Have you found yourself reflecting on the past lately? I think it’s safe to say that most of us have periods in our lives when we think about the past more than other times. Sometimes reflecting on the past can be helpful because it gives us the opportunity to acknowledge how much we’ve grown over the years. Other times, reflecting on the past can bring up old painful feelings which can be discouraging if we thought we had “gotten over” whatever (or whoever) we’re thinking about.
I think it’s important to reflect on the past for a few reasons. The first being that we can honor and reflect on where we’ve been (relationships, career, etc.) and help us to map out the path to the future we’d like to have. The second being that reflecting on the past gives us the opportunity to decide what has and what hasn’t been helpful in our lives, and to learn and grow from past mistakes we may have made. I believe it’s difficult to choose to do things differently in the present and future if we haven’t taken the time to reflect and grow from past decisions we made that didn’t have the result we wanted. Another reason reflecting on the past can be a good thing, is that we can take pride in our accomplishments, and again, how much we’ve grown. Life happens quickly, and we often get distracted by our daily responsibilities that we can forget to acknowledge the amazing person we’ve become because of the positive and not so positive adversities we’ve faced in our lifetime.
Like I mentioned, reflecting on the past can also bring up not so good memories that cause us to feel a sense of pain, regret, grief or anger. It’s helpful to get support when those memories resurface. Often with the support of others, sharing our memories about the situation(s) that caused the pain can be healing. Also, I think it’s important to remember that although painful memories don’t feel good, they also signal to us that there are parts of ourselves that still need to be healed so that we can move on.
Reflecting on the past doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Remember, it gives you the opportunity to take pride and joy in how your life has changed, helps with decision making during life transitions, and reminds us that pain can be a sign that a part of us has some unresolved stuff that needs some tender loving care so that we can heal and feel better.
Photo By Mohammad Gh
It’s natural to crave change when life isn’t how we want it to be. We may adopt a grass is greener on the other side mentality. What we need to remember is that change takes time and often multiple attempts. If we don’t see the results we desire after we started to set a change in motion, we may take additional action as an attempt to bring about the change we want see. It’s important to remember that with change, there are often setbacks and mishaps and it’s wise to plan for them, and not to give up if you experience a setback.
Change is a process and something that happens over time. The stages of change are well-known in substance abuse and recovery healing world. The stages of change can be helpful even if you do not consider yourself to be in recovery because you may go through a similar cycle when working on making changes in your live. The stages of change include pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, relapse and maintenance, and termination. We are often in the pre-contemplation stage when life is getting funky, but we haven’t started thinking about making any change in our lives. When we experience the contemplation stage, we’re thinking or daydreaming about the pros and cons of how life would be better if we did something differently, behaved differently or had something that we perceived would raise our status (examples a college degree, a wife or husband, a CEO, etc). During the preparation stage, we do research and plan out how we’re going to make the change happen. An example would be looking into diets or exercise programs to try in order to live a healthier lifestyle. The action phase is when we finally take that leap of faith to make our lives better by changing something (starting something new or letting something go) in our life. Something helpful to remember is that when we go to make a change, it’s common to experience a mix of excitement and anxiety because we’re happy to make the change and nervous because we’re not 100% sure how the change will play out. A part of the next stage is relapse. If you’re not in recovery, you may initially think this stage will not apply to you. That’s not necessarily true. Have you ever ended a relationship and missed your ex-partner to the point of calling them to reconnect? Or have you ever decided to stop eating an unhealthy food but after a few days or weeks found yourself eating that food again? I know I’ve done both. It is helpful to anticipate that with any change, there is a possibility that there will be some setbacks or mishaps. It’s also helpful and healthy to create a list (call a friend, go for a walk, read, journal, listen to music, etc.) of things you can do when you have a desire to do something you said you weren’t going to do anymore. The other part of this stage is maintenance. Maintenance is important because most of us will have a setback, but the change we desire is still possible if we keep trying. Maintenance also helps us to apply what we’ve learned from our setback or multiple setbacks so that we can maintain the change we’ve started or created. For example, say you have a break-up, call your ex, hook-up with them and afterwards remember why you broke up with them in the first place. The next time you have a desire to call them, you’ll be able to reflect on the reasons why you left in the first place (they have different values, want something different than you need or treat you poorly or whatever the reason was) and you’ll be able to acknowledge that calling them is not the best idea and choose to keep doing something different. The more setbacks you have, the wiser and more resilient you may become because you’ll start to realize that the desire to do what you used to do in the past will eventually pass. Like I mentioned, setbacks should be expected. If you have a setback, learn from it and choose to do something different next time. The final stage is termination. Termination happens when you’ve hit that point where your efforts to create change have been successful, you haven’t had any setbacks for a while and you’ve been able to keep the change going without feeling the need to go back to life as it was before you made the change.
Remember that change is a process filled with many unexpected twists and turns but you can navigate them if you plan ahead for any obstacles you may face. If you’re creating change in your life, be gentle with yourself if you experience a setback, and remain determined to achieve whatever change you desire.
Photo by Adam Cao
Accepting failure is one of the hardest things we will ever experience. We can feel a sense of failure from a relationship that ends, to not getting a dream job at a dream company or not being accepted into a school we really want to attend. We are often faced with many challenges throughout our lifetime, and experiencing disappointments is inevitable. It can seem as though failure is a reflection of our worth as a person. We may think that we are not good enough, not lovable, not attractive enough or even that we are not smart enough. It is during this times that our self-esteem can take a huge tumble. What we can forget is that failure is a part of life. Sometimes situations that cause us to feel as though we failed, can also prevent us from seeing the many other possibilities that we have available to us. You may be thinking “but I really wanted or deserved that person, job, or position. Why are you mentioning other possibilities when I don’t want something else???” I mention other possibilities because if we’re fortunate enough to live long enough and to experience disappointments, we learn that sometimes the thing that we wanted the most, was in fact, not the best thing for us.
I’ll use one of my most painful life experiences as an example. I was in love with someone and thought that he and I would live happily ever-after. In my love-filled haze, I missed more than a few red-flags/warning signs including his unchecked substance use. He was not able to make a long-term commitment and after some time I eventually decided that it was best to leave. I remember feeling unlovable and not wanting to live because I was in so much pain and because life was “so unfair”. It wasn’t until some time had passed that I was able to look back on our relationship and see how dysfunctional our relationship was, and to realize how unhappy I had been with him. At the time I was unable to see the possibility of my life being happier without him, and even that there were healthier relationships available to me. I’m now able to recognize that not getting what I thought was going to be a happily ever-after relationship with him, was a good thing because our relationship was an unhappy and unhealthy one.
I know how hard it can be to not get something you really wanted. When you are struggling with not getting what you want, if can feel as though the world has or is going to end. If you’re struggling with not getting something you really wanted, I challenge you to think back on a time when you experienced something that felt like a failure that you didn’t know how you would bounce back from. How did you get through that painful experience? I think we can grow stronger with each failure if we take the time to reflect on how not getting what we wanted worked out for us in the long run. If we take the time to reflect and learn from the past, and be open to other possibilities, our present or future experiences of failure will not obliterate our self-esteem because our life experiences have made us wiser, stronger and more resilient.
Photo by Annie Spratt
Life can be painful sometimes, and especially during times of change and transition. It can feel as though our world is coming to an end when life changes. In some ways the life or the world as we knew it, does come to an end because when change happens something in our life fades away while something else is created. Nothing in life is permanent. Think about nature. Every season brings about transitions and changes to the weather, plants, the land and bodies of water. We too change with each life transition.
It can be helpful to remember during painful life transitions and changes that we grow and often grow into someone better than we were before. A week, month, year or years from now, you will be wiser, braver and stronger (emotional and possibly physically) than you are today. Transitions and change, although painful at the time, should be honored and celebrated because they can help shape us into the best version of ourselves. I imagine it’s safe to say that if you were to take a few seconds to reflect back on your life, you’d be proud of all of the painful life changes you survived and even may be very proud of the person you’ve become as a result of some of the painful life changes you’ve experienced.
If you’re going through a painful life transition or change, hang in there and remember that when change happens, you too will change and grow into someone better than you were before.
Photo by David Clode
Where to start. Animals have long been companions to people, and people have long been companions to animals. Over the years, more and more people have added animal companions to their lives. I am aware of people (including myself), that have allergies but still none the less have made adjustments so that they can have an animal companion in their life. I have also noticed an increase in the number of transient people residing in the San Francisco Bay Area that have an animal companions in their lives.
So why the attraction to animals? There are many reasons and I imagine if you were to ask different people with an animal companion why they have one, their answers would vary. I think it’s safe to say that there would be similar reasons as to why people have animal companions. One being that animal companions provide their human companions with a sense of unconditional love. When we arrive home after a being out in the world, our animal companion(s) greet us with so much joy and excitement that it can be overwhelming (in a good way) if you stop and think about. It’s rare to live with a person that is happy every single time they see and interact with us. With the consistent positive feelings for us, animal companions can cause us to feel safe, loved and help us to experience a secure attachment to another living being, which is priceless. Animal companions have a way of making us feel accepted and loved, even when the world and possibly loved ones have rejected or ignored us. The gentle nudges, touch and long eye contact from our animal companions, help to improve our sense of connection and mood.
Animals companions also help us to laugh, experience child-like joy and be fully in the present moment more frequently. From that laughter and joy, we experience an improved mood, feel less stressed, and or depressed. Science has found that we when look in to the eyes of loved ones, including our animal companions, the love hormone oxytocin is released, and we experience a sense of safety, love, security and belonging. Looking at pictures of your animal companions when you are away from them or at work, can provide you with feelings of joy and happiness when you are not feeling your best.
Another reason people enjoy animal companions is because animal companions require us to give our attention to something other than ourselves. For some, having an animal companion to look after and take care of, creates a sense of purpose. Having a sense of purpose for many people has been a way to decrease symptoms of depression and suicidal ideation. Having to take a doggie companion for their daily walks provides people with the opportunity to get some exercise and feel less anxious or depressed. Those walks can also help people to lose weight and help with arthritis. Petting a cat companion has been shown to lower blood pressure and help people feel less stressed.
There are far more benefits of having an animal companion that are listed in this post. I was only able to cover a few but it’s good to remember that animal companions help their human companions to improve their mood, sense of purpose and safety, and provide lots of laughs and positive memories in the process.
Photo by Anusha Barwa
We all experience disappointments in life. Some disappointments are harder than others to deal with and let go of. It can be even harder to let go of a disappointment when our loved ones don’t fully grasp the weight and the metaphorical scar the disappointment has left on us. When we don’t get the support we need from others, we can get stuck and keep reliving or ruminating on the disappointment. We can also develop a habit of wearing our disappointments as a badge of honor, that we display to others as means of getting the recognition or affirmation that we survived something so disappointing that left a lasting mark.
Sometimes it’s easy to let go of our disappointments and other times it can be difficult. When we feel as though we had no power in the situation it can be harder to let go of the disappointment. Anniversaries for the past situation have a way of causing us to remember the details of the situation that caused us to feel disappointment. When you start to recount the disappointing situation, ask yourself, “what do I get from holding on to this disappointment?” and “Do I feel safe or unsafe because of it?” It can be helpful to reflect on what we get from recounting our disappointment, and why it’s rewarding to hold on to the memory of something that disappointed us. If we don’t spend time reflecting on what we’re getting out of it, it can be easy to stay stuck, feel powerless, and to never let the disappointment go. Another question you can ask yourself is “am I happier or sadder because I am carrying this disappointment?”
We all have the power to choose how we deal with disappointments in the present and future. Sometimes acknowledging that we have the power to choose how we deal with the after effects is enough to help us heal and let it go. Please know that there is support available through friends, family or counselors, and even though they may not fully grasp that gravity of the pain from the disappointment, they are still able and willing to support you with healing and reclaiming your power.
Photo by Blake Connally
In the hustle and bustle of life, it can be hard to make time for the people we consider to be our chosen family or our actual family. Our daily responsibilities such as work, school, volunteering or parenting can cause us to feel like there is not enough time in the day to do everything we may want to do. It can feel like the busier we get, the less time we feel that we have for our loved ones. What we tend to forget is that the people we consider to be our loved ones provide us with the extra boost we need to keep going, and they help to improve our overall health.
With the rise of social media, it’s easy to log in to see how our loved ones are doing. We often feel as though we are still connected to them when we see their post. What we may fail to realize is that there is no substitute for in-person time with our loved ones. When we spend in-person time with our loved ones, we have to opportunity to give and receive love, affection and support. When we spend in-person time with loved ones, we are reminded of what really matters in life, and we have to opportunity to be fully present in the present moment. We are also reminded of how fortunate we are to have people in our lives that love and support us. When we spend time with those that care about us, we also feel less isolated and alone which can decrease symptoms of depression. We also experience the sense of safety, which can lower anxiety. An additional benefit to spending in-person time with loves ones is the opportunity for physical affection and being able to look into the eyes of those we love and who love us. The act of touching and looking into the eyes of our loved ones causes our body to release the hormone oxytocin (aka the love hormone) into our bloodstream and we feel loved, relaxed and our blood pressure decreases.
There are many benefits to spending in-person time with our lived ones and there is no substitute for it. Relationships with our loved ones are like anything we want to keep in our lives, they have to receive our attention, time and be prioritized. Anything that does not receive our attention, fades away. Making time for your loved ones, will give you the opportunity to feel loved, happier, less alone and to be physically healthier.
Photo by Hian Oliveira
People tend to downplay the effects of color on mood. Most people wake up in the morning and throw on whatever clothing that is clean and not wrinkled. What most people may not realize is that the color they choose to wear for the day can impact they’re overall mood throughout the day. Brighter or warm colors (red, orange, yellow) can help people feel more energized or lighten ones’ mood. Darker or cool colors (green, blue, purple) can cause people to experience a mellow and relaxed mood. For example, wearing red has a way of making people feel competent, energized and more able to complete tasks. Wearing blue on the other hand, has a way of making people feel calm or at ease.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to pay more attention to the impact of color on me. When I think about the effects of color, I often think about my bright yellow sweater. Most people are drawn to the color yellow because it tends to make people think of sunshine and to feel joy. Every time I wear my yellow sweater, people smile and comment on how much they like the bright color. Over the years I have learned that it’s helpful to wear brighter colors on cloudy days because the brightness of the color can combat the grayness of the day and improve my mood. It may seem like I prefer warm colors over cool colors. This not the case. During times that I feel anxious, ungrounded, or even angry, it is helpful for me to wear or look at cool colors, like light green or light purple. Cool colors are known to have a calming effect on mood. Looking at up at the blue sky, or looking at the green leaves on a tree for a couple of minutes can be a quick activity to improve mood if you are feeling angry or stressed out.
It’s important to pay attention to colors and the impact they have on you. Choosing a color to be around or wear, can have a positive or not so positive effect on your mood, depending on what your mood is. The next time you feel sad or depressed, try wearing or looking at something with a bright or warm color. The next time you feel anxious or angry, try wearing or looking at something for a couple of minutes with a darker or cool color. Have fun getting to know the impact of colors on your mood.
It can be hard to let things go. We grow attached to people, material items, ideas and situations. We can become so comfortable with these things in our lives, that it can be difficult to imagine life without them. Also, sometimes the thought of no longer having the thing in our life can be more painful than not actually having it.
Sometimes we are forced to let go of the things that we are attached to. For example, we may have a health crisis that requires us to let go of certain foods we enjoy or the belief that our health is better than we thought. Sometimes we lose someone, or we choose to leave someone who does not treat us in a loving and respectful manner. It’s not uncommon for people to cling to things that are no longer good for them. We cling to things we need to let go of for many reasons. One reason is, at one point in time, whatever it is we are having a hard time letting go of, brought us joy and a sense of fulfillment. We can get stuck in a place of not wanting to let go because we often think back on the times that we were happier or remember the joy we felt when the thing we are having a hard time letting go of first entered our life. Another reason we struggle with letting things go is the pain from the loss. Pain often arises when we are fighting to hold on to something that is drifting away from us. I often visualize it as watching water slip through my fingers. No matter how hard I try, I cannot make it stay for good.
Most of us know when it’s time to say goodbye to something we have outgrown but often struggle to let go. Change can happen so subtly that we don’t realize that we are growing until one day we stop and reflect on our lives or someone we know points it out to us.
Letting go of someone or something that we have outgrown or that we no longer need in our lives doesn’t have to be so painful. Taking a step back to look at the situation from a place of gratitude can be extremely helpful. Often, there are many life lessons that we gain from each person or challenging situation that we experience in life. Sometimes we realize that we are stronger than we thought, and sometimes we realize that we need more loving support in our lives so that we can face things that we are not strong enough to face alone. Also, letting go opens the door or clears the space for someone or something else to enter our lives. When we let go, it clears the way for us to meet a new and better partner, home, friend, job or healthy habit.
Letting go takes courage. It’s better for us to choose to let go instead of trying to force something to stay that needs to go. When we make a choice to let something go, we face our fears head on, and as a result grow stronger. Also, when we choose to let go, we choose to acknowledge our power in the situation, become empowered and are less likely to feel like a victim of circumstances.
Taking time to sit and be still can feel like a luxury in our busy, do it yesterday society. To be still means to be quiet, at rest and calm. I strongly believe that being still is highly underrated. Being still can lower our blood pressure and can help with creativity and concentration. Being still gives us time to reflect and recognize the many blessings that fill our lives. When we are constantly running from one task to another task, or social media post to social media post, we miss the opportunity to be still and just be. We miss the opportunity to be without expectation, to be without responsibility, and to feel how blessed we are. When we take time to be, we become a recipient of all that life has to offer because we have opened ourselves up to the infinite possibilities by not looking for or avoiding whatever it is we are searching for. We just are being. Some would go as far to say that when we are still and just being, we have everything that we need in that moment of time and are connected to Source Energy.
We all need time to be still and just be. Being still feeds the soul, re-energizes the body and gives the mind a much-deserved break. Taking care of yourself and being still is one way you can help yourself to be more present, creative and energized to handle all that life requires of you.
You may be wondering how you can just sit and be with some many responsibilities looming over you? Just being does not require a lot of time and effort. Find a quiet space (use the restroom or a closet if needed), sit down in a comfortable position, close your eyes and take some deep breaths. If your mind starts to wonder to your to do list, say to yourself “Okay, I’ll get to it in a few minutes” or “I’ve got time”, and return your attention to taking deep breaths. You can also do this while listening to your favorite calming song, or sitting outside while watching birds fly, or watching the wind blow the leaves on a tree.
I hope you’ll take some time today to sit and just be.
Christina is a Psychotherapist in private practice in Oakland California.