It’s Spring – Come On Out

Posted by Harriet on

IMG_6651Opening ourselves up to springtime – a time of renewal and growth.

It’s been a long, cold and snowy winter here (on the East Coast of the United States).  We are so ready for spring.  How wonderful to see those first crocuses popping their heads up.  I noticed a lot of purple ones, but maybe that’s just what I hone in on since I’m a staunch purple lover.

It feels so good to plant those first pansies.  I just potted a few small planters on my front steps.

And today I took my first hike of the season.  How great it felt to be outside hiking, climbing and relaxing in nature for hours.  Walking among the naked trees soon to burst open with leaves.  Turkey hawks circling around overhead, dipping and gliding.  There were those perennial evergreens providing us with some greenery.  The open and perfectly clear views under a cloudless blue sky brings into focus the great reminder of the expansiveness of life.   A grand perspective opens up once again after what felt like a tightly holed up winter.

Ah, to know this is just the beginning… To look forward to the next several months of outdoor life in warm weather is a real ‘feel gooder’.

What are you looking forward to in this new season of warmth and growth?  What rejuvenates you?IMG_6655IMG_6639IMG_6633

Being There For A Friend In Need

Posted by Harriet on

images[9]I’ve got a few friends going through some really tough times now.    And I’m feeling so helpless.  I think of them and their situations very often and feel really awful.  Thinking of them, feeling for them, empathizing, doesn’t cut it.

Yes, I know – Be there for them.  But how does being there translate into action?

I reach out by calling and emailing but of course that just doesn’t seem enough.   There’s not much concrete, hands-on help needed.   It’s more the emotional aspect.

Listening a lot, saying little, acknowledging the difficulties and being encouraging by pointing out their strengths.  I know the answer is in that all encompassing word – supportive.

What does supportive even mean?  It means being a person who can hold up another through their ordeal.   It’s being that pillar onto which they can lean and unload their heavy burden before it weakens them to the core.  It means it’s a one-sided friendship (for now) where you’re connecting with them for their sake only.  It can mean going through some pretty heavy darkness without rushing in to point out the possible light that they’re not yet able (or ready) to see.   It means being with them where they’re at.

It means being a really good listener.  And when they say, “I can’t keep unloading on you like this”, saying, “yes, you can, I’m here to listen, that’s the least I can do.”

Nobody can take away someone’s pain and sadness but helping them feel less alone while going through it is Huge.

“I Did It” Promotes Self-Pride

Posted by Harriet on

imagesFW351UMZIt’s not so much how we do something but that we do it.   The group of students (5th and 6th graders) who attended the public speaking parent/child workshop brought this idea to life.   For the past three sessions, each child got up to give a short talk in front of the group.

We all know speaking in front of a group is nerve-wracking for most of us, how much more so for kids. They proved to themselves that they CAN DO IT.  And that is huge.  Scared, nervous and all, they pushed through their fear.   With good posture, a smile on their face and at least some eye contact, they gave their little talks, from a heartfelt topic of something they love (session 1 and 2) to a piece of good current events news they heard or read about.

Even the student who basically froze up there the first time, pushed herself to get back up before the night was over.

Perseverance is the name of the game.   That’s where self-esteem and pride come from.   It’s not in the outcome but rather in the effort and bravery to step up to the plate and do something that is out of one’s comfort zone.

The kids also saw their parents in a different light, as people who were also nervous and got up there anyway.

The only way we can begin to maximize our potential is by tackling more difficult challenges and seeing that it is possible.  With practice we can improve and maybe even like it. 

Focusing On What’s Working Well

Posted by Harriet on

P1000376What’s going well?  What’s working for you?   This is the key focus of positive psychology.  We start here and work from this perspective into the areas that are problematic.

When I take students out of class for their 30 minutes of counseling, I start with WWW – what went well so far today.  (Credit goes to Dr. Martin Seligman for this WWW idea.)  This helps them begin to see that no matter what their issues are, there are things that are going well.

This holds true for everybody.   And when I see clients for coaching/counseling I always start by asking, what’s working for you?

People are often surprised by this.  After all, if they’re coming for this kind of help, there are naturally problems.   But this does not preclude the issues that bring people to a therapist/coach’s office.   It simply means that it’s important to get people to realize and focus on the strengths that are at play.

So often we get submerged by our problems and don’t or can’t see that are actually things that are going well.  When we forget to take notice of them, they fall into the recesses of our being and more and more negativity surfaces.

But, “When we can appreciate the good, the good appreciates.(Tal Ben-Shahar)

We’re able to start to see more of the goodness that’s around us.  And we can begin to spiral upward.

This is a coping strategy as well as a way of living well.

When my daughter went through a near-fatal medical crisis, without having the formal knowledge of positive psychology, I was using the idea of gratitude. 

Positive Psychology – A Way of Life

Posted by Harriet on

IMG_6482I just completed my 11 month course in positive psychology.  I feel proud and really good about it.  I had initially been ambivalent about taking it because I wasn’t sure if I had the discipline to stick with it, as most of it is online:  weekly videos, writing assignments (reflection papers) and study group calls, along with lots of reading.  It’s a subject I’m passionate about.  When an unsolicited check appeared in my mailbox a year and a half ago from an unknown insurance policy that my father had (he died 3 years ago), for pretty much the exact amount of the course, I took this as a sign and immediately registered for the course.  My father was a life-long learner as am I, and so I jumped off the fence into the Yes side.

Here it is almost a year later and I graduated with a certificate in Positive Psychology taught by one of the most esteemed and popular Harvard professors, Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar.  His course there drew the largest audience- over 1400 students.

This certificate program was given through Kripalu, a yoga retreat center in the beautiful Berkshires in Lenox, Massachusetts. Two hundred people from all over the world had the fabulous experience of coming together twice during the year for “immersions”-  5-day intensive and actively engaged learning retreats infused with music and yoga/meditation.

A way of life, a way of living a rich and flourishing life, this is an approach with practical applications based on scientific research.  

Mental Exercises To Prepare For Your Day

Posted by Harriet on

P1010397We wake up in the morning to a whole new day; another chance at a fresh start.  We all know the usual rush rush rush, stress stress stress mornings.   How much better it could be if we built in a few minutes to psyche ourselves up to greet the day with our best self.  We’d feel better and do better.

It really doesn’t take too much.  You just need some interest, a few minutes and some action steps.

So how can we optimize our day?  How can we give ourselves the best shot at a good day?  How can we start our day feeling strong, capable, focused, confident and ready to take it on? 

Here are 6 ways to prepare yourself for the day:

Breathe – sit or lie down and take a few long deep breaths.  This is a natural calmer to our internal system.  Our cortisol levels go down.    Be sure to do diaphragmatic (belly) breathing.   

Meditate – or just sit in silence and watch your breath as it goes in and out for a few minutes.   Herbert Benson’s Relaxation Response is powerful and quick. 

Gratitude – think of a few things you’re grateful for and really feel them.  Let the warm emotions of appreciation well up.  This brings up our positive emotions; as Barbara Fredrickson calls this – “heartfelt positivity”. 

Posture – practice sitting and standing with good posture.  It helps create a good state of mind and affects our internal mood.  Amy Cuddy, social psychologist, studies the effect of body language on how  we  perceive and feel about ourselves.  


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