The Healing Power of New Beginnings

A Living Your Best Life / Fiddlehead Life feature post

Today I am grateful for new beginnings.

Yes, even the ones that are traumatic and painful. Because sometimes, life turns you right on your head. Suddenly nothing makes sense, everything is barreling in a new direction, and it seems everything in your life is totally out of control. Have you ever had a change like this in your life?

Suddenly he wants a divorce?
A loved one passes away?
You get fired from your job and suddenly have no idea what you’re going to do?

(Insert your trauma HERE.)

Life is a series of decisions and the results of those decisions. But what happens when it is totally out of your control and everything is turned upside down?

You’re traumatized. Maybe a little angry. Okay, maybe a whole lot angry. But being the dedicated optimist that I am, as I sit here in the midst of my trauma, I have to look for the silver lining or I think my head might actually explode.

Trauma happens to you. It happens to your mind. It happens to your body. And it happens to your life. If you struggle to control the trauma or force it away, you can often find yourself in a losing battle. After all, it wouldn’t be trauma if we had much of a say so in the matter, would it? So you dig in, you dig deep, you find your strength, and then you set out to find a purpose for this new direction in your life.

I suggest that you not only tie a knot in the end of your rope and hang on but that you grab onto that rope and swing out over that canyon like a child swinging out over the creek. Shout like a lunatic and laugh through tears. Release, release, release.

You have to find joy in your trauma as ridiculous as that sounds. You have find that one thing in your new beginning that you can cling to and call hope.

In the midst of my trauma right now, the biggest thing I can cling to is the excitement over living on my own for the first time. I’m 46 years old. I went from a family of seven in tight quarters to living with a new husband at the age of 18. I got divorced and remarried within a year. I raised my two sons and 10 years ago met up with my boyfriend and his five-year-old daughter and we have lived as a family since.

Until two weeks ago. My relationship over, I have to figure out what the hell to do with my life right now. We had all of these plans and ideas of what our future looked like together. All, gone. In a matter of about 30 hours, it all came crashing down and I found myself leaving with what would fit in my mother’s car. I left my cat and my dog behind. The air suddenly felt foreign to my lungs.

So, I have never lived alone. In my life. And I have always wanted to. This time, though it is a bit unexpected, I cling to that little bit of excitement to help me get through the unbearable pain and sadness that my body is experiencing right now. I cling to the vision of getting my own place. One that lets me retrieve my dog and my cat, and start over.

I envision wiping down the counters in the evenings after eating a meal in front of some TV show that I wanted to watch. I envision playing music when I want. I envision working in the peace and quiet of my own home. I envision decorating the place to my own liking without a care in the world is to what everyone else thinks about it.

I envision coming and going from my home with freedom, and without having to explain myself or my actions to anyone.

These are things I have never experienced before, so I am holding onto that vision to get me through these difficult times for my heart.

I’m not going to lie, it’s been extremely painful. Some of the time the tears overtook me so hard, I couldn’t breathe. I find myself walking outside in the dark at 3 am. I am forgetting what day or time it is.

Trauma can turn your life inside out and it can be horrifically painful. I’m not saying to pretend you’re not in pain. That would be counterproductive and unhealthy. Honor your pain. Admit it’s there. You have to STEP UP your self-care, listen to your body, and slowly work your way through the pain to find a place of peace.

And while you’re doing that–get on your rope swing and take a few chances looking for some joy with in yourself. It may take you a while to find it, but I guarantee you, it’s there.

With a new beginning comes new possibilities. It’s up to you to decide what those possibilities are and dig deep for the bravery it takes to pursue them.

Don’t let anyone call you selfish. You know the pain that you are in and you know what you’ve been through and you know that you are processing that pain in this moment. And don’t be afraid to call this a new beginning. New beginnings can be painful, yes. But they can also be immensely transformative in your life. Those pivotal moments happen so few times in our lives, that if you were to see those pivotal moments as an opportunity not to be missed, you can take back some of that control you have been missing.

That’s all for now. I hope you all are well and I hope you are taking care of yourselves and listening to your own inner voice that tells you what you need. Honor yourself and don’t be afraid to go after the life that you want!

Until next time,
Christina

10 Creative Ways to Spend Your Social Distancing Time

The Fiddlehead Life–a blog series on Living Well

Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

The Fiddlehead Life series is a blog series dedicated to bringing you actionable strategies for improving your life, analyzing various topics on well-living, and a has strong focus on personal growth. A wide variety of topics will be covered. Come and join the movement to live your best life.


We are so spoiled. We come and go from our homes with relative ease. We go to places. We get things. We bring things home. Rinse. Repeat. It’s not often we are told to stay home. It gets us a bit miffed. Like, what the heck are we supposed to do with all this time at home? It’s not like we don’t always wish we had more time at home.

Here we are in the midst of a global pandemic, panic and anxiety on the rise, and we are being told to practice social distancing in order to slow the spread of Coronavirus, Covid-19.

We can spend this time
pacing the floor,
or we can do the things
we never have time to do.

YOU CHOOSE.

Here’s a few fun things to help you occupy your time with a playful and positive spirit.

Netflix and chill.

  • Watch a series you’ve been meaning to see.
  • Break out the popcorn and turn down the lights.
  • Re-watch a favorite movie.
  • Go down the wormhole of internet videos on cats jumping off stuff, screaming goats, Tik Tok music videos, how-it’s-made stuff, conspiracy theories, or ghost stories. (Now, you have time!)

Work a jigsaw puzzle.

  • Break out those dusty boxes of jigsaw puzzles from the top of the closet, clean off a table, and put on some music. Jigsaw away the hours — you’d be surprised how soothing it is to sit with a puzzle. Get the whole family involved!
  • Add a jigsaw puzzle app to your tablet or phone (Here’s the one I like.)

Do a craft project or a project around the house.

  • Break out the WIP that’s been collecting dust.
  • Learn a new craft — YouTube is great for tutorials!
  • Build something. Sand something. Paint something.
  • Fix something around the house that’s been patiently waiting for your attention.

Read a book.

  • Yes, this ancient practice is something people still do.
  • If you can’t find a book around the house — find books online that you can download.
  • Read some poetry.
  • Re-read an old favorite.
  • Read to your kids.

Spend time with your family.

  • Play board games, watch movies, take turns telling jokes or making up ghost stories — treat this like a sleepover fun time!
  • Have a dance party. Seriously, kids love this.
  • Let your kids plan an activity or put on a show for you.
  • Whip out your best fun face and show your kids a more relaxed side of you.
  • Cuddle.
  • Play games or make up new games.

Spend time with your dog.

  • Remember, you may be bored being stuck at home — but your dog is ecstatic. Your dog’s whole life is YOU.
  • Cuddle with your dog (or other pet).
  • Give your dog a bath and grooming.
  • Spend some time sprucing up your dog’s living area — wash their bedding or bowls. Give them a treat.
  • Play with your dog!

Catch up on your correspondence.

  • Call your Mom. Call your Dad. Call a friend. Call your Aunt you haven’t talked to in awhile.
  • Write a letter or card.
  • Answer your emails. (While you’re at it — deal with those 3000 unread ones.)
  • Touch base with potential career contacts or reach out to lingering loose ends.
  • Check out what’s going on with your social media friends.
  • Go down the heritage rabbit hole — maybe you’ll find a long lost relative!

Exercise.

  • Get out that home exercise equipment and give it a go!
  • Do some yoga.
  • Find a YouTube video to teach you a new routine.
  • Take a walk around your home.

Bake something.

  • Ask Alexa for a new cookie recipe.
  • Flip through your recipe books and pick something fun to try.
  • Cook and prepare meals to freeze.
  • Make a cake and decorate it.
  • Teach your kids a new cooking skill.

Clean & organize your life.

  • There’s no time like downtime to freshen up your home.
  • Clean the floors, wash the curtains, de-clutter a closet or drawer.
  • Work on a fix-it home project.
  • Rearrange a room.
  • Air out your home, burn some sage, steep some spices in a pot of water on the stove to give your home a fresh, clean smell.

Being stuck at home is only a punishment if you view it that way.

You’re always pressed for time, wishing you had time, feeling like time is so fleeting — now that you have some, spend it wisely and relax.

Here’s a poem I wrote about the pandemic–I think some of you may like. Especially that last line…

Soon, you’ll be back to your busy life and you’ll feel more refreshed and centered if you’ve invested a bit of time in play, in your home, and in your family.

If you’d like to share your downtime activities and how you’re keeping sane through this whole pandemic–share them in the comments below. If you or a loved one is sick and you need a little support–share that as well so we, as a community of people who are out there doing our best to be good humans, can offer our support.

Stay safe my friends and wash your hands–like, a lot.

Christina M. Ward
well-life blogger and author of organic

Get Excited about Your Life–Can You Project Happiness into Your Future?

Hi friends,

This week is rounding out a few-week-long stretch of a “pain event” for me. I did get to the doctor a few days ago and they put me back on some muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories. The referral is in now—ortho and most likely a spinal surgeon. Fun times huh?

So why am I smiling?

For today, being in relatively little pain: I am ecstatic. Low pain days are a rarity lately—so I am thrilled!

Tonight, I am chilled out watching Survivor. I mean, what could be better? I freaking love reality tv shows, especially Survivor.

Tomorrow, I am going with my Mom for a day trip to the Carl Sandburg (poet) historical home. SWEET!

Mindfulness—Check ✔

Gratitude—Check ✔

But I’ve been thinking (don’t run away just yet!)

—that these are things we can do in advance. Why can’t we be in a state of mindfulness about tomorrow? About next week?

I’m pretty sure this is a thing, right?

Consider some of the “keys to happiness” that Forbes magazine outlines in an August 2019 article entitled How To Be Happy: 20 Ways To Be Happier Today by Zack Friedman, bestselling Author of The Lemonade Life.

Here are a few of his suggestions to be happier today:

  • Gratitude
  • Look for the good in things
  • Believe that you have the power to change your life
  • Practice happiness
  • Have an open mind

How to Be Happy, by Zach Friedman

If I could have a quick cup of coffee with Mr. Friedman, I’d first thank him for a wonderful article, but then I’d ask him if he thought these things can be done in advance.

Can we project -gratitude -looking for the positive -hope, -happiness and -open-mindedness about our life and our future–into the days ahead?

I think that we can.

I have recently begun working in the Monk Manual, which if you have not heard of it–I fully recommend it. (I’ll be writing about this manual soon because I just love it!) Each morning I get up I fill out the plans for the day and at the end of the day I review my day. One thing I am learning is how much I enjoy simplifying my hopes way down to a few things and then evaluating the impact those things have had on my day.

It is forcing me to look ahead with hope. Think about my main goals as I go through my day–and then to celebrate what I have done. I find my mind bending toward hope. I find myself looking forward to tomorrow with a more simple intention and a larger sense of gratitude. These were by-products of my time in the Monk Manual–4 days into use.

I think that we can be in a state of awareness, an attitude of presence in our lives, even in those moments that are still on the horizon.

Christina

What if we spent our todays in an attitude of gratitude for our tomorrows? Let our gratitude extend out past where we are sitting—to greet our future—already happy?

Tonight, I am practicing mindful presence in these precious low-pain moments. I am thankful for the opportunity to go and spend some time tomorrow with my Mom. I am celebrating the silly—tv shows and songs and laughs and whatever small things that I enjoy.

And I am deciding that I will pick something about tomorrow to get excited about. Tomorrow, it’s easy for me: the trip with my Mom. But what about the next day? When nothing special is happening? I’ll pick something for that day as well.

How much more rich would our lives be if we could do this as a daily practice—pick something about tomorrow to get excited about?

What are you excited about in your life? If it’s something as simple as a nice cup of coffee in the morning or a new pair of socks—if it makes you happy, then it is certainly worth celebrating.

Poetically Yours,
Christina Ward


poet, author, and blogger
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When Life is a Series of “Monday Mornings”

The Fiddlehead Life series

My favorite cartoon character is Ziggy, by creator Tom Wilson. He’s a chubby little guy with lots of pets who seem to take over his house. And pretty much anything that can go wrong for him does–but he takes it all in stride. He keeps on. He stays positive (or at least neutral and somewhat ironically oblivious), even though his life seems to be one long Monday morning.

I have often said that I lead a “Ziggy life,” and I really, really do. Counting up my woes can be a tempting habit; one that I fight against and try to keep in check. Life, as our little bald friend Ziggy teaches us, is full of ironies, disappointments, and confusions, but with a few good friends and a curious nature, we can navigate it positively.

Today’s Live Your Best Life message:

Keep going.

That’s it. Two simple words that can often feel very big, especially if life seems to be “picking on you” lately. You may not be able to change the situation, but you can always change how you respond to it.

Adopting a little positive thinking goes a very long way to keep your mind and body healthy.

Johns Hopkins Medicine details a few of the health benefits of a positive attitude, and some of these physical benefits may surprise you:

  • studies have found that a positive attitude improves outcomes and life satisfaction across a spectrum of conditions—including traumatic brain injury, stroke and brain tumors.
  • even people with a family history of heart disease are one-third less likely to have a heart attack when they have an attitude of positivity (compared to those with a more negative outlook)

Very Well Mind reports that a positive attitude can help with:

  • Longer life span
  • Less stress
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Increased resistance to the common cold
  • Better stress management and coping skills
  • Lower risk of cardiovascular disease-related death
  • Increased physical well-being
  • Better psychological health

You may not be able to change the situation, but you can always change how you respond to it.

Christina

Choosing Positivity

So how do we do this? When the car won’t start or the job is getting on your very last nerve? When you buy 200 dollars worth of long-overdue groceries, pack the freezer, and then the freezer dies overnight?

To be honest, it takes work. It takes a deliberate choice, each day, and when it gets tough, each minute.

Choosing an optimistic view means changing your perspective on what would normally feel to you like a negative experience.

When something negative happens:

  • Try not to make it “bigger” than it is. All to often I hear someone lamenting over a problem and my first thought is–that is really not a problem. This is not meant to be dismissive, as we all face challenges, but intentionally making a problem bigger than it is will just cause you more grief. Try taking a step back from the problem and thinking ok, what are the solutions? In the long run, will this matter all that much? Is this really something to get all bent out of shape about? How might I make the best of this situation?
  • Consider every challenge an opportunity. A chance to think outside the box. A chance to offer compassion. A chance to demonstrate your strength of character. An opportunity to rise above the situation and overcome. These things are self-esteem boosters, at the least.
  • Take a deep breath. Don’t dismiss the power of a deep cleansing breath. This lowers your blood pressure, centers your thoughts, and puts you in a better frame of mind to deal with the issue at hand.
  • Realize your own limits. Can you solve every problem? Of course not. Sometimes a level of acceptance and decision to allow a situation to just be will help you to release yourself from the responsibility you feel to fix or change things that are out of your control. The well-known Serenity Prayer written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971) embodies this perfectly. Though you are likely more familiar with the truncated version of this prayer, here is the full version which began appearing in sermons as early as 1934.

Prayer for Serenity

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

–Reinhold Niebuhr

  • Not feeling the Serenity Prayer? Find a mantra, a poem, a quote, a song–something that grounds you in times of trouble, and cling to that when things get difficult. Find your strength and hold on.
  • Do something to distract yourself from the frustration. Listen to classical music. Exercise. Take a walk. We all have activities that help us to calm ourselves. Put those activities into action when your life seems out of control. You’d be surprised how much clarity a simple 5 minute walk can bring.
  • Reach out to your support network. Notice I didn’t say phone a friend and vent until you run out of breath–this can be a tempting way to manage problems but in the long run it will tax your relationship and create a negative way of coping. Keet “venting” in check as it leads to more negative emotions.
  • Have yourself a quick cry–then get on with it. Constructive crying can help to clear the air for you and hit the reset button on your emotions. Like venting, this is one to use constructively and wisely, not overly and widely. A well-used cry can be a good way to just let the emotion out a bit and reduce the pressure you are feeling. I used to play a very sad song, have a bit of a cry, then turn off the music, take a few deep breaths, wipe my face and set my jaw to move forward with an “ok, let’s do this” attitude. I can’t tell you how this came in handy when I was a single mother in college–every day was so difficult. Sometimes crying was impossible to avoid–but I learned not to let it overwhelm me or take over my whole attitude. I learned, crying had function.

Have any other tips? I’d love to hear them in the comments. Give this article a quick “like” and share if you found it helpful. Thank you for being here with me on this “best life” journey. I hope today you find your strength and your peace to navigate the rough spots. YOU CAN DO THIS.

~Christina Ward

–author of “organic,” a poetry collection that sits at the heart of this “Live Your Best Life” movement.

You may find this bestselling collection on Amazon at ORGANIC–FIDDLEHEADS & FLOSS VOL. 1

Exploring Meditation for Health and Mental Wellness

The Fiddlehead Life series–Living Well

Image by Ralf Kunze from Pixabay

To begin this “The Fiddlehead Life” series, I am beginning with a “biggie” that is such a broad topic, some background and information is essential. Though this article is a bit longer, I encourage you to be open and potentially see something in a different way. I wish you the best on your wellness journey! Thank you for being here, for being a wellness-seeker, and for wishing to live better. This series will bring all kinds of topics and you are welcome to apply the parts that most appeal to you. There is an activity at the bottom of this article. Let’s get started.

Meditation may not be what you think.

I’ll be honest, as a Christian, I have always been a bit hesitant to consider a meditation practice. But after doctor after doctor has recommended meditation to me, I have been learning about it, bit by bit. The important thing to remember with meditation is that there are many methods and applications. Meditation can be adapted to suit your personal spiritual beliefs (therefore, I adapt the physical practice with my Christian beliefs and incorporate prayer), can focus entirely on physical wellness without the spiritual aspect (also an option for me), and can be tailored to your own personal desires.

The end goal is up to you. The “rules” are up to you. Learn what you can about meditation in its many forms and you can be sure to find the aspects of this ancient practice that will bring a greater sense of peace and wellness to your life, both physically and mentally, and if you seek it–spiritually.

Where did meditation originate?

Though meditation got its start in the Hindu practice of Vendatism around 1500 BCE, roots of meditative practices can be traced back to Taoism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, to name a few. Though meditation has a strong connection to spirituality, the mental health and physical benefits are undeniable. To put it simply: there are many ways to meditate and many reasons to develop a meditation practice that works for your lifestyle, your needs, and your spiritual beliefs.

Image by Thomas Breher from Pixabay

The Argument for Meditation:

US Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health gives us information about the science behind meditation, and I recommend browsing the multiple links on their page for more in-depth information on this, if you would like to know more. Here is some information I found:

Meditation and the Brain

Some research suggests that meditation may physically change the brain and body and could potentially help to improve many health problems and promote healthy behaviors.

  • In a 2012 study, researchers compared brain images from 50 adults who meditate and 50 adults who don’t meditate. Results suggested that people who practiced meditation for many years have more folds in the outer layer of the brain. This process (called gyrification) may increase the brain’s ability to process information.
  • A 2013 review of three studies suggests that meditation may slow, stall, or even reverse changes that take place in the brain due to normal aging.
  • Results from a 2012 NCCIH-funded study suggest that meditation can affect activity in the amygdala (a part of the brain involved in processing emotions), and that different types of meditation can affect the amygdala differently even when the person is not meditating.
  • Research about meditation’s ability to reduce pain has produced mixed results. However, in some studies scientists suggest that meditation activates certain areas of the brain in response to pain.

(US Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health)

Healthline website outlines benefits of meditation practice on their website:

  • reduces stress
  • controls anxiety
  • promotes emotional health
  • enhances self-awareness
  • lengthens attention span
  • may reduce age-related memory loss
  • can generate kindness
  • may help fight addictions
  • improves sleep
  • helps control pain
  • can decrease blood pressure

The article also states that “People also use the practice to develop other beneficial habits and feelings, such as a positive mood and outlook, self-discipline, healthy sleep patterns and even increased pain tolerance.” (Bold-emphasis mine.)

Mayo Clinic provides this list of benefits on their website:

Some research suggests that meditation may help people manage symptoms of conditions such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Sleep problems
  • Tension headaches

Types of Meditation

As I said before, there are many different types of meditation.

  • Loving-kindness meditation
  • Christian/prayer meditation
  • walking meditation
  • Body scan meditation
  • progressive relaxation
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Breath awareness meditation
  • Kundalini yoga
  • Zen meditation
  • Transcendental Meditation
  • mantra meditation
  • Sufi meditation
  • Self-Enquiry or “I Am” Meditation
  • Vipassana Meditation
  • guided meditation

And there are others, but this list should give you an idea of how variable meditation practice can be. Explore the different types to determine which feels more comfortable to you. There are many apps and resources available in the various meditation types. Educating yourself with an open mind will help you to form a practice that can improve your overall health, or if you choose not to, will still help you to better understand others that choose to practice. The more you know, right?


Meditation Activity:

You all know I love poetry. So when I stumbled upon this terrific guided meditation that uses POETRY in the meditation, I just had to try it and share it with you. It was fantastic. Below you will see a copy of one of the poems used in the meditation and with the link to the meditation itself just below it. Enjoy!

Clearing by Martha Postlewaite

by Vanessa

Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
patiently,
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worth of rescue.

Guided Poetry Meditation:

Guided Meditation: Mindfulness and Poetry Meditation #1

For further reading:

Medical News Today
Could Mindfulness and Meditation Really be a Good Thing to Try?

Thank you for being here on this wonderful journey we all have. If this is your first time joining us for the “The Fiddlehead Life” series, check out the tab for the series at the top of this blog for what you may have missed.

Christina

–-author of “organic,” a poetry collection that sits at the heart of this “Live Your Best Life” movement. You may find this bestselling collection on Amazon at ORGANIC–FIDDLEHEADS & FLOSS VOL. 1

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