Inspiration Station

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Why Love Is Always the Answer

We all need Love and we all have Love to give. Love exists in many forms and is expressed in countless ways. It’s the fuel, sustenance and nourishment we need to thrive in this world. Every act of kindness is love in action. As is each prayer, meditation, and positive thought you have. Feeling overwhelmed by all the problems in the world and wondering what you can do? Give a stranger a huge smile. Imagine how many strangers you can love in just one day with that incredible smile. Then there’s romantic Love, of course, the kind that gets us into trouble but keeps us coming back for more. When it works it’s smashing, isn’t it?  What’s the cure for a broken heart? Love, of course, but maybe a different kind of Love this time around. The tender, loving kind of self Love that helps to mend aching hearts. Sometimes it feels like life is constantly asking something of us and it’s overwhelming at times. Choices to make, dilemmas to figure out, decisions to face. When the question is “What do I do?” the answer is “Do the most loving thing.” Most of us have experienced loneliness in life and know how hard this can be. The cure for loneliness is Love. Not only ‘relationship love’ either, for some of the loneliest people on earth are in relationships. Sometimes we don’t open ourselves up or reach out because we feel vulnerable and are trying to protect our hearts. Yet we ache for connection because people need people. We can form all kinds of connections with all kinds of people with all kinds of closeness and intimacy. Many of us thrive with other connections, too, including with nature, pets, and a higher power. Sometimes in life we start to feel disheartened with all the struggles that come our way and hope starts to fade. If Hope starts to fade it’s time to surrender to Love. Literally imagine leaning into Love and it will carry you through. Be open to Love and Love openly. The world needs your Love, never underestimate how much or how powerful that can be. Donna Sales Founder of Hope Cafe For more posts from the Inspiration Station click here.          Donna Sales is a Registered Psychologist and writer living in Calgary, Canada. Her website is www.donnasales.ca. She is the founder of Hope Café.

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  • Coffee Love

When Love Trumps Fear

When love trumps fear the heart opens to let the light shine in. When the light shines in we see the beauty in all living things. When we see the beauty in all living things we feel connected. When we feel connected we grow to understand each other. When we understand each other we care about each other. When we care about each other we are kind to one another. When we are kind to one another there is peace on earth. And it all started with love. Donna Sales For more posts from the Inspiration Station click here.          Donna Sales is a Registered Psychologist and writer living in Calgary, Canada. Her website is www.donnasales.ca. She is the founder of Hope Café.

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  • Best Buds.

Our Love Affair With Dogs

“Dogs have a way of finding people who need them…and filling an emptiness we didn't even know we had.” ~ Unknown Dogs love and accept us unconditionally. We are the center of their universe. All we have to do is show up and they’re ecstatic. Our family and friends, they may be happy to see us, but never that happy. Being adored so completely probably fills us up more than we realize. Dogs give so much and expect so little. And they buffer us from loneliness. Research has found that when humans and dogs look into each other’s eyes they both get a boost of oxytocin, the ‘feel good’ hormone, also known as the ‘love’ or ‘cuddle’ hormone. No wonder why we’re so bonded to each other! Dogs can bring out our playful side. Have us rolling in the grass, laughing our heads off. Acting silly and forgetting to make dinner. They can immerse in the present moment easier and quicker than any meditation class can. By just being their own silly selves we can be silly, too, and feel the tension of the world fall away. Our beautiful boy Leo who brought the "Leoshine" into our lives. He's been gone for seven years but we still miss him so much♡ Like so many of you, the love I have for my dog is immense and I can’t imagine life without her. What is it about our precious companions that make them so special to us? Extensive research only confirms what we already know firsthand. Dogs calm us down and being around them and petting them relaxes us. Their companionship brings us comfort and a sense of security. Walking them and taking them to the dog park makes us move more (which is good for our bodies), get outdoors more (which is good for our soul) and interact more with other people (which is good for our spirit). Perhaps it's the simplicity of it that binds us to them so strongly. Unlike many of our personal and professional relationships, we know exactly what it takes to make our canine companions happy, and it isn’t much - love, attention, food and exercise. Dogs are easy to please. I’ve always loved hearing stories from clients whose well-being is enhanced significantly by their pets. Sometimes I joke that the world needs more dogs and fewer human therapists but there’s definitely a part of me that believes this, too. Approximately 37% of Canadian households have at least one dog and about 30% have at least one cat. Homes all over the globe have furry friends, of course, but millions of companion animals still enter shelters each year and millions more are out on the street as strays. To the shelter care workers and advocates who dedicate so much time and love to animals, we are deeply grateful for the tremendous work you do! Holly lounging on the porch. Aside from being awesome companions, how about all the hard working dogs out there dedicated to helping humans in need? We’ve always relied on dogs to be our protectors but we call on them to do so much more, too. Their loyalty and work ethic is remarkable. There are guide dogs, hearing dogs, and service dogs specifically trained to assist people with autism, seizures, severe allergies, diabetes and mobility issues. Many dogs specialize in mental health support and help veterans recover from post-traumatic stress disorder, calm people with anxiety disorders, and remind others to take medication on time. There are police dogs, search and rescue dogs and military dogs, too. And finally, we have therapy dogs that provide comfort and affection to people in hospitals, retirement and nursing homes, schools, and disaster zones. What on earth would we do without dogs? A transformation takes place in people when a dog enters the room. Just watch the smile it brings as the joy bubbles over. There's a reason they're called man's best friend and we're so lucky to have them in our lives. Are you a dog lover, too? This month’s theme at Hope Café is dedicated to our furry friends and we welcome you to share your comments, stories and photos with us by: 1.     Commenting below. 2.     Following and commenting on our brand new Instagram page.   www.instagram.com/_hopecafe 3.     Liking and commenting on Facebook.   https://www.facebook.com/HopeCafeFix/ 4.     Submitting a photo. Email me at donna@hopecafe.net 5.     Submitting a story. Email me at donna@hopecafe.net Share this link with other dog lovers, too, by choosing your platform below! Yours, as always, in hope, Donna September, 2016 For more posts from the Inspiration Station click here.          Donna Sales is a Registered Psychologist and writer living in Calgary, Canada. Her website is www.donnasales.ca. She is the founder of Hope Café.

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  • Dawn

Fresh Starts and New Beginnings

By Donna Sales, R. Psych. … This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson This post is dedicated to fresh starts and renewal. Spring is always a wonderful time for new beginnings but, fortunately, so is the dawn of each new day, regardless of the season or circumstances. The cells throughout our entire bodies are constantly renewing themselves to keep us physically healthy. We get a fresh red blood cell supply every four months, another layer of epidermis skin every couple weeks or so, and new bones about every ten years. Our bodies are constantly working to replenish, restore and recover to keep us healthy.1. But we are more than physical beings – we are emotional and spiritual beings, too, and these aspects of our health are equally important. Caring for our mental, emotional and spiritual selves improves our quality of life and makes us better equipped to handle challenges and setbacks. What if we adopted a fresh perspective when the old one holds us back, replaced a bad habit with good one, and replenished our energy reserves on a continual basis, rather than wait until we are completely depleted? How might our lives be different if we choose optimism over pessimism, gratitude over complaint, and self-acceptance over self-criticism? A new beginning in any aspect of our lives can be born at any moment in time. The only ingredient required is free will, which we all fortunately have an endless supply of. Is it time to hit the ‘refresh’ button in your life? What do you need right now to feel healthy, balanced and recharged? What brings you joy, fills your heart with love, and builds your confidence? We have one opportunity to make this the best life we can with the hand we’ve been dealt. And it’s never too late for a new beginning, no matter how small. Maybe it’s committing to a daily walk, taking a painting class, or ‘unplugging’ from technology one day a week. Or how about spending time in nature, saying ‘no’ more often, or signing up for a fitness class. It could be bigger, too, like changing careers, ending an unhealthy relationship, or moving to a different home or city. No one knows better than yourself what you honestly need, and you’re the only one who can hit the ‘refresh’ button, too. If we wait for someone else’s permission to follow our heart or dreams we’ve given our power away. If we care too much about what other people think, or try to please everyone all the time, we give our power away. If we are constantly reliving old hurts or feeling sorry for ourselves we are definitely giving our power away. New beginnings are born in consciousness and executed with intention. What life do I choose for myself and how will I get there? This is the beauty in it all…. We are never too old, too tired, or too torn or worn. It starts now, in this moment, a new way of thinking and doing things. It's never too late to shed bad habits, abandon past hurts, or de-clutter soggy minds from old, rusty tapes that keep telling us lies about how limited we are. You deserve to live a beautiful, glorious life. So here’s to new beginnings, my friends. Here’s to refreshing and renewing our whole selves – our bodies, minds and spirits – to be healthy and whole. Here’s to evolving with the tides and rhythms of life to embrace the best life has to offer. I wish you all the best every step of the way. Yours, as always, in hope, Donna 1.Wade, Nicholas. “Your Body Is Younger Than You Think.” New York Times August 2, 2005 Share this post with friends by choosing your options below. Expresso Yourself! We welcome your comments below.          Donna Sales is a psychologist and writer living in Calgary, Canada. She is the founder of Hope Café.

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  • Newspapers on beach

How To Watch The News and Still Love the World We Live In

By Donna Sales, R. Psych. “…With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” from Desiderata by Max Ehrmann, 1927 It’s a delicate balance to negotiate. The desire (and sense of responsibility) to know what’s going on in the world and the need for self-preservation. How do we stay informed about significant world events - as we are taught good citizens of the world do – then shake off the hysteria, vicarious trauma, and catastrophic predictions so we can go to work, make dinner, take the kids to hockey, care for aging parents, and strive to be healthy individuals living meaningful lives. In today’s world with media images imbedded into our daily lives, we are challenged to create space in our life to be informed about the problems that exist beyond our front door but not be immobilized by the fear, pain and sorrow that lives there. So how do we do this? 1. Know Thyself/Pace Thyself There are certain news events that impact some people more than others. For some, the atrocities of war are the most difficult to watch. For others, it’s the reality of global warming that gets under the skin. Animal lovers like myself lose sleep over a story showing video footage of farm animals being abused, unable to get the images out of our heads. The same story can affect different people in various ways. We have to know ourselves. What can I handle? What can’t I? How much is too much? Our news level tolerance also depends on how well we’re coping in our own lives. Some days we feel stronger than others. If we are depleted, highly stressed and overwhelmed, Wheel of Fortune is the better choice over the nightly news (is this why it’s the longest running syndicated game show in the United States?). Knowing what we can and cannot be exposed to is not about denial - it’s about self-care. We aren’t doing anyone any favours by carrying the burden of the world’s problems on our shoulders. Our greatest contribution to the world begins at home, with our own health and well-being and that of our family. 2. The Healthy and More Balanced We Are the Healthier the World Will Be “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi No matter who we are, where we live, what we do, how much money we make, or what our life circumstances are, we can all make a positive difference. Want more peace in the world? Find inner peace. Want more love in the world? Love yourself. Want more kindness in the world? Be kind to people and animals. Want to help save the environment? Be kind to the earth and preserve it’s natural resources. Never underestimate the ‘power of one’. 3. Just the facts  Critical thinking is our best friend when watching or reading the news. Media is a competitive business and media reports do not always accurately reflect the entire truth. Sometimes the ‘facts’ are even wrong, assumptions are made, exaggerations are made (to make the story appear more interesting or one-sided than it really is), or important parts of the story are intentionally left out. One small example…a local major newspaper published a few stories over the years where I have know the facts and in each of those stories at least one ‘fact’ that was published was incorrect. Innocent/careless errors? Perhaps. Regardless, the truth was not published. Who owns the media sources we access? Is there a personal/political agenda that translates into a skewed story? Take it all in and let critical thinking help make sense of it. 4. Get news from a number of media sources Isn’t it interesting how different sources manage to slant the same story? We all have our ‘go to’ places to get the news but watching, reading and listening to different media sources offers a wide range of content and opinions to expand our knowledge base. 5. Take a News Break (a break from the news that is) Try it for a day; a week; or even a month. I know someone who did it for a whole year. We can’t escape the news entirely in our media saturated culture but we can consciously decide to avoid it as best we can. Guilt free, of course. 6. Finding the ‘Gifts in the Rubble’ Journalists are trained to entrench themselves in the rubble and report on it but it is often left up to the viewer/reader to sift through it and identify how we can learn and improve as a society with this new information that has been shared with us. For example, with research mounting about the trend of global warming - and humankind’s role in contributing to it – most people are no longer denying the reality of climate change. With this consciousness, corporations and governments are being held more accountable to preserve the earth and it’s resources. We already have the technology for cleaner energy and transportation. We know how critical sustainable farming is and how to achieve it. We know how to save the world’s oceans. With less denial comes more responsibility and action. 7. The good news that’s happening all around us Good news isn’t commonly shared by the media but it’s happening all the time. Spending a full day to looking at the world through a ‘good news’ lens can restore our faith in humanity. We can even be ‘good news detectors’ with our kids, dedicating a day (or other period of time) to being on the lookout for good things then talking about what we discovered later (maybe over hot chocolate or ice cream). 8. Visit Mother Nature (even a city park will do) It’s grounding. Restorative. Calming. Being in nature reminds us that the most unparalleled, exquisite beauty that exists in the world is that which is untouched by humankind. And that we can find peace and happiness in the simplest [...]

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  • Blue Flower of Resilience

The Remarkable, Resilient Human Spirit

By Donna Sales, R. Psych. The Remarkable, Resilient Human Spirit (Yes, you have it, too!) “Through suffering, comes wisdom. Through surrender, comes strength. Through resilience, comes hope. Keep going.” ― Rita Said Life is messy. Sometimes it hurts. No matter what we do, how hard we try, or how positive we think, painful, disappointing things will happen to us and those we love. As will precious, joyful things. The bad things make us appreciate the good things even more and not take them for granted. The past year has been one of the toughest I have ever known. My dear mother, suffering from dementia, congestive heart failure, and a serious hip fracture (which she never recovered from) passed away. Another loved one was diagnosed with cancer and went through invasive treatments including surgery and chemotherapy (she is doing just fine). We all know how helpless it feels when someone we care about is going through a hard time and we would do anything, anything at all, to take their pain away. But we can’t. Perhaps it’s the harshest reminder of all of what little control we actually have in life. This is also what I know to be true: We need to be open to life, to be real, and to roll with the punches as best we can. Get back up, dust ourselves off, and do it all over again. Sometimes it takes a while to get back up again. But that’s okay. We’re only human after all and there’s no right way or wrong way to do this. And if we need a hand up, by all means, we should take it. I’m just starting to get back up again after losing my mom six months ago. Supporting her in the months and years prior to her death (as any caregiver knows) can take a toll mentally, emotionally and physically. And losing a mom, as anyone who as ever lost a mom knows, can hit very hard. Even when it’s expected and they are ready and asking to go, as mine was. We may not always handle challenges as gracefully as we would like but if we do the best we can then it's good enough. Bad things happen to good people. The rug gets pulled out from underneath us. We question why. Get angry. Feel overwhelmed. And helpless. That’s because we’re human. Imperfect beings trying to make our way in an imperfect world. People are often amazed how strong they can be when life requires it. ‘Wow, where did that come from? Didn’t know I had it in me!’ Yes, you have it in you. And there’s so much more, too, where that came from. We are wired for survival. Have every right to be here and make the most of this precious life. We must trudge on through the sludge of life and make our way to the other side. And when we get there we are changed, a few smudges on our face, holes in our jeans, and scratches and scars, but stronger and wiser, too. No matter who we are, where we come from or what our story is, there is one vital thing we all need to have with us at all times on this unpredictable journey called Life. It can be held in the palm of our hand, cradled close to our heart, or tucked into our back pocket. It’s that beautiful thing called Hope. Hope helps us take life on, roll with those punches, and get back up again. May it be your constant companion. And never, ever let it go. We can embrace each day for what it is – a precious gift. Each moment is fresh and new and waiting for us to show up. No remnants of the past beating us down, or worry about the future sucking the life out of us. As my mom repeated many times in the last few years of her long, remarkable life: Love yourself. Do what makes you happy. Enjoy life while you are young and healthy enough to do so. Stay close to loved ones. Simple wisdom wrapped in loads of love from a woman who had to dust herself off far too many times to count. With hope and love to each of you, Donna May, 2013 Share this post with friends by choosing your options below. Expresso Yourself! We welcome your comments below.          Donna Sales is a psychologist and writer living in Calgary, Canada. She is the founder of Hope Café.   Read previous posts by Donna on: Why We All Need Nature, Kindness, The Mind-Body-Spirit Connection, Assertiveness, For the Love of Food, Hope in the Face of Illness, Spring Cleaning Your Life, Gratitude, Intuition,Simplicity, and Hope at The Inspiration Station

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  • Graham Storms

Why We All Need Nature

A huge thank you to Hope Cafe reader and professional photographer Graham Storms from Lindsay, Ontario for contributing the spectacular photo above. You'll find more of Graham's work at http://500px.com/graystorms  Inspiration Station  Why We All Need Nature, the Mother of all Therapies by Donna Sales, R. Psych.  “There is new life in the soil for every man. There is healing in the trees for tired minds and for our overburdened spirits, there is strength in the hills, if only we will lift up our eyes. Remember that nature is your great restorer.” Calvin Coolidge, 1924 speech Humans have always had an intimate relationship with the earth. Until the last fifty years or so. Our ancestors, they hunted, gathered, farmed and fished. They walked, ran, climbed, rode, worked, played, and gathered outdoors. Nature was revered as the source of all life with its offerings, seasons, cycles, and, at times, fierce unpredictability. Human civilization understood that we are intricately bonded to the earth. Our grandparents, and all grandparents who lived before them, they had a front row seat when it came to observing, sensing, and understanding the natural order of things. “Our children”, writes Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder, "are the first generation to be raised without meaningful connection to the natural world”. What are the implications of this radical shift from coexisting with the natural world to being so disengaged from it? As human civilization becomes increasingly more disconnected from Mother Earth we are, essentially, disconnecting from our true nature and what we need to be whole and healthy beings physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Anxiety and depression rates globally are staggering, perhaps most alarmingly in our children. Despite the explosion in popularity of technological devices and social media channels, a pervasive loneliness infiltrates our society. Chronic stress has reached epidemic levels, so entrenched in people’s lives it becomes the ‘new normal’ and they can no longer remember what it’s like to feel truly relaxed. How can we build a solid foundation to navigate through life amidst the ‘clutter and clatter’ of the modern world? How do we develop meaningful connections with ourselves and others, clear our minds, calm our fears, open our imaginations, and restore our souls? We are all human animals with the same simple basic needs, none of which involve cell phones, shopping centres, Facebook, or keeping up with the Kardashians. Feeling depleted and need to restore? Head for the mountains. Overcome with stress and need to decompress? How about a trip to the beach? Stressed, confused, lonely, or sad? Your choices are unlimited. Make friends with a tree (visit at least once each season). Lie in the grass on a warm summer night, discovering all the stars you possibly can. Make snow angels. Put your hands in the dirt and plant something. Pet a dog, cat, or horse. Visit a farm. Better yet, help out on a farm. Go camping. Join a community garden. Or hiking group. Search for a four-leafed clover; don’t give up until you find one. There will always be stress, challenging times, and problems to overcome in life. Connecting with the natural world in a meaningful way may not make our problems go away but it can: - Take the steam out of them. “Why did I let that bother me so much?” - Expand our perspective (see the bigger picture). “Never looked at it that way before.” - Foster clarity. “Okay, what’s really going on here?” - Make us more grounded to consider solutions. “How do I really want to approach this?” - Calm us down. “Now I can face this without anxiety running the show.” - Replenish our reserves so we feel stronger/more resilient. In the words of naturalist John Muir, “Everybody needs beauty...places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike.” Integrating doses of nature into our lives is easy to do and doesn’t cost a thing. In the natural world there is no room for judgment or comparison. No pressure or competition. We can be our natural selves; remove the masks, let down our guard, be playful and free. Yours, as always, in hope, Donna For further reading on eco-therapy, this is the link for an excellent article, The Power of Nature, by Dawn Green recently published in Pique Newsmagazine out of Whistler, B.C. http://www.piquenewsmagazine.com/whistler/the-power-of-nature/Content?oid=2446366&showFullText=true Share this post with friends by choosing your options below. Expresso Yourself! We welcome your comments below.          Donna Sales is a psychologist and writer living in Calgary, Canada. She is the founder of Hope Café.   Read previous posts by Donna on Kindness, The Mind-Body-Spirit Connection, Assertiveness, For the Love of Food, Hope in the Face of Illness, Spring Cleaning Your Life, Gratitude, Intuition,Simplicity, and Hope at The Inspiration Station

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Donna’s Post on Three Kinds of Kindness

By Donna Sales, R. Psych.  “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” ― Henry James Yes, being kind is that important. It warms the heart. Nourishes the soul. Lifts the spirit. Kindness touches us in a way nothing else can; we feel alive, connected, noticed, and cared about. It can’t take away pain but it does remind us we are not alone. It can’t fix our problems but it does help us find the strength to go on. We all need to feel kindness and we need to give it, too. Three kinds of kindness stand out for me - kindness to others, kindness to self and kindness to the earth – and I believe each is equally important. Kindness to Others "I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou How good does it feel when someone is kind to you (almost as good as it feels to be kind to someone else, right?). Kindness (not money) makes the world go around; it is at the heart of healthy communities, no matter how big or small. Even the simplest act of kindness – holding a door open, sharing a table at a busy café, smiling at someone you know is having a bad day or saying a few words of encouragement – can have a significant impact in someone’s life. Kindness to Self "Friendship with oneself is all important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world." - Eleanor Rooseveldt Sometimes we are more kind to others in what we say and do than we are with ourselves. We make more of an effort to make someone else feel good than to make ourselves feel good. Then there’s the language we use when we speak to ourselves, negative self-talk is often much worse than anything anyone else could possibly say to us! Like so many other things, too, we manifest what exists within us. So the seeds of kindness we wish to express in the world begin at home, within us, and grow from there to touch the lives of others. Kindness to the Earth The magnificent earth was here billions of years before we were. It’s always provided our species with everything we need to survive but our population explosion over the past several decades and addiction to excess is threatening the health of the planet. Being kind to the earth not only protects the air we breathe, water we drink, and resources we and future generations need to survive, it restores our souls, too – our sense of balance, wholeness, and wonder. In the words of John Muir, “Going to the woods is going home.” And of course…we must be kind to animals, too! Three kinds of kindness, countless ways to enrich our lives, the lives of others, and the natural world, too. THE WORLD NEEDS YOU AND YOUR KINDNESS. Get ready because this month at Hope Café we will be sharing acts of kindness with each other on Facebook and on the home page, too. Send yours in today! Tell us about an act of kindness you have done, witnessed, or someone has done for you. Email it to me at donna@hopecafe.net and I’ll be in touch. Yours, as always, in hope, Donna Share this post with friends by choosing your options below. Expresso Yourself! We welcome your comments below.   Donna Sales is a psychologist and writer living in Calgary, Canada. She is the founder of Hope Café. Read previous posts by Donna on The Mind-Body-Spirit Connection, Assertiveness, For the Love of Food, Hope in the Face of Illness, Spring Cleaning Your Life, Gratitude, Intuition,Simplicity, and Hope at The Inspiration Station

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  • mindbodyspirit

The Mind-Body-Spirit Connection

By Donna Sales, R. Psych. “Joy is a return to the deep harmony of body, mind, and spirit that was yours at birth and that can be yours again. That openness to love, that capacity for wholeness with the world around you, is still within you.”    Deepak Chopra    You are a thriving community of over fifty trillion cells that are constantly changing, working together day and night to produce the molecules they need to survive, grow, multiply, and do their job. By the time you finish reading this sentence, millions of your cells will have died and been replaced by new ones. Your cells are always busy, communicating with each other physically, chemically, emotionally, and energetically. According to cell biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton, “your mind is the government telling the cells what’s going on in the world” (your world). In his ground-breaking research at Stanford University’s School of Medicine between 1987 and 1992, Lipton discovered that the environment controlled the behaviour and physiology of the cell. This challenged the central dogma of science itself - that genes and DNA control our biology. Lipton is now internationally recognized as an authority on bridging topics of science and spirit. In his book The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Power and Miracles, he explains how people have the power to control their own gene activity and all the cells in their body through their own personal thoughts and beliefs. His research suggests that our DNA is influenced by signals outside our cells including energetic messages that come from positive and negative thinking. Lipton’s work reminds me of a quote by Henry Ford, “Whether you believe you can or whether you believe you can’t, you’re right.” How we perceive situations and what we expect from them does, indeed, play a vital role in our lives. The placebo effect, intensively studied now for decades and used in many areas of health care, shows that if a patient views a pill as helpful it can help them to heal, even if it is just a sugar pill. Alternatively, if the pill is viewed as harmful it can cause negative effects, which is known as the nocebo effect. The placebo and nocebo effects tell us that it is not the pill itself that creates changes in the patient but the expectation of what the pill will do. Imagine going “under the knife” for major surgery without anesthetic and not only feeling no pain at all but feeling relaxed and aware during the entire procedure. I once watched a video of a woman who managed to do just this. How? Through hypnosis alone. Never underestimate how powerful you are. The science of the mind/body connection is called psychoneuroimmunology and another scientist, Dr. Candace Pert, made a tremendous contribution to this field when she discovered that neurotransmitters called peptides carry emotional messages. “As our feelings change,” Dr. Pert explains, “this mixture of peptides travel throughout your body and your brain. And they’re literally changing the chemistry of every cell of your body.” Her book Molecules of Emotion has been on the neuroscience bestseller list for over ten years and is translated into over twenty languages. What Dr. Pert’s research confirms is what Eastern healing practices, shamans and energy healers have known for thousands of years – that our thoughts and emotions are capable of creating wellness or disease in our bodies. Which brings us to this thing called stress. Our bodies are simply not made to undergo chronic stress, it is not natural and takes a serious toll on the mind, body and spirit. Not only does stress shut down the immune system, it also leads us to be more reactive to life events and less imaginative in how to deal with them. We end up engaging in the same (often unhealthy) thoughts and behaviours over and over again and are less likely to take care of ourselves. So, then, just breathe, right? Yes, absolutely. It always helps to bring awareness to that breath and draw it fully into our lungs. Did you know the word “spirit” comes from the Latin word spiritus, which means breath? Breathing not only helps to bring focus to the here and now, it transports oxygen and energy to the cells of the body. Speaking of energy, we are made of energy and sustained by energy. To feel your own energy all you have to do (try this now if you like) is rub the palms of your hands rapidly together for thirty seconds. Now close your eyes and slowly bring your hands very close together, slightly cupping your palms. After you draw them close together, pull them slightly apart, close together again, and repeat a few times. Draw your full attention to the palms of your hands and you will feel the energy vibration there. As a doctor practicing obstetrics and gynecology Dr. Christiane Northrup witnessed firsthand in twenty-five years of practice the vital role that energy played in the health of her patients. Northrup believes that our bodies are ever-changing, dynamic fields of energy and these energy fields interact within an individual, between one person and another, and between one person and the world in general. Like Bruce Lipton, the cell biologist mentioned earlier in this post, Northrup believes that our bodies are influenced by our beliefs: “The mind can no longer be thought of as confined to the brain or intellect, it exists in every cell of our bodies.” Imagine how much courage and conviction it would take as a respected professional in your field to venture beyond conventional thinking and practice to “dare to speak your truth”. When Northrup’s book Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom was released in June of 1994 she woke up screaming five nights in a row, terrified that her colleagues would reject her work. Northrup is now one of the world’s leading authorities on women’s health and wellness and her books have been translated into two dozen languages and sold over three [...]

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The Art of Assertiveness

By Donna Sales, R. Psych. "Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it." ~Naomi Wolf I had a couple other ideas for this month’s theme at Hope Café - Building Confidence and Authenticity: Living Life From the Inside Out. One day these themes may still be featured but for now I’ve decided on The Art of Assertiveness for two reasons - it’s a topic that appeals to a very wide audience and incorporates confidence building and authenticity, too! Just showing up in life is not enough to get what we want, enjoy healthy relationships, demonstrate our skills, abilities, and talents, and be treated with respect. How we communicate, both verbally and non-verbally, is the vital link between who we are and how we share ourselves in the world. Assertiveness is an honest and appropriate expression of our feelings, opinions and needs. We communicate what we want in a clear way, while respecting our own rights and the rights of others. It’s about finding our voice, speaking our truth, and being real in a world that can sometimes feel intimidating or overwhelming. Are some people more naturally assertive than others? Yes. Is it easier for those who were taught and encouraged to be assertive as children to be assertive as adults? You bet. If assertiveness is modelled for us is it easier to develop it in our own lives, too? Of course. But most importantly, is it possible for anyone at any age, regardless of temperament, childhood experiences, life events (even the most crushing), to be assertive? Absolutely! In their excellent book Your Perfect Right: Assertiveness and Equality in Your Life and Relationships (9th ed. 2008) Robert Alberti and Michael Emmons compare assertive, aggressive, and non-assertive behaviour. Some of their ideas are adapted below. As you read through, ask yourself which list of behaviours you most relate to. Assertive Behaviour Express wants, ideas, and feelings in a direct and appropriate way. The intent is to communicate. Feel confident, good about self. Other people feel respected and valued. Other people usually respect us. Often get what we want. Aggressive Behaviour Express wants, ideas, and feelings at the expense of others. The intent is to dominate or humiliate. Feel righteous, superior, sometimes embarrassed later. Other people feel humiliated and hurt. Other people see us as angry, vengeful. Often get what we want at the expense of others – others feel justified in “getting even”. Non-Assertive Behaviour Do not express wants, ideas, and feelings or expresses them in a self-depreciating way. The intent is to please. Feel anxious, disappointed in self; often angry and resentful later. Other people feel guilty or superior. Other people feel irritation or pity towards us. We do not get what we want and anger builds up. How About Passive-Aggressive Behaviour? This term refers to non-verbal behaviours with aggressive undertones. Rather than communicating honestly when we are disappointed, angry, or hurt we do things like give angry looks, not return phone calls or emails, avoid the person we’re upset with, be habitually late, ‘forget’ a meeting, or procrastinate. Engaging in passive-aggressive behaviour is energy draining for all involved. THE ASSERTIVENESS ACTION PLAN – both verbals and non-verbals Good posture. Shoulders back, head held high. Good eye contact. Voice firm but pleasant. Avoid making statements in a questioning tone. Speak your truth clearly, without hesitation, apology, or regret. Listen. Pay close attention to what the other person is communicating (both verbally and nonverbally!). Ask for clarification if you need it. Take time to respond if you need it (a minute, an hour, or even a day or longer). Stay calm…and remember to BREATHE. Use “I” statements to give clear messages. (I’m afraid I can’t… I’d really appreciate… I was wondering… I need… I’m feeling…) Be open, honest and direct. Be responsive to feedback. Yes, even if it’s not what you want to hear. Affirm your rights Click here for the list of Basic Human Rights How to Say “No” in one sentence or less. “No.” “No thanks.” “No thanks, I’m not interested.” “Sorry but I can’t help you move next weekend.” “Ah shucks, I won’t be able to volunteer at the bingo this time around.” “I can’t work overtime tonight.” “No, I don’t want the extended warranty.” Remember…. That change takes time. Start with what’s most important and build on your successes. To tune in. Know yourself. In which situations and with which people is it most difficult for you to assert yourself? There is often an underlying fear in being assertive (ie. Will I still be liked or included?) That you are always faced with a choice in how you interact with others (even when it doesn’t feel that way). Assertiveness is an art. Crafting words, refining the edges, expressing who we are in various ways, creating opportunities for growth and personal power. Being assertive is both grounding and energizing. And it gets easier the more we do it. Share this post with friends by choosing your options below. Expresso Yourself! We welcome your comments below.   Donna Sales is a psychologist and writer living in Calgary, Canada. She is the founder of Hope Café. Read previous posts by Donna on For the Love of Food, Hope in the Face of Illness, Spring Cleaning Your Life, Gratitude, Intuition,Simplicity, and Hope at The Inspiration Station

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