Tag Archives: be happy

7 Strategies to Feel Less Lonely

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One major challenge within happiness is loneliness.  The more I’ve learned about happiness, the more I’ve come to believe that loneliness is a terrible, common, and important obstacle to consider.

According to Elizabeth Bernstein’s recent Wall Street Journal piece, Alone or Lonely, the rate of loneliness in the U.S. has doubled over the past thirty years. About 40% of Americans report being lonely; in the 1980s, it was 20%. One reason: more people live alone (27% in 2012; 17% in 1970). But being alone and being lonely aren’t the same.

A while back, after reading John Cacioppo’s fascinating book Loneliness, I posted Some counter-intuitive facts about loneliness, and several people responded by asking, “Okay, but what do I do about it? What steps can I take to feel less lonely?”

I then read another fascinating book, Lonely — a memoir by Emily White, about her own experiences and research into loneliness. White doesn’t attempt to give specific advice about how to combat loneliness, and I don’t want to put words in her mouth, but from her book, I gleaned these strategies:

1. Remember that although the distinction can be difficult to draw, loneliness and solitude are different. White observes, “It’s entirely reasonable to feel lonely yet still feel as though you need some time to yourself.” Loneliness feels draining, distracting, and upsetting; desired solitude feels peaceful, creative, restorative.

2. Nurturing others — raising children, teaching, caring for animals — helps to alleviate loneliness.

3. Keep in mind that to avoid loneliness, many people need both a social circle and an intimate attachment. Having just one of two may still leave you feeling lonely.

4. Work hard to get your sleep. One of the most common indicators of loneliness is broken sleep — taking a long time to fall asleep, waking frequently, and feeling sleepy during the day. Sleep deprivation, under any circumstances, brings down people’s moods, makes them more likely to get sick, and dampens their energy, so it’s important to tackle this issue. (Here are some tips on getting good sleep.)

5. Try to figure out what’s missing from your life. White observes that making lots of plans with friends didn’t alleviate her loneliness. “What I wanted,” she writes, “was the quiet presence of another person.” She longed to have someone else just hanging around the house with her. The more clearly you see what’s lacking, the more clearly you’ll see possible solutions.

6. Take steps to connect with other people (to state the obvious). Show up, make plans, sign up for a class, take a minute to chat.

7. Stay open. Negative emotions like loneliness, envy, and guilt have an important role to play in a happy life; they’re big, flashing signs that something needs to change. The pain of loneliness can prod you to connect with other people. Unfortunately–and this may seem counter-intuitive--loneliness itself can make people feel more negative, critical, and judgmental. If you recognize that your loneliness may be affecting you in that way, you can take steps to counter it.

Most people have suffered from loneliness at some point. Have you found any good strategies for making yourself less lonely? What worked — or didn’t work?

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How to Choose Real and Lasting Happiness

shutterstock_93400051Have you ever wondered why lasting happiness seems to elude so many of us? At times it can seem like we’re trying to find a brass ring in a field of hay. We try so very hard at being the best we can and still it seems to be so elusive. What’s missing here? I think that it’s safe to say that it won’t be found in materialism, at least not the enduring type of happiness we’re in search of. And according to divorce rates it isn’t to be found in someone else.

Where does that leave us folks? Yup, you got it. Happiness begins with us. Each and every one of us is the source for our emotions. Happiness is truly a responsibility and only we can ultimately be held accountable for our own.

So how can we begin to create lasting happiness? Well let’s start by talking about what takes it away. Are you ready for this? Here’s the culprit: attachment. And what is attachment? It’s a belief or idea that we hold in our minds about how things should be, and we base these ideas on past experiences. The great news though is that we can change any belief by making a conscious decision. It’s the most empowering thing you can do for yourself! Let’s look at an example.

How many times have we gone to a department store or mall only to encounter a surly employee? Now most of us go into these places expecting a certain level of service. But guess what? Not every person you encounter is going to be able to uphold your standard of expectation. So when our expectations aren’t met, we react. Reaction is the thief that attempts to steal away our happiness! You can decide to release expectation in any circumstance. Now that’s empowerment! Because the moment you do that, you now have relinquished the authority from anyone else to take it (happiness) away from you.

The other thing about happiness is this: it’s a choice. We don’t have to wait until some future event to happen or to get the dream car to be happy. It can be chosen moment by moment. It begins with a thought. You can choose happiness. When you begin to choose it for yourself, you’ll discover that life will start sending you more and more reasons to be happy. It has a domino effect. Like attracts like. Just some food for thought. Be happy.

Here is a video from Deepak Chopra on the key to lasting happiness:

 

Originally published May 2011

Be Happy: 6 Tools to Get You Smiling in No Time

Photography is in my heart What is happiness? The dictionary gives us a definition with synonyms, almost too many of them but in a nutshell all the words represent a good feeling, and feeling good is the natural quest in life. But how to arrive there or better still how to be in that state of feeling good, more or less continuously?

We associate happiness with “when …  then.” When I have what I want then I will be happy. What I want may be drawn from the well of careers, finances, relationships or more specifically that particular job, or income or mate … and yet those who have attained what they desire find that the resulting happiness is very short lived or eludes them completely. And then the cycle begins again. Furthermore, to quote Srikumar Rao, whatever it is that we can get we can also “un-get” making the source of our happiness very precarious.

Practices Leading to Happiness

There are many roads to happiness and some more personal than others. Nevertheless they are there for each and everyone of us.

First Tip is to invest or focus on the process, as explained by Srikumar Rao. Another way of saying this is to focus on the journey and not on the destination. Make it a practice to start each day with an inspiring message. I often find myself waking up feeling rather flat, perhaps because here in Vancouver we are in a season of much rain and little sunshine but by the time that I am finished watching Enjoy the Ride my spirits have notched up several degrees. Make use of aids such as this video or music or whatever it is that makes your heart sing.

Second Tip is to learn the practice of deep breathing. Fill your lungs with oxygen by slowly counting to four as you breathe in and then in a controlled manner breathe out counting at least to five or six. Initially this may be a challenge but the more that you practice it the easier it will become. Oxygen is an amazing drug and your lungs, the organ that processes the oxygen, has receptors connected to the brain that trigger different “emotions”. For example, the top third of the lung is designed to trigger flight or fright; so if you breathe in a very shallow manner then the oxygen only fills the top part of your lung. This means that the receptors will send messages to the brain telling you to get ready for a fight or to run for your life. So breathe deeply and enjoy the calming effect. It is pretty difficult to be happy if you are in flight mode, if you are not calm.

Third Tip is to move. Movement makes energy flow. We are energy and when we are not happy then the flow of energy is not vibrating at a very high level. Go for a walk, even if it means getting off the bus a couple of stops before your destination or parking the car at the furthest corner of the parking lot. Walk with enthusiasm, throwing back your shoulders and swinging your arms. Go to a yoga class. Go to an exercise class or go for a swim and smile while you are moving your body.

Fourth Tip is to smile. Put a smile on your face, making eye contact with the person that passes you and flashing them a smile. You will be amazed by the response. And it will also have magical effects on you. It will fill your heart and make you glow. A smilereleases endorphins and therefore, like oxygen, is a powerful drug. Smiles also dispel energy vampires, a phrase coined by Jon Gordon in his blog and it is so very true. It is not possible to be happy with a frown on the face.

Fifth Tip is music. Music is a universal language. Some very interesting studies have been done with the effect that music has on the human brain. Play the kind of music that makes you want to move and then do it. Move with wild abandon. Remember that with movement there is a rise in energy.

Last Tip is to meditate. Meditating conjures up all kinds of images of contorted positions and demanding thoughts to vanish which in itself is thinking. But if you sit quietly, especially when you have that feeling of unhappiness; close your eyes and simply focus on your breath. Count as the air goes into your lungs and also as it comes out. Do this for ten minutes, no more. At first you can set a timer and you will be amazed how quickly you relax. Relaxing is one of the easiest steps that lead to a state of happiness.

 

Originally published January 2011

8 Ways To Feel Better In 30 Seconds Or Less

CL Society 194: Laughing girlPeople tell me, “I don’t have the time to …

“… go to the store and pick up fruits and vegetables.
“… exercise.” 
“… sit and breathe.”
“… to be positive.”

Really?  Too busy to be positive?

Surely, you can clear a scant 30 seconds to do something positive for yourself, can’t you? If thinking about what to do takes up too much of those 30 seconds, here follow 8 suggestions!

8 Positive things that you can ‘accomplish’ in a mere 30 seconds. 

  1. Breathe. 70% of waste is eliminated via your lungs! You can place your hand on your belly and feel it rise and fall with each breath cycle. Thirty seconds of breathing can do wonders!
  2. Affirmations. Repeat one powerful affirmation over and over again for 30 seconds. If it’s a short affirmation, “I am whole and complete,” you may be surprised to find how many times you can repeat “I am whole and complete” in just 30 seconds.
  3. Stretch. Stand and reach for the stars!
  4. Smile. Smiling relaxes hundreds of muscles and releases pockets of stress and tension held in your face.
  5. Stay Hydrated. Your brain is approximately 75% water, and it’s the first place in the body to lose water. Your brain needs water to think clearly. Drink a glass of water.
  6. Close Your Eyes. Give yourself a real break and allow your body a 30 second opportunity to re-balance itself. Close your eye, cup the palm of your hands over your ears and listen to the blissful sounds of the ocean playing. Just like when you were a kid and held that shell to your ear!
  7. Dance It Out. Plug your iPod into your ears and shake it up for 30 seconds. The ultimate energy boost!
  8. Do Nothing. Just sit and stare; perhaps out the window or at the ceiling. Just be sure to do nothing!

Surely, we all have a few 30-second pockets of time during the day where we can take the time to just be. Start NOW!

Spread the word … NOT the icing!

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For the best in wellness and weight loss wisdom, visit Janice:
Our Lady of Weight Loss
join the Kick in the Tush Club

Follow Janice on Twitter @OurLady
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Originally published July 2011

3 Ways to Achieve the Greatness Glow

The beautiful smile

By Jay Forte

I have a friend who is a speaker and teacher. Her work is her life. She can move between two large events on the same day and approach each with great energy, positivity, and passion. She finds time for everyone who stops to speak to her after her programs. She radiates energy, passion, and happiness. She has what I call the Greatness Glow.

When people are connected to their greatness – they know their talents, strengths and passions and live them each day – they glow. They don’t fight with life; they allow life to be as it is, seeing possibilities and opportunities. They have an intrinsic level of happiness and joy as they approach life because they have changed their view from “can’t” to “can,” from “should” to “want to,” from “must” to “can’t wait to.” This intentionality guides how they make decisions – they choose from their “greatness zone” – from great self-awareness and life awareness.

So how do people get the greatness glow? Here’s how:

  1. They know themselves. They know what they are good at, passionate about and what matters to them. They take the time and make the effort to discover what is amazing about them and what they are most inspired to do or be. They listen more to themselves than to others, because they know that they have more information about themselves than others do. They also know that they own their lives and their happiness.

  2. They know their world. They tune in and know what is happening. They dig into the facts to understand things, not just let sensationalism or pundits provide their information. They know their larger world and their local world; they commit to being an active part in their world and take responsibility to leave it better than they found it. They see their world for what it is an manage their expectations based on what the can and can’t affect.

  3. They connect what is best about them to applications that fit them in their world. They are always searching for opportunities that allow them to bring their best to all they do – they find applications in work and life that fit them – that need what they do best. They live the wisdom in this great quote by Frederick Buechner, “Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.” They enjoy life because they have chosen wisely how to show up to it.

As coaches we regularly ask our clients, “how do you choose to show up to ___________ (whatever event – work, relationship, life)? By choosing a greatness approach to showing up – that you reject the “good enough” perspective and choose to bring your absolute best to all you do – you connect to your best abilities. You get to do what you do best for a world that needs it. Decisions are clearer. You approach each day with greater energy, engagement and connection. You glow – it is your greatness glow.

Be on the watch for those who have the greatness glow – those who are loving life because they know themselves, know their world and have connected their best to applications in their world. Life isn’t a struggle; life isn’t a test. It becomes a daily great event. And think how you feel when you are in something great – you glow. Now picture having this more in your life because you make decisions that fit the real you.

What can you do today to create or improve your greatness glow? And how can you inspire others to do the same?

“The Science of Happiness”: One Incredibly Powerful Tool You Should Try Right Now!

Screen Shot 2013-05-29 at 11.16.21 AMIf there were one secret we could find the answer to, one code we could forever crack and have access to, it would be happiness. Because fundamentally, everyone wants to be happy, right?

We’ve heard this question a thousand times: Is there an ultimate key to happiness? And if there is, then why doesn’t someone spread the good news? The reality is that there isn’t a pill you can simply take to forever say goodbye to grief, anger, dissatisfaction, etc. No single possession or lifestyle condition can forever change your emotional state for the better, and the internal shifts that can often seem daunting and unrealistic.

Though we may not be able to hand you a “one size fits all” recipe for happiness, there are several tools you can incorporate in your life that are bound to have a profound affect. And top on the list is gratitude. Research has shown that shifting your outlook to one of gratitude and appreciation can enhance your overall feeling of well-being, as can engaging in acts of kindness and selflessness.

But nothing is more powerful than seeing these studies play out in real life. Soulpancake decided to test the gratitude theory out on a group on volunteers, not previously briefed on the reason for the experiment. Participants took an initial survey measuring their happiness, then did an amazing gratitude exercise (which you’ll see in the video below), and finally took another happiness survey, with slightly different wording so that they wouldn’t know exactly what was being measured. The results were staggering. Check it out!

It is so simple, and yet easy to forget, that the surest way of increasing our immediate happiness is to reach out to someone in love and gratitude. By the same reasoning, the best way of increasing overall happiness – the deep and satisfying joy we all long for – is to cultivate a heart that is open to both receiving and expressing love.

Express gratitude regularly, all the time, whenever you feel it! And let us know if and how this affects your overall feeling of happiness.

25 Ways to Feed Your Soul

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Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. ~ Albert Einstein

Instead of obsessing about food, fat, your weight and your multiple failures to lose ‘it,’ imagine what your life could look like, the shape it might take, if you shifted your focus to bringing joy to your heart, giving fresh energy to your day, to feeding your soul.

Envision what will happen when your thoughts no longer pull you astray, but rather connect your mind, body,sp and spirit.

Each and every day find at least one way to feed your soul.  Here are 25 ways to get you started.  Feel free to add your ways to the list!

25 Ways to Feed Your Soul

1.   Dream with your feet, bust a move, get your groove on, and … dance to the music!

2.  Dissolve your inhibitions in a smokin’ hot bubble bath!

3.  Become a fan of the funny. Go “Sky High” with cartoonist Tommy Rudmose.

4.   Light a candle, and then light another, and notice … nothing is lost when one candle lights the next.

5.   Be the fountain of gladness and make everything and everyone near to you freshen with smiles.

6.   Look beneath the iceberg; investigate what lies below as only one-seventh of ‘you’ is above water.

7.   Breathe into the moment for this very moment is the only one you have for sure.

8.   Pray with the rocks, the pebbles, the sand, as they are still and silent.

9.   Read, read, read, lest you yield yourself to ignorance.

10.   Play feverishly! Experience the world and the universe as the playground that it sure is; one for exploration and discovery. Explore, discover, have fun!

11.   Whip up a bowl of bliss. Combine one cup of the poetic with one cup of the mysterious. The perfect complement to any meal; filling, delicious goodness.

12.   Connect the dots from the past straight into your future, one to the next, and behold … the big picture revealed.

13.   Send the dark cloud on its way as it is but an illusion; a billow upon billow upon a billow.

14.   Open your eyes to the sweetness of the day.

15.   Make a mistake. It is, after all, one way of doing something and better than doing nothing.

16.   Remove the stops – one at a time until there is no … stopping … you.

17.   Love in general … round people, skinny people, tall people, short people, all people.

18.   Look for the bright spot. It is right there, to your right. (No, your other right).

19.   Sigh a deep sigh and start anew.

20.  Arrange flowers in good cheer, with a smile on your face and listen for the earth to joyously laugh with you.

21.   Sing with the birds after the storm.

22.  Begin your day in delight; end it in wisdom.

23.  Do not “think fun.” Feel your way straight into having fun.

24.  Do not worry about your worries. Worry is neither preparation nor a magic pill that wards off bad happenings.

25.  Smile at the messiness of life and then straighten your desk, toss the old magazines.

I hope that whets your appetite for ‘soul food!’

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For the best life, wellness and weight loss wisdom, visit Janice:
Our Lady of Weight Loss

Join the Kick in the Tush Club

Originally published May 2012

6 Tips from Business to Make Your Romance Last Forever

Screen Shot 2013-06-13 at 12.19.40 PMBusinesses that have longevity are well-run. They are constantly updating and growing because if they don’t, they won’t just be standing still, but will be going backward or worse – they’ll be defunct. The same holds true for a loving relationship in your personal “business,” where you are a solid team. If your relationship is less than optimal, it’s time to take your cue from a well-run business.

For most of us relationships conjure up romance. Business and money matters smack of distaste and seem asexual in nature. However, if you want a monogamous relationship to go the distance, you have a lot to learn from strategies of the client-based business world.

Here’s what successful businesses do:

  1. Focus on building and strengthening the bonds of your relationship. Businesses place value on more than a one-time-deal which seeks to get the best out of a client. Instead, they nurture a long term relationship with clients by focusing on their needs. What can you do for your significant other?
  2. Develop listening skills and make this a top priority. Businesses evaluate: What are the problems, disappointments, or the good things their customers are experiencing? Listening helps them achieve solutions to problems or strengthen what is already working. Without interrupting, what surprising bit of information have you learned by truly listening and not merely waiting to speak?
  3. Ask not what the consumer can do for you, but what you can do for the consumer. As a result, businesses will reap a whopping profit. Similarly, try to release the egocentric “I” voice in your relationship and replace it with the “we” mentality.
  4. Make it a priority to keep the consumer interested. This means coming up with new ideas, experiences, and dialogue to keep the client actively engaged in the relationship. Novelty does wonders for a long term romantic relationship; constant communication averts a simmering resentment due to self-suppression.
  5. Keep your message short and sweet, the way businesses use public relations companies to brand themselves. Similarly, the person you live with should be able to identify you by a phrase known to only the two of you, a signature accessory, or a look in the eyes and vice versa.
  6. Make sure to get your rhythm in sync. This means don’t pounce when you are all fired up. A successful manager asks a client, “Is this a good a time to speak?” Similarly, gauge your mate’s mood. Just because you are ready to speak does not mean they are ready to listen. And most importantly, don’t let a disagreement degenerate into a shouting match. Change the location like going to another  “conference” room to change up the energy or revisit the discussion later when both of you are calmer.

What Will You Do When Your Life Flashes Before Your Eyes?

the pathI had an interesting experience yesterday. One of those life-flashes-before-your-eyes kind of moments.

I won’t go into the particulars of the incident, but what is important is that I saw how, in a few short seconds, my life could have been gone and, after a breath or two, the realization that I was still here.

This sat a little heavier with me than it might most people because I’ve experienced being on the other side of loss, where I was the surviving half of a pair. I’ve written about this before, as it was the slow-but-sure catalyst for a complete collapsing and rebuilding of my inner and outer life, perspective, and purpose.

For a long time after I had reentered society and “healed,” I noticed that I was hyper-sensitive to the small things in life. Giving someone a hug, saying goodbye or hello, a bird flying by, listening to a heartbeat – these all struck me as so precious and fleeting. I marveled at how no one else seemed to recognize the value in these small moments, while also realizing I could not live with this kind of intensity. I could not keep treating each moment as if it could be the last.

Or could I?

If I did value each moment as if it could be the last, it ramped up my experiences to the level of sacred. It slowed down the pace of life to one slow-motion moment. Life simultaneously filled and broke my heart every day from the sheer happiness at being alive and the knowledge that this too will end someday.

Over time this intense attitude faded some, as you can imagine. I got comfortable with my new normal life. I was able to enjoy it without valuing it as priceless. I told myself it just wasn’t sustainable to live with that kind of intensity.

I now realize it wasn’t sustainable because I wasn’t yet strong enough to sustain it.

It takes a lot of strength to take on life fully, with all its rawness, beauty, fullness, and heartbreak. It takes a strength and commitment that no one can give us because it has to come from the inside out. Perhaps this is why we tend to get inspired or feel fearless momentarily, and then slowly fade back into a more comfortable zone of living where people are nice, loving, and live their lives with an ease and trust that everything’s going to be alright. We’re all going to live to a hundred, tragedy doesn’t touch us, and let’s put off that dream until tomorrow.

I found certain kinds of yoga lit the flame deep inside me to live my fullest life, to face my fears, and to live each day as if I was going to die tomorrow.

That’s a question that works wonders for me, and I often call on it when I feel especially afraid or especially self-conscious about putting myself out there.

I ask myself, If you died tomorrow, would you wish you had done this?

The answer is usually yes. Because in the light of death, vulnerability doesn’t seem so scary. In the light of death, vulnerability is all there is. It allows us to turn ourselves inside out, not so much for all the world to see, but more for us to see. For us to feel. For us to let out all our inner, protected, sensitive layers and let them feel the freedom of being unprotected and fully alive.

In the light of life, vulnerability is dangerous. It exposes us and that means people might be able to poke a hole in our armor with their harsh words, opinions, or indifference.

It also means people could get inside us. God forbid someone come up close and touch our beating heart, see our deepest fears, or learn that we are only human like them.

I’ve often thought when our lives flash before our eyes it would happen quickly, in our last moments of life. Isn’t that how it’s always portrayed in the movies or in stories?

My experience of my life flashing before my eyes was quite slow. It happened over the course of hours, as I witnessed every step I took in my daily life that I might not have been able to take. Everything I might normally take for granted I saw as alive, priceless, fascinating, and almost unreal.

Even so, I saw old patterns acting themselves out. Fear, defenses, walls. It was as if, since I was still alive, I still felt I had to protect my “self” somehow.

This is the glory of being human.

I find it unfortunate that it often takes loss or trauma to remind us of the intrinsic value of life, of a breath, of a heartbeat. The urgency and brevity of life often does not fully register in us until we are faced with our own mortality or that of someone close to us.

It’s not just every new day that is a gift, an opportunity, and an invitation to live fully.

It is every moment.

Every moment we can choose to embrace or pass by. And it is not just an invitation. It is our obligation. As humans, as parents, as partners, as friends, as children, as human beings it is our obligation to step into our lives fully, so that when our life flashes before our eyes, we will not have to wonder, What would I have done if I knew I was going to die today?

We will have already done it. We will have already done it, spoke it, wrote it, shared it, lived it.

In the words of Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Embrace the Beauty of Your Darkness

“The wound is the place where the light comes in” – Rumi

What to do when you’re not the happiest person you know? What about when you’re depressed, fearful, anxious, jealous, greedy or angry?

Yesterday, I was working with a client who appears to be a huge success in the outer world. She’s a coach and inspirational speaker. She jaunts around the country inspiring hundreds of people, has a strong, supportive, sexy relationship with a gorgeous man and frequently gets paid to travel to exotic locations to lead corporate retreats. Her family is loving and close. She has an enviable following on social media and garners lots of press and media coverage.

Inside…she’s shaken and feels like a fraud. She carries over $20,000 in credit card debt and has little savings or retirement fund. Her financial house is weak and therefore her confidence wavers. She’s constantly comparing herself to colleagues and can never live up to her own perfectionism.

This is her “Shadow”.

The shadow, a concept brought to light by famed Swiss psychologist Carl Jung – is the part of ourselves we don’t want to look at – qualities we deem unattractive, try to push away, overlook, sugarcoat or hide under the surface.

In the spiritual and yoga communities, the emphasis is often on positivity. Sometimes called spiritual bypassing – this is the tendency is to overlook or minimize our very real human flaws. We are encouraged to “meditate our way out of” difficult emotions or habits. The focus is on getting better, being happier, moving up and out of our current circumstance toward enlightenment, miracles, or bliss.

Moving forward is important, but we also need to honor the beauty of our darkness and not pathologize the troubling aspects of Self that may be holding us back. Taking the time to recognize the beauty of darkness allows for integration and reconciliation. We train our psyche to “own” those cut-off pieces of ourselves that we’d rather tuck away in a back closet. Instead of slapping a smile on and sitting in blissful (strained) silence – we learn to proudly integrate all the good, bad, and ugly parts of who we are.

Shadow Work: The ‘Fuck You’ Letter

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ~ Carl Jung

The quickest way to see your shadow is to notice what qualities you tend to criticize or gossip about in other people. Look carefully as these aren’t necessarily “bad” qualities, but often masquerade as traits that society applauds such as the tendency to overachieve, project positivity or be a “Supermom”.

Once you recognize the qualities you criticize in others, flip it to see how they show up in you.

While my client exuded an outer confidence and success, inwardly she was ashamed and confused by her finances. She was in denial. To bolster her wavering confidence, she criticized friends and colleagues for being materialistic and shallow. It took her years to acknowledge the sobering reality of her financial disillusionment and irresponsible spending.

A great way to start to own these qualities in yourself is to write a “Fuck You” letter. If you have someone you’re angry at or harboring resentment towards, write a letter addressed to this person and tell them what pisses you off and why.

“Dear ….., 
Fuck you for…..
Fuck you for….” 

Be as specific, graphic and thorough as possible. List out the exact qualities or incidents that irritate you.

[Caveat: This language is strong. I have found that it is useful to get this raw to access the primal, emotional core that is hurt or afraid. If you resist writing such a strong letter to someone you love (your lover, parent or child) – know that this is only 1 voice of your psyche – not the whole story, but one that needs to be heard.]

Once the letter is complete, go back to the beginning and replace their name with your name. As you read through your letter recognize where these qualities show up in yourself, even if to a lesser degree. For example, how have you abandoned, betrayed, or criticized yourself?

Practice Radical Self Forgiveness

Once you identify your shadow, you can move from judgment to understanding by practicing forgiving yourself. Allow yourself to be human and experience the full spectrum of emotions.

In yoga and Buddhism, this is known as karuna or compassion and is the foundation of self love and freedom. Soften your perception. Breathe deeply into the sides of your heart to expand. Consider how such unsavory traits were necessary in the past as a coping or defensive mechanism. Be kind and generous of Spirit.

Compassion for yourself blossoms, breeding compassion for others. Everyone wins.

Only when my client released her perfectionism and forgave herself could she turn her full attention to cleaning up her financial house. She was no longer at war within. She got honest with her boyfriend about her credit card debt and quit feeling like a fraud. The bridge between our inner and outer worlds leads to an unshakeable confidence. We actually like who we are when we know we can trust ourselves to keep it real.

Nurture Yourself 

Nurture yourself as you begin to uncover your shadow and open up. Give yourself permission to process emotions freely. You may notice that it gets harder before it gets easier. You are bringing up unprocessed, repressed material. As your shadow rises, cumulative feelings of shame, sadness, anger, and frustration may surface.

The irony (and beauty) is – you can turn this energy into fuel to fire for your passion and creativity. The energy you used to hold up a false self or hide out is now available to redirect.

Our vulnerability is the tender place where we have the most opportunity to crack open and experience deep unconditional love and authentic connection.

What are your shadow qualities? Please leave a comment below with a few of the shadow qualities you’ve identified.

Mine:

  • being late
  • being competitive and jealous
  • perfectionism leading to procrastination that holds me (and those around me) prisoner
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