A friend of mine began a blog as part of a New Year’s resolution this year, which is awesome. Today’s post got me thinking about the reason it’s so important we understand why we are in control of our own life experience. Her excitement with her newfound love of the color blue and wondering why she’d never noticed it before led her to resolve to try one new thing out per month ensuring she experiences the world around her more fully. That’s perfect!
We have to learn to specifically intend to open our minds to the world around us. There is so much information coming into our brains at any given second that there is no way to process it all. Your mind filters all that information using and storing what's important to you. That's where your values, beliefs, experiences, and perspectives come in to play, through the filtering process. Her blue experience made blue matter to her so she saw it everywhere! It became a value and opened her world up to something new and amazing no matter how relatively insignificant and unimportant it may be in the grand scheme of things. An intention to pay attention to the things that you don't normally notice is a perfect way to expand your experience especially if you tend to get caught up in the day-to-day motions. Challenge yourself to do the same and have fun with it!
You can also check out Wondering Amy at: http://wonderingamy.blogspot.com/
Intentionally soaking it all in,
There's no better time than New Year's Day to pause, reflect, and dig down deep into your soul for the steps you'd really love to take but haven't for some reason or another. Can you think of ONE thing that you would LOVE to make happen in your life that you will dare to in 2013?I found my purpose and courage to step outside my box in early 2012 launching two businesses to follow my passion for helping people. My specific focuses are helping at-risk and high-risk young people realize their potential through a non-profit, TheyThinkAloud, and empowering young women and teen girls to take their lives by the reigns through my coaching practice, Design YOU! Prior to this decision I was full of reasons why I was waiting to do what I loved. Family, time, and resources were all in the way severely limiting my options as I perceived them. I finally came to a moment of deep reflection and assessment on another monotonous day of wasting away in the “working to pay the bills” routine. I had been working full-time while also working on degrees and certifications full-time for five years so one day when all of my schooling was complete I could do what I love for a living. The only problem was the more schooling I completed the more I desire to complete which continuously pushes the start point in my dream career further out of reach. I resolved to begin where I was with what I had and the brainstorming ensued. I couldn’t find an existing option that fit the needs I saw most pressing for the audience I sought to serve so I created one. Over a process of a few maniacal weeks I developed the concept and business plan for TheyThinkAloud and the organization came alive. During the same process the coaching business was born and is an amazingly fulfilling bonus! Luckily, my husband was on board with stretching our budget to the point of eating Ramen for a while and picking up the slack around the house, I am used to pushing myself to the brink to make things happen, and three of our children are old enough to entertain themselves when they need to. Why not wait? Because as any middle-income family raising children is aware there will always be some other obstacle. Conditions will never be perfect, nor will your schedule ever be perfectly clear.
So, for me, 2012 saw the birth of my dreams into reality when I resolved to make it happen. I've decided 2013 is about making MAGIC in my life, the lives of my clients, and the public I serve! What will you dare to make happen in 2013?
Preparing my magic dust,
Please understand the importance of self-awareness. Self-awareness is the BEST investment you can make for YOU and those around you. Knowing yourself, how you function, and why you function that way gives you the basis to tailor and create your world (relationships, career choice, education, experiences, etc.) to your desired fit promoting your happiness and well-being. It also gives you the information you need to know which behaviors, beliefs, and perspectives you would prefer to change and where to begin. You can begin with basic personality tests and research your new found knowledge from there. There are so many books out there summing up years of scientific research on a plethora of traits and characteristics with their strengths and weaknesses along with a myriad of tools and resources to equip you to use them to your advantage and protect yourself. Professional therapy is another VERY good option that is not reserved for the "cray, cray, crazy, special, insane, or disturbed.” The average person can benefit from therapy in SO many ways. For one, talking to an unbiased third party that does not know you from Adam is a very good way to air all of those things you hesitate to discuss with those around you for whatever reason. Just talking to a professional if only about day-to-day stressors will do amazing things for your psyche. I promise. We must all partake in becoming educated on the topic of human functioning beginning with self. There is absolutely no excuse in this age of information at your fingertips and therapeutic options on every other corner. If you do not have time to read, invest in Audible, audiobooks. Get the app on your smartphone and pay someone to read for you on the go. :) Feed your brain on a topic that contributes to your wellness that in turn contributes to the wellness of all those you come in contact with. Kk.
There is a good reason why individuals must have a desire to change. Deliberately making small changes and opening yourself up to alternative perspectives have biological impact on the brain. The nifty little malleable nature of the brain, neuroplasticity, makes it possible for default behaviors, perspectives, and beliefs to change as you will. Your brain is made up of neural pathways, networks, or highways, developed through repetition, reinforcement, and stimulation. The beautiful process of synaptogenesis, formation of new synapses, or gaps, between existing neurons, occurs every time you learn something new or create a new memory. The problem is that these synapses do not become new neural pathways, or highways, without use or repetition, reinforcement, or stimulation. Just as the mark may be placed for a new highway but without the work to develop the new structure it is soon forgotten. However, those that are nurtured, developed, and reinforced become our defaults over time. The individual must put in the work to use, reinforce, and develop new ways of thinking, behaving, or believing but that only happens when they become open to alternative ways of thinking, alternative perspectives, and develop an interest in learning, and changing behaviors. The key is to check your own bias. Take a step back, analyze, and question your own beliefs, perspectives, and behaviors. Are they a product of your own open-minded and deliberate development or were they externally fostered and never questioned?
I have not had the opportunity to blog in a while however; I felt the need to take some time today. As the nation mourns the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, I am quickened as a parent of three in elementary school and one soon to be, to do what I can to effect change. My heart breaks for the families suffering unimaginable loss this Sunday morning. As so many discuss gun control my natural inclination is people. Guns do not kill people. People kill people. While I absolutely support stricter gun control policies in very specific areas, e.g. that of military grade weaponry or psychological evaluations, the primary issue is not guns. Take away guns and the troubled individual will find another way. The primary issue is mental health. A psychologically stable person does not walk into an elementary school and murder hoards of innocent children, nor is this evil simply born and impossible to mitigate, nor does it develop overnight.
I recently read a post that I could not ignore. It stated, “People are already offering up solutions to this tragedy. There isn’t one. Evil people exist. They always will. Some people are simply born broken. They want to rape, kill, hurt, whatever. You can prepare for them, look out for them, and do your best to be vigilant, but you can’t legislate them or counsel them to not be broken.”
I highly disagree. People are not born broken, stating so attempts to remove all responsibility from the individual through the societal level. They may be born with an inherent predisposition to develop a condition (mental illness) but environmental factors (personal environment, including personal choice, and external or social environment) are found to trigger these conditions. We can minimize and mitigate severity and casualties. Nurture, awareness, sensitivity, and stigma contribute to the mental health crisis. The widely perpetuated stigma associated with an individual reaching out for help, seeking counseling, seeking therapy, or admitting he or she is struggling psychologically is the problem. The lack of education, awareness, and understanding of the signs and symptoms of mental illness is an issue. The hesitance of family members or friends to recognize, speak up, and take action on behalf of loved ones is an issue.
How do we combat the stigma? How do we increase awareness? How do we make reaching out the norm rather than the exception? I say make counseling a mandatory aspect of the educational trek from kindergarten through high school in the same way Physical Education (P.E.) is a requirement. Make counseling a weekly part of the educational experience in schools just as recess, lunch, and breaks are a requirement for physical health and nourishment. Make wellness a mandatory course to equip our children with the knowledge, resources, and skills to cope with stressors and nourish them psychologically. P. E. is required to increase awareness and physical health in an effort to reduce health costs. If the individual does not understand the importance of physical health or chooses to disregard it, the individual suffers. If an individual does not understand the importance of psychological health, the stakes are much higher as is clear in the wake of atrocities like Sandy Hook Elementary.
The needs of humanity are holistic. Academic and physical health are required for achievement and longevity; mental health, coping skills, and treatment are required if we are to prevent individuals hurting themselves or others. Remove the stigma and make reaching out the norm by instilling these concepts from entry-level education through graduation. By the time our next generation graduates high school psychological well-being is a way of life as opposed to a shameful secret. My goal is to reach out to my congressional representatives until one is willing to consider my proposal. My list is ready and waiting for Monday morning. Is it the ultimate solution? I do not know. My education and experience in the fields of criminology, sociology, and psychology may bias my opinion on the topic. It is a step nonetheless.
My deepest and most heartfelt condolences to all of the families suffering the loss of their precious babies. May you all feel the comfort, love, and prayers of nation mourning with you in the weeks to come.
- Kissing, hugging, and holding my babies extra tight,