Radiance & Resonance
Information and Advice for Improving your Life and Relationships
By Karissa Lightsmith
Honoring rest : it’s more than okay if you haven’t learned a new language, started cooking healthier than ever, lost five pounds, and mastered guitar during quarantine
The insidious message that productivity = self-worth
As members of a capitalist society, we are sent a clear message every day - are as valuable as what we produce. While we are capable of producing incredible art, work, food, and more, there is a problem with this narrative. Our self-worth has nothing to do with what we do.
Yep, that’s right. Even if you didn’t eat as healthily as you meant to today, rock homeschooling your kiddos, or fit in that 3 minutes language learning app, you are still a good-to-the-core human who is worthy of respect and love.
One might think, in the midst of an unprecedented (not even my great-grandma lived through anything like this) and uncertain (even the epidemiologists each have different ideas!) time, society at large might finally give us a little permission to sleep in, eat a sweet, or feel big feels for a day. Instead, we are bombarded with well-meant advice, Instagram suggestions, and picture perfect advertisements that say: Stay busy! Keep improving! Be more perfect!
Our society tells us rest isn’t okay. We are told ‘peak performance’ is the only acceptable state. Comparing and competing are happening even in social isolation. Our society has a revulsion towards rest and laying to rest.
Do you stay up later than you mean to more often than not? Do you wonder why births are celebrated, youth and fitness honored, yet aging is ‘taboo’? Do you notice a to-do list floats into your head while you’re still in bed and you fall asleep realizing what you didn’t get done? These are just a few examples of anti-rest / pro-production sentiment permeating our daily lives.
If you have ever baked a loaf of bread, you’ll know that the dough needs to proof, or rest, before it can become an air-filled wonder of hot homemade goodness. If you continuously knead the bread, you will break the gluten and be left with a brick. What if rest, endings, good-byes, and even death were accepted as a part of the cycle of all things? What if each part was not any better or any worse than any other part? What would it be like to know you were ‘accomplishing just as much’ when you napped as when you ‘pushed it hard’ and went running? What if taking time to feel your many feelings all afternoon was exactly what you ‘needed to get done’ even though you could have repainted the kitchen?
Far different from the wild pendulating between rebellious indulgence and pushing to be perfect, accepting a rhythmic cycle of activity and rest honors the juicy and challenging parts of each phase. Each part needs to happen. We don’t need to speed up or slow down any of them. All parts of the cycle happen again and again. We gain ease and energy by allowing ourselves to rest our bodies, let go of thoughts that no longer serve us, say ‘no’ to adding one more thing, or close projects that take without giving back. We are most productive, creative, and ready when we bring ease and energy to the task at hand.
What it could look like
“Okay,” you may be saying, “but how do I reclaim rest when the voices inside and outside of me say I’m not doing enough?” Here are a couple concrete ideas to get you started on reclaiming your rest, but ultimately, you decide what feels right and serves you. If these ideas don’t make sense to you, lay them to rest!
Separate yourself from the label
If notice yourself having thoughts about being a ‘bad person,’ ‘failure,’ ‘bad partner,’ or any other label:
Notice the label that comes up and what it’s attached to
“I feel like I’m a bad mom because I didn’t order her a new pair of shoes today.”
“I think I’m a bad partner because I do not want to sit and talk to you all afternoon.”
Notice and name any emotions present
“I am disappointed that I didn’t order those shoes today.”
“I am annoyed that my partner wants my attention when I need to work.”
Validate the emotion
“It makes sense I’m disappointed because her current shoes seem to be pinching her toes and I care about the comfort and feelings of my child.”
“It makes sense i am annoyed because I love my partner and I don’t want them to be upset at me... and I need to get work done.”
Notice if you are able to sense any space between you and the label
“I did not get as much done as I wanted to today and it doesn’t have to mean I am a bad mom.”
“My partner and I had a disagreement and it doesn’t have to mean I am a bad partner.”
Release it altogether
If you experience dissatisfaction or guilt when you think of your day:
1.Notice what seems to be missing for you.
2.Write or draw it on a small piece of paper.
3.Put that paper in a tupperware, jar, or box.
4.Know your container will hold this task, hope, or fear for you until you want to access it.
5.If a thought comes up about what you wrote on the paper, imagine gently tucking that thought into the container as well.
6.You could take the paper out in the morning, or in a month, or leave it there. You can even burn or recycle some papers if your container seems full.A closing wish
What if this was a time when getting as many things done as possible wasn’t the most important practice we could engage in?
What if creativity, activity, and rest were all welcome during this time?
I hope these questions and concrete ideas invite you to practice laying to rest societal beliefs that your worth as a person is defined by your productivity.
Gratitude: A Simple Answer to Happiness
-Stephanie Mustopich, MA, MHP, LMFT
Research shows that the benefits of gratitude are endless. People who regularly take time to notice and reflect on things they are thankful for exhibit a more positive mood, sleep better, express more empathy and even have better health. Robert Emmons, author of Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, shows that simply keeping a gratitude journal—and writing brief reflections can contribute to your overall health and wellness.
Gratitude can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Sure, it’s each to be grateful when you receive a promotion at work or have a near miss with a health crisis, but gratitude can also be appreciating the sunrise, a smile from a loved one, or even getting ice cream.
So why, is such a simple practice, so hard? Well, to consider gratitude we often have to be mindful of moments. A hundred thousand moments happen to us every day. How many do we take time to think about, like actually think about? When’s the last time you went for a drive and were thoughtful about how you were driving? Did you pay attention to your mirrors? Did you get distracted by a song or podcast? Were you talking on the phone? How many of those moments went by with you not even noticing? It’s hard to be grateful for things when we aren’t mindful of moments.
Here are a few keys I’ve discovered that help start a gratitude practice and being more mindful:
Set an Intention:
Write out what your hoping to accomplish. “I will write 3 things I’m grateful for every day.” Make a special time for it, like with your first cup of coffee or after you put the kids to bed. Tell your friends and family about your practice so they can check in and support you on your journey.
While the concept of mindfulness, paying attention to the present moment, is easy, doing it, is hard. In this age of technology and expectations around multitasking, it’s hard to re-wire our brain to complete tasks fully before going on to the next. However, the more we multi-task, the more we try to do all the things, the more likely we will fail. Maybe not fully, but not nearly as well as if we fully engaged in one activity before moving on to the next. Implement a mindfulness practice where you give your brain a chance to resent and refocus. Mindfully do the dishes, or drive a car or take a walk.
“I’m thankful for my family and kids and friends.” Sure, super easy to say, I met my goal, why doesn’t my gratitude practice seem like it’s making a difference? Well, because you didn’t dig deep. You didn’t reflect on what those people mean to you. You just said what you thought you should say or what makes the most sense. Be thoughtful. Describe why you are grateful. Use your mindfulness practice here to notice special moments with your loved ones so you can have a meaningful response and reflection.
Make Gratitude Achievable
Any new routine is hard to begin, even for the most motivated of people. Don’t set goals that are so lofty that you can’t be consistent and then find yourself failing. Pay attention to your body and when is a good time to have this practice. Maybe you need to start with only one thing your grateful for each day until you get used to doing it. There’s no right or wrong way to be grateful, but with any new routine, be kind to yourself so you can achieve mastery.
Find Gratitude in your Challenges
Often, we grow the most as humans through the hard stuff. If we can take time to reflect on how going through challenges benefits us in the long run, it can make growing a little less painful. Easier said that done, right? Of course. Gratitude isn’t always easy; in fact, it can be really, really hard. But if we constantly focus on what’s not going well, how things are challenges, that we are only hitting road blocks, it doesn’t leave a lot of space for the good stuff. Use gratitude as a way to shift your thinking and move forward instead of staying stuck.
Allow for Mistakes
It’s really easy to forget a day of mindfulness or gratitude, especially at first. Don’t shame your blame yourself for missing a day. Gently remind yourself of your intention, and refocus back to your goal. The important part here is in the restarting. If you stick with it long enough, it will become an easy part of your daily routine.
No matter who you are, the health benefits of gratitude are undeniable. There are so many ways to make gratitude a part of your daily life. Take the first step today, find a way that works for your and your life.
The present is now. Take in those special moments. Remember them.
How to Speak Your Truth, Part 2
-Jeni Wahlig, PhD, LMFT
Speaking your truth in a relationship is an incredibly powerful, important, and vulnerable gift of love to yourself and a partner. It’s the quickest way to co-creating the authentic life and fulfilling relationships you want and deserve. Speaking your truth means being honest about who you are, how you feel, and what you need. It means saying the hard and scary things—engaging with a partner in an open, honest, direct, and vulnerable way. It means owning your stuff, sharing what’s going on for you, and asking directly for what you want or need in your relationship.
Speaking your truth, however, can be incredibly difficult—first in knowing your truth and then in sharing it. Last month, we explored some of the reasons it can be difficult to know what your truth is and provided some tips for tuning into your truth. (Check it out here!) In this article, we will look at some of the reasons that sharing your truth can be so tough and offer some ideas for how to do it anyway.
What makes sharing so hard?
A lot of reasons. Here are a few of the big ones:
The common denominator in any case is, “If I share my truth, I might get hurt.” Hurt, I will add, extends to feelings of discomfort, like the way it feels when we have to watch a partner cry in response to something we did/said, or the frustration, anxiety, or sadness you feel about fighting with someone you love. No one likes to feel pain or discomfort, especially in their relationship with a partner. Because of this, people often avoid speaking their truth fully, honestly, or directly.
Is it sometimes better to not share a truth?
Withholding your truth, avoiding it, or sharing only parts of it can feel safer and easier. In most cases, it is! (At least in the short term). Is it better though? I won’t claim to know that answer for you, but I will say that in my experience, personally and professionally, it usually isn’t. When we know a truth, but are not sharing it or living it, there’s something off about our life and relationship. It’s not quite honest; we are not being as real as we could be. In doing so, we deny ourselves the opportunity to have our needs met and to live as authentically as we could. We give up the possibility of greater happiness. We also deny a partner the opportunity to meet our needs, to know us fully, and to love us in the best ways possible. Thus, we are not setting our relationship up for long-term success. Furthermore, withholding a truth may be denying a partner the opportunity to make fully informed decisions about their own life. Finally, the truth often comes out eventually—if not directly, then in the form of dissatisfaction, unhappiness, or something being off (and this has an increasingly negative effect on a relationship).
Tips for sharing your truth
If you’re feeling called to start being more honest with your partner, or to share a particularly hard truth with them, congratulations. Sharing and living your truth takes courage, a lot of it. Yet, I think it’s entirely worth it for the power it has to transform your life and your relationship. It may mean that you go through some really hard, painful, scary, or otherwise uncomfortable things first. I wish I could tell you it won’t happen that way, but it very well may. What I can tell you is that you will get through it, and that whatever lies on the other side will be better for it (eventually; give it time). Here are some tips that will help set you and your partner(s) up for success.
How to Speak Your Truth, Part 1
-Jeni Wahlig, PhD, LMFT
Speaking your truth can be one of the most powerful ways to transform your relationship. It opens the door to greater authenticity, intimacy, connection, satisfaction, and security. How, you wonder? Consider: Being honest about who you are is the best way to get to be you who you are. It never feels good to hide or compromise your true self, and it’s a deeply felt human desire to be seen, known, accepted and loved. Knowing a partner loves and accepts you, (all of you, for who you are, exactly as you are), brings a profound sense of security to the relationship. Additionally, speaking your truth about what you want and need in your relationship is the quickest way to get those wants and needs met. By asking directly, your partner knows exactly how to give you what you want and need; no guessing involved. Speaking your truth is an important way to take responsibility for yourself in your relationships; it’s a way to be a better partner. And it’s a loving thing to do for a partner, assuming you’ve chosen someone who cares enough about you to want to know who you are and what you need.
What is your truth, anyway?
Experiencing a vague sense of feeling off, unhappy, dissatisfied, anxious, or even numb? Struggling with conflicting thoughts or feelings about a relationship? Know something isn’t working for you, but you’re not sure what to do? You may not be tuned into your truth.
Even though speaking one’s truth is such a great way to live authentically, to be known, accepted, and loved for who one is, to get one’s needs met, and to have a great relationship, it’s still, often times, a really hard thing to do. (Go figure. Isn’t that the way of so many of the most important things in life and, especially, relationships?) What makes speaking your truth to a partner so difficult? Two things: First, speaking your truth is difficult because knowing your truth is difficult! Second, (and this is the more obvious one), speaking your truth is difficult because it can be pretty scary to share it with a partner. Let’s tackle the first challenge now. Tune in next month to learn more about sharing your truth with a partner.
Why is it so hard to know what my truth is?
I can think of a number of reasons that make it so difficult for any of us to know a truth. Here are a few:
Tips for Tuning into Your Truth
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