The Power of Hope {including 4 tips to apply it in your life}

Earlier this month, my 7 year-old niece came jumping up to me completely excited and with a voice of pure elation screeched, “Guess what!?! Next week, I’m going to go the dentist and he’s going to pull out two teeth!!” I looked up at her Dad with raised eyebrows and we smiled at each other realizing that it was pretty obvious that she had no idea that going to the dentist to get teeth removed would involve getting a potentially painful shot in her mouth. Not needing to squelch her excitement, I simply continued to listen as she opened her mouth to show me which teeth she was going to get pulled and how the tooth fairy would be coming to her house soon. I figured that she would probably be relaying a different story to me about those two front teeth after they were pulled but as it turned out, I ended up being the one completely shocked and surprised when she called me on her way home from the dentist. Even though it was over the phone, I could feel the utter thrill and excitement in her voice as she told me about her teeth being pulled and how the tooth fairy was finally coming to her house…TONIGHT! I immediately thought that maybe something must have come up that made it so she didn’t have to get a shot. How could she still be so excited having just had two teeth pulled out? However, it turns out that she really did get a shot in her mouth. She was just so looking forward with pure hope to the tooth fairy coming and finally having lost her front two teeth, that the temporary pain she experienced was not what she focused on. She looked beyond that and looked forward. In that moment, my niece reminded me of the importance and the power of hope.

A picture of my niece taken by my sister-in-law after she arrived home from the dentist.

Hope is one of the most powerful feelings which allows us to look forward and get through the difficulties that we will all experience as a part of life. It allows your mind and your body to recognize that this pain is temporary and allows for you to see a different outcome. Being able to visualize and imagine yourself in a future time not experiencing the pain you might be currently experiencing, immediately reduces that pain you are feeling. Hope is powerful. Everyone can recall times in their lives that were truly painful. Not just physically painful like when you stubbed your toe or walked on a LEGO, but emotionally painful times of grief and sorrow. They are truly painful. In fact, researchers have discovered that when people feel emotional pain, the same areas of the brain get activated as when people feel physical pain (the anterior insula and the anterior cingulate cortex). Studies have found that these regions of the brain were activated when people experienced an experimental social rejection from peers and even when people who had recently broken up with romantic partners viewed pictures of the former partner. Whether you are experiencing physical or emotional pain, hope is a powerful feeling which allows us to consider even when it the midst of that pain, a time in the future when we will not be feeling that pain. Hope allows us the joy of tomorrow being a new day, a new chance to start again, a new chance for things to be different than they are now.

There is a another story which helps to illustrate the power of hope. The world here just recently celebrated Easter. The celebration of the story that offers more hope than any other in all the stories of the world where Jesus Christ is crucified on a cross and then is resurrected on the third day. Is there any more hope in the world than that to know that because of Him, that we can be resurrected again one day? That there is more to life than just this one? When we reflect on the story of Easter, there is a tendency to focus on the pain that Jesus Christ experienced on the cross and then we often jump to the morning of the resurrection when the hope of the world was confirmed. However, there is not much focused on what happened during that Saturday in between His death on the second day. We know that Mary Magdalene brought oils to anoint his body on that Easter Morning because they were in such a rush to prepare his body and place it in the tomb before the Sabbath day. Other than that, there really isn’t much we know of that happened other than that the apostles and His mother and other women like Mary stayed. Granted, no one knew or understood what to look for– what resurrection even meant. What they knew was that the Savior was killed and that they put his body in a tomb and rolled a large rock in front of it. There were in no doubt a serious state of mourning and grief. But they prepared oils and they stayed. Their hope was manifest that second day–in the middle of the story– and confirmed on the third day when they saw that He was resurrected. Hope begins during the difficulty. For most of us, life is what happens “in the middle” and where we need the power of hope.

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Hope is what rises up from the ashes when we feel burned. Hope is what motivates us to look forward when we are surrounded in darkness and confusion. Hope is what helps us to visualize our lives in a different time with a different outcome and allows us to develop a plan to move forward to that. Hope allows us to picture a time different from the one we are experiencing. Hope is the catalyst for change. Hope is what allows us to survive difficult times and moments in the “middle”. Hope allows for a new ending.

So, how can you apply the power of hope in your life? There are a few proven strategies that can help including visual reminders, vision boards, visualization exercises and utilizing positive reinforcement.

Visualize it.

Whether it is spring blossoms on the trees or the sunlight that breaks through the darkness at sunrise, find something which can visually remind you that hope does exist. Winter and darkness are temporary and hope is what allows us to remember the sun and the good things in life that are coming.

Vision Boards

Vision boards of what you envision are a powerful tool that help you apply the power of hope in your life. What do you hope for? What holds meaning for you? What do you hope to achieve? What qualities do you hope to gain? Who do you want to become? What are you doing currently to bring that to fruition? Even just asking those questions to yourself can show you how powerful hope can be. The more intentional you are about your hopes and dreams, the more that you can use the power of hope in your life.


Psychologists have recognized the benefits of using visual imagery for decades as a way to help people improve and enhance their performance, change and create new views and feelings, and achieve life goals. In fact, many professional teams now have guided imagery sessions before games and matches. Studies have shown that people who want to learn to shoot basketball hoops can show considerable improvement just by visualizing shooting baskets in their heads. Simply visualizing playing the piano can actually improve someone’s ability to play a piece. Being able to visualize something in your head, greatly increase your chances of being able to do it in real life. Picture what it will look like. The most you can picture and describe it, the more you brain will start to develop neural connections. Think of the 5 senses: What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you taste? What do you feel? The more you can visualize it, the more motivated you will be to take an action toward your goal. Your brain’s natural ability to problem solve is also jump started allowing you to develop a plan for how to obtain what you want.

Not only can visualization help to start you on your path towards your goals, it also helps during the difficult times in reaching your goals. For example, during the grueling practice, you can train your mind to visualize and to focus on the feeling of crossing the finish line. Visualize the music that you hear are you feel yourself breaking the tape, the cheers you might hear and inner feeling of accomplishment and smile across your face, knowing that you finished strong.

Positive Reinforcement

Another proven strategy which can help you apply the power of hope in your life is positive reinforcement. Also known in the parenting world as bribery. While you might think that using a technique that is attributed to the mob might not be a good thing, tying into the power of hope can be a very powerful thing. Just as my niece was looking forward to the reward of the tooth fairy, reward systems tie into the power of hope and can motivate adults and kids alike to get through the “middle” and hard things. It is important to emphasize and reward effort rather than just whether they meet their objective. If they are putting forth full effort into something they are inevitably strengthening their character. Teenagers visualizing what it will feel like to drive their own car has allowed them to get through the at times grueling tasks of flipping burgers, washing windows or cleaning toilets. The key is to make sure you are reinforcing something that you want them to develop for themselves. Earning something based on effort and rewarding them for pushing through hard times. Having something to look forward to is the epitome of hope.

So, apply the power of hope in your life. Hope is one of the most powerful feelings which allows us to look forward, become better and even get through the difficulties that we will all experience as a part of life. Hope can and does make all the difference in the world.

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Top Tip to Making Your New Years Resolution (or any goal) Stick

The truth is that we are all under construction. We all have areas of growth and we are lucky that each day we can improve ourselves. No one loves or believes in change and goals more than a therapist. But there is one tip that can make a huge difference in helping us to improve and reach those goals or keep those New Years Resolutions.

That top tip is this: Replacement. When you are looking to improve your life by letting go of something that isn’t the best for you, instead of just focusing on getting rid of that thing, you need to replace it with something better.

We are just learning more and more about the capacities of our brains. They are absolutely remarkable and complex. There are some things that researchers have found about our brains that can apply directly to our ability to improve ourselves and how we can make more progress in reaching our goals. For one, there is a term called neuroplasticity which basically is how the brain forms and recreates connections–or how the brain rewires. What they have determined is that anything we give attention to or anything we emphasize in our experiences and interactions creates new linking connections in the brain. So, where attention goes neurons fire. You can and do create new linking connections all the time. No matter what habit you are trying to break or new habit you are trying to develop– neuroplasticity means you have hope to be able to make any necessary brain rewiring needed.

One other aspect of the brain that researchers have found which gives a lot of hope regarding breaking and creating habits is about neural pathways. I’m simplifying greatly here for the sake of explanation but knowing how our brains work is crucial in knowing how we can improve or fix our thinking. Your brain is full of neural pathways which is basically the paths your thoughts travel and your brain is trained to take the shortest and easiest, most worn path if it doesn’t get different directions from you. Kinda makes sense now when you hear the phrase ‘we are creatures of habit’ now, huh? The hope lies in that we can direct our brains and we can create new paths or detours if you will to avoid our previous paths or ways of thinking. With the replacement option, when we have a tendency to go down a path that we are trying to change, you can direct your brain to hop onto and travel the replacement option instead of fighting within your mind to not go down the path you are now trying to avoid. (Our brains really don’t like to be told no–they much rather prefer –go this way instead. Knowing about neural pathways allows you to understand why it can be difficult to change behavior when the pathway is been so thoroughly ground in. It takes time to build new neural pathways and so don’t be discouraged when you recognize a tendency to return to old habits. Remember that you are building something better and focus on ways you can reinforce those thoughts that will allow you to progress in the goals you have for yourself.

For example, if you are looking to improve your health by limiting a particular food that you find isn’t healthy for you, you will be much more successful if you replace that food with something better for you rather than by only just cutting that out of your diet.

If you are looking at overcoming a pornography addiction, you will be more successful in this journey by replacing. Replace the time you spend alone pursuing a path that doesn’t lead to connection and add a meaningful connection like volunteering at an animal shelter or at a food kitchen or finding someone to serve. Replace the darkness with light. Tell your mind what to do instead of simply telling it to stop.

So when you are considering your improvement goals or your New Years Resolutions, don’t just look for what you should stop doing, but look for positive ways and things that you can replace what you want to stop doing by what you should start doing. We are all under construction, but knowing how our mind is constructed and using the replacement (detour) technique will surprise you how much more success you will find in progressing, reaching and accomplishing your goals this year.

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Why Goals Are So Powerful And How A Cow Could Be The Secret to Reaching Your Goals

There is a famous saying that you never step in the same river twice. Meaning that the river is always changing due to the currents moving in one direction or another. Life is really no different– it is full of change and we are either moving against the current or even without us realizing it, the current is moving us. Goals are the number one way to give direction and control in life. They can serve as an anchor in unchartered waters and the rivers of life and allow us to grow and improve despite our circumstances—even a global pandemic. Goals are powerful.

In fact, goals can allow you a path forward and more control in your life. They help you recognize what brings you joy and how to make your dreams and ambitions come true.

Goals can even help you push through difficult situations especially where feelings are intense. Instead of relying on “I’ll see how I feel”, you can predetermine your focus and thoughts and choose to move forward despite not feeling like it. Regardless if you are processing difficult feelings from a breakup of a relationship or early pregnancy loss or even an extended deployment –whatever you may be processing– having goals allows you a path forward rather than spiraling downwards in despair or discouragement.

Our thoughts can be more powerful than even the most intense feelings and if you have preset goals, your thoughts about your goals can motivate you even through dark times. Goals give you a chance to muster your energy (which can be depleted at times) to a central purpose and allow you to rise above your current situation.

Goals allow for you to recognize growth and progress and are more powerful than you realize.

Here are five tips to help you find more success in making and achieving your goals including a final tip about a cow that could be the secret to you reaching your goals.

The Importance of a Progressive Mindset

One of the most important things to keep in mind when you are setting your goals is to have a progressive mindset. The pass/fail mentality often limits goal setting for fear that you will feel like a failure if you don’t reach your goal. It is important to remember that it is not about achieving or not achieving your goal but that all goals are meant to lift us higher and that no matter how high your goal, if you shoot for the moon, you will still leave the ground and any height off the ground is progress. Having a progressive mindset allows you to recognize and feel all the joy from all the progress you are making rather than limiting yourself to joy only in the outcome or only frustration when goals aren’t completely accomplished.

The Importance of Knowing Your Why

Knowing your why is essential in both combating discouragement and providing the mental encouragement in helping you reach your goals. It helps you overcome challenges and is the source of motivation. It also allows you to ignore how your actions may appear to others when others may not understand. Knowing your why also helps get you through the day to day monotony. For instance, if you have a goal to be a good parent and provider for your children, knowing your why helps when you get up early and drive to work while it’s still dark outside. Whatever your why, knowing your why allows you to intentionally make decisions that will help you reach your goal regardless of the opposition you face or the the challenges you might have. This is a short two minute commercial actually but it does a great job of illustrating the power and importance of goals and knowing your why. Try and not cry at the end.

The Importance of Knowing the When to Win

To be successful at implementing a new goal in your life, knowing ‘the when’ can be a crucial step. You need to know when you are going to accomplish this in your life. Where does it fit in your life? When are you going to do it? In addition to knowing when you are going to add the goal in your life, it is also important to set a time when you can evaluate whether or not what you are doing is helping you reach your goal and if it isn’t, you can make subtle changes to make sure you are on the right track. It is important to keep in mind that it is normal for how you reach your goals to change. For instance, if your goal was to take and active role in your physical health by going to the gym for 30 minutes everyday before work and then gyms are closed due to COVID, you would obviously need to reassess and change how you would work towards that goal. You may need to change the way you are working towards that goal by doing a workout at home everyday instead or adding a morning walk to your routine. COVID or another challenge you might face doesn’t need to cancel your goal or mean that you need to give up on your goal, it just means that the way you reach your goal may need to change. Knowing the when of your goals definitely helps you to win.

Two Key questions to Ask to Create Goals

While creating goals for yourself can sometimes be an overwhelming and daunting challenge, there are two key questions that can help you determine where to start. One: What is something that you need to start doing to be that person? And Two: What is something that you need to stop doing? Pondering the answers to those two simple questions can allow you to determine the direction you want to head and regardless of the currents of the river of life, setting goals to reach them will help lead you to becoming that person you want to be.

The Cow Does Not Give Milk

The secret to success can be found in a simple truth taught by a farmer: the cow does not give milk. Yes, the cow produces the milk but in order to get the milk, it involves the monotonous process of getting up at the crack of dawn and walking through a bunch of cow manure to get a bucket, sitting on a bench and physically removing the milk from the cow. You milk the cow or you don’t get milk. The things one receives are the results of the efforts one does. There is no short cut to hard work. Don’t be afraid of work as it is the key to any goal. Just wanting something or asking for something doesn’t mean it comes true. The cow does not give milk, it gets milked.

So, make this year your year of progress. Physically sit down and write out your goals and what you are going to do to achieve them. Regardless of what this year will bring, you will find greater happiness, greater peace and joy in your progress to becoming a better version of yourself.

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How to Love Someone When You Disagree

Anyone who has ever loved someone and disagreed with them knows how painful that disconnection can be. However, there are five key concepts to understand about conflict that once understood and applied will make the biggest impact in your relationship with the one you love when you disagree.

One: Disagreements are Normal

First off, it is important to note that disagreements are normal. According to renowned researcher, therapist and author, John Gottman, PhD, nearly 2/3 of relationship problems are unsolvable. All relationships are going to experience disagreements as we all come from different backgrounds, have had different experiences and belief systems. In fact, a majority of the disagreements (69%) are not solved. What the research has found is that it is not the presence of the conflict itself but the manner in which the couple responds to that conflict that makes the biggest difference. Your job is not to solve the conflict but to understand where your spouse is coming from. How you respond matters more than solving the conflict.

Two: There is a Science Behind how our Bodies and Minds Respond to Conflict

While disagreements are normal and not always solvable, it is important to understand what goes on for us when we are experiencing conflict and why it is so painful so that we can do a better job at responding and repairing the rifts between us. Science and research on relationships tells us a lot about how our bodies and minds respond to conflict and how we can navigate reconnecting with those that we love.

So, what do we know?

Our brains are actually wired to see emotional isolation as dangerous. Our brains will send a panic signal when we cannot get a loved one to respond. If we can’t reconnect, we do one of two responses. We either fight or flight–we get demanding or we shut down. We get mad and move in fast to break down the other’s walls or we try not to care so much and build a wall to protect ourselves. How we respond is something that we learned when we were really young. And though we will have a tendency to respond by getting louder or shutting down, there is another way that we can learn to respond that can help us to achieve the reconnection to our partner we are seeking.

Three: The Best of Everyone Comes When They Feel and Know That They are Loved

I never thought that I would be a referencing a song sung by a troll in a Disney movie as an example of this, but these lyrics actually have a lot of truth in them:

“We’re not sayin’ you can change him, ‘Cause people don’t really change. We’re only saying that love’s a force that’s powerful and strange. People made bad choices If they’re mad, or scared or stressed. Throw a little love their way. And you’ll bring our their best. True love brings out their best! (From “Fixer Upper in Disney’s Frozen)

It is imperative to find simple ways to show them that they are loved. It can be a gesture of holding their hand or telling them something specific that you appreciate about them. Although it can be difficult to be vulnerable at times, be intentional and reach out and show them that they matter to you. What makes your partner feel loved? Do you know how your partner can show you that you matter to them? The truth is, we are more willing to compromise when we feel heard, loved and validated.

Four: “Try and Be A Fly”

When our emotions run high, our cognition or our ability to think straight doesn’t. It is important to note that when we are flooded with emotions, we really can’t process or even hear what another person is saying. There is a strategy developed by Dr. Susan M. Johnson, PhD, that at these moments is a lifesaver in helping understand what is going on. She suggests that the next time your partner gets upset with you, shuts down, or pulls away emotionally, to try and be a fly– to try and see the conflict as if you were a fly on the ceiling. Often underneath the discussion of problem issues someone is asking for more emotional connection. In fact, most conflicts are not actually about the issue itself but about what is underneath. Most often it has to do with connection. “Do I matter to you? Are you there for me? Can I count on you first to respond to me- to put me first? It is important to see the conflict from a distance and stay curious about what your partner is trying to convey. See if you can get curious and pinpoint distance or a typical pattern. Maybe its the dance where one pushes for contact, but the other hears criticism and steps back. Ask yourself questions such as: What is this argument really about? What is the message that my partner is trying to send? How can I show them that they matter to me?

Five: The Key to Reconnection is Having a Compassionate Perspective

Arguments and disagreements bring out the worst in ourselves and in our partners. However, if you can consider that their unexplained outbursts or poor reactions from a compassionate perspective, it allows us to view our partner in a light that can lead to reconnection rather than disengagement. So rather than do the typical dance patterns and react with fight or flight mode, there is a third option that you can choose which can help you to reconnect with your loved one–to stay and reach out.

When our partner is lashing out or creating distance between us, it is extremely hard to remain compassionate and loving. However, Dr. Jeremy Boden, PhD, LMFT, CFLE, suggests that when your partner reacts poorly during a disagreement that you consider that these reactions are your partner’s “best adaptive strategy that they’ve learned to manage the difficult emotions that have come up for them because they perceive a disconnection between us. It’s not the most effective strategy, but it’s their best attempt to regain connection.” By viewing their behavior as your partner’s best attempt (although failed) at managing emotions they are feeling from being disconnected with you, it allows you to stay compassionately curious and explore what is really going on for them and gives you a way to reconnect and repair the rift in the relationship. It allows you to stay and reach out for your partner and demonstrate the love that they perhaps are not seeing or feeling.

Research is clear that relationships can thrive even with major differences, backgrounds and conflict. The one thing that love can’t survive is constant emotional disconnection. So, look for ways to validate your partner and show them that they matter to you. Remember that in conflict, your job is not to solve the conflict but to understand where your partner is coming from. Be the compassionate fly! How you react can dramatically shift and immediately improve your connection with the one you love.

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Lesson Learned from Ants: A Powerful Strategy to Manage Feelings in an Instant

Fun fact! Did you know that ants don’t have ears? It’s true! Having had four kids doing online school this past year has really given me the opportunity to learn and relearn a whole variety of fun facts, but relearning about ants reminded me of a beneficial and powerful strategy that can benefit and assist anyone to be able to deal with and manage our feelings in an instant.

My daughter was looking for some help on a school assignment and came to me asking where the “feelers” are in an ant and what they are supposed to do. Her question caught me off guard a little bit but I was able to realize that the “feelers” she was referring to was the ants antenna.

I described the long, curved looking legs on their head and explained that they are very crucial for an ant as ants use their antennae to smell, feel and touch what is ahead of or behind them as they crawl and even use antennas to talk with their friends. So, even though ants have mouths, they don’t use them to talk–{they actually communicate using their antennae to smell pheromones.}

Doing a little more ant research, I also discovered that ants don’t have ears but use their antennas to feel out sounds and vibrations. Kinda ironic that the one insect that is known for being a good listener and following directions, doesn’t even have ears. They actually rely on their antennas to navigate their worlds.

Just as it is vital for the ant to use its antenna or ‘feelers’ in order to navigate in their world, we really need to learn how to use our feelings to navigate in ours. Just like ‘feelers’ serve as a way to get information about what is ahead of or behind the ant, our feelings can likewise serve to help us understand our world as we see it. Our feelings help us to see what is ahead (danger, surprise and what is behind us–reminding us of past hurt or embarrassments). Our feelings are sending us messages, reminders and warnings. When we can recognize what we are feeling, {label it with a name and identify it}, we can then decide what we are going to do about it.

The key is recognizing the messages our feelings are sending us and realize that not every feeling is accurate and that our feelings can change. In fact, we can change our feelings with our thoughts. But how, you ask? The Cost-Benefit Analysis Strategy Technique.

There is a technique known as Cost-Benefit Analysis that is very effective at being able to help us analyze our feelings and change them if needed very quickly. All of you who are math minded or accountants are probably really intrigued right now but even if math isn’t your strongest subject, this strategy is something simple that everyone can use and benefit from.

With the Cost Benefit analysis you would simply list the advantage and disadvantages of a feeling. You can do this in your head or even on a piece of paper.

For instance, an event happens. Let’s say your plane is late and your first feeling you recognize is anger. You would simply mentally list what would be the advantage or disadvantage of getting angry that your plane is late. You can determine within your mind that getting angry isn’t going to change the fact the plane is late and then choose a different feeling and thought. Ex: This is frustrating, but staying angry isn’t going to change the fact the plane is late so I am going to choose to remain calm and look for alternative options and choose to feel hopeful.

You can recognize that your feelings are simply messages, reminders and warnings and that not all feelings are accurate. For example, one of my personal favorites: “I don’t feel like doing it, so you put it off.” If you waited until you felt like doing a task you don’t like, you would never get it done. Instead, you make choices to brush your teeth, make dinner and visit the dentist and it has little to do with your feelings. Using the Cost Benefit Analysis you can mentally weigh the advantages and disadvantages of putting something off because you don’t feel like it. You can decide that it isn’t worth the dealing with all the disadvantages and make a conscious choice to move forward even if you don’t feel like it.

You can even use the Cost/Benefit Analysis strategy with a negative thought you are having. For example: the thought that no matter how hard I try, I always give up. What are the advantages or disadvantages of listening to this negative thought? You can choose to say, this thought isn’t helpful. You can determine that it is not worth it to listen to a thought that is not helpful and then choose to remember the time that you make a difference when you didn’t give up or the difference someone in your life made on you when they didn’t give up on you.

The Cost Benefit analysis also works on changing patterns of behavior: (Lying around and eating when you are feeling sad). What are the advantages or disadvantages? When you recognize a pattern of behavior is not helpful, you can choose to implement a different pattern. Choose to sit outside for a moment or find someone to serve or look to other ways that have been helpful in dealing with sadness for you. You can change your feelings simply by asking yourself if they are helpful to you and then making a choice to change them.

All of our feelings have a purpose but unlike the ants, we can choose what we do with those feelings and we can change our feelings, our thoughts, and even our patterns of behavior. Pretty powerful, huh? Try it out and see how the Cost Benefit Strategy can improve your world in an instant!

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Flip the Switch: A powerful tool that can change your perspective and your life immediately

Flipping the Switch is a simple, yet powerful tool that can help your mind cultivate gratitude and can change your perspective immediately.

The tool is simple. When you feel frustrated or overwhelmed with a particular situation you would simply ‘flip the switch’ and imagine that the opposite holds true. What does that do? Flipping the switch has an immediate affect. It helps to cultivate gratitude for your situation. You are able to recognize blessings that you may have been overlooking and it allows you a path forward. It also allows more joy into your life and grants you energy and motivation to improve and change your circumstance.

For example, if you are frustrated with the size of your house you would ‘flip it’ to being homeless. This doesn’t mean that you can’t improve your housing situation if needed but it does allow you to be grateful for what you have when you consider what life would be like if you had nothing at all. And when you are feeling gratitude, you take better care of your belongings and you have a greater appreciation for what you do have. You see things more clearly and are more able to find ways to improve your situation rather than dwelling on what you don’t have.

If you are feeling frustrated about the limited options of schooling for your kids or your grandkids, you would imagine what life would be like for them having no school and having no opportunities to learn at all. While it doesn’t take away the difficulties you are facing, it does allow for gratitude to work in your life and to recognize opportunities you do have but might be overlooking due to the frustration. You become more aware of what opportunities they do have and ways to maximize them. You feel and express gratitude for those teachers or technology that they do have. You become part of the solution–looking for ways to improve their education rather than feeling hopeless and powerless to help.

If you are feeling frustrated with an aspect of your job, you would flip the switch and imagine what it would be like not to have a job at all—where you were prevented from having a job–no money, no opportunity to grow or learn, no sense of accomplishment in making a difference in the life of someone else. Flipping the switch allows you to recognize what you would actually miss the most and then feel gratitude for those aspects despite those aspects that can be frustrating. It can even lead you to a new path that you might not have been considering. It allows you to recognize what you enjoy most about working and by concentrating on that you are able to move forward instead of stay stagnate in a negative circle of frustration. Positive employees tend to have higher job performance and gratitude for your opportunity to work allows you to be more positive about your employment.

If you were overwhelmed with your your kid(s), you would flip it to not ever having them in your life AT ALL. While everyone can and should benefit from breaks as a parent–flipping the switch means you would imagine them COMPLETELY never a part of your life. And not just for that moment after you stepped on a LEGO for the hundredth time–imagine what your life would be like never having ANY of the moments with them. Who would you be without them? What qualities and characteristics have they helped you develop because they were there? Flipping the switch allows you to not only remember but also reexperience positive feelings– that feeling when they looked to you for help and your arms were sufficient to provide all the help and healing they needed. The feeling that you had introducing them to something new and watching the thrill of excitement. The feeling when you enter a room and as they recognized you and brightened simply because you were there. You would flip to a memory of them that makes you smile like as a little girl in pig-tails with with a big, black smile from oreos covering all their face or when they were dressed up like Darth Vader and making all the sounds of a light saber battle. Flipping the switch allows you to find reasons to be grateful especially during those moments when it is hard to find a reason. Even if that reason is they are helping you to become a more patient person. You recognize that having them in your life is helping you to become a better person than you would be without them. It can inspire you to grow together to improve.

So the next time you are feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, try “Flipping the Switch” and look for the blessings that are there but might have been overlooked. Flipping the switch allows gratitude to immediately work in your life. It is just like a flipping the switch on a light in a dark room that allows for the ability to see things that we would have missed if we continued to stumble in darkness. And gratitude turns what we have into enough.

If this has been helpful for you, please take a moment to like and share. Thank you!

A Lesson From Disney’s Frozen 2 That Can Make the Biggest Difference in Your Relationship

There is a scene in Disney’s Frozen 2 that is one of the best examples of a tool that is absolutely vital in relationships especially with this added stress of the COVID-19 virus pandemic. In this scene, Princess Anna is overwhelmed with grief and completely heartbroken at the loss of her sister, Queen Elsa, and she returns to try and save the city of Arendelle when she runs into Kristoff. Now, for the sake of those who haven’t had the opportunity (or requirement) of watching Frozen 2 like a million times, I will refresh your memory a bit. Princess Anna actually essentially had abandoned Kristoff and left without telling him, leaving him to sing his 80s ballad, “Lost in the Woods.” When they are reunited, they are in the middle of a crisis and Kristoff comes to Princess Anna’s rescue. Kristoff was justified to feel hurt, angry and abandoned but instead of giving into those feelings, his next line is very telling. He simply says, “I’m here, what do you need?”

This is a powerful tool to be able to hold your valid feelings and be willing and able to listen to the hurt of someone who in fact has hurt you. This is unfortunately what happens in our relationships- we inevitably end up hurting ones we love at times intentionally or unintentionally. Relationships require that each partner be like Kristoff and be there for their partner– listening to their needs even while they are validly feeling hurt. Looking out for your partner’s needs while holding onto your own is a tool that is essential to learn and the biggest game changer in securing the vital attachment needed in relationships.

We are all vulnerable when we are alone. Our brain actually codes this kind of hurt in the same place and in the same way as physical pain. You are happier, healthier, stronger, deal with stress better and live longer when you foster your bonds with your loved ones. It is okay to need them, they are your greatest resource.

It is important to know that in order to use the Kristoff response of: “I’m here, what do you need?”, you don’t need to know how to meet that need. You just need be to able to empathize and understand that it is a need for them. You don’t have to have all the answers. Your partner just needs to know that they are not alone and that you are in this together. Studies have found that what makes the biggest difference in the happiness of couples is not that their spouse never did anything that hurt the other but that they were quick at acknowledging hurt or pain, quick to apologize and seeking to forgive.

Partners who are able to openly reach for and connect with each other are able to create a secure connection. A secure connection requires that our partners consistently feel we are accessible, responsive and engaged. They need to feel like we care and that they matter and that they are seen, safe and cared for. Dr. Jeremy Boden, a professor and licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, recently put it this way: “When our partner [and children] know they matter to us and we are aware of them, they feel seen. When they feel safe to come to us with a question, some feedback and they are accepted, they feel safe. And when they know that they can come to us when they are sad, lonely or scared and they will be soothed, we are building a secure bond…” When we don’t feel a safe emotional connection with our partner we only have two ways to deal with the vulnerability of love when we can’t connect: We get mad and move in fast to break down each other’s walls or we try not to care so much and build a wall to protect ourselves. We get caught in a negative dance that leads to more emotional starvation, stalemate and more disconnection. Underneath the discord, the real issue is that partners are questioning the security of their bond: “Are you there for me? Can I count on you to respond to me–to put me first?” Kristoff’s tool makes the vital difference in being able to meet your partner’s needs and allow for you to reconnect. This does not mean that you dismiss your own needs but it means you are able to stop the emotional disconnection and work on establishing your reconnection. In fact, once you are able to establish your reconnection and bond by addressing their needs, you will find that addressing your needs often follows.

One of the true benefits of being in a relationship is that you know that if can be you and your partner against the world but many times it can be you against your partner. Kristoff’s response, “I’m here. What do you need?” shifts and changes the dynamic so that you are on the same team as your partner as it enables you to secure the bond of your relationship. It is clear that when we know that someone has our back, we are more confident and more adventurous. We achieve our goals more easily and are less derailed by disappointments. We handle stress better and we live longer. Connection with our partner is the key and by using the Kristoff response of, “I’m here. What do you need?”, you can become the hero in your own relationship and in the lives of many others.

Journaling: A Simple Task with Profound Benefits {9 Reasons You Need To Write, Right Now}

There is power in simple, small things. For instance, all of us have felt that power at one point in our lives from just a simple hug that made a tremendous difference. During this particular time of social distancing, hugging isn’t an option for many of us. However, there is a simple and small thing that can make a huge difference in our lives in the midst of uncertainty when it is apparent now more than ever how much of life is outside of our control. There is power in simplicity that we just often overlook. This simple task doesn’t have a particular method you have to follow. There is no recipe. There is no determined outcome you need to achieve or a set number of required reps or word count. And it isn’t graded. This is something that anyone (including any child who can write) can do and reap the numerous benefits. The task is simply journaling.

I realize that I just probably shocked many of you with that response. What could possibly benefit me from journaling? However, there are several proven benefits from journaling and small things can and do bring about great and profound results. Here are just a few:

Journaling Allows Your Mind to Process

Journaling allows your mind to process in a way that no other method can. Journaling allows you to center your feelings and allows you to realize what it really on your mind. It allows you to problem solve and declutter things that are weighing on your mind but you didn’t exactly realize how or what. It is a way to gain the clarity that we all crave and need. It more importantly allows you a way to get out of the constant feedback loop of your thoughts as your thoughts escape on paper and allow you instead to be able to move forward.

Journaling Allows You to Focus on You and Become Your Best Self

Journaling allows you to unplug and without the pressure of meeting anyone’s expectations. Instead of attempting to write a post that is going to generate the most likes, you are instead able to spend a little time pondering and reviewing your life and the direction it is heading. You don’t need to worry about punctuation or spelling or the reactions of others. You can take a step back from the pressures of work, school and even your social life and decompress taking time to get to know who you are. Knowing who you are, what you stand for, what you dream or envision for your life and family allows you to be present in relationships and develop honest and healthy connections and become your best self.

Journaling Allows for Growth and Change

Journaling allows you to recognize opportunities for growth and change and to recognize what is working well in you life and what you want to continue doing. You will find that the more sentences that start with “I” will allow you be be the change that you are seeking in life. It only takes one variable in an equation to change the outcome and there is real power in pondering and deciphering for yourself what the outcome is that you are seeking and even more importantly what you can personally do to become that agent of change. For instance, if I really at my core decided that I want a family that is more loving, I can look for way to share kindness myself and recognize and support the kindness I see in others. Journaling is the best way to being able to determine what you really value at your core and gives you an opportunity to give a voice to the dreams that you have inside you and create goals that are meaningful and valuable.

Journaling Increases Your Emotional Intelligence

Journaling helps you give a name to a feeling and makes you more emotionally intelligent. When a feeling has a name, it is much easier to know how to manage that feeling and helps you to navigate difficult issues that often are overpowered with unnamed feelings. Your emotional intelligence is key in being able to create and recreate connections. It allows you to decompress and assist your brain to be able to regulate and manage your emotions in a way that nothing else can.

Journaling Can Improve Your Emotional and Physical Health

Researchers have found that journaling for as little as four minutes a day resulted in measurable difference in a person’s mood and and sense of well being. Additional research by University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher, James Pennebaker, found that regular journaling strengthens immune cells (T-lymphocytes) and resulted in a decrease in health problems and an increase in immune system functioning. Researchers have also found that students who wrote about meaningful personal experiences for 15 minutes a day over the course of several days in a row felt better and got higher grades in school.

Journaling Allows for Hindsight and Perspective

Reviewing journal entries is a great way to remind yourself how much feelings can change–even very powerful feelings. When you reread what you write, you actually feel the feelings that you felt when you wrote it and can quickly notice how much feelings can fluctuate and change and how temporary they are. Rereading the entries allows you insight that coupled with hindsight is beyond powerful. You aren’t just thinking back on events in your life, but you are experiencing the feelings you felt then with your feelings now and are able to recognize steps that lead to your personal success and steps that do not. Reviewing journal entries is also a unique way to see and recognize patterns–healthy or unhealthy–and help you to make decisions that can lead you to reach the life you have determined for yourself. Journaling gives you an inside perspective and ability to reflect that simply relying on your memory does not.

Journaling Allows You to See God In Your Life Regardless of the Challenges

It is hard in this life to feel like your life is being guided and directed especially amongst such uncertainty. There is a poem that is pretty famous but that is always been one of my favorites. It is titled, “The Footprints”. It recounts how it was only after a man looked back on his life that he realizes how he was carried and that he was guided and directed even and especially during his darkest times. Journaling allows you to see His footprints in your life.

Journaling Allows Us to Deal With Things That Are Outside of Our Control

We all love to feel in control. The examples are endless–from the weatherman who is supposed to predict the future and our outfit for the day—to even the school lunch calendar which can make or break your kid’s heart. Routine makes us feel good, like we control the outcome. Journaling is a great way to realize it’s okay not to have all the answers. It helps you focus on what you do know and the resiliency and strength we don’t always recognize in ourselves becomes apparent as we have daily examples of reactions to events that are outside our control.

Journaling Makes You Happier

Best selling Author and Top podcaster, Gretchen Rubin, devotes her life to seeking for ways and habits to be happier. She actually advocates for something she calls the ‘one sentence journal’ and even has a top selling one sentence journal and she has been journaling for 10 years. She has found that journaling doesn’t have to be a long task, but that it can and does make you happier. You don’t have to worry about the length of your journal entries or the content, but being consistent in writing can and will make you have a happier outlook on life.

There is power in simple and small things. Journaling is one proven way that you can reap a myriad of benefits that are proven to improve your mental health, and your relationships. So, make a moment to spend time journaling- start with just a sentence or thoughts on a topic of your choice or take an inventory of your relationships and life goals and where you are headed. When life seems out of control and you need to clear your head, don’t neglect the small and powerful gift that is the small act of journaling. I can promise you will be amazed at the results.

Finding Purpose and Comfort in the Uncomfortable

Something that we all strive for is comfort. Your favorite sweatshirt or cozy socks. Your favorite spot on the couch. Even comfort foods that vary from macaroni and cheese to your Grandma’s Chocolate Chip Cookies. We all seek and enjoy comfort. However, this quest for comfort can come at a cost when we also avoid the uncomfortable parts of life. It is important to know that there is a purpose in being uncomfortable. It in is the uncomfortable that growth happens. One of the greatest lessons we can learn for ourselves and that we can teach our kids is to find comfort or purpose in the uncomfortable.

It is difficult for us as parents to watch our kids struggle or experience pain. Just like observing a butterfly emerging from a caccoon is difficult, our initial reaction to watching our kids or loved ones struggle is to alleviate their condition. However, it is important to realize that there is a purpose to their moments of struggle. When these moments occur, there is a phrase that I tell myself which helps me deal with the uncomfortable and at times painful moments when our kids are struggling and learning. The phrase is: “This is their break out moment, what’s my role?”

That role can and does vary. Maybe it is helping them brainstorm solutions, maybe it is offering to work with them to clean up the mess they made, maybe my role is to simply listen. It is important to remember that these trials and trying times are also times of learning and growth and that they have a purpose.

I have a friend who noticed that her son had a tendency to be shy and it was difficult for him to talk to people. She decided she would assist him with this by taking him to a fast food restaurant and then forget on purpose to ask for water cups. She would then have her son go and ask for them. This was a task that her son told me filled his whole body with fear but little by little with each dinner outing with his mom, he was able to recognize what he was capable of. Bob Marley was once quoted as saying: “You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice”. It isn’t the task that changes, but our ability to deal with being uncomfortable increases and we recognize our inner strength. Her son’s ability to learn and grow during this uncomfortable period helped him to be able to cope and develop a skill set so impressive he actually recently was awarded a drama scholarship.

My friend’s brother who is a professional theater director and choreographer recently came from New York to visit and sat in on my friend’s ballet class that she teaches. While ballet is a very formal and precise dance form, it didn’t shock my friend that her brother had her class ballet dancing like zombies. It was very much out of their comfort zone so he even had them turn out the lights to do the exercise where no one could watch them. His purpose was to have them try something new and outside of the box–to test themselves and to be uncomfortable. It is being able to find a purpose in the uncomfortable that we are able to learn and grow—consistently reaching, exploring and growing.

So, give yourself {and your kids, and your spouse, and others} permission to grow. Growth means you are not perfect. We all have areas of growth so give yourself permission to learn. Know that learning means not getting it perfect the first time and sometimes completely failing and that is okay. Give yourself permission to try new things and also permission that you don’t need to happy with the results but that you can always evaluate and continue to modify, learn and grow.

Give yourself permission to fail, to not get things right the first time. There is a difference in failing on purpose than trying something new and not liking the results. The entire airline industry would not even exist if it wasn’t for the Wright Brother’s ability to view their failure as opportunities to learn. We can and should do the same for ourselves and others. There is extreme pressure to be perfect–to be the perfect child or to be the perfect parent or present the perfect instagram picture or perfect post on facebook. It is important to give yourself permission to grow–that those moments when we fail or make mistakes as a child or a parent or a spouse or a friend are unintentional moments. They are teachable moments where we can learn, grow and become better and stronger. Remember that there is a purpose in failure and an opportunity for growth and learning.

We are all here on Earth to learn and grow. It is important to see yourself through God’s eyes. He sent His son not to condemn us but to give us hope that we could change, that there is a purpose to struggles and adversity and a way to improve and become better. God, who knows all things including everyone of our strengths and weaknesses loves us. Knowing that as a human, with weaknesses and faults we are loved by Him who knows more than anyone in the universe is evidence that we matter. We are loved in our imperfections and we don’t need to be perfect. We don’t need to need to compare our strengths or our weaknesses to others. We are loved for who we are. He provided a way to fix mistakes, grow and improve. Look at yourself and others through His lens and you will find that we are capable of more than we ever realized.

Knowing that it in is the uncomfortable that growth happens, allows us to deal and handle these breakout moments. Take comfort in knowing that these breakout moments have a purpose and allow us be become better and stronger than we ever would have thought possible without them. So in our quest for comfort, take courage in knowing that we don’t need to avoid the uncomfortable moments. Giving yourself and others permission to learn, grow, and even fail from time to time will allow them to improve, succeed and soar at heights we never realized they were capable of flying.

Key Strategy to Dealing With the Tsunamis of Life

Growing up in California, I have always loved the beach. I can stare at the ocean for hours watching the waves as they roll in and retreat back. There is also another phenomenon that I love to watch with the waves and it happened all the time. It is something that I can still laugh at when I picture it in my mind. The scenario is always the same– a loving parent would turn their back to the unsuspecting waves usually while watching their child or another person and then they would just get pummeled by an oncoming wave. Some would just scream as the cold water would hit their back while others would get lifted off their feet with the force of the wave and then be brought into the shore. Even though they were in the ocean and knew there were waves, they just didn’t see it coming and weren’t prepared for the impact of the wave. I feel like that happens to all of us in life, inadvertently hit by unsuspecting waves or events that we didn’t see coming or didn’t realize would impact us the way that they did. There is a tip that can help all of us when we are faced with these moments in life, and that is to focus on what you do know.

The force of these powerful waves or events in our lives often knock us to our knees. What you thought you knew–how you saw your life– suddenly shifts and you are left confused and full of questions. Humbled with how much you didn’t know and now overwhelmed with all you do not know. Phrases like, “I don’t know what to do” and “I just don’t know anything anymore” are often voiced.

When you loose your bearings and you are not sure which way to turn, it is a natural reaction to simply not move at all. However, the heavy and depressing feelings that weigh us down without a counter reaction then gain more power to continue the downward spiral. They make it difficult to remember good times or memories. They make it hard to feel peace and instead pull us downwards in despair. In times like these, there is a strategy that can assist us to taking a step in the right direction. The key is to focus on what you do know.

What you know is going to vary by person and experience but I will try and elaborate with a few examples. For instance, just this morning, I awoke to news about a friend’s granddaughter who was in the ICU fighting for her life. This event absolutely blindsighted and overwhelmed the family as they helplessly watched their little girl being assisted by medical teams to save her life. The girl with the biggest personality was now sedated with multiple IVs/infusions and there were more questions than answers. But there were things that they did know and by concentrating on those, there is a way to face forward and stand among such difficult circumstances. They know that their little girl is getting the best care at the best facility possible. They know that God answers prayers. They know they are loved and that they are not alone. Focusing on what you do know allows you a path forward in the darkness and confusion of what we don’t know.

Another example was when a friend found out that her recently married husband was addicted to pornography. This revelation washed over her just like the waves at the beach and she felt washed up on the sand without hope. It was in the act of focusing on what she knew that gave her the courage to get up off the sand. She had to learn at her core who she was, that she had value and what that meant. In realizing her value, she was able to see her husband’s value and his battle with addiction and the shame associated. Focusing on knowing there is a way to overcome addictions with hard work allowed her a path forward.

Focusing on what you know doesn’t mean that things will work out the way you would want them to. I have another friend whose husband lost his job. Finances were tight and this new revelation was crushing. However, instead of wallowing in despair or anger over the circumstances of his termination, they focused on what they did know. What assets they had that they could use while he sought other employment and what they could do to limit their spending. Focusing on what they knew–that he was a hard worker, that he could be a valuable employee, that others would assist them in finding suitable employment allowed them a way to move forward.

There will and should always be things that we don’t know. We don’t and won’t know everything in this life. There will always be opportunities for growth and learning. Walking in the unknown is difficult. We would all much rather know the outcome before we start walking. My husband often will research a movie before we watch it in hopes to know the ending and if the movie is good.–although I can personally tell you this has not prevented us from watching some really lame and worthless movies. While it is difficult not to have all the answers before we start walking, we are required to take steps before we know all the answers.

Life can become dark and confusing at times and without knowing where you are headed or how you are going to get there, it makes it difficult to walk. However, you don’t need to worry about the speed of how fast you are getting to your destination but that you are taking steps in the right direction. And that involves focusing on what you know. There is a scripture in the Bible in Isaiah that I often reflect on where this idea is emphasized: “Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourself about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled” (Isaiah 50:11). Sometimes in building a fire or focusing on what we know, it isn’t a lot. It might just be sparks. We all at times are going to walking in darkness, and sometimes it might only be the sparks that are guiding us. However, even if we are only guided by the sparks, we will still be guided. So, the next time you are hit by an unexpected wave, remember to focus on what you know–it will help you to take a step into the unknown.