14 Ways to Love Valentine’s Day No Matter Your Relationship Status

bitmoji-20160214070843Valentine’s Day stirs a myriad of emotions in all of us. Excitement, joy, relaxation, frustration, anger, annoyance. It’s interesting to me that so many of us allow a date on the calendar to invoke negative responses. What can we do to find joy in a day we otherwise wouldn’t? Check out my tips below and find one that works for you.

1. Love Yourself

I see a lot of people simply focus on their relationship status when Valentine’s rolls around. Whether you’re in a relationship or not, give yourself permission to love you. Living in a state of self love actually raises your ability to love and be loved by others. A quick (but often difficult) way to do this is to say it. Look at your beautiful self in the mirror and say ‘I Love You.’ Out loud to your reflection. Feel what happens as you look yourself in the eyes and declare your love

2. Love Others

Got Kids? Friends? Siblings? Parents? Research has proven that the act of giving actually makes us happy. Scientists at the National Institutes of Health have found when people give it activates regions in the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust creating a ‘warm glow. Giving releases endorphin’s in the brain and lowers stress. These are all similar to the ‘love’ feeling.

3. Pamper Yourself

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be about others or couples. It can simply and easily be a day all about you. Schedule yourself a massage, take yourself out to your favorite place for dinner, buy yourself a gift. And don’t worry about people seeing you out on your own, it’s not about them, it’s about you, and their opinion of you isn’t your business anyway.

4. Buy Flowers

Flowers are one of the most popular gifts for Valentine’s Day. And it is little wonder, while couples may use them as a token of love, the scent of flowers actually produces a calming effect and the sight of flowers brightens our mood. So treat yourself or the person you love to a brighter and calmer day.

5. Envision Love 

Maybe you have at least one great memory of a past Valentine’s Day or a past coupling. Maybe you know exactly what it is you would like to have in a relationship or pairing. Either way, rather than dwell on the fact that at the current moment you are not in that relationship, remember the good moments, imagine the romance you want in your life. What we think about, we bring about and if you are thinking about how miserable or lonely you are, you will feel miserable or lonely.

6. Do Something You Love

Who said Valentine’s day has to be about romantic love or couples? Make it a day of love anyway. A day of doing what you love. Seeing what you love. Eating what you love. Love is a beautiful thing and it is so expansive. Love goes well beyond a coupling and delves into objects and actions.

7. Eat Chocolate

You read that right. Keeping in mind the darker the chocolate, the better the benefits, chocolate has antioxidants which may lower cholesterol, prevent cognitive decline, and promote cardiovascular health. Plus it just plain helps you feel better. Who wouldn’t want that?

8. Bring out Your Masculine/Feminine Power

Tapping in to your personal masculine or feminine power is empowering and super amazing. It feels good to feel sexy and will actually put you in a better mood. And feeling empowered and sexy helps you become more desirable. So What does that look like? To tap into your masculine power go out to the shooting range, play video games or go for a drive. To tap into your feminine power, dress yourself up, do your hair and makeup, buy some jewelry, or cuddle up all soft and cozy.

9. Make a Love List

Want more love in your life? There is no better way to start than to appreciate the love you already do have in your life. Write down a numbered list of what or who you already have in your life right now that you love. This can include your kids, your pets, you car, your job, your favorite pair of jeans, your favorite food, your favorite color, get creative here (even list your favorite toe)! Write down as many as you can think of and for an extra challenge try to write a full list of 101 things that you love!

10. Choose Love

Believe it or not, all the feelings we feel in our lives boil down to a choice. We choose to feel angry, sad, happy, upset. I know it’s hard sometimes to feel any different than the way we are feeling in the current moment, and yes, it is healthy to feel all of our emotions. Anger, sadness, joy, and frustration all have their moments and purposes. You also have the option to choose how you are feeling. Rather than frustration, anger, or annoyance with Valentine’s Day – choose love, or at the very least peace.

11. Aromatherapy

The sense of smell truly is a gift. Scents can transport us to memories or make the anticipation of dinner a lot of fun. Aromatherapy is using certain scents to relax, enjoy, or feel invigorated. You can get essential oils from spas, health food stores, or online. Lavender has dozens of uses including a great calming effect and it can even help lull you to sleep. Peppermint is perfect for massages to relax muscles or create a stimulating effect. Diffusing Lemon essential oil can lift mood and fight depression.

12. Music

You want an instant change to your mood? Music is the key. You can use music to help you get in that angry mode during a great kickboxing workout, pound out a great cadence during a run, jazz you up, get your dance moves on, or even cry. Rather than staying stuck in that negative emotion, use music to move you through it. If you’re in a relationship, use music to pump up the volume!

13. Give a Card

Giving a card to someone you love is a great way to express the way you feel about them in beautiful and eloquent words. Plus it shoes you took some time to think about them. If you’re single, give a card to yourself. Why not? You deserve it. Find yourself something that is uplifting and hang it on your fridge to remind yourself of how amazing you really are.

14. Hot Yoga

Hot yoga is great to help you take a moment to breathe deep and stretch out those muscles. It gives you a chance to sweat out your emotions and get in touch with your body. Yoga is a grounding experience and you can do it as a couple or a single. Find a class near you and enjoy the breathing exercises and poses as you mediate. Don’t be surprised (or embarrassed) if you cry, yoga has a way of working out those stuck emotions. And be sure to bring a towel and water bottle and dress in layers – hot yoga really gets hot!

Whether you’re single or coupled or somewhere in between, I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s day and take the time to enjoy and find the love!

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Re-wiring the Brain for Healing after Experiencing Domestic Violence

My heart was pumping and my mind was whirring even though my body was still. I was lying on the floor looking up into his eyes, he was straddling my waist and holding my wrists above my head, pinned to the floor. I was helpless. I couldn’t move, couldn’t escape. I had already learned from previous similar experiences that he was much stronger than me and no matter how hard I struggled, I had no power to move his body even the slightest. I felt the cold, hard linoleum kitchen floor pressing up against my back.

This was the moment that I would just listen to him, let him scream at me. Let him get all his frustration out. I would agree that I was in the wrong, that I was a horrible person, that everything I did was a mistake because I was too afraid of what would happen to me otherwise and I knew it was the only out of his physical trap.

People who experience domestic violence, have more effects on their lives than the abuse itself, whether physical, mental, emotional or other forms of abuse. Seldom talked about are the lasting effects of abuse, the chronic health conditions that can and do happen as a result of Domestic Violence.

Healing from Domestic Violence is a journey, and it actually takes a lot of work. It isn’t easy, and it isn’t instantaneous. People who experience Domestic Violence actually need help in this healing process, and they cannot do it all alone. I have explored many ways to heal and this post is about one of my favorites: affirmations.

Changing your thoughts and the way you think about yourself and your body actually can and does cause healing to occur and it’s not just woo woo stuff. It is backed up scientifically. Let’s look at the brain for just a second.

Inside our brains is the reticular activating system (RAS). The RAS is considered the brains attention center, is the key for switching on your brain, and is considered the main center of motivation. The RAS is connected to the spinal cord where it accepts information that travels to the mid brain and forms a complex neuron collection.

These neurons create thoughts and beliefs in the form of fibers called axons  which release chemicals called neurotransmitters to be released at junctions called synapses. The more and more we think a certain thought, the more we create the synapses, the more we build up neurons or new beliefs that begin to take over our core thinking. Conversely, the less we think a thought, those pathways disintegrate and no longer exist.

We do this, already, all the time, our negative thoughts and emotions actually create disease in our bodies because it is a dis-ease in the way we think of ourselves and thus care for our bodies.

This great infographic shows the link between domestic violence and chronic health conditions.
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Louise Hay, one of my great mentors and a pioneer in discovering the link between our thoughts and the effects they have on our bodies, has written several books, one of which, You Can Heal Your Body, reveals the hidden messages our bodies are telling us.

70 percent of women suffer from chronic health conditions. 44 percent of women admitted they have experienced domestic violence. I took the information from the infographic and from You Can Heal Your Body and linked them together, the result is fascinating.

Health Condition in bold

Probable Cause in standard text

Affirmation in italics

High Blood Pressure

Long standing emotional problem not solved.

I joyously release the past. I am at peace.

Lower Back Pain

Fear of money. Lack of financial support.

I trust the process of life. All I need is always taken care of

Headaches                        

Invalidating the self. Self-criticism. Fear.

I love and approve of myself. I see myself and what I do with eyes of love. I am safe.

Migraines

Dislike of being driven. Resisting the flow of  life. Sexual fears.

I relax into the flow of life and let life provide all that I need easily and comfortably. Life is for me.

Difficulty Sleeping          

Fear. Not trusting the process of life. Guilt.

I lovingly release the day and slip into peaceful sleep, knowing tomorrow will take care of itself. 

Depression                      

Anger you feel you do not have the right to have, Hopelessness.

I now go beyond other people’s fears and limitations. I create my life.

Anxiety                             

Not trusting the flow and the process of life.

I love and approve of myself. and I trust the process of life. I am safe. 

Yes, you can heal completely from domestic violence. Yes, you can have a better life than the one you did before. All you have to do is the work. You’re future is up to you.

Love Yourself Because Someone Has To

So you made it. You left. You’ve been through the frightening experience of leaving your abuser and starting your own life. Now what? Here it is, step one to healing from abuse: love yourself. It may sound simple, but for someone who has spent years dedicating their life to someone else as a survival mechanism, it can be hard to know how.

Do Something For Yourself
Find a babysitter. Get some alone time. Buy yourself a cup of coffee or a bouquet of flowers. Take a bath with Epsom salts and lavender oil. Go for a walk. Pray. Write. Write your story, write your feelings, write it all, it’s very healing. It’s not selfish. It’s good for you. It’s good for your heart and your soul. Plus you’ll be a better mom as you cut down on stress and anxiety and you’ll be better prepared for all life throws at you.

Write and Recite Your Own Affirmations
Affirmations are powerful. The words you say to yourself are powerful. Chances are you just spent years being told who and what you are by someone else (and it probably wasn’t great). It’s your turn to tell yourself who and what you are. Don’t know how? Here’s where you start: Grab a peice of paper. Draw a line down the middle. On one side, write down your top ten negative thoughts. That’s right I said negative! Here’s where your work really begins. On the other side, write down the opposite of each negative plus one. So it’ll look like this: I am so stupid = I am smart and I am beautiful. Viola. Instant personal affirmation. Write down all ten and then say them every morning and night. I even recorded myself saying them and listen to them as I drive to work in the morning or drift off to sleep at night. Watch this video from the movie What the Bleep Do We Know. It gives great insight into the power of our words.

Take Yourself out on a Date
That’s right. You heard me. Go out to eat by yourself. Go to a movie by yourself. (I totally watched Disney’s Tangled in a theater filled with families by myself). Get to know yourself again. Who you are. Who you are not. What you like and don’t like. Chances are you spent so long trying to please your abuser that you don’t know who you are any more. I would even suggest waiting to date for at least a year while you get to know you. I know the thought may kind of suck and all you want is to feel what it feels to be loved in a healthy relationship. It’s possible. I promise. I know because I waited even longer to start dating again.

Take the time learn to love yourself and then you will be ready to teach and allow a man how to love you. Don’t worry about what everyone else thinks. Do what’s right for you.

14 Tips to Becoming the Right One

Ive had my fair share of relationships and break ups. At 31 I’ve been married and divorced and dating and a single parent. I’ve learned a lot from these experiences.

We’ve all heard dating isn’t about finding the right one, it’s about becoming the right one, these tips will help you do just that.

1. Look for the Silver Linings
Every relationship you are in, you learn more about yourself, about others, about relationships. Look for the wins and the lessons rather than the losses and the failures.

2. Get off the Merry-Go-Round
When you mess up and experience something that causes a break up, a similar situation will come up in the next relationship, (or even in the same relationship over and over again) will you do the same thing again, or will you react differently?

3. Be True. Be You!
You have to learn what you don’t want in order to know what you do want. Stop going by what others tell you you should and should not want, figure it out for yourself.

4. Would you Date you?
Always always work on you whether single or in a relationship. Give yourself the gift of growth, opportunity and me time.

5. Listen Up
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. This is key and perhaps even the most important component to a happy and healthy relationship. Be vulnerable, express your feelings and thoughts, your dreams and fears, your worries and hopes.

6. Don’t Judge
Honor your partner, where they are coming from and where they are now. It’s not your job to change them, it’s your job to love them for who they are.

7. Who Are You?
Stop letting your relationship be all consuming. Have your own hobbies and interests, allow your partner to have their own hobbies and interests. Spend time apart.

8. Words Matter
Speak positively about your partner and to your partner. What you speak about, you bring about. Stop teasing with harsh words or degrading jokes. Words stick. (Be aware of your tone too! The way you say what you say makes a difference).

9. Use declarations
Wake up every morning and declare how much you love yourself, how much you love your partner, how much you love your kids, and how beautiful your life is. It’ll help you be open to seeing the good day to day.

10. Monkey See Monkey Do
Be aware of what your kids learn, hear, see and experience. What are you modeling for them?
11. Do the work
It’s worth it! Having a loving and committed relationship doesn’t just happen, you have to make sacrifices. If you want a spouse, kids and a beautiful home, you can’t also have a girlfriend/boyfriend and go out partying every night.

12. Seek out learning and help constantly.
And stop expecting your partner to do the same or do it with you. It’s okay for you to learn all you can, they will benefit from your knowledge naturally.  (I love books, podcasts, classes etc).

13. Patience
Keep repeating yourself if you have to. People are ready to hear certain things at certain times. Stop getting caught up on I already told you that once (stay away from taking it too far and being a nag either). Realize your partner sees and experiences the world differently from you and that’s okay. In fact, it’s a good thing. Think of all you can learn from and teach each other.

14. Be forgiving. Be forgiven.
We all mess up we all make mistakes, in fact, we’re supposed to. Forgive your partner, forgive yourself. Relationships are going to bring up a lot of stuff. That’s what they are designed for. If you choose to see ‘problems’ in relationships as ‘learning experiences’ instead, new doors will open for you that you never saw possible.

I’m a Real Mom

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“Nope, no more media time for the day, you’ve had enough and it’s bedtime.”

“Just let me watch one show on Netflix.” My seven year old begged.

“No, school starts tomorrow and it is 8:30, it’s time for bed.”

“Just a little…”

“Nope, downstairs to your room and pick out a book.”

He swiped at me, clawing me with a soft hand across my belly.

“You do not hit mom, that is not okay. Apologize.”

He sank to the floor at the top of the steps.

“No!”

“It is not okay to treat mommy that way. Apologize.”

“No!”

At a loss of what to do, and only knowing that if I continue to let my son win these battles, it will teach him he does not have to listen to and respect authority, knowing that no matter how much I just want to send him to his room without the apology and wash my hands if this entire situation, if I do so it will do him no favors, and it was doing exactly that kind of thing that got us into the situation we are in now, I straddled him with my feet.

“Apologize.” I demanded.

“Only if you let me go.” Again, I knew that by giving into his little demands, it was teaching him he could control and manipulate others, having left his controlling and manipulative father six years ago, I remember lamenting that his mother never did anything while he was growing up to teach her son how to respect others, I was not going to make that same mistake.

“No, Apologize.”

He struggled. “No. Only if you let go first.” I sat on him, being careful not to put my full weight on him, but keeping him still. I held his hands back from hitting me.

“Apologize.”

“You’re hurting me. Let go and I’ll apologize.” I knew my hands were loose on his wrists and my full weight was not on his hips. I knew I wasn’t physically hurting him and I knew his exclamation was again a tact or ploy to get me to let go.

“Apologize and I’ll let go.”

When he realized I wasn’t letting up, he yelled out “I’m sorry!” I instantly stood up. He ran downstairs to his room and I walked somberly to the kitchen, holding back tears.

My phone rang. It was my boyfriend. I picked it up an explained what had just happened. He showed his surprise and disproval at my tactics. “I just didn’t know what to do.” I lamented. “I want him to learn who’s in charge.”

“Well, you certainly taught him who’s bigger.” That hit me like a ton of bricks, not exactly what I was going for, but true, I thought.

“I just don’t know how to do this. Sometimes I think he would be better off with his dad, his dad seems to handle his disobedience well. I want to give my son the best possible life I can and I want him to understand how to treat people.”

“You know sending him to his dad wouldn’t help. You can do all that. You need to make sure you follow through. You need a little help and some coaching.”

“I know. I have that appointment with that new counselor in a couple of weeks…”

“Baby, you’re fine. Everything with be okay. He’s a good boy and you’re a good mom.”

“Thanks.” I manage, though I don’t fully believe it, and he knows I don’t.

My son is not officially diagnosed as of now, however, I do feel he falls within the large umbrella of behavioral disorders. Perhaps a touch of ADHD and a bit more Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).

For those who don’t know what ODD is, I’ve done some research and really like the information the Mayo Clinic has on their website. Here’s a brief overview:
“Even the best-behaved children can be difficult and challenging at times. But if your child or teen has a persistent pattern of tantrums, arguing, and angry or disruptive behavior toward you and other authority figures, he or she may have oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).”

I am also concerned with his future, Mayo Clinic lists complications of ODD: “If these conditions are left untreated, managing ODD can be very difficult for the parents, and frustrating for the affected child. Children with oppositional defiant disorder may have trouble in school with teachers and other authority figures and may struggle to make and keep friends.”

What parent wants their child to struggle with those difficulties? And I can easily see how if left untreated, that’s how my sons life will turn out.

So I find myself in nearly every challenging and frustrating experience with my son with all those things running through my mind simultaneously while staying calm, using energy healing, calling on all the information and advice in every parenting book I’ve read (I’ve read several) and from the counseling appointments we’ve been to, and holding a prayer in my heart asking God and angels to help teach, be patient with, and understand my son.

I have mixed feelings about putting a label on my son. On one hand, I don’t want him to be prejudged as that ADHD/ODD kid and I don’t want him to use those labels as a reason or excuse to either do or not do things. On the other, hand, when I talk to other people about why my son acts the way he does, I can put a label to it and people instantly understand rather than me having to explain in detail which helps others treat my son with the extra patience and attention he needs as he grows from this experience.

In my dark moments i allow the thoughts: my son is struggling, daily life is a constant battle, school is a challenge, church is a challenge, home life is a challenge. I sometimes feel like I’m the worst parent on the face of this planet, and if only I had been better at being consistent when setting boundaries in his earlier years, then maybe my son would be better behaved now, maybe all of this would be easier.

When I let those thoughts take root, more follow, like ‘I don’t even have my son full time (he is with his dad Tuesdays and every other weekend), how could I handle him full time?’ Or ‘I have been raised with my mom doing in home child care, parenting should come naturally to me.’ Or ‘I should just let his dad have him full time, my son doesn’t need or want me in his life anyway.’ And it all boils down to ‘I’m not a real mom.’

And then I remind myself what I have come to see, beleive, know and understand in recent years, what we say and what we think becomes our reality, if I allow those thoughts to continue to run through my mind and come out in my words, then I am creating that life daily.

It has been six months since that day at the top of my stairs. I learned a lot from that counselor, he is amazing and exactly what I was looking for (I went through half a dozen other counselors before I found this one be patient if you too are on that path, the right counselor for you will show up) I have begun to change the way I speak to and parent my son, I have changed those thoughts of struggle to thoughts of love and peace and hope, even if current reality shows me something different, I know as I continue to speak positive words and phrases about my son, about my parenting, and about all other pieces of my life, that eventually it will reflect in my reality, after all, I have spent many years thinking and speaking in the reverse, I can’t expect instant change and I will be tried and tested to see if I really will and do hold to the opposite of pain and struggle and lack. I do so more and more each day.

I’m here today to say ‘I am a real mom.’ I love my son fiercely and want nothing but the best for him everyday. I do the best I can do with the best I know how and I continue to learn better parenting techniques though counseling, reading, and classes. So I may not get it perfect every moment of every day, but who does? No matter how it may look, no one always is a perfect parent. And I know that I am a real mom.

In all of this at one point in the middle of my work day in the middle of a prayer I was reminded of Helen Keller. I remembered as a little girl watching the movie about her life and how much her teacher and parents struggled with her and how challenging it was to teach her how to be civil and how to speak sign language and how to get along in this world with her disabilities. And then, years later, she became a strong and influential woman, an inspiration to many others. The thought that things could be similar with my son came to mind, that even though there may be struggles and times may be hard, as I do my best, and continue to rely on the help of others, as I change my words and thoughts to the positive and as I keep God at the center of it all, everything will be okay, my son has all the potential any other child has. And I am a real mom.

Crawl

I was writhing on my bed, the ache in my heart was so deep, it pulsed pain through my limbs and back again, moving my body against the sheets seemed to soothe the hurt. Tears gushed from my eyes, blurring my vision and flowing red hot down my cheeks, my nose was so full of mucus I could hardy breathe, the sobs rocking my body and exhausting my lungs as I let them cry out from my mouth. My room was dark and cool in my otherwise silent house, such a contrast to the hell I was feeling, my head seemed full of chaos and my skin felt like it was trying to crawl off of my body.

I felt like a complete and utter failure. Heavenly Father, I pleaded, Why do I have to go through this? Why couldn’t I have just married the right man in the first place? I try so hard to be a good person and do what is right, I am a good person I try my best to do what I have been asked to do. I just want to be married to a good man, to have more children, to create a happy family. Why do I have to go through this?!?!

Sometimes it is the pain of not knowing, of not understanding of trying and failing that hurts the most, and when the time is right, offers the sweetest victory.

In my journey to heal and grow from being in a marriage where I experienced domestic violence, I have learned a lot of hard truths, like we are the creators of our own life, and we bring into our lives the experiences we have. I still am expanding my understanding of this, and for me, I believe I have discovered a bit of why I allowed Domestic Violence to be a part of my life.

Part of it is because I have always been a people pleaser, I learned this technique as a child, when I did things like clean my room and do my chores, my parents were happy, when I did not, they were angry, it seemed simple. My actions made other people happy or angry.

I have had challenging relationships with men in my life. My grandfather sexually abused me as a little girl, between the ages of 4 and 8, my dad, while he loved us dearly seemed to always be at work and has never been the physically affectionate type, my brother was six years younger than me and we spent little time together, I grew up away from most of my family and so did not have uncles or cousins (male or female) to play with. All of these factors culminated in me being very uncomfortable around men. To this day I still have to consciously allow myself to not back away from men and not distance myself from them. It is an ongoing challenge.

I did not date in high school, primarily because I think I must have had this giant don’t come near me vibe going on. So when I met my ex, two years after high school, he became my first ever boyfriend. It felt good to have a man in my life, and to receive that love and attention we all long for. In retrospect, I see I was also giving off this vibe of My job is to please you, and I do not know who I am, you can tell me what to do. Little wonder I ended up in a relationship with just that.

Now I have to make an effort to change my thinking, to change what I want in life and out of a relationship. It isn’t easy, as with all things worth while, it takes work. I still have failures and I still have heart aches, and I still keep going.

Every morning I say this out loud, I wrote it to help remind me how amazing I am and to retrain my brain. Some people call this kind of affirmations or declarations. No matter what you call it, I just know it works.

I am amazing. I am worth fighting for. I am worth making sacrifices for. I am worth being in a relationship with as I am right now. I am worth marrying. I am worth spending time with. I am worthy of gifts, acts of service, words of affirmation, appropriate physical touch, and quality time. I being told I am beautiful. I am being spoken highly of by others. I am being supported in my role as a mother and a future wife. I am happy with my present and my future. I am strong. I own up to my own problems and work to improve my life. I love my son and I am grateful for how amazing and smart he is and his potential. I parent him well. I am confident in my ability as a mother and future wife. I am knowing my ex has no effect on me, our son, or my marriage. I am giving it myself freely and unconditionally. I feminine and embrace both my feminine and masculine energies. I am good at causing men to see, feel, hear, and know what an amazing woman I am right now.

These are the affirmations/declarations I need for me in my life right now. I suggest you get some for you. Feel free to adopt from these the ones that work for you and change and update them as needed.

Also, I suggest checking out Co-Dependent No More. It is a great book to explain co-dependency and learn how to change it.