Pain Relief from Kindness and Laughter

 

 

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Have you ever suffered from searing pain that…

  • drained the blood from your body and almost made you pass out?
  • kept you up all night?
  • made you feel depressed, hopeless, and scared that it will never get better?

It was exactly this time of the year last year that I was living in this nightmare. A year ago, I couldn’t walk without being in excruciating pain. Simple activities such as sitting, standing, and sleeping made me anxious and worried from the unexpected shooting pain. Both unfortunately and fortunately this painful episode lasted for about one month. While it was unfortunate that I experienced intense pain, it was fortunate that I saw a glimpse of what life was like for people living with chronic pain and importantly able to see firsthand the healing power of two unlikely techniques— an act of kindness and an act of laughter.


Dismal with Disability

What led to my temporary disability is still unknown to me.  I was in great shape last year! I had a personal trainer and worked hard at keeping my weight within a reasonable range. I felt good about myself, I had great energy, and I enjoyed seeing my favorite clothes falling nicely in areas that they were supposed to. To this day, I cannot pinpoint the very moment when it started. Over and over I asked myself.

Was it working out too hard and not stretching long enough?

Was it the way I slept?

Was it my new high heels I wore to match my holiday dress?

 Who knows? All I know was I was in pain and I felt miserable!


The Pain

I always took pride in having a high tolerance for pain but this one was nothing like I’ve ever experienced. I thought I knew what pain was. I’ve had plantar fasciitis on both feet as I worked 12 hour shifts as a nurse. I’ve had shooting sciatica pain from my pregnancies that would have me gripping the furniture or walls around me so I didn’t fall down. Lastly, I endured natural deliveries twice because my childbirth labor always came fast. But this holiday pain felt like a perfect storm of angry sciatica pain, tight hamstring muscles and back pain. The jolt of spasm would catch me so unexpectedly that I would gasp with pain and feel cold, sweaty, and pale from a head rush of blood, making me feel as though I was going to pass out.


Natural Cures

Although I am a nurse, I always went for natural cures before going to the doctors. Years of learning over a dozen proven Complementary Alternative Medicine techniques and Positive Psychology provided me with an array of modalities and techniques to try. I tried everything I had in my natural tool-box such as: Reiki, hot and cold compresses, muscle rubs, homeopathy, and magnets. I went for weekly chiropractic adjustments and deep tissue massages. Little by little I started to feel better but my recovery didn’t start to sky rocket until I did something different. That something different was doing something for someone else. I found that doing something good for someone else help me stop ruminating on my self-pity and suffering. It helped me think of someone else who I cared about and this made me feel better and better.


Doing Good to Feel Good

One day during my one of my more painful afternoons, I decided to do something to get my mind off my pain. I decided to contact an old friend, who had been going through a divorce. Because we had not been in contact for awhile I wasn’t sure how he was doing. When I did reach him, I told him that I was going to give him a special present that I called “7 Days of Cheer.” I explained to him that I was going to send him one pun per day for a week. Knowing that he was very busy, sending him daily puns was a great way for him to know I was thinking him and wishing him well. He agreed to play along and I started. Every day, I looked for puns that I loved; ones that made me laugh so hard that I couldn’t wait but send to him. The puns were silly but hilarious.


Happy Inside and Out

I loved reading the puns during the day because they made me feel happy inside and out. This new found idea was exciting and made me feel good. Each day I looked forward to finding just the perfect pun to send him. The more I sent him, the more I noticed I felt better and better. I noticed something profound that I had been teaching all along in my stress management and wellness workshops for busy professionals.  I noticed that doing kind deeds for someone else does boost your own happiness, decrease feelings of depression, and reduces pain levels.  Further, I noticed the very same thing with laughter as well. As a laughter yoga teacher for professionals, seniors, and cancer survivors, I knew that laughter also provides the same positive benefits. I was amazed at how laughing and doing kind deeds helped reduce my pain.

HotDog

Positivity for Pain Relief

Acts of kindness and laughter, although a very unlikely pairing, provide powerful doses of positivity that are sure to help with pain relief. Our natural pain killer hormones called endorphins are secreted within our brain and nervous system when acts of kindness  are done and with deep hearty laughter. Endorphins, our bodies’ natural pain killers, are similar to morphine that is prescribed by doctors for severe pain. What seemed like a great idea to distract me from pain while cheering up a good friend, quickly became a main source of pain relief. It was as if my inner physician knew what I needed to help me feel better, and I am grateful that I listened to her. It was no surprised that his 7-day gift became a 14-day gift. Not only did my friend enjoy my gift, I was able to experience the pain relief that both kindness and laughter had to offer. It was a holiday that I will always remember.


More on Kindness and Laughter

Both acts of kindness and laughter have much in common. They are known to:

  • decrease pain
  • boost levels of happiness
  • decrease levels of anxiety
  • lead to faster healing


Gifting the “7 Days of Cheer”

Are you or someone you know suffering from any sort of physical, mental, or emotional pain?

Would you like to try something that doesn’t cost anything except your time and energy to feel better?

Are you interested in applying simple techniques that can make you feel better whether or not you are suffering from pain?

I invite you to try the “7 Days of Cheer” with anyone of your family or friends. It’s a fun and unique way to feel good as you do something good for someone. It’s truly a gift that keeps on giving.

Here’s how you can start.

  1. Pick a family member or friend that you want to give a special gift to.
  2. Contact that person and let him or her know about what you want to do.
  3. Decide on the length of time you want to do it.
  4. Use the internet for funny images, quotes, or video clips.
  5. Begin.
  6. Notice how you feel.
  7. Repeat as necessary.
  8. Have fun.

Next time you feel miserable from physical, mental, or emotional pain try taking care of it by doing something positive for someone else. It will help you to put a stop to focusing on what feels bad and instead direct you towards what feels good. Remember that your body has the capacity to help you feel better by releasing natural feel-good hormones.

Got other natural and proven ways to reduce pain? Please comment below and share it with us.

The Secret Sauce to Savoring the Holidays for Busy People

by Debbie Lyn Toomey Speaker, Author, Trainer

2 Key Ingredients (2)-53277

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.

New Normal

I don’t know about you but this summer has been a roller coaster of incredible and intense emotions. It has been filled with some endings and wonderful beginnings. Between my wedding anniversary, my two oldest sons’ graduations, birthdays, and new opportunities, this has been an unforgettable summer. It’s a summer that emphasizes having appreciation for those you love and how much they have impacted your life.

New-Normal
There’s a “new-normal” that’s unfolded for me. I learned about this description after spending an afternoon with a friend just days after losing his 84 year old father from cancer. As I sat with him in the park, he told me that now that his father has passed, both he and his mother had to get use to a “new normal” way of living.

Bittersweet
As for me and my family our “new-normal” takes on many bittersweet forms. Our “new normal” consists of adjusting to my oldest son living at home and working in Boston with a prospect of being relocated to Chicago. Another “new normal” change is getting used to not having my middle son home. This week kicks off his 1st week of living at college and away from home. Lastly, my other “new normal” is supporting my youngest as he starts a new school. In the grand scheme of things, my “new-normals” are all great news and certainly something that my husband and I are both proud of. It still does not help with the feelings of longing for the good-old-days of having everyone at home, all together, safe and sound, and silly-at-times. No matter what you call it – separation anxiety, the “new-normal” or simply life, is still painful. It hurts when you no longer have the person that you love near you to talk with and sit with like before.

Life
As a Health & Happiness Specialist™, I often share my own experiences in my programs. Happiness is nothing without pain or sadness. Life will deliver each of us good and not-so-good times. This is what makes life very interesting. Nothing good lasts forever and nothing bad lasts forever too. There a dynamic motion that propels us forward to become better than before if we allow it. The secret is to feel the negative emotions and allow them to surface so that we can move on. It’s when we hold on to our negative emotions that we start suffering in many ways that can manifest as severe depression, insomnia, gastro-esophageal reflux, chest pain, anger, over eating, and so much more.

3 Ways to Feel Better
Fortunately, with the increase in positive psychology research there are so many effective ways to help people cope with life’s challenges. The science of happiness has many solutions that help people grow and thrive so that they can be the best version of themselves.

Here are 3 ways to feel better:

1. Do something kind for others. When you think outside of your own situation and do kind deeds for others, you begin to feel happier.
2. Physical activity. Doing any type of physical activity is a positive way of releasing your sadness and stress.
3. Contact someone. Whether it is going to church to pray or calling up a friend. Connecting with others enhances relationships which often lead to greater happiness.


How about You?

If you are struggling with life’s ups and downs right now, trust that where there is darkness there also is light. If you need a coach to help you reach your personal or professional goals please contact Debbie Lyn at debbie.ultimatehealingjourney@gmail.com

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.

4 Secrets to a Dream Come True

I can’t believe it.  I just turned 49 years old this week!

How did that happen so quickly?

As a product of the 80’s and the MTV generation, it felt like it was only yesterday that I was “Sexy and Seventeen” and “Pretty in Pink.”  Those were the days! It was the time when I was filled with many hopes and dreams of becoming a nurse, a wife, and a mother. Not knowing what my future would bring, I kept the faith and did everything I was supposed to do to make my dreams come true.


High School

Between you and me, I didn’t like to study or read when I was younger. I was a daydreamer and got bored too easily. Luckily I had parents who valued education and an older sister who was a high achiever. This combination motivated me to work hard to get good grades so I could go to college and have a career.  All that determination worked out and I got my wish; I got accepted into nursing school with a full scholarship.


Boyfriend

I wasn’t allowed to have any boyfriends or go to any dance when I was younger—my father was very strict. Because of this, I worried about not having any boyfriends, let alone any fun! Not thinking about boys when you’re a teenage girl is close to impossible. I remember dreaming almost every night of what my future would be like. I imagined marrying a handsome “Mr. Right,” having 2.5 kids, and living in a cozy home. I would do it so often that it felt real. Gratefully, it became a reality. When I was in high school, I met my soon to be best-friend and future husband while working at my first job at my local sub-shop.


Nurse

When my older sister and I were younger in the Philippines, we used to shout out what we were going to be when we got older. She would emphatically say that she was going to be a doctor. And I would say I was going to be a nurse. At a young age, I instinctively knew my limitations and strengths. The thought of reading “all those thick books” and going to medical school for so many years just did not appeal to me. What I wanted was a way to learn about health in a reasonable amount of time and to start helping people right away. I always loved making people feel better and I knew that there were many ways to do that. Nursing gave me the experience and skills to be able to fulfill that goal. Fortunately for me, I went to nursing school during a nursing shortage. In my third year of nursing school, I was accepted in an internship at Tufts Medical Center (formerly known as New England Medical Center) and was guaranteed a nursing position when I graduated. 


Being a MOM (That’s “WOW”, if you spelled it upside down!)

I’ve always wanted to have boys because I never had a brother. While it was great to be one of 4 girls in the family, I often wondered what life would be like with to have a brother. As you can imagine, I was so excited when I got pregnant and found out I was having a boy. I named him Phillip after my father, who always wanted a son and ended up with 4 girls. The expression on his face when my husband and I told him that we were naming our first son after him was priceless.

Mom is “Wow” upside down, and I can see why these two words have this relationship. Being a mom has changed me to the core. I can honestly say that I am a better and stronger person because of my 3 boys. They’ve taught me what unconditional love really means and how lucky I am to be alive.


4 Secrets to a Dream Come True

I am so happy to be getting so many “Happy Birthday” greetings this week! Yes, I am 49 and I’m happy to say that I still get carded! My birthday wish is to help you achieve your own dreams so that you can live a healthy and happy life. That said, I want to share with you my 4 secrets to help you make your dreams come true.  They are: faith, hard work, passion, and acceptance. I’ve always had faith that good things will happen for me. I always had to work really hard to get an outcome that might come easy for others. Also, I always use my passion to fuel my actions in order to keep from daydreaming and being bored. Finally, I learned to use acceptance to let go of what I can’t change and to enjoy what I have.  These 4 principles are tried and true. I highly recommend anyone to apply these into their life so that they can make their own dreams come true.


Here’s how:

  1. Faith- Cultivate faith, hope, and optimism by focusing on your positive outcomes. This will help fuel your ability to trust in yourself and your achievements. The more you do this the better so that you can change your mindset into believing in your abilities.
  2. Hard work- This is self explanatory. The more you work hard on something, the more you will appreciate it. This shows grit. A proven skill that brings on success.
  3. Passion- “Turn to your passions, and make them happen!” Do what you love and love what you do! If you ended up in a career that doesn’t make you happy then find a hobby or another job that will do it for you.
  4. Acceptance- Everyone has limitations. Everyone is different. And…everyone is unique and special. Accept what you can’t do or don’t have and move on. Don’t use your limitations to keep you from living a healthy and happy life. Use your strengths to your advantage.


I hope you get great outcomes from these principles. If you need further help in trying to achieve your dreams, contact me for coaching so we can get you back on track. Contact me at
info@ultimatehealingjourney.com today.

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.

 

Boost Happiness and Burn Calories within Minutes

This past weekend was full of laughter!

Last Saturday I started my 4 week Laughter Yoga™ class at a nearby yoga studio, and last Sunday was World Laughter Day. As a Laughter Yoga™ teacher I still get so amazed at the power of laughter and how it instantly transforms people. I love it when new participants come into my Laughter Yoga™ class with a perplexed, “I don’t really know what I am in for” kind of look. When I explain to them about what laughter is and how it can bring us to a place of oneness, they immediately see the genius in it. The reason why I wanted to learn this form of yoga is that it’s easy, playful, and non-intimidating. If you can laugh and take deep breaths then you can do it!


No Yoga Experience Necessary

It can be done literally anywhere. Further, it’s a wonderful way to get people, who are intimidated with the concept of yoga, to get the feeling of blissful mind-body-spirit connection that yoga delivers. Laughter Yoga™ can be done sitting or standing and with no yoga experience. I’ve had the honor of doing this yoga for stroke patients in rehabilitation centers, for seniors, for low income housing residents, cancer survivors, care givers, health care professionals, and even Harvard researchers!
As a nurse and a Laughter Yoga™ teacher I get invited to speak at corporate retreats, cancer survivor events, and hospitals. I really enjoy sharing practical information with people so that they can be inspired and reminded to add more laughter to their day. This exercise is perfect for those who can “use more laughter” in their lives.

Laughter Yoga word cloud with site-59210

Experts Seriously Studying Laughter

The science of laughter, Gelotology, is a field that has been getting attention from researchers since 1964. Researchers like Dr. Edith Trager and Dr. William Fry are the pioneers in this field. In the 1970’s Norman Cousins, writer and magazine editor for the Saturday Review, was diagnosed with a painful and debilitating autoimmune disease. When his own doctors could not help him cure or manage his pain, he discharged himself from the hospital and checked into a hotel where he used high doses of Vitamin C and laughter to cure his disease. He found that 10 minutes of deep belly laugher gave him 2 hours of pain-free sleep.


7 Fun-Facts

Here are some fun and interesting facts about laughter:

1. 1 minute of deep hearty laughter is equivalent to 10 minutes of rowing a boat or jogging!
2. Deep hearty laughter is an aerobic exercise.
3. We can “Fake it til’ we make it.” Our mind doesn’t know the difference between fake and real laughter. We feel good either way.
4. Kids laugh 300-400 times a day. Adult laughs approximate 50 times a day.
5. It’s a social contagion. It’s catchy and people who hear it also benefit from the sound of laughter increasing the positivity in the environment.
6. Deep hearty laughter reduces tension and boosts energy.
7. Deep hearty laughter can boost the immune system.


LOL

Next time you find that you’ve run out of time to work out or if you are feeling low, why not try laughing? Start with a “fake” laughter and just keep going until you start feeling better. You don’t have to wait for someone to make you laugh out loud (LOL.) You can get started anytime. Remember, whether it’s fake or real laughter your body will respond to it and you will begin to release your stress and tension and pretty soon you will start to burn calories. Yes, with laughter you can boost your happiness and burn calories within minutes.

Interested in more ways to sustain a high level of positivity in your life, contact us at info@ultimatehealingjourney.com to find out. We can work together in helping you reach your dream of living a happy and healthy life.

 

 

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

Simple Stress Reduction Technique

Here’s a simple stress reduction technique that is perfect for any age, I call it the Dirty-Water-in a-Plastic-Bottle technique.

I recently demonstrated this technique to a group of 6th graders that I’ve been teaching mindfulness based learning to in Boston, MA. It was actually great timing that I did this because the school had just finished their first week of standardized testing. All the kids’ (and the teachers’) energy levels were so high from preparing and performing, that the stress level in the school was palpable. Needless to say, the last thing that my students wanted to do that day was to sit down and learn about mindfulness from me. Those kids were “done” with learning that day. That’s why it took me some time to get them to listen to my lesson, which incidentally was on stress. Between you and me, I was getting stressed too because I could not get them to simmer down. I felt my level of control over the class slipping out of my hands quickly!

Super-dee-duper Contraption

Just when I thought it was hopeless, I changed my lesson plan by taking out my super-dee-duper stress reduction contraption sooner rather than later. I needed a way to hook them onto my lesson and it did the trick! When I took out the plastic drinking bottled filled with a water and soil mixture the class stopped and asked what I had in my hand.

I thought to myself, “Yes, you got their attention!”

“Don’t stop and keep talking!”

I told them what it was and why I brought it. Some of the kids were “grossed out” while others were intrigued. I explained to them that this murky bottle of water was like our minds sometimes. It is filled with the mixture of positive and negative thoughts making it difficult for us to pay attention and to feel calm and in control of our actions. Furthermore, I told them that the key to decreasing our stress and seeing solutions more clearly is becoming mindful to our present state and knowing how we are feeling. I reminded them that mindfulness was all about paying attention and being aware of what’s in front of us, around us, and within us. Moreover, I emphasized that the best way to start feeling better, especially from the week they just had, was by allowing things to settle down (like the dirt in the bottle) and using the power of our breath to reduce our stress.

Letting It Settle

With this in mind, I shook the bottle of muddy water while the whole class watched the muddy vortex swirl around in the bottle. While we watched it swirl around and around, I had them participate in a deep breathing exercise. I encouraged them to continue the deep breathing exercise until we noticed that all the dirt had settled at the bottom and that the water had become clear. This became a powerful visual aid because they were able to see that by becoming aware of their stress, they could stop engaging with the stressor and start deep breathing exercises to regain their sense of self control. This Dirty-Water-in-a-Plastic-Bottle technique that I taught them made them feel relaxed, and they were able to concentrate more on the rest of the class. It really worked!

This technique is perfect for anyone as a way to reduce stress.

Mindfulness is...

Cheap and effective reminder

The Dirty-Water-in a-Plastic-Bottle technique is a great recycling project to do and possibly one of the simplest stress reduction techniques to use.

Here’s what you will need:

1. Empty clear 16 oz plastic bottle (remove label)
2. 16 oz of water
3. Soil (glitter or small plastic confetti would be a great substitute for the dirt if you don’t have any around)
4. Super Glue (permanent strong glue)

Directions:

Add items 2 & 3 into the empty plastic bottle. Dry the opening of the bottle, apply super glue, and twist cap tight. Allow the glue to dry for about 1 hour.
It’s that easy! You now have a homemade stress reduction tool that will surely help you and others feel better during those chaotic and overwhelming days.

Enjoy!

How about you?

Is stress leaving your feeling stuck and unable to move towards the life of your dreams? Contact me at Debbie.ultimatehealingjourney@gmail.com for coaching to help you gain more clarity, and confidence to move towards the life of your dreams.