Ep. 14 What Rumpelstilskin Teaches about Curing Depression

The Power of Naming

The name depression implies personal weakness.

And people would rather be sick in secret than be perceived as weak in public.

Cure "Depression" by Changing its Name

I have an idea. A theory.

I think that one reason Depression (and resulting suicide) is a rampant problem in society is because we are calling it by the wrong name.

And I propose that we will never successfully eradicate  this disease UNTIL we identify and address it by its accurate name.

My thesis for today’s podcast is three-fold.

First: That using the word “Depression” to name a disease is a misnomer.

Second: That calling “Depression” by the wrong name leads to incorrect or insufficient treatment to cure the disease. 

Third: I propose that the simple solution of changing the NAME of the diagnosis from “depression” to a term that more accurately fits the physical causes of the disease will result in a decrease of resulting suicide, length of time suffered, and an increase of pro-active treatment.

Why "Depression" is the Wrong NAME for the Disease

Depression is an inaccurate name because:

  1. Depression is the name of an emotion, not the name of an illness. And not everyone who feels the emotion of depression has the disease the word is attached to. 
  2. Depression is only one of many possible symptoms of the illness.
  3. Not everyone who has this disease will have the one symptom it is named for.
  4. Depression can be a Symptom of Many Different Illnesses

Depression is an Emotion, Not a Disease

Have you ever been depressed? Yes! Depression is a human emotion. Feeling depression doesn’t mean you have the disease that society currently calls “Depression.” Why do we have an illness named for an emotion? The name “Depression” 

Depression is a Possible Symptom, Not the Cause

The term depression doesn’t go far enough. It stops at a symptom and doesn’t continue to address the root of the issue. Depression is an emotion, not a disease. Depression is a possible SYMPTOM of the illness, but it is not the illness. It’s like saying “Jody has low energy” and stopping there. When, if fact, Jody has anemia. Low energy is a symptom, not the cause. Low iron levels in the blood in the cause.  The name “Depression” puts all the focus on a symptom rather than focussing on treating the cause. 

I have had doctors explain to me the physical causes for “depression” such as low levels of brain neurotransmitters or malfunction in chemical absorption by the neuron synapses. So there is a physical cause. There is a malfunction in the body, in the brain specifically, yet we continue to call the disease after an emotion rather than for the physical cause. Diabetes is caused by the body not making enough insulin, but we don’t call the disease Shakiness or Exhaustion, we call is Diabetes.  

The fact that depression is only one of many possible symptoms of this disease increases the confusion caused by this misnomer. Other symptoms can be insomnia, significant weight loss or weight gain, loss of appetite, muscle pain, moving slowly, difficulty concentrating. Furthermore, it is possible for a person to have this “disease currently known as depression” without experiencing the symptom of depression. I did not treat my illness currently known as Postpartum Depression because I didn’t feel depressed. I didn’t feel well. I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep. I ached everywhere and my body felt heavy as if I were made of concrete. I moved slowly. I lost a lot of weight, not in a good way. My head was always foggy. But I didn’t feel “depressed.” And failing to treat the physical causes of my disease caused my overall health to get worse until I also had auto-immune disease and chronic illness. 

The inaccurate label “depression” hindered me from getting correct treatment.

Depression Is a Symptom of Many Illnesses

Another reason that the term “Depression” is a misnomer is that it’s too broad. The feeling of depression can be a symptom for multiple diseases, like head injuries, cancer, or MS. Also we can experience depression without having a physical disease. We can experience depression while grieving a loved-one’s death or after losing a job or because it’s winter and there’s not enough sunlight. Depression is a common and variegated emotion. I can feel depressed in the morning and be happy by afternoon. So to call a real brain illness after such a kaleidoscopic EMOTION, seriously interferes with treating the disease.

Calling it Depression Causes Misdiagnoses and Treatment

The name Depression deters people from seeking treatment and taking steps to heal the disease.

The word “depression” connotes a character flaw. The term “depression” does not separate the person from the illness.  Why? Because we identify with our emotions. Our emotional state is linked with our personality. We describe people by their emotions:  He’s a jolly person, a happy person, an energetic person, she’s a sluggish person. She’s always “down.” We even have a nickname for this personality type: “Debbie Downer”  Calling a disease after an emotional state creates a false perception that a person diagnosed with depression has a bad personality. This is viewed more as a personal weakness than a physical issue.

The equivalent assignation for a person who’s had a stroke would be to say, “He’s a mumbler, you can’t understand when he talks. Mumbling is associated more as a character trait. But we don’t say that. We say, “He had a stroke and it’s affecting his ability to speak.”

In most cases we are good at separating the results of an illness from the character of the person. But not with depression. And the social impact is that many people who have “the illness currently known as depression” don’t say anything, don’t seek treatment because the name Depression insinuates personal weakness. And they would rather be sick in secret than to be perceived as weak in public.

Change its Name

Rumpelstilskin had power to take the Queen’s baby unless she could call him by his true name. Calling a physical disease after one possible emotional symptom is like  calling Rumpelstiltskin by the wrong name and then crying as he steals our baby.

I propose we begin by discontinuing the term “Mental Illness” and instead calling it “Brain disease” or “Brain Illness.” The brain is an organ just like the kidneys, lungs, and heart. When the lungs are sick, you can’t breathe well. When the brain is sick, you can’t think right. Thoughts and emotions are processed in the brain through electrical-chemical reactions. If the electric wires malfunction, the thoughts go dark, just like when power lines go down. If the chemical recipes aren’t right, the emotions come out bad, just like using salt instead of sugar when baking cookies. It’s science, not emotion.

So let’s call it by what it is. Let’s name it for the cause, not after one of the numerous possible symptoms. I don’t have authority or the training to come up with the best name, but I propose it be scientific, sound official, and be related to the root cause of the ailment rather than a resulting emotional symptom.  

For example, the term diabetes is shortened from Diabetes Mellitus which comes from the Greek word diabetes which means to siphon – to pass through and the Latin word mellitus meaning honeyed or sweet. This is because in diabetes excess sugar is found in blood as well as the urine. Excess sugar is siphoned through or passes through the blood. This name helps us to focus on treating the cause of the illness rather than concentrating on the idea that in the United States we currently have over 100 million people who can digest their food properly.

Recently my son was experiencing lack of focus, bouts of anger or depression, head fogginess, and headaches. I dreaded hearing the diagnosis “Depression.”Rather he was diagnosed with Postconcussive Syndrome. That name empowered us. We know to let his brain rest, to cut back on learning new things like memorizing his violin music. He told his school teachers who were understanding and willing to accommodate if he needed extra time for assignments. It was much easier to tell his teachers that he had a concussion than that he had depression.

Currently, this same care and attention isn’t happening with the disease known as depression. The word Depression holds a lot of judgment and misperception. The stigma surrounding depression interferes with accurate diagnosis and treatment. 

To reNAME this disease will empower us to  perceive & understand in a different, more enlightened way. It will help us move out of the space of impatience. The attitude of “Snap out of it” and “This needs to be fixed NOW!”  and into the place of giving people time and  support to heal.

Ep. 13 The Power of Naming

The process of naming the animals demonstrated dominion over the earth.

Power of Naming

Have you ever had that feeling? Something is wrong but you can’t put your finger on what it is? Something is wrong with your child. Something is going on at work. Something is bothering your spouse. It’s there, but you feel powerless to fix it until you can name what it is. 

Naming is a power principle because naming the problem is the first step to solving the problem. My sister has always said, “I can handle anything as long as I know what it is.” She speaks truth. We are strong, intelligent, resourceful. It’s the unknown that gets us.

Science of Naming

Why is naming so powerful?

Scientists have long studied the power of words on the human brain. The brain receives thousands of  data impulses every second. These data impulses are processed as thought words or thought images.

What’s in a Name?

A name is simply a word—a combination of letters—assigned to a specific person or thing. In order to make its job a little easier, the brain names data and groups it together with similar data through categorization. It assigns words to data in order to know where to “file” the information.  Anything the brain isn’t able to name ends up in the dark abyss of  uncategorized info. The brain can’t do anything with this stuff until it’s identified. 

Examples of Naming Found in Literature

We intuitively sense the power of names. There are examples in stories of the power that can come from naming.

  1.  Adam & Eve  In the Book of Genesis, God gave Adam and Eve power to name the animals. From the moment they chose the word elephant, the process of naming demonstrated their dominion and stewardship over the earth and all living things.
  2. Rumpelstiltskin The classic Grimm Brother’s Fairy Tale tells of strange man who convinces a young woman to promise him her first-born child in exchange for spinning her straw into gold. At the birth of the child, the woman begs for a way out of the deal. The strange man agrees that if she can correctly guess him name in 3 days, he will relinquish his claim on the child. The ability to identify his true name is what frees the woman from his hold.
  3.  The Ocean at the End of the Lane  this Neil Gaiman story recounts the havoc worked by an evil entity disguised as a nanny named Ursula Monkton. The Hempstock women are unable to rid their town of the creature until they can successfully discover its true name. Once Lettie Hemstock learns that Ursula is really Skarthach of the Keep she chases Skarthach to the end of the lane where it cries, shrinks, and disappears. The power to remove the vexing thing came in calling it by its true name.

Naming Our Troubles

Sometimes the only thing we need in order to solve a problem is to be able to name it. This is why talking things is so helpful. The process of talking is the process of putting those ambiguous bothers into words. Meeting with therapists, doctors, coaches, or church leaders is helpful because they can offer words for what is troubling us. I might know I have a head ache and a sore throat, but don’t know how to remedy it. Once I know it is caused by the Streptococcus bacteria, I know to take an antibiotic.  

Naming our emotions is powerful. Most of the time we sweep our emotions under the rug without acknowledging what they are trying to tell us. Emotions are messengers. When we take time to say: This is sadness or This is frustration we are more effective at working through the emotions.

Ep. 12 The Power of Imbalance

Our goal isn't to achieve balance.

The Power of Imbalance

I used to believe that achieving balance was my life’s goal. I pictured a balanced life as a kind of Utopia, a paradise of bliss and perfection. I believed that once I attained this Promised Land of Balance, I could kick off my shoes, find a reclining chair, and bask in the light of Balance’s Sunny Beaches.

In my mind, I had an image of what a Balanced Life would look and feel like. My balanced life would look organized, clean, planned out. Everything would be in order. In my balanced life I would feel unstressed, calm, settled, grounded, and in control. In my mind, I had a picture of waking up early before my kids, spending time in prayer, meditation, journal writing, exercising, cooking a nutritious breakfast and being on time for every appointment. Aaaah, perfect balance.

My life looked nothing like that. Raising four children, my days were filled with unplanned, unexpected, and often unsavory glitches. Inevitably someone would wake up in the night with the stomach flu and dreams of my “perfect” day would dissolve into mountains of laundry and frantic trips to the store for Pedialyte. 

Thankfully I met a personal trainer who taught me the truth about the Power of Imbalance.

Imbalance Develops Strength

I am not a work-with-a-personal-trainer kind of girl, but my gym membership included six months of free personal training and I never let a coupon go to waste. This is how I met Shaun. He taught me a routine using free-weights, and just as I started to feel confident with the routine, he made me move from the flat floor to standing on a balance saucer. After teetering and falling into the mirror, I complained, “Nothing about this feels right. I feel completely out of control, completely off-balance. I was doing better on the floor.”

Shaun said, “It’s not supposed to feel comfortable. You are not supposed to feel balanced.”

Then Shaun taught me this importance lesson about balance.

Stop focussing on how awkward and embarrassed you feel. Stop worrying that people are judging you. Instead, pay attention to what your leg muscles feel like.  Feel how the muscles are correcting you, when you tilt too far to the right, your leg muscles fire up and grab your body and correct you back to center. It’s the imbalance that is making your leg muscles smarter and stronger. Being off-balance is what’s building your strength.”

Yes, this is another reminder that life is not about the destination. The growth is in the journey. And if the process feels like a struggle, then you are probably doing it right.

Balance Signals End of Growth

We talk so much about achieving balance because balance feels good. Being in balance feels comfortable, and don’t we all just want to feel comfortable? YES! But remember:

There is no growth in the comfort zone and no comfort in the growth zone. 

Once I mastered my free-weight routine on the floor, I felt confident and in control, so naturally I wanted to stay there. But my growth had peaked out. I was no longer challenging my core muscles. Shaun taught me that life is not about achieving balance, life is about struggling to achieve balance.

Think about this: stand perfectly still with your feet aligned side by side. You feel balanced, but you also aren’t going anywhere? There is no moving forward while balanced. In order to take a step forward, you have to tip off balance, shift all weight onto one foot while the other foot moves forward, then shift all the weight back onto the other foot while the other moves. Progress in life comes only through transitory periods of imbalance.

If I am balanced, I am not moving forward. If I am balanced, I am not growing.

Balance is a Goal, but Not a Destination

So why are there a gazillion self-help books about achieving balance? Are they all wrong?

The answer is NO. They are right because we do want to work towards balance. Balance is our goal. However, balance is not our destination.

We often tend to think of balance as a destination and that once you get there, you stay forever, like arriving in Hawaii. I had friends who moved to Hawaii, and they loved it for a few months, then guess what happened? The beaches, the ocean, the scenery became the normal backdrop of ordinary daily routines. When they brought their kids to visit Utah, their youngest exploded with joy at the sight of pinecones and squirrels. 

If Hawaii can become hum-drum, then balance can certainly become boring. 

Here is the sad news about encountering balance: the moment we meet balance, it’s already time to move on. Why? Because it is not finding balance, but the struggle to find balance that moves us forward. 

Myths of Balance

Do you hold on to any of these myths about achieving a balanced life?

Myth #1  Balance is a destination. Once I arrive, I can stay forever.

Myth #2  In order to be successful, I have to achieve a balanced life.

Myth #3  Balance means symmetry, an equal focus on all areas of my life.

If so, try on these truths.

Truth #1: Balance is a goal to work towards, but I don’t want to stay balanced. As a human, I seek growth, which require me to continually step forward out of balance. 

Truth #2: To be successful, I must often struggle through transitory periods of imbalance.

Truth #3: Progress requires extra focus on in one or two areas that sometimes leave other areas a bit neglected. But that’s okay because at another time, those areas will get the attention.

Conclusion

Understanding the Power of Imbalance has helped me to embrace the discomfort of the struggle. While remodeling the kitchen, we may eat too much fast food and cold cereal, but that’s okay. Once the remodel work is done, I can refocus on cooking nutritious family meals. When my garden is thriving, my kitchen is usually a disaster because my counters are covered with squash, cucumbers and tomatoes and a lot of flies. During the winter my countertops stay clean, but I eat canned vegetables. There are times and seasons for everything. When life feels out-of-balance, take some advice from my trainer, Shaun. Stop worrying about how uncomfortable you feel and pay attention to where the growth is happening. 

Ep. 10 Empower Kids Through PLAY

Empower Kids Through Play

Empower Kids Through PLAY

“The opportunity for kids to freely engage in play with one another has diminished considerably over the last 50 years.” Michael Yogman, AAP

Research shows one of the best ways to empower kids is through play. Play helps kids develop problem-solving, decision-making, and risk-taking skills that prepare them to be successful adults. However, play has decreased steadily. The ramifications are becoming so serious that doctors are prescribing play as a remedy for many ills. The American Academy of Pediatricians is encouraging doctors to implement a Reach Out and Play campaign to correspond with the Reach out and Read initiative. Doctors are asking parents to protect and even to enforce playtime.  Episode 7 discussed four specific ways to give yourself permission to add more play to your life. 

What is PLAY?

According to research by Dr. Rachel White: 

PLAY IS PLEASURABLE: Children must enjoy the activity or it is not play.

PLAY IS INTRINSICALLY MOTIVATED: Children engage in play simply for the satisfaction the behavior itself brings. It has no extrinsically motivated function or goal.

PLAY IS PROCESS ORIENTED: When children play, the means are more important than the ends.

PLAY IS FREELY CHOSEN: It is spontaneous and voluntary. If a child is pressured, she will likely not think of the activity as play.

PLAY IS ACTIVELY ENGAGED: Players must be physically and/or mentally involved in the activity.

PLAY IS NON-LITERAL: It involves make-believe.

Play empowers kids because it is intrinsic rather than extrinsic. The benefits of play are internal (for the individual) rather than external (associated with outside approval or award). Play is self-chosen and the players are free-agents, meaning they can stop at any time. Because play contains non-literal elements, it buffers the individual from real-life consequences and provides opportunities to practice and grow skills essential to living in our complex world.

There is a difference between accumulating knowledge and developing skills. Emphasizing math, reading, and writing at younger ages has forced teachers to remove playful elements from early childhood education. But learning new skills is best facilitated by social, playful interactions where risks can be taken with little consequence. The emphasis on performance measured by test scores is diminishing opportunities to learn from mistakes, even when failure is often the best teacher.  

Benefits of PLAY

According to a report of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Play is not frivolous: it enhances brain structure and function and promotes executive function (ie, the process of learning, rather than the content), which allow us to pursue goals and ignore distractions. Play is fundamentally important for learning 21st century skills, such as problem solving, collaboration, and creativity, which require the executive functioning skills that are critical for adult success.”

Benefits of play are numerous and well documented. Play with parents and peers is fundamental for the development of safe, trusting relationships. Play regulates stress levels. Studies have shown that the lack of play increases ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Play develops the learning process, incites creativity, problem solving, and risk-taking. Specifically, play develops language and math skills and improves concentration. 

How to Empower Kids through PLAY

1. Lower the Stakes 

As parents, we can empower kids through play by making sure that for every performance-based activity kids are signed-up to do, they have equal opportunity for unstructured, experimental play. An AAP report states:  “Parental guilt has led to competition over who can schedule more enrichment opportunities.” As parents, organized activities like lessons and competitive sports feels good because they have measurable results which validate our investment of time and money. As adults, we like the structure of consistent time, date, location for activities. The unmeasurability of unstructured play can be a barrier. Which lead us to principle #2: 
 

2. Build Trust Through Play

Dr. Hank Smith, Ph.D conducted his doctoral research in developing trust in educational systems. He discovered that play is a powerful way to build trusting relationships. He found that one of the best ways to repair a struggling relationship (particularly a parent/child relationship) is through play. Get on the same level as your child and do something they love. Don’t talk about grades or problems or instrument practice. Playing together helps kids to know that they matter. You love spending time with them for who they are. They are valuable to you outside of their performance on a report card or in a soccer game. 

Play becomes even more essential in times of family crisis. In the midst of divorce, death, serious accident or illness, job loss, or jail sentence, it seems counterintuitive to play. However, play is exactly what will ease stress and remind family members that it’s possible to experience pockets of happiness in the middle of tragedy. Play helps all family members to grow through the struggle and to develop resilience and personal strength. 

3. Embrace the Mess

Play is messy. The toys buckets will be emptied. The legos and blocks and train set will be strewn across the floor. When our children were young, my girlfriend said the best thing to me. She said, “I love when my house is messy because it means my kids are playing.” Those blankets and beach towels that were folded so neatly in the closet are going to be stretched across the furniture to make forts, which means that every heavy book from the shelf is stacked to hold down the blankets.

Play doesn’t necessarily help with housework. On days that I’ve just mopped and vacuumed, I almost prefer my kids to watch TV instead of play in the sand box. In order to promote unstructured play, as parents we need to lower our standards of tidiness and embrace the mess. 

4. Trick Your Kids Into PLAYING

You know as well as I do that if command our kids to play, they protest. This is because play must be self-chosen. As parents, we can apply a bit of reverse psychology. When my kids have been staring at screens too long or are complaining about boredom, I give them a chore to do. This is a “nonessential” chore. Something like cleaning out the junk drawer in their bedroom, weeding the garden, washing the car, or organizing the game closet.

These are chores that I know will quickly devolve into play, and that’s okay because that’s what I wanted all along. Five minutes into sorting his junk drawer, little Johnnie will be exploring his imagination. One or two weeds might get pulled, but more likely the garden hose will get turned on and there will be a dirt castle surrounded by a muddy moat will appear next to the squash plant. Inevitably the bedroom, closet, and yard will end up more disorganized that they were to start. And that’s okay. That’s when I will smile and say, “I’m happy because my kids are playing.” We have plenty of opportunities to teach chore completion and organization at other times. For today, play is the priority.

Channel Your Inner-Child

Children learn best from example. As parents, we can model playful behavior by engaging in hobbies, being spontaneous, and taking time for activities we enjoy that don’t have any external benefits such as earning money or receiving an award. If you have children in your life, you are lucky. Being around children helps to re-prioritize our lives and help us tune in to our inner-child. There are myriad opportunities to volunteer for kids through Big Brother Big Sister programs, the YMCA, school PTA programs, or foster parenting.

The bottom line is to change our mindset that play is a waste of time. In truth, play can often be more productive than work. So give yourself permission to bring back the Power of PLAY.

Ep 9 The Power of a PLAYFUL Marriage

Give yourself permission to have a playful marriage

The Power of a PLAYFUL Marriage

A playful marriage is a powerful way to fuel and energize your life. Have you given yourself permission to have a playful marriage

Don't Let Brain LIES Sabotage Your Marriage

Marriage is a mindset. The most influential impact on a successful or failed relationship is what happens inside your own head. I’m not saying you can “power think” your way out of an abusive relationship. There are times when you need to leave a situation, but most often it is not our circumstances but how we think about our circumstances that influences our happiness in marriage.

Challenge your thoughts. Just because a thought flashes through your mind does not mean it is your thought or that it’s a true thought. Question those thoughts: “Who says so?”  “Do I believe that?” “Do I want to believe that?” “Who does that thought benefit?”  If a thought doesn’t serve you, then get rid of it and choose higher-quality thoughts. Replace sabotaging thoughts with empowering thoughts. Think to the possibilities

The EGO tries to sabotage relationships because it likes to be miserable. The EGO loves being a victim, so the EGO is going to feed your brain full of relationship-sabotaging thoughts. On this episode I share stories of how brain lies nearly sabotaged my date night and a Seattle getaway with my husband. 

Be a Fun-Living Spouse

Have you given yourself permission to be a fun partner? Who says life has to be serious all the time? Who says we can only talk about problems with our companions? Remember the power principle from Episode 4 about making life easier by solving problems without a fuss? Marriage is the perfect place to practice solving problems simply without making a huge ordeal. 

In marriage, keep your problems small and your pleasure BIG. 

Author Merrilee Boyack says that a fun-loving spouse enjoys watching other people have fun. Instead, be a fun-living spouse, the person who jumps right in to the middle of fun. Merrilee says that if you buy garbage bags as gifts or if your last date together without your kids was to attend a funeral, you might need to add some spice to flavor your dull marriage. 

Give Yourself Permission to be PLAYFUL in Marriage

Marriage needs energy. Date nights and fun can fuel a marriage. As a rule, don’t spend more than 20% of your date night conversation talking about your kids, your bills, or life issues. It’s okay to having “planning dates” where you have dedicated time and space to discuss the budget, the remodel, jobs, kids, and even in-laws. But separate those conversations from your playful date nights. Gives yourselves permission to take a break from life and do something just for fun. 

If you’ve gotten out of the habit of dating your spouse or have run out of ideas of things you enjoy doing together, you’re not alone. It happens to all of us. Have fun brainstorming together. Write down three things you would enjoy doing together. If you haven’t had common interests in the past, it’s okay to start now. Dream together often. Talk about wild, crazy things you would enjoy (and don’t allow your brain to sabotage the dream by throwing up all the reasons you couldn’t or shouldn’t dream that dream). Imagine your life together after children leave home, after retirement. 

Be physically playful, and I’m not just talking about s-e-x. Hiking, biking, playing tennis, working out at the gym together, boating, getting a pair of matching mini trampolines . . . physical play is powerfully energizing for relationships.  

See Your Marriage as a PERK rather than Work

Ask yourself,  “Does my marriage feel like a perk or like work?”  Give yourself  permission to be married and to enjoy the perks of marriage, not just  to endure the work of marriage. A few years ago my husband and I went to a life-changing marriage conference and I realized I could give myself permission for my marriage to be a source of energy and strength in my life. Rather than seeing my marriage as one more thing on my To Do List, I began to discover my marriage as a source of enjoyment and fun. 

I started to give myself permission to be playful with my spouse, to be more lighthearted, to lower the stakes, and to not take everything so seriously. As a result, my marriage is becoming a safe place, a source of strength, support, courage, and energy.  

 

Give Yourself Permission to RECEIVE Love

The number one BRAIN LIE that we all share in common is that we are not enough. We aren’t worthy of love. We don’t deserve love. Subsequently, we deflect love when it’s offered, then cry and mope because we aren’t loved. My brain lies tell me that I haven’t worked hard enough to deserve a night out with my man, or that I don’t deserve a trip to Seattle with my husband. My brain lies and tries to convince me that I can’t be playful and intimate if my house, bedroom, or hair is messy.

BRAIN LIE = I can’t relax and enjoy time with my husband if I have work to do.

TRUTH = there will always be work to do. It’s okay to take time to play with my spouse.

BRAIN LIE = You haven’t done enough today to deserve your husband’s love.

TRUTH = I can receive my husband’s love any time, in any condition because he wants to give his love to me. 

Marriage is a Seesaw

Merillee Boyack says that marriage is a Seesaw, the intensity is going to fluctuate up and down, but if you find your butt sitting on the ground, it’s time to kick off. You have the power to kick off the ground. You have the power to jumpstart the energy of playfulness in your marriage. Experience the Power of a PLAYFUL Marriage by challenging your brain lies, being a fun spouse, viewing marriage as a life perk, and giving yourself permission to receive love. And have a blast in your playful marriage!

 

Ep. 8 The Power of PLAY to Beat Winter Blues

Play to Beat Winter Blues

The Power of PLAY to Beat Winter Blues

How do you beat winter blues? Does anyone else get sort of bluesy during the winter? After moving from year-round sunny Arizona to four-season Utah, it took me a few years to realize that the sluggish, gloomy, “can’t seem to get my motor going” struggle wasn’t me. Phew, it isn’t a character flaw— or maybe it is, but at least it’s a temporary character flaw. Snow and freezing wind in December is fine. I love a white Christmas. I’m even game for some snow-man building and downhill sledding in January, but as February d-r-a-g-s into March and the sky is still gray and gloomy, I become convinced that I will never see the sun or green grass again. I want to stay hidden under my bed covers and it seems to take a Herculean effort to get me out of bed and moving in the morning. 

Learning that my wintertide melancholy was a real thing (seasonal affective disorder) and was common (I’m joined by 10 million Americans), I felt empowered to take back my February & March and rediscover my winter wonderland.  Here are three ways I’ve given myself permission to play away the winter blues. 

Finding a PLAYFUL Way to MOVE My Body

Exercise in snowy winter was a challenge for me since my go-to routine was out-door walks. But I dislike slipping on icy sidewalks. I’m a wimp in cold weather. So after a series of immobile winters I knew I had to figure out a way to keep moving from January until the sun came out again. If not for my own mental health, then at least for my family’s.  I tried the treadmill at the local rec center, but running in place like a hamster—not super exciting. I needed a fun, playful way to move. Something I could look forward to. Something I would actually want to leave my warm, cozy bed covers to do. 

A minitrampoline!

Perfect.

I’d read about the multiple benefits of kinetic jumping, from clearing the lymph nodes and boosting your immune system to stimulating a sluggish thyroid and increasing Serotin levels. I needed all of those benefits to help beat winter blues.

And jumping on a trampoline felt a lot more like play than like exercise

Santa’s elves brought me a minitrampoline for Christmas and I spent the rest of January, February and March jumping my way right out of winter blues.

PLAYING Outside Again

While waking up and jumping to 80s cardio tunes got me out of bed in the morning, I still struggled with feeling cooped up indoors. It was time to make a decision.  I decided that winter was cold and that I could still go outside. Mind-blowing, I know. But it was for me. I just decided that I could still go for walks outside. I could put on gloves and earmuffs. My nose would turn pink and drip and I would live. I changed my mind that walks had to happen first thing in the morning and I started going for walks at lunchtime.

Miracles happen when I make a decision, when I set an intention: a friend starting inviting me for spontaneous afternoon walks. This winter I have spent more time outdoors and the cold hasn’t bothered me. I feel more energized. I don’t feel like I’m dragging through winter. In fact, I can hardly believe it’s already March.

Planning a PLAYFUL Winter Getaway

The third way I’ve made winter more playful is to give myself permission to take advantage of opportunities to getaway. If my husband has a business trip, I give myself permission to ask for help with the kids and tag along. A change of scenery (especially if the weather is warm!) is effective medicine for winter blues. I’ve also found that winter is a great time to go on a writer’s retreat. The kids have fewer sports activities, I’m not as occupied working in the yard & garden, and I can usually find great rates on an airbnb. Holing away with a mug of hot chocolate and a manuscript feels like medicinal hibernation. And I get a lot of work done, too.

For moms with young kids, an overnight getaway may not be in the cards, but you don’t have to travel far or spend money to have a change of scenery. One of the most healing things I discovered when my kids were young was to getaway one night a week to the local library where I could curl up in a couch with a stack of the most recent periodicals and read short articles (nothing too brainy) or even just flip through the pictures. If you’re an introvert like me, any time alone is extremely recharging. If you’re an extrovert, you probably want to plan a night out with friends. In either case, looking forward to some adventures on your calendar will help winter feel more exciting than tedious. 

Make Winter Fun

The bottom line is that while winter is cold and gray, it is also  magical. Giving yourself permission to play through winter helps you maximize the benefits of winter and diminish the gloom. Find fun ways to stay active. Find a local state park with inexpensive ski rental options. In Utah, the Wasatch State Park offers a $12 cross country package that includes all the equipment rental. This makes a great Saturday afternoon getaway adventure. 

Have some fun discovering your winter adventurous self. Making a decision to be more adventurous and giving yourself permission to be more playful can really help to beat those winter blues. 

Ep. 6 Permission to be Happy

Happiness is not a Destination

Permission to BE HAPPY

I learned this past week of two more young adult suicides. This is an epidemic. We are losing too many beautiful people to unnecessary deaths from treatable diseases. I remember being stuck in darkness that felt so real, heavy and impossible to fix. I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t know how to continue existing that way. There were many factors that helped me to heal from depression and chronic illness, but the number one thing was learning how to recognize and change toxic thoughts.

Thoughts are real. Thoughts are powerful. Thoughts are electricity and ask anyone who has been struck by lightning or a loose wire how strong electricity is.

Thoughts can convince you that life is so bad that you can’t be happy. Thoughts are so strong they can create emotions of fear, worthlessness, and feelings of impending doom, panic attacks, and the desperate need to to escape. 

In my healing process, I discovered six LIES that my brain told me about why I couldn’t or shouldn’t be happy. I learned to counter those LIES with the powerful ANTIDOTE of TRUTH. 

False Belief #1: I Can't Be Happy Because Life is Supposed to Be Hard

On the drive to music lessons this morning, my husband and son saw a beautiful bald eagle perched in a tree off the side of the road. Seeing an eagle in town is a rare and magnificent siting. They stopped the car to watch its grandeur and expected other drivers would do the same. Instead they were chastised by shouts and blaring horn. And this was on a leisurely country road on a Saturday morning. Other drivers pulled around them in frustration, so busy glaring and making angry gestures that they failed to notice the beautiful eagle. 

Why do we believe that life is so serious? so busy? so burdensome? It is a false belief that life has to be hard. Episode 2: The Power of Want explains that if all we think about are problems, the Universe will give us more problems.

The antidote to this false belief is explained in Episode 4: Permission to Make Life Easier. Give yourself permission to enjoy life, to be happy now, stop and see the eagles! 

False Belief #2: I Can't Be Happy While Others Suffer

My son is living in South Africa. He emailed pictures of a house he was helping to build build. This woman had acquired some land and some supplies and was building her own home. They dug a trench and stood some rough pieces of lumber in the trench to create a one-room, wooden shack. When I see pictures like this, my brain fires a string of thoughts about how unfair it is that I have an airconditioned/ heated home with  a microwave and automatic dishwasher and that I shouldn’t be so comfortable and happy when so many people around the world are suffering. 

This is a version of Survivor’s Guilt, the false belief that I shouldn’t be happy, healthy, and have a good life when others around me didn’t get that chance. Survivor’s Guilt causes people to self-sabotage through addiction or failure or just finding misery.

Truth: There will always be tragedy and suffering happening somewhere in the world, so if we all wait for no suffering, then no one would ever be happy. What’s more, we are powerless to help ease suffering if we are also miserable and depressed.

Truth: People don’t have to have identical lives and circumstances in order to be happy. This South African woman was ecstatic with her house because it was her own, she had worked for it, planned it, and built it. Likewise, I don’t need to have what other peopl have in order to be happy in my own life.

Truth: The Ego feeds on comparison, on being “more than” or “less than” others. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Antidote: Give yourself permission to be happy in your life the way it is and be happy for others the way they are.

False Belief #3: I Don't Deserve to Be Happy because I'm Too Imperfect.

I wonder about these young college students whose lives ended far too early. Did they believe they weren’t good enough? Did they believe they were too flawed, too imperfect to be worthy of life and happiness. Instead of happiness did they feel guilt, worthlessness, and despair?

I caught my brain telling me lies like: “You can’t enjoy this because you don’t deserve it.” “You shouldn’t be happy because you didn’t do enough to earn happiness.” or “You have messed up you own life too much to deserve happiness.”

These are ALL lies!

Truth: Happiness is not based on a merit system. Happiness is an emotion that can only come from inside ourselves and never from any of our actions or accomplishments.

Antidote: Give yourself permission to be Imperfect and Happy. They can coexist. 

False Belief #4: I Can't Be Happy if Other People Don't Approve of Me

While working to heal through depression, my counselor explained that I was Codependent. What? That was a surprise because I thought I was one of the most independent women I knew. But I relied on the approval of others in order to approve of myself. If someone else wasn’t happy with my work, then I couldn’t be happy either.

I had a False Belief that  unless someone else noticed and validate me and my work, then I couldn’t be happy with me.

As a result, I learned to search for happiness inside of me.

Truth: I can be happy even if others don’t notice, validate or approve of me.

Truth: I can be happy even if someone isn’t happy with me.

Antidote: Give myself permission to choose my own happiness.

We need to change how we talk about happiness. “He makes me so happy.” or “I want to find a partner who makes me happy.” Because the truth is that you have chosen to be happy with that person.

False Belief #5: I Can't Be Happy Until . . .

The above image of a highway sign reading “Happiness Next Exit” represents a False Belief that Happiness is a destination and we spend a lot of time wondering how to get there. 

This is the False Belief that we can’t be happy until we arrive at the completion of a certain event or circumstance.

I’ll be happy when:

  • I finish my degree,
  • the baby sleeps through the night,
  • when the toddler is potty trained,
  • the house is clean,
  • the debt is paid off,
  • my spouse changes,
  • my boss recognizes my work, 
  • when my book is published,
  • etc.  

Truth: Happiness does not exist outside. Happiness happens inside. Happiness is here, now.

Truth:  If I’m not happy now, then I won’t be happy when my book is published either. Why? Because happiness is a feeling and feelings are a result of my thoughts, not a result of my circumstances. I can choose to feel happy right now, sitting in the middle of a messy kitchen. The best evidence for this comes from WWII and the stories of Holocaust survivors like Victor Frankl, the author of Man’s Search for Meaning who learned to find meaning, beauty, and even bits of happiness in the most extreme circumstance of human brutality. And if Victor Frankl can do it, then I know I can be happy now.

Antidote: Give yourself permission to be happy NOW. 

Antidote: Understand that events don’t make you happy. YOU CHOOSE to feel happy and you can choose happy RIGHT NOW. 

False Belief #6: I Have to Be Happy 100% of the Time

Do you ever feel like you have to fake happy? Maybe people expect you to be happy. Maybe they think you should be happy and can’t understand if you aren’t happy. Maybe you think people rely on you to be happy so they can be happy to. It’s a False Belief that we have to be happy 100% of the time.

Truth: I am not responsible for other people’s emotions.

Truth: I don’t have to be happy and chipper all the time. That is a big burden.

Truth: I am meant to experience the range of human emotions. And it is important (and healthy) for me to acknowledge and feel all of my feelings from sadness to disappointment to grief.

Antidote: Give yourself permission to be real, to feel all your feelings and to not fake happy. 

Antidote: Give other people permission to be sad. Allow people to feel what they need to feel and avoid the instinct to want to cheer them up or fix their emotions.

Conclusion

Learning that my thoughts and emotions were making me physically sick was the key turning point in my healing process. Thoughts and Beliefs are powerful and they can be changed. Giving myself permission to let go of false beliefs and choose happiness has helped me find a more rich, more authentic, and more meaningful life. I’m not happy 100% of the time (and that’s a good thing). I am happy more often than I am  depressed, discouraged, or despairing. I have learned how to choose happiness and I give myself Permission to Be Happy. 

Ep. 5 Permission to Make Decisions

Permission to MAKE DECISIONS

Have you given yourself PERMISSION to MAKE DECISIONS?

Humans make an average of 35,000 remotely conscious decisions a day. If that statistic makes your feel more panicked than empowered, then you are in the right place. Making decisions can be confusing, overwhelming, and even paralyzing. And there are good reasons. This episode discusses six barriers that block us from making decisions and four ways to power through those barriers in order to learn to make decisions like a boss. 

 

Six Barriers to Decision Making

How do you feel about making decisions?  Determined or indecisive? Confident or hesitant? Resolute or wishy-washy?

No matter your past experience with making decisions, you have the ability, starting today, you have the ability to learn how and to practice becoming an effective decision-maker.

The first step is to increase your personal awareness about your decision-making process. Awareness is the first step to change. And don’t criticize yourself. You don’t get positive results in life by thinking negatively.

Here are six barriers that trip you up in the decision-making process: 

  1. LABELING:

    Too often, we make a decision, then wait for the result to decide whether it was a good or bad decision.  If the results turn out well, then we say it was the right decision, but if the results go sour, we say we made the wrong decision. It is harmful and paralyzing to measure our decision based on outcome. It is called OUTcome, because it is OUTside of our control. The truth is that we have to make the best decision we can based on the information we have at the time. We aren’t fortune tellers, so it isn’t fair to judge our present decision based on unpredictable future results.

  2. I DON’T KNOW: Saying “I don’t know” drains our power. We have access to incredible information. It’s better to say, “I am in the process of figuring it out,” or “I am exploring my options,” or even, “I am open to possibilities.”
  3. FEAR: Fear of the future outcome can block us from making a decision in the present. Maybe we’re afraid of failing, or maybe we’re afraid of being wildly successful. More than anything, our brains are afraid of the unknown. Our subconscious loves its comfort zone; it likes to stay right here where everything is familiar, so our subconscious often sabotages us from making a decision that would take us outside our comfort zone. 
  4. OBSTACLES: Our brain wants to avoid obstacles and challenges. In fact, sometimes if we run into a challenge, then our brain tries to tell us that we made the wrong choice. This is not true. Obstacles don’t mean that path is wrong. It means you’re going to have to summon your courage, get a running leap and get through the hurdles.   
  5. UNCHOOSING: Okay. Technically unchoosing is not a word, but it is a real barrier to decision making. This is the challenge that choosing one menu item at a restaurant means “unchoosing” all the other delicious possibilities. The reality of being burdened by options can render making a decision painful or next to impossible.
  6. OVERTHINKING:  Research shows that the prime age for overthinking is between 25 to 37. Overthinking is trying to hard to find the “RIGHT” decision. It’s a paralysis of “I can’t choose this one because maybe a different one is better.” Overthinking is more harmful than beneficial, but there are ways to stop overthinking.

How to Become an Effective Decision-Maker

You can learn to become an effective decision-maker. Here are four simple and effective TOOLS for becoming more confident, self-trusting, and speedy in making decisions.

1.  PERMISSION TO GET OUT OF “I DON’T KNOW”     

    So you don’t know what you want to study in college or do for your career, but sitting in the “I Don’t Know” chair is NOT going to help you figure it out. You don’t discover your favorite flavor of ice cream by never tasting ice cream. An important part of decision-making is exploration and discovery. You may have to get our there and try a lot of things before you DO know what you want. Give yourself permission to get out of “I Don’t Know” and enter “I am exploring options.”

2.  PERMISSION TO LET GO OF THE MYTH OF RIGHT OR WRONG DECISIONS

Life is not a quiz with right or wrong answers. The truth is that you don’t “know” your life path, rather, you “create” your life path, so there are not right or wrong decisions. Certainly there are consequences for every decision, but maybe those consequences will be what you need in order to learn, grow, and become a better person. The process of making decisions create opportunities to progress. Not making decisions makes your life stagnant and stifles growth. So practice making decisions whether it’s painting a wall or re-arranging the furniture. 

3.   PERMISSION FOR UNLIMITED DECISIONS

Unless you choose the poisoned drink or the tunnel with the fire-breathing dragon (which might be the final decision you ever make)  few decisions are ever final. Very few decision are life or death. This is good news. Make the best decision you can today, and you can make a new decision later. Trust that you have the intelligence and ability to manage the consequences of your decisions.

4.  PERMISSION to OWN YOUR DECISIONS 

It’s tempting to choose your spot of grass, then stare longingly at the green grass in the other field. The truth is that every field has spots of lush green and spots of wilted, dead, sour grass. You notice your own wilted patches more because you are closer, but the other field has dead spots, too. 

 

 




 

Ep. 3 The Power of Permission Part 1

Power Permission

The Power of Giving Yourself Permission

Have you given yourself permission to do what you love? Often we think we need outside permission before we can pursue a goal or passion. Sometimes we think that other people know better what we can do. That’s not true! No one knows your passions and desires better than you, and no one needs to give you permission to go for your dreams.

Other Places We Get Permission

Going for our dreams without external endorsement can be scary, so sometimes we wait for life to let us know it’s okay to move ahead. We get default permission from three sources:

 
  1. Seeing or Hearing Someone Else Do It: I always felt guilty for taking a nap during the day until I read that Stephen Covey, the author of 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, loved to take power naps any time, any place, including on the floor of trains. I also felt embarrassed for my mismatched collection of partially-filled notebook diaries until I saw J.K. Rowling’s haphazard collection of papers and notebooks. Sometimes knowing that we’re not crazy and not alone gives us permission to be true to ourself. 
  2. Accident, Illness, or Near-Death Experience:  This is the “Live Like You’re Dying” paradigm. It’s not the ideal way to get permission, but it can be very effective. I’m betting that you know someone who really started to live and pursue long-buried dream as a result of an accident, illness, or near-death experience. Before Postpartum Depression and Chronic Illness, I lived in full-out martyr mode. I could not give myself permission to slow down, take a nap, or take care of myself. Getting sick definitely gave me permission to safe-guard my own health, but wouldn’t it have been better if I’d just given myself permission to be healthy in the first place? I think so.
  3. Being Asked to Do It: You might also know aspiring actors, singers, authors, etc, who want someone else to discover their talent and take care of all the career building. Having someone else tell us that we are good enough and ask us to share our talent feels much safer than going it alone. But the truth is that most successful people are self-made. Their permission came from inside. 

I Give Myself Permission To . . .

Part of my journey of healing through depression and chronic illness has been learning to give myself permission to:

  • Take my time
  • Take a Nap
  • Make mistakes
  • Leave thing undone
  • Try
  • Figure things out
  • Play
  • Be an amateur
  • ASK FOR HELP
  • and much more

Next Week: The Power of Permission Part 2

In Episode 4 we will explore the Power of Permission in Specifics areas such as happiness, money, health, decision-making, and doing less. See you next week. mw