When I was a little girl I remember distinctly feeling quite often like my heart was about to burst from an overwhelming explosion of a million positive feelings that I felt I couldn’t contain. There was no name to neither the myriad of feelings, nor to the waves which were regularly pouring out of me. I felt like a volcano – and it was the best feeling in the whole wide world. I just couldn’t really let anyone know about it because it felt almost obscene: how could I – for no obvious reason – feel this joyful and happy and strong, when no one else around me seemed to ever experience anything similar? Or let alone when things were not going that well, even for me! And even if I had wanted to say something – the experience was so much bigger than words that I wouldn’t have known what to say to others to describe it.
The strategy I found to help these energies funnel out of me (so I wouldn’t explode), was to simply speak out loud and say “I love you”. It didn’t quite fit because I wasn’t loving myself in those moments, nor anyone else in particular: I just loved LIFE and everything and everyone in it. I would sing-song “I love you”, poem it, rap it, scream it, repeat it endlessly; I would also dance it, talk it, run it, hug it, walk it, laugh it…for however long it took until I felt I was no longer about to erupt.
I was known then, and still am now, as “one of the most energetically positive people anyone has ever met”, and I am pretty sure that’s where this reputation came from. Make no mistake: my life wasn’t then – and hasn’t been since – exclusively a bed of roses, by any means. This fountain of joy, this life energy, came from some deep blessed inner well. It has been a sacred gift, which has served me well in times of deep personal suffering and sorrow (even when it has been put to the test in unbearable ways at times), but most importantly has served me well in supporting others in times of their deep suffering and sorrow. I now clearly see that this gift is what brought me to be The Challenge Coach, putting this energy in service of others.
Listen to this song
(no – really! Take a few minutes and give yourself this gift) –
“There's nothing you can do that can't be done
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung
Nothing you can say, but you can learn how to play the game
Nothing you can make that can't be made
No one you can save that can't be saved
Nothing you can do, but you can learn how to be you in time
ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE!"
Rumi says that “Love is the bridge between us and EVERTHING”. The Beatles say it too: "there’s nothing that’s impossible when we have Love". And I’m certain that neither of them are talking about romantic love any more than I am – though there’s nothing wrong with romantic love. The Love of intimacy is just one of the many flavors (granted, a delicious one) of Love.
Since you probably don’t have all day, today we are going to focus on just a couple of kinds of love that I see as vitally important to our lifelong health and wellbeing: love towards others in the form of acts of kindness, and love towards ourselves in the form of self-care.
Love for others through acts of kindness
In January’s opening newsletter I introduced my Mama Jar – a gift of 180 love notes from my eldest daughter when she left for college.
Delving into the jar and trying to pick only ONE note to share with you this month, with a theme of love, was challenging to say the least. To me, every single note was a message of love (heck – the whole JAR was!!!) … and I just didn’t know which one to pick … so I let Leanne (my marketing fairy) pick instead. She chose this one:
"When you threw out the dried flowers I wanted to keep and I was upset, you went out and bought another bouquet for me. It is still in my room."
Buying my daughter a bunch of flowers to replace the ones I had mindlessly thrown out was such a small gesture, but both the sentiment and the flowers themselves have remained with her to this day, adding joy and happiness to her room and her heart.
Kindness is love made visible.
It won’t come as a surprise, then, that kindness and mental health are strongly connected. Research tells us that kindness reduces feelings of isolation and boosts a sense of belonging and connection. This in turn increases confidence, self-esteem and courage. And if all of this isn't enough to convince you of kindness’s value, the truly incredible thing about kindness is that it has a ripple effect. When we act kindly toward one person, that person is much more likely to be kinder toward others in turn. Have you heard of the butterfly effect? (if not, you can Google it or call me!). Our positive actions can have a real and long-lasting effect on the world, even if they start off very small.
So how can you start your own kindness ripple? Think who in your life can do with a little support, or maybe there is a stranger you would simply like to make smile. A few suggestions of what you can do TODAY include:
- Text a friend ‘good morning’ and start their day on the right note.
- Check in on a neighbor to see if they are okay or need anything. Wheeling out their trash bin is such a simple act that could make all the difference. Or do what my neighbor, John, does during every snow storm: he plows my driveway – without ever being asked or expecting anything in return! (and it’s a LONG driveway…).
- Take the time to thank a colleague and show appreciation for the work they’re doing.
- Shop and eat locally to help small-scale farmers and businesses, or you could even go one step further by leaving them a glowing review online.
- Smile at someone in the grocery store – just because; or (another one from the Mama Jar): “You taught me that telling people compliments to them directly changes their day”.
- Collect donations for a local foodbank.
- Join an online forum about a topic you genuinely enjoy or are passionate about, and share your knowledge: start discussions and answer questions for others.
Do this because:
- It will make you feel better (literally – your health, both mental and physical, will benefit).
- It will make others feel better (and therefore they will be healthier).
- It’s the gift that keeps on giving: your one smile or compliment to the barista at the coffee shop in the morning could keep on giving forever…changing the world, one small act of kindness at a time!
You must have heard the terms “Radical Kindness” (there are books and articles on this), or “Random Acts of Kindness” (find myriads of websites on the topic)? You might even have seen posts/videos on social media on the topic: folks, it’s real!! And…
YOU can be part of making this world a better place by starting now, with love disguised as small acts of kindness.
Love for yourself through the gift of self-care
When you travel by plane (remember those times?), your flight always begins with a safety demonstration. When the flight attendants are showing how to use the oxygen masks, what do they always say? “Make sure to put on your own mask first before assisting others.” You can’t possibly take care of others – or take care of any business for that matter - if you are not well.
Therefore, self-care is an absolute priority. It is not selfish: it is a matter of health and safety and I would even go one step further – it’s a matter of life and death. Which do you want to choose?
So, before you kick start your ripple of kindness towards others, ask yourself: what do you do for YOU?
- Are you sleeping enough? Go to bed early or switch off your morning alarm – and make sure to have a soothing evening routine.
- Are you eating healthily? What you eat affects your gut health which in turns affects your brain. Put rainbow and fun into your meals and eats lots of (natural) colors!
- Are you moving your body on a regular basis? It has to be fun or you won’t do it!
- Do you have a religious or spiritual practice that you can dedicate time to?
- Are you connecting to beauty? Remember the stunning photographs of flowers in last month’s newsletter. Go on a walk and really focus on the intricacy of nature around you.
Make some time for yourself today - it’s good for your health!
“Love allows understanding to dawn, and understanding is precious. Where you are understood, you are at home. Understanding nourishes belonging. When you really feel understood, you feel free to release yourself into the trust and shelter of the other person's soul.”
― John O'Donohue
Loving Kindness Meditation
In last month’s newsletter, I introduced an essential pillar of mental health, Mindfulness. This month I want to build on that concept by sharing a simple but profound mindfulness practice with you – the Loving Kindness meditation, also known as the “Metta Meditation”. It is one of my favorite mindfulness practices as it combines both concepts of loving compassion for oneself and loving compassion for others. The repetition of a chosen word or phrase (a mantra) is thought to affirm its meaning to ourselves and change our thought process. It has the potential of cementing a belief into our core being.
The way this practice works is by repeating the following wish, first toward ourselves:
May I be well,
May I be happy,
May I be healthy and strong.
May I be safe,
May I be at peace,
And may I know love.
Then we pick someone else to send this same wish to:
May you be well,
May you be happy,
May you be healthy and strong.
May you be safe,
May you be at peace,
And may you know love.
We can send the wish to a group of others (and repeat the mantra only twice total), or if we have more time or want to use this as a meditation practice, we can send it individually to as many people as we wish.
Watch this video which demonstrates the Loving Kindness Mantra Meditation, which I practice daily in different permutations, depending how much time I have:
What’s YOUR take on Love? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Thank you for reading and watching - and see you next month for our next topic!
Service in the Spotlight
Have you heard of Alfred Adler?
Adler is known as "the Grandfather of Coaching" and probably was one of the first coaches (before coaching existed as such!).
One of Adler’s core principles is “Gemeinschaftsgefühl” (in German), which literally translated means “a feeling of community”. In English, we translate this into “a sense of belonging” – which poet John O’Donohue (see quote above) says comes from understanding, which itself is born of or in love … Could it be, then, that all is connected and all makes sense?
Together with my colleague Kevin O’Connor, I co-chair the Transformative Leadership and Coaching (TLC) section of the North American Society of Adlerian Psychology (NASAP). We’re thrilled to have launched a FREE webinar series, “Pulling Back the Coaching Curtain: How Do Coaches Think?”, which takes place the 3rd Thursday of every month.
We invite an expert in their field (coach, therapist, leader, Adlerian or not), and using the interview format, we seek to find out how these experts think about their role as a coach and/or as therapist, reflect on their experiences, and give their recommendations for those of us coaching individuals and/or groups in and out of corporations.
As well as hearing from interesting speakers, joining these discussions is really more fundamentally about creating a sense of community and belonging for us - Adlerian practitioners in the workplace. We are eager to welcome anyone who is not yet an Adlerian practitioner or NASAP member to find out more about Alfred Adler and his brilliant theories. Adlerian principles encourage people to realize their full potential, and contribute to the realization of the full potential in others. Doesn’t that sound like something you’d want to be a part of?
Take the next step
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