Sunday, May 3, 2015

Therapy on a Shoestring

Hi – how're you doing? You don't have to look behind you – I'm talking to you. Yeah, you.

How's 2015 working for you? Has the New Year been a good one so far? How's work? the family? your finances? health? Anything getting you down?

Don't look so surprised. If you've got challenges in any of these areas, you're not alone.

With every new year comes expectations: Better this, improved that, more of something, less of something. Every year people think it's going to be different. Unfortunately, often it's either a mildly heightened or watered down version of the year before.

Sorry. Don't mean to be a bummer, but it's true. 

Some say the bluest day of the year is the first Monday after the New Year. Lines start forming at therapists' offices soon after; people needing answers, a fix for what ails them. They suck it up and spend lots of money to talk ... and have someone listen.
Don't get me wrong. There are many wonderful and talented therapists, but not everyone can afford to pay hundreds of dollars a month to get emotional relief. 

Even as the year progresses and Winter resigns itself to Spring, and Spring to Summer, too many carry burdens that get the best of them. Life is a gift, but it's not always easy.

Therapy on a Shoestring

This is why I've come up with a few free -to-inexpensive ideas to help you self soothe when it feels like life is getting the better of you. You may question how effective these methods are, but I tell you – they work! 

If you're feeling a little down, you may find some value in the options listed below. 

I'm not a licensed therapist, never have been, don't pretend to be, but what if one of these simple ideas started making you feel better? Is it worth it? Only you can decide if it is or isn't.


Let's Do This! Ten Great Ways to Feel Better

Therapy on a shoestring reminds me of another one of my articles: "Love on a Budget." Ninety-eight percent of the population don't have deep pockets. There's a need for creative accounting, figuratively speaking. So, here goes...

  1. Hug Therapy. This no-cost way of feeling better is unbelievable. And let me just stop you in your tracks if you're thinking, "But what if there's no one to hug me?" Hug yourself! You read right. Hug yourself. The heat that emanates from your own hands is soothing and therapeutic. $0!
  2. Art Therapy. Remember when you were in school and you drew pictures and colored and painted? Everything around you faded into the background as you delved into your artistic endeavors. Worries seemed smaller and happiness filled your heart. Under $5 for basic supplies!
  3. Music Therapy. Music has the magical ability to transition your mood almost immediately. What's the cost of electricity to listen to the radio? Zero dollars to mere pennies.
  4. Bubble Therapy. Go outside and blow bubbles. You can buy them at the dollar store. One buck for 16 ounces! The ethereal bubbles float and escape into the sky, elevating your mood at the same time.
  5. Laughter Therapy. Joke. Watch comedy shows. Read a funny book. All are basically zero dollars, and as we all know, laughter is jogging for the soul.
  6. Gratitude Therapy. Have you taken the time lately to count the many incredible things in your life? Remember, there are too-many-to-count blessings that we often forget to acknowledge.
  7. Art & Music Therapy. Combine art therapy and music therapy and you get – tada!  art and music therapy! Let the music lift your spirits and free you up to creatively draw or paint. Still under $5!
  8. Think of Others Therapy. When you realize just how good you have it and spend your energy and thoughts thinking of others, and doing good deeds, your heart opens up and your mind mellows. Ahem – another freebie therapy!
  9. Physical Activity Therapy. Most sports and activities require more than just the physical – they depend on mental acuity, as well. The mental focus and release of endorphins due to physical activity are a win/win. Cost depends on the activity, but it costs $0 to swim, walk or bike.
  10. Focus on the Present Therapy. If you aren't already aware, everything in life is temporary. That means the good moods and the bad. When you focus on the present you have a better chance of being keenly aware of the good. Dwelling on the past or stressing over the future deprives you of your present peace of mind.
Maybe now is the time to take stock of how you feel and how you ultimately want to feel. There are so many ways of calming self and finding solace, using simple and inexpensive methods. 

One last tip – if you want to find a mentor who can assist in helping you feel better, have a look at children playing in the park. Their joy at the little things in life is a lesson in itself.

How will you be celebrating "Positive Power of Humor and Creativity Days" June 5–7?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Controversy is Liberating

Controversy is everywhere... Is the glass of water half empty or half full?

Depending on an individual's perspective it could be either – or both - maybe even neither!

The world has become a playing field for the opinions of everyone, and controversy reigns like a king on a throne.

Speaking of water, is it healthier to drink room temp or iced? There are "ye's" and "nays" for both sides.

Does organic agriculture truly result in better quality apples and oranges, or not? Is drinking coffee good or bad for you? Does eating red meat mean you will have health issues? 

Is driving a compact car going to save our planet? Is deforestation still occurring - should we recycle our paper? Do our recycled plastics and papers really get recycled? Is orange the new black???

Controversy can feel stressful to some, but try thinking about it in these terms...

Controversy is freedom - freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and freedom of action. It may not be pleasant but it is freedom.

Friendships have been broken and lost over controversial topics and events; beyond the half-full, half-empty debate. 

Countries have fought wars over lines drawn.

Household furnishings have been battled over and split in half in divorce disputes.

So how can controversy be liberating?

When you pick a side, choose an option and believe in your choice, controversy is liberating. It's not always easy, but with time it can be the best thing you ever did. 

Choosing iced water over tepid is not earth shattering, while choosing to let go of a husband, wife or lifelong friend can feel like the world is coming to an end.

Au contraire - it is one of the most liberating things a person can do to move on to the next chapter. It is the beginning of the healing process and the indicator of new horizons and new-found freedom. 

Freedom of choice is given from the universe - a spiritual gift that supports our decisions and helps us process what we need to do to move forward. It boils down to the liberation of some of the most challenging controversies, and that liberation is what buoys us in the next phase of life.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Soothing a Savage Breast

14,856,187... 19,346,390... 8,658,191... 4,163,908... 17,946,107... 1,946,106... 18,733,207... 1,832,528... 13,318,997... 1,196,995... 6,296,938... 2,127,197... 4,466,861...

Any idea what these numbers represent? 

Are they statistics or demographics of some sort?

I think you'll be surprised to learn what they're about.

But before I let you in on this, I'd like to share some statistics...
  1. In a survey carried out between 2005–2010 it was found that about 4% of the adult population in the United States took prescription sleep aids
  2. A market research firm has reported a tripling in sleep aid prescriptions from 1998 to 2006 for young adults aged 18–24 
  3. More women than men use sleep aids (5.0% and 3.1% respectively)
Two of the references for these statistics come from respected sources: The LA Times and a group of psychiatric researchers. Both attribute the economic slowdown as the culprit of stress and sleep disorders. So it would be pretty safe to say that people of all ages are suffering and need to find a way to calm down and breathe; to find a way to sleep and be peaceful while they're awake; to have an aid to help them cope.

Apparently there is, yet, I don't see any statistics on this coping mechanism even though the numbers are staggering. Conduct a basic search and you will find tons of statistics on prescriptions. Don't forget to keep reading your research until the very end - that's when it reveals the warnings, contraindications and horror stories of side effects.

A Groovy Kinda Music

The values mentioned above are real time numbers –  people who listen to a certain type of music on You Tube, which in turn, represents the number of people who are trying to remain calm and relieve themselves of stress, as well as to be able to fall sleep.

Search under the headings: Calming Music, Calming Music for Stress, Meditative Music, Music to Relieve Stress, etc. If you search under: Calm, Meditation, Stress, Yoga, New Age and several other key words, hundreds of play lists come up.

What this tells us is that we are living in very challenging times. It tells us that many are seeking an alternative way to decompress; to be able to cope, and function, at the same time. Whether due to economics, family or personal relationships, this generation needs some serious help to restore inner peace.

Over a million hits is impressive, but many of these tranquil play lists have been host to  multiples of millions - six, thirteen, eighteen million, and more. Hit after hit from those seeking healthier, more spiritually based choices to find tranquility, rather than from prescriptive meds.

This good news, that millions are finding alternatives to prescription drugs to calm themselves, doesn't seem to appear in mainstream statistics, as important and relevant as they are. You will find many articles on the benefits, but nothing on the hard numbers. 

Did you know that meditating, doing yoga and listening to calming music can lower your blood pressure and heart rate by up to 10 points, and often more? Soothing music can aid in restoring your health - you would think that the statisticians and medical researchers would want to know more about this.

We've been sold on organic, grassroots and back to basics for our produce, clothing and building materials. Why not music as well?

Thank You, Mr. Congreve

"Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast," is a line written by William Congreve in 1697, from his play, "The Mourning Bride." It's doubtful that Congreve had a crystal ball and looked into the chaotic future, however, he was on the right track more than three hundred years ago. 

If it comes down to a choice between drugs and music, let's opt for the organic, grassroots of meditative, calming notes that have no side effects and only benefits of the best kind. The melodic strains of soothing music can bring you to a Edenesque place that no drug or artificial method can. Mindful meditation while listening to a tranquil playlist is a delightful drug of the very best kind. Namaste.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Shoulder and a Second Glance

Never mistake a look of determination; steely eyes and set jaw, thin lips in a straight line, for a cold heart. 

Don't be too sure that crossed arms are staunch gateposts fending off and keeping out others from the body, mind, heart and soul hidden behind them. 

Feet firmly planted, set below legs slightly parted and straight, knees locked in, tells you nothing. These are the covert tactics of the spirit's camouflage.

Did you notice the almost too bright glimmer in those eyes – a hint of moisture forming at the inner corner of one of them – swelling up to create one perfectly shaped salty tear?

Could you see the reddened crescent nail imprints on both arms as an internal struggle took place to not break down in public, as cruelty washed over that body, that mind, that heart, that soul?

Had you glanced down you might have noticed the pink and white mottled toe joints, scrunched up, fortifying themselves in their own tiny, fearful way.

Be a person, a human being who takes a second glance and isn't quick to judge. 

Fear is often disguised as bravado, or meanness, or aggression. Steeliness is frequently the facade of sadness. Bracing against perceived and potential human storms is a reflex; a learned behavior from past hurts and disappointments.

Quick to judge others brings them more of the same.                

Patience can melt a frozen heart and heal a wounded soul.

Kindness is the strong soul's way of giving attention to one who needs it.

Shrug off the indifference, poor attitude and cold shoulder of one who needs a shoulder.

Take a second glance to look beyond the arrogance and indifference of a suffering spirit.

Make a difference for one — Make a difference for many — Make a difference for you

February 9 - 15 is Random Acts of Kindness Week, but it can start right now : )

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Time of "Your" Life

Typically, sometime around August or September, I review and recommend books that are of the spiritual, inspirational and motivational genres. Well, this next one can't wait until the summer months. It is your next best read of the year – and no better time than at the beginning of the New Year to pick up a book that you won't want to put down because its insight, candor and wisdom takes you to a new place of understanding.

While "The Time of My Life," by Cecelia Ahern, is a work of fiction, it is so utterly open and honest it feels like you're reading a true story. Miss Ahern (also the author of P.S. I Love You, which was adapted for the big screen, starring Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler) has a unique way of opening up her characters and revealing their most vital organs. As uncomfortable as this sounds, you will find that it is a necessary part of the process, as Lucy Silchester (the main character) comes face to face with her life - literally. I will not be ruining the end by telling you they are stitched back together, better than ever, by the time you're on the last page; with Ms. Ahern's flair and style of writing, the end is just a way of closing off. The meat of the story is what will have you hooked and wanting more. If you're a rubbernecker, the excruciatingly painful collision of Lucy's private life with her hammy open Life persona will remind you of an accident in slow motion.

The series of events that leads to her metamorphosis are detailed, humorous, and arouse empathy. Cecelia has an uncanny way of describing emotions and thought processes in a way that we can all too easily relate to, so you might find yourself squirming now and again as the bare truth of the main character, Lucy, is revealed.

To say that this book is thought provoking would be as simplistic as saying Big Ben is a clock. The brilliant psychological manipulation of her Life, used to enlighten the  deeply-entrenched-in-la-la-land Lucy, allows the reader to have a front row seat to her own personal hell and heaven.

The unbelievably real message of this piece of fiction has you invested in the idea that Life might come knocking at your door any minute, and when it doesn't, you feel like you're missing out.

If you read only one book this year...  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

2015 – The Buck Stops Here

Confetti, cork-popping champagne-induced embraces, and hoopla of the New Year, are already a thing of the past. We've arrived at the midway point of the first month only to discover an episodic clone of the previous year. 
If this sounds somewhat somber  (and sobering) it is.

Time to take a really serious look at what's ahead for us. To evaluate what must, should, needs to be done.  

Pass the buck should only be referenced between flirtatious doe besties as they flutter their eyelashes and strut their stuff while passing the hunky buck. 

Eyes cast downward and limp-handed finger pointing is not the best method for coming to terms with or ignoring the state of the world. We are, all, small links in this gigantic chain of events that has managed to unforgivably repeat itself year after year.

We are also halfway into this decade. Is this to be the remainder of the 2000's teen years? Maybe so. The teen years are known to be hormonal, self absorbed, angst-filled tar pits of misery. Should we brace ourselves until this century reaches the somewhat more  mature mellowed twenties? Although, it's typically not until the late thirties or early forties that the sprinkle of snow atop the receding hairline brings us to the brink of maturity, and even then...

Exactly. Who says wisdom or a calm demeanor come with age? Haven't you ever witnessed an angry thirty, forty or fifty year old driver, bellicose and belligerent at being cut off in the passing lane?

This isn't an age thing. This is a passing of time, history repeating itself thing.

In what decade will the history books be rewritten to reflect enlightenment rather than war? When will we look back and say silent prayers of thanks that the world and its people have changed - become a kinder, gentler, wiser race of human beings? At what point will we know that the New Year bodes well?

If you have a bit of the gambler in you, you might wager that 2015 will do better  in the aftermath of 2014, even with the shaky start it's had. But why should we have to gamble on world peace, or on the success of the New Year? 

I'm praying that 2015 is a loving and harmonious year; a prodigy of love. A mature fifteen year old that turns his back on turbulence and terrorism and washes his hands of it. A mighty, proud, world-altering year that says there's no more passing the buck - the buck stops here.