Opting for the good news

Benefits of a positive focus

We all could use a little good news today.

It’s easy to get drawn into the negativity and drama so prevalent in society. I’ve even had people advise me I’m too happy, I should be more worried, angry, or concerned. Really? Why would I do that to myself?

With so much gloom and doom in the news, it’s easy to fall prey to stories and perspectives promoting fear, hatred and separation, reasons to be afraid, cynical, and suspicious.

There was a time in my life when I’d not only read all of the challenging news stories first, but I’d spend the day discussing them, ruminating on why people were so mean, stupid, or dishonest. My day was coloured by a back-drop of negativity and I missed the good, and my body experienced the stress created by negative focus.

When I’d arrive home from work, I couldn’t wait to share the day’s challenges, completely ignoring all of the wonderful things that had happened. I gave more attention to challenges and problems, which were small, compared to all of the good things that had happened.

I had a habit of negativity. And, my health and happiness experienced the consequences.

Our bodies don’t know the difference between real and imagined. Think of a nice, yellow, juicy lemon for a few seconds, and you’ll salivate. The body responds to our thoughts, not just in noticeable ways like salivation, but also in ways we might not notice so readily.

Every negative thought has a corresponding effect within our minds and bodies. Negative thoughts and feelings are stickier due to the inherent negativity bias of our brains; negativity grows, altering our filter of perception and experience of life. Our bodies follow suit, experiencing the physical effects of negative thoughts.

The same is also true of positive thoughts; positive thoughts create a chemical cascade of beneficial chemicals within the body.

Wearing lenses of negativity, we’re often quick to assume the worst, and find more to be negative about. We’ll find more and more to support our own perspective; we tend to look only for things that support our own beliefs and bias’. Social media algorithms feed us more of the same diet and before we know it we’re enmeshed in the negativity, and it colours our lives.

No, I don’t wear rose-colored glasses. I’m well aware of what’s happening in the larger world today. I’ve learned, while it’s important to be aware of world events, there’s wisdom in being awake and aware of how far down the rabbit-hole I let myself be drawn.

I hear people lament there’s more bad news than good news. That’s not the truth. As I cruised today’s headlines, the balance between happy news stories, versus ones announcing danger and strife. I counted. It was nearly a 50-50 split. The question is, which ones do I open first?

It’s about where I pay attention, and to which stories I give the biggest weight, value or air-time in my mind and in conversation. Instead of focusing on all of the negativity, I choose to remember there’s more good in this world than there’s wrong with it; there are more good people than bad. I prefer to focus on, and be an advocate, for good.

When I choose to focus on all of the negative, I am paying personal consequence for all the challenges of the world, mentally, emotionally and physically.

I chose to give more attention to the goodness in life than the negative. Thank goodness for the ability of the brain to change. With a more positive perspective, life’s become so much happier and my health better.

A more positive focus has not only benefitted me, personally, but has helped me in supporting others and able to contribute to making the world a better place.

Our tendencies of thought are just a habit. We can change our habits of thought by becoming aware of them, realizing we don’t have to be victim to old habits. We can look for the good.

We are always at a point of choice. Making a new one surely helped me.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Beyond the rabbit hole of negative thoughts

Help with difficult emotions

It happens to many of us from time-to-time, and it feels hard, painful, and lonely.

I was taken by surprise last week to find myself pulled into a seeming pit of misery and self-doubt. It seemed to come out of the blue, and one negative thought followed the other. My belly was in a knot and I was suffering at the effect of my own mind and emotions.

While it’s easy to get pulled down the rabbit-hole of negative thoughts and emotions, knowing what to do to help pull ourselves out feels difficult when we’re in the middle of it. For me, gone are the days when I want challenging thoughts and emotions to be running my life. Having a plan in place for when this happens is incredibly helpful.

I used to try to busy and blame myself out of negative thought and feelings, but I learned this does nothing to heal what must be healed within. That used to be the way it was; when I was triggered by something, or felt ‘off’, I’d look outside of myself for something to blame, and if I looked hard enough, I could certainly find something. This certainly created carnage and complexity in my life, and healed nothing, leaving victims in my wake.

Or, I stuffed those feelings down by distracting myself by getting busy. I’ve learned when I do these things, I keep the solution at bay and I become victim to my emotions and to life.

In my evolution with mindfulness and learning to understand my emotions, I remember telling my husband one morning that I felt irritable. When he asked me what the irritability was about, I could see his look of concern on his face melt into laughter when I replied, “it’s about nothing in particular, but if you want, I can make it about you, like I used to.” This was a transformative and empowering moment for me.

The suffering difficult emotions used to cause has lessened as I’ve learned to simply observe emotions, breathe deeply, and let them pass. I appreciate thinking about emotions as e-motion; energy in motion. Feelings need to move, and when allowed to be observed and witnessed, not suppressed or fed, they will change and lighten.

Emotion researchers have revealed that even the most powerful emotions will pass in 60-90 seconds when we do this, if we don’t suppress them or feed them with a thought. The feelings may come back, but they will do so with less intensity.

Remembering to breathe deeply is important. Learning to turn toward what we’re feeling, breath it through, without judgment, is key. Learning not to project, surpress or gloss-over what we’re feeling is essential. Having a plan in place for times when challenging emotions seem to grab us is so helpful.

I smile in recognizing how quickly I was able to bring healing and move through my venture down the rabbit-hole last week; in the past I would have taken residence up there for days. Instead of staying stuck, I enacted my plan, and it was transformative. I hope something in this plan might be helpful for you.

• Self-compassion is essential. Holding ourselves as tenderly and wisely as we’d hold someone we love. Become our own best friend.

• Turning toward and feeling the feelings, breathing, and allowing them to move through the body. Even intense emotions will dissipate in intensity with this practice.

• Don’t believe everything you think, simply notice with curiosity and non-judgment.

• Taking responsibility for our feelings, but not going into self-blame, shame or negative self-talk.

• Phone a friend, but choose carefully. I have wise, close friends who are able to hold the high-watch for me, and have agreed not to join me in the pit. They listen as a caring presence but don’t feed a negative situation. Speaking with them helps me can gain clarity.

• Exercise or going for a walk can be helpful to help us gain perspective.

• Prayer is powerful.

• The use of inspired reading and positive affirmations.

Positive self-affirmations are helpful if we’re not trying to simply by-pass what we’re experiencing, but they can help us through the tough times. Positive affirmations are found to:

• Reduce stress, anxiety and depression

• Increase feelings of hopefulness, soothing, and relaxation

• Improve confidence

• Support positive outcomes

• Improve work performance and productivity

• Increase resilience

• Increase motivation

• Helpful in formation of new habits

• May be helpful in promoting sleep

Positive affirmations don’t have to be complex, and are best if they align with your own values and are believable to us. They are short statements repeated several times a day and can be additionally used to support ourselves when facing challenging or stressful situations.

Learning to experience our emotions but not have them take-us-out is so empowering. They have important information to offer us, when we learn to be with them and listen mindfully.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Cultivating gratitude can lead to happiness

Hacking happiness

Most people just want to be happy, but they find themselves playing a game of seek-and-don’t-find in the outer world.

Cultivating greater happiness in our lives isn’t as difficult as you might think. Happiness isn’t contingent on external circumstances, it’s an inside job.

It’s common to hear people putting off happiness to some elusive future date. I’ll be happy when… (fill in the blank.) Why wait? Start now, you deserve it.

Our happiness matters, as happy people tend to:

• be healthier

• have better relationships

• experience greater vigour and energy

• have a better sense of humour

• live longer

Not surprisingly, happiness affects both the quality and the quantity of our lives.

Interestingly, environmental circumstances only account for 10% of our happiness, while our genetics and personalities are 50% responsible. Yet, we don’t have to be a victim of these factors. Our power abides in the remaining 40%, in which we are able to influence our happiness with intentional activities.

There are simple, quick and easy things we can do to increase our own levels of happiness. The answers lie within.

Multiple studies reveal one sure-fire way to increase happiness is to, first, be grateful. Happiness and gratitude are hot-topics in the research world. Interestingly, multiple researchers have found a strong positive correlation between happiness and gratitude.

Brene Brown, researcher and author, found the relationship between joy and gratitude to be both surprising and important. She wrote, “in my 12 years of research on 11,000 pieces of data, I did not interview one person who described themselves as joyful, who also did not actively practice gratitude.”

We can re-wire our brains for gratitude and happiness. When we engage in gratitude practices over time, there are lasting changes in the brain, particularly in areas associated with decision-making and learning. Practicing gratitude boosts the production of neurochemicals and hormones that support well-being.

Our brains and our bodies benefit from practicing gratitude, improving our heart-health, blood pressure, sleep and reducing pain. Grateful individuals have improved impulse control, and tend to be more motivated and productive. Even if we can’t find anything to be grateful for, the mere practice of stopping to look for something to be grateful for creates a shift.

Or, you can up the power of gratitude to improve happiness. While merely listing what we’re grateful for is helpful, thinking of why we’re grateful for the items on our list enhances the benefits we receive. Delving into the reasons we’re grateful allows the felt sense of gratitude to be experienced by our bodies.

Don’t save gratitude for just the big or fancy stuff. I practice gratitude for some of the most basic things that are easily overlooked, such as a warm and comfy bed to sleep in, the sunshine or new growth on the trees. Even my most challenging days are filled with reasons to be grateful and the focus on negative thoughts is reduced as I remember to look for the good.

The use of my gratitude journal improved dramatically when I started storing it on my pillow with a pen tucked inside. Considering the many blessings of my life just before going to sleep is the perfect way to enter dreamland.

Through practicing this over the years, just the sight of my journal causes a positive shift inside my body and I can feel it.

Gratitude can become a family practice, and is the perfect way to wire our kids to be happier. Families who pause to state something they’re grateful for are hacking happiness for the whole family. Dinner time is the perfect opportunity. Not only does it invite more joy into the house, it helps lead to healthier conversations around the dinner table.

Another of my favourite gratitude practices is the old-fashioned thank-you card. I keep a stock on hand. I love to send thank-you cards, all jazzed-up with colourful and fun stickers. I find myself continually canvassing my life for the good to find reasons to send a card.

I love how it feels inside of me to consider my wonderful friends and family and sincerely thank them.

For me, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Card writing fills my heart and people love to receive my jazzed-up creations. In the process, my mind and body benefit greatly.

Gratitude is such a simple practice. It’s portable and it’s a proven method to increase happiness.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

High-functioning anxiety and self-care

Practise self-care

Anxiety hides in surprising places.

The story’s becoming sadly common today. Bright, hard-working people feeling unhappy and past their ability to cope. Far too many people are living lives of quiet desperation, not knowing what’s gone wrong. Even days off feel like torture without the distraction of work, so staying busy seems imperative. Run, run, run!

The world is full of people with high-functioning anxiety. I lived this way for many years, and now work with others experiencing high-functioning anxiety who feel helpless in knowing how to help themselves. After all, they want to get it right.

High-functioning anxiety may look like:

• High-achieving & detail oriented

• Punctual or early to arrive

• Orderly and tidy

• Proactive; ready for any possibility

• Organized; well-detailed lists and calendars

• Outgoing and jovial

• Active and helpful

• Outwardly collected and calm

• Passionate & loyal

All of these are lovely attributes are valued and encouraged by society. While everything appears wonderful on the outside, the picture of success, the internal experience feels anything but wonderful for many people and they’re suffering.

There’s a dark side and cost to high-functioning anxiety:

• Inability to say no

• Constantly busy

• Overthinking, racing mind, rumination on the negative

• Insomnia or poor sleep

• Nervous habits and chatter

• People pleasing; fear of letting others down

• Procrastination

• Mental and physical fatigue

• Fear of the future

• Never-enough, the feeling they fall short of expectations

• Anxiety, not ambition, creating busyness

• Feeling internal struggle

• Stoic, cold, or hard to read

Stress, when situational and temporary, is a normal part of life that can lead us to strive to do our best. Yet, when we have to endure stress for long periods, anxiety and stress can take over our lives and lead to suffering.

How can we awaken from stress and anxiety when it creates suffering in our lives? Becoming aware of what was fuelling my perfectionist and workaholic behaviours was a key to my recovery. Learning to pause, to simply feel my feelings, instead of feed or react to them, was key.

Learning to feel my feelings and what they were telling me took practice. Initially, sitting still was torture. I had to change the wiring in my brain and body to overcome the demon of anxiety and learn what hid beneath. Mindfulness practice and self-care were life-savers for me.

You cannot give from an empty vessel. We’ve got to find ways to nurture and nourish ourselves. Self-care is not selfish, but allows us to fill our own vessel so we can be our best-selves in the world.

But what is self-care?

Self-care easily feels like two four-letter words in a row for the high-achiever or perfectionist; always wanting to do it right. For many, self-care’s become just one more thing to check-off from our ‘to do’ lists and feel guilty about, or they’re failing at; they feel stressed by their need to care for themselves and don’t know how.

While they may be doing all the right things, they report feeling guilty, lacking and somehow broken or beyond hope when they fail to reap the intended benefits. The problem is not so much what they’re doing, it’s how they’re doing it. The spirit or attitudinal foundation we hold as we engage in care practices is what matters most. Being gentle, patient, and kind with ourselves is essential.

Self-care is not just one more thing to add and check-off of your to-do list. You can easily search the internet for hundreds of suggestions about self-care.

What’s vital to know is self-care is not so much about what you do, but how you do it. Engaging in self-care with a sense of self-nurturance, spaciousness and patience is essential. Being as kind and nurturing towards ourselves as we would be to someone we care deeply for is required.

Self-care is not one-size-fits-all, and each of us needs a variety of different practices to use, depending on how we’re feeling. Sometimes a walk is the perfect thing, and other times a mindfulness sitting-practice or chat with a good friend is what’s required. Learning what’s nurturing for us, as individuals, in certain situations is important, but actually using these strategies is key.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More New Thought articles

About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

An assistant minister at the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, she is a retired nurse with a master’s degree in health science and is a hospice volunteer.  She is also an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan and currently spends her time teaching smartUBC, a unique mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. 

She is a speaker and presenter and from her diverse experience and knowledge, both personally and professionally, she has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people gain a new perspective, awaken and recognize we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts, stress or to life. We are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 44 years and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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