Being Careful with Alcohol Especially During the Holidays

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness. 
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

There can be A LOT going on during the holidays: Social events, family obligations, full schedules, financial strains, loneliness, social anxiety… and as a result: maybe overindulgence or overconsumption of too much alcohol.

According to Alcohol.org, based on so many factors during the holidays, instances of binge-drinking increase during this time of year. In the US, it is estimated that the amount of alcohol consumed doubles during the holidays.

It can be especially challenging because alcohol is a socially accepted way of celebrating and during the holidays, it’s more available than usual at office and home parties, and other social gatherings.

Speaking of office parties: Too much alcohol consumption at work- related events can lead to lapses of judgement, which can be especially problematic in a work environment. This can include unacceptable behaviours toward co-workers which can lead to fights, inappropriate, unwanted or harassing behaviours, and even termination.

Whether it is that there are people who don’t generally drink as much during the rest of year drink more and have difficulties due to lower tolerance or because there may already be a tendency toward alcohol dependence, this time of year and alcohol consumption can be challenging for many people.

Another thing to be aware of: Research has also found that in more party- like atmospheres with loud music, people have a tendency to also drink faster.

While alcohol can seem to help people to ‘loosen up’, it is a depressant. One drink might help to depress inhibitions, but too much alcohol can also lead, not only to lapses of judgement in behaviours while inebriated, it can also lower mood or may be responsible for mood difficulties the following day (depression and anxiety like symptoms).

Planning ahead of time can help to avoid potential issues:

  • This can be so hard: However, resist the pressures and the urge to drink. It can be difficult when it seems everybody else is drinking, but the more you do it, the less difficult it becomes.
  • Have an awareness of your tolerance and have a number in mind that is your limit. It can help to handwrite it on a piece of paper and carry it with you.
  • If you have a trusted person at an event with you, you can either let them know about your limit or mutually have an agreement in place to support one another.
  • If social situations are especially stressful, have a plan to take breaks from being social. It can be scoping out a quieter area of the gathering or getting some fresh air or even going for a walk around the block.
  • If you are concerned about the amount of alcohol you are drinking and/or your behaviour when drinking, I would highly recommend seeking support from your family doctor or a mental health professional.

And lastly, if you are going to be drinking at a social event, please make sure to have a designated driver or a plan in place so that drinking and driving is not an option.

More about Planning for Holiday Related Anxiety, be sure to check out Episode 18 of my podcast, Life Stuff 101.

What is Dopamine Fasting?

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness. 
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

There’s been plenty of media coverage (including the National Post) recently for something called Dopamine Fasting.  Since stress is a concern that many of us have on an ongoing basis, I thought it might be a useful idea for us to explore.

The idea of Dopamine Fasting became somewhat widely known after an article was published on Medium last year when a contributor shared his experiences of dopamine fasting for 24 hours. He described looking for something to help with distractions, procrastination, overwhelm and stress.

More recently, there was a piece on LinkedIn by American psychologist Cameron Sepah where he outlines what he calls Dopamine Fasting 2.0 which garnered a lot of attention.

What exactly is dopamine? Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that’s involved in how we feel pleasure. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that send information between neurons.

The idea is that because we are now constantly bombarded by stimuli, dopamine is also being constantly triggered. And the way in which our brains work, when things are pleasurable, the brain craves a repetition of it. 

But also, the brain adapts pretty quickly and things that were once pleasurable, become less so and it craves newer and more intense experiences to feel the same level of pleasure.

As a result, our brains on a subconscious level searches for more and more things that will trigger dopamine and feelings of pleasure… which can often lead to checking social media habitually, or always keeping busy.

It can also lead to problematic behaviours, like addictions (shopping, substances, gaming, eating, etc).

The basic premise behind dopamine fasting is to take a break from exposure to stimulus as much as it is possible to reset how the brain processes stimuli. Of course, there are always some folks who take it to the extremes and will try to refrain from engaging in ANY activities, even making eye contact or speaking to other people for too long.  As I generally do, I recommend a more moderate or balanced approach.

I like Dr. Sepah’s approach, which he describes as more of a ‘Stimulation Fast’, to decrease exposure to stimulation as much as possible for an extended period of time on a regular basis.

He suggests starting at one hour a day at the end of the day, and if so inclined, to gradually work up to four hours a day.

And then to add one entire day a week, a whole weekend once a quarter and one whole week per year.

What not to do during a dopamine fast:

  • Do not engage with screens or other kind of electronic stimulus (phones, computers, tablets, tv, etc.)
  • Refrain from any activity which might be too stimulating
  • Do not engage in other stimulus involving behaviours that you may have identified as being problematic (shopping, emotional eating, gaming, thrill seeking, substance usage etc)

• What to do instead:

  • Gentle movements (yoga, walking)
  • Be in service or helping others in person
  • Reading from a physical book or magazine
  • Writing with a pen/pencil and paper or expression without electronics
  • Meditating
  • Sensory deprivation tank

• What’s the point to doing all of this? It may seem like experiencing pleasure is a good thing, but just like anything else, too much of a good thing can be problematic. 

When it comes specifically to dopamine, we can find ourselves wanting more and more of it, which can be connected to stress and overwhelm and the intensifying craving for more novel experiences.

These fasts can help to reset the brain so that it requires less stimuli to feel satisfied. The less the brain needs to be satisfied, the more satisfied we can feel overall in general.

As human beings we’re wired for growth, our brains have not evolved to manage the amount of dopamine triggering stimuli that we now have in modern life. By adopting a practice to lowering constant stimulation, the less overwhelm, stress and focus it would be possible for us to have.

The Importance of (Truly) Listening

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness. 
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

September 10th is Suicide Prevention Day. And while these dedicated times are very necessary reminders to have an awareness of suicide prevention and mental health, I believe it is also important to keep the conversation going and to also to attempt to discuss the many complexities of what’s involved in discussing mental health.

Firstly, if you or anyone you know is in crisis and experiencing despair, Crisis Services Canada can provide immediate support for you.

The more that all of us are talking openly about our mental health struggles and difficulties in general, hopefully more people will feel that it’s possible to talk about experiencing deep despair.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that roughly 50% to 75% of those who attempt suicide, have talked about plans or their desire to end their life. 

As important as it is to encourage people to talk about their struggles, it is also important to know how to support people when they are struggling.  

This is a much more complicated discussion to have because many people have difficulty talking about suicide and mental health difficulties, but it can be helpful to those struggling for someone to engage them openly and directly.

And this is where it becomes difficult, many of us don’t learn or know how to actively listen and support another person with their needs.

Often, when people are looking to get support from a friend or loved one, they can be met with, “Don’t feel like that” or “You should (or shouldn’t) do this.”

In regards to suicide prevention, if someone you care about is experiencing an extreme level of distress, do your best to fully listen and not to judge (eg – “Don’t feel like that” can be heard as a judgement). And find the most appropriate resource for the person’s needs. 

TWO SPECIFIC THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND:

If the level of distress or crisis is at a very urgent and immediate state, please reach out to someone who is specially trained in crisis work who can be accessed through crisis lines, centres and hospitals.

Otherwise, seeking out a helping professional who specializes in working with those who identify as LGBTQ+ and/or who are experiencing clinical depression, substance dependencies, abuse or other specific difficulties, a longer term treatment may be helpful.

But know that there’s someone out there that can provide support and be a good fit for their needs, and that no one has to feel alone.

Active Listening

Whether we are looking to support others more effectively or because we are interested in developing better overall life skills, learning the ability to listen actively can be valuable.

Active listening is the ability to fully concentrate, understand and be able to respond based on the other person’s perspective. 

The hallmarks of active listening are:

  • To listen without judgement IS a big one, and it’s definitely not an easy thing to do
  • Paying full attention
  • Asking relevant questions
  • Being able to repeat back what the person has said from THEIR POV
  • Also being able to connect their emotional experience to what they are expressing in words
  • True curiosity and understanding that your context or way of thinking may not be the same as the person you are talking to 

Active listening is something that can be learned, but takes practice to adapt.

Here are some video resources which speaks to the importance of active listening and how you can further develop your skills:

The #SheTheNorth Bianca Effect

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness. 
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

I’ve previously discussed how sports is a way of coming together as a community and when we follow an athlete or team, it can give us a sense of belonging and can also have other mental and emotional wellness benefits, too.

And while sometimes, it can be tough to be a fan, there are also times when we can feel uplifted, hopeful and even inspired.

It’ll likely be sometime before we see the really long term effects of what it meant for many of us to have witnessed and felt energized by Bianca Andreescu’s US Open win, a first for a Canadian in a singles tournament. From being ranked 152nd in the world at the beginning of this year to a Grand Slam champion and rising to 5th in the overall rankings.

There are already articles (like this one) about how she is inspiring a younger generation of tennis players who are aspiring to become the next champion.

But how about the rest of us? Most of us are not aspiring to win tournaments in big arenas or be a part of a championship team.

However, each one of us knows in our own ways have a desire to be better in some way. That’s often why we have a tendency to look for the next thing, rather than to be fully satisfied with what we’ve been able to accomplish so far.

Because as much as Bianca’s US Open will be something she will undoubtedly look back on as a HUGE personal and professional accomplishment, this isn’t where she’s going to stop. There are going to be other tournaments, there’s still space for her to move up in the rankings.

We’re all wired this way. And having these momentous examples of seeing and feeling of what’s possible, lets the rest of us know that things in our lives where we could have unconsciously believed were ceilings, are maybe not as limited as we had previously believed.

It’s my belief that these are the moments that make sense to all of us, because as human beings, each of us in our own way, want to thrive, not just survive.

If this wasn’t a truth about who we are as humans, we would not have accomplished and progressed in the ways we have throughout human history and it’s ultimately what sets us apart from other living creatures.

Other examples in sports history of breaking limited beliefs or expanding our beliefs about what’s possible:

  1. The Raptors winning the championship this year!
  2. Roger Bannister breaking the 4-minute mile.
  3. Mohammed Ali vs Sonny Liston – who then claimed “GOAT”
  4. The Battle of the Sexes – a tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973

But how about other times in history where many of us were inspired by the idea of possibilities:

  1. Space travel – push toward advancement
  2. Science fiction… There were young fans of the original show who were inspired to become scientists and I believe those responsible for innovating cellular and mobile phones were influenced by Star Trek. There’s an article on NASA’s website addressing Star Trek’s influences on space science!

These historical moments bring us together as a community or as a nation, but we can also take intentional inspiration from knowing that it’s possible to accomplish personal and professional goals outside of our comfort zones and limiting beliefs.

And while we mainly focused today on this idea of accomplishing big goals, it can also have smaller ripple effect impacts on our lives, which ultimately lead to these bigger changes, too.

Necessity of Emotional Intelligence

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness. 
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

One of the reasons why I started my podcast, Life Stuff 101, is because I’ve often wondered, amongst other more practical and valuable knowledge: Why isn’t emotional intelligence taught in school?

When it comes to all forms of intelligence (whether it’s rational, physical, creative or emotional), it is my belief that many people believe that we either have it or we don’t.

While it’s true that we are all born with varying degrees of different areas of intelligence, ultimately to operate on a higher level in any area, it requires training and practice.

We take for granted that in order to compete at the higher level in sports or other kinds of competition, there is a need for training and it can be that much more helpful to get direct feedback through coaching.

Yet, specifically when it comes to emotional intelligence, there’s no clear narrative about what could be helpful for us to all consider.

What is Emotional Intelligence? Emotional intelligence is having the ability to understand and monitor your own emotional state, and also being able to understand the emotional states of others, too.

In other words, are you able to understand and name your emotions, and to effectively use what you learn from your emotions to help guide behaviours and decisions?

And just because someone can be considered to be very smart intellectually, it certainly doesn’t mean that they have a correspondingly high emotional intelligence.

In fact, there have been studies that show that those with average IQs have higher emotional intelligence than those with the highest IQs 70% of the time.

Having high emotional intelligence also has connections to success: It turns out that 90% of “top performers” have high emotional intelligence. While 80% of lower performers have been measured to have lower EQ.

Daniel Goleman has literally written the book on Emotional Intelligence and his model identifies five components of emotional intelligence.

Self-awareness

Self awareness is having the ability to understand and recognize our moods, feelings and motivations. It also having the ability to understand how we may be impacting others in relation to ourselves.

Goleman refers to being more emotionally intelligent as being more “emotionally mature”.

Emotionally maturity when it comes to self-awareness can look be: self-confidence, the ability to accept and even make light of mistakes, and understanding how we relate or are being perceived by others.

Self-regulation

Self regulation is having the ability to identify emotions and being able to respond or act deliberately.

Traits that would demonstrate this is the ability to not act impulsively, the ability to not immediately respond before acting or speaking, and be able to take responsibility for your own actions.

Motivation

Motivation is developing the resilience to navigate obstacles and following through, through learning and challenging yourself.

Many of us are highly focused on navigating around a problem, as opposed to building emotional strength and resilience through learning how to problem solve and being able to persevere during challenging times.

Working through challenges makes us stronger. Challenging ourselves physically, makes us stronger. Lack of sustained physical challenge means that we deteriorate or atrophy.

Empathy

Empathy is the ability to acknowledge and have a sense of the emotions and actions of others through their own subjectivity.

I think that many people assume they are empathizing with other people, when often it’s a projection of what they would be feeling onto someone else’s experience.

Empathic people have the ability to be fully present with others, have the ability to engage in active listening, and have a developed sense of nonverbal communication.

Social skills

Social skills, in relation to emotional intelligence, is having the ability to work with others effectively by having skills in persuasion, communication, conflict management and the ability to build meaningful relationships.

An individual with developed social skills have the ability to communicate and resolve conflicts with others effectively, have the ability to lead well, and the ability to build and maintain good relationships.

Based on the five components of emotional intelligence, if there are areas you can specifically identify as ones to work on, you can start by focusing on improving those areas.

But the following are three skills to help with developing better emotional intelligence, which I know personally have been incredibly helpful for me:

Learn to identify and be able to name emotions

Many of us can identify the strength of what we’re feeling, but often have difficulty connecting what we’re feeling to words.

I often say that learning the language of emotions is like learning a completely different dialect.

Using something like the Emotion Wheel (developed by psychologist, Robert Plutchik) to start identifying and putting words to your feelings can be a helpful tool.

Rethink the idea of “bad” emotions

While there are definitely emotions that feel bad, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the emotions themselves are bad.

Often, when people feel badly a lot, they can start believing that feeling badly means that there’s something bad about them or who they are.

But feeling badly is more often connected to something that our internal system has identified as something to address.

Which brings us to this point…

Think about emotions as “information” or “data”

Everything about how we’re designed to operate is based on helping us to survive.

If we take that as the basis of why emotions exist, rather than to judge ourselves based on how we’re feeling, it could be much more valuable to be curious about what the “data” is trying to tell us.

If we’re feeling badly about something, rather than to automatically assume that it says something about who we are, what if we were to wonder why we may be feeling what we’re feeling?

It can be a very different experience and ultimately outcome, to be an investigator about your feelings, rather than being critical of them.

The Problems with People Pleasing

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness. 
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

“People pleasers” are often known as people who are always there, reliable and helpful to a fault.  They are always doing things for others, as though they are “on call” for friends and family.

In some ways, this can seem like a good thing.  But for many people who fall under the description of being a “people pleaser”, it can be stressful, exhausting and depleting.

People pleasers…

  • Have a hard time saying “no”.
  • Find it difficult to express their own opinions. For some people, they might even struggle with knowing what their opinions actually are.
  • They worry excessively about other people and their actions are often based on what other people might think.

For many people pleasers, there is a fear of abandonment, fear of retaliation, and fear of confrontation.

Even though people who people please are doing things and basing their actions on others, many times, the focus is often not about the other person, but worries about themselves.  

Many of these individuals have difficulty engaging in conflict and taking care of themselves.

This may be because there are people who, based on their circumstances, had no choice, but to take care of others. 

It may have started out as a need in an earlier part of life, but could have become a way of being that’s become too excessive and unmanageable over time.

One way to tell if you’re a people pleaser vs a balanced feeling of doing things for others, is how it feels.

If it feels like you have to do something versus doing it because you want to more often than not, then it can be a sign that you have people pleasing tendencies.

While doing things for others is part of what happens in mutually satisfying relationships, there is a difference with people pleasers who often find that they are stressed, frustrated or upset and experience giving as more of a ‘one way street’.

Over time, many people pleasers might find that they can develop more serious difficulties such as anxiety, depression and co-dependency difficulties in relationships.

Three things to think about if you’re a people pleaser…

  1. Realize that’s it’s not important that everyone like you. It’s not even possible. Through no fault of your own, there are also some people who won’t like you or what you do, no matter what you do.
  2. When you say “no,” you’re saying “yes” to something else. When you say “no” to something that you are too tired or too busy to be able to do for someone else, you’re saying “yes” to spending time with your family, or catching up on self care, or something else that’s meaningful for you.
  3. It’s true that if you change the way you are with people, some people may be very upset and you may even lose them.  It can be helpful to look at the quality of those relationships in general and also expect that emotionally working through these changes will be uncomfortable, but just because it’s uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.

The One Thing Every One of Us Should Know

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness. 
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

Q: What is the one thing that every single one of us can do that can help to better regulate ourselves?

A: Take deep breaths… 

AND understand that many of us don’t even know how to do it right.  Also, and most importantly, the role that breathing plays with the mind and body connection.

A few years ago, I was getting a massage and the massage therapist had put her hand on my stomach and told me to take a deep breath.

I took, what I thought, was a BIG and DEEP breath.  But the massage therapist was quick to point out that my breath wasn’t really all that deep at all.

In fact, she observed that my supposed deep breath only went as far as my upper chest and nowhere near my belly.  If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, you know that they keep instructing you to take “belly breaths”.

So here’s an idea: Just because you might think you’re taking deep breaths, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are. Especially if you have a tendency to worry, to be stressed or to be anxious.

One indication that you might not be taking effective breaths is if it’s challenging for you to feel calmer after taking a few deep breaths.

You’ve probably gotten into the habit of taking shallow breaths over time and might not have realized that your breathing is not optimal.

Afterall, how often have you thought about the quality of how you breathe?

But here’s a very significant reason why it’s important to know how to get the real depth in your breath: When you breathe from a shallow place (a quick breath or a breath that internally stops above your stomach), it’s signaling to your brain that you need quick access to oxygen.

From an evolutionary standpoint, as far as our brains are concerned, quick breaths means that you need the breath to do something quickly… That you’re trying to run from something… like when we’d been attacked or if there was a lion or a tiger chasing us.

We would need to be able to get our breath as quickly as possible so that we could run and get away.  Survival with a capital S is the name of the game.

Whereas, if you’re taking deep breaths from deep within, it means that you’re in a more relaxed state. Which then signals to the brain that you’re not in danger.

One of the problems with modern day society is that we have learned to feel a constant level of stress that can feel like being in some kind of danger, the kind of danger that can feel like the need to go into Survival Mode to the brain.

This level of elevated alert can cause chronic anxiety and stress happening bodily within you. So when you’re able to take those deep breaths, you’ll be able to signal to your brain that you’re not, in fact, in danger and that your brain will prompt the rest of your body that you can calm down.

But while at a different time in our human history, “fight, flight or freeze” was something that didn’t happen too often, we’ve evolved to constantly be dealing with some kind of stress all the time (driving, navigating people on the sidewalk not paying attention, conflict with co-workers and family and so forth) and many of us have just defaulted to shallow breathing, which has created a constant internal feedback loop of stress.

The tendency to be experiencing stress on an on-going basis can result in further health issues like high blood pressure, suppression of the immune system, and more serious mood issues, like anxiety and depression.

Being able to breathe deeply more consistently means that you’ll be better oxygenating your system which will mean that you may find that it can have cognitive benefits, as well as promote a relaxation response, which in turn can ease tension and stress.

So, it really is as easy as breathing more deeply… but it also turns out that many of us have lost the intuitive ability to know how to do it properly!  Especially since we are a society that favours flat stomachs, which then means that many of us are sucking in our stomachs, which is the exact opposite of what’s needed to be able to breath deeply.  

What are ways to improve our ability to breathe deeply and more effectively?

Firstly, however, it’s important to know that it’s not going to happen in one day.  Just like any other habit, it’s going to take some time to learn a new way of breathing.

And like being able to have better habits in other ways, when you are able to breathe more deeply, you will be able to use your breath efficiently when you need it. You’ll also be able to take those deep breaths to signal to your brain that it’s ok for you to not be in Survival Mode and calm down.

The better you can be at calming yourself through your breath, the more your breath will be available to you whenever you need it.

Ok, so how do we do practically do that?

One: There’s an app (or several) for that! One I have used is called Pranayama, but there are also others.

Two: Yoga classes, Restorative or Yin classes would especially be good for practicing deep breathing.

Three: There are other types of breathing practices. One which I use is called the Box Breathing Technique.

Be conscious and intentional about getting your breath as deep into your body as possible and try to get it way, way down.  Think about trying to get your breath down to your toes.

For instance:
• Inhale for 4 counts through the nose.
• Hold the breath for 4 counts.
• Exhale for 4 counts out through the mouth.

Even this Navy SEAL practices box breathing.

You’re giving precious oxygen to your brain, as well as the rest of your body.

Not only will this help to calm you, your brain and body now has more of a critical resource to operate better.

Your breath will be there for you, when something stressful is happening or you just need to take a mental time out to oxygenate your brain and body.

I hope that you decide and continue to cultivate the ability to deep breathe because you will have one more tool in your toolbox to go to when you need it.

If you are interested in learning from the life lessons of my guests every week, please join me and MY (stands for Mio Yokoi ;)) Miracle Mob as we learn and grow each week!

The Life Stuff 101 podcast is coming on September 5th.  But you can be one of the first to get access to the free preview episode that’s available right now. Go ahead and get your ‘behind the scenes’ episode below!

Ask the Right Questions

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness. 
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

A lot of the times we can feel as though we don’t have choices because we’re not asking ourselves the kinds of questions that lead to different perspectives, which can then evolve into changes.

Or more specifically, the questions we’ve developed a habit of asking ourselves can keep us stuck.  In other words, many of us do not learn to ask questions that help move us forward… Or not asking the most effective questions is like having a combination lock and to keep using the wrong combination, even if it’s not unlocking.

The idea of asking questions alone can already be pretty challenging.  Many of us have been discouraged from asking questions and may often be afraid that they will be perceived as “ignorant” or “stupid” to ask.

Learning to ask more relevant and targeted questions can be a really valuable skill in all areas of life.

Whether it’s asking questions of ourselves or others, knowing how to ask more effective questions can be the difference between getting useful answers or keeping you in the dark.

And what is the question that many of us end up asking, even if it isn’t helpful? 

That question is, “Why?” As in “Why does this happen to me?”

Or

“Why would so-and-so say that or behave that way?”

Or 

“Why do they do this to me?”

This is actually backed by research:

Research has found that that no matter how hard we might try, it’s not possible to bring our unconscious feelings and thoughts into complete and full conscious awareness. 

And because there is so much not available to our conscious awareness, we end up making up answers that feel true but are actually usually very wrong.

Also, when something happens that doesn’t seem to make any logical sense to us, we can get into the trap of asking “why” questions in a loop without getting to any meaningful answers.

So what to do instead?  Ask: What?  

So rather than “Why did this happen?”, ask “What can I do to make this situation better?”

There is a TED video called “Increase Your Self Awareness with One Fix” and it addresses the importance of learning to ask the right questions to increase self awareness. 

Ironically, the speaker (Tara Eurich) who is an Organizational Psychologist deeply goes into the whys of what makes people truly more self aware.

She also goes into more details about the research to support how much more helpful it is to ask “What?” than “Why?”.

It was great to come across this video, because it helped to support one of the most valuable life lessons I’ve had during my own personal development and work as a helping professional.

Whenever something happens when I notice that I’m thinking about it pretty consistently, I’ve learned to be aware of:

What questions am I asking myself?

and

What questions can I be asking myself that can move me toward a change or solution?

Seems so simple, and it would have been so helpful to have had this laid out for us during the time in our lives developmentally, when we were figuring these kinds of things out.

And it appears I’ve created myself a segue! Because this, and other similar lessons are ones I believe would have been so helpful to have learned earlier in life.

That is the basis for my upcoming podcast, Life Stuff 101.  If you are interested in learning from the life lessons of my guests every week, please join me and MY (stands for Mio Yokoi 😉 Miracle Mob as we learn and grow each week!

The Life Stuff 101 podcast is coming on September 5th.  But you can be one of the first to get access to the free preview episode that’s available right now. Go ahead and get your ‘behind the scenes’ episode below!

Change is Possible by Getting Clear

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

Is there something in your life that you would like to change but it feels impossible, too late or too hard?

Or maybe it’s that you’re worried that people would judge you or be disappointed in you.

Many of us can also find ourselves attached to a certain identity that can feel connected to a relationship, lifestyle or work.

All these things can feel true, but it can also be true from a gut feeling level that:

  • The work or relationship just doesn’t feel like it’s working
  • You’re constantly feeling upset or thinking about the situation in a negative way
  • You find that you are feeling more down and anxious than relaxed and content

As human beings, we seek comfort and safety. And changing any known situation can feel risky, which is the opposite of comfort and safety.

Every one of us has our own unique situation and sometimes they can be quite complicated.

  • With a family situation, it can be that there are many people involved who’s lives may be impacted with change.
  • With work, it can be that the company’s culture is fundamentally different from yours or that there could be a specific issue with one or a few colleagues.
  • It can also be that the your chosen career path is no longer doing it for you, but you’ve invested a lot of resources and time, and it doesn’t feel possible for you to explore something different. Especially when there are responsibilities and obligations, like with family.

But not only is change possible, it can be that things can be and feel so much better.

Here’s also another perspective: If you are more fulfilled and satisfied, would you not also be a better family member, partner, friend or work colleague?

One thing that often stops people from acting on change is when the thinking mind get caught in ‘analysis paralysis’.

And the biggest problem with ‘analysis paralysis’ is that the so-called analysis can literally be never-ending, which is often what keeps people stuck.

Here are two suggestions:

First – Find some time and space for you to have alone. And then ask yourself, if the situation were to remain exactly the same as it is right now a year from now, what’s the first thing you feel? This is an exercise to clearly get in touch with your gut instincts.

Second – If you want to do a longer intuition barometer test and you’re trying to decide between, say, two decisions, spend a week “living as though” with one decision and pay attention to how it’s feeling, and then do the same thing the following week with the other decision.

This second exercise takes more time and commitment, but it can powerfully demonstrate how you are feeling intuitively.

If you notice having strong feelings, whether negatively or positively, these are signs that there is a need for some kind of action.

Actions can come next, but first get clear about your need for the change by getting clear about you’re feeling on a gut level.

Choices are Powerful

On this site, in the Solid Blog , Life Stuff 101 podcast and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness. 
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

We’re faced with choices everyday, but with so many of those choices being made automatically and out of habit, we may not realize that we’re constantly making choices.

Other times, it can feel as though we have too many choices. It’s been studied that too many choices have a negative impact on attention and also from a social perspective.

Too many choices can result in worries about missing out or indecision about what would be the “right” decision.

But ultimately, self-determination is a good thing and choice is a necessity for self-determination.

Often, when we are feeling stuck, stressed, or depressed, it is because it feels as though we don’t have choices.

While we don’t always have a choice regarding our circumstances, we can understand what choices are available to us and that we have the choice as to how we decide to deal with our circumstances.

Real Life Example of Choices: A Baseball Tale

As a baseball fan, and specifically as a Toronto Blue Jays fan, there have been some controversial choices made by the ballclub, as well as one of the more popular players for the Jays the past few years.

This is the time in the baseball season where there is a trade deadline.

In a nutshell, for teams that are in contention, they can work to acquire players to help get them to and ultimately, win, the championship.

While teams whose season looks to not be headed toward the post-season can take advantage of the strong players they do have to trade for “pieces” that may be more valuable in the future.

The Toronto Blue Jays find themselves in a position where the team is clearly not positioned for the post-season and a strong player in Marcus Stroman, also with whom there have been reported tensions.

Regardless of any personal opinions regarding the choices made by the Blue Jays to trade Marcus Stroman to the Mets, it’s pretty clear how Stroman had also over time made choices about how he was going to handle (at least publicly), what seemed to be, the inevitable upcoming trade.

In other words: He didn’t have a choice as to where he would be traded, but he had choices about how he, himself, was going to handle it.

As fans, each one of us are going to have our own opinions about this, but there are choices Stroman seemed to have made over the course of this season:

  • Communicate publicly what his preferences were to where he could be traded.
  • Using social media, appeared to give his opinions about the Blue Jays organization specifically in relation to his situation.

What’s the Takeaway Regarding Choices for the Rest of Us?

Whatever each of us may think and feel about Stroman, there are consequences to his choices. Through observing Stroman’s choices, we may be able to learn about our own ability to make choices and the possible consequences which may result.

Here’s a complete hypothetical… 
What if it is that based on Stroman’s choices, he did ultimately have an impact on the outcome? (eg – Blue Jays organization not willing to work with him either on an extension or to take his preferences into consideration for the trade, or maybe other teams would think of it as a strike on him that he would air out his opinions publicly?)

Based on what appears to be some of the consequences based on Stroman’s choices, perhaps we can learn about how we can understand the power of choices for ourselves.

What we can know about our ability to make choices:

  • How we use our strengths is a choice. Conversely, how we use our choices can serve as one of our strengths.
  • Every one of us has choices as to how we handle a situation, and also often how we think and feel about those situations
  • Choices are powerful, and therefore, our ability to make choices is powerful. Understanding that we have choices is empowering, but taking personal responsibility for our choices and what happens because of our choices is also a key piece in having a sense of personal control.