Category Archives: Upper Levels: Happy, Healthy and Whole

General articles and ideas to improve ways of thinking, feeling, and being. Enhance your vision of yourself and be on your way to feeling happy, healthy, and whole.

S.T.O.P. for a Moment of Mindfulness

It doesn’t always happen easily – having a moment of peace. There are often so many things to take care of at once that it’s difficult to consider where on the calendar to schedule self-care, let alone a sacred moment to really rejuvenate, regroup and reconnect.

This is why it may be necessary to intentionally S.T.O.P. so that you can create mindfulness moments within the day. You can use this skill to bring heart, mind, and spirit together and to interrupt overwhelming mental processes.

Practice the following skill called S.T.O.P., to build mindfulness moments into your day:

When you notice that you have started moving quickly, heart rate has increased, and your mind is over processing information and stimuli, say to yourself in a gentle way: “STOP.” This will remind you of the helpful acronym to bring yourself back to a more mindful way of moving through the day.

(S) Stop

(T) Take a breath

(O) Observe

(P) Proceed

Stop. Using gentle inner dialogue, encourage yourself to stop for a moment. It’s worth it. You are worth it. It won’t take long, so give yourself permission to bring a temporary pause to the overthinking, over-analyzing and emotional overwhelm by suggesting to yourself that you S.T.O.P. at this time.

Take a breath. Draw your attention back into yourself with your inhale. Exhale and imagine tension leaving your body. Take as many breaths as you want as you start to feel more centered and grounded in your moment. Allow more oxygen to your brain as you reconnect with yourself through your breathing.

Observe. Notice what is happening in your mind and body. Just observe, without judgment – without qualifying anything as good or bad. Just allow yourself to notice your experience.

Proceed. Move forward from this point with your best course of action. With more balance and clarity, proceed in a way that helps you feel well. You remain in the driver’s seat of your experience, no longer driven by your thoughts and emotions.

Proceed from this moment to the next, more centered and grounded.

Photo by Kelvin Valerio

How To Not: Make Emotional Decisions


Decision-making seems like such a basic skill. However, we sometimes do not think things all the way through. The results can be catastrophic or at least cause a setback if we make decisions while we are emotional.  Our brains actually function differently when it is overwhelmed with negative emotions such as fear, frustration, anger, anxiety, etc.  At that time it does not operate at full capacity.  So it is important not to make major decisions that can alter the course of our lives when we are experiencing those feelings.

But how do we avoid taking certain actions when we’re emotional?  We know that is usually the time that we want to strike back, express ourselves, tell it like it is, or make some over-the-top outward display of action until others feel the intensity of what we are dealing with inside.  Then, after we come back to our senses, it’s common to have some regrets about what we did or said while we were heated.

Try these steps to keep your balance while dealing with emotional situations, so that you can make important decisions with a clear head and decrease the number of apologies you have to dish out.

  1. Pause to Self-Check and Tune Into How You Are Feeling. As soon as you notice that your heart is beating faster, your frustration levels are going up, you’re becoming increasingly agitated and uncomfortable with the situation – start self-checking.  Notice these things happening within your mind and body and decide to take healthy actions that take care of yourself.
  2. Use Deep Breathing to Draw Your Attention Back In. To slow yourself down, slow down your breathing. It’s likely that your mind was going a million miles a minute in its emotional state and taking long deep breaths puts you back in control while sending a message to your rapidly beating heart and overworking mind that it is time to start coming back to a calmer pace.  It may take a moment or two but just keep breathing deeply imagining every breath brings your awareness back to what’s important – taking care of yourself.
  3. Encourage Yourself with Soothing Self-Talk. Start coaching yourself the way you would someone else that you care about.  Let yourself know that everything is going to be okay and that this too shall pass.  Be supportive of yourself in that moment and remember that at the end of the day what’s important is that you approve of yourself and behaviors.  It is okay to disagree with others just like it is okay if they don’t agree with you.  Let go of as much as you can and encourage yourself with positive inner dialogue.
  4. Refocus and Remember What You’re All About. Remind yourself of your goals.  Do an inventory of whether the situation causing you stress is getting you closer to or further away from those goals. If you determine that it is a barrier to what you’re all about or what you’re trying to accomplish, be prepared to make sound decisions about overcoming or removing those stressors from your life.
  5. Take Time to Make the Decisions that are Right For You. If possible, allow yourself time to process your emotions and let things settle down a bit before you come to final conclusions about what you’ve experienced.  Things look different after we’ve stepped away from it for a while and you may be in a better position to make decisions that are best for you from a clear head.

If we allow our emotions to rule our behaviors, we spend a lot of time cleaning up messes we wish we’d never made.  Grounding yourself after an emotional run-in is important and can help you to make decisions that you can be confident in.  Self-awareness is key, and a willingness to use techniques to regain your balance can help you improve your decision-making skills and ultimately improve the quality of your life.

Photo by Godisable Jacob on Pexels.com

Personal Peace is a Super Power


There are a lot of things that we are taught during the early years of our lives under the guise that they are important to know for our success as human beings. However, I can’t remember the last time an algebraic formula saved my life. I would have appreciated a class on “How to Maintain Peace in the Face of Challenge,” or a cognitive-behavioral based course titled “You are Not Your Thoughts” offered around the 4th grade. A ‘How-To Survive Life with Your Sanity’ style curriculum starting in kindergarten would probably have reduced the individual instances of mental health conditions and contributed to a more stable society as a whole. Yes, I know… reading, writing and arithmetic – but that could’ve been covered in the span of a year with the remainder of our youth education being focused on life skills, interpersonal effectiveness, dealing with emotion, loving ourselves, and having a healthy relationship with God. But, dreams.

In reality, it takes for us to get to a certain point in life where we notice our own dysfunctional patterns and decide to do something about it. One of the main commodities that we reach for is peace. Which really isn’t a “commodity” at all but when we don’t experience it, we do view it as a thing to attain. The truth is, it’s really a state that exists within us that’s been there the entire time. And on an even deeper level, we realize that peace is our essential nature – supporting the inferences that everything we need is already inside of us and the “Kingdom of God is within” per Jesus.

Prayer, meditation, and visualization are means of moving into a state of consciousness that puts us more in tune with our source of peace. Prayer allows us to speak to God. Meditation allows us to hear from God. And visualization is how we co-create our experience which is a blend of our free will and God’s will for us (as a sidenote, we ultimately want to get to a place where we use our free will to stay in the will of God).

Our journey will have many challenges. We may create unnecessary complexities. Life will continue to throw intense situations our way. There may be unexpected circumstances beyond our control. What we can control is our approach. By taking an approach of peace – peace of mind and spirit which comes from trusting that all things have a purpose and somehow come together in mysterious ways for the glory of God – we are able to survive with our sanity, and actually enjoy this gift of life we’ve been given.

~ CCB

 

Question for Thought: What’s Your Motivation?

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Finding out what drives us is a very important step in being able to keep ourselves going. Sometimes we are propelled by sheer passion for our purpose and during those spells, productivity is a piece of cake. Then there are other times, when we’re not sure if we should bother. And if we do want to bother we struggle with the energy to follow through with what we know needs to be done. It is in those moments that we have to reconnect with our original purpose, the motivating factor behind our life’s work, and allow our devotion to our cause to push us to the finish line even when our legs feel like they won’t take another step. The big question is, What IS your motivation?

Be Yourself. No Permission Needed.


Think of the years that have been wasted attempting to modify who you are in hopes that you will be more acceptable to others. We don’t like to admit that we do this. In fact, if anyone asks us we’re prone to deny it and respond with some cliché statement like, “I don’t really care what anyone else thinks.” Yeah, we do. And it hurts us when we’re receiving messages from others, especially those we care about, that our ways are undesirable.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and there are those people that we don’t give a hot flip what they think – but overall, as humans we read the feedback in our environment and we’d prefer it be positive. That is normal. But we can also take it too far. We can take caring about what others say about who we are so far that we end up losing ourselves trying to be who they want us to be. We have to be careful of this, because sometimes we don’t even know it’s happening. You can get so involved in your career that you develop the personality that enables you to do your job well but could be out of alignment with who you truly are. Or you could be in a relationship with someone that you love dearly, and in trying to make them happy you inadvertently begin to compromise how you would usually express yourself. These situations can go on for a long time, but one day you decide that you are ready to reconnect and rediscover who you naturally are so that you can begin to live in your truth again.

Being your authentic self is easier said than done. First, as we accumulate experiences and get older, our views and perspectives change. We change so much over the years that it may be necessary to re-evaluate our goals and set new ones, and we may even have to discover who we are and what we want at the current stage in life. So being yourself, may require fresh self-examination to determine who you are now. You know who you were, what you’ve been through, and where you’ve come from – but who are you now? That’s not an easy answer for everyone, and we all deserve the opportunity to explore ourselves in whatever way necessary to discover our truth. This requires time and space.

You’ll need to give yourself permission to take whatever time is needed in your journey to self-discovery and self-realization. These things don’t happen overnight. In fact, it’s a lifetime journey so you may as well get comfortable. You’re going to need space, which also isn’t so easy to come by if you’ve got little people running around you all the time or a mountain of other responsibilities that cause you to be involved with others more than you’d like to be. Bottom line is that making time and creating space for yourself to engage in the self-discovery that it’s going to take to realize your authentic self is going to take major effort. You’ll have to schedule it and let nothing stand in your way when you decide to take that hour out of your day for your prayer, meditation, devotion, and visualization time. You’ll have to be just as adamant about contributing to your own development as you’ve been about helping people with theirs. If someone asked you to be there for them for an hour, you’d probably do it. So how about be there for yourself so you can take your work (of realizing and expressing your authentic self) to the next level.

~ CCB

Off The Mat Into The Fiery World

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I’ve come to the conclusion that it is better to do something, anything – take some action, any action, rather than do nothing at all for too long. Yes, there are times when we need to listen to that inner voice and simply be still. But if we’re still all the time then we won’t get anything done. Let’s not allow our zen to highjack the work we must do to accomplish our destiny. It is so attractive to roll out the mat day after day, stretching and releasing the tension and just allowing ourselves to escape the drama of the day by sinking deeply into our space of personal peace and connection to All That Is. “Just leave me alone in my little world. Let me stay in my quietude in the private corners of my life – undisturbed by you.” But if that is ALL we do, we are quite literally defeating our own purpose.

What we learn on the mat, and in meditation we must take off the mat and into the world to put our wisdom to use. The peace that we’ve cultivated isn’t simply so that we can drift off into our private heavens while ignoring our reality, but to go out and be able to face the challenges of our reality while using our skill to work through the tension and return to harmony.

I only write things that I have to remind myself of. As a counselor, I do have the opportunity to share with others insights and skills developed, not only through clinical training, but also through the intuition and increased awareness that comes in meditation as you learn to listen to the voice within and experience the multiple ways that people communicate with each other – even when they’re not talking. I remind myself that all of our wisdom and understanding is only of use if we are contributing to the progress of our spirits and healing of hearts as a human family. I hope that you remind yourself of this too. To close the books sometimes and take what you’ve learned and teach someone. And to come out of your sanctuary and go into the streets to share what the Lord has been speaking to you. It is so attractive to stay comfortable in our personal spaces, experiencing the peace and balance that often comes with solitude, but the real test of our growth and balance is when we can maintain that state while interacting with our brothers and sisters in this fiery world.

~ CCB