Appreciate the Good: Five Reasons to Start a Gratitude Practice

Appreciate the Good: Five Reasons to Start a Gratitude Practice
By Debbie Lyn Toomey, RN, CIPP

 

 

Next week in the United States, Thanksgiving will be celebrated. Thanksgiving symbolizes the start of the holiday season. Thanksgiving is a special day when Americans give thanks. This special holiday feeds the body with delicious food and the heart with sincerity. While it feels good to give thanks on that day, giving thanks daily will make us feel better in the long run. One of my favorite sayings when I was studying Positive Psychology was from professor and author, Tal Ben-Shahar: “when you appreciate the good, the good appreciates.”

What is gratitude?

Gratitude is more than an attitude or saying thanks. It’s a science that has been proven to have significant benefits. Robert Emmons, considered the father of the science of gratitude defines gratitude as, “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation for life.” This definition opens us to endless opportunities to be grateful. The challenge is remembering to do it every day, especially during the tough times.

Why is it important?

The best way to start the exercise is to know why it is important and how it can benefit you. Here are 5 reasons that caught my attention and inspired me to begin adding the gratitude practice into my life.

1. Resilience – Gratitude fosters resilience. A 2003 study found that gratitude was the main contributor to resilience following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in New York.

2. Relationships – Gratitude is the antidote for failed non-abusive relationships. A studyfound that couples who express gratitude for each other are motivated to maintain their relationship with each other.

3. REM – Gratitude before bedtime helps with sleep. A study in the Applied Psychology: Health and Well-being found that 15 minutes of writing in a gratitude journal before sleep promotes better sleep.

4. Rich – Gratitude cancels out envy. According to Robert Emmons, gratitude blocks toxic emotions such as envy, regret, and depression because gratitude makes you feel rich and feel you have more than enough.

5. Rejoice – Gratitude is linked to a happiness booster according to Harvard University study. If you need a quick way to cheer up, start listing some things you are grateful for to turn your emotions around.

I hope one or all of these reasons inspired you to begin a gratitude practice. If you have one already, thank you. If not, try any one of these techniques.

1. Journal – Start a gratitude journal. This was the first gratitude exercise that I did and it helped me during the good and the bad times of my life. This exercise trained my brain to look for the good in all situations. It was extremely helpful when I was coping with my mother’s three cancer journeys.

2. WWW? – What Went Well? Is a question that helped me teach my husband and three boys the practice of gratitude without being too “mushy”. This question has helped me and my family cultivate the practice of gratitude. Next time you are with your friend or family ask, “What went well?” and notice all the goodness that come out of this powerful question.

3. Walk – As you walk from one place to another, find as many objects to be grateful for. This helps increase my level of energy and happiness when I feel tired or anxious. It can definitely turn your “frown upside down.”

4. Jar – Collect moments of gratitude in a jar. This is a great practice for you and your group. This exercise is a positivity booster and it’s fun to watch as the gratitude fills the jar. Reading gratitude from the gratitude jar is another way to deepen relationships in the group and improve communication.

5. Letter – Writing a gratitude letter to someone you love and has greatly influenced you is a proven gratitude technique that has shown to create lasting positive emotions. Once you write your gratitude letter, deliver the letter in person and read the letter to that special someone.

Thank you for reading this article. I hope that it has inspired you enough to begin a gratitude practice. Try one of the gratitude practices that I shared with you for the next 30 days and watch your appreciation grow.

I am grateful for…

This year I have so much to be grateful for. Besides my awesome family and friends, I am grateful for publishing my coloring book, The Happiness Result Art Therapy Coloring Book – Express & Enjoy Yourself. This book is going to be available next week on my website, www.TheHappinessResult.com.

Also, I am grateful for doing my first online course called, Therapeutic Arts: Art Therapy Based Practice for Self-care, Self- healing, and Mindfulness. This is terrific course that I created with master trainer and colleague, Patrick Howell. Here’s the link for you to get your special price and immediate access to the course https://www.udemy.com/artstherapycourse/?couponCode=NEWSLETTER.

Lastly, I am grateful for you and your continued support and interest in my health and happiness message.

Thank you!

Are You a Dreamer, a Doubter, or a Doer?

Are You a Dreamer, a Doubter, or a Doer?

Be a Doer and Make Your Dream Come True.

By Debbie Lyn Toomey

Are you a dreamer, a doubter, or a doer?

Besides being a dreamer, I am also a doer. I bounce back and forth from dreaming, doubting, to doing and back. But my goal is always turning my dreams into reality.

Daydreamer

I’ve always been a dreamer ever since I can remember. I spent most of my childhood with my head up in the clouds daydreaming. Being socially awkward and insecure, I didn’t get around much. But it was different when I daydreamed. Anything was possible in my mind. When I wasn’t saving the world, I was discovering new ones!

Scary-Good

Although, I am not an Amazon Marvel heroine, my husband sees me as a wonder woman. Why? I really do not know. All I know is that by stretching myself out of my comfort zone I can take leaps of faith in order to turn my dreams into reality. I do this because I still want to save the world and discover my full potential. For me that means living a happy and meaningful life that is not limited by my doubts or defined by other’s fears.

Actions

Little by little I took scary-good actions that purposely got me out of a safe routine. I joined Toastmasters even though I have a fear of public speaking. I wrote a book even though I didn’t know what it really entailed. I proposed to do a mindfulness research study even though I had no experience in doing research.


Mantra

Many years ago, during a melt-down from feeling like I was going to fail big-time, I heard a voice in my head. It said, “Failure is not trying!” After hearing it, I repeated it and realized how true that statement was. Ever since that day, “Failure is not trying” has become one of the mantras that I use to shift myself from the “doubting” state to the “doing” state. It gets me out of the imposter syndrome right away.

Done

I’m happy to say that since joining Toastmasters, I have won speaking competitions and become an international speaker. I’ve also published three books and I’m finishing up my mindfulness study on stress reduction for nurses. Anything is possible when you realize that failure is not about making mistakes but rather, “Failure is not trying.” The key is to keep learning along the way.

Do it!

Here’s how you can become a doer and make your dreams come true.

1. Dreams- Pick an idea that keeps coming up for you at night in your dreams and during the day. If the idea seems too big for you to undertake, just let it simmer. As it percolates in your mind, allow it to drop into your heart. Put your hand over your heart and ask your heart what it thinks about the idea.

Notice how your heart is receiving this idea. Does your heart soften with peace and joy? Does the idea resonate with the truth of who you are? If so, this dream is worth the pursuing. If not, let it go for now. It’s best to leave it alone for now until you get a sense that it is heart-led and not ego-led. Ideas that are ego-driven will exhaust you and leave you empty inside while passion-driven ones will make you feel fulfilled and help you flourish.

2. Describe- Have a way of describing this dream with words and images. Using an arts therapy based journal will allow you to creatively express yourself. You can create an arts therapy based journal from a regular journal and use it for self-expression, empowerment, and enjoyment.

Your arts therapy based journal will help your turn your thoughts into a real thing. Have fun with this journal. Remember, it is your journal you can be as elaborate as you want in between the pages. Keep this journal close to you. Use it as a reminder of your goal. Allow it to be a source of inspiration and strength during your uncertain days.

3. Doubt- Notice the doubts that come up after a while as you entertain your dreams. What negative words do you hear? Have you heard the same ones before? We learned about fear from our parents when we were growing up, from society and culture, and from stories we hear. Learning to recognize the voice of your fears and doubts will help you gain the control to release it. This is a life-long unlearning process that will help you unleash the best version of yourself so you can live a happy and well-balanced life. Lastly, anytime any fear or doubt hijacks you, remember to repeat my mantra, “Failure is not trying.” Be sure to add this mantra to your journal.

4. Doer– Once you have examined your doubts and released as many layers of them as you can, take small actions daily that will help you get closer to your dream. It could be as little as asking other people about your dream or buying a book to learn more about it.

The more steps you take in the alignment of your dreams, the more you will find that the dreams will take a life of their own and become more of a reality instead of a fantasy. Ask yourself daily what small step you can take that will help you reach goal. Take immediate action on the answer or a sense of inner knowing that you get from asking.

Need Help?

If you need coaching to help you reach your dreams, contact me for coaching support. I would love to work with you and to teach you how to reach your goals. You can contact me at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com.

 

Gimme Five – Part Two: Powerful Reflection to Increase Happiness and Boost Success “Where are they?” By Debbie Lyn Toomey

Gimme Five – Part Two:
Powerful Reflection to Increase Happiness and Boost Success

“Where are they?”

By Debbie Lyn Toomey

If you recall, in part one of this article, I shared with you a message that I heard during a recent National Speakers Association Influence conference. It was a powerful statement from one of the gifted keynote speakers. It stirred me up inside and motivated me to really reflect upon what it meant to me. The message was:

You are the sum of the five people you hang around with most.

In part one, I asked you to list the five influencers who are currently positively impacting you and your career. I also asked you questions to think about to help you determine who they are. Moreover, I explained it’s not about the quantity but rather the quality of people that you have in your life.

Truthfully, there have been times in my life when I have hung around mostly with only one or two people. I didn’t have five all the time in my journey because I didn’t need them. I was happy with those who supported me and what I was accomplishing with them at my side. But as I grew as a person and changed, the people I spent time with changed also—except for my husband, of course. I met new friends and hired coaches to help me reach my goals.

I found that, as we open ourselves up to new possibilities, we attract new teachers and allies to help us along the way. In this article, I will share with you five steps to help you find and attract such people. Once again, the number five is not etched in stone. It’s just a number to challenge us to think about who, in life, is in our corner, has our back, and provides an example for us to model. If you don’t have any or enough positive influencers in your life, there are ways to find them. No worries.

First of all, ask yourself if you are fine with your life and your career and have enough people to support and encourage you. If your answer is yes, then you are all set. However, if your answer is no, then there are ways to gain more positive influencers in your life.

Here are five steps (and a bonus step!) to get you started. These steps have consistently helped me in the past.

1. Who — Set an intention. Whether it’s finding a new mate, looking for a coach, or needing an accountability buddy, the clearer you are, the better.

2. What — Establish your needs. What area in your career do you want the new person to help or support you with?

3. Where — Locate the person or persons. If you know #2, then you will have a better idea of where to find people.

4. How — Follow-up. Forge relationships by following up with people you’ve met. Ask when you can meet up one-to-one.

5. Why — Share your big why. Once you’ve gotten to know each other, explain to your new connections your big “why” and ask what theirs are as well. This will deepen your relationships. The more you know about your new acquaintances, the more likely you will see if they are in alignment with who you are and what your dreams are.

6. Bonus — Tell them what they mean to you and thank them. After you meet with these people for a while, I encourage you to show your appreciation by letting them know how much they have helped you.

It’s important to note that we are all on our own happiness and success journeys. That means that, even though you may have certain people in your top five, they may not have you as one of theirs. Don’t take this personally. It’s not about you. It’s about them and where they are in their personal and professional life.

I wish you much success in this exercise. Be patient with this process as you find your next influencer. They are all worth the wait and the work you put into looking for them. I hope that this exercise helps you as much as it has helped me. If you are looking for a coach to help you reach your goals, contact me at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com.

Gimme Five

Part One: Powerful Reflection to Increase Happiness and Boost Success

“Who are they?”

By Debbie Lyn Toomey


I recently attended the National Speakers Association (NSA) Influence 2017 conference in Orlando. It’s a yearly conference that draws professional speakers and consultants from all over the world. Happy international professional speakers met up with old friends and mentors, networked, and celebrated the best of the best in the field. The convention was fantastic!

The event was held at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. The venue was buzzing with excitement with a children’s regional dance competition, the public speaker’s conference, and independent visitors from around the world. Everyone was dressed to the nines, especially the little dancers and their proud parents.

As a professional speaker myself, I was star struck because I met other speakers I had heard so much about. There were so many talented speakers at the conference. I was impressed by how many of them gave sincere appreciation and credit to speaker colleagues who had supported, inspired, and coached them.

The keynote speakers were amazing. Although they all had their own stories and style, they all had one thing in common—a powerful message. While some moved me to tears, others moved me to take action.

One message that Vinh Giang, a keynote speaker, stressed really stuck with me:

You are the sum of the five people you hang around with most.

Giang said this as he shared his success story. Three years ago he was a novice speaker, and now he has fulfilled his dream of owning a successful business.

“Hmmm…” I didn’t know what to make of this statement at first until I repeated it to myself: “You are the sum of the five people you hang around with most.”

All of a sudden, a light bulb went on. “Yes, of course!”

As I half listened to the captivating keynote speaker, my mind went off on a tangent and a mental quest to figure out who my five were.

“Do I hang around with people who are helping me shift to the next level of my business?” I asked myself. “Who are these five people? What if I don’t have five people right now?”

I started to reflect upon the people I hang around with most, either in person or by phone. While we might not have a choice about some people we either live or work with, there are those whom we purposely seek out to make us feel better and do better.

You are the sum of the five people you hang around with most.

“Who are my five?” I asked myself.

Half-panicked that I may not have the “five” people, I started thinking about the people I really did spend the most time with consistently. I flipped my conference workbook over and pulled out my pen. I listed the numbers 1 through 5 down the left side of the blank back cover.

The first person on my list was my husband, Bill, who loves me and is a great supporter in my career. Second was my business and speaking mentor, Naomi, who has been a blessing to me both personally and professionally. Third was my nurse scientist mentor, Judi, who has guided me through the world of nursing research and helped me write a winning proposal to do mindfulness research. Fourth was my dear friend, Patrick, whom I met when I studied positive psychology and who has been a wonderful accountability buddy. Fifth was Linda, my NSA friend, whom I meet with regularly for masterminding.

Except for my husband, the other people had not been a part of my life when I started my business almost five years ago. I met these people as a result of networking, joining associations, taking classes, and being at the right place at the right time. I am fortunate to have a great circle of friends and mentors. Without these five people in my life, my career would not be in the upward trajectory of success that I have always wanted.

How about you? It’s your turn.

Who are the five people you hang around with most?

Who are the people that you look up to and to whom you can consistently go to for advice?

Who are the people who are impacting your life for the better?

You are the sum of the five people you hang around with most.

You might ask, is it really necessary to do to this exercise? Absolutely!

The more we are aware of the way people influence our thoughts, actions, and behavior, the more we gain control and clarity in who we are becoming and where we are going. This awareness is key in moving toward the direction of our best self. Once we recognize the positive influencers in our lives, we can appreciate the value these people add to our lives. Realizing this helps to increase our happiness and boost our success.

To gain the most out of this exercise, read the message one more time and then reflect on the following steps.

You are the sum of the five people you hang around with most.

1. Who — Who are they? Reflect on the people you purposely spend time with most.

2. What — What brings each of you together? What kind of a relationship do you have together?

3. Where — Where is each relationship taking you? Do you like where it’s going?

4. How — How is each relationship going for you? How do you maintain the connection?

5. Why — Why do you choose to spend time with each person? Why him or her instead of others?

The bottom line is, the clearer we are about who we spend our time with, the more likely we will be able to discern and wake up to the value they bring (or don’t bring) into our lives.

If you don’t have five, don’t worry! It’s really not about the quantity; rather, it is all about the quality and what you need currently. I haven’t had five all the time in my journey. If you are venturing into a new phase in your life and need extra support from experts or people going through a similar journey, then it may be time for you to start opening yourself up to more influencers who can help you enjoy the path. In part two, I will share with you simple steps to find and attract the people you need to help you gain more happiness and increase your success.

Until then, enjoy this exercise and share with us your top five and how they have helped you in your career. Also, if you are looking for a coach to help you reach your goals, contact me at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com. I would be happy to talk with you to see how we can work together.

 

Art Heals: Express Yourself and Reduce Stress with Art

Art Heals: Express Yourself and Reduce Stress with Art

by Debbie Lyn Toomey


Ever have a terrifying nightmare from childhood that sneaks up on you?

Similar to the usual “falling” dream that some people have, I have one that I call the “Tidal Wave” dream and it happened last weekend. Thanks to art, I was able to rise above the lingering feelings of dread. By drawing and coloring, I literally “drew” out the feelings of uncertainty that stayed with me all morning long.

Nightmare

I hadn’t had this type of nightmare in a long time. I was confused as to why it occurred again. Frankly, I thought I was over that type of dream a long time ago! The last time I had the “Tidal Wave” dream I woke up happy! I was so proud of myself because, instead of being swallowed up by the Statue of Liberty size wave, I was riding the wave with a big smile on my face boldly going where ever it took me.

Transformed

I woke up feeling transformed. That was about 5 years ago when I started to feel more confident and clear about my life’s work (the big “W” work/life purpose one). That was around the time when I started my company Ultimate Healing Journey, LLC, a company focused on motivating and coaching today’s busy people with happiness and mindfulness skills to fuel their success. It was an exciting time!

Wave

Why did the wave dream came back? That dream first occurred when I was much younger; when I didn’t feel strong or sure of myself. Back then, this tsunami size wave would come out of nowhere and swallow me up causing me to gasp for air and fight for my life. I hated that sinking feeling of fright that always stayed with me for days. Although, the Tidal Wave in my recent dream disappeared way before it got to me (thank God!), it still shook me up.

Morning

I thought I was done with this dream! I wondered what could have brought it on. At breakfast, I told me family about it. I always encouraged my family to share their nightmares because I feel it was a good way to chase the nightmares away. In other words, the dark always disappears in the light.

River

After breakfast, my family and I took advantage of an unusually dry and cool August morning and went for a walk down along the Neponset River. The nice day and the cool breeze made it a great day for boaters and fishermen to be out on the relaxing waters. It was such a beautiful scene to watch. I really enjoyed that walk.

Tsunami

Later that day, I found myself sitting at my desk with a blank white piece of paper and a pencil. I decided to draw. The image I started with was the Tidal Wave. It took up 95% of my paper! At the bottom of the page was a tiny stick figure of me as if looking up at the gigantic body of water. I was taken aback when I saw it right in front of me. As I colored this all-consuming wave with my light blue colored marker my breathing soon became fast and shallow. It brought up feelings of frustration and powerlessness and of being overwhelmed! It was strange (and interesting) how my kindergarten looking drawing reflected how I’ve been feeling for the last few weeks.

Stress

The last few weeks have been tiring and tough for me. I did my best to stay afloat of what was going on. I had self-imposed stress such as creating the coloring book companion for my book and trying to get my mindfulness study approved. I also had other stressors that were beyond my control which included dealing with a strange water leak that happened on my birthday and having to go without my car for 2 weeks, helping my 79-year-old mother after having total knee replacement surgery, coping with the fact that my oldest son was ready to move out of our house, and helping my nervous 12-year-old son get excited for his week-long boy scout camping.

Depressed

Thank goodness it wasn’t a typically month for me. Despite my self-care routine of yoga, mindfulness meditation, and gratitude practice, I still felt down and depressed. I hadn’t felt like this in a long time. This became clear as I looked at my finished drawing.

Peace

I decided to draw the image that I saw during my morning walk. On a separate piece of white paper, I drew the river and the boats that were on the water. I found peace in that piece. I outlined the bench that my husband and I sat on and added the shrubs and flowers that were at the river’s edge. As I colored, a deep and soothing breath filled my lungs. It made me smile. Although, my art work was far from being a Renoir filled with pastels and pretty color, it was a relaxing work of art! I noticed my breathing change. It was slower and deeper. There was nothing stressful about my drawing. Then, I took another step.

Feelings

I compared both pictures. I noticed how different they were and how they made me feel. Then, I wrote down on one side of the Tidal Wave picture how the image made me feel. I wrote down my stressors and what caused me sadness. As I listed them, I was surprised at how many I had. The more I wrote, the more my head nodded with agreement.

Balance

I did the same thing with my other drawing. In that one, I wrote down how it made me feel. I wrote that I wanted to have balance, fun, and time to relax and be with my family. Then, I wrote down I how I would like to feel. A couple of ideas came to mind. One was to simplify and slow down my calendar. I created a schedule that included activities and projects that I needed and wanted to do. I made sure I allowed for extra time to rest and have fun. Another idea was to invite my parents over for a homemade pizza dinner so we can see each other and catch up.

Tides

These two drawings were such an eye opener for me. While they were opposites, they gave me an important insight into my internal and downward turbulence. This visual expressive exercise healed me! It freed up so much of what I was feeling in such an innocent and tangible way. I highly recommend this exercise to anyone who is feeling stressed. While a nightmare was the motivator behind my experience, you can start doing this now to determine how you are feeling.

Express

Allow art to heal you from your pain and reduce your stress. All you have to do is express yourself. According to the American Art Therapy Association, art is a form of therapy that helps people “explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem.” Don’t let the simplicity of this practice fool you. Art heals and you don’t have to have any artistic talent for it to help you. Any expressive medium can help you such as clay, paint, wood, music, dance, photography, etc.

Benefits

There are many studies that show the beneficial effects of art for healing, stress reduction, and personal growth. Art as form of therapy has helped people with ADD/ADHD, Autism Spectrum, Age management, Abuse, PTSD, Cancer, and so much more. Art as a form of therapy is found in many settings such as: hospitals, wellness studios, schools, and home. While it is becoming more widely used, it is always recommended for people with mental health problems to seek professional advice before undergoing any sort of treatment.

How?

For those of you who are not under the supervision and care of mental health professionals, there are simple ways to get started. Here’s how you can express yourself and reduce your stress with art.

1. Choose: Pick the expressive art medium that you like and start creating. Allow the medium to move you.

2. Compare: Do a comparison. Have a before and after version of how you are feeling. It could be a past vs. present or bad vs. good version.

3. Clarity: Accept the different feelings that come up and view them with no judgement. This will help you to avoid clouding your mind with any self-limiting or more negative thoughts.

4. Control: Notice how much a sense of calm, control and confidence comes to you with this exercise.

5. Create: Be creative in how you do this practice. Make this practice your own.

Happiness

Go forth and express yourself through art. You will be surprise at just how much better you will feel afterwards. A great way to get started is by coloring and to help you along, The Happiness Result Art Therapy Coloring book will be available to you by the end of the summer. Coloring books have been proven to calm the mind and reduce stress. It’s a great way to combine art with mindfulness. To learn more about its companion book, The Happiness Result. More time, More health, More love, More success go to www.TheHappinessResult.com.

Class

Master trainer and coach Patrick Howell and I are going to be offering an introductory online course on this topic soon. Please stay tuned for more information on this unique and fascinating art therapy class.

Five Steps to Unleash Your Inner Superhero

Five Steps to Unleash Your Inner Superhero and
Defeat Work/Life Stress
by Debbie Lyn Toomey

Which super hero is your favorite?

Super Man?

Batman?

Wonder Woman?

My favorite is Wonder Woman. Besides being beautiful, brainy, and bold, she embodies so much of what I believe in. For my birthday this year, I asked my 12-year old son, Max, to give me a Lego Wonder Woman key chain. I was so excited the day he gave it to me because now I can carry around a little reminder of how I can unleash my inner superhero to help me defeat work/life stress.

Scratches

One week later, while Max and I were waiting in line at the grocery store, I happily pulled out my new key chain to show him. He examined it closely and immediately said,

“Oh no, it has scratches on it!”

Although, I was surprised that he noticed the tiny scratches on it, I was even more surprised with the reply I gave to him.

Honey, she wouldn’t be Wonder Woman if she didn’t have scratches on her.”

Scars

As we walked across the parking lot over to our car, I thought about what I had just said to him. It made me think about how the adversities that many of the comic-strip super heroes faced allowed them to fully discover their unique power. Then I reflected about my own internal scars that were caused by dealing with life. Some of them were a result of failures, rejections, and feelings of inadequacy.

Strengths

These permanent imprints have become my well-earned badges of honor. They came from moments in my life where I chose to persevere, forcing me to awaken my inner super allies; my inner strengths and talents. Without these negative obstacles and conflicts, I would have never had the chance to discover how strong I am. I wouldn’t have known what I was really made of. These were epic moments that made me resilient in dealing with life’s ups and downs.

Soar

As mortals, we may not wear capes but we can soar to the top of our game. Here are five ways to unleash your own inner superhero so that you can defeat work/life stress.

1. Reflect- Think about your life in the past year and reflect on your challenges. Determine what you did in all cases that helped you rise above the circumstance.

2. Recognize- Watch for patterns in what you did and how you did it. The more you recognize your strong and positive actions the more you can “own them” and be proud of them. You can consider these positive attributes as your strengths.

3. Remember- Have reminders of your strengths. Whether it’s a powerful quote, an image, or a Lego key chain of your favorite hero, use something that will align you to your best self.

4. Read- Once you know your strengths, read more about how you can strengthen them. If you haven’t already, take courses or learn from a coach or mentor about how you can make them your own super powers.

5. Reap– Ask people in your life to list your positive attributes. Reap the positive words that they use to describe you. Compare their list with yours. Notice the similarities and notice ones that you did not think about but agreed with. You can consider the similarities as your top strengths in this case and the others your lesser strengths.

Support

Use all of your strengths. They will help you deal with work/life stress. The more you learn how to unleash your super-hero-self, the more you can beat work/life stress and become your own hero. To gain support and learn more about how to become the best version of your super self, email me at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com to see how we can work together.

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.

The Upside of Bad – How to Find the Silver Lining During the Bad Times

The Upside of Bad. How to Find the Silver Lining During the Bad Times.
By Debbie Lyn Toomey

 

Two weeks ago, I got sick. Sick enough that I had to stay on my couch for four days. I couldn’t do anything because I was achy, sweaty, and weak from the flu. I haven’t been ill like that in five years. Because of this, I got way behind with my work and came back to hundreds of emails in my inbox waiting for a reply.

Sick

During my awake times on the couch, I wondered if I willed this to happen. Because days earlier, I wished I had a day of rest with nothing to do. Then before you know it, I got sick!

Have you ever willed yourself sick so you can get rest?

What did you do?

Did you work despite the fact you had no energy or will to do anything?

A Break

Not me. When I am sick, I just don’t feel like doing anything. After a day of feeling badly about missing work, I decided to give myself a break. I gave myself self-compassion and self-care. I basically nursed myself back to health with rest, liquid, and medicine. Instead of forcing myself to work, I gave myself permission to be human and to trust the whole process. I realized that my immune system was low from overworking and worrying too much about my impending projects.

Let Go

Laying on my couch barely having energy to walk from one room to another, I was able to see things with better perspective. I realized that I had to slow down and let go of any extra burdens that I placed on myself. Despite the glassy-eyed look I had in my eyes from having the flu, I was able to see my life and work with clarity. I saw what was important and what was not. In other words, I found a silver lining in my sad moment. You can do it too.

Silver Lining

You don’t have to wait until you are bed-ridden and sick to see the silver lining of whatever it is you are experiencing in life. Here are three questions you can ask yourself to get started in finding the silver lining during bad times.

1. Ask yourself what has been working well in your situation?

Focus on the good. Taking time to reflect on the good things that have happened will make you feel happier about yourself.

2. Ask who has been helpful to you?

Who has your back? The more we recognize and appreciate the people who are on our side and help us the more we will feel supported and less alone.

3. Ask what successes you have accomplished recently?

Count your winnings. Celebrating all successes (big and small) will give you confidence and positivity.

Reflect

Life is so busy and can be discouraging if we don’t take the time to find the silver lining during the bad moments. Don’t wait for the situations to get worse. The best way to see the silver lining clearly is to stop and reflect upon who and what you have around you that is good and worth celebrating.

Support

If you or your organization needs more support in increasing positivity levels and finding the silver lining, contact me at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com for ways we can work together.

3 Super Simple Tips to Help You Succeed with Your Bucket List in 2017

3 Super Simple Tips to Help You Succeed with Your Bucket List in 2017
by Debbie Lyn Toomey

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Happy New Year to you and yours!

I love this time of the year because it is the time for new beginnings. It’s the time of the year when we can fill our clean New Year’s slate with our bucket list of goals. It’s a time for reflection and intention.

Questions for You

1. What do you want for yourself this year? Once you get an answer. Go to the next question.

2. What do you really, really, really want for yourself this year? Take your time and dig down to discern what you want. Once you get your answer, imagine what that will look like and how you will feel once you have it. Repeat questions 1 and 2 until you have your bucket list of goals for this year.

Regardless of what your goals are for this year, I have learned and experienced that there are 3 super simple ways to ensure that you not only reach your goals but also sustain them.
Like so many people in the world, I have my own New Year’s goals because I am passionate about growing into the best version of myself.

I Fell in Love

I reached many of the goals that I set for myself last year. One of them was having a regular yoga practice. My mind and body fell in love with yoga after just a few classes. I felt less stressed and my body became stronger and more flexible. I wanted it to become a part of my life, and I wanted to go to yoga classes more. Unfortunately, I found no sessions that fit my ever-changing schedule. My schedule was tight. I didn’t want to waste my time driving to and from classes in addition to committing to an hour yoga class. That’s when I got creative.

A Newbie

I realized that there was another way to add a yoga practice into my full day. It was doing it at home! I wanted to give it a try. “Why not? It was better than nothing,” I thought. I challenged myself to do a 30-day yoga challenge that I found on YouTube. I chose Yoga with Adriene. I liked her vibrant energy and her philosophy of yoga. What initially was an intimidating challenge for a newbie-yogini like me, eventually became something that I looked forward to every morning. When the 30 days finished, I started venturing out picking and choosing the yoga practice that worked for me and my schedule. Yoga has since become a part of my life.

KISS

Curious about how I was able to create a sustainable home yoga practice? It’s easy. I used the KISS principle of “keeping it super simple” to avoid setting myself up for failure. I wanted my practice to work for me and not the other way around. In order for it to support me, I had to anticipate and accept the fact that there would be days that I will miss due to unexpected life circumstances. Understanding this made the process nicer for me because I didn’t feel guilty when I did miss a morning ritual.

Here’s are my 3 Super Simple Tips to Help You Succeed in 2017:

1. 20-Second-Rule
Every evening, I placed my yoga clothes next to my bed so that when I woke up; it was the first thing, besides my husband, that I saw in the morning. This technique is based on the 20-second rule that Shawn Achor shared in his book, The Happiness Advantage. By taking a few seconds to put my yoga clothes by my bed the night before, this crucial step ensured that I would not miss my morning practice. Once I put on my yoga clothes right after getting up, there was only one thing to do, and it was…yoga. “Set yourself up for success. Prepare and take a small action the night before.”

2. Create Your Rules
After the 30-day yoga challenge, I decided to allow my mind and body to choose the best yoga practice it needed that day. If my neck and shoulders were tight, then I chose a practice that focused on those areas. I made sure that this home practice was practical for me. Because I work long hours on certain days and have other days off, I defined my yoga practice as “any purposeful stretching or movement” that I can do in the morning. I created the rules that worked for me. While sometimes it was a 60-minute practice, other times it was a 5-minute practice that involved a couple of forward bends, stretches, and a few deep breaths. “It’s your practice. Define it on your own terms!”

3. Self-Compassion
Life happens, and it derails us from our normal routine. I know that I am not alone in this. Every time I noticed myself getting side-tracked from my morning yoga ritual, I gave myself a break and practiced self-kindness. I gave myself self-compassion when I didn’t have the time to commit to my morning yoga practice. There were times last year where my personal practice needed to take the back seat because my family needed me such as when my father had his heart surgery, when my mother needed someone to talk with, or when my kids got sick. That is life. In order to make up for the lost day of practice, I made sure I did a yoga practice the following day and a longer practice on the weekend. “When you get thrown off the track, give yourself permission to be human then jump back on.”

Applicable to Anything

I hope these 3 Super Simple Tips are super simple enough for you to be successful at achieving the goals in your 2017 bucket list. These tips can be applied to anything that you want to manifest this year. Remember to keep it super simple so that it will be easier for you in the long run. My goal this year will be sleep. I want to add 30 more minutes to my sleeping hours a night. What is yours? Please share below.

Need Support?

If you need support in how to reach your goals this year, contact me at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com today. I’m here for you. If you want an “awesome” journal to manifest with, get my new book, The Happiness Result- Goals, Gratitude, & Success Journal. This powerful journal will help you create more positive habits to train your mind and heart to dream big, expect goodness, and have fun! In the meantime, I wish you a happy and healthy 2017!

a-HAHS Tip #6 Bye Bye Loneliness

 

Do you ever feel lonely and need someone around to talk to or just be with?

Why not try doing something for someone.

When you do a random act of kindness or volunteer for a good cause you are doing something positive for more than one person.

Here’s what happens:

  1. You have a purpose that day.
  2. You make a difference in someone’s life.
  3. You connect with someone.

Next time you are feeling lonely just know that you can get out of rut by just getting out of the house and doing something kind for someone. This is a great way to say bye bye to your loneliness and hello to kindness.

If you are interested in learning more about ways to increase your level of happiness contact us at info@HealthandHappinesssSpecialist.com.