A Room for You, Books, and Mindful Reading (Wellbeing, Too)

Dec 19

Create your perfect reading space where you can read minfully.

Wellbeing is perhaps one of the most important concepts for our lives. It encompasses so much: physical health, mental health, balance, energy to live with purpose and intention are among the important aspects of wellbeing. Wellbeing is the ability to create, maintain, and enjoy a quality life according to your values and definition of such a life. Positive psychologists call this life worth living.

We can all create a quality life of wellness. It starts small, in moments, and from there gently and naturally ripples outward. It starts by taking deliberate purposeful action to make great moments in your day, every single day.

One way to do this is to know your passions, those things that both energize and calm, that shift anxious, stressed, and other negative thoughts away from rumination and onto what brings you happiness. One of my own passions is reading. When I get lost in a story, my daily aggravations melt into the background. Reading enhances wellbeing.

Mindfulness, Reading, & Wellbeing

Sometimes the human brain doesn’t cooperate well when we’d like to tame our thoughts and concentrate on something like a good book. Mindfulness is a mental health and wellbeing tool that lets you take purposeful action to shift the focus of your thoughts. No longer do you have to fight with thoughts that keep running back to your stresses and challenges.

With mindfulness, you use all of your senses to turn your thoughts back to where you are right now, in this moment. Mindfulness lets you show up for your life, and of course for your reading breaks. It’s a way to get into books and stories more than ever.

Mindfulness means using your senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, and sometimes taste) to connect with the moment. Using this idea to create your dream reading space is a fun way to enhance your reading experience and live fully in each reading moment you make.

I was recently asked to participate in something fun. I was invited to create a vision for my perfect reading room because

Reading is an amazing way to unwind and relax. When you have a love for literature, you spend so much time curled up with a good book, which calls for the perfect reading space!

What a great way to capture the essence of reading! I couldn’t agree more. I’ve enjoyed putting this post together. It’s a way of sharing reading love with all of the bookworms out there who are also interested in enhancing their wellbeing. (Of course reading enhances wellbeing. Adding mindfulness and an enjoyable, relaxing setting makes it even better.)

Visualize and create a cozy reading space that uses all of your senses for mindful reading.

My Ideal Reading Room: A Mindfully Bookish Experience

I want my reading space to be cozy, comfortable, and inviting. I also want it to be pleasing and enjoyable to me, so when I was thinking about my vision for my ideal reading room, I didn’t worry about creating a staged room that would look beautiful in a magazine. The room, after all, is for me rather than magazine readers. This concept is important in all that we do. Whether you’re creating a relaxing reading space or picking out your next book to read, do what brings you joy.

My perfect reading place is visually appealing. The look of it is calming, and there are many things I can be visually mindful of when I’m here.

• Books on the shelves, in drawers—on display and readily available to read
• Plants
• Light and airy – natural light by day, pendant light (pictured above) and candles by night; I love pendants because they hang right over my book and provide just the right amount of glow to read by without blinding me. (I’d like to give a quick shout-out to arhaus.com because they’re donating 10 per cent of their pendant light sales to Global Dental Relief).

What is your ideal reading room? Create a cozy space to read mindfully.

An ideal reading space for me is also comfortable and pleasant to be in. Everything in the room encourages me to use my sense of touch to ground me in the moment:

• A chaise lounge to stretch out on with fabric that is pleasing to touch
• A beanbag to sink into when I want to change positions
• Blankets for warmth and comfort
• Piles of pillows to arrange under me, around me, and on top of me to support my book as I read

Relax and read to decrease stress and increase wellbeing. Create a perfect space for mindful reading.

In mindfulness, our sense of smell is important, too. My reading room contains a scented oil diffuser to fill the room with scents that support physical and mental health. Inhaling them as I read enhances the entire reading room experience.

Sound is important in grounding us for stress relief, too. What better way to get it in a reading room than with the books themselves. One of my favorite sounds is the sound of book pages. Have you ever held a book up to your ear and listened as you thumbed the pages, letting them rub against your thumb? It’s a neat sound, part amusing, part soothing, and part comforting knowing that you’re truly connected to books.

I also want to use my sense of taste to keep me rooted in my reading experience. Tea does the trick nicely!

Be sure to include yoru sense of smell and taste when you create your perfect reading room. It will enhance mindful reading.

The only downside to my ideal cozy reading room is that it could be hard to leave. Relaxing, reading, and being mindful of my moments would be wonderful. What about you? What is your vision for the perfect space to tuck into and read? Comment below. Having a reading space is one part of making great moments in your day.

Read your favorite books in the perfect reading room you create. Read minfully, stimulating all of yoru senses.

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Gain Mental Freedom, Embrace a Life of Wellbeing

Jul 11

Every year in early July, the United States celebrates Independence Day. Many nations joyfully observe their own independence at various times throughout the year. Regardless of where one lives, an independence day is a day that celebrates freedom from unwanted control. The significance of this day goes far deeper than the political realm and touches each and every one of us on a personal level of being.

To live well and embrace a life of wellbeing, we need to experience mental freedom. When we feel as though we are under the control of anxiety, depression, trauma, eating disorders, brain injury, toxic relationships, or so much more, we often feel caged. Our mental health and happiness suffer. Just as entire nations have broken free from unwanted control, so can we as individuals who want to live quality lives.

You can gain mental freedom from problems and challenges. Here are ways to achieve this freedom and experience wellbeing.

Breaking free from what is imprisoning us is a long-term lifestyle more than it is a quick fix. It’s a process of awakening, of increasing awareness of how we’re trapped and why we want out as well as what we want to do when we gain mental freedom.

It’s not dissimilar to an actual prison. If a prisoner desires freedom, he or she could attempt to break out. He’d have to fight against barriers and sneak around. If she were able to escape, chances are high that she would be caught and re-incarcerated. However, if he were to acknowledge why he was there, discover what wasn’t working for him, and visualize the life he wants when he’s free, he could plan steps to achieve true freedom. Once released, she wouldn’t return and would be truly free.

The right to be free from unwanted control (that anxiety, depression, etc.) is fundamental. These tips can help you break free to gain mental freedom.

How to Gain Mental Freedom and Wellbeing

Begin with a vision. Visualize what would make you free. What does mental freedom mean to you? Create a vision board, ongoing collage, journal, or anything else that allows you to represent your life away from unwanted control.

Build awareness and insight. You can’t gain freedom from something vague and undefined. It’s important to know what is trapping you. Fully admit to yourself why/how you feel trapped. Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings and how these are affecting your actions. You  certainly don’t have to psychoanalyze yourself and dig deep into the roots of your challenges. You simply want to sharpen your awareness of what is keeping you mentally trapped.

Accept what you’ve discovered. Your thoughts and feelings are okay and are part of where you are right now. Like the prisoner who fought barriers and sneaked around in order to escape, if you fight where you are or hide who you are, you’ll be caught and wind up mentally trapped again and again. Allow yourself to be where you are now and put  your energy into moving forward through the mental door and into freedom. Acceptance and commitment therapy teaches people how it’s possible to be accepting of yourself and your life.

Return to your vision. Now you can go a bit deeper and make a plan for creating wellbeing and mental freedom. Reflect on important questions such as:

  • *  Where do you want to go when you are free from unwanted control? This can be a physical destination, a    career, a relationship, etc. What are your passions and your purpose?
  • *  How do you want do be? What kind of thoughts will you have? Feelings? How will you be in relationships?  How will your mental freedom impact how you respond to problems?

Executing Your Escape to Mental Freedom

Often, when we are trapped and controlled, it can seem impossible to take back a life of wellbeing and mental health. Even when you’ve done the above activities, it can be daunting to know how to actually begin to act. That’s normal and part of the mental trap.

An approach to mental health known as solution-focused therapy (or solution-focused brief therapy) gives us a useful tool for moving forward. This therapeutic approach uses scaling to help people feel less overwhelmed and more empowered to move forward.

What you do is consider how you are feeling in a given moment or think of a goal you want to achieve (something that makes you mentally free). Rate this on a scale from 1-10, with one representing the lowest point and 10 the highest. So, for example, if one of your quality-of-life goals is to wake up wanting to get out of bed, where on the scale are you? Then, determine how you can move up the scale just a bit. If you feel that you’re at a four in wanting to get out of bed (Congratulations! You’re not at a one.), what can you do to get to a five?  (See Five Solution-Focused Ways to Beat Anxiety on HealthyPlace for more on this approach.)

You can scale anything. It helps you assess where you are now and where you still want to go, and it helps make your own independence manageable. You can create small steps rather than being daunted by the big picture.

You can gain mental freedom from problems and challenges. Learn simple ways to achieve this freedom and experience wellbeing.

As you act, continue to think in terms of lifestyle and what mental freedom truly, deeply means to you. This will fuel the small actions you do every single day to create a quality life of wellbeing.

 You can gain mental freedom from problems and challenges. Learn simple ways to achieve this freedom and experience wellbeing.



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Self-Confidence : Finding Yourself, Keeping Yourself

Mar 14

Self-confidence is a major component of our mental health and wellbeing. Self-confidence involves valuing yourself (as in self-esteem), and it involves believing you have the ability to do things (as in self-efficacy). Self-confidence also is about feeling deeply satisfied with who you are as a human being, with all of your strengths and weaknesses, triumphs and struggles. Self-confidence is knowing that you’re not perfect and being okay with it. When you have self-confidence, you know that life isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t have to be. You feel good about your ability to create a quality life in which you are strong enough to hang on for the ride.

Self-confidence would be an empowering thing to have in large quantities. It’s not, however, something that comes naturally to most of us. We’re quick to see our flaws but reluctant to see our strengths. We tend to have a bad habit of comparing ourselves to others and feeling like we don’t measure up. We see what others choose to project to the world and compare it to the stuff we keep hidden away. As a result, we have a difficult time feeling, or sustaining, a sense of self-confidence and our overall sense of mental health and wellbeing takes repeated hits.

Gaining Self-Confidence: Finding Yourself and Keeping Yourself

It’s possible to increase your self-confidence and maintain it so it lifts you up rather than pulls you down. Believing in yourself involves knowing who you are, the complete “you.” It also involves doing things to keep the real you at the forefront of your thoughts and emotions rather than letting it slip away. Finding yourself and keeping yourself are two important components of self-confidence, mental health, and wellbeing.

These come a program for teens I’ve developed that accompanies the novel Losing ElizabethIn fact, the name of the program is Find Yourself. Keep YourselfKnowing who we are, believing in our abilities to survive tough times as well as to achieve our goals, is what self-confidence is all about.

The book and program for teens focuses on toxic vs. healthy relationships. Self-confidence is important in remaining strong (but not rigid) in relationships, but it applies in all aspects of our lives. To find yourself, ask yourself some important questions:

  • What do I enjoy right now — what are my passions?
  • What are my hopes and dreams?
  • What is important to me?
  • What type of person do I want to be?
  • What are my strengths?

These are important components of who you are, and being able to answer them is integral to building self-confidence.

Once you’ve begun the process of finding yourself, it’s important to maintain that and build on it. It is this keeping yourself that solidifies self-confidence. Some things to explore:

  • Where can I turn my values, those things that are important to me, into actions?
  • How can I use my strengths to help myself live a quality life and to help others achieve mental health and wellbeing, too?
  • What small steps can I start taking now to achieve my hopes and dreams?
  • How can I add things that I enjoy to my life?
  • How can I manifest the person I want to be?

Self-confidence is so important to mental health and wellbeing because it is who we are, and beyond that, it is what we do in our daily lives to shape who we are. When we believe we have the ability to shape our lives, we begin to do it. This belief coupled with action is self-confidence. It creates more action and then a stronger belief in who we are. Explore the above questions as you continue your journey to mental health, wellbeing, and confidence.


In this video, I read a short excerpt from Losing Elizabeth. High school junior Elizabeth had once found herself and had self-confidence. A toxic relationship, though, is chipping away at who she thinks she is. Here, her self-confidence is nearly gone. Will she be able to find herself again?


Sign up for my free monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words. Each issue is packed with useful tips for enhancing mental health and wellbeing, reading-related tidbits, and updates about my own mental health writing and activities. (I never share e-mail addresses with anyone.) 


A Balanced Approach to Balance, Mental Health, and Wellbeing

Mar 13

Creating balance in life is one of the most important components of mental health and wellbeing. The idea of balance for mental health is that, instead of being pulled in multiple directions, sometimes tipping one way and sometimes tipping other ways, we stay centered in one spot, calmly doing life tasks. The idea of living a balanced life is valid and legitimate. Balance brings harmony around us and within us. However, the mere fact that we need to strive for balanced implies that we’re rather imbalanced. And because we’re imbalanced (and likely stressed and otherwise challenged), achieving balance can be difficult.

Multiple tools exist to help us create balance in our lives. Among them:

  • eliminating unnecessary tasks on our to-do lists
  • exercising
  • making time for a personal life, family, friends
  • cultivating a daily meditation practice
  • practicing self-care
  • getting enough quality sleep

This is only an abbreviated list, but it includes the most prominent advice for achieving balance, mental health, and wellbeing. Each and every one of the above items is a proven way to lower stress. However, there is an inherent problem here. Each one is excellent but incomplete; for true balance, we need all (or at least several) of these approaches. This becomes one more thing to balance: we have to fit wellness techniques into our already challenging lives in order to be balanced. This can trip up even the most graceful among us (I am not one of the graceful among us).

Creating Balance in Your Life

I propose a different approach to balance and to mental health and wellbeing. This approach is balance itself.



This approach to balance begins at the core—your core—and revolves around it. With this method of achieving balance, you define what a quality life means to you, what makes your life worth living, and then you live your life intentionally to achieve it. Intentional living involves

  • Work. More than paid employment, work refers to the things you do to make your life run. It also involves the ways you contribute to your world.
  • Quality time with others. Who is in your life that you like to spend time with? How do you spend that time?
  • Self-care. How are you nurturing yourself (mind, body, and spirit)?
  • Enjoyment. En-JOY is an action verb. What are you doing to create joy and happiness in your life?
  • Meaning. What brings meaning to your life? This is the “why” behind what makes your life worth living.
True Balance

Life is unpredictable. The best way to handle it is to accept this and roll with it. Picture balance as a ball. If a ball is over-inflated, rigid, and doesn’t roll, it will pop when it meets an obstacle. If we are rigid and can’t roll with life, we run the risk of popping, too.

True balance comes from doing what you need to do in each moment to live your quality life. Sometimes work will need to dominate, but we can balance that by rotating to one of the other areas. This model for balance is fluid, round, and it rotates on its axis, which happens to be your life worth living. Balance doesn’t mean straining to keep every circle the same size every minute of your life. Balance means having a vision of your quality life and taking action in all of these areas (but not all at once) to achieve it.

What is your vision of a quality life? Achieve it, and with it mental health and wellbeing, with balance.


Sign up for my free monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words. Each issue is packed with useful tips for enhancing mental health and wellbeing, reading-related tidbits, and updates about my own mental health writing and activities. (I never share e-mail addresses with anyone.) 


Wellbeing: There’s a Radio Show to Empower You for That

Feb 7

Wellbeing is something in reach of each and every one of us, and there’s a radio show to empower you for just that: creating your own wellbeing, your own life worth living. My radio show, Wellbeing & Words, is a monthly show that provides information and inspiration to help us all craft the lives we each want to live.

What, Exactly, is Wellbeing?

Technically, wellbeing is the state of being well, but that just breaks down the word. It doesn’t do justice to the concept. There’s much more to wellbeing than a simple definition, just like there is so much more to each and every one of us than a description or a list of what we do. A few key principles that comprise the complex state we call wellbeing:

  • Wellbeing doesn’t mean the absence of problems, challenges, and hardships.
  • Wellbeing is empowering yourself to thrive despite those things. People can create their own life worth living, and thus experience wellbeing, no matter what challenges they face.
  • Wellbeing is an attitude, a mind-set, a determination.
  • Wellbeing is action.
  • Wellbeing is experiencing physical health and mental health as they apply to you personally. People face illnesses, but within the parameters of the illness, we can empower ourselves. I had a friend who was diagnosed with rapidly spreading cancer. Determined to live to the fullest what was left of his life, he continued to take walks with his wife to enjoy his world and his love. The walks grew shorter until he no longer had the strength for them. He got himself a walker so he could move in and out of the house, and he would shuffle outside and enjoy the fresh air with his wife. Cancer did impose cruel limits on my friend, but he took action to thrive in spite of it. This man empowered himself to have wellbeing until the end.

Where Does Wellbeing Come From?

Wellbeing comes from being human. Wellbeing comes from having the grit, determination, and resilience to, in the face of challenges, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again (that’s a phrase from Captain Kangaroo that has empowered me since I was four years old).

Wellbeing also involves action. Action, in fact, is the main ingredient in wellbeing. What little things can you do every day to live your values and accomplish your important goals?

One key to living a high-quality life is to take action that will move you toward your values and goals, no matter what difficulties and negative situations you may be facing. Accept the challenges and keep going!” — Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 Steps.



A Radio Show to Empower You to Create Wellbeing

Wellbeing involves a set of tools to orchestrate attitude, mind-set, action, and more. The radio show Wellbeing  Words provides listeners with the right tools to enhance their lives, empowering them to create their own wellbeing and live their life worth living.

The Wellbeing & Words radio show draws from the fields of positive psychology, solution-focused therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and more to help you shape and live a life that brings you joy. It reminds us all that en-JOY is an action verb. Every month, I’ll talk with an expert in the field of mental heath and wellbeing to share tips on living well. Many shows will incorporate readings from books—the “words” part of the show. The online shows also incorporate a video or a whiteboard presentation.

Each month the show airs over the radio airwaves on multiple stations as well as online at PodfireRadio.com and TanyaJPeterson.com, so you’ll have many chances to empower yourself to create wellbeing with the Wellbeing & Words radio show. Take action for your mental health and wellbeing by tuning in often.

Oh, and in addition to being a radio show, Wellbeing & Words is also a monthly newsletter. There are many ways to empower yourself to create wellbeing!

Sign up for my free monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words. Each issue is packed with useful tips for enhancing mental health and wellbeing, reading-related tidbits, and updates about my own mental health writing and activities. (I never share e-mail addresses with anyone.) 


Emotions: Permanent Outlook or Temporary Attitude

Sep 13

Life. NCAA Jersey Shop It’s a ride. Specifically, it’s a roller coaster, and according to Grandma in the movie Parenthood (1989), a roller coaster is wonderful. She describes, “You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. Midseason Adirondack Veste That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.” By definition, a roller coaster has ups and downs and twists and turns. To “get more out of it,” like Grandma remarked, one needs to fully surrender to the experience. Canada Goose Chateau Parka Living through the downs and through the ups, acknowledging that both exist is one of the keys to embracing life and making it a good one. Life is full of ups and downs. When we recognize that they're temporary, we don't get stuck. Returning to Grandma’s description of life and rollercoasters, both can make us frightened and scared and sick. Simultaneously, both can make us excited and thrilled and just plain make us like them. What makes a life “good” and worth living is not the absence of the downs. It’s not a life that just goes around and around in a circle. What makes a life “good” is how one interprets it, the things on which he or she focuses. Fans of college football more than likely watched the first-ever College National Football Playoff Championship on January 12, 2015. The game was a face-off between the two college teams who earned their spot in this championship: the University of Oregon Ducks and the Ohio State Buckeyes. In the 2014-15 collegiate football championship game, the Ohio State Buckeyes beat the Oregon Ducks 42-20 to win the title. Miami Heat Before the game, many experts predicted that the Ducks would win, and almost no one expected that the Ducks would lose by so much. At the end of the game, one announcer, in reference to the Ducks’ quarterback Marcus Mariota, that year’s Heisman Trophy winner, remarked, “What a disappointing end to his [college] career.” “What a disappointing end to his career.” Really? That statement bothers me. I discussed it with my kids when we heard the announcer say that, and it came to bother them as well (or, more likely, my discussion of it grew bothersome to them!). To be sure, the players and fans of the UO Ducks were disappointed. That’s a normal reaction when a major game is lost, especially unexpectedly. We are all human, and our life experience is indeed a roller coaster. We have drops and downs and twists and turns. Games are lost. Scarpe Air Jordan Xxx Things go wrong or don’t go as planned. Obstacles appear in our paths to trip us. And we feel negative things in the drops, including disappointment. Especially in the roller coaster’s drops and downs, it is imperative to keep our perspective. Adidas Yeezy 350 Homme There’s a difference between a temporary feeling of disappointment and the more long-term attitude of a “disappointing end to a career.” The latter is a pervasive attitude that can insidiously take over one’s interpretation of life. To be disappointed in an outcome, such as the loss of an important championship game, again, is a natural feeling. This type of feeling is an isolated type of feeling. It doesn’t permeate everything one has done, is doing, and will do in the future. It’s not a catastrophe. It feels fleeting, impermanent. This game was disappointing for the Ducks, yes, but there will be other games, and not all of them will be disappointing. Many of them will be victorious and celebratory. The announcer’s remark that the game was a disappointing end to Marcus Mariota’s entire career takes on a whole new level of meaning. The implication is that Mariota’s college career is over, done, finito (it might very well be, as Mariota might enter the upcoming NFL Draft). Parajumpers Midseason Arches Veste But it is not an “end.” Nothing is over for this football player or his team. Life goes on, especially with the right outlook. Further, there’s an insinuation with the announcer’s remark that this loss, this last game, will darkly color Mariota’s full college career. One event, no matter how disappointing in the moment, does not destroy one’s past accomplishments. Mariota earned the Heisman. Jordan Hydro Retro It won’t be taken away because the Ducks lost the championship. Adidas Zx 850 Homme Ditto the myriad accomplishments, achievements, and honors Mariota earned while at the University of Oregon. The loss did not cast a pall on his life or the lives of his teammates or the university’s football program. Their past, present, and future are all “pall-less.” When we can adopt Grandma’s attitude and love that life is interesting because of all of the things it makes us feel, we are less likely to get stuck in the downs. We can feel them but know that we will make ourselves whoosh back up and twist to and fro. When faced with disappointments, we will see them for what they are, temporary emotions rather than permanent shadows cast over our entire lives. Being able to live the roller coaster is one of those things that contribute to a good life, a life worth living.


En-JOY is an Action Verb: Mental Health Means Enjoying a Life Worth Living

May 12


The term mental health has become quite a buzz word (and well it should), but as a concept, it is very broad. What does mental health really mean? At its core, it means not merely the absence of illness; mental health means thriving and enjoying a life worth living.

Mental Health Awareness Month is in full swing, and how wonderful it is.  To have an entire month dedicated to increasing awareness about mental health and wellbeing is in itself something to celebrate. It means that we as humans want to be well, to not only exist but to live and to thrive, and we want to raise awareness so that this wellness can be achieved by all.

Truly, mental health and a life worth living can indeed be achieved by everyone. Happily, these concepts don’t discriminate. Each and every human being on this planet can create his/her own life worth living. Positive psychology is a field dedicated to helping people transcend challenges and problems and make meaning in their own lives.

To transcend problems is not necessarily to completely get rid of them. That’s not always so realistic. We, as human beings, face myriad challenges in our lives, including (and certainly not limited to) various physical and mental illnesses. Do these health challenges mean that a life worth living is out of reach? Is it possible to thrive and have wellness while simultaneously living with a physical or mental illness?

The answer is simple, and admittedly it’s not necessarily easy: a resounding and confident yes. Really? Is it really possible for someone living with depression or anxiety, for example, to thrive? (Yes.) Does he/she need to wait for the depression or anxiety to be gone in order to live a life worth living? (No.)

Here's how enjoy is an action verb and how we can use it to create mental health and a life worth living.Creating a life worth living is a grand adventure, a majestic quest that begins with a mere step and continues one small step at a time. At the heart of it is finding joy, day by day and moment by moment. Mental health means thriving and enjoying a life worth living.

Enjoying a life worth living. En-JOY is an action verb. A question to explore over and over again is how can I create joy in this moment (or this hour or during this event, etc.)? This isn’t a superficial joy or putting on a superficial—and artificial—happy face. This is about paying attention to who you are, where you are, and what you are doing and creating joy in that moment.

As someone who once experienced a significant amount of social anxiety, I used to live in fear of being judged wherever I went. While I was able to make myself go out and about in the world, I did so with anxiety and dread. One time, I vented to a mentor that I didn’t want to attend a certain event because I knew I would do something stupid and make everyone look down on me more than they already did. My mentor merely grunted and said, “What do you care what people think? Does it matter? Just go have fun and enjoy the experience.”

Perhaps you’re thinking what I initially did, that he completely trivialized my anxiety and clearly didn’t understand. Thanks to my superhuman ability to ruminate, I mulled over his comment repeatedly, for days. And nights. And more days. Eventually, his remarks began to blend with what I already knew about positive psychology, counseling, and wellness. It spilled over into other areas of my personal life and experiences as well as into my experiences in working with others. Things began to click.

No matter our challenges, we can all take an active role in owning our own lives. We can create joy, even little joys, in our lives. Feeling that life isn’t worth living? Find things that you are grateful for, that you like and that you enjoy, and focus more on them. Perhaps it’s fresh air but the thought of going out of the house makes you want to hide in bed and never get out. How about opening a window and enjoying the feel of the air? Then later what about opening the door? Then maybe enjoy a step or two outside. Concentrate on how good these things feel rather than how hard they are or what might happen. Little by little, you are en-JOYing your life.

Once I understood that “enjoy” is an action verb and that I could thus act to make joy in my life, to make my life worth living, I found myself transcending my anxiety. I didn’t need it to go away before I could have a life worth living. Waiting doesn’t work. Instead, I took charge of enjoying my life and making it worth living. It was then that I found that true happiness (not a problem-free happiness but a core satisfaction with life and all of its ups and downs and twists and turns) means actively making joy rather than passively waiting for it to appear.

My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel is the story of two people who don’t quite know how to live in the world—the man, Brian, because of debilitating anxiety; the girl, Abigail, because of instability and abuse.  Neither one of them feels they have a life worth living until they slowly begin to create joy. One time, Abigail says enthusiastically, “Come on, Brian. Let’s go play in the rain!” That, right there, is the embodiment of enjoyment. Play in your rain!




Take Charge of Your Life

Feb 12

Let’s face it. Being human is often no easy task. Myriad challenges can greet us on a daily, even an hourly, basis. We face struggles both intrapersonal and interpersonal. There are work difficulties and home difficulties. Illnesses physical and mental rise up to block us in our quest for a life worth living. All of this is enough to make anyone want to hole up in a dark, quiet room and rarely leave.

To be sure, the challenges of life can be daunting. They can seem so all-encompassing that it feels as though the challenges are what our lives are all about. Happily, this is not at all the case.  When you think about it, any challenge, no matter the size and scope, is external to us, not at all who we are as human beings.

I’ll be the first to admit that the idea that challenges are external to us can be a bit hard to buy into. Certainly, when we’re struggling, it really does feel that the struggle is part of us, that it’s taken root deep inside of us and is growing, snaking around our core being and reaching out into our lives. Or perhaps a struggle feels the opposite, that it has taken root in our very lives, in the people and circumstances around us and then has invaded our inner being. Truthfully, it doesn’t matter what the root of the challenge is. It doesn’t matter because it is separate from us.

I’ve lived through challenges and struggles. I’ve had relationship/marital challenges, physical challenges in the form of a traumatic brain injury and its consequences, and I live with bipolar 1 disorder and anxiety issues, both significant mental health challenges. And of course there are the little irritations of daily experiences that drift in and out of my life.

What will be different when you open your windowSailing through life without hitting choppy water is pretty much impossible. Part of the human experience involves storms, roiling waves, and seasickness. That’s a given. What is not a given is our reaction to it.

A wonderful thing about being human is that we always have choices. Further, we can empower ourselves to make those choices. We can choose our actions (do we decide to stay in bed, or do we decide to get up and do something, even if it’s small at first?) and our reactions (do we allow someone else to have the power to make us react negatively to him/her and then to dwell on a problem for a long time?) We can decide where to place our focus (do we think a lot about what is wrong and what we don’t want, or do we think more about what is right and about what we do want?).  What we focus on, what we think about, becomes our reality.

Another wonderful thing about being human is that we have the power of imagination. What we can imagine, we can create. A very effective first step in creating your life worth living is to clearly visualize what that life is to you. What fulfills you? What brings you joy? Where do you get a sense of meaning and purpose? Think hard about the who, what, where, and when of your ideal life. As you do this, remain focused on the positive. When we think of terms of “I don’t want x,” we are focusing our attention on that “x.” Therefore, that’s what materializes.

Define and embrace what you do want your life to be like. When that happens, you can begin to take steps, both little and big, to create your life. You’ll still be in stormy seas here and there, and you’ll have challenges, but theses won’t engulf and drown you because you’ll remain focused on your life vision.

In Leave of Absence, characters Oliver and Penelope are in a behavioral health hospital facing seemingly insurmountable difficulties. Penelope is wrestling with schizophrenia and the impact it’s had on her life, and Oliver is dealing with (or, more accurately, not dealing with) the traumatic loss of his wife and son. In this particular scene, they’re in a counseling group, a music group. The leader, before playing Natasha Beddingfield’s Unwritten, instructs,

“As you listen, I would ask you to reflect on what will happen when, like it says in the song, you open your window even just a small crack. What will be different?”

And as you create your life worth living, that’s a great question to ask: When I have my ideal life, what will be different? As you answer that question and keep it in your mind to help it take shape, you will be taking charge of your life.


Flow: Creating a Life Worth Living

Nov 3


When you lose yourself in an activity, you have found flow and you have found yourself.

Hello and good day to you, my fellow human beings – all seven-plus billion of you! Incredible, isn’t it? There are seven billion people on our planet, all unique individuals. Even more incredible is that the seven-plus billion of us have a great many things in common. One such commonality is, unfortunately, stress.

Focusing only on making a living creates stress.Stress comes in many different forms and from a multitude of sources. It also has many rather nasty symptoms. In general, people often find themselves busy, rushed, facing looming deadlines, dealing with conflict, addressing seemingly insurmountable problems and challenges, illnesses both mental and physical. We hurt, we ache, heads pound, stomachs protest, and in general we feel that we’ll explode, and if we don’t explode we’ll certainly implode.

Why? Why do we do this to ourselves? There are many reasons, of course. One predominant reason is that we need to make a living. That looks different for the seven-billion of us, and it may or may not involve economics. Regardless of how we’re doing it, we need to make a living.  When we get so wrapped up in it that we are stressed and feeling toxic, it’s time to step back. Happily, it’s possible to shift from focusing on making a living to focus on making a life worth living.

The field of positive psychology is dedicated to helping people do exactly this. They are researching and coming to understand what that means and how to achieve it, and they willingly share tools to help all seven-plus billion of us overcome adversity and create our own life worth living.

In their research, positive psychologists have discovered something called flow. Flow. It sounds peaceful, doesn’t it? It evokes a river, ever bubbling and flowing, paying no attention to obstacles in its way but instead fully present in what it’s doing. Okay, so people aren’t rivers. But we can experience flow nonetheless.

Flow is a state of being. Humans enter flow when we engage in something that captivates us so much that we focus completely on what we’re doing. All other thoughts and worries drift away, the racing thoughts become still, and the experience is one of pure enjoyment.

Find an activity that you love, and do it regularly. Where can we find this flow?! The answer is quite personal. Search your heart. What brings you joy? Perhaps cooking or baking, sewing or making crafts. Maybe hiking or biking or boating. Getting lost in a good book. Exercising or playing a favorite sport. The list is endless, and as long it’s not harmful, there’s no such thing as a wrong activity.

Experiencing flow can reduce stress and anxiety, improve overall well-being, and increase happiness and life satisfaction. Experiencing flow happens when we do anything that makes us passionate enough to get into and still enough to be fully immersed. When this happens, we begin to transcend merely making a living and begin to make a life worth living.

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