happy face

I’d like to be happy. How about you?

For much of my life I have battled depression. Some of the depression is due to a loss or a challenge. Much of my book and coaching centers around changing thoughts and behaviors to minimize the impact of “for cause” depression, sadness, anger, and anxiety. I have found the best approach for this type of issue is to reframe how we see that situation. Most of the time we are blowing things out of proportion, wanting to change what can’t be changed (lacking acceptance), or seeing things not as they are but as colored by our past experiences. Talking through the dishonest beliefs we have about difficult situations can often provide relief.

The depression I am trying to work through now, the one that has visited me throughout my life, is the depression which seems to appear out of nowhere and for no reason. Cognitive behavioral therapy, the basis of much of what I do, does not work with this type of depression because there is nothing to talk about. The depression is not based in a specific issue or life event. The depression is more chemical or emotional. It is not due to external circumstances. What I am learning is because this type of depression is not grounded in the mind, the cures are not either. 

What I have found best to deal with this type of depression is to get out of my mind through meditation, exercise, connection, and service. I use meditation to stop the mental-monkey-chatter and hamster-wheel-of-anxiety. I turn to exercise to get out of my mind and into my body. Depression thrives in isolation because being alone allows the mind to continuously play the negative tape without end. Reaching out and connecting with others is a powerful tool to keep depression from expanding. A branch of connection is actively trying to serve others. Providing compassionate assistance to others, helps me get out of myself and my self-pity.

Photo by Lidya Nada on Unsplash

In my search to find help for depression, I stumbled on a group that is focusing on happiness. Until the last fifteen or so years, much psychologic research was focus on illness and negative experience (anger, sadness, clinical diagnoses).* The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley (GGSC) is researching happiness; defining it, quantifying it, and providing scientifically-based tools to help us learn to be happier.

Although some of us may think that either we are born happy or not, happiness is a learned trait. Three factors affect our happiness: our genes (50%), our environment or circumstances (10%), and how we approach things (40%).* We may not be able to change our genetics, but we do have control over much of our circumstances and all of how we approach things. I agree with the GGSC that we all have the power to affect our level of happiness.

I signed up for the Science of Happiness course being offered through GGSC. In my upcoming posts, I am sure you will see some of what I learn. Due to more loneliness, the rise of narcissism, and the increase in inequality, depression is becoming more prevalent in the United States.* We can do something for ourselves and for those around us. I encourage you to learn more at GGSC’s website and if you want some help and support in your own life, please reach out. We all deserve to be happy and joyful.

*from GGSC

reaching out

The Importance of Connection & Service

December 25th many people around the United States and the world will be celebrating Christmas with family and friends. Those celebrating and those not, may also be suffering mentally or physically. Stress, depression, hopelessness, and illness appear to be becoming more prevalent.

In November the LA Times published a very depressing article about the decline of life expectancy in the United States. Yes, you read that right. Life expectancy in what used to be considered a major world power, is now declining. More concerning to me is why there is a decline. The article described how chronic stress is the root cause of the increase in illness and premature death.

Unfortunately, I don’t have suggestions to fix the employment and healthcare challenges which often lead to this stress. Instead I would like to explore how connection and service can help lessen our stress and improve our health.

Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

Connection

As our tools for communication – internet, social media – increase, our ability to connect with others often decreases. One reason is that we are having monologues versus dialogues. Our posts are desperate cries for someone to see and notice us. The result is not connection, but more isolation brought about by comparison, jealously, and self-pity. When the posts do appear to be dialogues, they are usually still monologues spouting us-vs-them diatribes.

The result is loneliness. We have 500 Facebook friends, and no real-world friends. All of our personal facts and figures, data to describe us, are available online, but no one knows or can see what is in our heart. We are in constant communication but have no real connection.

To reconnect with those around you, turn off your computer and meet someone face-to-face. Use your telephone as the verbal tool it was initially created for, instead of as an isolating computer game. Next, listen more than you talk. Ask questions and really hear the answers. When you do talk, talk from the heart. Share your whole truth, not a censored truth projecting what you think others will be impressed by or what you think is the acceptable norm. True connection is found in our fears and foibles, more than a sanitized version of the truth.

Service

Loneliness and hopelessness grow when we isolate and detach. Instead, get out of yourself and help another. Maybe that means volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, a soup kitchen, or a women’s shelter. Maybe it means simply talking to the lonely widow in your building. The service you do is not as important as getting out of yourself and thinking of others.

When we feel poorly, we often reach for comfort food, a glass of wine, or an illicit substance to make the pain go away. Those may help for a little while, but they don’t last – and they often have lasting negative side effects or repercussions. Helping another has more positive effects and results for others and us. It helps us get out of ourselves and our own self-pity. In supporting another, we gain hope as we often see solutions for others we could not see for ourselves. Giving to others is not only charity, but is also one of the most selfish things we can do because it always makes us feel better.

We may not have power to change the economy, our employer, or the healthcare system. We do, however, always have the power to change our reaction to our circumstances. Focusing on pain, fear and worries only increases pain, fear and worry. When we choose instead to get out of our self by making true connections and giving freely in service, we find real happiness, hope and joy returning to us.

Wishing you all a happy, hopefully, and healthy 2020!

Balance

Change Your Focus – Change Your Experience

Neil Findlay was a guest on The Empowerment Show recently. In his episode, we discussed his charity work. He helps children living on the street in Madagascar who may be as young as five years old. No resources. No education. No future. A situation he could only describe as hopelessness.  He also works with teens in Australia who often turn to drugs and alcohol due to their family situations. The teens have access to everything – food, shelter, education, and technology yet the suicide rate is rising. Suicide is rare in Madagascar where living conditions are worse. This intrigued me. Why was one group in a truly hopeless situation yet the other group felt they were in a hopeless situation?

Melissa Heisler
Melissa Heisler

The difference between the two appears to be one of focus. The children of Madagascar only know what is around them. They are focused on the reality of their situation. They are focused on what they have in the present moment. The Australian teens are bombarded in the media by images of wealth and better lives which they do not have. The teens are focused on what they lack. They are focused on a future which seems unattainable. They are not in the present seeing the good that is around them. The result is a feeling of hopelessness.

Whenever I feel pain, stress, or depression, I can usually tie it to something I want. I am focused on something I don’t have. I am focused on some future event or thing I believe I need to have to feel safe, happy, or successful. The focus on what I lack drains me. It is the “as soon as” syndrome. As soon as I finish my book, get this speaking gig, make this amount of money, or complete this project then, I tell myself, things will be good. And while I am waiting for that thing that may or may not happen, I find myself unsettled, down, and not enjoying life. I am denying myself until that condition is met.

When I catch myself, I stop and immediately think of three things to be grateful for. What do I have right here and now that is fantastic? An abundance of healthy food, shelter, ability to read and write, a loving husband, sunshine, and a host of other things are always available for which to be grateful. Taking a second to be grateful also brings me back into the present moment. The present moment is the only one that I can affect and it is the one where I can find joy. I come back to the now and find joy in writing this post, hearing the birds chirp, and smelling dinner in the oven. Suddenly all of those future desires don’t matter so much.

Where are you focusing? How could coming back to the present help you re-frame what you have?

Melissa Heisler

“From Type-A to Type-ME: A Framework for Stress Reduction” Helps Improve Health and Provide Tools for Surviving a Challenging Job

New book is a powerful framework for reducing stress, improving well-being, increasing mental clarity, dealing with difficult people and facing challenging workplaces

CHICAGO (May 14, 2014) – After 10 years in the world of theater followed by nearly 20 years in senior corporate marketing positions, the stress of deadline-driven jobs led to author and speaker Melissa Heisler’s own mental and physical ill health. A trip to Peru awakened her to an understanding there was no outside reason for her pain – she was causing the pain she experienced. This awakening is not the end of her story but the beginning of her search for long-lasting means to manage the stress in her life. This journey is the foundation for her new book “From Type-A to Type-ME: A Framework for Stress Reduction.”

This no-nonsense, practical book provides a customizable framework to help readers reduce the level of their current stress and limit the amount of future stress. Heisler believes stress does not need to be part of human lives and she aims to help readers learn how to reduce its impact using tools including the Type-ME Habits of Awareness, Acceptance, Alternatives and Action.

“The American Psychological Association has reported that 77% of adults in the United States population are regularly experiencing physical symptoms due to stress. There is an enormous need to make significant changes to the level of stress experienced on a daily basis to improve not only physical health, but the quality of relationships, work and life in general,” said Heisler. “Through my own experience and those of my clients I know this stress can be reduced by empowering readers to change their lives through daily applications of the tools presented in my book.”

Heisler has launched a crowd-funding campaign to support editing, designing, producing and publishing the final manuscript. Of the total funds raised, 10% will be donated to the Pubslush Foundation for Literacy. The funding budget for this project has been fixed at $10,000.

To learn more, visit the “From Type-A to Type-ME: A Framework for Stress Reduction” Project Page: http://ww.BeTypeME.com  

 

ABOUT MELISSA HEISLER

Melissa Heisler is a stress reduction expert, speaker, author, and show host. She speaks to groups including Fortune 10 companies on stress reduction and the myth of work-life balance. Heisler hosts The Empowerment Show with guest experts in health, business, career, spirituality, and women’s issues. She is a contributing author for the books, “Be There Now: Travel Stories From Around the World” and “Defining Moments: A Gathering of Women’s Journeys.” Her first solo book, “From Type-A to Type-ME: A Framework for Stress Reduction” and her contribution to “Experiences of the Light” (Career Press / New Page Books) will both be published in 2014.

“Smart, loving, and clear-sighted, Melissa is just the coach to help you repair your own life and soul, so that you can help others without burning out.” – Martha Beck (Bestselling author of 6 books, columnist for O, the Oprah Magazine, and named one of the best known life coaches in America” by NPR, USA Today, and Psychology Today.)

Melissa Heisler

Empowering You to Empower Yourself – Melissa Heisler

Empowerment means the power of choice. Empowerment is about courage. It is the belief that we are in control of our experience. Empowerment is not about labeling good or bad, but about actively choosing what makes us happy in each and every moment. The journey to empowerment and great health is not linear and there is no quick fix. The journey is cyclical. There is a progression. We make a commitment, we make progress, we overcome new challenges, and we repeat. Each time, we move inch by inch to a better and better life. Our purpose is to experience the good, the bad and the ugly. Each challenge is an opportunity to go deeper.  Challenges are not setbacks but new lessons to help us expand and grow.

After years of my own physical and emotional health issues, I finally found relief through a mystical trip to Peru, but Shamanism was not the answer to a joyful healthy life. The answer is that I – You – We all have great health available to us right now. We have the power to uncover and embrace this health – mentally, physically, and emotionally. To uncover our health, we first need to accept that we are not broken. Yes, we may not be feeling our best, but we are not broken, diseased, or a victim of circumstances.

Melissa Heisler
Melissa Heisler

So much of our culture is focused on disease – having it, preventing it, suffering from it. Because of this, we see ourselves as broken, imperfect, and hopeless. In fact, we are not broken or hopeless.  We are simply out of alignment.  Beliefs, thoughts, perspectives, and actions are blocking us from our perfect health. The process of healing is to rediscover our health. Health is about making choice after choice to get us closer to alignment and what truly makes us feel good.

I am a recovering Type-A and am passionate about helping others release their stress, uncover perfect health, and embrace a more joyful life. We are all survivors in one way or another. Through our survival we are given tools to help, support, and comfort others. When we know we are not alone, it gives us the courage to make changes in our life.  We all have a powerful message. Through our stories we empower.

Learn how you can help share Melissa’s story and reduce the amount of stress in the world. 

Listen to this engaging episode to learn the impetus of The Empowerment Show and Melissa’s mission to help empower individuals to empower themselves and others. Big thanks to Jennifer Welker as she takes the guest host role so I can take the hot seat and share more of my journey and beliefs.