The Secret Sauce to Savoring the Holidays for Busy People

by Debbie Lyn Toomey Speaker, Author, Trainer

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How many times have you heard yourself or others say any of these statements recently?

“I cannot believe the holidays are here already!”

“What can I do this year so that I can enjoy myself for a change?”

“How am I going to get all my work done and still have time to shop for presents?”

Yes, folks it’s true! It’s the middle of November and it’s officially the holiday season. While it may seem like Father Time sprinted through 2015 (instead of marching), there are ways to have him slow down so we can relax, reflect, and rest and enjoy the end of the year before the new one begins. My “secret sauce” will help you can gain more time to cherish this wonderful season.

Bitter-Sweet

If you’re like many busy people, you’re probably still trying to remember what you did last month! Realizing the fact that the holidays are suddenly upon us can be enough to make some people cringe and even cry. Although traditionally this is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” some people find it difficult to be happy for various reasons such as: having too much on their plate from work- life responsibilities, lack of financial stability, and lack of support from others. Unfortunately, the holidays can be a bitter sweet time of the year where it can feel like salt has been added to deep unresolved wounds.

Too much!

Time does have a way of escaping us because of our busy work and life schedules. It’s becoming more and more difficult to stop and slow down. I’ve coached many busy people who fall into the same old trap of doing and planning. The mere thought of sitting and reflecting takes a back seat because it seems like an unproductive use of our time. As mentioned in my forthcoming book on living a productive and positive life, “Our time management skills are constantly being challenged because of the compounding distractions that are coming from all directions as well as our shortening attention span. Our lives are filled with so many distractions both external and internal multi-sensorial stimuli. The external stimuli come from two main sources: technology and team. Our techie toys are so distracting that even the mere presence of them on our desk tempts us to touch them and use them when we don’t need to. The teams of people in our personal and professional lives can be a source of support or stress. As if those distractions are not enough, we also get internal distractions that bombard and overload us with negative thoughts that ruminate and keep us from feeling good and proud of ourselves. These inner distractions add to self- sabotage, keeping us from producing easily and effectively.” We have so much to contend with in our daily lives that for some the holidays can become more of a burden instead of a blessing.

Special for Everyone

Yes, the holidays are upon us and with them come their own sets of stressors such as shopping for “that perfect gift,” having a reasonable financial holiday budget, decorating, and going to parties. While some love this time of the year, studies have shown that there is an increase in depression, suicide attempts, and drug and alcohol use for others. No one is safe from the stress that happens during this time of the year.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), women experience a higher level of stress than men during the holidays. It is because women tend to take on the work burden to ensure the best possible holiday traditions are celebrated.

The Secret Sauce for a Health & Happy Holiday Season- Gratitude & Mindfulness (6)-11180

What’s in that Sauce?

Although stress is unavoidable, there are two ways of adding sweetness to the holiday season that will get even the busiest CEO whistling his favorite holiday tune as he greets his team. These two ingredients create such a rich combination that they can’t help but awaken all the senses. The two special ingredients that make up the secret sauce are: gratitude and mindfulness. When added together they can: turn bitterness into sweet, make the tough into tender, and heavy into something light. This secret sauce combination is the easiest and most practical way for today’s busy professionals to relish and savor the holiday season so that they have more time to celebrate, communicate, and connect with those they care about.

Yummy Moments

Gratitude and Mindfulness are great ways to bring purposeful awareness, attention, and appreciation to your holiday experience. Together they will give you: more time to be productive, an increased sense of purpose in your actions, and greater positivity in your day. Practicing gratitude is a heart-centered practice that can make you feel connected, blessed, and special. Practicing mindfulness can make you feel more alive, awake, and allowing. Both of these two techniques combined have hundreds of studies that prove their ability to improve health, boost happiness, enhance relationships, and increase productivity during the holiday season. The beauty of these two practices happens during the millions of micro-moments throughout the day. The “practice” happens when we purposely remember what is happening within us and around us—without judgment. Exercising these new habits will deepen your neural pathways and ensure sustainable success in creating positive experiences in your life.

Recipe for a Sweet Holiday Season

Directions:

  1. Ask yourself what you want this holiday season to look and feel like for you. Just like with any recipe that you’ve never made before you might first have to look at the picture so that you will have an idea of what the dish will look like.
  2. “Prepave” your holiday festivities with the feeling and images of what you would like it to be for yourself. “Prepaving” is a way of creating and attracting what you want through visualization and positive emotions. Feel as if it is happening now. Have fun using your imagination to visualize and tune into what your holiday celebration is going to be like. There’s no right or wrong way of doing this. Picture yourself purposefully being aware and appreciative of what’s going on around you so that you will experience the beauty of the season so much more.
  3. Practice and play with the secret sauce ingredients throughout your days and nights.
  4. Enjoy adding other quality ingredients to this special sauce such as: creativity, courage, and self-compassion.

Key Ingredients:

1. Gratitude:

According to gratitude expert, Robert Emmons, gratitude is defined as a “felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.” In other words, it’s more than just saying “thanks.” This year instead of sitting in traffic just to shop from place to place, save yourself some time and lots of misery by staying at home. Instead of shopping for gifts why not make them in a form of a gratitude letter to those you care about. This practice has been proven to boost levels of happiness for a weeks and weeks for both the writer and the recipient.

Here’s how to get started. Think of that special someone in your life that you need to get a gift for. Get a piece of paper (preferably a nice stationary) and write down how they have impacted your life in a positive way. Write from your heart and elaborate as much as you can. When you are done put it in an envelope and personally deliver it to that person and ask them to read it in front of you. Notice their expression. Notice yours. Notice how this loving practice can turn your holiday into a magical one. Try to do this to for as many people as you can. Schedule a time every evening during this holiday season to write out one letter to deliver in person. If you allow yourself to do one letter at a time, you’ll notice what may seem like a burden in the beginning will become a blessing in the end. The practice of gratitude will make you feel blessed and blissful. Once you get into your gratitude letter writing routine this holiday season notice how you look forward to doing it each day or night. This delicious ritual will gift you the special time to relax, reflect, and remember so many golden moments that you’ve shared with your loved ones. You’ll thank yourself for doing this!

2. Mindfulness:

According to mindfulness expert, Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Any activity when done purposely and with a beginners mind is considered a mindfulness activity. In other words, activities such as washing the dishes, walking, or watching can be a mindfulness activity as long as the person purposely aims to notice and experience that particular activity fully and without judgment.

Here’s how to begin this practice. During this holiday season, purposely gift yourself about 20 minutes of mindfulness by focusing on one of the five senses at a time. Start with mindfulness seeing and purposely notice all the shapes and colors that you see around you. Once you see something that catches your eye, look even closer. What do you see? Do you see any intricate patterns that make up that particular object? Notice the different shades of colors that meld together to make the colors that you see. Is that object manmade? If so, think about how that particular item made it there in front of you. Look with a beginner’s eye and notice as much as you can in that period of time. The next time you plan your mindful sit, try another sense like taste. Practice savoring when you are eating all the delicious food during your holiday festivities. Imagine as though it was the first time you’ve tasted that food. Notice how long it took you to chew it and swallow it. Try to figure out the flavors that were used in that particular dish. Notice how slowing down and savoring your food helps you stay on track with your diet because you are appreciating each bite and notice when your stomach is full. Practicing mindfulness during this holiday season might just be one of the easiest ways to keep the extra pounds off by mindfully noticing what goes in to your body. Imagine going into the New Year without having to add “lose holiday weight” in your New Year’s Resolution!

Adding gratitude and mindfulness will surely add more richness to your holidays. This delicious combination of ingredients will kick up your festivities a notch so that you can have your cake and eat it too– without guilt. Once you begin practicing these techniques, you will notice that you have more time for more important things and people in your life. Cultivating gratitude and mindfulness in your busy life will not only make you healthier and happier but also add more harmony to your life. Begin today and look around you. Challenge yourself to find something new that you haven’t seen before. Have fun and have yourself a healthy and happy holiday season!

Do you have a way of making this holiday season fun and stress-free? Please share your suggestions with me below. Thank you in advance!

7 Lessons Learned to Thrive in the Cancer Journey

 

 

Do you have someone in your life that models strength and optimism?

Do you know anyone that has risen above adversity and came out smiling and laughing?

Do you know someone diagnosed with cancer three times who still does not define their life around cancer?

My mother Amelia is that person to me. She was diagnosed with three cancers in a little over 5 years. In those years, I witnessed the grace and grit that helped her to cope, connect with her family deeply, and feel in control during uncertain times. She is a three-time cancer survivor. She is the healthiest and happiest person I know – even though she had cancer.

The Healthiest and Happiest Person I know

My mother always valued health and happiness and made living a healthy and happy life, a personal mission. It was a hobby of hers to seek ways to maintain and sustain health and wellness in her family. She was always on her feet moving about and laughing at herself doing something silly or laughing at my father’s funny jokes and stories. She took the subway to work and was on her feet all day long working in a pharmacy until she retired at the age of 75. My parents’ basement resembled a YMCA gym with weights, stationary bikes, treadmills, and the latest Total Gym. I remember growing up hearing her take exaggerated deep breaths as she stretched and marched back and forth in front of the television in our living room while watching Richard Simmons or some other exercise gurus.

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New Medical Diagnosis: Cancer(s)

My mother who always made healthy choices and did not have a family history of cancer was diagnosed with 3 different cancers (breast, endometrial, and lung) over the course of 7 years. She did not define her life with cancer. She defined her life with friends and with family.

In 2008 at the young age of 70, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. This loaded diagnosis was the very first time my family and I had to deal with cancer directly. As a nurse at Tufts Medical Center in Boston for over 25 years, I’ve taken care of many patients after having lumpectomies, mastectomy, and breast reconstructive surgeries. It was a part of my job. However, being a nurse and knowing all of this didn’t help me when my own mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. The tables had turned and all of sudden I’m on the other side of the hospital bed comforting and supporting my mother—the healthiest and happiest person I know!

One of the things that amazed me during that time was how quickly she accepted her diagnosis. She thanked God for its early detection. She trusted her whole medical team and decided right away to do what needed to be done to take care of her cancer. While she waited for her surgical date, she went to work every day,  prayed, and went to church. She would talk with me and my sisters about her will and proxy. She would read books and articles about what she had and natural cures that she could take along with her medical regiment. She’d spend time with my father by going shopping or going to the movies. By the time her surgery came around, she was ready and prepared. Her breast cancer was taken care of with a lumpectomy and hormonal medication. She only took a few weeks off from work and then went back work at the pharmacy. What I witnessed in her during this whole episode was how she kept a positive outlook through prayer and being proactive with her health, both of which, she was able to control. This made her feel so much better.

In 2013, after she turned 75 years old, we had a double celebration. We celebrated her birthday and being breast cancer free for 5 years! This short lived joyous occasion came to a halt when two unrelated cancers (endometrial and lung) were found during a somewhat routine medical appointment. My mother revealed to her primary doctor that she had been having bleeding and didn’t understand why. After many examinations and testing, our worst suspicion was confirmed. She had cancer again! Needless to say that whole summer was busy with tests, biopsies, and surgeries. My mother, the healthiest and happiest person I know, had two major surgeries that summer. Little did we all know that what was ahead would be the toughest part of her cancer journey.

Fall of 2013

The fall of 2013, although it was part of her endometrial and lung cancer journey, deserved its own chapter in this story. This was a time that truly tested what she was made of. My mother, the healthiest and happiest person I know, was weak from her chemotherapy, her medications, and a lack of sleep due to excruciating bone pain resulting from the effects of her chemotherapy.

Regardless of her suffering when I would ask her how she was doing, I would hear her say, “Dun’t worree dahling. I will be okay.”

My mother, a woman with great poise and pride, had to rely on my father to help her move back and forth to the bathroom, to give her massages in the middle of the night to sooth her itching and her bone pain. Further, it was during this time that she could no longer hide her cancer from the rest of the world as her hair was falling out. She was so convinced that her thick and coarse hair was not going to fall out during her treatments that when it did start to, her faith in God and her trust in her ability to heal would be tested to the max. It frustrated her when she would lay down and clumps from her beautifully thick hair would be left on her pillow case, when she would shower, handfuls would rinse off with the water, and when she would eat, she would notice it falling off onto the plate right in front of her eyes. Although my mother was the one dealing with the cancer and the all the “pain” that came along with it, I still looked to her for strength.

“Hair” it Goes!

I started to get nervous and scared when I saw her looking so weak and tired. I had never seen her so frail and solemn. I recall the phone call when she asked me to come over to her house to shave her head.  She had finally accepted losing her hair.  She wanted to do on her own terms. In the car, outside my parents’ house I had to take five minutes to compose myself. I knew how difficult this was for her. I was so scared but I couldn’t show it! I had to be strong for both my parents. When I got into my parents house, my mother was all prepared. She laid out newspapers on the floor and placed a chair right in the center. There was little conversation, we had a job to do and it needed to be done. She chose an area in her upstairs hallway for me to shave her hair off. It reminded me of when I used help her color her hair but this time, it was different. Surprising, shaving her head was not as difficult as I thought. When I finally got into the rhythm of it, I started to see little scars on her head here and there.

“Mom, what are these scars from?” I asked

“Oh, I was accident prone when I was a little girl and I kept bumping into things.” She said with a smile and a little giggle.

As if each scar was a timeline button, she would press one and tell me when and how she got it. We laughed and laughed after each recollection. The images of my mother getting into mischief and hurting herself while playing with other children made for such a comedy relief. It made this heavy situation lighter.

Life Goes On

I’m happy to say my mother’s hair has fully grown back and she’s enjoyed over a dozen different hair styles and colors since. More recently, she just recovered from a knee replacement surgery. The knee was causing her a lot of pain and it was slowing her down when she would walk along the beach, clean the house or work in her yard. Her doctors, nurses, and physical therapist are all amazed at how well she has done.

debbie and mom easterPicture taken Easter Holiday, 2014

Positive Psychology

Positive psychologists would describe my mother as someone who used her faith, relationships, bravery, love, and innate strengths to become more resilient and to thrive during adversity.

What does Positive Psychology, the science of happiness, have to do with Cancer? I say, “Everything!” The more we can learn from people who have risen above adversities, the more we can cultivate similar practice to make us even better, stronger, and happier.

Positive Psychology helped me understand my mother’s way of being and coping during life’s ups and downs. What is Positive Psychology? Positive Psychology in a nutshell is the “Science of Happiness.” It’s a new field of psychology that, according to its founder Martin Seligman, Ph. D, “looks to nurture the gifted and talented, to learn from the gifted and talented, and to make normal life more fulfilling.”

Some might say it’s coincidental, but I like to think of it as divine timing that Positive Psychology came into my life and when I needed it most. I completed my certification in Positive Psychology with Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph. D through the Wholebeing Institute and, soon after, received my training and certification as a Positive Psychology coach after studying with another leading expert in the field, Robert Biswas-Diener, Ph. D. Positive Psychology gave me the knowledge and perspective for looking at the glass as “half-full”. I put the principles of this science to the test personally as I needed a way of cope with my mother’s disease. I found that it kept me from ruminating, spiraling-downward mentality and feeling like a victim.

7 Lessons Learned to Thrive in the Cancer Journey

I learned so much about my mother and myself during the last few years. While some lessons where easier than others, I am certainly a much healthier and happier person because of them. Here are 7 lessons that I learned from my mother, the healthiest and happiest person I know, who defeated three cancers.

They are:

  1. Accept the diagnosis – The sooner you can accept it, the sooner you’ll be ready to face and handle the treatment plans that are in store for you.
  2. Remember is it YOUR body – Make decisions after you have talked with your health care team and your family. Make peace with your body and give it thanks.
  3. Go to your appointments with a friend or family member – Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as possible until you feel confident and comfortable enough to make decisions.
  4. Use coping skills that have been successful for you – This is a great way to gain control during this overwhelming situation. Recall what worked best for you in the past to make yourself feel better and start doing it consistently until it becomes a habit.
  5. Surround yourself with healing and positive images and people – Watch funny movies. Laughter boosts your immune system and helps release endorphins which will decrease your discomfort.
  6. Connect and confide with those you love A big predictor of peoples’ level of positivity is their relationships with others. Let people know what you need and when you need it.
  7. Give yourself permission to be human – Allow yourself to do what you need to do to feel better. Sleep when you’re tired. Cry when you’re sad. Eat what you want.

Trust that applying any of these lessons will help you during your cancer journey. Here’s to your health and happiness.

Boost your Health and Happiness with Gratitude


Are you a…


– Half-empty person or a half-full person?

Do you tend to focus on what you don’t have instead of what you do have?


–  “Fault finder” or a “benefit finder”?

Do you tend to find fault in others and situations instead of finding the good in them?


– Are you a Velcro or a Telfon?

Do you tend to let the negative emotions and experiences stick to you or do you let them slide off your shoulders?

According to researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky Ph.D. , 50% of our happiness comes from our genes, 10% comes from our life circumstances, and 40% comes from our choices and what we do with them. While 40% may not seem like a lot, it is enough to shift from a depressed and harmful way of living to a more joyful and hopeful one.

Happiness can be learned. Many experts in the field of Positive Psychology, the science of happiness, work with the 40% margin to provide people with proven skills and tools to become the best version of themselves so that they can thrive and flourish. Like any muscle, cultivating happiness take shape and becomes stronger with daily practice and persistence.

My favorite exercise comes from practicing gratitude. Gratitude is more than just an attitude. It’s a way of feeling alive, awake, and abundant. In fact, according to gratitude researchers, it has been proven to boost our overall health and happiness. Since the history of time, this mother of all virtues has become the subject of many scholarly debates and the theme of many prayers and mantras. It wasn’t until the late 1990’s that it became a notable science that has gotten many researchers excited about the powerful and trans-formative results.


What is it?

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines Gratitude as “a feeling of appreciation or thanks.” But  according to gratitude experts like Robert Emmons Ph.D., gratitude is a “felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.” It’s more than just saying “thank you” or feeling appreciative. One of the keys for a successful gratitude practice is to see what you are grateful for with fresh eyes — through the eyes of a child. Since it’s conception in the late 1990’s, there have been 26 studies that proved gratitude boosts, our overall health, happiness, socialization, concentration, and so much more!


Putting it to the test

Between you and me, I’ve always been the half-full, benefit-finder, and…a  Velcro type of person. I am not perfect, but what I am is someone who is determined to use gratitude in all areas of my life to live healthier and happier. Although, gratitude is an evidenced based practice, I wanted to prove that it.  I remember to my surprise a strength assessment exercise that I did during my Positive Psychology studies with Tal Ben Sha-Har Ph.D., Harvard University Professor of Positive Psychology, that gratitude was one of my top strengths. I was disappointed when I learned this because I wanted one of the “cooler” values like perseverance or self-regulation to be one of my top strengths. Determined to make the most of it I decided to see why it was one of my strongest strengths. I wanted to apply it beyond the academic realm. I decided to put it to the test in real life —at home and at work. Here’s what I’ve experienced and witnessed since I started.

The first people that I wanted to start teaching and applying the gratitude principles on were my 3 boys and my husband. As you can imagine my genius plan was met with raised eye brows and grunts from my older boys.  I told them that I wanted to start using a gratitude technique at the dinner table. With persistence and consistency this practice became a natural way for me and my family to communicate and share about what went well in our lives. The gratitude practice provided me with a simple tool to teach my boys to become benefit finders.

As a daughter of aging parents, I experienced and witnessed the grace and gifts of the gratitude practice during my mother’s cancer journey. She had 3 cancers (breast, endometrial, and lung). During her cancer journey of doctor appointments, surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy treatments, as well as recovery, my mother used gratitude to fuel her optimism. Gratitude made her more and more resilient every single moment. She said, “thank you” when she woke up each morning, knowing that she was gifted another day to live. She used it in many micro-moments during the day when she was able to move comfortably on her own, taste her food and keep it down, when her wig kept her head warm and many countless other times when she felt she was gifted with something to make her feel better and look better. For my mother, saying “Thank you” is like inhaling and exhaling. It become her natural way of staying alive.


For Cancer Support

As the founder of Ultimate Healing Journey LLC, I speak, coach, and create programs that inform and inspire with proven health and happiness skills. My overly stimulated and overburdened clients, of all ages, achieve and sustain overall success.  Most recently, I provided programs for the Cancer Support Community – MA South Shore in Norwell, for their Kid’s Cancer Support, parents, Adult Cancer Survivors, caregivers, and health care professionals. Each program focused on ways to use gratitude to boost hope, enhance relationships, and increase overall sense of control and peace during in the cancer journey. The participants came away with the many tools that they can start using at home. The children gave gratitude for the practical and age appropriate techniques that they learned and can apply at home, and the adults left excited with skills that they can use to enhance their overall levels of health and happiness.


In the Schools

Gratitude also has a place in the schools. I created a month-long program for elementary level schools, called The Gratitude Program for Kids. This program has been implemented at the Francis W. Parker Elementary school in Quincy. The Gratitude Program for Kids aims to introduce the science of gratitude at a young age so that children can learn to use language, be appreciative, build stronger connections, and improve communication and concentration in the schools and at home. After the month-long program teachers reported that the students were able to identity appropriate moments of gratitude in other projects and they enjoyed the sense of community that it brought when the children shared with gratitude in the classrooms.


What I know to be true

The practice of gratitude can be applied in all areas of our life. Since mindfully practicing gratitude in my work and life, this is what I know to be true. Gratitude is: a gift that keeps on giving, grace under fire, for the young and old, a fuel that feeds resilience, and an abundant way of life.

Interested in how to apply the proven, practical and powerful practice of gratitude to live your best life? Contact me: debbie.ultimatehealingjourney@gmail.com or call 617-433-8814.

Gratitude Tip for Positive Parenting

 

Parents, have you felt any of these from your child?

– Unappreciated

– Misunderstood

– Disconnected

I did a few years ago. I felt this way with my teenager and it scared me. I had a sinking feeling that our mother-son connection was slowly becoming distant. This turned into a frustration within me that made me react to him negatively.  It was pulling us apart!

 

Poor Connection

Our one-to-one time became less and less due to our schedules.  When I did see him, he would be sitting in his usual spot – on the recliner in our family room with headphones on connected to his iPad. This made it more and more challenging to get his attention. At the dinner table he got into the habit of answering my questions with, “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember.” This concerned me because I didn’t know what was going on with him. It became difficult to get him to open up to me.

 

Crazy Worried Mind

My wild and crazy mind worried that he might turn to drugs or other dangerous habits that we sometime hear about in the news. I did not want this for him. I wanted him to know that I was there for him no matter what. I wanted him to remember how much I loved him and would do anything for him.  I remember in my desperation I would ask myself over and over these questions:

“What’s the best way to connect with him again?”

“How can I help him open up to me?”

“What can I do to bring us closer again?”

 

Simple and Powerful 

Fortunately at that time, while studying Positive Psychology (the Science of Happiness) under the direction of Dr. Tal Ben Sha-Har, I learned that the practice of gratitude can increase people’s level of happiness by 25%, enhance communication, strengthen relationships, boosts appreciation, attention, and awareness and so much more. I had to try it. I had to try the practice of gratitude at home. It seemed simple enough and I had nothing to lose. I was desperate! I decided that in order for it to work in my home my whole family had to do it. Gratitude had to become a natural culture in our home. It had to be a common language spoken and a way of thinking that we had to develop.  Even though it seemed to be such a simple and unappreciated gesture, I knew the impact that this technique can have on people who apply it in their everyday lives.

 

What Went Well?

The practice that I decided to implement was a simple technique that I learned called “What went well?” This simple question trains the brain to look for the good in a situation. It is a wonderful and non-threatening way to teach people appreciation and gratitude. It’s also the perfect way to teach someone how to become a benefit finder instead of being a fault finder.

 

Benefit Finder

Here’s how I literally “dished out” this gratitude technique to my family. Every time we sat down for a meal together I would casually ask, “So, I wonder… what went well with everyone today?” Then, I would follow it up by saying, “Let’s all go around the table and take a turn at sharing.” As you can imagine the very first time I introduced this technique my two older boys (and my husband) looked at me like I had 3 heads. But with persistence and consistency they got used to me asking the questions.

 

Surprising Interruption

To my surprise after a few weeks of applying this simple gratitude technique, my teenager, eventually started to open up and share more and more around the dinner table. It got to a point that he would interrupt his 8 year old brother, who can go on and on forever about what happened to him in school. He couldn’t wait to have his turn to share with us about what went well with his day—his “goods.” It was then that I felt that I got my son back. It was then that I started noticing him share more about his day through the benefit-finding lens of gratitude.

 

Powerful Parenting Tip

I am happy and proud to say that my relationship with my teenager is better than ever! Now he seeks me out to tell with me stories and jokes. He listens to me intently when I give him guidance.  I can’t tell you how much this simple practice has changed our relationship. In retrospect, while teaching my family about this principal it also affected me positively.  I noticed how my attitude towards him changed and softened because I started seeing him through a gratitude lens.

 

Thank You

My son has come so far. From barely mumbling his one or two word replies to me, before doing the gratitude practice at home, he has written me an articulate, hand written, one page letter to expressing his appreciation and love for me. Here’s an excerpt from the letter that my teenager gave to me during the Mother and Son Senior dinner before he graduated high school two months ago. It was with his permission I share this with you to further show how beautiful our relationship has become.

“Dear Mom,

…You see me for my whole when I only see me for my parts. For this I love you. Mom, you always saw my fullest potential and urged me on and though I may resist and procrastinate, I value your support especially as I move out to college.

Thank you.”

 

30-Day “What Went Well?” Challenge

Here’s a great way to try out this simple “What went well?” gratitude practice.

  1. Explain to your family that you want to do a 30-Day Challenge called, “What went well?”
  1. Let them know that “What went well?” will be asked during meal times (or anytime that your whole family is together.)
  1. Tell them that there is no right or wrong answer to this question.
  1. Allow them to share at least 2-3 things.
  1. Go around the table to make sure everyone shares.
  1. Finish the round by sincerely saying that you can’t wait to hear what everyone will share the next time.
  1. Be patient. Be persistent. Be consistent.
  1. Have fun!

 

For a summertime or holiday variation, ask your family one by one at the end of each vacation, what went well for them. This is also a great way for everyone to share and remember all the wonderful things that was experienced during the vacation. The more that is shared, the more it becomes special for everyone. The more special it feels, the deeper your appreciation and connection with each member of the family becomes.

 

Interested in learning more about how to apply the practical, proven, and powerful practice of gratitude to live your best life? Contact Debbie Lyn Toomey RN, CIPP, Health and Happiness Specialist™ at healthandhapppinessspecialist@gmail.com or call 617-433-8814.

Forgiveness is…

This week I had the pleasure of teaching about forgiveness in my mindfulness class with 5th and 6th graders. I was amazed at how well they understood the concept of forgiveness and the way they approached hurtful incidences. While some said they cried and talked about it, others used sheer determination to prove the other person wrong, and the rest confronted the others and stood up for themselves. The common thread that I noticed in the 3 approaches was the courageous and self-compassionate choices that were taken to let go of their pain.

 

Let’s Learn from the Kids

Whether through tears or talking, the kids naturally had a way of taking action to feel better.  We can learn so much from them. We adults tend to have such a difficult time at forgiveness that it’s costing us our mental and physical health.  According to the 2011 study in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, people who hold on to hard feelings have been shown to live a shorter life compared with those who make the choice to forgive. As a stubborn and proud person, I know that I am not perfect and can hold on to a hurt feeling like there’s no tomorrow. What I’ve came to realize, though, was that I was the one suffering and not the other way around. I was the one losing sleep, waking up with bags under my eyes, feeling cranky, and being miserable all day. It was I who was using this pain as an excuse to sabotage my diet or to use this ugly state to pick on the little things that I would normally tolerate. Practicing self-compassion has helped me tremendously. It’s helped me heal old wounds and made me healthier and happier.

 

Permission to be Human

As mentioned in previous newsletters I am certified in Positive Psychology, the science of happiness. One of the greatest techniques that I learned while studying this amazing field is self-compassion. Self-compassion has a way of helping us feel the pain while also giving ourselves a break. Self-compassion doesn’t mean that we are weak and the other is strong. It doesn’t mean that we don’t feel any pain—it’s quite the opposite. Self-compassion is all about awareness, forgiveness, and self-love. It gives us the time to make the best choice that will make us feel better. It also reminds us that we have the choice to take the control back into our lives by letting go of what no longer serves us.

 

Forgiveness


Forgiveness is the Best Call to Make

While forgiveness may not be the easiest thing for many of us to do, it is important to remember that it can possibly be one of the best acts of kindness and love that you can do for yourself. In other words, forgiveness is a choice that can set you free — it is the best call that you will make to become healthier and happier. Nobody can do this work for you. This is something that you and you alone must do to become happy.

 

Healthy Dose of Forgiveness

Just think about how much brighter and beautiful our world would be if people took a healthy dose of forgiveness daily. I bet that if people were to commit to a daily practice of forgiveness many pharmaceutical companies would be put out of business and doctors’ visits would go down drastically. Basically, forgiveness can put more money into your pocket and add more years to your life. Still not convinced? Here are some facts about people who tend to hold on to grudges. They tend to have higher:

  • Blood pressure
  • Facial muscle tension
  • Heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Loss of control
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia

 

The Call is Yours

In a nutshell, the call is yours to make when it when it comes to forgiveness. Hopefully, I’ve shown you that holding onto grudges is detrimental to your health. Let’s start learning from the kids and not hold onto the grudges so that we can feel better right away.

 

Try this!

Next time you feel this frustrating feeling come on, try the following:

  1. Take a deep breath
  2. Go for a walk
  3. Allow yourself to feel the hurt
  4. Notice what your body is doing
  5. Say to yourself, “Permission to be human.”
  6. Repeat 1-5 until you feel better.

 

Remember to love yourself enough to make this courageous and self-compassionate choice.

Need help?

If you need coaching to help you with forgiveness and self-compassion, contact me at info@ultimatehealingjourney.com so we can work together to get you to your winning state of mind.

 

The Secret Sauce to Resilience is…

I recently presented at the Cancer Support Community, MA South Shore, on a topic that is rarely talked about during the cancer journey: Gratitude. While it’s understandable that there is absolutely nothing to be thankful for when you or someone you know has cancer, there are ways to use this virtue to help you feel more victorious.

In the presentation, I shared a story about my mother’s cancer journey with breast cancer, endometrial cancer and lung cancer. A journey that never crossed her mind before because she had no family history of such cancers and had always made healthy choices in what she ate and did. My mother is still the healthiest person I know despite the cancers that she had.

Gratitude is the Secret Sauce to Resilience

2013 was the year that my mother celebrated being breast cancer free for 5 years, only to find out two months later that she had endometrial and lung cancer. Needless to say, 2013 and 2014 were the most difficult years of my mother’s life. Despite the fact that she remained strong in front of everyone, this was the period in her life that tested her spirituality and optimism. The only consistent practice besides prayer that she did to feel better was to be grateful for her many micro-moments of progress towards being cured; she said “thank you” in almost every other sentence. It was like breathing to her. She looked for any signs of progress—big or small—celebrated them, appreciated them. In other words, she mindfully used gratitude to feel better. Dr. Les Kertay was right when he said that, “The secret sauce to resilience is gratitude.” My mother uses the practice of gratitude as a way of feeling healthy and happy every single moment.

The Good Things during the Bad Times

My mother made her goals practical and simple. For many months they were: to feel good enough to move without anyone’s help, to sleep without bone pain, to taste her food, and to have her hair grow back so that she can look like a woman again in front of us (especially my father). It wasn’t until that time that I saw the power of gratitude fueling someone’s resilience and ability to feel good during bad times. Normalcy was what she strived for and not perfection.

How to Turn Your “Grrrr” Moments into “Grateful” Micro Moments

Not everyone is like my mother, who can find the good even during the tough times. She said “thank you” in almost every other sentence. While it was as easy as breathing to her, the great news is that anyone can learn gratitude. It’s a skill that requires repetition and a routine. According to researchers, the best way to cultivate a positive habit is to practice, practice, practice!

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Days – Try it for 7 days. If you find you like this practice continue for 2-3 more weeks
  2. Decide- What time will you be doing it? Pick a daily routine to practice gratitude.
  3. Document- Write your gratitude down on a pad of paper.
  4. Deed- Do a good deed and pass on your good and grateful vibe.

Try it and see how you like it. If you or someone you know are a cancer survivor or caregiver and need coaching on practical and proven ways to increase levels of optimism and resilience, contact Debbie Lyn at info@ultimatehealingjourney.com

Spring Clearing Detox

Happy spring week!

I love this time of the year because it symbolizes new life and new beginnings. One of the best activities to do this season is a Spring Clearing Detox. This will surely help you shed some old heavy habits that have  been weighing you down and keeping  you from moving faster towards the life of your dreams. Unlike the standard detoxification formula that cleanses the impurities from our physical bodies, my Spring Clearing Detox technique clears out the impurities from our energetic bodies. In a nutshell, this technique gets rid of old limiting beliefs and thought processes that are making us feel overweight, overwhelmed, and overly tired carrying our work-life burdens. It’s that simple.

I started doing this many years ago when my old New Year’s Resolutions were not lasting and resulted in me feeling frustrated. It made me become more critical of myself and created a ripple of poor choices and not-so-happy moments in my life.  I felt terrible! That’s when I decided to make simple and small changes.  I started evaluating what wasn’t working right and the patterns that created those not right moments. Once I identified them I made a conscious effort to do one thing that would stop the pattern. Pretty soon I started to see my life turn around and my dreams manifest. It was great and my Spring Clearing Detox exercise was born!

Ground Hog Day

It’s not too late to honor your 2015 promise to yourself to look good and feel good. The best way to start doing this is to take inventory of some old habits that are just making your life like the movie Ground Hog Day. Every day is the same and you can pretty much predict what people are going to say and when things will happen.  I tell my coaching clients to just start with one habit and work towards eliminating it. It’s amazing to witness them as they move from feeling stressed and stuck to successful. New habits start to form and pretty soon the habits become natural and simple for them to be incorporate into their lives.  Eventually the new habits allow them to create a happier and healthier life.

4 Steps to begin your own Spring Clearing

Here’s how to begin a clearer approach to living an abundant and awesome life.

  1. Ask yourself what habit has been keeping you from moving towards your true happiness.
  2. Determine what it is. (Key here is to start with one habit.)
  3. Ask yourself what one small thing you can do to start bringing more awareness to that habit.
  4. Determine a simple positive habit that you can replace it with that will add more joy and meaning into your life.

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Ready to give it a try?

Spring clearing is tossing out an old habit that’s keeping you from growing. This technique is perfect for anyone who has been feeling stuck in one area of your life and want a way to start moving things forward. This technique has been one of my secrets to automatically manifesting and creating my heart’s desire. Not sure of what habit to get rid of and need coaching for consistent support and guidance to reach your goals? Contact me at Debbie.ultimatehealingjourney@gmail.com today so you can start moving towards the direction of your dreams.

Cheers,

Debbie Lyn

I took a risk and…

Have you ever taken a risk you were happy you took because it had a great outcome?

I did and I am so grateful. Let me explain.

A few months ago I created a school program purely from my desire to offer something that can benefit both the children and the teachers at my son’s school. After a few weeks and many moments of listening to my inner voice telling me to do it, I finally decided to go for it and take a risk.

 

A program was born

And just like that, The Gratitude Program for Kids was born. I couldn’t believe how easily the program came together once I made up my mind to do it. I was so excited and proud of my finished work. After I completed the content for the program I approached my son’s principal. I was determined to tell her about it and to explain to her that it was based on many research-proven techniques – designed to enhance the students’ academic success, improve concentration, sense of community, and boost positivity in the school. Eventually, I summoned up the courage to ask her to meet with me so I could explain my program. And what happened next was amazing! After I finished talking, she told me that my program  sounded great, and that she was willing to have me offer it in her school. Further she told me that my gratitude program would support the positive environment school initiative that they are doing. It was a dream come true!

Currently, my program which is called The Gratitude Program for Kids, is nearing its completion in his school and I couldn’t be any happier!

 

New doors

This program has opened doors for me in other arenas. Now, I will be adapting this program for kids whose parents (or grandparents) have cancer. Also, I have been invited to speak about gratitude in the cancer journey. I can’t believe how much I have learned about myself during the whole process. If I didn’t take the risk in creating this program then I would not have learned this much about myself and how beneficial my program can be.

Lessons learned

Here are three main things that I learned about myself:

  1. Taking this risk gave me clarity, excitement, and a sense of purpose that fueled my ability to create a unique program for elementary level schools.
  2. Using my personal strengths of curiosity, creativity, and courage made a big difference in my research, my program creation, and my approach to something new and uncharted.
  3. Following my heart first and then my mind is better than following my mind first then my heart. If I followed my mind first, I wouldn’t be writing this right now with a feeling of contentment and joy.

 

How about you?

Do you have something in your life that is worth taking the risk for that will allow you to find out more about yourself?

Is there a goal that you have been wanting to achieve but just don’t know how to start?

How about taking a tiny bit of risk? Do something to help yourself gain the momentum that you need.

If you are still not sure and need coaching to get you toward the next level of your life, contact me at info@ultimatehealingjourney.com so that  we can get you moving towards the direction of your dreams.

taking risks

Bueller…Bueller…Bueller!

 

Happy February, and I hope that 2015 is being kind and gentle to you.

Here in Massachusetts, we have just been visited by Juno, the blizzard that gave us over 30 inches of snow. My teenager and 4th grader have been celebrating their “no school” days. Do you remember being young and finding out that there was no school that day because of severe weather conditions? Those were the days when we got a “free day off” from our usual routine. Ahh…

I think that we, as adults, deserve to give ourselves a “Ferris Bueller’s day off” day to just kick back, relax, and be care-free.

When was the last time that you did this for yourself?
How did you feel when you did it?
What did you do that made it fun and fantastic for you?

“Life moves pretty fast.” ~ F. Bueller

Yes, I know that you’re busy, but who isn’t these days? It’s all the more reason why we need to take off our ‘grown-up’ hat and just be a kid again! It’s one of the ways we can slow down to enjoy life! Work will always be there and our schedules will always be full of activities. It’s important to be more proactive in setting aside time for ourselves for self care. We need a mental break so that we don’t have a “mental breakdown.”

ferris bueller

Here’s your “hall pass.”

Many people get so stuck on the hamster wheel of their work-life schedule that they forget that they have the choice to get off it. So, here’s my suggestion for you. Create a virtual “hall pass” for yourself to get out and do something that you love. You don’t have to have someone with you do to this. In fact, it might be better for you to just go ahead and take your “pass” and run with it without having to think and talk yourself out of it.

You get an A+

You will find that when you do this, you will want to do it regularly. Why not? It’s very important that you work yourself into your own unique schedule in order to truly have the productivity, positivity, and prosperity that you strive for. Routinely giving yourself much needed time off from life is a self-loving and self-nurturing way of ensuring that you do live a healthy and happy life. In other words, giving yourself permission to enjoy life will result in more success in both work and life than you can ever imagine. You will get an A+ for the effort that you put into this routine break. Danke Schoen! <wink>

If you need support in ways to help you reset time so that it’s on your side in order to live a healthy and happy life please contact me at info@ultimatehealingjourney.com

Thank Your Stress Away

Hello there!

Here’s a quick guide to use anytime you feel stressed throughout the day.

My mother’s recovery from her double cancer surgery inspired me to create this technique.  Two years ago—just about one month after celebrating being breast cancer free for 5 years—my mother was diagnosed with endometrial cancer and lung cancer. It was one of the worst years of my life, seeing my mother undergo so much physical and emotional stress from her diagnosis and myriad of hospital tests and surgeries.

As a nurse, I knew how extensive and painful her surgeries were going to be. As a daughter, I was afraid of losing my mother and worried about my father who always relied on my mother. While I did my best to be supportive and strong, “the nurse,” for the rest of my family and relatives, I had moments where I would just break down and cry. Ironically, that year the source of my strength, besides God, was my mother. I felt so much better every time I saw my mother. I recall how she would laugh at herself when her hair was growing back and I remember the countless of times I heard my mother say “thank you.” One of the most memorable times that we as a family said “thank you” was when she got the results from her endometrial, lung, and thyroid biopsy (yup, they found a suspicious area there too) that all of her cancers were not related. This meant that they were not a metastasis from her breast cancer.

During each of her surgeries that summer, I would hear her say, “thank you” when she woke up and was able to get up from her bed by herself. She would say “thank you” when she would have enough strength to walk from her bed to the bathroom all by herself. She would say “thank you” when she had a restful night of sleep without bone pain that was caused from her chemotherapy. Her days were (and still are) filled with thankful moments from morning to night. She uses gratitude to fuel every action and every thought.

My mother naturally used gratitude as a way to become resilient and to thrive after that long, hard summer.

Next time you feel stressed or scared, try this technique that I call, Thank Your Stress Away.

thankyourstressaway

I hope you enjoyed this technique. Please share it with friends who might benefit from it.

Need extra support in managing your work-life stress? Contact me at info@ultimatehealingjourney.com.

Cheers!

Debbie signature