“The six best doctors: sunshine, water, rest, air, exercise, and diet.” ~Wayne Fields I’ve always believed the best things in life are free. Sunshine on your skin next to a body of water ranks up there as one of my … The post The Best Things in ...

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The Best Things in Life Are Free (and Healing)

“The six best doctors: sunshine, water, rest, air, exercise, and diet.” ~Wayne Fields

I’ve always believed the best things in life are free. Sunshine on your skin next to a body of water ranks up there as one of my favorite experiences. I love nothing more than to be in a pool in the summertime.

Though doctors have helped me with my depression, nature has provided me with my best doctors. When I’m in nature, I feel restored.

When I was a child, I used to like to go on adventures. I would venture off into my parents’ backyard with the neighborhood kids, telling them we were going on an adventure into the forest.

I was a little nature child in love with the flowers, the sunlight, and the trees.

Those were some of my best memories of childhood. But, as I grew older I forgot about the restorative power of nature.

I started working all of the time and using the weekends for chores. I stopped doing the things I loved. I forgot to venture into the forest.

For years, I suffered from seasonal affective disorder. In the winter, a deep depression would overtake me. I was exhausted. I didn’t want to get out of bed.

Being inside felt suffocating. The dark nights and the cold winters seemed to drain my spirit. In the spring, I’d feel reborn.

Once I realized there was a definite seasonal aspect to my depression, I started taking preventative measures. I bought a light box and started getting up earlier each day to get some sunlight in the winter. I made a point to go meet friends and not stay at home all day.

There are many tools I use to cope with my depression. I see a therapist and take medication. But, for me, the best medicine is preventative. It’s getting out into the world each day.

Getting enough sunshine is vital to my well-being. I almost feel like the sun is recharging me when I’m outside. I take a morning walk each day to walk the dog and listen to the birds. I use that time to say positive affirmations to myself and reflect on having a good day.

If I have time, I also take a walk during my lunch break or at least spend some time outside. I remember the days when I would stay inside at work eating my sandwich while staring at the computer. No more eating at the desk for me!

I take another walk when I get home from work. It relieves the stress from the workday and sets me up for a nice evening. These are short ten-minute walks, but they really do make a difference.

After dinner, I try to find some time just for me. Soaking in a hot bath seems to melt away all of my worries.

Being a Pisces, I’ve always been drawn to water. I live in a land-locked state, but take every opportunity I can to go to the ocean. As kids, we used to go fishing on the weekends. I remember how quiet those days were. Just looking at water seems to cleanse the negativity from my mind.

I like to watch the way the sun sparkles on the water and the way it ripples. Water has a very meditative quality. You can’t help but feel mesmerized looking at it.

I don’t always get the opportunity to be near a body of water, but I love the springtime. Opening the doors to let in fresh air after months locked inside is invigorating. I like to do some spring cleaning with the doors and windows open to let in the light and a light breeze.

No matter what time of year it is, proper rest is vital to a healthy body and mind. I used to go for days staying up late and waking up early, and didn’t understand why I felt so lethargic and terrible all of the time.

When I don’t get enough sleep, I’m crabby with others, I eat unhealthy food, and I stop being productive at work. I get in the habit of powering up with caffeine throughout the day and not being able to get to sleep at night. The next day, I wake up tired and the cycle begins all over again.

When I do get enough sleep, I have the energy to exercise. The combination of rest and exercise leads to feeling much better.

I can see a big difference in my outlook when I don’t exercise. When I’m active, I smile more, breathe easier, and get more done.

When I skip a few days, I become irritable and tired. I snap at my husband. I don’t want to play baseball with our child. Ironically, using energy to exercise creates more energy for love.

However, I’ve also found that I have to do exercise that I love or it feels like a chore.

I love yoga and taking walks outside. I love Zumba because it makes me feel like I’m dancing. But, ask me to run and I’ll resist and procrastinate.

I want to enjoy exercise and moving my body. When I opt for what I enjoy, I look forward to doing it.

For me, all of the other elements come before diet. Perhaps for others, it’s the opposite.

For years, I’ve battled with trying to eat better. What I’ve found is that when I’m getting the other four items, I naturally want to eat better. It’s not as much of a struggle as it is when I start with diet first.

By all means, use every tool that helps you to enjoy a full, healthy, and happy life. But give nature a try.

Revel in the warm weather! Get out and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. Get some rest, take a nice walk, and eat some fresh, healthy vegetables. End the day with a nice, warm bath.

It may be just what the doctor ordered.

About Melissa McCaughan

Melissa McCaughan, the author of Legacy, is a literal ghost writer, choosing ghosts as the protagonists of her novels. She is currently working on a sequel, Epiphany, coming out later this year. She teaches an Adventure e-course called There’s No Place Like Home: Finding Adventure in Your Own Backyard and writes a blog called Carpe Diem. Follow her on Facebook.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

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How a Terrified, Socially Anxious Guy Became Relaxed and Confident

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” ~Viktor Frankl

Life is hell… or so I thought for most of my thirty-four years.

My intense social anxiety, an over-the-top and uncontrollable fear of people and social situations, ruined much of my young life. I operated completely alone, living only inside my own head, without even realizing it.

Now, it’s rare that I’m too afraid to talk to anyone. And I face multiple difficult decisions, discussions, and even confrontations in any given week.

Just a few years ago, a client could make what I would mistakenly take as an angry comment (even just by email), or someone could look at me funny, and I’d tailspin into a three-day episode of fear, shame, and self-hatred. I’d literally lose sleep over it. Every time an emotional breeze blew, I uprooted and fell over.

But I no longer struggle like I used to. Similar situations sometimes cause mild anxiety, but often, none at all.

This transformation surprises me as much as friends who’ve known me for my entire life. How did it happen? Why do I no longer turn every little social cue into a psychological catastrophe?

I learned three lessons after decades of trial, error, failure, reloading, and trying again. At times, I was filled with hopelessness and despair. Occasionally, suicide appeared a viable way out.

But somehow I mustered up just enough resolve to keep going. It made no sense that life should be filled with misery exclusively.

I finally found what worked. Or maybe it found me.

Here’s what I learned, and the actions I take to hold social anxiety at bay and keep my peace, confidence, and happiness today.

1. Fear and anxiety always lie, and never serve your best interest.

I can’t tell you how long I chose to trust and obey my fear of people. I never questioned it. I always assumed the anxiety and fear spoke the truth.

Both had been present my whole life, after all. Fear and anxiety owned me. And I learned to sink my shoulders, lower my head, shuffle my feet, and do exactly what they said:

  • “Don’t talk to that person! They’ll reject you.”
  • “See the way they’re looking at you? They hate you.”
  • “Forget about asking anyone on a date. You’re a loser. They’ll say ‘no’ anyway.”
  • “You’ll miss the shot (in basketball). You’ll just be a failure. Everyone will laugh.”
  • “You’re stuck. You can’t get anywhere in life. You’ll never amount to anything.”
  • “You’re doomed to a bleak, lonely existence.”
  • “Don’t even try. You know how this ends anyway.”

These thoughts kept me lonely, isolated, unemployed, and full of self-hatred.

After years of trying different approaches, and sometimes even the same things, I finally asked myself, “What if everything fear told me was a big, fat lie? What if something different could happen?”

I realized that my own mind told me the worst possible stuff. It lied outright. So, I learned not to accept my thoughts or feelings as reality.

Eventually, I started doing exactly what fear told me not to do. At first, I rarely got the outcome I wanted. But slowly, I developed freedom from fear. More good things happened. And life got better.

I felt more confident. Got married. Bought a house. And enjoyed my work.

I didn’t think I’d ever have any of those things.

Acting first, and letting the feelings follow (but not necessarily expecting that change immediately in the moment), works like a charm on fear.

2. Happiness and confidence come from within, not from anything external.

I got sucked in by society’s portrayal of happiness.

Someone owns a massive house, and they seem to have it all. A quarterback tosses a touchdown pass to win the game, and they become an infallible superhero. James Bond always knows what to do and how to win the day.

Though I didn’t realize it then, for a long time, I thought confidence and happiness came from all this… stuff. After I had one of those externals, I thought, I would feel happy, confident, and good about myself.

So all my energy went toward pursuing these things. Sometimes ruthlessly, harming others along the way.

I got a small taste on occasion. But it offered only fleeting happiness. None of it lasted, so I needed another thing from the list to feel happy and confident. And of course, that didn’t work either. On and on it went…

Where do happiness and confidence come from? Things you can’t buy. Working on yourself.

This has resulted in much more than just happiness and confidence. I now feel:

  • Satisfied
  • Fulfilled
  • Purposeful
  • Content
  • Grateful

Compare this to how I felt before:

  • Hopeless
  • Filled with despair
  • Like a fraud/imposter/outsider
  • Guilty
  • Full of self-loathing
  • Regretful

The comparison’s not even close, really.

3. Regardless of the extreme power social anxiety has over you, you can become confident and happy.

During high school and early college, my social anxiety was at its worst.

I had plenty of excuses for not going to social events. I’d stay in on Friday and Saturday nights. Almost every interaction with a human being, and even just the anticipation of it, triggered shockwaves of social anxiety.

Making a friend and having a real relationship with them? Not a chance.

Instead, I’d drink too much at parties. Usually, I wouldn’t remember them. I didn’t want to because of the incredible stress they caused.

And of course, drinking was really avoidance of intimacy. Long term, it actually increased my anxiety and desire to avoid real interactions with others.

The more failure I met, the more anxious I became. And the more the social anxiety grew, the less I was able to meet people and make friends.

Down and down I went, feeling empty and alone the whole way. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I make friends and hold down a job with ease, just like everyone else?

How do you break that cycle?

You do the opposite. Create an upward cycle instead. One that works like this:

Forgiving myself for mistakes, and realizing when I do and don’t have responsibility

In the past, I would constantly criticize and put myself down whenever things didn’t go “right” (read: my way). I mistakenly believed I had more responsibility for outcomes than I did.

One time I bumped into a guy’s $100,000 car with a tire I needed fixed. He was screaming and cursing a blue streak at me. I plummeted into guilt and shame.

These days, I’d take responsibility for the accident, but not for the other person’s feelings. It would be tempting to feel guilty and ashamed. But I could recognize that and share how I felt with someone I trust instead of telling myself how stupid I was.

Today, I constantly forgive myself for mistakes of any kind, and I let outcomes be what they are.

Challenging myself to speak up

For example, let’s say someone disagreed with something I said. Before, I’d immediately get anxious and fearful, and likely wouldn’t stand up for myself.

Now, instead, I’d pause and think. If I felt strongly about my opinion, I’d continue standing up for myself rather than going along with what the other person said. Nice confidence boost there.

Or, if a customer service associate refused to offer a refund, socially anxious me would simply take it and go about my way. Now, I’d pause and think, and rather than give in to anxiety, ask to talk to a supervisor. Instead of feeling bad about myself, my confidence would go up.

Loosening my grip on the things I think I have to have

My social anxiety constantly wanted control. I had to have the girl, the job, the laugh, or whatever it was.

I usually didn’t get those things because I was too afraid to try. Or, I did try, but acted from a place of fear and ended up making too many mistakes and chasing those things out of my life.

I’d get too anxious at work, fearing that my boss would see my mistake. Then I’d second-guess myself, and make more silly mistakes because of that anxiety. Or I’d get too anxious to move a relationship forward, and the girl would pick up on that, then she was gone. If I wanted people to laugh, I’d get so anxious about needing that outcome that I’d forget the joke or say it awkwardly.

Letting go of control and attachment to my desires has helped me feel more at ease, and far less anxious.

Accepting what happens, without blaming myself or judging it as “good” or “bad”

If I have a conversation with a potential client, and they don’t want to work with me, I try not to get upset with myself. My instinct is to feel guilty and ashamed, like I didn’t say the right things necessary to win the business (judging the situation as “bad”).

Now, I say, ”Well, that didn’t work out. Let’s see. What happened?” Sometimes clients get busy doing other things. Some want to see what they can get from you for free. Other times, clients don’t get the budget they thought they would. And they might move on to another company.

I accept that I don’t know why the prospect didn’t become a client. I learn from the situation what’s possible based on the evidence available, and let go of the rest.

Correcting my wrongs with others

Sometimes in the past, I avoided others. Or, I talked negatively behind their back. And in some cases, I got angry to their face.

Now, when I fall into these old habits, I waste no time apologizing and doing everything I can to not repeat the wrong in the future. It helps with social anxiety because I have to go directly to the person, face-to-face.

In cases where I talk negatively behind someone’s back, I correct the wrong with those who heard it instead of avoiding people. This rebuilds the relationship, which melts away social anxiety.

Sharing the troublesome thoughts spinning around in my head

The longer anxious thoughts spin around in your head, the more power they get. So today, I share them with people who understand and care. Not a single one has social anxiety, but they all want to see me heal.

Not blaming others

When things went wrong because of my social anxiety, like the two jobs I got fired from and the other I quit, I wanted to only look at what the employers did wrong. That didn’t help at all. So today, I look at my part in the situation, even if it’s just 1%.

When I blame others, I do so because I’m too anxious and afraid to look at myself. I don’t want to experience the embarrassment of seeing what I did wrong. But how can I relieve my anxiety without looking at my own actions?

When I look at what I did, and take positive action to correct it, I gain confidence because I’ve improved as a person. My struggle with my wrong weakens. Over time, it goes away completely.

This allows me to take real action to improve my life. Blaming keeps me inactive, and a slave to the same old attitudes.

Serving others in big and small ways

I’ve adopted a lifestyle of service. Usually not big things, but I make myself available to help others out with personal problems, quick errands, or whatever it happens to be.

At first, I served others just to get out of my negative social anxiety. That’s okay at first. With continued practice, you serve others mostly for their gain.

Practicing self-awareness and working on my actions and reactions

I don’t have a single tactic that works for fixing or improving other people. Life doesn’t work that way. So, I simply focus on improving myself daily.

I have a list of thirty character defects. I’m capable of just about any wrong any human can commit, but generally I act on these thirty.

When tempted to act on one, I pause for a moment and choose a positive action instead. I’ve not had one perfect day yet, but my internal life improves daily. And I feel increasing happiness and connectedness to others as a result.

Discarding unhealthy mindsets: playing the victim, pitying myself, feeling entitled, or self-righteously judging others

I played the victim because everyone else got the girlfriend, job, or car first. Because I was anxious and afraid to go for those things, they came much later in life for me than most people.

Social anxiety caused me great fear, guilt, and shame. I didn’t get the external things when I thought I should, so I felt entitled to compensation for my suffering.

I’d judge others because truthfully, I didn’t like myself. My self-esteem was through the floor, so I wanted to bring everyone down too.

Unfortunately, this only increased social anxiety’s power over me because all of these choices kept me separate from others. So when these feelings come up now, I don’t act on them. I don’t even allow myself to think about them. I simply acknowledge their presence and move on.

My social anxiety wants to weigh me down like an anchor. And it can, if I don’t strictly adhere to the above list. But now, I live in a beautiful upward cycle that leads to happiness. Because these steps work.

But it takes time to learn and put all this into practice. Sometimes decades.

Hopefully learning from my experience shaves years of struggle off your growth and enables you to experience happiness, joy, and freedom—starting right now.

About Dan Stelter

Dan Stelter is the author of AnxietySupportNetwork.com, where he helps socially anxious people overcome their fear, heal, relax, win confidence, and enjoy life again. Get strategies for all five when you sign up for his free e-mail course.

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How I Forgave What I Couldn’t Forget

“Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that their behavior was ‘OK.’ What it does mean is that we’re ready to move on. To release the heavy weight. To shape our own life, on our terms, without any unnecessary burdens. Forgiveness is pure freedom—and forgiveness is a choice.” ~Dr. Suzanne Gelb

I remember the feeling of blood rushing through my veins, my head pounding, and my heart beating faster. Every time I remembered what happened, I either cried or felt a wave of depression. This guy was someone who’d hurt me in a way that I never thought would happen. His deeds affected my family and me for years afterward.

It was a complicated mess that he created, but he still managed to overtake the business we’d worked nearly twenty-five years to build. He took from us the ability to get back hundreds of thousands of dollars, some of which we’d been loaned against our home. He stole all this in a highly manipulative way.

We met this man, a realtor, at my husband John’s parents’ auction. Since the house didn’t sell then, he was able to talk John’s parents into listing their house for sale with his small real estate company.

Through this time we got to know him and his girlfriend, and shared a few visits with them. We went to their wedding, and he came to John’s dad’s funeral. Soon he and John started talking about how they could work on a big project together, since it involved investing, and more people would mean less money for each to put in.

John, being a builder, would both invest and work on the construction of dozens of homes. Both the realtor and John would stand to make a good profit.

The realtor never showed us the paperwork between the developer and the former owner, but he told us that the bank needed four lots as collateral for a loan for the land. We took a loan against our house for the lots, and also borrowed from John’s mom. It was an opportunity of a lifetime. What could go wrong?

We were excited because this meant continuous work for quite a while, and John’s business stood to make a million or more within two to three years. Finally, we got the break we needed to make the business bigger.

After investing much time and money, we began to worry about why the homes weren’t selling, and why the realtor always put off paying John.

We decided to take a drive to the development. Maybe the realtor needed to hire new salespeople who could get something sold.

While there, I looked at the table full of information on the choices of homes to build, the specs, and the info about the builder. I was shocked to see that the realtor had a new building company named on all the literature we’d provided. It was a building company the realtor had started himself.

When we left the open house, John called our realtor friend. It wasn’t a pleasant conversation! We knew there was trouble, but we didn’t know to what extent.

Our contract with the developer stipulated that we had to have sold a certain number of homes within a certain amount of time, or he had the right to hire a different builder. So the realtor just didn’t sell any homes for John to build because the realtor wanted to be the builder and the realtor in the development! We were asked to sign a release form so that our contract would be over.

Sadly, our meetings with lawyers didn’t help us. The realtor had his assets in his wife’s name, so there was no money to get if we sued him. There were no houses sold. We thought we deserved at least a piece of future homes sold, but the developer’s and realtor’s lawyers simply said no.

Our only option was to go to court. Our attorney estimated it would cost $30,000. and we would probably win. The downside was that the realtor could appeal the ruling. Then it would cost us another $30,000 to try to win again!

If you remember, we’d borrowed against our house to invest in the lots, and we had no extra money because the realtor hadn’t paid John for a few months. We also had no work because John knew he would be devoting his time to this development. There was only one thing we could do: We signed the release and decided to move on.

We could report him to the district attorney’s office. Hopefully, they would be able to prosecute him for the criminal acts he was doing. But there would be no money back for us, at least not for a long time.

Since we had no work and a huge mortgage, which, amazingly, this realtor had found for us so we could buy the lots, we fell behind on our house payments. Thankfully, within a year John had found enough work to pay the mortgage, but if we fell behind again, our home would move directly into foreclosure.

Looking back, we thought we were friends with the perpetrator. When we realized what he’d done and how he’d manipulated us to push us out of the project so he could benefit, we were furious!

How does a person move ahead in their life when every day they experience something that is a direct result of something the perpetrator did?

Even today, if I ran into him in public, I would avoid talking to him or even being in the same room. I wanted to forget what he did, but I realized that was impossible.

I had the thought of hurting him back, physically, which was a thought I never had before. It scared me. But I knew it wouldn’t be worth the consequences.

My husband also mentioned some unsavory ways of getting him back. But he also knew he couldn’t do that. I could understand how violence occurs in situations where the person who’s hurt can’t get the perpetrator out of their mind. It’s tough to forget! Am I right?

John worked hard for three years with the hopes that an engineer we hired would be able to subdivide our land and sell a piece to lower our mortgage payment. We didn’t lose hope but pushed ahead. We weren’t quitters and we loved where we lived, so we did everything possible to keep our home.

At the end of those three years, John was diagnosed with stage 3 throat cancer. He would be incapable of working for a year because of the intense treatment. I was not able to earn enough money to pay the mortgage.

We had to move from our beloved home that we’d built and lived in for eighteen years. It was on thirty-two acres and held the memories of the time we spent there with our four children. We’d worked hard and put everything we had into the property.

It was devastating to lose everything in our fifties! It was a big move backward, and I was overwhelmed at the thought of John being sick and leaving the home without his help.

When you realize that you will never forget what someone did to you, you realize how enormous the job is going to be to forgive.

There were many days that I had to push away the angry thoughts and tears. I had to work and be emotionally available for my kids. But somehow, eventually, I began to think of things in a different light.

The struggle to give up hating someone for the pain they put you through is very intense. It is a battle deep within our very soul and minds.

I had no answers for all the questions haunting me in my mind. Why was this guy so careless about negatively affecting the life of a whole family? How could he spend the energy it took to manipulate us to where he needed us to be so that he could pounce and move in for the steal? How could he sleep at night?

Some people’s answer to forgiveness is that you just have to do it! We don’t want to live in hate purposely, but forgiveness takes time. If you deny the real feelings you have in order to forgive, just because it’s the right thing to do, your buried feelings could cause your emotions to backfire and come out differently later on.

I moved ahead in my life, but not without feeling the pain and working through the emotions.

Somehow I had to figure out how to move on. After all, everyone told me that I just needed to do it! Impossible? Could I forgive him and still dislike him?

I struggled but somehow realized how to forgive. I had the thought one day that people don’t always understand the massiveness of influence and hurt they bring upon people. Plus, certain mental disorders cause people to not care about others. Only months or years of therapy can help this kind of illness.

Even when we think someone doesn’t deserve mercy, could it be that they do? When I started thinking about why this man would deserve mercy, some of the following ideas came to mind.

Maybe his family treated him badly when he was a child.

Maybe he was taught how to scam people as part of his upbringing or influence from others.

Maybe this person witnessed other adults thinking of themselves first, and he was just doing what seemed natural for him.

Was he desperate for money?

Did greed overtake him?

Could he be mentally ill?

Maybe he had never seen a single ray of true love and emotional well-being in his life. How sad is that?

All these things are the sign of someone who is lost and not able to enjoy real peace in life. Did anyone ever genuinely care for him? Imagine what he has missed out on in his existence. Is he in bondage from adverse actions of those around him?

We have no way of knowing why a person does what they choose to do. However, I believe there is a reason.

I eventually realized, if I could let go of hating this person and what he did to me, by remembering the possible misery of his life, I’d be free from the very bondage that he was also in!

It’s a vicious cycle, and I had the option to break it or continue in misery.

I realized that I couldn’t live with myself, or love myself, as a person who couldn’t love others. And the kind of love for others may only seem like a tolerance at first, but it eventually goes deeper.

I needed to open my eyes to the “why” of this person’s actions. If it was hate, jealousy, or selfishness, then I needed to be sad for that person who was unable to overcome those toxic feelings. That sadness for him is what enabled me to forgive and move on.

However, forgiveness doesn’t mean I will never have negative thoughts or memories of him. I would have to remember why I wouldn’t remain angry toward him. I didn’t have to like him, spend time with him, tell him, or think of him. I needed to replace the bad memories in my mind with new plans and experiences for my future. It was a new way to live, and I had to accept it to get through it.

I credit my husband for explaining it this way. When I would bring the situation up, he would say, “I’m finished with that, and I’ve moved on. That is in the past.” In other words, don’t let yourself keep repeating the experience in your mind over and over.

Did you ever see loved ones of murder victims, for example, tell the murderer, “I forgive you?” I always wondered why in the world would they do that? But I think I get it now.

We have to ask ourselves: Are we going to give this person the power to ruin our joy?

We see the violence of unforgiveness all over our world today. When people hold on to the resentment, they get angrier until they eventually act out in some way. It can be deadly.

We can hold on to the smallest things that family members and friends do and allow it to ruin the relationship. Maybe the person didn’t understand why they offended you. Maybe they were struggling with something you didn’t know about and were unable to be a better friend. Is it worth it? On our deathbed will we regret it?

I don’t know about you, but I would like to be the person that says, “Hey, I’m not perfect, either. I forgive you.”

So forgiveness is possible. The secret? Try to realize the sad state of mind that person was in when they hurt you.

We are empowered when we are aware of the emotions that can get out of control and make us miserable. The emotions themselves are not wrong. When you feel something, it is real, and it should be acknowledged. But you need to let the anger go.

I know I’m healthier, both physically and mentally, since I’ve learned to forgive this person and have moved on.

My wish for you is that you take the time to work through your emotions and develop the ability to forgive others. We will always benefit when we let go of anger and embrace forgiveness. If enough people do this, our world will be a better place to live.

About Patty Richmond

Patty Richmond is a married mother of four adult children, author, and founder of funfamliving.com. Life has brought her tremendous joy through her family, husband, and children. She has also experienced considerable loss and challenges, which she explores in depth in her book Justice Unknown. She hopes to offer hope and encouragement to others as they journey through marriage, parenthood, relationships, and life struggles.

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7 Mind-Shifts to End Depressed Overeating

“Maybe the reason nothing seems to be ‘fixing you’ is because you’re not broken… You have a unique beauty and purpose; live accordingly.” ~Steve Maraboli

Have you ever seen a woman down a family-sized tin of chickpeas?

Or eat six pita pockets stuffed full of avocado, cheese, tomato, and onion?

Or a dozen greasy samosas?

I used to overeat when I was depressed. I’d eat till I was so stuffed, the only thing I could do was sleep.

(Like Valium, but with added fiber.)

I’d been doing it since I was a kid.

My family was vegetarian, so I knew what healthy food was. The problem was, I felt like I had to eat until all the food was gone.

Sometimes I made myself throw up because I felt so panicked about the amount I’d just eaten.

I never had any professional help. The only time I talked about it was when I cried to friends at parties.

They’d say, “You’re slim, so what’s the problem?”

And I get it. On the outside I looked sorted. But for me, eating was a constant obsession.

I’d try to rein it in by counting calories. Or I’d plan to only have one or two helpings, but I’d always cave in and eat everything.

It went on for years.

It was my normal.

But it reached an all-time low in my final year at college.

In the past, I’d overeat in the evening and then sleep off my food coma at night; but now I was binging and sleeping during the day as well, when I should have been studying for final exams.

It was the most miserable time.

Every morning I’d head out to the campus library, with a packed lunch in my rucksack, and a plan to read all day.

But in the library, I’d be bored. By 10:00, I’d eat the sandwiches. Then I’d want more. So by lunchtime I’d head home with bagful of groceries.

And eat. A lot.

Then, when I was completely, utterly, totally, abysmally full, I’d crawl into bed.

I’d wake up when it was dark. I’d hear my housemates joking together. They seemed to be having a normal college experience!

I hated my body for making me eat. I hated how fat and slobbed-out I felt.

I was at such a loss, I would have tried anything.

Thankfully, help did come my way. And it came in a surprising package… a trashy-looking slimming book, advertised in the Sunday papers!

It promised to “change you from within to help you lose weight.”

I bought it. I read it.

But I didn’t just read it; I studied it. I listened to the audiocassettes that came with it over and over again; I took days over each exercise in the book.

I set aside trying to change what I ate. I wrote “eat normally” every time it said “lose weight.” Instead, I focused on my beliefs around food and body. I found I had plenty to work with!

I filled journals. I found more and more books about the inner world of the eater. And I started to visualize a different future—one with space for other interests aside from my food and my figure.

I kept believing in that future. I changed a couple of eating habits, and others just fell away.

Two years later, I realized I felt more relaxed and guilt-free around food.

As my self-judgment around food disappeared, I got happier in myself too.

I was amazed how happy.

What surprised me was, when I tackled the eating, my depression lifted. Even though overeating was only a side issue!

Working on my eating shifted how I saw myself. And that changed how I approached everything—I was more assertive, more forgiving to other people, I never locked myself out my house by accident any more…

(Only joking. I did that yesterday).

So, in case you’re struggling with food yourself, here are seven mind-shifts that completely ended my overeating.

They also help you get through almost any unhappy moment in life!

1. Tell yourself you’re not broken.

It’s easy to feel ashamed for having a problem when everyone around you makes eating look easy.

You know what you should be doing, and you can’t. It feels like there must be something wrong with you.

But there’s not!

When we’re in a fix, it’s perfectly natural to reach for something. At some point in the past, food was the best solution you could come up with.

Well done, you!

Just because overeating doesn’t serve you now, doesn’t mean you were stupid or wrong for taking that approach then.

For example, I started to overeat because I was pushing myself at school. That sedative, I’m-so-full feeling was a relief from trying hard.

My real problem was I didn’t know how to relax!

Of course I didn’t! I was a teenager! It made perfect sense to zonk out instead of seeking inner peace.

At college I also put myself under insane pressure. My overeating gave me an excuse to hide in bed. It was my way of showig that I was daunted.

Your eating may look crazy, but that’s how your unconscious waves a red flag, telling you something’s up on a deeper level.

Your inner wisdom is alive! That’s very much a sign you’re not broken!

2. Ditch guilt and self-punishment.

I used to feel like the temptation to overeat was this big weakness that won every time.

I’d plan to be strong, but then I’d think, “One last time won’t hurt.”

Then I’d overeat, panic that I’d done it again, and lay on the guilt. I thought, “If I hate myself hard enough, I’ll teach myself such a lesson I’ll never do it again.”

But I still slipped up, and my self-hate grew.

And grew.

Over time, guilt completely sapped my confidence. I felt like a criminal. That I didn’t deserve to ever be normal.

But there’s nothing morally wrong with overeating. It’s not bad.

You’re not bad. You’re allowed to make mistakes.

Let go of the idea that if you don’t feel guilty, you’ll never learn.

The opposite is true!

When you stop feeling guilty, you can continue your journey, praise yourself for caring, come up with new creative ways forward, and get to know yourself better.

3. Make a no-rules pledge.

Do you have a lot of ideas about what you should and shouldn’t eat?

I didn’t realize I had food rules in my head, because I never dieted.


But I always made promises to myself. I tried to be healthy (“No more frozen cannelloni.”) Or ethical (“I’m vegan.”) Or well-informed (“I’ll try being gluten free.”)

I restricted myself, like a dieter.

It’s a natural mistake to try to get ‘good at’ eating by following rules and plans.

It’s not that sticking to plans is bad—it’s great for getting things done, budgeting for a holiday, and not randomly adding grapefruit segments to a birthday cake recipe (sorry, Mum).

But when it comes to your body and emotions, you need a more intuitive approach.

Rules and restrictions are an invitation to your inner rebel to go ape.

You break your rule, you fail.

Failure is a killer, because you can’t build progress. You just stop! You give yourself a hard time. You start over. It’s a huge drain on your energy and morale.

So stop making rules.

Instead, give yourself permission.

You can choose a vegan option if you want to; you might cook a meal from scratch if you feel like it; and you might pick foods that give you energy, if that’s what you feel like.

4. Slow down and enjoy your food.

If you’re overeating as I was, you might think that “enjoying food more” is the opposite of what you need!

But (weird thought coming up…)

… maybe you don’t enjoy eating enough!

As an overeater, sure, I’d think about food all day. But while I was actually eating, I’d be completely zoned out.

Learning to eat slowly, and concentrate, made it easier to switch off about food between meals.

It also redirected all the worry about what I was eating, into a more relaxing focus on how I was eating.

Plus, when I slowed down everything tasted yummier! Even a sweaty boiled egg from a lunch box was really good.

The more you enjoy the eating experience, the more your cravings settle down. And one day, you notice you’re full: satisfied, but not stuffed.

I was blown away when it happened to me. In my mind’s eye I can still see the potatoes I left on my plate. I just sat staring at them.

They were just potatoes. They didn’t have any power over me.

5. Move your body.

I used to dread sports.

I thought it was all about counting things and competing. And I felt like I never measured up.

The only good feelings I got after exercise were from knowing how many calories I’d burnt.

At college, my friends went for a run, but I couldn’t join in. I felt embarrassed that I could only run for …

One. Minute.

So I went to the park secretly, to shuffle around with my headphones.

One minute was almost pointless… but not quite. Because after I did that a few times, I found I liked my body a tiny bit more.

I felt refreshed. I wasn’t judging my body from the outside, I was feeling good inside instead.

There’s a lovely word for that: embodiment.

I started to have fun.

I joined my friends. They liked to go running in nature, with fresh air and flowers. They’d speed off, and I’d just boogie to my walkman by a rhododendron bush.

You can move your body, even if you’re not good at it. You don’t need to be head to toe in lycra. You don’t have to think about calories, or try to do a bit more each time. It doesn’t have to look like exercise at all!

It can look like messing around with a hula hoop.

Chasing pigeons.

Or walking.

When you embody, your self-criticism about your body calms down. And that helps eating become natural and easy.

6. Let your desires lead you.

When I overate, I used to feel possessed by urges. A thought like “avocado pita” would start up.

AvocadoAvocadoAvocado! PitaPitaPita! Aargh!

I thought cravings were evil forces that wanted to ruin my life, and that eating to the point of self-disgust was the only way to silence them.

But now, when I look back at those binges, they make perfect sense: My body was starving for carbs!

“Lo-carb” was a fashionable way to eat around that time, and my housemates didn’t buy bread or pasta, so I’d slipped into it too.

So our appetite isn’t evil after all! It guides us to what our bodies need.

When I realized that, I saw that I didn’t accept my other hungers either.

When I was tired, I didn’t rest. I’d party for fear of being antisocial. And I’d never ask for what I liked in bed.

Food, sex, space, sleep, success, money. It’s not wrong to want!

Your desires make you, you. When you enjoy what nobody loves quite as crazily as you, you’re living out your life purpose.

Blue cheese was created by the universe. And then it needed someone to go nuts about it.

That’s what I’m here for.

7. Redirect your energy where it counts in the world.

When eating is an obsession, it takes over your day.

All that brainpower spent on eating doesn’t leave much for things that matter to you. The things that make life fun.

By the end of college, I couldn’t see the point of studying literature anymore. I didn’t want to admit that my degree was a big, expensive, mistake. Hibernating under a duvet was easier.

But I also didn’t dare own up to what I really wanted: to illustrate and write and perform. To communicate and belong and connect.

I always thought, “First I’ll fix my eating and get a better body shape, and then I’ll go for it.”

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we used all that energy to love our people and do our thang?

Straight away, not later when we’re ‘perfect’?

Beneath my food challenge was another, bigger challenge that I was avoiding: to do what I cared about.

It’s ongoing, but it’s worth it.

The more I stop worrying about my eating, the more voom I have to throw at it.

About Laura Lloyd

Laura Lloyd is a women's confidence coach and a certified eating psychology coach, as well as an illustrator. You can grab a FREE copy of her book, “How to Ditch Dieting, Lose Weight and Love Your Body Forever After,” here!

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

The post 7 Mind-Shifts to End Depressed Overeating appeared first on Tiny Buddha.


How to Cope with the Fear of Aging

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” ~Mark Twain

Time is the most precious asset we’ve got. It means life, and it’s never coming back.

In a world where everyone seems to be in a rush, it feels like time is flying. Not sure about you, but when I was a child, I felt like I had all the time in the world. Much later, as a grown-up woman, always busy to do more and achieve more, I had to sign up for time management courses so that I could cope with stress and learn how to manage my hours.

In April this year, I turned thirty-nine, and I was happy to witness a major transformation in myself: no more panic knowing that soon I’m going to be forty. No more sadness or fear of getting older.

This year, the only thing I wanted for myself was to celebrate a new year and feel grateful for everything I’ve learned so far at the school of life. To look at the future as an excellent opportunity to learn more and grow from my experiences.

Beautiful…but it wasn’t always like that. Like many other people I know, both women and men, I was terrified of the idea of growing older. I could feel this fear in my bones years ago, when I “changed the prefix” and turned thirty.

At the time, I didn’t express that out loud and pretended everything was okay, but, deep inside, I was terrified. To me, such a change was a powerful mental, psychological transition that came with high pressure on my chest, followed by painful beats of my heart. I wasn’t ready, and I can recall that I wanted all my youngest years back.

So I’ve been asking myself this question: Where does this fear come from? What makes so many people scared of aging?

One explanation I’ve found comes from societal norms and culturally inherited limiting beliefs that influence our way of thinking and don’t serve us well.

If you grow up preparing yourself for the aging process as if it will be a burden, that’s exactly how it will feel. It’s all about self-perception and the story we tell ourselves about whom we are becoming with passing time.

Take my example:

I grew up in Eastern Europe. In my home country, Romania, I often heard things like “Of course I’m sick. I’m sixty-eight now. I’m not young any longer, so that should be expected.” Or “My time has gone now; I’m seventy-five!”

Of course, not everyone thinks like this, but it’s common. Growing old is supposed to bring suffering and pain. With no savings, many people feel unprepared, both mentally and financially, for retirement, and it’s quite common for retired people to get support from their children to pay their utilities and buy medicine or food.

I am grateful for the four years I spent living in Sweden—a time that shifted my perception around aging. I still remember the beautiful yearly concerts I gave with my choir. Performing made my heart sing. And many members of that choir were over sixty!

You see, that was a different culture, mentality, and system of belief—and a much richer country. When we are financially stable and secured, it is much easier to be happy, right? But it’s not always about money; small moments of happiness don’t have to cost much, and often come for free.

In Sweden, I got to meet grandmothers who were learning new languages and discovering new hobbies for themselves. Some started to paint; others were enhancing their computer skills. They were thrilled to finally have all the time in the world for themselves, their wants, and their needs after they’d dedicated a high amount of time and energy to their families or employers.

I found that inspiring. That’s exactly how I want to experience my life once I grow older: as a new opportunity to learn, when every morning is a fresh start, despite the number of my years.

If you’re afraid of aging and everything that will entail, I can empathize, as I’ve been there. Here’s what helped me heal this fear, move on, and enjoy my everyday life in the only reality there is—the present moment:

1. Shifting perspective.

What would open up for you if you knew your age was nothing but a number? Once I decided to look at the process of growing older with compassion and see it as a gift not everyone receives in life, everything changed.

We create our own reality through the way we think and the story we tell ourselves about each and every experience.

I know there will be lots of good things for me to enjoy once I grow old. Firstly, I will have all the time in the world for myself and I will make sure to fill it up beautifully, doing things I enjoy, traveling more, spending more quality time with friends, learning new things, and practicing new hobbies.

Most people complain about spending too many hours at work and not having enough time for themselves. But once they retire, they get the time they’ve always wanted and don’t know what to do with it. Interesting.

We need to revise how we think of aging. The old paradigm was: You’re born, you peak at midlife, and then you decline into decrepitude. Looking at aging as ascending a staircase, you gain well-being, spirit, soul, wisdom, the ability to be truly intimate and a life with intention.” ~Jane Fonda

2. Knowing that I am not what I do.

The truth is, societies generally value the younger generations, seen as a much-needed force in the working field.

Aging means wisdom and experience, but often much suffering as well. Many people hold the belief that, the older they get, the worse their quality of life will be, as if their worthiness in the world will vanish or fade. I’ve heard of people who got severely depressed when they retired because they felt their lives had no meaning apart from working.

One of the most common questions people ask when they make new acquaintances is “What do you do for a living?” In a world that evaluates human worth through status and how well we do things in life, they lost their identity when left with no job.

Work is where we spend most of our time, so if we’re not happy at work, we’re ultimately not happy with most of our lives. Most of us need a job, and money is a much-needed instrument for us to survive. But is life supposed to be all about our jobs? Is there no other way to be happy?

What if the ultimate purpose of us being here were just to be happy?

I can think of so many different kinds of activities that can bring us tremendous joy and fulfillment once we retire! Spending quality time with our dear ones, enjoying the small pleasures of life, traveling, practicing our hobbies, learning new skills, being involved in charity projects, making a difference in the world, and so on.

“You are a human being, not a human doing.” ~Wayne Dyer

3. Loving myself: mind, body, and soul.

 In the same way that I am not what I do, I am not my body. My spirit refuses to be put in a box or labeled. If I identify my human value through my physical appearance, the process of aging turns into a burden.

In today’s society, the concept of beauty often gets associated with youth, with having no wrinkles. Social media, women magazines, Photoshop, beauty contests—all these put tremendous pressure on people (and women especially) to fit particular requirements and parameters that sometimes are not even real. For many industries, that’s an excellent source of income. That is why anti-aging cosmetics sell well, and plastic surgery is booming. It’s all based on fear.

No matter our age, our bodies are the vehicles of our spirit—the temple of our souls and the only ones we’ve got. I have started to take care of my body: I exercise more and give it nutritious food and plenty of water. I make sure I find the time for those necessary doctor appointments and yearly health checks. When we invest in our physical health, we make a long-lasting investment in our future.

According to research, the people who live longest are located in Okinawa, Japan. I visited that place recently and wanted to learn more about their lifestyle.

People there eat healthily and exercise. They don’t stress much and have a social life, despite their age. That’s what I also got to see during the years I lived in China and South Korea: older people exercising, doing tai-chi or chi-gong, dancing or singing in the parks of Seoul or the big squares of Shanghai. They were keeping themselves active and spending quality time with like-minded people in their communities.

Descartes defined human as “social animals.” No matter our personality, extroverted or introverted, we all need a tribe, a sense of belonging to a group or community. That is a basic human need.

Happiness is a mental and emotional state of being; it comes as a result of the choices we make. It’s all about attitude, perspective, and what we make age mean to us. We all are what we believe.

So next year I’m turning forty—nothing but a new beautiful number, a time for brand new opportunities and a gift from life. Getting older is a reality, and I have decided to embrace myself with love, despite my age. I know I’m going to end up with more wrinkles and I’ll love them, too. True self-love is valid at any age; there’s no expiration date to that.

Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of Goddesses Never Age, expressed it so beautifully: Growing older is inevitable; aging is optional.”

And now, I would like to hear from you. Have you ever felt scared of the idea of getting older?

About Sara Fabian

Sara Fabian is a women’s career and empowerment coach and inspirational speaker, on a mission to help professional women to discover their unique strengths, gifts and talents, boost their confidence, find their calling and live a meaningful life of purpose. For weekly inspiration, subscribe to her free newsletter at sarafabiancoaching.com or follow her on Facebook.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

The post How to Cope with the Fear of Aging appeared first on Tiny Buddha.


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