Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018 Round-up: Lessons Learned from a Year Pursuing Happiness

I started 2018 off with "Resolving to Be Happy". What does being happy even mean and what makes one happy?

What better way to measure happiness is there than by comparing it to what one wishes they would have done differently while staring mortality in the face, so I looked at the Five Regrets of the Dying.  

To sum it up: wishing the had the courage to live true to themselves, and not other's expectations, not working so hard, having the courage to express feelings, staying in touch with friends, and letting oneself be happier.

This led to me asking myself how I could make sure that wasn't an article I would be contributing my experience to. How to Live a Life with No Regrets . Learning: Keep doing things that won't leave me regretful. This will require me to be mindful and intentional.

A big research project took a close look at the circumstances that influence happiness. Big take-away for me was that it's not winning the lottery or other external circumstances that make up the bulk of your happiness. In fact, you adjust pretty quickly to windfalls (and disappointments) and go back to pre-happiness levels within a few months, so if you are going through a little rough patch, take heart because this too shall pass. Science says so.

However, changing your mindset can have a huge impact. Read more about how here. How Circumstances Influence Your Happiness. Learning: Use some of the tips in this article to change my mindset, namely reframing and gratitude.

I also learned about 3 types of happiness and why you need each of them to truly live a fulfilling life.

I think I have the first (simple pleasures/gratification) one down pretty well, but I sure could use more of two (finding and using your strengths) and three (serving something bigger than you). I took the quiz (link in the article from the University of Pennsylvania's Positive Psychology department's website) to tell me what my strengths are, and I made my kids do it too. Learning: try new things that use your strengths and find a place to use them that contributes to something bigger than you.

I found when I did things that used my strengths, I was happier. For example, I want to volunteer more, but what I found what I was doing to be not so fulfilling. Once I found opportunities that allowed me to use my strengths, I found a lot more satisfaction in my experience.

I researched how to get more done in my life (How a Simple Routine Can Transform Your Life), How to Get Stuff Done, and Productivity Tips and Tricks for Every Personality).

You know what is even more important than organizing your 'to do' list and getting loads of stuff done? Deciding what not to do, and choosing what is the most important stuff to get done, 4 Things I Want to Accomplish Before I Die, Be a Quitter and Get More DoneHow to Go From Busy to Meaningful.  Learning: sometimes good enough is enough. Listen to your body, remember the things that are truly important, and let go of the rest. 

When striving to improve at something, it is inevitable that you stumble. Life gets in the way, you lose your way, you get sick, life happens, you lose your focus. Researching these articles: How to Make a Resolution You Will Keep, 8 Seconds That Could Change Your Life, What Your Best Really Looks Like, helped me pick myself up and keep stepping forward, no matter how small that step might be. Learning: It is never too late to start or start again, even if it is the 10th or the 100th time you have started. 

One of the biggest predictor of happiness is the quality of your social relationships, so know when to let go of a relationship and move on (How to Know When It is Time to Let Go of a Relationship), and check in to see if maybe you are inadvertently damaging your relationships (Are You the Toxic Friend?)

I also learned that I really suck at 30 day challenges. I tried not complaining for 30 days and I failed miserably, and that't okay. What I did learn was there is a recurring theme of gratitude as the antidote (The Cure to Not Complaining).

In fact, gratitude is mentioned in almost every book or article on happiness I read this year. Is there a way I can take a baby step forward and incorporate more of it into my life? Don't know how yet (although I know it won't be in the form of a 30 day Challenge), but it's a goal for 2019. Learning: 30 day challenges aren't for me, but they do offer some bite size goal ideas for me to work on, and it is okay if I take the Day 1 challenge and take 30 days to work on it.

A big takeaway for me this year, experimenting on finding stuff I enjoy, and making the time to do it.

For example, I've been afraid to learn to paint for a number of reasons, not creative or artistic, no time, etc. the time to do. Despite all those nonsensical reasons, I told a friend I was going to do this beginner painting class and would she do it with me. Then I procrastinated, and she reminded me (wouldn't let me wiggle out of it. This is why you enlist others, to bug you, I mean hold you accountable). I showed up with low expectations, and it turns out I really, really enjoy it.

Another takeaway is treat a nagging task like an appointment and schedule the time time to get it done. It feels really good to get something done that's been bugging you.

And lastly, using some of this available time created by getting rid of the unimportant and the not so useful/critical to spend time with those near and dear, strengthening relationships or creating new ones (which takes lots of time, but is oh so necessary to your health and happiness).

Going forward to next year: 2019 is going to be a year of Simplifying for me with the goal of getting to the core of what makes life happy fulfilling for me, and eliminating as much as possible of everything else. 

This will require some tough decisions because often it is hard to let go of the comfort of the mundane and automatic and it is hard to be brave enough to buck against social expectations that don't really serve you.

So, I have a lot to think about. First, what is most important? I mean really the most important. Second, what do I need in my life to not just make me happy, but fulfilled (which isn't always what makes me happy in the short term)? Third, what do I need to get rid of or reduce in my life to leave room for the most important things.

We are taking happiness to the next level in 2019.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

No Complaining Challenge Day 21: Implementing "The Cure"

Well, the no complaining challenge has been a struggle for me. Mostly because I have too much else going on, and haven't been giving it the attention it needs (meaning, normal everyday life is distracting me, and I forget I'm trying to do this no complaining challenge thing). 

So, I goal without a plan is just a wish, right? or something like that.  So, action is called for this week.

I have been passively observing the complaining and not complaining and that has been okay. I have also observed how much those around me complain, and have tried to reform both my husband and my children, and may I say, their gratitude has been strongly lacking.

However, and much as I would like to cure my loved ones of their complaining, rule #1, you can't change anyone but yourself.

Since I have not been doing a great job on always catching myself in the midst of complaining, unless I am on a major venting rant (more on venting next week), I am going to try the gratitude thing with the hope being that gratitude will replace complaining as my auto response.  I believe practicing gratitude will be the cure to complaining. 

The key is to make feeling grateful a habit the same way complaining has become a habit. It is far easier to replace a habit than to stop it.

To develop a habit one has to be consistent. Makes sense because by definition a habit is something that you do over and over again without thinking.

However, if you recall, I am having trouble remembering to do this in the first place, so I need to make it easy. It takes time to build up those gratitude muscles (or build those neuron bridges), and since I know that life will get in the way, I will dedicate some time to working on those gratitude muscles.

The best way to make sure that you work on your new habit is to link it to some habit you already have. I journal in the morning, so that is a habit that I already have established. I'll leave myself a little sticky note on my journal to remember to reflect for a minute on what I am grateful for.

I also want to do this at dinner as well. We have the habit of eating together, so why not make this part of our dinner conversation? All too often we talk about what went wrong in our day, and this would be a good reminder of what also went right, no matter how small.

Some like to do a gratitude list at the end of the day, and if that works for you, go for it.  If you are a planner type person and spend some time each day planning out what to do the next (even if it is a work planner, I still think you can link it if it is something you do consistently), then maybe this is a good time for you to take a minute to remember what is right in your world.

Other articles in the No Complaining Challenge:
The 30 days to No Complaining Challenge
How to Make Complaining Work for You

Sunday, October 28, 2018

How to Make Complaining Work for You (Week 2 of 30 Day No Complaining Challenge)

30 Day Complaining Challenge

Over the week I tried to notice when and about what I was complaining, and I also found I had a hard time deciding at times what fell under the umbrella of complaining.

Let's start with how Merriam-Webster defines complaining.

1) to express grief, pain, or discontent
2) to make a formal accusation or charge.

Synonyms include: bellyache, caterwaul (I love this one, and I'm going to now tell my children to stop caterwauling because it's fun to say), fuss, gripe, nag, whine.

For example, is it complaining to ask my kids, yet again, to please close the dog food container all the way so that the dog doesn't eat all the food in it (or let's say, a whole bag of greenies). This is necessary to say for the good of the dog's health and my sanity. Could this be described as nagging? Is there a better way to get the results I desire without the nagging?

Why do we complain?

It feels good because it gives us a sense of power and hope.

We bond over it. Misery loves company, right?

It does sometimes bring about a desired result and effect change. The squeaky wheel does in fact get oiled sometimes.

However, as often is the case, too much of a good thing is not good at all.

Too much complaining can lead to a false sense of power and hope that actually prevents you from making any real change to the very situation that you are complaining about. You often hear it expressed as, "Well, what can you do?" after a long tirade.

While it might bond you with others, it bonds you to other complainers. 

Humans being the social animals that they are are biologically wired to mirror the emotions in others around them. It is called neural mirroring and is the basis for our ability to feel empathy. Empathy is good, but in the case of too much complaining though, not so good.

Think of it as chocolate or bacon (or whatever else comforts you). A little bit is good, too much of it makes you feel nauseous. At some point, you get labeled as the "toxic friend" others are trying to avoid (Are You the Toxic Friend?).

While you may get stuff done (liked your meal comped after bad service), it could come at cost to your physical health.

We are predisposed to see the negative over the positive. It isn't just you, it really is easier to complain than not complain. The thing is, the more you do it the easier it is because you are literally rewiring your brain to make complaining even easier

When you repeat a behavior, your little neurons reach out to each other and build a temporary bridge. You repeat it again, and those neurons say, "Hey, it looks like this is going to be an ongoing thing, so let's build a permanent bridge to make it easier." (Your brain is super helpful and efficient like that.)  The more you repeat, the stronger they build that bridge.

While your neurons are being efficient and building bridges, your brain is also releasing the stress hormone cortisol, preparing you to fight or flight, directing blood, energy and oxygen away from everything, but what is needed for immediate survival.

You see, your brain is a wonderful thing, but left undirected, it is not good at deciding what is a real emergency and what you are just "venting" about.

Overtime, cortisol impairs your immune system, and makes you more susceptible to high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and weight gain, and some evidence suggests stroke. Remember, your neurons are busy making this work easier.

So What Can You Do?

How do you get that brain of yours back to working for you and not against you? How do you regain control as the Director versus leaving it up to your brain?

Practice Gratitude. 
You have heard the praises of grateful living and I am sure your have read/heard many ways on how to do it. You can commit to writing 3 things to be grateful for each night. You can make it a family dinner event and have each person say what they are most grateful for that day or do this as part of your bed time routines with your kids.

But here is why you should do it.... because those helpful neurons will also work to build strong bridges with good habits, and overtime the old bridge will become weaker through neglect, so work to build a new bridge, and being grateful will get easier over time thanks to your very efficient and helpful neurons.

What else is in it for you? Practicing gratefulness reduces the cortisol by 23% (According to the University of California, Davis). People also report improved mood and energy and reduced anxiety.

Use mindfulness to make complaining work for you. 
These strong efficient complaining bridges also mean that complaining becomes a auto-response, and a little complaining can be a good thing, remember? Make complaining work for you by asking yourself some questions:

1)What about the current situation is really bugging me? 
Be specific here. Just like we did when we learned to use our words to regain control of our emotions (How to Get a Hold of Yourself When You Start to Lose It) Use your words to identify what is really bugging you about this situation. A friend or journaling can be really helpful on working through this.
2) How would I like the situation to be? 

Once you know what is really bugging you, you can move onto admitting to yourself what you really want the situation to be. Then instead of nagging, you can ASK for what you really want. 

I don't want to make light of this step because it sounds easy, but it's hard. It comes with a lot of baggage that comes in a suitcase named "What if?" 

What if I can't have it like I want it? What if he/she/they say no? What if I try and it doesn't work? The unknown is scary. Complaining is safe, but you don't have to do anything at this point. You are just exploring your options, and one option is always, do nothing, so dream big here. 

3) What can I change? 

There is always something that you can do. You may not want to or be ready to, but there is always something you can do

You can't change the weather, your kids, your family, your spouse, your neighbor. Maybe you can't change your job or your health or other circumstances right now, but you can change you

You can change how you react or you can choose to stop reacting. You can change how you think about the situation. It's not easy. You are, after all, building new bridges, but you can do it if you choose to do it. It will be messy and it will be imperfect and there will be setbacks. Keep at it.

4) What is good or right about it? 

Well, then what is good about the situation? What is right with it? This is a good exercise to do to help you think of even more options open to you.

What about bonding socially over a good complaint? What will I talk about instead?

Go through these questions with your friends. People also bond over creative problem solving. People also like being asked for help and being helpful (which will also get you off the toxic friend list). 

There is a huge difference between dumping (complaining) and sincerely asking for help. Dumping on someone makes them feel useless and it gives them your garbage without a means to get rid of it. Asking for help makes them feel useful. Which ones makes you feel better?

Problem solving is a real mood booster to all involved, even if you don't actually put the solution into action. Obviously, putting said plan into action will boost mood further.

Another benefit of enlisting a friend is that friend will serve as a support to you in putting your plan into place and making it work. If we are being honest, we get more done when we are being held accountable, right? 

So this week..... 

Practice Gratefulness.  Personally, I am going to do the dinner table thing because it is really hard being a non-complainer when those around you are complaining. I mean, because I am interested in improving the health of my loved ones.

Ask some questions when you find yourself complaining

For a real life, imperfect example of this, back to my dog food example. 

To be honest, I yelled a little (or maybe a lot), then I asked some questions.

Again to be honest, they weren't helpful questions at first. They were venting questions. Didn't I ask you to close the dog food container? Didn't you tell me if I bought a different dog food container, an easier dog food container, you would keep it closed? Then why am I seeing the dog's head buried in the new dog food container?

Then, I was able to ask some good questions fo myself.

What am I grateful for? That my kids feed the dogs and I don't (even a sarcastic grateful is better than none at all. It is a new habit after all, and imperfection is to be expected.)

What about the situation is bugging me? I don't want the dog to feel sick, and I don't want him to get sick and I don't want to clean it up (because it will be me).

What do I want the situation to be? I want the damn dog food container closed, always, and I want my kids (not me) to continue to feed the dogs.

What can I change? I can do it myself, but I don't like this option, so.....

I ask a friend or the person responsible for the current situation. First I share my answers above including that I was grateful that she did this, and what my concerns were with current situation and not wanting to have to feed the dogs myself, then I asked, "What do you think would help so that this situation doesn't happen again?" Now she felt better because not only was she not feeling like she was in trouble anymore and helpless to change a situation that was in the past, but she could talk about what could be done in the future. So, we came up with the solution that she would ask me to double check the container when she was done. Not an ideal solution for lazy me, but we are building new habits here, so I'll do it.

On the third day, she wanted to just tell me she closed it. Now it is getting closed without my help at all. We may have a slip up again in the future, but now we have a mutually agreed upon plan to get us back on track, and as a added incentive, I told her I would have her brother check on it if it happened again. He would love to check up on her, and she would like anything but that to happen, so I'm thinking Duke the dog's days of easy, free, eating are over (I hope). 

If I'm wrong, and my experiment fails, I still have these tools available and complaining alone is still not helpful.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

30 Day No Complaining Challenge *

(*Just Kidding, I think I can only last a week, but 30 days sounded way better.)

Do ya'll ever feel like you complain to much? Lately, I've been on this simplifying your life kick, and "don't worry about crap that doesn't matter" always seems to be on a list, and "don't waste your time complaining," so I've been thinking about how much I yell complain. Do I complain a lot?

I want to say I don't complain a lot, but I think I actually do. Like, when I walk through the laundry room, I see the clean folded clothes that the owner has ignored and not put away yet. I feel the legos that I have stepped on that have not been put away, as I try to reach the light switch to turn on the light that was left on, again. I hear the arguing my kids are doing over who kicked whom first under the table and whether it was an accident or not.

I don't think I am different than most people when I say I notice more of what isn't done than what is. I guess I could ask those I live with, but somehow I don't think I will get an unbiased opinion on the matter.

I have read the inspirational quotes that say things like "A messy home is a sign of loved ones living there or time well spent or whatever."

Yes, I agree with that. I treasure my wonderful family and our house full of fur babies. I just wish I wasn't always picking up, vacuuming up, and wiping up the signs of life and love.

So, I read, understand, and feel guilty over these lovely quotes, but I never endeavor to really live their meaning. I do a quick "Yes, I am blessed" thought and move on, never really cleansing myself of the resentment the undone thing I am complaining about brings with it.

I imagine the woman who wrote that is a calm, pulled together Zen like creature with her shit together, who I also like to think has naughty kids half dressed, fighting behind her, but I only want to think that to make myself feel better about the mothering powers of this fictional person I made up. And....I just realized how crazy I sound that I just put this totally made-up person on a pedestal only to tear her down. Shut-up, you know you do it too.

Anyway, despite the fact that I want to hate that fictional person, I also want to be like her in the sense that I truly feel grateful for what I have and not just going through the motions. I mean, I am grateful, but sometimes (or a lot of times) I would like some help and to feel appreciated while feeling grateful. I want my cake and I want to eat it too because what is the use of having a cake if you can't eat it??

However.....I also realize that you can't change other people. You can only change yourself. I have a hypothesis though, that if I change myself and how I interact with the people I wish I could change, I will end up changing their behavior as well.

I want you to do it with me because misery loves company (and OMF, see that "misery loves company = complaining. I just realized that I complained about the anti-complaining campaign I am doing!! See, it is so ingrained.)

And I want togetherness because having some accountability and sharing of experiences helps make the goal more achievable because you are more likely to stick to it. So share with a buddy and let each other know how you are doing with your "no complaining". What has been challenging for you? What have your successes been? Share in the comments if you are feeling up to it.

If you are thinking of not doing it, because you are worried you won't do it well, do it anyway. This is an experiment. There is no wrong or right with an experiment. There is only learning and trying again.

Truthfully, there is a lot worth complaining about in the world, but I can't say I have ever felt better after I bitch about something, so I'm okay with trying some new strategies. I can always return to bitching later. Who knows, maybe I will learn to do it even better after this.

Success for me wouldn't be not complaining ever again. Success would be just being more aware of how I speak about life and to people, and trying out some new ways to see how I like it and what, if anything, it does for me.

My plan of attack:

First, I need to get a handle on how much I really complain, so I will take a few days to get a feel for how big the issue is. That will also help me figure out how I will define "complaining". Is complaining ever okay or called for, or is it a "lazy" response?

Second, Embrace and understand the complaining. What does complaining do for me? Why do I do it and in what situations?

Third, What are the obstacles to stopping? One is that I think complaining is easy and relatable, so I will have to come up with some replacement behaviors.

It is really hard to change a habit, without replacing it with something else.  Take small talk for example, "Whew, it is so hot lately." That's technically complaining. "How was your weekend?" "So busy. We had this, that and the other to do." Complaining.

Fourth, assess, modify, and repeat. Did it matter? Do I want to continue?

So the next couple of days, I will just notice how much I complain. I won't worry about changing it, but if I do I'll just call it a happy side effect of awareness. The focus is on data gathering only.  If you have some strategies to share, please put them in the comments or email them to me.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Book Review and 4 Lessons You Can Implement Today from "The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck"

When I read nonfiction it is with the intent to learn something that I can apply to my own life, and "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*uck" by Mark Manson didn't disappoint. Sometimes, I read reviews before purchasing to see if someone will just summarize it for me, so I don't waste 3 or so hours reading what could have been summed up in a couple of paragraphs.

That isn't the case here. There were a number of gems in this short book, and I would recommend it to read because there are things in the book that I may not hit on, but will mean something to you.

Having said that, it is laced with the F-bomb, so if you can't get past that, them maybe just stick to this summary.  I personally don't have this issue (as those that know me well know).

Lesson 1: 

Dropping the F-bomb occasionally is the secret to happiness. I jest, I jest.  Real lesson #1:

Our Culture Screws up the Definition of Happiness.

Manson states, “Our culture today is obsessively focused on unrealistic positive expectations: Be happier. Be healthier. Be the best, better than the rest.” and that "all the positive and happy self-help stuff we hear all the time-is actually fixating on what you lack. It lasers in on what you perceive your personal shortcomings and failures to already be, then emphasizes them for you."

Like when I say, I am a pretty happy person now, but I want to learn how to be happier, then I start seeking all the ways, methods, things that could make me even happier. So, now instead of focusing on what I have going for me now that makes me happy, I am chasing what I think I am missing, on what I am lacking.

Also, it makes us believe that if we aren't happy, then there must be something wrong with us that needs to be fixed or we must immediately do something about it. As humans we are wired to do what is easy to make us feel better immediately like eating a gallon of ice cream, vegging out on the sofa, mindlessly surfing the internet. Sometimes that chase to feel good turns into an addictive cycle as we try to ignore, numb, or mask a deeper pain.  Whereas, if we just admit to ourselves that "I feel like shit today, and that's okay", then we can sit in that for a while, decide if it's necessary to do something about it or if it is just a passing mood and to wait it out (perhaps with ice cream). This is a healthy, normal thing.

However, this is not what happens most of the time. Instead when we feel like poo, it makes us uncomfortable. We panic and rush to distract ourselves in our attempt to pretend everything is okay, and not even giving ourselves a chance to look at what is making us run in the first place.  Then we keep running, until we become exhausted and break.

As humans we have an ability to feel a huge range of emotions. We are not built to feel one or two emotions. Too much sunshine kills things (as my garden can attest). We need the sun, the rain, the cold, the warmth, etc..  People who are not able to feel a wide range of emotions are typically psychopaths. Let's not aspire to be psychopaths.

That song that comes on the radio that you love because it helped you through hard times probably comes from someone else's willingness to wallow in some pretty shitty emotions. Likewise, your ability to face and deal with unsavory emotional states allows you to empathize with your fellow man (opposite of psychopath), and may even drive you to make the world a better place.

So name it and feel it, then go have a bowl of ice cream and revel in feeling crappy for a bit.

So if happiness isn't feeling happy all the time, then what does make you happy?

Lesson 2: Choose Better Problems then Give Less F*cks to Everything Else.

I don't want problems. I want to be happy. Well, Manson gives this advice: you are going to have problems that you get worked up about whether you choose them or not, so why not choose what is worthy of your time?

Manson gives the example of the lady in the grocery store line that gets all worked up over her coupons not working. She is yelling and throwing a fit and holding up the line over $.75, and you are thinking, "For the love of god, here is $.75!"

Yet, you know she doesn't want your $.75. She wants to be angry over the establishment trying to cheat her time and time again, and she is not going to take it anymore! And.....she doesn't have anything else in her life to get all worked up about, so it's the coupons.

How do we prevent this coupon catastrophe or it's equivalent from happening to us?  

Choose better values. Better values helps you pick better problems. The book goes into a lot more details about "shitty" values versus the right values and it is worth the read if you want something extra here. Make no mistake, not making a choice is still making a choice.

Coupon lady could pick some cause to get behind that that line up with her values, and I am guessing she will feel way better about herself for getting passionate over something more worthy of her time than yelling at the poor checkout person just trying to make a living.

Here is a quick exercise to find your values. What are the top 5 things that matter most to you in this world? Family? Starting or growing your business or career? Being kind? Helping the less privileged? Animal welfare? Education? 

I love to read, and I think education is important, so I could volunteer to tutor someone who needs help. I can share my list of tope 10 children's books. I could lobby for education reform. I could make a point to read to my kids every night and help them discover a passion for reading. I could choose to stay at home and read for hours on end. There are a million things big and small that you could do once you identify values that matter to you.

The secret to happiness is knowing what to get worked up about. Having good problems in your life (like so many books, so little time), and giving zero fucks to everything else.  

When you find yourself getting worked up, take a step back and think 1) What are you really upset about here? 2) In the big picture, is it worth giving a fuck about? If not, let that shit go and move on.
Speaking of moving on......

Lesson 3: Action

You've made your list of 3-5 things that matter most now it is time to take action.

Action leads to happiness.

Now you have to get to work. Put your money where your mouth is. Do something that lines up with the values you picked (and again, let the rest go).

Spoiler alert: "easy" doesn't necessary lead to happy.

Sitting on the couch bing watching Game of Thrones won't make you happy in the long term, but achieving something will. The harder it is, the prouder you are, and the happier you will be.

Kids are a great example of this. I love my kids more than life itself. However, they are also messy, inconvenient, loud, expensive, and cause endless amounts of stress and worry. They bring home countless illnesses which they share with me (who doesn't love a good stomach virus?). They change how and where I vacation, and even where I eat. Parenting isn't easy, but they have brought me more happiness, fulfillment and growth than I could ever have imagined, and I wouldn't change any of it.

Running a marathon, climbing Mt Everest, starting a business, even putting yourself out there to meet new people when you are terrified of doing it, taking action and doing the hard thing (and what is hard for me may not be hard for you), is what will lead to happiness.

However, two things generally stand in the way of taking action. Procrastination and Fear of Failure.


Often we procrastinate because we don't know where to start and because it takes a lot of energy to get over our inertia, so we sit around and wait for enough inspiration or motivation to hit us that we get moving.

Here is a Manson nugget that resonated with me. Inspiration comes after action.

You start something, anything, even a tiny step works. Like writer's block, the way to overcome it is to write. Write your name. Write "I don't know what to write." Write anything, but write something, and keep at it. Inspiration and motivation will follow action, not the other way around. 

I do this with the gym. I promise myself I will go and do something for at least 5 minutes, and I have literally gotten on the treadmill, warmed up for 5 minutes, walked down stairs, and just kept heading for the door and said, "Nope, not today." And, I didn't beat myself up for it because I know I will be back and most days won't be like today. 

Try this. Do something for 15 minutes towards your goal every day.  What if it still doesn't work or solve my problem or accomplish anything? What if I fail? I am glad you ask.

Fear of Failure

You probably will fail and you will probably fail many times. Again, if it were easy, you would already be doing it. If you aren't willing to fail, then you aren't willing to succeed.  So do your 15 minutes everyday to practice failing and to build your anti-procrastination muscle until one day you aren't failing any longer.

Lesson 4: You Are Not Special

This one is my favorite. At first I was like, "What? I'm special. We are all special in our own way." But if we are all special, then no one is special, right? 

Think about this for a minute. How much time and effort do we waste trying to prove we are special? We photoshop the crap out of our social media photos and post the highlights of our lives so people can witness the specialness that is us. We buy the "right clothes", go to the "right" places, and our children are so gifted and talented and special, that they are not allowed to mess up anymore. 

But.....Remember, no failing, no mistakes = no learning, unless it is to learn that something is wrong with you if you aren't happy and special. Wonder why anxiety in children and adults is at an all time high?

So if you aren't special, then you must be ordinary, and that doesn't sound so great.

However, there is power in ordinary. Being ordinary is awesome! I can screw up! I can finally learn to paint without fear of being terrible because I am not specially gifted. I am ordinary. I can volunteer to lead this group. I'll do my best, but at the end of the day I'm just an ordinary person doing her best.

I don't need to have the perfect husband, the perfect children, and have perfect hair, makeup, and a manicure for my perfect photos on my perfect vacation. I am free to be ordinary. I can have an ordinary vacation, sipping ordinary margaritas and not shave my legs or wear a bra all week. Hell, I don't even have to post a picture of it because I chose bigger problems to worry about than what other people think about me posting or not posting and filtering my selfies.

Even more importantly, Manson points out, than being free from looking and being special (or more honestly faking it), is being free to appreciate the extraordinary in every day things. Like a quiet evening at home with the hubs sipping wine while our kids watch the original Star Wars for the first time and realizing that the next generation is hooked on something you love too. This is a real, ordinary moment that I treasure, and it didn't even make it onto Facebook.  

You don't have to be CEO of a company. You don't have to find a cure to cancer. You don't have to make it to the Olympics. It's great that there are people out there who strive to do great things, and if that is what is most important to you, if that is the problem you picked worthy of your time, that's awesome. However, if your ordinary family, friends and soap making hobby is what lights a fire in you, and your ordinary low stress job and frugal lifestyle support it, that is wonderful too.

So stop worrying about being special because lucky you, you aren't.

Summary of the Summary

You can be ordinary and be happy if you don't expect to be happy all the time, don't run from things that make you unhappy, choose the right problems based on the right values and let the rest go, take action around those problems and lastly, embrace and be proud of being ordinary.

Here is a bonus tip that works for me when I find myself getting sucked into drama not really worth my time, "Not my circus, not my monkeys."

So today...
1) Forget about chasing happiness and....
2) Figure out what your values are and choose how to focus it, and ignore all the other bullshit.
3) Take action on that problem (even if it's for 15 minutes a day)
4)  Realize you aren't special and go enjoy the crap out of your ordinary life.
5) Then go buy this book so you can read more about the how, and as a reminder when you start to give too many f*cks about things that don't deserve your time.

Friday, August 24, 2018

It started with saving turtles

The following is a true story about turtles. Maybe you don't care about turtles, and that is okay. Turtles aren't the point. This is a story about starting something small, and watching it turn into something bigger.


This sense of drowning in too much has been weighing on me lately, so I have been looking for ways to simplify my life. I find I no longer have the patience to keep up with so much stuff, so I have been reading a lot about simplifying, and that lead to reading about the affects of so much stuff on the planet.

While I want to do more for the planet, I have to admit, I have put off doing much because I like convenience. I like easy, and being more "green" seems like so much work. Work I haven't been really ready to tackle yet. Plus, how much will whatever I do really matter anyway in the grand scheme of things?

So change was slow because I hadn't committed to anything yet. Until the turtles.

I read this article about floating piles of garbage. My son has lamented on it at dinner before, saying how they are huge islands of plastic garbage floating around in the oceans, but honestly, I didn't get it. I mean, he was10 at that time. A rock in a lake big enough for him to sit on is an "island".

These islands are no joke. If you combine all the plastic islands in the Pacific Ocean alone guess how big it is? 5,800,000 square miles. That is twice the size of Texas and nearly 9 feet deep. 8,000,000 million tons of plastic ends up in our oceans each year. The average American discards 185 pounds of plastic annually. 300,000,000 tons of plastic is produced annually. These are huge numbers.

What about recycling you say? Only 5% of post consumer plastic is recycled in the United States each year.

The islands are formed from micro-plastic particles that have degraded overtime and those particles mix with the plastic trash like water bottles, and even things like shoes, fishing nets, and computer monitors. Those things find their way to massive circular currents and a trash island is born. Birds, fish, marine mammals, and turtles, ingest the plastic particles and trash, or get stuck in the refuse.

Following this article I stumbled upon, we took our annual trip to the beach, where my kids discovered that turtles are dying because of plastic straws up their nose and mistaking plastic bags for jelly fish.

That beach trip was the last time the kids have used a plastic straw.  It's been roughly 3 months and no straws eating out, or at Starbucks or anywhere. None. They haven't cracked once, and my daughter has sworn off all things glitter (for a 9 year old girl, this is a major commitment. Not that we took the drastic measure of throwing away current glitter outfits, but no new glitter garments or crafts).

Yet, I was slow to join the cause, and, I may have said out loud something to the effect of what can one person do? To which the reply was something like it has to start with one person. Out of the mouths of babes, right?

So, what can I do? I can stop buying glitter or things with glitter (huge environmental problem). I can stop using straws, and I can stop using plastic bags.

Ahh, the plastic bags. Saving turtles lines up with one of my other peeves. Plastic bags.

My conscious won't allow me to throw them in the trash, so I keep them then take them back to the store to put in that bag recycle bin. Only I forget, then I have this huge mountain of bags I schlep to the grocery store, and spend way more time than I want stuffing them in that bin. I hate it. My hate is strong for this task, so the turtles and I share the same goal here. Plus, saying I am saving turtles sounds way cooler (and more sane) than erupting in a scorching rant about being too lazy to recycle plastic bags.

I take re-usuable bags to the grocery store already, but I hadn't to other stores. Like when I only buy batteries I still get a plastic bag, even though it will fit in my purse. I don't even think about it, I just blindly accept the bag.

Once I started noticing, I decided to try out not using a bag. What would I say? Would they look at me like a weirdo? Wouldn't it be simpler to just take the damn bag? How many times have I wanted to say 'no bag', but forgot? What was going to keep me on track with this this time?

I came up with two solutions. One, I keep a fold up bag in my purse foldable re-usable, washable bags). This is a set of 4 for $13.99 and they are super cute.
And we use these reusable straws which are stainless steel, but here are super cute and colorful silicon ones available as well.

The second solution to not wanting to look like a weirdo and staying committed...that was harder. I decided to tell my kids what I wanted to do and why (to save the cute little turtles). You better believe they have no problem reminding me at the check out to not take a bag.

They also have no fear of looking like a weirdo if it will save a turtle, and no one looks at them weirdly, instead they say, "Awww, isn't that cute."

When they are not with me, they are like these little angels on my shoulder reminding me to remember not to take the bag. Save the turtles.  (Okay, plus they look for plastic bags and act like two tiny devils if they see one in the house, equally effective).

Desire alone isn't enough. My pain with plastic bags alone is not enough to make a change. You need find a big enough reason to make any change, and re-enforce it with accountability (aka a big dose of guilt from my kids and a desire not to disappoint them. Oh, and to save the turtles, of course.)

Just as an aside, I haven't gotten one weird reaction at all by skipping the bag. I don't have to say I am saving turtles or some other lengthy explanation for my weirdness. I just say, "I don't need a bag. Thanks."

So, will I change the world? Will I get rid of floating garbage islands with this one change? Of course not, but sometimes all it takes is that one weirdo to make something not so weird, and if enough weirdos join me, that positive change spreads. It becomes normalized, and we slowly produce change in the world.  Worst case scenario, it's only my family, and we still are doing something, and that is better than nothing.

I'm confident in swaying other weirdos to join me though. My husband has jumped in on the no straw bandwagon, and now his co-workers do it too. The other day, I said, "No thanks, I don't need a bag," for my one item purchased. As I was putting my wallet away and leaving, I heard the person behind me say, "I don't need a bag either." Weirdness spreading. My heart felt lighter, I felt more energetic, and I felt connected with a total stranger in this one little thing.

The point is, this isn't just about turtles. Although I hope from reading this I have convinced you to reduce your plastic consumption even if just a little, but the bigger picture here is that there are things in our life that we want to take on, but we are afraid. Maybe we are afraid that it will be too difficult. Maybe we are afraid that we will fail. Maybe we are afraid that we will try it and not like it. Maybe it all seems like such a huge undertaking, and we are just too lazy to tackle it, and we are afraid to admit that we are too lazy.

First you find a strong enough reason to take the first step, your "why". For me, it was supporting my kids to be the good, kind and caring people I say I want them to be (not really the turtles, even though they are super cute).

Second, you take the tiniest first step you can imagine. If you take the first step, it helps you to build the momentum to take the next, and the next, whether it be for the good of the environment or for your own good in your own little world. Tiny steps make big changes, and we just might save those turtles yet.

Friday, June 29, 2018

How to Get a Hold of Yourself When You Start Losing It

Someone cuts you off in traffic and an expletive (or two) slips out.

You have a presentation, and you feel like you are going to throw up you are so nervous.

You've asked your kids to pick up their stuff 5 times, and there it still sits, and you ask them to pick it up a lot louder and angrier than you intended.

Or, maybe you are just in a general funk lately, angry, irritable, or maybe just a little sad.

So how do you pull yourself out of your funk, lessen the anxiety you feel in given situation, not snap or make sarcastic remarks to your loved ones as you are unloading the dishwasher yet AGAIN, and refrain from teaching your children new words in the car? I have two techniques for you.

1. Use Your Words 

Yes, the advice given to toddlers every where will also work on adults. Let me explain how.

Lisa Feldman Barrett a neuroscientist at Northeastern University (after decades of research) believes our brain's primary job is to keep you alive (not to regulate your emotional responses), and it does that through predictions. Then those predictions become our feelings or emotions and the emotions we perceive in others. You can influence these predictions 
and  therefore regulate your emotional reactions through reframing and using your words.  Here is how:

"Name That Emotion"

If we can more precisely name the emotion we are feeling, then we are better able to choose an appropriate response or choose not to respond at all. I bet we all can think of a circumstance when we wish we would have not responded.

Say you come home in a really bad mood, snap at your kids, your spouse, and one of them asks you why are you so angry, and you respond angrily, "I'm just in a bad mood."

Now if you play "Name That Emotion" and start to really identify and then name what you are feeling, you can help dispel the funk holding you hostage, and pick a more appropriate reaction. Here is an example:

Say you are in a bad mood because you had to give a last minute presentation for your co-worker who was out of the office (again), and it didn't go well because you didn't have time to prepare, and our boss's boss was in the audience, so now you are afraid that you look like an idiot. 

So instead of saying "I'm in a bad mood", which is a hugely simplistic version of what you are feeling, you identify and name those emotions and their cause. I'm irritated and angry that my co-worker was out again, and I had to pick up the slack. I am hurt that my manager asked me to do it, and I feel like I am being taken for grantedI am mortified and ashamed that the new Director thinks that presentation is my best work, and all I want to do is crawl under my covers and not come out for a long long time.

So imagine saying those words instead of snapping at your loved ones. You have identified what you feel, and you know it's not your kids or your spouse, and now you can choose a more appropriate response with the right people (your boss and co-worker) if you choose to do so. I'm also guessing you are going to get a much needed hug from someone who loves you which is always better than the post yelling guilt feeling.

You can even do this after the blow up. 

I've snapped at my kids to go to bed after a long day. (When I say "snapped" I might mean yell like a crazed banshee.)  Then (during post yell guilt) I name that emotion..."I am so tired and done with this day, and I need time to myself now to see if I can salvage my sanity." Then I go and tuck them in, apologize for yelling like a crazed banshee (which gets them laughing, a bonus side effect of creatively using your words) and say, I'm really tired and done with this day, and I need you to go to bed now.

Learn New Words

Don't just use your words, learn new words. The more precisely you can name that emotion the better for your health, and I am going to go out on a limb here and say the better for your relationships.

Studies have shown that people who exhibit higher emotional granularity go to the doctor less, use less medication, spend fewer days hospitalized, are less likely to drink excessively when stressed (probably eat less when stressed too, but I can't point to a study on that), and are less likely to react aggressively against someone who has hurt them. 

Lessen Anxiety

Using your words doesn't just help with anger, but all emotions, even the good ones, and can help lessen anxiety. 

There was a study done with people who were terrified of spiders. In treating phobias, there are two popular techniques. One, describe the spider in a non-threatening way, and the second is distraction. The study introduced, "name that emotion" as a third treatment (they didn't call it that because that is very scientific-y), and told the participants to call it like it is in excruciating and granular detail. "There is a horrendous, ugly, terrifying, spider in front of me, and I can feel it's creepy little legs practically crawling over my skin, yet I am oddly fascinated by it (from a great distance)." 

Those in the third group was the least anxious in observing the spiders, and the effect lasted a week beyond the experiment.

You can also invent your own emotional concepts

Use concepts when just one word won't do, like I did with the crazed banshee description, or describing a good feeling as "Like finding a $20 in your pocket". 

My son invented his own curse words a a substitute for the new words describing anger and frustration he may or may not have learned in the car. When he got frustrated and upset he said, "Ploopy". We all started saying ploopy, and you know what? It is impossible to be really mad when saying "ploopy" and you are not going to get a call from a teacher for that word being used. Speaking of kids...

Helping kids identify their feelings will not only give them the same benefits listed above as adults, but it will also help them (and you) right now.

I have found nothing calms a tantrum or a bad mood faster than getting down eye level with a kid, and helping them name what they are really upset about it.  You aren't solving their problem for them, rather you are giving them the gift of learning how to deal with their emotions and solve their own problems. 

When my son is hurt he responds with anger. When my daughter is hurt, angry, etc., she cries. Helping them identify and name the emotions they are feeling helps them choose a better response (One that doesn't involve hitting a sibling because you are really hurt that they won't play with you right now. Hypothetically speaking of course.)

Also, studies have shown that children who read a lot have higher emotional intelligence and can empathize better than children who don't read a lot, especially books with emotionally complex characters who are not all "good" or all "bad"). Learning empathy and learning new words is a win win.

In Summary: 

An emotionally intelligent person has lots of words and concepts AND also knows which ones to use and when.  

So next time you feel your body/brain reacting ask yourself what really concerns you about the situation? What are you really reacting to? Are you really angry or are you hurt? Are you really mad at the person who didn't return your call or do you feel rejected? This will allow you to choose the most appropriate response for that situation.

2. Reframing

Reframing or recategorizing is a useful tool. I call it the

"What else could be true?" Game.

My husband's commute is horrible, and he often finds himself sitting in traffic because of an accident. He used to get really agitated and worked up, but now he tells himself there is someone up ahead of him who is definitely having a worse day than he is. As an added bonus for me, this reframing means that I don't also have to be tortured with a play by play of the commute from hell. 

I do the same when someone cuts me off or is racing through traffic. I say maybe they aren't a self-entitled jerk. Maybe they are rushing a loved one to the emergency room or rushing to get to a loved one in the hospital. Morbid and depressing? Probably, but it erases (most) of my irritation, and doesn't ruin my day. 

When you are feeling butterflies and other signs of anxiety you can tell yourself that your physical feelings are signs that what you are about to do will be a disaster doomed to failure, or you can say, "hey, this is my body feeling excited and getting ready to do something. A normal bodily function."  

Your brain and body don't assign the concept of emotion to a physical sensation. You do with your words.

Before a horse show or a Tae Kwon Do test, I ask my kids if they are nervous (name the emotion). Usually the answer is yes. Then I say, good, that is your body getting excited to do what it has been trained to do. So now, they recognize that their body isn't trying to betray them, but getting them ready to do great things. 

When you perceive someone has slighted you in some way, and you feel angry, hurt, rejected, etc., you can play "What Else Is True" and make sure one of the stories include a re-categorization of it's "not about me"

They may not have seen you wave at them because they were worried about their sick aunt. They may not have answered your text for a hundred different reasons that have nothing to do with you. They may have turned down your invite to something because they suffer from social anxiety themselves. Maybe they really are jerks, but again, you don't cause them to be a jerk (despite what they may claim). They are jerks because of something they are dealing with or not dealing with. People carry their own baggage with them just like you do

Bottom Line: You can get all worked up by your assumed story, or you can make up a different one that makes it not about you.

It ain't easy and It Takes Practice

As a pessimist/realist I struggle with this almost daily. Like, what really are the odds that jerk who cut me off was rushing the emergency room? Probably not likely, but it could happen, so I'll make a decision to choose to believe he or she is doing just that, and let it go as I happily go about my day versus my more "realistic" version of events that leaves me pissed off for a while afterwards.

Am I perfect at it? Far, far from it (PMS weeks are definitely harder), but I keep at it because when I do it, it works. One day, I will be walking around in peaceful, zen-like bliss, I have no doubt.

It can also be fun, especially with your kids. Be creative, use words from different cultures and languages. Teach them about ASSuming. Make up your own emotional concepts, and watch your negative emotions evaporate or at least lessen their grip on you.

So this week try it for yourself. 1)Name that emotion and 2) Reframe and see how it works for you.

If you want to learn more Lisa Feldman Barrett wrote: How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain 

You might also like: How to Get Your Husband to Empty the Dishwasher and Other Secrets to Life

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Why We Should Talk About Suicide as an Illness (even if you don't totally buy it.)

What got me really thinking about this was a FB comment I read while reading about Anthony Bourdain's suicide.  The comment went like this, "It was a terribly selfish act and I don't feel sorry for him, but I do for his poor kid. How can someone be so selfish?" This was followed by a long string of comments debating whether the act of suicide is a selfish choice or a mental illness and therefore not really a choice. Then of course there was Val Kilmer's rant on the matter.

After reading through these comments, which wasn't the first time I've been privy to this debate, I came to the conclusion that my opinion or yours on the selfishness of the person committing suicide or whether or not it is selfish doesn't matter.

It. Doesn't. Matter.

It doesn't matter whether or not you or I think it is selfish. Our opinion on the selfishness of the act itself doesn't do a damned thing to prevent another needless death. It doesn't comfort the family and friends left behind. It doesn't in any way, shape or form help. Anyone.

What it does do is allow us to rationalize why this disease doesn't or won't effect us, and gives us a false sense of security and control. It allows us to go on believing (or hoping) this will ever effect us.

Even if you truly believe this to be true, you should keep it to yourself because should the unthinkable occur and a loved one or someone you know is entertaining thoughts of suicide your stated beliefs or values may keep those you love most dearly from coming to you (or anyone) for help.

I know it doesn't seem like our children listen to us or hold much stock in our opinions, but they do believe it or not. They are listening to what we say and what we do all the time.  Don't underestimate a young child with big ears and insatiable curiosity listening to you discuss this with another adult. They hear and more importantly they remember your words, and the judgment you inject into those words, and that stays with them all the way to their vulnerable tween and teen years.

So when you say, "It's an act of selfishness." With this simple statement you are implying weakness of character in an individual, and your opinion is what your child or loved one hears, feels and holds in their heart. 

So, let's say you are right. It is a selfish act committed by a selfish individual. What if your teen with their underdeveloped brain enabling them to make stupid and rash decisions coupled with their large capacity for melodramatics starts thinking about suicide?

You are going to be the last person they come to for help. Even if they pretend they don't care what you think, we are always hustling for Mom and Dad's approval, so they would rather die (quite literally) than disappoint you or be criticized or judged or labeled as one of "those people".

I don't know about you, but I would rather forgo being right and stand a chance of saving my kid.

However, our teens aren't the only ones at risk. Middle age men are one of the most common victims of this disease. Besides the string of celebrities that make the news (Chester Bennington, Anthony Bourdain, Robin Williams) "regular" people also are victims of suicide.  Both my husband and I have had a middle aged colleague commit suicide, and I have had a family member commit suicide. We both worked in the corporate world, not with "temperamental artists" (for those who think this only strikes the creative types).

What are the odds of your child or a loved one ever thinking about suicide? Very likely. And, you will be the last one to know if you don't pull your head out of the sand.

Suicide is now ranked #10 for cause of death. That is one death every 12 minutes.

- It is the 2nd leading cause of death for people ages 10-34.
- It is the 4th leading cause of death for people ages 35-54
- It is the 8th leading cause of death for people ages 55-64.

The number of suicide rates have increased in every state over the past 2 decades. Some states have seen rates rise over 30% in that time.

Accidents are # 4 and no doubt some of these "accidents" are suicides as well.

Warning Signs

Even if you think you really know your loved one and know they aren't depressed or suffering from a mental illness, so none of this applies to you or anyone you know, you might want to check this out.

54% of those committing suicide didn't have a previously known (i.e. diagnosed) mental illness. They had relationship problems, physical health problems, recent unanticipated crisis, job or financial problems, and/or substance misuse problems. I think we have all know someone who has had one of these very common issues. 

However, suicide is complex. There are almost always multiple causes, including psychiatric illnesses, that may not have been recognized or treated.  Research findings have shown that mental disorders and substance abuse has been found in 90% of people who have died by suicide, so it is rarely that single event.  We might blame one thing, but that is overly simplistic. 

Also, people are very good at hiding pain from loved ones, so you might not know a loved one is suffering (silently and alone).  This is why you should start talking about mental illness as an illness and not a character flaw because you never know from what place the listener is coming from (or for that matter who is listening).  

How you talk about it all the time makes it safe to talk about. Being made to feel like a loser never helped anyone. So be a safe person to talk to by keeping your character evaluation to yourself because if it's safe to talk about to you, you might get a heads up. And this is important because.....

These illnesses are treatable.  If we talk about mental illness as an illness not the fault of the person, then we create a safe space for them to treat a problem they have instead of thinking they are the problem. See the difference? 

Most, but not all, people who die by suicide exhibit warning signs which include (but aren't limited to):

• Talking about wanting to die
• Looking for a way to kill oneself
• Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
• Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain (fyi depression can cause real physical pain)
• Talking about being a burden to others
• Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
• Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
• Sleeping too little or too much
• Withdrawing or feeling isolated
• Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
• Displaying extreme mood swings

The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. Warning signs are associated with suicide, but may not be what causes a suicide

So What Can You Do? What are the Risk Factors?

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) one thing you can do is reduce factors that increase risk and increase factors that promote resilience. 

Resilience is a skill that has to be practiced and often, and you should start to help your child develop it as soon as possible. Resilience is the ability to bounce back. It is the development of toughness and grit and protects from victim mentality and getting stuck in defeat. Strong problem solving skills and resilience go hand in hand. Those with it not only survive, they thrive. Those most successful in life have resilience or grit.

Here is a review on an awesome book with tools, How to Ensure Your Child's Success in Life. It has real life practice and examples to help your kids develop this life changing skill, and I couldn't love it more. However, you can also google the term "resilience", watch a TED Talk, read a different book, anything, but start helping you kids learn how to solve their problems in a healthy way (it will work for adults too).

However, I encourage you to not get stuck in research mode and immediately put some of these tools in action even if you are imperfect at it. One of the fastest ways to do this is to stop solving your kids' problems. Right now while they are small practice problems. Before they get to be big adult problems that you may not be around to solve. (Stop intervening in arguments with friends, stop bringing their homework or lunch to school, start asking them how they are going to solve their challenge, e.g. "How are you going to bring up this spelling grade? What are you going to do differently?") Ask them first how they would do it before telling.

This is just one thing you can do to help prevent, but it isn't the only factor. A sense of connectedness (like real connectedness, not social media connectedness) to loved ones and community also go a long way.

Here are more risk factors and protective factors:

What to Do If Someone Exhibits Warning Signs of Suicide

  • Do not leave the person alone
  • Remove any firearms, alcohol (i.e. liquid courage), drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt. 
    • This is't an anti-gun argument. Most people who commit suicide don't take a long time to carry out their decision once the decision has been made. They don't want to take the time to think about it because they may change their mind, so making it more inconvenient is better. Granted, this does not mean that they won't find another way, but you are buying time to intervene here, and easy access to a gun is not buying you time.
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK
  • Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.
  • Ask them directly, "Are you thinking about killing yourself?" 
  • BeThe1To has 5 action steps you can use to help someone in crisis. What they are, how to use them and Why they work can be found here:
The CDC has a ton of information and resources or if you want to take a deeper dive on the research, take a look on the website. This link is a good starting point.

The Suicide Prevention Lifeline in addition to having great information and resources also has a section on how you can help someone who may be contemplating suicide.

Also, did you know many social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube offer ways to report threats of suicide or self-harm? You can find a link to report your concerns directly to those media outlets, here:

So let's suspend judgement or at the very least keep it to yourself. Someone's life may depend on it.

Please know that if you lose someone to this disease, it is not your fault. There is support and help for you too. Resources for Suicide Loss Survivors