Category Archives: Wellness

Wellness Monday: What is Stealing Your Joy?

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What is the thief of joy? Comparison.

Among other things, comparing yourself to others can be a thief of your joy, happiness, and contentment. However, comparison is an automatic behavior (source) so it is nearly impossible to quit completely. Fortunately comparison may be harnessed toward a healthier form than typical comparison. First, let’s unpack comparison.

In the field of psychology, comparison is studied as the term “social comparison” and Leon Festinger is an initial theorist. Festinger proposed “that individuals are motivated to gain accurate evaluations of themselves by examining their opinions and abilities in comparison to others” (source). In short, people compare themselves to others in order to know themselves. He also hypothesized that people are more likely to compare themselves to people who they recognize as similar to them. While this process is perfectly normal and seeming harmless, there are a few detrimental downsides. (As well as some upsides.)

There are two kinds of social comparison, upwards and downwards.

Upwards consists of seeking out people you perceive as similar, for comparison. In one respect, this is fortunate because this can prompt one to make life improvements to measure up to better models. Alternately it can cause you to discount yourself and lower your regard for your sense-of-self. For example, you may earn a 90 out of 100 on a test, yet you compare yourself to the person who earned 100, and feel that your performance is substandard. If you notice from the past example this can lead to feelings of inadequacy as well as fierce competitiveness. Further, upward comparison encourages uniformity and there is a tendency to conform to the comparison subject or group (especially as you consider the person or group to be similar to you).

Downwards comparison involves comparing oneself to those who seem dissimilar from you. In moderation it can help one to feel better about their self and situation. Yet some downward comparison is partly the source of a superior attitude that supports stereotyping and other destructive behaviors. Interestingly, this defensive strategy serves to help people, “dissociate themselves from perceived similarities and to make themselves feel better about their self or personal situation”(Source). In other words, you may realize you aren’t as bad off as others in more grim circumstances, so it boosts your sense-of-self.

Can people just one type of comparison for a better outcome? No, it is not that simple.

Only engaging in upward comparison encourages uniformity, sacrificing your authentic self to be like the rest, and you may wind up with lower self-regard. Conversely, downward comparison alone may cause you to have and inflated sense of self, and with such high self-regard there is no motivation to try self improvement. So, both types of comparison are important, but problematic. Luckily, it is possible to guide this automatic, and sometimes subliminal compulsion to compare toward a healthier end.

I propose, to first work to gain a general awareness of how you compare yourself currently. Next, make adjustments as necessary to compare yourself to yourself. This way you may evaluate your own efforts and circumstances relative to your past self, rather than in contrast to others.

Using social comparison to compare yourself with yourself (most of the time), will likely help you keep more of your joy, contentment and happiness in place. Ultimately, social comparison is something you already engage in, it is simply a matter of how you wish direct your comparisons.


Wellness Monday: Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

IMG_0120Let’s talk about assumptions. I like to call today’s tip, “check yourself, before you wreck yourself” because too often our assumptions, or the things we take for granted as true in life without proof, may in fact be true or false.

We are responsible to keep our assumptions in check because this helps us be our best possible self and have optimum life experiences. Watch the video below for a funny allegory that demonstrates the need for checking our assumptions.

(Please forgive the quality of the video, and focus instead on the content because it’s worth it!)

As you may have noticed, the character from the story assumes something as truth, but later finds out their entire perceptions was off. Sometimes, it is easy to forget that our lived experiences (aka life) are also perceived by us, through our biases, filters, and assumptions. We aren’t living in a vacuum and what we assume is true, may not indeed be truth.

Checking our own assumptions can be infinitely freeing. Staying open to possible realities, rather than sticking with your assumptions, help you participate in life’s moments and be fully present. This is especially true if you are in the habit of thinking about worst-case-scenarios. If that is the case, this is a great first step toward a happier life experience.

Wellness Monday: Bee Style Healthcare

Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)

In a TED talk, Vikram Patel reveals a drastically different approach to healthcare than the current status quo. Patel outlines how common mental health illnesses like depression are among the leading causes of disability that contribute to larger health needs on a global scale. He suggests a human-centered approach using ordinary people.

Patel’s approach is to enable average community members to effect positive changes in their community, rather than the current model where limited mental health care providers are available, particularly in developing nations. While the approach is powerful where there are few mental healthcare providers among large populations, Patel envisions the possibilities in any nation.

I compare this behavior, of equipping larger groups of everyday people within the community to treat the most common types of mental illness, to the integrated functions of a honey bee population where bees assist and point to larger resources in the environment.

Honey bees are known for their complex social behaviors.  Not one or a few, but the majority of honey bees act in a distinct way that benefits the larger bee community. What do they do?They take action.

Like many other insects, honey bees use odors and chemical releases to communicate, but they are distinct because they also use visible actions. Antennae movements and dancing convey information on the type of resources available in the environment and their quality to other bees. Similarly, many people may be taught to treat the most common mental illnesses, a task shift to enable many willing people for good, while allowing health care providers to act as mentors.

Following Patel’s approach, it is beneficial to train groups of community members to help treat the most common mental health issues. Places with limited healthcare professionals could shift their priorities to reach the maximum amount of people by mentoring and training others to replicate the psychotherapy and behavioral therapies to treat the most common mental health challenges such as depression. This creates greater access to resources in the environment for positive mental health.

Patel and others have implemented this approach and the results are significant. Watch this compelling video for more.

Lastly, Patel defines this approach using the acronym SUNDAR, which mean “attractive” in Hindi. The acronym stands for:

Simplify the message of medicine

UNpack the treatment

Deliver healthcare to where the people are, using whoever is available

Affordable and available resources

Reallocation of specialists to train and supervise

This approach is attractive, to be sure. Following the honey bee model, any willing honey bee can point to resources, and this ability isn’t limited. So too, are ordinary people able to treat common illnesses to promote positive mental health changes. If the bees can do it, so can we humans.

Patel’s healthcare proposal is different from the current model, yet it seems replicable. In other words, this approach could be a sustainable model in any society, no matter the scarcity of mental healthcare professionals.

Join me, to explore this healthcare task shift proposal further as I follow Patel’s journey via his online presence.

Wellness Monday: Owning Your Emotions

more magnets

Let’s discuss owning our personal emotions.  There is a common yet destructive habit of blaming personal emotions on others and circumstances, especially when it would be best to simply own personal emotions. Admittedly, I catch myself doing this also. For instance, I noticed myself reporting how, “some driver cut me off, and that made me so upset”, and mentioned that “so-and-so neglected to return my phone call, and that made me sad”.  These types of phrases, while ubiquitous in everyday speech, are faulty. So, I decided to set an intention to change the way I talk about my emotions.

The intention is to begin owning my emotions. I intend to quit blaming others for my emotions, because it is I who am responsible for managing my own emotions.

Simply put, blaming personal emotions on other people actions and situations is faulty for a number of reasons.

  • it negates the fact that your emotions are your own
  • it sets an expectation that people and circumstances are responsible for correcting your mood, rather than yourself
  • others, not you become the source of correcting your emotions
  • it is an example of poor maintenance of personal boundaries
  • it breeds resentment from others, and holds others emotionally hostage for your problem

To accompany my intention, I plan to practice personal responsibility of my emotions and share my true feelings while reserving expectations concerning others’ reactions or shows of support.

Here is another source on ways to manage and control your emotions.

Does this resonate with you? What intention will you set for yourself?

Wellness Monday: Remembering to Listen


Here’s a broad question. What does communication mean to you?

While this is a question worth answering for yourself, to me, a huge part of effective communication has to do with listening. Often, I remind myself of the value of listening well, and it seems to be a popular topic in media too. Effective listening adds value to all interactions with others, whether it be a professional or personal relationship.

The big benefit is this, listening helps you truly hear another person’s perspective, and creates an opportunity where understanding another will likely help you get what you want as well. Here is an article that points to the benefit of listening with intention, although I think the author’s conclusion that listening to others’ will ultimately help you be “like-able” is simplistic (and not the end goal), yet the author does have a point that listening is important in every setting.

If you are the image of perfection in the listening arena, stop reading. Meanwhile, the rest of us will refer to the following pointers for listening well. One of the best ways to receive someone else’s message is to practice active listening. This is:

  • listening, without forming a response
  • eye contact and nodding, etc. to demonstrate listening
  • give feedback, by repeating what you hear to confirm you understand the speaker
  • limit distractions, try to remain focused on the speaker

This active listening behavior will encourage others to identify you as a safe person to speak with, a solutions oriented individual, and one who seeks to understand and clarify when others speak. (Editorial alert, who wouldn’t like to be perceived as this sort of person and listened to in this way?!) There is certainly an appropriate time to speak, to be sure, yet listening is a best practices skill that defuses or resolves emotionally charged situations, while promoting more meaningful relationships overall.

At this point, I hope you have a renewed intention to listen. Remember to listen, as it is a key aspect of communication.


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Wellness Monday: Acronyms Help

Disney's Human Element - "You Better Think (Think!!!)"
I am here to share that acronyms work. Especially when you could use a little help with effective communication. How is it that acronyms possibly help, you ask?

The acronym that I will elaborate on in this post is T.H.I.N.K. It is mostly a shorthand list that serves as a helpful reminder when you are trying to communicate. (Also, acronyms work as handy memory recall strategies, but that is a topic for another day.) This acronym may not be for everyone, however anyone can use it and decide if it works for their purposes.

It is often accompanied with the phrase “before you speak, THINK…”. The phrase is followed by, “Is it true? Helpful? Inspiring? Necessary? Kind?” as a short questionnaire checklist.


The bottom line is this; all of us must speak. THINK is a useful reminder when communication is an inevitable human behavior. We are social beings. We pass on information, thoughts, ideas, criticisms, and much more using our body language and the power of the spoken word. As humans we communicate with other people using words, and with ourselves via our individual internal dialogue. Whether we communicate in an effective way, or otherwise, depends on our approach.

THINK is a useful approach because it serves as a quick and easy internal checklist before communicating to ourselves with self-talk and other people with our words. Odds are, if you consider whether words prior to speaking satisfy at least one of these questions (Is it true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, or kind?), can be a measurement of if it should be said at all. You may also want to consider the THINK acronym in terms of your own self-talk.

A “yes” to the questions on the THINK list could mean that it will be worthwhile and solution based, while a “no” may be destructive or problem based. Words that do not meet the THINK criteria are most likely not worth your time and effort as they may not really communicate much. Similarly, your internal self-talk may be worth keeping or changing depending on the sort of language you choose and how it measures up to the THINK acronym.

With time and practice, this may become a habit of your communication strategy to yourself and everyone you interact with. It will be well worth the time and effort to adopt the, “think before speaking” approach that is immensely helpful to yourself and those you interact with from day-to-day.

Does this approach work for you? Are there other acronyms that work well?


Wellness Monday: Pigeonhole No More

pigeon holed...
Photo Source: Wikipedia

What the heck is pigeonholing?

While the word is likely from the pigeon bird’s ability to nest in small holes and other tight spaces, another definition offers the meaning of a “specific, often oversimplified category”. This is related to dichotomous thinking, which is also known as black-and-white thinking. Often times, treating things as if they are mutually exclusive can lead to trouble and oversimplification.

For example, describing people as either good or bad is likely an unrealistic categorization. Likewise, classifying rhubarb as either poisonous or edible would be untrue because the plant is indeed both edible and poisonous. There are drawbacks to pigeonhole style thinking.

So, this is your permission slip to pigeonhole no more. Try reconsidering a topic you have an either/or position, and consider it in another way. Maybe it is both of the dichotomies instead of one or the other, or it lies on a continuum between the two sides. If you try it, you might like it.

I will post along a similar theme regarding pigeonholing again next week with another perspective and some more research on this topic.

Also, the inspiration for this post comes from a book I recently read. A branding and business strategy book, Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits by Debbie Millman. The author interviews current A-listers of the marketing world and one interview with Malcom Gladwelll, the author, cultural critic and new yorker columnist stood out to me. On the popularity of personality tests and the concept of the individual brand he said “It gives people a superficially appealing ‘understanding’ of each other. I think that we should be fighting pigeonholing, not enabling”. These wise words by Mr. Gladwell point to the fact that humans are not easily defined people. We are all unique.

(This wellness tip from a business strategy book is a reminder that wellness crosses over many subjects and that many subjects are relatable to wellness too.)