The Health Benefits of Creativity

I truly love to having the opportunity to create.  I love writing, singing, playing music and listening to music, and painting.  I am not an artist, but I believe that most of us celebrate and participate in various types of artistic pursuits for a number of reasons.

As a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist, I have been influenced by those in my field who espouse time to be in the right brain – the part of our brain that lets us be in the now. Perhaps you are familiar with Eckhart Tolle and his The Power of Now, or Jon Kabat Zinn and his Full Catastrophe Living, Wherever You Go, There You Are and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction protocol.

I have been studying various forms of right brain practice since I was a child, first through listening to music, playing as many musical instruments as I could get my hands on, and more profoundly when my father, Ernie, handed me a book written by Dr. Herbert Benson, outlining his techniques for mindfulness in The Relaxation Response, which I read as a young teen.  I also studied and began a self-taught yoga practice at that time, just because it seemed right to me.  I also became aware of Dr. John Sarno when both my father and my husband saw him and began his protocol to ease and erase chronic pain, which is described in his many books, among them, Healing Back Pain, The Mind-Body Connection.  There are many wonderful examples and ways to help yourself practice being in the moment finding relief and joy.

As an adult I began to formalize my practice by actually studying more of the types of techniques I had read about and first learned of as a child.  Studying and practicing hypnotherapy (which is about tuning into your self, self awareness and calming) has been a logical extension of all of these practices.  I have studied with Herbert Benson, Jon Kabat Zinn and many others.  I have been and continue to be a voracious reader, devouring Be Here Now by Ram Daas, The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hahn, as well as Carolyn Myss’s Energy Anatomy, Dr. Andrew Weill, and others.

I recently became aware of a post in Huffington Post on the Health Benefits of Creativity, worth a read.  In addition, if this is an area that you find of interest, try watching the Ted Talk from Jill Bolte Taylor, the author of My Stroke of Insight.  While the book and talk outline how Brain Scientist Dr. Taylor experiences her own stroke, it also gives an insider’s look at what is is like in the right brain, which is a wonderful thing.  We need not have a stroke to experience mindfulness, be in the moment, or experience joy.

To me, the key to creativity is to connect with an open mind and an open heart.  Can we have the monkey mind that swings form branch to branch and still enjoy a creative moment, or an interlude?  We can.

There are various ways to accomplish this.  If you love music like do, listen to some of your favorite songs.  Phone a friend.  Go to a paint and sip session, take an enrichment class at a local college or go to a meet-up session.  Go to a movie or a concert, read a book or article or blog (like this!).  Believe it or not, some of these practices help clear your mind.  Others actually bring us more awareness of the moment we are in right NOW!

This brings me to health benefits.  When we spend less time in that left brain which I call the office brain, the planning brain, the worry brain, we get a break, just like when we take a vacation.  The left brain is a necessary brain, but most of us spend far too much time there, and not enough in the moment, the beautiful right brain.  When we think and worry too much, it can disturb our sleep, create anxiety, even panic or depression.  These emotion based symptoms can bring physical manifestations as well, such as insomnia, aches and pains, stomach problems, fatigue, etc.  When we are able to learn to free ourselves of the overwork of too much left brain, we can seek and find relief.

One caveat!  Do not blame yourself for left brain freeze.  We all do it.  However, now that you have read all the way to the end of this post (congrats!) you have already learned some simple ways to practice mindfulness and feel better.

Crosspost from Angel and Marc Hack Life – 7 Mantras that will stop you from taking things personally!

Hi and welcome to a beautiful Summer Monday.  We open our eyes, awaken to a beautiful day and then…back to work, back to the routine, back to dealing with other people who may not see the world quite as we do.  Yes, others do invade our space, but other people are, well, people too!  When they say something that does not sit right with us, it is so easy to retort with something dark.  What did Mom used to say?  “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”.  While this crosspost does not advocate silence all the time, Marc does say to be mindful in your response, keep it peaceful, or refrain from responding immediately if necessary.

I love Angel and Marc Chernoff, and occasionally share their words of wisdom.  For the entire post, please click here.  Below is an excerpt.  Blessings for a wonderful week!

Mantras for NOT Taking Things Personally

Like you, I’m only human, and I still take things personally sometimes when I’m in the heat of the moment.  So I’ve implemented a simple strategy to support the practice of watching my response, as I’ve outlined above.  In a nutshell, I proactively remind myself NOT to take things personally.  Anytime I catch myself doing so, I pause and read the following mantras to myself.  Then I take some fresh deep breaths…

  1. You can’t take things too personally, even if it seems personal.  Rarely do people do things because of you.  They do things because of them.
  2. You may not be able control all the things people say and do to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.
  3. There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you detach from other people’s beliefs and behaviors.  The way people treat you is their problem, how you react is yours.  (Angel and I discuss this further in the “Self-Love” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
  4. Take constructive criticism seriously, but not personally.  Listen, and then operate with your own intuition and wisdom as your guide.
  5. You are GOOD enough, SMART enough, FINE enough, and STRONG enough.  You don’t need other people to validate you – you’re already valuable.
  6. If you truly wish to improve your self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth, stop allowing other people to be responsible for them.  Stop allowing other people to dominate your emotions.  (Angel and I build powerful self-confidence rituals with our students in the “Love and Relationships” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
  7. All the hardest, coldest people you meet were once as soft as a baby.  And that’s the tragedy of living.  So when people are rude, be kind, be mindful, be your best.  Give those around you the “break” that you hope the world will give you on your own “bad day” and you will never, ever regret it.

Happy Independence Day! Crosspost from my blog at The College of Westchester

In my other world as a college president, I write a blog.  Yesterday’s blog was about the beautiful country that we live in.  We sent it to our wonderful constituents including our board, our staff, faculty and students.  Despite many national and worldwide events that are frightening and tragic especially in the past few months, we still live in a country where freedom is ours, and it is precious!  It is important to remember that we have to continue to value our freedom and work hard to keep it.

Below is an excerpt from my blog at cw.edu.

I truly do love New York. We live and work in a state that I believe is forward thinking, supports the rights of all, and encourages higher education. Our NY State education leaders are caring individuals who support freedom of choice and I am proud and grateful that The College of Westchester is one of those stellar choices that students can make to further their education and their professional dreams. I had the opportunity to hear our NY State Commissioner of Education, Mary Ellen Elia, address a group of us at a recent APC Colleges Conference. She was inspirational in the way she spoke about students, passionate about making certain that they have many choices in determining what college to attend, including reputable, stable proprietary colleges (otherwise known in the popular media as “for-profit”). Many proprietary colleges, CW among them, are excellent colleges in which students thrive and succeed.

By the way, our own Professor Michael Flanagan and Dr. Stacy Larson presented at the APC conference on A Comprehensive Program for Student Learning Outcomes Assessment and with great interest and enthusiasm from the audience did CW Proud!! Prof. Janet Thompson and I enjoyed every moment of their words of wisdom.

At this year’s Commencement, May 26, 2016, our keynote speaker, Mr. Harry C. Alford, president and founder of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, spoke about free enterprise, about grads making it happen, working hard, and making their own successes and opportunities. He shared his own journey of hard work and success.

It is by our relentlessness as American People, that we can accomplish anything we set out to do.

The other thought I personally leave you with is to educate yourself. Do not rely on politicians or the media as your only sources of what is happening in the world. Read, and read a lot, from many diverse sources, as even the way that the news is presented is sometimes selective. One of my favorite quotes I share here is, “The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.” –James Madison

It was often around the dinner table that my girls, Jim and I would debate and share our opinions, no matter how outlandish, radical, conservative or wacky another might think it could be. It was never about complying or brainwashing. On the contrary, debate was about formulating and being able to articulate your own point of view.

In a college where we teach free enterprise, where we teach people to build a life of financial independence, entrepreneurship, and the ability to build a life based on the freedoms that made the United States a great place to live, I offer you some quotes, gathered by Bill Murphy, Jr. of INC. Magazine, published on July 2, 2015. Read the entire piece by clicking here.

Murphy himself prefaces the piece by saying, “By the way, did you know that the Founding Fathers weren’t just great leaders? They were also true entrepreneurs.” I am sharing some of the wonderful quotes here, and ask that you take a look at the original piece and see what resonates with you. There are a variety of quotes and viewpoints represented here. Please understand that I am not proposing any particular point of view, just that each of us should have the right to believe as we like, freely debate, share our opinions and vote.

“Better to die fighting for freedom than be a prisoner all the days of your life.” –Bob Marley

“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” –George Washington

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” –Martin Luther King Jr.

“We hold our heads high, despite the price we have paid, because freedom is priceless.” –Lech Walesa

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” –Ronald Reagan

“Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of resistance.” –Woodrow Wilson

“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.” –Jim Morrison

Happy Independence Day!

A crosspost from Jed Foundation in the wake of the killings in Orlando

The Jed Foundation has good resources, a helpline and excellent suggestions for getting through this very tough time, especially if it is making you or a loved one feel low.  Reach out to loved ones, talk to someone about your feelings, and take care of yourself. Jed Foundation’s slogan is LOVE IS LOUDER!  Here is a link to Jed Foundation’s website and original post that I have excerpted below.  Here it is:

The Jed Foundation joins the rest of our nation in a collective state of disbelief and heartache as we learn the details of the shooting massacre at Pulse Orlando Night Club, a place of friendship and gathering for the LGBTQ community in Orlando, Florida. So many promising lives were taken in this heinous hate crime. We extend our deepest sympathies to the families, loved ones, friends and communities of the victims who were injured or perished during this tragedy. You don’t need to personally know a victim or live in Orlando to feel the impact of this horrific event. With the relentless media coverage, it is understandable that any of us might feel emotionally connected to the events occurring in Orlando. Further, many people might feel a personal connection to the victims because of their own identification with the LGBTQ community – as a result, feelings of vulnerability and powerlessness might emerge. Some may experience the Orlando attack as a reminder of their own prior trauma, which might complicate or amplify their response to the recent attack.
In the aftermath of a tragedy, it’s normal to feel sadness, anxiety, fear, anger or any mix of these emotions. We encourage people to reach out to family, friends or counselors to express their feelings and explore effective and healthy ways to cope with their emotions. In the next few days and weeks, it will be important to look out for each other – be particularly aware of warning signs that someone is feeling hopeless. The signs could include withdrawing and isolating oneself, not sleeping or sleeping all the time, increased use of drugs or alcohol and talking about death or dying.
If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of distress, please reach out to a mental health professional or get anonymous, free support by texting START to Crisis Text Line at 741-741.
At a time like this, the simple things will help – don’t hold feelings in, talk to friends, family and loved ones. Turn off the TV, computer and phone. Get up and get out – tragedies can weigh so heavily on us that it makes it hard to move. Take a walk, go to the gym, run errands, spend time with friends, volunteer to help. And lastly, everyone should take care of themselves and those around them – physical health and emotional connectedness can go a long way toward making you feel like yourself again.
The Jed Foundation embraces the community ideals that make humanity marvelous – inclusion, diversity, acceptance, and compassion – it is our hope that these ideals provide the template for healing.
The Jed Foundation
6 East 39th Street, Suite 1204
New York, NY 10016

Prayers for Peace

Our heaPeace to all who enter hererts and prayers go to our friends and family in Paris, as well as those who recently suffered terrorist attacks in Beirut, Kenya and Baghdad. A friend of mine reposted a comment on Facebook that began; “It is not just Paris we should pray for. It is the world.” As we open our hearts to all of the good people in the world, I give thanks for the freedom that we have, and the ease, overall, with which we live. I also pray that those whose actions turn to violence will be turned once again to peace. I believe that Good will overcome evil.

I know these are heavy thoughts, but I cannot help but share them with you. If you are reading this, thank you for your good thoughts and prayers.
As we go into the most wonderful season of the year, I want to remind you that I am grateful and thankful for each of my family members, friends, coworkers, clients, students and alumni. May we all be at home enjoying our loved ones this holiday season and beyond, and may peace prevail.

Crosspost from my friend, Healer and Medium Karen Noé

Kuan_Yin_Peacock_AngelKaren Noé is a dear, kind and compassionate person. People flock to her for guidance and understanding, and, frankly, to connect with deceased loved ones. She brings peace, connection and healing to many. Karen is also author of three books and international lecturer. Working closely with her when we were both just starting out, I was inspired by her determination and belief in her life’s mission. I am still inspired by her today. I asked her if she would mind if I reprint a recent blog she published and she was happy to oblige. It is reprinted here in its entirety.

Quoting Karen Noé:
Every month I share a few of the articles and blogs I have written during the month. For this month, I’d like to share an article I wrote about how to create a more spiritual life.

5 Steps to a More Spiritual Life

In our day-to-day lives, we tend to forget that the real reason we are here has more to do with our hearts and souls than anything else. Remember, we are spiritual beings having a human experience, not the other way around. That’s why it’s so important for us to focus as much on our spirituality as on our physical and emotional health.

Don’t worry if you think you’re too busy, stressed, or tired to lead a more spiritual life. All it takes is a few small steps. With a little practice, you’ll soon find yourself feeling more connected, positive, and loving than you might have ever expected!

Step 1: Learn All You Can About Spiritual Principles

Focus on what aspect of spirituality fascinates you, and learn all you can about it!
Sign up for a class that interests you, or go to the bookstore and pick up a book that speaks to you.

Step 2: Let the Past Be the Past

It’s true what they say: “All we have is right now.” Don’t let any negativity from your past prevent you from being present in the moment. You can’t control the actions of your past or future self; so focus on letting go of what is out of your hands and try to remain in the moment.

Step 3: Pray and Meditate Daily

Take the time to pray and meditate each day. Prayer is talking to God and those in the celestial realm, whereas meditation is listening to them. As in any relationship, it’s important to listen as well as to speak.
You may wish to create a sacred space to make this practice even more meaningful. For example, you may choose to light a candle, turn on some soothing music, go to a tranquil spot in nature, or anything else that makes this daily practice feel good to you.

Step 4: Decide to Make a Positive Difference In the World

There’s no quicker way to feel your connection with God than to help make the world a better place. If you’re not sure where to start, simply ask God and the angels to guide you.

Step 5: See Yourself and Others Through God’s Eyes

Try to see yourself and others (this includes animals!) through God’s eyes, as the loving beings that you and they are. Also, make sure to forgive those who have harmed you. Always remember, when you hold unforgiving thoughts, you are only hurting yourself. The following statement says it perfectly: “It’s not the snakebite that kills us; it’s the venom that’s left behind.”

So let go of any negativity from the past; learn all you can about spiritual ideals and principles; choose to make a positive difference in this world; direct your attention on God’s energy within and around you; and love everyone, including yourself (and animals!) unconditionally. You will see – when you focus on the spiritual aspect of yourself and others, you will become a more peaceful and loving person. You will be creating a better world, not only for yourself, but for all those in your path as well!