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By Better Days Global, Jul 25 2019 08:02PM

There have been times in my life when I’ve been so in my head that the best parts of me were dead. I was taken over by my negative mind running my life, my mood, and my self-worth. I was unhappy, jealous, frustrated, angry and, at the worst of times, depressed to the point of debilitation.

I saw little hope or future. I assumed everyone else had the same negative thoughts about me as I did. I was in my head, and in so many ways I was dead.

Why I Started Meditating

I needed a break from always thinking. I needed to get out of my head. Sports, particularly ultimate frisbee, used to be my outlet. This was the only way I really knew how to get into my body. After the onset of a groin injury that kept me from doing most physical activities, I embarked on meditation in hopes of getting some of the mental relief that I previously got from sports and exercise. I wanted to learn how to be more in the present moment. I had read several books and watched countless videos that talked about living in the present (especially those by Eckhart Tolle). I was inspired that there was a different way of living than I had ever really considered. I wanted to fully feel what this type of living was like. Yoga encouraged me. Whenever I had done yoga in the past, the biggest benefit was how my mind felt after. Savasana – the part at the end when you lie on the floor was always my favorite part. I noticed something in others who meditated. People I knew who spent time meditating were people I looked up to. They had a way of finding happiness in everyday situations that I didn’t.

Why I Meditate Now

It’s been 4 years since I started meditating, and 2 years since I’ve made it a daily practice. The reasons I meditate now are quite different from why I started.

Self-awareness. This has been the biggest gift I’ve received from meditation. I’m so much more aware of my thoughts and patterns of thinking than I used to be. I’ve been able to make BIG strides in how I feel, how I react to others, and how I exist in my relationships – with my partner, friends, family, and strangers.

Feeling my emotions. I originally thought meditating would be all peace and quiet, and I’d always be in a calm state once I got ‘good enough’ at it….I was wrong. Because of the constant cycle of ever-changing thoughts and emotions that come up, I sometimes have to sit through very heavy and challenging experiences. I used to either avoid or mask these feelings. Now that I try to deal with them head on, I feel more empowered and more in control of my life.

Peace and quiet. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen. Especially 4 years in, I can now find this state much more frequently. Once I get into it, I don’t want to leave it. It’s warm, fuzzy, and cozy.

Momentum. I’ve seen enough benefits that I now feel a strong need to meditate every day…Even though I don’t feel like I make progress every day, and sometimes I even feel like I regress in my practice, when I look at the big picture, I can see that I am evolving and growing a deeper understanding of myself and my place in the world.

The spillover effect. My meditation doesn’t just happen when I sit down for 20 minutes every morning to do it. It happens in moments throughout my day too. Like when I’m walking down the street in a rush and catch myself entirely in my head. I’ll slow down and pay attention to my surroundings – the trees, the houses, the people. My practice also spills over into my day when I’m listening to someone else speak. I’ll catch myself thinking about what I want to say and then stop to re-focus and fully listen to what the other person is saying.

There’s no doubt meditation has made me a better person. I’m less reactive, better able to deal with stress, and spend more time in my body than I used to – without even having to chase a frisbee to do it! There are several forms of meditation and tools you can use and it’s easier than ever to get started.

How to Start Meditating Consistently

So how exactly do you start to build the habit? I’d love to tell you!

Make time for it every day. Seems simple, but this is probably the most important step. Pick a time of day when you’ll do it every day (or at least every weekday). Most meditators will tell you the best time for them is in the morning, soon after they wake up. Our brains are generally quieter than in the middle of our hectic day. This is true for most people. Plus, by doing it in the morning you’ll get the reward of achieving your goal early every day.

Start small. Like really small. Start with 1 or 2 minutes. If you start with 10 or 20 minutes, you’ll likely get bored, distracted or frustrated that “It isn’t working”. You don’t start training for a marathon by doing a 10-mile run. 1-2 minutes may seem really short, and that’s the point.

You are more likely to stick with it and to experience moments that give you the momentum to continue. Focus on your breath. This is the easiest form of meditation for most people. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. If you start thinking about something, that’s ok! It’s totally normal and happens to even the most experienced meditators. The goal is to develop the awareness that you started thinking about something, and then let that thought go to return to the breath. This is waaaay harder than you might think, as your brain will want to keep thinking. And in most cases, it will. Also, totally normal. Keep coming back to the breath. You’ll continue to do this back and forth dance from thought to breath… from breath to thought… That’s what meditation really is – a development of awareness, recognition of thoughts, and intentional letting go of thoughts. As you improve you’ll get better at recognizing thoughts and letting them go. Over time you’ll develop a much greater awareness of your thoughts, which can lead to significant changes in your overall health and happiness. But beware, this takes time, patience and regular practice. Just like training for a marathon, you build your capacity over time through repeated and expanded practice.

Use a timer. When you start, set it for 1 minute. When you are ready to go to 2 minutes, do two separate 1-minute meditations. Continue to do this when you expand to 3 minutes, 4 minutes and 5 minutes. Having the timer go off every minute will give you the opportunity to check in with yourself and see if you are lost in thinking. If you are, it’ll be your cue to go back to focusing on your breath. If you don’t give yourself some credit for staying focused (a smile, a first pump, perhaps even a jig) and reset the timer. As you start to see progress, you can set the timer for longer intervals.

Experiment with other forms of meditation. There is so much more you can do than focus on your breath. You can focus on a candle or a tree. Your feet. Your hands. Your heart. The key when starting to meditate is to find a focus point and stay with it for as long as you can, then keep coming back to it. Use online tools. There are some great meditation apps – try Headspace, or Insight Timer.

Start Now. Do a 1-minute meditation. If you really want to start meditating, what better time than now!? Set a timer for 1 minute and focus on your breath. When you finish, commit to a time tomorrow when you’ll do this again. At the end of each session make that commitment to the following day.

I can’t think of a better way to truly get to know yourself, love yourself, and evolve yourself. Beyond that, the wider societal benefits of empathy, compassion, and connection are nothing short of necessary in today’s world. And of course, there are no nasty side effects

By Craig Kulyk

By Better Days Global, May 11 2018 12:14PM

While tears are seen by many as a sign of weakness, not the trait of one who has dedicated their life to helping people to become the best versions of themselves, and quite the opposite of the better days that one proclaims, I feel it is essential for me to share the truth about these misconceptions.

Throughout my life, I have had an ongoing battle with depression. I didn’t always know what it was, but it was always there, sometimes right in front of me blocking my very vision of hope, and other times beside me waiting on me to drop my guard and think that everything is ok, before suffocating me once again. As the years went by, and I began to become more aware of this burning, deep dark and heavy sensation that would take over my mind, body and spirit, I had no energy left to hold back or hide my deep innermost feelings. Waking up on a cold pillow drenched in tears has been a normal part of my life and though I smile throughout the day and live to be an encouragement to everyone whom I encounter, the reality of the countless times my pillow needed to be turned over to the warm side, consumes me even now.

But what happens when both sides of the pillow are cold and wet and you’ve run out of contingency plans for your tears? What happens when you are left with a choice of cold and wet or discomfort? The reality for me was that the cold and discomfort were one and the same, as my pain wasn’t external, rather cold, wet and uncomfortable within. The feeling of treading carefully because you know that at any minute, it will show it’s ugly face. The moment I open my eyes in the morning and I check to see if it is there or if there is hope for another day. The reality that it doesn’t matter who is around you or what is happening in your life, it is no respecter of these variables. Many of these realities are not always obvious to others, for some of you, you may be able to relate to these descriptions. While there is no complete description of depression, it is personal but very recognisable once introduced.

Some days I know it is there, but I press on trying to stay busy so it doesn’t paralyse me. Most days it’s difficult to combat. It eats away at you from the inside, causing a silent and painful existence, an overwhelming feeling of heaviness and a deep burning that only your vulnerabilities can interpret. You feel off balance and at mercy to your own thoughts. For me, I feel out of control and weak with the inability to communicate that which I feel, and yet, the tears flow until they run dry. Society tells me that as a man I am to suck it up, man up, be strong, get myself together, but what happens when you have run out of every ounce of strength to continue pretending everything is alright? What happens when you don’t have it in you to bother another person with how you feel? What happens when you reach out for help but it’s not available? These questions are ones which I have had over the years, and I have many more unanswered than answered.

Sometimes in life you will be in situations where it seems that you're going round in circles. You overcome one storm and start to get your life back on track only to find yourself in a new whirlwind battered by the continuous trials of life. It feels like you never get a break and your energy is low. You feel invisible, heavy and like no one understands what you're living through. You feel like life is not worth living and that you'd be better off dead, free from the constant pain you feel in your mind and heart. It feels dark, lonely, cold and very painful. Your every effort is cancelled out by the heaviness of your heart. I know too well what this feels like and I have never claimed to be a guru with a perfect life, or someone who has all of the answers. I just want to share with you what has continuously worked for me. Experience teaches me that storms don't stop and that they are inevitable. Accepting this was the first part of my breakthrough. It was hard for many years because I didn't want to believe it. By me accepting it, I could then use all of my effort to planting myself deeper into the foundations of my faith so that when they do come, I'm shaken but not easily moved. It started with a diligent prayer life followed by a life detox. I had to let go of a lot of the negative influences in my life which included "friends" unhealthily relationships, career changes and what I allowed into my mind. This was a process and it took years of life shaping before it was my reality. My perception changed and altered my perspective. It gave me room to notice more of the good around me. Instead of complaining, I used my pain to inspire others, rebrand my life and be more productive. It lays dormant within me and often shows its ugly face, but I choose to feed myself life based on what God says about me and His plans for my life.

A few years ago I made a choice to step away. This decision lead to me being forced to my my own therapeutic space. It was uncomfortable as busy was no longer a refuge for me. I had to reevaluate my position and do a life audit. If you’re anything like me, you’ll know that this is a huge task as I do so much, but it still had to be done. This process however uncomfortable taught me a lot about myself, and it was challenging because I was doing it alongside managing the pain within my heart and mind. However, I committed to spending time with me and being still. It took a whole year before I began to see any results, and still I struggle with pain, but this grounding and balance has helped me to keep perspective, get closer to God and prioritise my health.

Sometimes we are looking for support, answers and help externally for things that only can be fixed internally. Once I took back the ownership of my internal world, I started to see my perspective of the external world change. The tears re-emerged, but I didn’t resist the healing power that comes from not holding them in. Contrary to the collective societal standard, crying is a part of my process. Sometimes the words are not enough and the inability to communicate them, often creates more frustration. Our language hasn’t evolved in sync with the complexities of our spirits, and so the non-verbal language of our heart connects with God and brings healing.

I’m writing this today as this is part of my healing, and I hope for someone a part of theirs too. Where ever you are and whatever you’re going through, together we stand and declare “This is not how my story ends;”

To the men and young men out there, your tears are not your weakness. They are your strength. Do not be ashamed of your feelings, experiences and vulnerabilities. They are an essential part of who you are in this moment, and they play a significant role in who you are growing into. To anyone out there who can relate to the above, be encouraged. If it sounds like I just described your life, be blessed. You're not alone.

Expressions from my life to yours. #SW

God Bless You All

By Better Days Global, Mar 9 2018 08:55AM

There is little dispute on the fact that, when your loved one suffers from drug or alcohol addiction, you want to help them like anything, but you don’t know how to do that. Whether it’s your spouse or your teenage child, you find it really difficult to help them recover from their addiction. Both drug and alcohol addictions are brain disorders which are characterised by excessive consumption of addictive substances despite their adverse health consequences. It means, even if a drug addict knows that drugs like cocaine, cannabis and barbiturates etc., can have severe consequences for their health, they can’t stop themselves from consuming these substances when they get that urge. Similarly, when you talk about an alcohol addict they also can’t control their drinking habits even after knowing that it’s very dangerous for their health.

So, if your son or daughter is suffering from drug addiction or alcohol addiction, here is how to handle them effectively.

Increase Your Knowledge About Drug & Alcohol Addiction

If you really want to help a family member who is either struggling with alcohol addiction or drug addiction, then it’s crucial for you to enhance your understanding of addiction. Read as many articles and blogs as you can on addiction. Try to figure out why is it difficult for an addict to change their addictive behaviour. Some people believe that addiction results because of stubbornness, and willingness. In addition to that, some people also believe that both alcohol and drug addictions result from weakness.

Since they do not have any idea that both drug and alcohol addictions result from changes in brain chemistry, they keep blaming their loved ones for their problem. Hence, if you really want to bring that much-needed change in your loved one’s life, enhance your knowledge about addiction.

Communicate Politely With The Addict

It is very important to communicate effectively with your loved one, especially if they are suffering from addiction. Remember, they need your support like anything, so being rude to them won’t help. While communicating with them, you need to show your concern towards their health. Until and unless you convince them that you really care about their well-being, they won’t listen to the advice given by you. In fact, they won’t even share their problems with you.

So, if you want to help them in their recovery, make sure that you talk politely with them about their addition.

Convince them to Follow An Effective Workout Routine

If your loved one’s fitness level has gone down to a great extent since the time they have started taking drugs or alcohol, then it’s better to ask them to follow a unique workout routine to improve their overall well-being. On top of that, exercise also plays a great role in improving the way their brain functions, so convince them to carry out effective exercises daily.

Take Your Loved One to a Reliable Rehab Centre

Seeking quality treatment at the right time plays an instrumental role in recovering from addiction. Find a good rehabilitation centre like CHARTER Harley Street, wherein the healthcare professionals can treat your loved one's problem through therapies. Behavioral therapies like Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Family Behavior Therapy (FBT), and Motivational Enhancement Therapy are very helpful for treating addiction.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is extremely good for recovering from both drug and alcohol addiction. In this treatment method, the therapist works on developing coping skills of the patients, so that they can deal with any sort of negative behaviour. During the therapy sessions, the patients learn to recognise the impact of their problematic behaviour on their lives and overall wellbeing. In short, patients suffering from addiction understand the negative consequences of drug and alcohol on their lives, which eventually allow them to fight their addiction in the most effective way possible.

Similarly, Family Behavior Therapy aims at improving the quality of one's life by addressing problems like substance abuse, depression and family conflicts.

Ask Them To Eat Healthy Food

As parents, you should always try to inspire your son or daughter to eat healthy food to improve their fitness. And if they are suffering from addiction, it's very important for them to stay healthy to recover from their problem. So, make sure that they consume a diet that is full of fresh fruits and veggies. In addition to that, they should also consume milk regularly.

Spend More Time With Them

One of the best ways to help drug and alcohol addicts in their recovery process is to spend more time with them so that they can stay busy. You can play outdoor games with them, eat food together, and go for morning and evening walks. In this way, you can also observe their behaviour and track their recovery process. If they are happy and are able to enjoy their work, it means recovery process is progressing effectively. However, if they are unable to put their 100% in those activities, it means they are still very disturbed from within, and therefore, you need to enhance your efforts towards their recovery.

In addition to that, proper sleep is very important for every individual to enjoy a good life, so you must ensure that your loved one gets a good night's sleep.

Written by David Milsont

By Better Days Global, Feb 15 2018 02:54PM

When I last wrote 'The One Constant in Mental Health', I was coming into a recovery phase in my journey with anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, since then, I have found myself struggling more than I ever have before. I still have my anxiety under control but the depression is consuming me in a way that it never has previously.

Just a few weeks after I was discharged from my CBT course and the Healthy Minds team, I woke up on a Monday morning feeling unwell. I couldn’t put my finger on it but something wasn’t right. Having attempted to get showered, dressed and have breakfast, I gave in and went back to bed. I stayed there for two days. On the Wednesday, I tried again but my head was pounding, I couldn’t concentrate, I felt so ill. I pushed myself and worked, probably a mistake. The rest of the week and into the weekend saw me trying to balance what I knew I needed for my mental health; going to the gym, running, eating healthily, not shutting people out, and what I needed physically; rest, time alone and convenience.

Fast forward two weeks, I still had the headache, I was still trying to maintain a balance. I had taken so many tablets, in attempts to relieve the pain, and tried so many other things, I had seen the doctor, I had listened to advice. I found myself signed off work. It felt like that week just kept throwing one thing after another at me, and the smallest (or biggest) thing would cause my eyes to well up. Sometimes I could hold the tears back, and sometimes it felt like I just couldn’t do anything to stop them.

Whilst I would like to say that in the last week I have improved dramatically, that isn’t the case. This is the worst I have ever been and I’m still struggling so very much. Each day is a battle. It’s gotten to the point that I’ve had to not care who sees me cry, because I can’t always control it.

Yet, in the midst of all of this, I know that God is still there. He is still so present in my life, even if right now it really doesn’t feel like it.

Some people will question how I can hold onto this. I’ll be honest, sometimes I really have no idea. But each morning I will read The Bible, because that is what I do. That is where I read the promises of God and can find His presence, even in the darkest of situations. You only need to read the story of Jesus dying on the cross to know that Jesus endured far more than I am, and you will see that God was still at work, still there, still God. I started this year being overcome by the obedience of the disciples, upping and leaving their families, their jobs, all to follow a man who just told them to ‘get up and follow me’. By apostles who were put in prison for proclaiming the name of Jesus but didn’t stop. For this reason, I will continue to be obedient. More recently, I have been focusing on the love, joy and peace that can be found in Christ. I have been focusing on the hope that I find in my Saviour. Whilst, I don’t always feel those things, I know that they are still there, still true. And they always will be. Some people might also question why I can believe in a God that would allow me to endure so much. This is harder for me to explain because I know that I have so many people praying for me and I too have prayed that this would be taken away. There are two things that I have held onto. The first is from The Bible. Romans 8 is my favourite chapter and it has my favourite verse, Romans 8:28,

‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’

I have held onto this verse so tightly for many years and I truly believe that God will use whatever happens for the glory of His name. This verse makes me think of sunrises and their beauty, but we can’t have those without the darkness of night. Or beautiful budding trees, unless they shed their leaves and withstand the bitterness of winter with nothing on their branches, they won’t flower. I trust that God is working behind the scenes and at some point, this will get better.

The second thing is a song. I love music and I listen to it all the time. A friend recently said, about me, ‘Kate lives her life through music’. This song is on a playlist I was listening to and I had never heard it until about a month ago. It’s called 'Even If' by MercyMe. This song has provided me with so much hope and comfort. I identify with these lyrics and it explains entirely how I feel as I am journeying through life right now.

For those of you who don’t understand the journey that people go on with mental health, please be patient, we can’t help what we’re feeling. For those of you don’t understand how I can trust in God, please don’t judge me, you don’t know the path I’m walking, and if you really knew God, you would understand.

People have told me how brave and strong I am to be able to speak out about my journey. Please believe me when I say that I really don’t feel brave, or strong. This is me being so vulnerable that it scares me. So many people are suffering in silence, and they needn’t. Another friend said recently, ‘we see vulnerability in others as a strength but in ourselves as a weakness’. That doesn’t add up. Vulnerability is vulnerability whoever it comes from. Being vulnerable is powerful, and I can assure you that once you’ve stepped out the first time, it’s not as bad as you think it might be (that doesn’t mean it’s not scary again though!).

Let us all live with patience and understanding, with an awareness of those around us. Let us stop being so quick to judge others when we haven’t walked in their shoes. Let us all become a little bit more vulnerable and let other people in, it helps. And ultimately let all of us hold onto hope that one day things will be better, and I believe that one day they will be. Remain hopeful, Romans 8:24-25 says this,

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.’

By Better Days Global, Jan 2 2018 06:40PM

Mental health, that subject that we’re attempting to stop being a taboo subject but, in my opinion, risking it becoming trendy. Yes, we’re much more aware of the issues but it almost seems that having a mental health issue is something to be desired. Let me tell you, from my experience, that’s not the case.

I’ve suffered with mental health issues for the best part of 10 years, on and off. What started as taking a mild antidepressant as a muscle relaxant for an ongoing headache that just wouldn’t shift, started to unravel the cause behind the headache. Depression. At the age of 17, in my final year of Sixth Form, I was faced with feelings I hadn’t known before, I struggled to enjoy life, I was constantly teary and, to be honest, I was embarrassed about it. I went to a counselling session which was less than empowering and left feeling like I had had no reason to attend.

The few years that followed, I went through cycles of recovery and then would find myself back tracking, feeling teary again, agitated, struggling with life. This continued for about four years. I suffered from panic attacks when I was driving. I couldn’t control my emotions and I hated that. There would be periods of time that would require me to take antidepressants. I don’t quite know what happened but at around the age of 22, I started to self-manage my mental health. Maybe it was my frequent exercise routine, a better diet or because I had more knowledge of what triggered the feelings I had and I could manage them more successfully. There was no more medication. Yes, I still had days when I felt down or sad, but they weren’t as clustered, I could enjoy life more. Occasionally I would suffer from bouts of insomnia but I could handle it, I knew that eventually I would get a good week of sleep and that would sustain me.

In the summer of 2017 I kept getting headaches, some that I couldn’t shift for days or weeks at a time. In the September, my anxiety was increasing, I would worry about things that were completely irrational, I knew that, but I couldn’t stop these thoughts taking over my mind. The smallest thing would happen and I would find myself in tears, for no reason. My sleep was bad, and the three things mixed together were not a good combination. I could feel myself getting worse but I was scared of going to the doctor.

At the beginning of October, on a Saturday evening, nothing major had happened but I just couldn’t cope, I rang my parents and drove for two hours, trying not to cry, arriving there 24 hours earlier than anticipated. At that point, I knew I needed to do something. The racing heart of anxiety was consuming me, and I was afraid that I would burst into tears at any given moment. I avoided seeing people because I was embarrassed that I might not be able to control my emotions and social situation made those feelings of anxiety so much worse. I went to the doctor, I cried, she gave me antidepressants and told me to self-refer myself to the local healthy minds team.

This is the part of mental health that is not fashionable, not desirable. Yes, we no longer want it to be a taboo subject but when you’re suffering and all of your feelings appear irrational, one of the last things you want to do is talk openly about it. You worry that people won’t understand, even when they claim to. The last words you need to hear are ‘pull yourself together’ or ‘you’ll be alright’, because in those moments, you can’t pull yourself together and it doesn’t feel like things will be alright.

It’s exhausting. On the days you feel like you can face people, it feels like you have to paint on a happy face and on the days you can’t, you’re exhausted from pretending. Mix that with an erratic sleep pattern and it feels like you’re stuck in a pit you can’t get out of.

I didn’t tell many people what was actually going on because I find it really hard to explain the situation. I also couldn’t face people continually asking me how I was. And how exactly do you say to those around you ‘oh, by the way, I’m taking antidepressants and having online Cognitive Behaviour Therapy because I can’t handle life right now’? The depression, the anxiety and the insomnia make it so hard to do things like that.

I remember one particular day I went to visit somewhere, it’s something I had been putting off for a while but I knew I needed to go. I prayed the whole car journey, I felt sick. Anxiety was consuming me. I was so worried that I wouldn’t cope. However, the whole day people kept telling me how happy and healthy I looked. I could not have felt further from that. When I left, I was exhausted. Exhausted from the face I had painted on, from pretending to be okay. So life was pretty crap. But there was one thing that never changed. God. God and his faithfulness. God, the solid rock I have built my life upon. God, the firm foundation. I may not have been happy but I never lost my joy. I may have been anxious but I never lost my peace. In the hardest and darkest times, I prayed. Those nights I couldn’t sleep, I prayed. The days when I couldn’t understand why I was crying, I prayed.

Over the last 10 years, I can honestly say that no matter what I’ve been facing, God has been right there with me. At times I’ve found that hard to believe but as I look back, I can see it. God has put the right people around me and moved me into or away from situations at the right times. Yes, it’s been hard but He is the constant in everything, the one I can depend on. As I’m coming into recovery again, I’ve come to learn again how much I can rely upon God. I know He has walked this journey with me, I’m pretty convinced that at times He’s carried or dragged me along as well. He has given me the courage to speak out and I’m certain that He’s prompting me to share all of this now.

I’m not cured. I’m still taking antidepressants but I’m hopeful that one day I can come off them again. I’ve completed CBT but it doesn’t mean I don’t get anxious anymore, I just know how to manage it a bit better.

Let’s continue to speak out about mental health but let’s not dress it up, let’s not make it desirable. Let’s be real and authentic and love one another as we walk through it. Let’s not question people or make it the elephant in the room. Let’s not make it the whole person, because it isn’t. Let’s also keep pointing people towards Jesus and sharing testimonies about the differences He’s made in our lives. Let’s remember that He too wept. Let’s fix our eyes on Him because regardless of everything else...

He is the constant and He always will be.

Written By Kate Newhook

By Better Days Global, Dec 7 2017 11:08AM

“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can't survive.” ~Brené Brown

Every time I think I’ve unloaded most of the pain from my past, something surfaces that tells me I have more work to do. A couple of weeks ago, my boyfriend and I were cuddling one morning. I’m not sure what the trigger was, but out of nowhere, my thoughts rolled down a hill and into a painful memory that I must have blocked out.

Tears rolled down my cheeks as my whole body curled up into the fetal position. He asked me what was wrong and I slowly told him about a sexual trauma I had experienced. We are radically honest with one another. Sharing the not so beautiful has deepened our connection. I thought I had shared my darkest secrets that carry shame. I was wrong. I had minimized and buried this story. Maybe subconsciously, I was afraid he would see this situation as my fault. He absolutely didn’t, and sharing my experience with him made me feel like a heavy burden was lifted.

This last part rang especially true the following week when the #metoo hashtag went viral. It was during that week of teasing through my feelings and thoughts that I realized just how much confusion shame can create. The word shame can evoke such discomfort that we often don’t see how it shows up in our lives. If there’s one emotion I see as most prevalent and most hidden in the work I do, it’s shame. Every time I lead a workshop or retreat, there’s a common theme that I witness in nearly everyone. As humans, we all tend to feel in some way that we’re unworthy. Yet, the last thing we want to do is acknowledge our shame and vulnerability. But if left buried, shame inevitably causes harm to ourselves and our relationships. In my experience, I’ve seen firsthand how understanding and shedding light on shame can hold the key to healing.

Shame is the emotion that says, “I am bad. I am unworthy.”

It’s not that we did something bad and feel remorseful. That’s guilt. Guilt says, “I did something bad.” But shame is the internalization of “I am bad.” Most of us, even if we had kind, loving parents, grew up feeling a bit like we had to censor our true feelings and experiences. We may have done this to avoid dismay, protect others, or keep the peace in our families. We’re conditioned from a young age to feel shame when we learn who we shouldn’t be in the world. But as we get older, we don’t need others to make us feel shame. Shame becomes easily internalized and lives in that voice that says, “It’s dangerous to let others hear my story,” or, “They won’t love me if I share this secret.”

Who we are becomes fragmented so that we hide the parts of ourselves we want no one to see. We unconsciously employ defense mechanisms. While those defense mechanisms might help us to survive, they’re bound to stand in the way of having healthy relationships and growing a sense of self-love. When we’re afraid to share our vulnerable side because we believe it would render us flawed, dirty, weak, and so forth, we’re carrying shame. Shame is carried silently and secretly for fear of judgment; yet, it is the self-judgment that grows the longer we conceal our vulnerability. I refuse to keep painful secrets festering inside of me, as I know that will only keep me repressed and disempowered in the long run.

All humans experience shame, and it presents in many ways.

Here are a few examples I’ve noticed within myself that maybe you can relate to:

- Being too sensitive and emotional

- Not doing enough to “save” my mother from her death

- Being too selfish to fully want to be a mother myself

- Feeling I’m not ambitious or smart enough to live up to my potential

- Struggling to communicate clearly when I have too much in my head

- Feeling too “needy” with my partner at times

- Believing I was somehow at fault for the sexual abuses I have experienced

My personal list could go on… But what I noticed when writing this list is that while many of the original sources of shame might be specific people or society as a whole, the critic is still me. When we keep shame locked away inside, we get stuck in feelings of inadequacy. Shame may cause us to feel mentally or physically ill. Feelings of inadequacy can be accompanied by emotions such as anxiety, anger, and loneliness. And when we feel inadequate, we sometimes develop destructive ways of relating to others: avoidance, lying, blaming others, attempts to control others, and so forth.

So how can we deal with this lurking self-critic that wants to keep our stories in the dark?

1. Speak kindly to yourself.

Most likely, at some point you’ve heard the phrase, “Shame on you,” or, “You should be ashamed.” It can easily become habit to talk similarly to ourselves and challenging to learn to speak kindly.

Here’s a personal example of the latter:

- I’m sorry for making you feel the trauma you experienced was your fault.

- I forgive you for placing blame on yourself and carrying shame all these years.

- Thank you for your courage to shine light on your vulnerability and resilience.

- I love you and I commit to treating you with lovingkindness.

2. Self-soothe with movement and massage.

Think about what happens to your body when you recall a memory that carries shame. Often our bodies slump sinking our heart into the back body. Our gaze drops and our brows furrow. Emotions, including shame, reside in the body. Much of what I practice and teach relates to physical ways to release stuck emotion for this reason. If we want to reduce the unworthy and unlovable feelings we carry, it can help to self-soothe your body through dynamic movement practices like yoga and dance. Self-massage, tapping, and comforting touch while speaking kindly to yourself can help to release shame.

3. Share your story.

The most uncomfortable, but perhaps most effective method I can offer you is to share. You don’t have to share your vulnerability with the whole world. Many of my friends shared courageous, deeply personal stories on Facebook in response to #metoo. For a moment, I thought I had to share this way as well, but then I did some reflection. There are times I share my vulnerability through my blog or when I hold space for a group. But I don’t always want to share everything with strangers. In those cases, my partner is my greatest witness because of his ability to hold space for me.

Whether you share in a twelve-step program, with a loved one, or therapist, or in an article for the world to see, there’s immense healing power in this process. When our voices are heard and we’re seen just as we are, we open up the door to growing a new sense of self-love and self-worth.

Written By Melissa Noel

By Better Days Global, Nov 24 2017 09:29AM

Many people become anxious when they have to be around others. Your anxiety can range from mild shyness or nervousness to severe panic that makes it difficult if not impossible to go out in public. Social Anxiety Disorder is defined as an intense fear of particular social situations, such as new situations in which you fear you will be evaluated or judged by others. Thinking about going to these places can increase your anxiety before you even arrive or you may work very hard to avoid the situation at all costs. Social anxiety is often based in a feeling of fear, insecurity, inadequacy, shame, and embarrassment. While everyone experiences some level of rejection, social anxiety has an irrational aspect to it. Even when people are not looking at you, judging you, or evaluating you, you feel that they are centering their attention on you. It is important to understand the anxiety so it doesn’t stop you from living a full life.

You may experience social anxiety in the following types of situations:

• Public speaking

• Going on a date

• Making small talk

• Attending a party

• Talking to people you feel are more important than you

• Eating in public

• Being criticized

• Going to a new place

The following are some symptoms of social anxiety:

• Feeling nervous or worried

• Fearing that people will reject you

• Overly self-conscious

• Avoiding new situations and people

• Upset stomach

• Shaky voice

• Trembling

• Dry mouth

• Feeling faint

• Sweating

Your life has purpose and fear can delay you from walking in your purpose. We try not to let our worries win and instead to find ways to manage or conquer our anxieties. Social Anxiety can become a major barrier to your happiness, peace of mind, job security, educational dreams, and relationship success. Here are a few strategies to help you handle social anxiety.

1. Deep breathing. When we feel nervous we sometimes hold our breath or start breathing in a very shallow way. When your body is not getting enough air it intensifies the feeling of anxiety. It is important before, during, and after social situations that you remind yourself to take long, deep cleansing breaths. As you slow down your breathing, you will learn to calm yourself so you can see the situation more clearly.

2. Self-acceptance. Often we are afraid of what others will think of us because we feel we are unworthy of respect, love, or acceptance. It is important to work on appreciating yourself so you will not be so dependent on the feedback and opinions of others.

3. Peaceful Partners. Watch the company you keep. If you surround yourself with competitive and/or materialistic people, you will feel more pressure to be “on”. Try to spend time going out with people who are down to earth and who accept you for who you are. In this way you will feel less pressure to be something you are not.

4. Self-care. If you don’t get enough sleep or if you fill yourself with caffeine, alcohol, and sugar you will end up adding to your anxiety and stress level. Nurture yourself with good rest and good food so you can meet the day from a place of calm.

5. Spiritual Practice. Spiritual activity can be an important part of calming your anxiety. You may find relief through the daily practice of meditation, prayer, inspirational music, and affirming readings.

6. Patience is a Virtue. When you are too hard on yourself by setting unrealistic goals, you increase your anxiety. If you feel your voice shaking or feel yourself sweating, remind yourself it’s ok. You can outlast the anxiety but you have to be patient with yourself. | @DrThema

By Better Days Global, Oct 7 2017 07:02PM

Mental Health Illness has no face: This is something I say often, and when I further examine such a statement, I see two meanings. The first; is that anyone can be affected regardless of who they are or what they look like. The second and not so obvious is from the perspective of mental health itself. It’s hard to describe or put into a box, it disguises in many different cloaks, hides away for seasons and is somewhat a shape shifter in that it can manifest itself in different ways within different people. For the benefit of this piece, I’d like to discuss the topic of Depression. You’ll notice in the title of this article my use of the term ‘The Sunken Place’. After watching the movie ‘Get Out’, I found some words to closer describe the feeling of depression that lingers within my own life, and indeed it is like sinking into a hole within myself.

Although for many people, they may describe their experience in a different way, for me, the world saw my success and saw me as a beacon of hope and inspiration on the outside, but on the inside I was dying. I thought about my existence and sank deeper into a black hole within myself, saturated by the thickness and darkness of a troubled soul. I saw myself in a dark room. It was hot and steamy. The air was thick and was closing in on me. Through the fog I could see the outline of a door with a red beam penetrating the gaps beside and beneath it. I knew that whatever was behind that door wasn’t pleasant and wasn’t life, but I was suffocating in the room I were in. I wanted to leave the discomfort of one dark room, escape myself, and the deep torment by walking into a room of death. The idea of me leaving this pain was more pleasing to me than facing the reality that death was final. I held on longer trying to disregard my lungs seizing up, my vision became distorted, my hands clammy. I tried breathing through my mouth but felt the dark air quench my windpipe. My heart was pounding and darkness was consuming me. Every thought regarding anything other than this living hell was void and I was trapped within myself. This feeling of wanting to escape is how I feel when depression rears its ugly face and perhaps this is how you feel to, or aspects of it.

With a plethora of positive and self-help tools at my disposal, I first turned to this path trying to encourage myself. It was too late as I had layers to work through, and no amount of positive self-talk could undo the archives of internal damage residing within me. I turned to God as this is a fundamental part of my life, and learned that although my prayer is freedom from the pain, the depths of my darkness were not longer about escapism, rather learning how to navigate my way through the tunnel. This may be you today, looking for a way out of the darkness. Perhaps you have tried to get professional help, but had no success. Perhaps you have run out of options and are on the verge of giving up. Perhaps you have run out of energy and hope and your once desire to escape from dark to light is now escape from dark to nothingness. If this is you, take come ounce of comfort in knowing that you’re not alone as I too often feel like this.

For a long while I battled with what seemed at the time an oxymoron: me launching this positive platform Better-Days Global yet feeling so void. I then saw the power in taking each day one at a time and still choosing to live though I am in the sunken place. You see I believe that it’s in the pressing where we see that our prayers are indeed being answered. While I asked for an escape, God gave me strength sufficient for each day and moment. Brick by brick, step by step, I began to navigate through the dark trusting in His grace for each compartmentalized section of my life. With each hour that passed, I gain the courage to face the next until my hours turned into a full day. I’d keep the same approach for each hour of the following day until I successfully managed to make it through another day, and I am still doing the same. While some days are better than others, I know that I am making progress because I am still alive and sharing hope with others.

My actionable advice for you today is to keep pressing. Pressing doesn’t have to be a public display. Press in private. Set yourself small achievable goals just like I do. Make it through your next hour and then tackle the next. Don’t see these tiny achievements as insignificant. They are not. In-fact, they are major moments within your journey towards Better Days.

Keep your head up and your shoulders back my friend.

This is not how your story ends;

Signed Steve Whyte

By Better Days Global, Sep 18 2017 01:24PM

I can recall several Friday afternoons when I would sit in my local barbershop listening to countless stories that other customers would share, the laughter, the intense sports debates, and experience - a camaraderie that rivals most social experiences. Having my hair cut was never just a haircut, it was a social experience that was far from predictable. I can recall going to the barbers just to watch a football match, and not even get my hair cut. We have our own experiences with salons, beauty parlours and barbershops. Many love a good groom or pampering, but what is it about salons and barbershops that give us such a sense of calm, freedom and feel-good factor? Could it be that there is a therapeutic element which improves our overall wellness and sense of self? I had these questions myself, and after examining a prolific new study in The University College London paper, entitled "Is having a haircut good for your mental health?", my initial questions were answered.

Tamika Roper (MSc) and Dr. John Barry conducted this study which included 202 participants. Of these, 58 were male and 144 were female. The survey included questions such as: "I often talk to my barber/hairdresser about personal matters", "I often go to the barber/hairdresser just because I have a problem and I want to speak to my barber/hairdresser about it" and "I walk in to the barbershop/hairdresser without booking an appointment". All questions were answered on a scale from Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree. They found that Black males socialised and talked significantly more than any other group (p <.01), and Black males were significantly more likely to be at the hairstylist for reasons other than haircuts than their white counterparts. Females on the other hand, socialised and talked as much as each other (regardless of their race).

The results could indicate that different elements of visiting the hairdressers or barbers can contribute to the improvement of wellbeing, such as; watching TV, reading magazines, talking etc. Perhaps there is a trust factor involved when we build relationships with our stylist or barber. I can recall a time where customers had their favourite barbers and would not allow anyone else to cut their hair. Perhaps this is not just about the barber's ability to cut hair, but also a connection and comfortability to converse and share personal matters.

On top of that, there is a fresh feeling associated with a haircut or a new hairdo. We leave feeling beautiful and clean which can also contribute to our perceptions of ourself. The open forum to discuss personal matters with our hairdresser or barber, and perhaps get unbiased opinions, can help bring clarity and a sense of perspective and direction. The questions that arise however are: Are hairdressers and barbers qualified to advise customers on person matters? Do they have a good level of mental health knowledge to identify mental health problems? or Do they even need to?

The answers to these questions may matter more to some than others, but one thing for sure is, a Saturday afternoon at the salon can be a long day (for some), and there is plenty of opportunity to observe and partake in this social experience. Who knows, you may just improve your general wellbeing, or at the very least, never view your visit to the hairdressers or barbers the same way again.

For now, we will have to see how this research develops and what impact its further findings can have on our lives. Until next time:

This is not how your story ends;

Written By Steve Whyte