Those who wish to sing always find a song. Swedish proverb
I recently began singing in a church choir again. The new music director needed singers and I joined to support the program. Now, a few months later, I find myself participating out of joy rather than obligation. In addition, I have made new friends, renewed my appreciation of music, and found satisfaction in enhancing community worship.
I’m not alone. Studies show that choral singing improves our mood with a decrease in stress, depression, and anxiety. Perhaps it is the combination of deep breathing, a group setting, and the experience of joining with others to create something of beauty. Singing in a group can be especially helpful to your well- being if you’ve recently experienced a significant loss in your life.
Affirmation: I enjoy singing in the choir.
Coaching question: What makes your heart “sing?”
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The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved. Mother Teresa
Nearly half of Americans report that they sometimes or always feel isolated or left out. But this loneliness epidemic isn’t just happening in America. Experts from many countries are looking at the scientific facts of loneliness and what health implications the emotion carries including heart disease, depression, and Alzheimer’s.
Michelle H. Lim, scientific chair of the Australian Coalition to End Loneliness, states, “You might meet people and be embedded within families, be married, but you might still feel a sense of disconnection from other people.” Lim sees loneliness as more to do with the quality of the relationships people hold than the quantity of people they’re encountering day to day. “You can have social isolation but not feel lonely, or you can feel lonely and not be socially isolated.”
Hiding our loneliness from each other makes the problem worse. December is a particularly difficult time for those who feel lonely. Be aware of the people around you and notice who might be feeling isolated and lonely. Experiencing a recent loss of a loved one can magnify these feelings. Ending on a positive note, Lim says, “Humans are designed to be kind to each other, and we’re designed to rely on each other and to thrive.”
Affirmation: I strive to be kind and to help others thrive.
Coaching questions: When have you felt lonely? What has caused you to feel this way? If you know someone who is lonely, how will you reach out to them?
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Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration and resentment. Dale Carnegie, self-help writer and lecturer
In Japanese, shikata ga nai, means “it cannot be helped” or “nothing can be done about it.” It’s a phrase used to acknowledge an undesirable situation and a reminder that, when something is beyond our control, we need to mentally move on rather than let worry, frustration, and resentment wear us down.
Scientific studies agree that dwelling on negative events may cause depression and other physical symptoms. Having recently experienced flooding in my condo, I know that mentally moving on is easier said than done. However, I’m striving to adopt shikata ga nai as a lesson in living a healthier, happier life.
Affirmation: I mentally move on when a situation is beyond my control.
Coaching questions: Examine your fatigue. Consider it’s source. What situations or relationships beyond your control are causing you to obsess, worry, or lose sleep? What’s one step you can take to move towards adopting shikata ga nai?
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A diagnosis has been enough without being burdened by secrecy and shame. Jane Pauley, television journalist who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Although we have made progress in our understanding, treatment, and acceptance of mental illness, we still have a long way to go. When any other organ is diseased or distressed, there is sympathy, understanding, and readily available treatment.
When the brain is diseased or distressed we frequently say, “Really?” Or “Just get over it already.” Or “You seem fine to me.” Sometimes, we think less of a person because they think or act in a way that is unclear to us. We need to champion those professionals and organizations that serve the misunderstood, unrecognized, and under-treated.
Affirmation: I acknowledge and champion those with mental disabilities and disease.
Coaching questions: I can almost guarantee you know someone with a mental illness. How can you help them come out from under the mantel of secrecy and shame? If you’re deeply depressed, suspect you’re bipolar, or have other possible mental health challenges, I urge you to seek professional help just as you would if it was another type of illness.
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You either get bitter or you get better. It’s that simple. You either take what has been dealt to you and allow it to make you a better person or you allow it to tear you down. The choice does not belong to fate. It belongs to YOU. Josh Shipp, youth motivational speaker
Of course, the natural and appropriate response to loss is sadness and grief. However, it’s been my experience that when the focus remains on the one you lost, there is less despair and depression than when the focus remains on yourself. When we get stuck in saying or thinking, “Why me? It’s not fair. How can I possibly cope?” we stymie our ability to move forward. So much depends on how we respond to our experience.
The motherless daughters I interviewed who moved forward with their lives, frequently talked about all their mothers gave them, even if their time with them was short, rather than all they lost because of her death. Both conversations are appropriate but focusing on the former seemed to lead to more joy.
Affirmation: I choose to get better.
Coaching questions: What is your response to loss? Is it working for you? What will help you focus more on the lost loved one and less on yourself?
The Japanese phrase, Shikata ga nai, means “it cannot be helped” or “nothing can be done about it,” a strategy for accepting an undesirable situation and the antidote to worry. It’s a reminder that when the something is beyond your control, you need to mentally move on.
Scientific studies agree that dwelling on negative events may cause depression and other physical symptoms. I know….it’s easier said than done but still an excellent lesson for living a healthier, happier life.
Affirmation: I move on when a situation is beyond my control.
Coaching questions: What situations/relationships beyond your control are causing you to obsess, worry, or lose sleep? What’s one step you can take to move towards adopting Shikata ga nai?
The gradual losses experienced by caregivers can lead to sadness, depression, anger, guilt, sleeplessness and other physical and emotional problems. Family Caregiver Alliance Site
Caregivers are frequently referred to as heroes, even super-heroes. But they aren’t. Caregivers are not super-human or intended to be super-heroes. They are simply human beings doing their best to take care of someone they love whose brain is not working properly. Perhaps they may wish they had super powers or mystical abilities but to stay sane they must acknowledge that they can’t fix all the challenges that accompany a dementia diagnosis.
The Family Caregiver Alliance recommends that a caregiver identify her losses, her feelings about the losses and her corresponding grief. The Alliance also recommends keeping a journal or gratitude journal, attending support groups, and doing relaxation exercises.
Affirmation: I take care of myself as I take care of another.
Coaching questions: Whether you are a caregiver or not, in what ways do you try to be a super-hero? How’s that working for you? If you are a caregiver, in what ways do you take care of yourself?
To be truly happy, you need to feel both pleasure and purpose. You can be just as happy or sad as I am but with a different combination of pleasure and purpose. And you may require each to different degrees at different times. But you do need to feel both. I call this the pleasure-purpose principle–the PPP. Paul Dolan, author of Happiness by Design
Hedonism is the pursuit of happiness via sensory pleasure and comforts. Eudaemonism is the pursuit of happiness through efforts to live a virtuous life and become a better person. There’s evidence to show that living well means balancing these two aims.
If we choose one to the exclusion of the other, we can end up feeling like we’re missing out which can cause anxiety, depression and even chronic disease. One way to obtain balance is to notice when experiences provide a sense of both pleasure and purpose then create more of these moments in our lives.
Affirmation: I have both pleasure and purpose in my life.
Coaching questions: Can you name a time when you experienced both pleasure and purpose? What helps you keep both pleasure and purpose active in your life? What gives you pleasure? What gives you a sense of purpose?
Sleep sound in the knowledge that tomorrow you’ll have the strength to help fix the world just a bit more, because you’ll know just where to take your first healing step: Make your bed. T.R. Kerth, newspaper columnist and author of Revenge of the Sardines
When I started coaching in 1996, my first client was a woman who was depressed, chronically tired, and lacked motivation. She was recently divorced and hired me to help her “get her life back together.” Part of the the intake protocol I used was to have clients fill-out an assessment of their life activities including health, financial, etc. From this assessment, I learned that my client didn’t make her bed. My first coaching request was, “Make your bed everyday for the next week.”
Mr. Kerth (see quote above) was asked to do the same thing by his therapist when he was exhausted and overwhelmed after the recent death of his wife from yet another stroke…he had been her caretaker for eight years. Mr. Kerth says, “I took his advice, and I felt my depressed helplessness loosen its paralyzing grip on me at once. Besides now that the bed was made, there was less chance that I would retreat to it during a weak moment later in the day.” This is exactly what happened to my client! She slept better because she quit taking naps (who wants to make a bed twice in one day?), she gained momentum as she accomplished at least one thing even before brushing her teeth. She was on her way to getting her life back. Two great stories about the power of a single activity. What are you waiting for? Go make your bed!
Affirmation: A single step can make a difference
Coaching questions: What is one small step can you take to make a difference in your life? What’s keeping you from taking it?