Tips for Your Emotional Health Part 1

There are lots of things you can read or hear about health. Sometimes people forget that emotional health  affects everything including your decisions, your family, your faith and your physical health ( more on that another time).

I am listing a few simple ideas to help you improve your emotional health.

* Love freely.Give someone you care about a hug and a thank you for being in your life. Be open to possibilities that enrich your life.

* Be respectful. Take care to avoid stepping on other's toes and to make sure that your needs count equally in all that you do.

* Take quiet moments. Find time in your day to be still inside and out. Meditate with deep breathing. Relax in the shade. Soak in the tub. Watch the grass grow.

* Exercise. Get some oxygen in your brain and relieve physical and emotional stress on a regular basis. Mind and body are connected.

* Name your felings. Tell someone each day how you feel by naming the feeling. Connecting with another person reduces isolation and helps you feel grounded.

Try these for 2 weeks and see how you feel. More ideas will be in the next blog.

What do you think of yourself?
Each person learns about who they are and how they are thought of by others through what they see, experience and what they are told. When a toddler puts a toy in the basket and Mom says, "What a big boy!", the child laughs and smiles at the praise. When a sixth grader helps a friend with a new computer game, she feels confident and is happy about knowing something helpful. As adults, when a couple donates time and money to a non-profit that helps feed the homeless, they feel a healthy pride in doing the right thing.
Developing high regard for one's self (self-esteem) requires both thought and action. Acting in a way that matches your values can only happen when you know what is right and wrong. People learn right and wrong from what people around them do and from the consequences of their decisions. This happens within the person, in the family, the church, the school and the community. Each person then makes a decision about what he takes in and what he rejects from that information. When someone is often told she is bad or wrong, especially at an early age, it is very hard to believe she has value. Hopefully, those negative messages change through the other places to learn about herself.
Behavior and value rules may be different from one family or community than another. When someone feels "different", it is hard to believe he has value. It is helpful to find other like-minded people or people who are open to differentness.  It is possible to learn how to see your own value even when those around you don't but it may require help from someone who believes in you. Try noticing each day what you do that you believe has value.
Live consciously. Speak kindly to yourself and others. Learn as you go.
Anger is a natural and important feeling. It tells us to protect ourselves from a threat- real or imagined. In the wild, that means attacking or running to keep from being eaten. For humans, more of our threats are about ego or feelings. People can learn better ways of coping with ego threats than  fight or flight.
Humans have the capacity to negotiate, to find out what is important to the other person and weigh that with what is important to themselves. For example, if you want my cookie and I want my cookie, we could share or find a way to get you a coookie , too. I might just say, "Sorry. I am going to eat my cookie. I can see what you want one too." I might even say, "OK I will give you my cookie."
When you are considering who gets the cookie, ask yourself, "How important is it?", "What will happen if I let go?" "What will happen if I hang on?" "Which consequences am I willing to live with?"
Anger can be destructive and harmful if it is not expressed properly. When the feeling gets so big it turns to rage, the person's mind shut off and fight or filght is the only choice. It is primal and the logical mind has been shut off. Try payign attention to things that cause anger and ask yourself the questions. See what new solutions you can come up with.
The Importance of Breathing
I just read an article in the May/June 2011 issue of Psychotherapy Networker about "heart" in therapy. It turned my thoughts to how important breathing is. It is lifegiving in more ways than one. The author, Patrick Dougherty, and I both learned about breathing meditation in martial arts classes. In that context, breath is the way we increase our energy (chi), heal our bodies, connect with our spirit and ground ourselves for a clear view of the world around us and within us.

Breathing works the same way in therapy. Focused breathing is a preferred treatment tool for depression, anxiety, phobias, stress, trauma recovery and compulsions of any sort. You can train your heartbeat to slow down as you breathe slowly. Your heart and breath are one. There is no doubt that clamness and clarity go together. Deep, rythmic breathing opens your lungs, your body heals, your mind expands and your heart opens.

What does an open heart do for you? As a therapist, having an open heart lets me feel compassion. It allows a loving connection (not  romantic love but respect, acceptance and concern) that I believe makes therapy work. So much of life's troubles come from a closed heart - rejection, abandonment, fear, anger, disrespect and acts against one's spirit. An open heart builds trust because it is authentic, vulnerable and lifegiving. All of us need the experience of being welcomed by an open heart. When my clients learn this tool, they can open their hearts to themselves to create compassion for themselves and to see themselves clearly, humanely. I have seen my clients improve their mood, their mind, their health and life circumstances - just by breathing. So I'll close with a reminder for you.
"Keep beathing. It works".