she stretched and marched back and forth in front of the television in our living room while watching Richard Simmons or some other exercise gurus.

FB6C6E94-211A-4169-B1D7-318303999535

 

New Medical Diagnosis: Cancer(s)

My mother who always made healthy choices and did not have a family history of cancer was diagnosed with 3 different cancers (breast, endometrial, and lung) over the course of 7 years. She did not define her life with cancer. She defined her life with friends and with family.

In 2008 at the young age of 70, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. This loaded diagnosis was the very first time my family and I had to deal with cancer directly. As a nurse at Tufts Medical Center in Boston for over 25 years, I’ve taken care of many patients after having lumpectomies, mastectomy, and breast reconstructive surgeries. It was a part of my job. However, being a nurse and knowing all of this didn’t help me when my own mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. The tables had turned and all of sudden I’m on the other side of the hospital bed comforting and supporting my mother—the healthiest and happiest person I know!

One of the things that amazed me during that time was how quickly she accepted her diagnosis. She thanked God for its early detection. She trusted her whole medical team and decided right away to do what needed to be done to take care of her cancer. While she waited for her surgical date, she went to work every day,  prayed, and went to church. She would talk with me and my sisters about her will and proxy. She would read books and articles about what she had and natural cures that she could take along with her medical regiment. She’d spend time with my father by going shopping or going to the movies. By the time her surgery came around, she was ready and prepared. Her breast cancer was taken care of with a lumpectomy and hormonal medication. She only took a few weeks off from work and then went back work at the pharmacy. What I witnessed in her during this whole episode was how she kept a positive outlook through prayer and being proactive with her health, both of which, she was able to control. This made her feel so much better.

In 2013, after she turned 75 years old, we had a double celebration. We celebrated her birthday and being breast cancer free for 5 years! This short lived joyous occasion came to a halt when two unrelated cancers (endometrial and lung) were found during a somewhat routine medical appointment. My mother revealed to her primary doctor that she had been having bleeding and didn’t understand why. After many examinations and testing, our worst suspicion was confirmed. She had cancer again! Needless to say that whole summer was busy with tests, biopsies, and surgeries. My mother, the healthiest and happiest person I know, had two major surgeries that summer. Little did we all know that what was ahead would be the toughest part of her cancer journey.

Fall of 2013

The fall of 2013, although it was part of her endometrial and lung cancer journey, deserved its own chapter in this story. This was a time that truly tested what she was made of. My mother, the healthiest and happiest person I know, was weak from her chemotherapy, her medications, and a lack of sleep due to excruciating bone pain resulting from the effects of her chemotherapy.

Regardless of her suffering when I would ask her how she was doing, I would hear her say, “Dun’t worree dahling. I will be okay.”

My mother, a woman with great poise and pride, had to rely on my father to help her move back and forth to the bathroom, to give her massages in the middle of the night to sooth her itching and her bone pain. Further, it was during this time that she could no longer hide her cancer from the rest of the world as her hair was falling out. She was so convinced that her thick and coarse hair was not going to fall out during her treatments that when it did start to, her faith in God and her trust in her ability to heal would be tested to the max. It frustrated her when she would lay down and clumps from her beautifully thick hair would be left on her pillow case, when she would shower, handfuls would rinse off with the water, and when she would eat, she would notice it falling off onto the plate right in front of her eyes. Although my mother was the one dealing with the cancer and the all the “pain” that came along with it, I still looked to her for strength.

“Hair” it Goes!

I started to get nervous and scared when I saw her looking so weak and tired. I had never seen her so frail and solemn. I recall the phone call when she asked me to come over to her house to shave her head.  She had finally accepted losing her hair.  She wanted to do on her own terms. In the car, outside my parents’ house I had to take five minutes to compose myself. I knew how difficult this was for her. I was so scared but I couldn’t show it! I had to be strong for both my parents. When I got into my parents house, my mother was all prepared. She laid out newspapers on the floor and placed a chair right in the center. There was little conversation, we had a job to do and it needed to be done. She chose an area in her upstairs hallway for me to shave her hair off. It reminded me of when I used help her color her hair but this time, it was different. Surprising, shaving her head was not as difficult as I thought. When I finally got into the rhythm of it, I started to see little scars on her head here and there.

“Mom, what are these scars from?” I asked

“Oh, I was accident prone when I was a little girl and I kept bumping into things.” She said with a smile and a little giggle.

As if each scar was a timeline button, she would press one and tell me when and how she got it. We laughed and laughed after each recollection. The images of my mother getting into mischief and hurting herself while playing with other children made for such a comedy relief. It made this heavy situation lighter.

Life Goes On

I’m happy to say my mother’s hair has fully grown back and she’s enjoyed over a dozen different hair styles and colors since. More recently, she just recovered from a knee replacement surgery. The knee was causing her a lot of pain and it was slowing her down when she would walk along the beach, clean the house or work in her yard. Her doctors, nurses, and physical therapist are all amazed at how well she has done.

debbie and mom easterPicture taken Easter Holiday, 2014

Positive Psychology

Positive psychologists would describe my mother as someone who used her faith, relationships, bravery, love, and innate strengths to become more resilient and to thrive during adversity.

What does Positive Psychology, the science of happiness, have to do with Cancer? I say, “Everything!” The more we can learn from people who have risen above adversities, the more we can cultivate similar practice to make us even better, stronger, and happier.

Positive Psychology helped me understand my mother’s way of being and coping during life’s ups and downs. What is Positive Psychology? Positive Psychology in a nutshell is the “Science of Happiness.” It’s a new field of psychology that, according to its founder Martin Seligman, Ph. D, “looks to nurture the gifted and talented, to learn from the gifted and talented, and to make normal life more fulfilling.”

Some might say it’s coincidental, but I like to think of it as divine timing that Positive Psychology came into my life and when I needed it most. I completed my certification in Positive Psychology with Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph. D through the Wholebeing Institute and, soon after, received my training and certification as a Positive Psychology coach after studying with another leading expert in the field, Robert Biswas-Diener, Ph. D. Positive Psychology gave me the knowledge and perspective for looking at the glass as “half-full”. I put the principles of this science to the test personally as I needed a way of cope with my mother’s disease. I found that it kept me from ruminating, spiraling-downward mentality and feeling like a victim.

7 Lessons Learned to Thrive in the Cancer Journey

I learned so much about my mother and myself during the last few years. While some lessons where easier than others, I am certainly a much healthier and happier person because of them. Here are 7 lessons that I learned from my mother, the healthiest and happiest person I know, who defeated three cancers.

They are:

  1. Accept the diagnosis – The sooner you can accept it, the sooner you’ll be ready to face and handle the treatment plans that are in store for you.
  2. Remember is it YOUR body – Make decisions after you have talked with your health care team and your family. Make peace with your body and give it thanks.
  3. Go to your appointments with a friend or family member – Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as possible until you feel confident and comfortable enough to make decisions.
  4. Use coping skills that have been successful for you – This is a great way to gain control during this overwhelming situation. Recall what worked best for you in the past to make yourself feel better and start doing it consistently until it becomes a habit.
  5. Surround yourself with healing and positive images and people – Watch funny movies. Laughter boosts your immune system and helps release endorphins which will decrease your discomfort.
  6. Connect and confide with those you love A big predictor of peoples’ level of positivity is their relationships with others. Let people know what you need and when you need it.
  7. Give yourself permission to be human – Allow yourself to do what you need to do to feel better. Sleep when you’re tired. Cry when you’re sad. Eat what you want.

Trust that applying any of these lessons will help you during your cancer journey. Here’s to your health and happiness.

It’s all about the “Thanks!”

Are you interested in increasing your levels of abundance, attention, and appreciation?

Are you looking for ways to add more beauty and bliss in your life?

Are you willing to try a 30-day challenge that can change your life for the better?

Try a 30-day gratitude journal challenge, in honor of World Gratitude Day that was Monday, September 21, 2015. Gratitude is not only the mother of all virtues but also gives birth to so many wonderful emotions.

I love the practice of gratitude because it is totally free and it will make you feel so rich, blessed, and lucky! How great is that! This amazingly simple gratitude practice when done consistently can do so much for you and those around you. Keeping a gratitude journal does the following:

– Enhances concentration
– Deepens relationships
– Boosts happiness
– Increases appreciation
– Improves success
– Enhances sleep
– Boosts attention
– Increases awareness
– Decreases depression
– Improves connections
– Enhances communications
– Builds community
– Boosts compassion
– Cancels envy
– And so much more!

Still not convinced? Why not give it a go for the next 30 days? You’ve got nothing to lose but EVERYTHING to gain!

Here’s how to start your 30-Day Gratitude Journal Challenge:

1. Pick a date to begin.
2. Decide on the time of day you’ll write
3. Remind yourself to look for good things to write about.
4. Notice everything and everyone around you worth writing about.
5. Journal on 3 (or more) good things that you experienced each day.
6. Explain reason why you were grateful for them.
7. Use reminders such as quotes and images to inspire and motivate you.
8. Let family and friend know what you are doing.
9. Invite them to participate.
10. Share your goods with each other.

Remember, there is always something to be grateful for.

This practice has been a game-changer for me and many of my clients. Begin this simple practice today and reap the abundance all around you.

*** Special bonus: Join hundreds of grateful people from around the globe in my 30-Day Greatness through Gratitude Challenge group on Facebook. Check in with your 3 ‘goods’ everyday and enjoy reading about everyone else’s too!

Many thanks!

New Normal

I don’t know about you but this summer has been a roller coaster of incredible and intense emotions. It has been filled with some endings and wonderful beginnings. Between my wedding anniversary, my two oldest sons’ graduations, birthdays, and new opportunities, this has been an unforgettable summer. It’s a summer that emphasizes having appreciation for those you love and how much they have impacted your life.

New-Normal
There’s a “new-normal” that’s unfolded for me. I learned about this description after spending an afternoon with a friend just days after losing his 84 year old father from cancer. As I sat with him in the park, he told me that now that his father has passed, both he and his mother had to get use to a “new normal” way of living.

Bittersweet
As for me and my family our “new-normal” takes on many bittersweet forms. Our “new normal” consists of adjusting to my oldest son living at home and working in Boston with a prospect of being relocated to Chicago. Another “new normal” change is getting used to not having my middle son home. This week kicks off his 1st week of living at college and away from home. Lastly, my other “new normal” is supporting my youngest as he starts a new school. In the grand scheme of things, my “new-normals” are all great news and certainly something that my husband and I are both proud of. It still does not help with the feelings of longing for the good-old-days of having everyone at home, all together, safe and sound, and silly-at-times. No matter what you call it – separation anxiety, the “new-normal” or simply life, is still painful. It hurts when you no longer have the person that you love near you to talk with and sit with like before.

Life
As a Health & Happiness Specialist™, I often share my own experiences in my programs. Happiness is nothing without pain or sadness. Life will deliver each of us good and not-so-good times. This is what makes life very interesting. Nothing good lasts forever and nothing bad lasts forever too. There a dynamic motion that propels us forward to become better than before if we allow it. The secret is to feel the negative emotions and allow them to surface so that we can move on. It’s when we hold on to our negative emotions that we start suffering in many ways that can manifest as severe depression, insomnia, gastro-esophageal reflux, chest pain, anger, over eating, and so much more.

3 Ways to Feel Better
Fortunately, with the increase in positive psychology research there are so many effective ways to help people cope with life’s challenges. The science of happiness has many solutions that help people grow and thrive so that they can be the best version of themselves.

Here are 3 ways to feel better:
1. Do something kind for others. When you think outside of your own situation and do kind deeds for others, you begin to feel happier.
2. Physical activity. Doing any type of physical activity is a positive way of releasing your sadness and stress.
3. Contact someone. Whether it is going to church to pray or calling up a friend. Connecting with others enhances relationships which often lead to greater happiness.

How about You?
If you are struggling with life’s ups and downs right now, trust that where there is darkness there also is light. If you need a coach to help you reach your personal or professional goals please contact Debbie Lyn at healthandhappinessspecialist@gmail.com