Finding Friends You Can Count On

Finding Friends You Can Count On

Finding Friends You Can Count On

Who’s Got Your Back?

 

FRIENDS YOU CAN COUNT ON: Recently, on the last Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I spoke with author Lydia Denworth about the importance of healthy friendships and how vital they are. She spoke at length about the positive impact of friendship on our mental, emotional and physical health, and how we all need to prioritize healthy friendships in our lives.

But… while understanding the importance of friendship is important because it helps you prioritize the time and energy required to cultivate relationships, knowing this is not the same thing as actually knowing how to build a strong community of friends you can count on. The “how to make and keep good friends” part is much harder. Particularly when you’re focused on the good part. Developing solid, mutually supportive friendships can be vastly different than finding people with common interests or who are “fun buddies.” Those types of friendships, while enjoyable, are a dime a dozen. Finding friends you can count on is a different game.

The Loneliness Pandemic

Truthfully, it can be very difficult to find and maintain solid friendship connections as an adult — now, more than ever. Before there was an actual pandemic, the idea that we were already in a “lonliness epidemic” was already getting recognition. Too many people often feel alone, and like they don’t have close friends to turn to when they need them. Even if they have social connections, these relationships can feel superficial. Combatting loneliness was on the radar of Denver therapists and online life coaches due to the benefit of positive relationships and strong friend networks, but now having trust in friendship is even more vital.

For many, a primary source of social interaction happens through their work. Prior to stay-at-home recommendations in coronavirus life, it wasn’t uncommon for me to hear about “weekend loneliness” and about how hard it is for busy adults to find new friends in my therapy and coaching sessions with clients. As we stay at arm’s length from each other in efforts to ward off Covid 19, we’re also cut off from the supportive social networks that we need for our mental health, our emotional wellness, and even our physical health. 

For many people, their social interactions are currently limited to the people that they live with and can peer at periodically through our computer screens. For people living alone during the era of social distancing, their loneliness can be so intense it feels like a hunger.

Everyone can feel lonely, even people who are nice and smart and interesting and attractive. Feeling lonely does not discriminate. However, even though many people feel lonely, they also often feel shame about their loneliness — and so they don’t talk about it. Loneliness is the big, dark secret that weighs heavily on the hearts of so many. Staying silent about loneliness only increases feelings of isolation, and disconnection. This in turn (ironically) can make you feel more lonely.

Everyone is vulnerable to feelings of loneliness. People can (and do) feel lonely in their marriage. People can have many friends, and still, feel a longing for a truly intimate emotional connection. Loneliness isn’t about not having any people in your life. Loneliness is about feeling like you’re wanting more connection than you currently have. 

But “connection” alone does not satisfy loneliness because feeling lonely is also about wanting more meaningful connection. Let’s face it: you can feel very lonely in a crowd. You can spend lots of time hanging out with people, and still not feel like you have real, true friendships with any of them. Sometimes, it’s not until you really need a friend you can count on, that you understand how many real friends you have in your life. (If at all, for some).

Friends You Can Count On 

How To Build a Genuinely Supportive Community

Today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast is devoted to helping you cultivate relationships with real, true-blue friends who can offer the emotional intimacy and support you’re longing for. If you’re seeking to increase your social circle with friends who have your back (and weed out selfish people who take more than they give) this episode is for you.

I’m joined by author and former therapist Val Walker about her new book, “400 Friends and No One To Call: Breaking Through Isolation and Building Community.”

In this powerful and emotionally intimate interview, Val shares her own story about being at a vulnerable moment and becoming aware that while she had lots of “friends” she didn’t have friends she could count on when she really needed help. She shares her story of rebuilding her health, her life, and a strong social support system. Val has lots of insight into what it takes to form strong friendships. She’s sharing her insights and tips to help you get all the love, thoughtfulness and support YOU have to share flowing back to you, too.  

If you’ve been saying to yourself that the time is right for you to find supportive friends and create a good friend circle, I hope you listen to this episode with Val. We’re discussing:

  • How it’s so easy for everyone to fall into “lite” relationships
  • Why genuinely supportive friendships are so essential
  • How to make trustworthy friends
  • Where to find friends
  • The most important parts of an authentic friendship
  • Ways to build a community
  • The difference between “fun” friends and friends you can count on
  • What healthy friendships look like
  • Concrete strategies for making new friends
  • How to deepen your existing friendships
  • How to be a really good friend to others

Thank you for being part of OUR community!

With love,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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How Boredom And Space Help You Understand Yourself

How Boredom And Space Help You Understand Yourself

How Boredom And Space Help You Understand Yourself

What Have You Been Avoiding?

Understand Yourself | We’re –s-t-u-c-k- safe at home. For some of us, as we continue to transition into this new lifestyle this means more stress and even busier schedules. Living almost minute by minute, taking care of young kids who are home (all the time), while still striving to meet the slow-to-change expectations of employers.  

But if that isn’t you and you find yourself with more time and fewer outlets than you’re used to, you’re probably feeling bored, listless, and maybe even a little lazy. Counting myself among this group, I’m struggling to feel motivated even as I write this! All this time at home can lead to an odd combination of frustration with not having enough to do and a lack of drive to do what you can or even need to do. Maybe even questioning yourself and wondering, Who am I?

I’m sure you’ve also seen the two social media messages floating around about this experience: 

  1. Start a hobby! Learn something new! Now is the time!
  1. Just chill. It’s okay to feel whatever you feel. Take it easy if you need to.

Both of these approaches are valid and helpful. Pick what works for you – and change your mind as needed. But here’s what these messages don’t talk about: How boredom and space can help you understand yourself. 

Boredom has always gotten a bad rap. Now more then ever, our internet tribe is talking about the big, bad boredom-monster. We’re taught to avoid boredom at almost any cost, by staying busy, distracting ourselves with tune-out technology, and being “productive.” Maybe this is because slowing down to get to know yourself better can actually be pretty uncomfortable and scary. Because understanding yourself better can lead to confronting some things you’ve been avoiding with all that business and distraction. 

As an online therapist and life coach, some of my clients too are struggling with some long-term issues that have recently been “brought to the light.” I want to encourage you to allow yourself to sit with these feelings. With a little bit of boredom and space, here are a few not-so-comfortable (but important) things you might uncover:

 

Relationship Issues

You may know your relationship isn’t perfect (I mean, who’s is?). When focused on the hustle of life, we can put off dealing with relationship concerns and the difficult conversations they demand. Now, alone with each other, it gets harder to ignore what isn’t working. This is a good opportunity to notice what’s coming up for you, to understand yourself in the context of your relationship and get curious about what your relationship might need, and consider if you’re ready to start making some gentle repairs. 

What You Really Want

Anxiety is up with the Coronavirus epidemic. But for some of those who experience it under ordinary circumstances, anxiety has actually gone down during quarantine! With boredom and more time on your hands comes less pressure and obligation. Suddenly, many are finding themselves relieved of the unspoken but ever-present expectation to be busy and constantly moving toward worthy goals. What arises from this new space is the question, “If I’m less anxious now, did I actually want these goals for myself or did I just think I should have them?” Boredom and space can help you separate what you really want, enjoy, and value from what others think or want.

 

Big Beliefs

Having more time with yourself, you might pay a little more attention to your thoughts. Following those thoughts can lead you to your core beliefs. We tend to assume, for example, that our value comes from things like productivity, social engagement, or helping others. Right now, our ability to do each of these has been limited, which can lead to new, healthier beliefs about intrinsic value from being, rather than doing.  Boredom and space means we can sit with beliefs and consider them with curious objectivity. We can question them and change them, if we wish. Opening your mind to these personal growth moments will help you in your journey to understand yourself. 

Deeper Feelings

As we slow down and get back to basics under quarantine, we create room for more things to grab our attention. You may notice more synchronicities, remember more dreams, or be inspirationally struck with new, creative ideas. These are just some of the ways that deeper, unaddressed feelings work their way to the forefront. Slowing down to embrace a little boredom, what feelings come up and what are they trying to tell you?

Surprising Strengths

Challenges create opportunity for solution-finding. Obstacles illicit creative thinking. Under self-quarantine, we are called to find new ways to connect, help one another, practice self-care, and maintain our hobbies, responsibilities, and goals. Leaning into boredom and space gives you a chance to surprise yourself, to truly understand yourself. 

Is it uncomfortable? Definitely. Scary? Yes. But what if this boredom thing is also an opportunity to slow down and sit with an old friend…yourself? Who knows what you might discover?

Wishing you the best,
Kathleen Stutts, M.Ed., LPC

denver therapist online therapy Kathleen Stutts Therapist, Life Coach, Marriage Counselor, Dating Coach

Kathleen Stutts, M.Ed, LPC, helps you build your self-esteem and create strong, meaningful relationships in a non-judgmental, productive space where you will feel safe, comfortable and understood.

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The Importance of Healthy Friendships

The Importance of Healthy Friendships

The Importance of Healthy Friendships

Invest in Healthy Friendships

The FRIENDSHIP CONNECTION: It’s more apparent than ever how fundamentally important our healthy friendships are to our wellbeing. As a Denver therapist and online life coach, I often speak with my online therapy clients about how empty and meaningless life can feel when they don’t have supportive friends and family with whom to share their journey, celebrate their success, and turn to for comfort and guidance in difficult times. 

Is this true for you, too? If so, developing friendships and creating a supportive, solid friendship network may be an important goal on your overall journey of creating the life you want. But even if the desire for stronger friendships exists, it can be hard to build genuinely healthy friendships — especially as an adult. Why is it so much harder to develop close friendships as an adult? The obvious answer is “because, time.” But here’s a new idea: Most 30+ adults simply don’t prioritize their friendships the same way they did during simpler times of life.

Let’s be real: Many busy, successful professionals to put their cultivation of healthy friendships on the back burner and prioritize everything else instead. When you are juggling kids, a job, a spouse, and a house, it can feel like an indulgence to just “hang out” with friends (either virtually, or in-person). However, what emerging research into evolutionary biology, neuroscience and mental health is uncovering is that prioritizing your healthy friendships, even if it just feels like hanging out, is actually one of the single most important, impactful things you can do with your time and energy.

Fun fact: The non-productive, non-goal oriented time we spend messing around, doing nothing in particular, and simply being together with friends has — wait for it — about the same impact on your health as does quitting smoking cigarettes. But that’s just the start of the avalanche of positive consequences of cultivating healthy friendships. Having friends and being a friend is actually one of the most important things you can do, if your goal is to be a happy, healthy human.

So if you, too, have bought into the idea that “it’s harder to make close friends as an adult” consider this new idea: The biggest obstacle to adult friendships is lack of conscious understanding of the importance of friends. Once you get that, then it gets easier to become committed to putting the time and energy into building positive relationships. (And friendships will follow). 

Why is Healthy Friendship Important? 

Step one is building the understanding of why healthy friendships are so vital. Consider the opposite of friendship: Disconnection. When we’re disconnected from our friends and loved ones it takes a toll, mentally, emotionally, and even physically. We know from research into biology and neuro-science that healthy friendships are a core component of not just enjoying life and feeling subjectively happier, but even having a biological impact on the way our bodies function. 

Scientific facts about friendship indicate that, across the board, people who invest in their friendships experience benefits in many parts of their lives that seem unrelated. There is a measurable connection between friendship and health. For example, people who report having stronger, healthier friendships live longer, have increased immunity to disease, and are often buffered from the chronic stressors that are known to impair your health and wellness.

When we invest in healthy relationships and strong friendships, we are doing just as much to improve our health as we are by exercising, eating well, and yes, even quitting smoking. When you build relationships, you’re preventing health problems — even if it just feels like you’re hanging out and enjoying yourself. (Bonus points for exercising with your friends!)

The Role of Friends in Our Life

We often think of friends as a source of enjoyment, but the truth is that the role of healthy friendships goes much deeper. For example, in supportive, intimate friendships we find a sense of belonging. We also have people we can turn to in moments of hardship and personal stress, or when you’re grieving a loss. While your friends may not be able to do anything to “fix” the situation, the experience of sharing your story with someone who cares may in itself be healing.

Having emotionally supportive people to turn to (whether or not you’re actually talking about “it”) has a measurable impact on our stress levels, both physiological stress and the stress we’re aware of. There is a very well established connection between chronic stress and chronic health issues. If you want to improve your health, it may be more impactful for you to spend an hour a day strengthening your positive friendships than hitting the gym by yourself. Consider it!

Friends and Mental Health

Having healthy friendships is also strongly associated with mental health, as well as physical health. People who feel isolated or lonely are more vulnerable to feelings of depression and anxiety. But even more importantly, having relationships with people who are invested in their own personal growth and mental health can be enormously inspiring for you to take steps to cultivate your own. 

Aside from the chance to talk to friends, which is an emotional buffer in itself, getting out of your comfort zone and opening up to friends increases the chance that you’ll wind up working on yourself. For example, having a good friend tell you that they, personally have found a good therapist and are enjoying therapy makes it much more likely that you will feel comfortable in seeking out your own life coach or therapist online or in person. Being connected to other people who are on a journey of personal growth and self-development lifts you up, too. 

In contrast, if you are close friends with someone who is NOT investing in their own wellness, and who is in the grips of depression or anxiety, it will bemore likely that you yourself will feel worse instead of better. 

So in addition to seeking out healthy friendships with people who are actively on a quest of self-improvement, by taking an active role in your own personal growth and self-development it will also lift your friends up too. You will become a source of inspiration and a role model for people in your friend group who may be struggling. Investing in yourself lifts everyone around you! 

How to Cultivate Relationships & Be a Good Friend

It can be difficult for busy adults to find the time and energy to create new friendships or invest in your existing friendships in order to make them stronger. A fundamental piece of healthy friendships is a cooperative, reciprocal generosity of mutual caring and support. Making new friends and investing in your old friends is definitely a commitment of time and energy. However, it’s a worthy investment that has the power to build and strengthen many aspects of your life as well as theirs. 

Having a good relationship with a friend requires mutual generosity, but cultivating a genuinely supportive social network may also involve recognizing that some of your friendships are not positive and need to be released. There are such things as unhealthy friendships, and if you’ve been in a relationship with a selfish person or someone who’s mental health issues are preventing them from being a good friend to you, it may be time to set some healthy boundaries for yourself. Your focusing on building positive relationships and your own mental and emotional wellness may, longer-term, inspire them to do the same.

Understanding Healthy Friendships, With Lydia Denworth

To support YOU in your understanding of the importance of healthy friendships, and to deepen you understanding of what it really takes to build supportive relationships in your life, I’ve invited science journalist and author Lydia Denworth to speak with me about her new book, “Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond.”  (Learn more about Lyda and her work at LydaDenworth.com

She shares what her painstaking research has uncovered about why friendships are so important to us, the risks of neglecting your friendships, the impact of friendships on children and adolescents, and — perhaps most importantly — concrete strategies for how to build and nurture your friendships during social distancing.

Specifically, we’re discussing:

  • The impact of friendship on your brain and your body
  • How friendships develop
  • The importance of showing up
  • Why we need our friends in good times and in bad
  • How to help your kids develop healthy friendships
  • How to develop healthy friendships as an adult

Listen to our conversation, to learn about the importance of healthy friendship and how to build strong friendship connections.

xoxo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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The Importance of Healthy Friendships

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Let’s  Talk

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How Difficult Emotions Lead to Growth

How Difficult Emotions Lead to Growth

How Difficult Emotions Lead to Growth

Feeling “Triggered?” Lean In…

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS OPEN THE DOOR TO GROWTH: 2020 has really given us a run for our money, and if nothing else, has led many of us to take a good hard look at our lifestyles, relationships, and our country as a whole. 

From the COVID-19 pandemic to the focus on socio-political issues such as systemic racism and police brutality, we are all confronted daily with images and content that may make uncomfortable feelings arise. Many of us are feeling upset, and feeling emotionally triggered. You are then presented with a choice: to sit with and examine those feelings, or to avoid them and turn away. 

I’d like to challenge you not to turn away. Embrace feeling triggered. Use it, to facilitate your personal growth.

Emotions Reveal Your Beliefs and Values

Why is it important to understand and sit with our feelings? Because feelings are the top layer of our belief system. When we have big feelings about something, it provides a clue as to the underlying values and core beliefs that just got challenged. By understanding where this emotional response is coming from, you get clarity about the values, belief systems, and attitudes you hold. 

This can happen in many aspects of life, often in your relationships or interactions with others. But lately, you may also have been confronted with new ideas or information (or even more conversations) related to equality, systemic racism, and social justice. As you think critically about socio-political issues, you may notice anger, pain, or even defensiveness arising within you or others around you — especially if you are feeling personally attacked, or that your core beliefs about the world are being attacked. 

All of these feelings can be hard to sit with, but it is extremely important to be able to explore and entertain a wide range of ideas. If you’re feeling attacked, offended, or triggered, it’s an opportunity to ask yourself, “why am I feeling this way?” It also gives you an opportunity to try to understand the perspective of the person or situation that feels triggering to you. This doesn’t mean you agree with them but is a valuable skill to master if you want your thoughts, values, and behaviors to align. 

The Road to Alignment of Beliefs, Values, and Feelings

The first step in using your emotional triggers as a growth opportunity is figuring out what you are reluctant to consider or even entertain as an idea in your mind, and why it feels so painful for you. Taking a moment to examine our emotions around specific issues doesn’t mean you have to or should change them, it is about getting to the root of what you believe and what is important to you. 

You may find that you have deeply held beliefs about why things are the way they are and that those may not be compatible with the new information you’re being confronted with. For example, if you believe that the arc of people’s lives are determined exclusively by “how hard they work,” or whether they “make good choices” it may feel very threatening to be confronted with the realities of systemic racism, implicit racial bias, and white privilege. Any information about how difficult it can be for people of color to get ahead — regardless of their work ethic or lifestyle choices — can elicit feelings of anger and defensiveness, and voila, you’re feeling triggered.

It is exactly this uncomfortable feeling that we all need to pay attention to. 

How to Use Your Feelings to Clarify Your Values

If you notice yourself feeling triggered, here are some skills that can help you begin to better understand your values and beliefs that are triggering your big emotions. 

  • Allow yourself to momentarily suspend judgment, and be curious about where this feeling is coming from. Is it tied to a value? Or a core belief? 
  • Curiosity is key here, as this will diffuse defensiveness and create a safe emotional space to explore why you hold certain beliefs and judgments. 
  • If you uncover a core belief, it’s worth thinking about where it came from. Who’s belief is this? Yours? Your families? Who taught you to believe this?
  • You might think about other aspects of this belief: Is it always true? Sometimes true? Do other people believe something different? If so, why? What changes if you look at the same situation through this different perspective? Stay curious, and open.
  • Remember that defensiveness is a response to a perceived threat, either physical or emotional. If you feel yourself starting to get defensive, it simply means that you’re feeling attacked, or persecuted, or threatened. We can use this as an invitation to explore ideas further and deepen your understanding of your emotional response to it.

These skills are also useful when having conversations with other people, as well as ourselves. 

Identifying Uncomfortable Feelings: Now What?

Explicitly identifying your values and what you hold as important to you will be critical in knowing what to do with those thoughts and emotions. There are multiple ways to do this, you can make a list and rank values based on how important they are to you or you can use a more structured activity using value sort cards. I like to use a value card sorting activity in my work with clients, and when you do this think about what each value means to you, and if it is important, not important, or very important to you. 

From there, do your values and your thoughts/beliefs/attitudes match up? For example, if you believe kindness is important when you engage with someone who holds different beliefs than you, do you treat them with kindness? To take it a step further, if you believe in helping others – are there times you turn a blind eye to injustice? This is where alignment in your values, thoughts, and actions is important.

You first need to be able to recognize where you have gaps in self-knowledge, and this is a clue of where personal growth is needed. If you don’t know where to start, implicit biases tests can help identify where your biases lie (and I say where on purpose, as all humans have biases). You can also purposefully and intentionally engage with various media sources or invite loved ones to share their views with you. This is also a great way to strengthen and deepen your interpersonal relationships!

This kind of inner exploration and challenge isn’t easy work, but it is worthwhile to tolerate the discomfort as it allows you to feel more confident in your values and sense of self. If your values, thoughts, and actions do not align you may begin to feel the effects of cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is when someone has inconsistent or contradictory beliefs, attitudes, or thoughts, especially as it relates to behavior. Cognitive dissonance may present as feeling uncomfortable, avoiding conflict, a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude, feeling irritable, or experiencing guilt or shame but not knowing why. 

One thing I really want to emphasize is that examining our emotions and beliefs is something everyone does or needs to do. This is just part of being human and living in an ever-changing world. Please be kind, patient, and compassionate with yourself as you do this work. It is not helpful to beat yourself up if there is some dissonance present, and the good news is these things are within your control and have the potential to change. It is okay to grow and change, even if that means changing your opinion or standpoint. It is okay to make changes and begin to cut out people, ideologies, and activities that do not support your new growth. 

If your thoughts, values, and actions do align, that doesn’t mean you’re done! Everyone is continually growing, changing, and learning. We are all lifelong students, and personal growth is not linear. It is not a destination we arrive at, but rather a journey where we challenge ourselves with love, kindness, and respect.

Wishing you the best, 
Josephine Marin, M.S., MFTC

Josephine Marin, M.S. MFTC

Josephine Marin, M.S., MFTC is a warm, kind, and direct therapist and couples counselor who specializes in communication, compassion and connection. She can help you reach your goals and create positive change in yourself and your relationships.

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Real Help, To Move You Forward

 

Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.

 

 

Working with an expert therapist or life coach can help you understand yourself more deeply, get a fresh perspective, grow as a person, and become empowered to create positive change in yourself, your relationships and your life.

 

 

Start your journey of growth today by scheduling a free consultation.

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Radical Acceptance: How to Cope in Uncertain Times

Radical Acceptance: How to Cope in Uncertain Times

Radical Acceptance: How to Cope in Uncertain Times

Radical Acceptance

Unprecedented: Crisis.

This word captures the magnitude of the impact of the COVID19 health crisis has had on every area of our lives. The impact is both intensely personal and at the same time being experienced by our entire global human community. 

For many of us, worries about the immediate and long-term future have reached a tipping point, with fear of the unknown threatening to overwhelm our ability to manage it. For those who have previously struggled with anxiety and depression, the sense of overwhelm is compounded.

Unprecedented: Fear, Anxiety, and Uncertainty. 

Having unlimited amounts of time socially isolated, without our usual routines has been unsettling. Economic uncertainty is a threat to our livelihood. Our instinctive response to a threat is to become hyper-vigilant; a stress-based state of readiness. Many of us have taken heed of the safety precautions necessary to stay safe while out in the world, such as wearing face masks, social distancing, and washing our hands. 

However, this constant physiological state of stress is counterproductive to maintaining a strong immune system. Studies have shown that stress impacts our immune system negatively, due to the release of stress hormones which take a toll on our bodies.

In order to truly maintain our health, we are encouraged to look within; to learn more about how to create wellness in our inner world—our true selves.

Unprecedented: Opportunity. 

As uncomfortable and disrupting as it is, this crisis has presented us with an unprecedented opportunity to slow down, and to connect with our selves in a way that may not have been possible while we were engaged in our busy daily lives. We have an opportunity to become mindful – to consider where we are, how we got here—and if desired— make adjustments or start over.

Research over the past several decades validates both the short and long term benefits of mindfulness in shoring up our immune system. As you learn to regulate your emotions and develop mindfulness, you will also be providing a boost to your immune system. 

Radical Acceptance and Mindfulness are two practices that can be cultivated to reduce stress to our immune systems and ground our selves in a more beneficial psychological mindset—offering an unparalleled opportunity for development of personal stability. 

Simply understood, radical acceptance means we acknowledge that things are “as they are.” This is a first step, not the end game. It is simply an acknowledgment of the reality of what has happened or what is currently happening, both outside and inside of us. 

Radical Acceptance

Let me emphasize: Radical acceptance is not the same as “agreeing with” or passively allowing unacceptable situations or behaviors from others. It simply means you fully face reality “as it is” so you can see clearly without distortions and take appropriate action as necessary.

Once we accept reality as it is, we can then consider if and how we’d like to change it.  Rather than judging what is happening, and spending energy on objecting and telling stories about it; we acknowledge  “OK, this is happening.” Then we ask, “Now, how do I want to handle it?”

How does this help us? Objecting to reality actually intensifies our emotional reaction and clouds our ability to think clearly and make the best decisions. Caveat: Developing Radical Acceptance is not necessarily easy. Change rarely is. Adapting our patterns of behavior requires focused attention and effort, but it is within our control and the benefits are immediately realized.

Consider the following scenario, which demonstrates two approaches to a circumstance

Let’s imagine a typical situation befalls two women; I’ll call them Maggie and Sarah. They get into a traffic accident while driving on the highway. 

After the initial shock, Maggie becomes angry because she believes the accident was caused by Sarah’s error. This causes her to get out of her car and confront Sarah, putting herself in danger. She then calls her husband and spends time and energy retelling what happened and defending herself – forgetting that she needs to call the insurance company to report the accident. 

Maggie is stuck in a mental loop. Maggie is adding suffering to what is an unfortunate circumstance. She also misses the opportunity to feel gratitude for the fact that she was not harmed. She is making a bad situation worse by objecting to the reality of the situation. 

However, Sarah is more mindful. Rather than objecting to reality, Sarah moves more quickly from shock to accepting what is — which is that she has been in an accident. She doesn’t focus on whose fault it was; she knows insurance will handle that. Instead, she focuses on the here and now, and is grateful that both she and the other driver appear to be unharmed. Because she is less emotional, Sarah can see things from a wider perspective. She was shaken from the accident but remains in control of her emotions, she is not rejecting or judging reality. When Maggie approaches her, she remains in her car and keeps her cool. She avoids a potentially heated exchange. She has the where-with-all to call her insurance company and the police from the safety of her car. 

This example illustrates in a simple way how radical acceptance allows us to face reality as it is, and make the best decisions we can. Neither woman was able to change the reality of the situation. They were both in a car accident. However, the event was much more draining for Maggie, and impacted her well being more negatively.  This is an example of how radical acceptance can help us to reduce our suffering. 

Radical acceptance is well expressed in this well-known excerpt from The Serenity Prayer (Reinhold Niebuhr, 1892-1971)

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can; 
and wisdom to know the difference.

Applying Radical Acceptance to the Moment

If there is one thing this global pandemic has made abundantly clear, it is that no matter how well we plan (and yes we should plan) there are many things out of our immediate control. In light of this fact, we can use radical acceptance to discern what it is we do have control over within our circumstances, and how to make best use of our energy toward the well being of others and our selves.  

Here are some practical tips for how to apply radical acceptance to the moment:

Ground yourself in the present moment. – Often, much of our anxiety is based on fear of the future. When anxiety threatens to overwhelm you, try focusing your attention on what is coming through your 5 senses: What do you see, what do you hear, what are you feeling in your body, do you have a taste in your mouth, can you smell anything. Breathe into these sensations. Doing this for one or two minutes will significantly reduce your anxiety and allow you to solve problems with more clarity.

Move your body – Check in with how your body feels; do you feel tightness in your chest? Is your breathing rapid, or shallow? Do you feel tension in your neck? Once you have determined that these bodily sensations are not related to sickness, try stretching, going for a walk nearby, or put on some music and dance around the living room, joy in movement is a great stress reliever!

Limit media exposure of the news – While it is important to stay aware of the most recent updates, try to limit your intake to that which is actionable, and will actually make a difference to your day-to-day functioning. Once you have the information you need, turn off the news, and seek other forms of relaxation and entertainment. Perhaps finally binge-watching that TV show you have never had time for, or maybe find a good comedy special. Laughter is the best medicine!

Develop mindfulness – Mindfulness means paying attention to what is happening inside of you and outside of you, in the present moment, without judgment.  Mindfulness is not necessarily quieting your mind, although that may happen as you cultivate this practice. Rather, mindfulness lets us widen our view of any given moment, so that we see ourselves within what is happening. This small shift in perception can help us avoid getting absorbed in thought and anxiety. It’s like putting a wedge between you and your thoughts and emotions, which allows you to realize that you are NOT your thoughts or emotions. With practice, you come to see that your awareness is constant, it is the thoughts and emotions that come and go. This space is where the magic happens and where freedom from the grip of anxiety may be possible.

The ground we gain by tending to our internal experience will serve us both now and all the days of our lives. In a life full of uncertainty and the inevitability of change, the ability to ground and regulate ourselves in our Self is an opportunity to become familiar with a truly constant and stable place. 

Developing these mindfulness practices requires practice. Working with a life coach or individual therapist can help facilitate the development of these skills. The best part is, when we are better able to cope our selves, we help others we are in contact with to become more grounded as well.

Warm Wishes, 
Roseann Pascale, M.S., LMFT

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Roseann Pascale, M.A., LMFT is an empathetic and intuitive couples counselor, therapist and coach. Through authentic connection and a down to earth demeanor, Roseann can guide you in developing clarity and cultivating well-being. Using the practices of mindfulness and values-driven action, she helps individuals and couples overcome their challenges and create fulfillment in all aspects of life.

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Fight Racism, Part 2: Becoming Antiracist

Authentic Antiracist Action Starts With You.

BECOMING ANTIRACIST: Many people around the country and around the world are feeling a renewed sense of hope that making much-needed societal changes to fight racism may be possible. People are protesting, showing support of the Black Lives Matter movement, speaking out about social injustice, taking antiracist action, and feeling very motivated to be a part of the solution.

This is a great thing. It also needs to be said that true, meaningful change will require us to go much deeper than saying nice things or taking superficial action. True change will require all Americans — and specifically, White Americans — to take this fight on as their own. In order for lasting, systemic change to happen, White Americans need to take on the emotional burden of racism, break the silence of complicity, refuse to accept the status quo, and shine the light of inquiry into all the spaces that racism hides and festers. It is vital for White people to do this work because…. going to say it… White people are actually the problem. Not all White people, but enough White people are collectively involved in systemic racist policies and institutions to make these systems very difficult for people of color to change from the outside in.

This is an inside job. White people need to be looking around themselves (and inside themselves) to see what’s causing so much harm to others and take meaningful antiracist action to change what they can change. This sounds simple, but in reality, it’s much harder to do.

Becoming Antiracist

Well-meaning white people are often eager to leap into action for the antiracist but do so without first having done the foundational personal growth work that allows them to genuinely understand racism, and be confident activists in pursuit of change. Instead, White people often feel intense feelings of guilt and for the abuse that people of color experience, shame for their own White privilege, and intense feelings of anxiety about doing or saying “the wrong thing.” While these feelings are all understandable, not knowing how to work through them and get past them can stop a White person from being the effective agent-of-change that the world so desperately needs.

Before meaningful change and social activism are possible, there needs to be a growth process of self-awareness and healing. This is hard to do, and there are not many sign-posts to guide you in this work. Most White families never talk about race, much less provide their children with a roadmap to develop a healthy, White racial identity. As such, White Americans struggle to cope with the emotional reality of racism and injustice. Defensiveness, silence, denial, tone-deaf “action,” and / or paralysis can ensue.

(Healthy) White Racial Identity Development

The good news is that while White culture does not generally speak of such things openly, there actually is a map. In the ’90s psychologist and researcher Janet Helms built on the work of William Cross (racial identity development in people of color) and Derald W Sue (Counseling the Culturally Diverse) to develop a White racial identity development model that outlines the process through which White people can shift away from color-blindness and denial, work through paralyzing shame and guilt, take responsibility for understanding racism, and then use their authentic awareness to be part of the meaningful solution.

Until White people do this necessary personal growth work, it is difficult for them to be reliable partners in the fight against racism. However, the internal work of growing in their own racial identity and awareness lays the foundation for authentic anti-racist action that is motivated by a genuine desire for positive change, and a sense that the problem of racism is their problem too. In that emotional space, White Americans can shift away from being (even unconsciously) part of the problem, and into being part of the solution.

The Antiracist Personal Growth Process

In that spirit, on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast, I’m diving into Helm’s White racial identity development model, and having an honest conversation about what the stages are really like. (Because I have lived them all!) We’ll talk about what the work involves, the obstacles and opportunities in each stage of development, and resources to support you in your anti-racist development. Specifically, we’ll address:

  • Why “color-blindness” happens, and why something so prevalent (and seemingly well-intentioned) is so destructive.
  • Why White people often feel so much guilt and shame when confronting race, and how to not let those feelings stop you from moving forward.
  • How to avoid the mental and emotional pitfalls that can derail the anti-racist growth process.
  • Why anti-racist action stemming from anxiety about “being a good White person” can be more harmful than helpful.
  • How to dig into the realities of racism, the impact of racial discrimination, and the fact of White privilege in a constructive way that facilitates growth and healing.
  • How White parents can raise anti-racist children.

 

Antiracist Resources

In addition to all of the above, in this episode, I mention a number of resources that have been personally helpful to me in my own journey of anti-racist growth. These are just a tiny drop in the bucket; a big part of the work of stage five is to read / watch / listen / attend / learn from anything and everything that adds another piece to the ever-evolving puzzle of your own understanding and empathy. A few resources mentioned in the podcast (know there are MANY more):

Antiracist Resources For Kids (Toddlers to Tweens!):

All the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Fight Racism, Part 2: Becoming Antiracist

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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