10 Happiness Tips

It’s common for everyone to struggle time to time with being happy. We all have bad days, days when we may get frustrated, feel insecure or anxious for whatever reason. There is an infinite amount of things we can do when we need to pull ourselves out of the funk and practice self care.

It’s not a bad idea to list some of your favorites BEFORE you actually need them, that way you can easily pull them out of your tool box.

What works for one person may not work for another, but here are 10 of my favorites to get your started.

Set Healthy Boundaries

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Often we give people too much access to our time and peace. This sometimes includes friends and family who may be overbearing, controlling, draining or negative. By setting healthy boundaries, we limit how much access those people have to us.

Let’s say you have a friend who only calls to complain about her day, maybe you limit her by not always answering her phone calls or giving her only five minutes of your time before you have to go do something else.

Take a look at your life and see where you can eliminate some unnecessary stress by cutting back on the amount of your time you allow to be taking up by other, especially negative or draining people.

Learn To Say No

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It’s okay to say no without an explanation to people and things you don’t feel like doing or being bothered with. Sometimes we feel obligated to do things we don’t enjoy or feel comfortable doing and find it hard to say “no” for a variety of reasons. However, learning to say no without explanation not only helps establish boundaries, it will help build up self-confidence and self-respect when it comes to your precious time, space and peace of mind.

Learn to Make Decisions Quickly

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If you’ve never heard of Mel Robbins “Five Second Rule” then I suggest you look it up quickly. Part of her theory is that the longer you wait to make a decision and act on it, the less likely you are to make the decision that will move you to where you need to be.

If you’re the type of person who takes a long time to make a decision or hates making decisions so you allow others to make decisions for you, then what you are unconsciously conditioning and reinforcing within yourself is a fear of failure and of being imperfect which Sanam Hafeez, Psy.D., says keeps us small and dis-empowered. By learning to make decisions quickly we will build confidence and learn to trust ourselves.

Take Full Responsibility For Yourself

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We can’t control others and often we can’t control other factors in our lives. What we can control is ourselves, our responses, thoughts and feelings. If we stop trying to control other people so much, it frees us to dictate our own happiness and take complete control of our lives. When our feelings about ourselves are no longer controlled by external conditions, we will realize how much happier we can actually be.

We can’t make someone treat us better, but we can choose to allow them to be who they are without us there to abuse. We can’t make it stop raining, but we can choose to enjoy the sound of rain or even dance in it.

Have Appreciation And Gratitude For What You Currently Have

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It’s easy to want more and to not be satisfied with what we have. The problem is, if you think like that, you’ll always want more and you’ll never genuinely be happy. You don’t have to be filthy rich and have the most expensive accessories in order to be happy. Look at what you have now. Try to find three things everyday to be grateful for. Today, for me, it’s my family, my job and my health. No, none of those things are perfect, all of them are actually quite flawed, but I am appreciative and grateful for them because they could be worse or none existent.

Travel/Spend Time in Nature

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This one is a two for one. Take time to travel or get out in nature. Allow yourself to see that there are bigger things out there than just ourselves and whatever we may be dealing with, or just to relax and take in new sights, sounds and experiences.

Being in nature in particular can help bring a sense of peace and awe. Whatever you do, just get away from our ordinary routine and allow yourself to become a tourist and explore, even if it’s just in your own backyard.

Take Time To Relax With Zero Guilt

We work hard. Even when we aren’t working we seem to always be on the go. There is always something to do or something we should be doing. We may even feel guilty when we aren’t doing something, but it’s okay to unplug from everything and everyone and do absolutely nothing every now and then. As a matter of fact, it’s good for your sanity. You can watch Netflix, read a book, listen to music, meditate or do whatever brings you back to yourself.

Be Mindful

Following up on the last tip, take time to actually take in what is going on around you. So often we are so busy that we aren’t aware of the simple, yet beautiful or important things going on around us everyday.

Multitasking is something else we do that robs us of truly taking in what we are doing. Research suggests that we don’t even actually multitask, but our brain just switches quickly between doing one thing and then the next. I know for myself, I often watch TV while looking through messages, social media or email on my phone. Now when I find myself doing that, I consciously make the decision to put my phone away so I can truly take in whatever I am watching. A lot of us do the same things when we are hanging out with friends and family. We’re there, but we’re not fully there because we are browsing through our phones. Break that habit and you’ll realize how much you’ve been missing out by not being truly present and in the moment.

Smile

There is research that suggests that the act of smiling by itself can help us begin to feel happier. Your mind can either control your body or be a slave to it. Your body often doesn’t know why it is acting or responding in a certain way and it’s waiting for your mind to tell it why. By smiling, you can trick your mind into thinking that it is happy and your body will respond by beginning to release endorphins that will actually make you feel happier.

Wear Bright Colors

This is definitely one of my favorites. Sometimes at work I have been known to wear pink, yellow or bright red colored dress shirts. It’s easy when you’re feeling down to wear dark, drab colors, but they won’t do much for brightening up your spirits. Surround yourself with bright, vivid colors and you will see that it not only brightens your mood, makes you feel more positive and productive, but it can also brighten other peoples moods around you. It’s even been given the name, “Color Therapy”.

Embracing These 5 Harsh Realties About Life Will Make You Stronger

Embracing These 5 Harsh Realties About Life Will Make You Stronger

Life is beautiful. There is no doubt about that, but life can also be hard. Sometimes we make it even harder by refusing to accept its harsh realities. We can even create our own little fantasy worlds to try to protect ourselves, but embracing these five harsh realities about life can make us stronger and help us live more authentically.

1. Everyone Is Going To Die

I know this isn’t a pleasant subject, but it’s a fact. Everyone, including you and everyone you love are going to die. When my uncle passed away at age 65, I thought for sure my dad would at least live to be 65. That gave me many more years to improve our relationship and get closer. A couple of weeks later he got hit by a truck and was left in a coma for 1 month before he died. People are here today and gone today. Instead of this being something to get depressed about, it should motivate us to live our lives, find purpose and cherish the people we have in our lives while we still can.

 2.  Motivation Is Bullshit

Many of us are not living the lives we’re supposed to live because we’re waiting until we feel motivated to do something. We’re waiting until we feel like doing it or until it’s the right time. It may never be the right time and we probably never will feel like doing the things we need to do so JUST DO IT! If you want to write a book, don’t wait until you feel like doing it or the book may never get written. If you have an ideal for a business, don’t wait until you have everything figured out to start working on it because you may never have everything figured out.  Most of us don’t feel like going to work in the morning, but we do because we have to. Treat your goals and dreams the same way.

3. The Perfect Partner Doesn’t Exist

Most of us have an image in our head of what the perfect partner will be like. I have been guilty of creating this fantasy partner in my head where we have this perfect relationship and that isn’t realistic. Holding on to that image too much will make anyone we are in a relationship with pale in comparison and perhaps make us appreciate them less by expecting too much. That isn’t fair. There is no perfect partner. That doesn’t mean we settle for just anything, but it means that we should expect to have to put in some work and if we are with a partner who is also willing to work with us then the relationship will become something beautiful and fulfilling even if it isn’t perfect.

4. Life Hurts

Living your life, going after your dreams and goals is amazing and exciting, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. Life is going to knock you down, but you have to get back up. Don’t give up on something you want just because it doesn’t work out the first, second or fifth time! You grow from your experiences. You learn from the pain. Instead of going through something, learn to grow through it. If you’re hurting, use that pain to motivate you to get through it and come out stronger.  Living your best life isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. The alternative is not living up to your full potential and dying with so many goals, dreams and talents wasted all because you were afraid to grow through the pains of life.

5. Nothing Lasts Forever

This is one of those hurts of life; nothing lasts forever. We fall in love, out of love, or lose the ones we love. We’re young and then we’re old. We’re all going to die. This is life. Whenever you’re growing through something, rather it’s a break up or grieving the death of a loved one, remember that this is part of the human experience. You’re not alone. Again, use this to motivate you to live life, cherish it and appreciate it while you can. If we all lived forever, if everything lasted forever, when would we appreciate or do anything? Many people who have a terminal illness spend the last few months of their lives trying to finally live. The good thing is, we don’t have to wait until we’re dying to start living fully.

“Embrace reality, even if it burns you.” -Pierre Berge

6 Ways To Take Control Of Your Life

6 Ways To Take Control Of Your Life

Sometimes life can make you feel like a rag doll being tossed around from one crisis to the next, one situation to the next and even one emotion to the next.

In this new year, it’s time we finally start taking real control over our lives. The way we do this starts with making a shift within ourselves.

We have to realize that we are in control. That we are unique individuals here to serve a purpose and we all have special talents and gifts to offer the world. We all deserve happiness and success and we can’t depend on anything or anyone outside of us to provide that.

We have to take control of our thoughts, emotions and actions.

I’m never going to pretend to have all the answers or to be someone who has no problems. I have lots of them, trust me. However, I’m on a constant quest to change my life for the better. Sometimes that means taking inventory on my thoughts and feelings and shifting them so that a five minute incident doesn’t ruin the next sixty plus minutes of my day. Sometimes that means truly apologizing for something once I’ve stop trying to justify it and realize I was in the wrong.  Other times that means letting go of whatever is holding me emotionally hostage (fear, anxiety, etc.).

The way I do that isn’t always fast and easy, but for the most part it is effective and becomes easier and easier to do. It’s like a switch that goes off. A shift in thought and emotions so that I don’t continue to go down the same path feel irritable, angry, sad, self-doubting.

Anyone can do this and here are six tips to help you start shifting your mind whenever you want to:

 

  1. Stay optimistic. I know sometimes that is easier said then done, especially when you are surrounded by so much negativity in the world, but once you start feeding into the negativity, it’s hard to see anything positive that comes your way. You have to remember that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. We create so much of what’s around us and if we are focused on the negative, we will bring more negativity. If we focus on the positive, we’re more likely to bring more positivity into our lives or at least see opportunity in difficulty.
  2. Be happy! Yes, this too I know can be hard and sometimes we have to work really hard on being happy, but just like optimism, the more you exude happiness, the more likely you are to feel and stay genuinely happy.  Force yourself to smile. Force yourself to be positive and before you know it, you will feel better and draw to you energy that will bring about genuine happiness.
  3. Realize your strengths and utilize them. We all have strengths, but sometimes we focus so much on our weaknesses that we downplay or outright forget about our strengths. When we start focusing on our strengths and looking for opportunities to use them, not only will we fell better, we’ll actually grow stronger within our natural gifts and talents.
  4. You’re not going to please everyone. Some people just won’t like you no matter what you do so stop worrying about them, trying to win them over or searching for their approval. It’s a waste of time. Instead, focus on people who do like you and perhaps those who don’t like you will come around. Even if they don’t, who cares?
  5. Stay away from negative people. We all emit energy, just like the sun. Some days it’s positive, some days it’s negative. However, some people emit way more negative energy than positive energy. Stay away from those people, all they will do is bring you down and cast a dark shadow over your life.
  6. You’re never alone. Sure there will be times when you feel lonely, or like you’re the only one going through something, but remember, you are never truly alone unless you want to be, and that’s okay too. Sometimes we need solitude and there is a difference between solitude and loneliness. When you start thinking you’re all alone that opens the door to all type of \emotional reactions such as depression and desperation as well as poor choices to fill the void.

 

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Sometimes when I am struggling, reflecting on messages that were sent to me like this one helps shift my thoughts and mood and reminds me that I am in control of how I choose to experience whatever is going on around me.

I’m not saying any of this is easy. Sometimes It’s downright hard to attempt to be positive and happy and some times will be harder than others. However, we don’t have to be lead by the world, other people or even our own emotions and negative self talk. We can take control and steer our lives into the direction we want to go even with whatever roadblocks, detours and traffic jam life throws at us.

 

 

Helping Someone Who Has Lost Someone To Suicide

Helping Someone Who Has Lost Someone To Suicide

Earlier this week I was called to talk to a juvenile who had witnessed her boyfriend shoot himself the night before. He didn’t make it. She was obviously upset and making her way through the various stages of grief, but what was most pronounced were denial and anger. She is only 15 and he was 18. His life already over. Her life changed forever. As I listened to her talk, first with disbelief, then with anger at herself for not stopping him, then anger at him for leaving her, until she finally broke down in uncontrollable sobbing before returning back to anger and guilt directed towards herself.

Sadly, during my career I have dealt with a lot of death, but suicides always present their own unique set of challenges. People who have lost someone to suicide often not only feel the grief and tremendous loss that comes along with death in general, but they often also feel guilty that someone they knew decided that whatever they were going through was too much to bear.

A couple of years ago in an auditorium filled with crying high school students, teachers, and parents, after a popular student athlete killed himself, what I heard most was people blaming themselves for not recognizing signs that weren’t there. While sometimes suicides come with warnings, often they are very abrupt.

The irrevocable pain the loved ones of someone who committed suicide feel can cause them to become an emotional and mental wreck. Those of us looking in from the outside often want to help, but are unsure how.

You don’t have to be trained as a mental health professional (trust me, often times all the training in the world doesn’t make it easier), but here are some ways you help someone you know who has lost someone to suicide.

Let them come to you.

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As part of the Crisis team I had to go to several schools over the course of five years after a student had committed suicide. I would walk into a school I didn’t know and come face to face with distraught students, teachers, and parents I didn’t know. It is scary. The best thing I did was to be there and let those who wanted to talk come to me. If I saw that someone was obviously very upset I would go to them, hand them a tissue, sit next to them, and wait for them to open up to me. It always worked.

As a friend, try to normalize things. Let the moment be as natural as possible. When they are ready, they will talk as long as you are there.

Remember the good times.

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This is a lesson I learned from watching other, more seasoned mental health professionals during those crisis moments. While acknowledging the tragedy of what happened is important, it can be just as important and powerful to help them remember the good times they had with the person they lost. While this may seem counter-intuitive, I’ve seen it work miracles in helping someone stop reflecting on death and to start celebrating someone’s life. I’ve seen people go from sobbing to laughing and from being unable to process the tragedy to opening up completely. So, when they are ready, encourage them remember and talk about happy memories about the person.

Ask good questions.

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The young lady I spoke to earlier this week said what most people who lost someone to suicide say at some point; “I don’t understand why he did this.” Naturally I wanted to help her process that, but I knew it was more important that I resist that urge and get her to talk about herself.

It’s important to avoid statements like, “I’m sure you did everything you could”, but instead ask questions like, “Tell me what have you been thinking?”, “What was it like the last few times you were together?”, “What did you see?” These questions allow the person to open up as slowly and as much as they want to.

In the case of the young girl I spoke with earlier in the week, the last question was a big one because she had witnessed the suicide and it allowed us to process that entire scene at her own pace.

Be there, be mindful.

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When someone experiences such a tragedy, often they are inconsolable. That is one of the few things that bothers me about getting sudden calls to talk to someone when they have just lost a loved one. I know that generally, with everything so raw, there’s not much I can say that is going to make them feel better in that moment.

What I do, and what you can do as well, is just be there. I sit with them and make myself available. I allow them to cry or to say nothing if they don’t want to. As a friend, you can do the same. You can put your arm around them, hug them, or just be there as a source of comfort. That can be more powerful than trying to find the right words to say.

Find the balance between intrusion and distance.

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It is common after someone has lost someone that they will want to be alone so that they can figure out their own emotions and thoughts. You can give someone mental space while still remaining physically present.

What that means is, you can be in the same room with the person, but allow them silence if that is what they want. Allow them some space if that is what they need. You can even be in another room and remind them that you are there for them if they need you.

Offer practical help.

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After an incredible loss, the person suffering will need help if they realize it or not. After my father died I spent countless days not eating, not showering, and only wanting to sleep. I didn’t even realize I was doing those things, I just remember that my life felt upside down.

Allow the person to go through the natural grief and mourning process, but also offer to help do things to make this time in their lives a little more manageable.

For instance, go grocery shopping for them, pick up the kids, and remind them to eat, to shower, or even ask them how you can be helpful. They may not know that they need help or even have the awareness to be thankful for the help you give them, but trust me, it will help them make it through the darkness.

Allow them to problem solve on their own.

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Eventually, the person will ask more of the tough questions about why the person did what they did and what they could have or should have done. Try not to get caught up in problem solving for them, but allow them to work through that themselves. You can be there for them by asking intelligent questions like; “What thoughts did you have when the suicide first happened?” What thoughts do you have now?” But allow them to reflect and figure that out on their own so that they can put it in perspective for themselves.

Suicide is a tragedy and people who have suffered such an extreme lost need good friends to help see them through it.

You Are A Gift

iStock_000018620938_Medium-500x333Earlier today I was speaking with a fifteen year old girl in our juvenile detention center. She is experiencing depression and is 6 weeks postpartum so I was concerned about her. As we talked, I started to understand some of the sources of her depression.

During our session, she revealed that her mother also gave birth to her when she was fifteen and that her biological father has been in prison since she was three years old. Her mother is currently married to a verbally and physically abuse man that she feels her mother places before her in order of importance, attention and affection.

As this young lady and I talked, she described how she grew up feeling like a burden to her young, single mother and how after her mother had other children and multiple boyfriends, she was always made to feel like she was “in the way”.

It became very apparent that this young woman, consciously or unconsciously, had a baby at fifteen years old, partly so that she could have someone in her life that didn’t make her feel like a burden, but gave her the unconditional love she has been yearning for. However, due to her own psychological damage, she now sees her 6 week old baby as a burden and if she doesn’t learn to change the way she views herself, she will pass on that damage to her child.

What I discussed with her this morning and will try to instill in her is this:

We are the greatest gifts we can ever give ourselves. We are also gifts to other people and the Universe. Our children, if we have any, are also gifts.

Too many people grew up being made to feel, even as children, that they were a burden. Maybe they were born to parents who themselves were brought up in painful situations where they did not truly know how to love and appreciate others.

Maybe their parents conceived them as a resolution  to fixing a broken relationship or “save” a troubled marriage. Maybe their parent expects them to be their caretaker, or they were simple born during a difficult time of their parents lives and they were never able to be truly enjoyed, loved, appreciated and viewed as precious gifts as children.

Many of us have grown up never feeling truly accepted and carrying these feelings on unconscious and conscious levels that we were and are a burden.

This is how people can fall into a deep depression or become suicidal, thinking that the World would be better off without them.

This type of thinking is what keeps people from truly connecting with other people on any level or truly enjoying life.

Because of this they end up beating themselves up all the time with negative self-talk, not appreciating themselves, walking around apologizing for themselves, feeling like other people know better and are better than them.

For those of us who have received this terrible message growing up, it’s time to change it.

You are not a mistake. You are not here by accident. You are here because we are supposed to be here.

Our lives have purpose and intention.

We don’t have to apologize for being here or for being ourselves. We don’t have to beat ourselves up over our past mistakes or experiences that have helped create who we are now. We don’t have to be ashamed, apologetic or doubt the beauty that is our unique selves.

We are not a burden and if our parents are the ones who tried to put that on us, it’s time to recognize that it is their issue and not ours. We don’t have to carry that with us. We can let it go.

We are precious gifts and today we will start treating ourselves as gifts to others, the Universe and especially ourselves.

Five Ways To Combat Worrying

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“Worry is the direct descendant of the need to be in control. We cannot see everything. We do not know everything. It’s impossible for us to control everything…” –Iyanla Vanzant

Worrying is a natural part of life. Occasional worrying is actually a good coping skill that helps us plan ahead. However, worrying too much can become counterproductive, distracting and damaging to our mental and physical state.

Most of the things we worry about aren’t likely to happen in the first place, yet we waste vast amounts of emotional energy on them.

1 out of 10 people worry excessively. Extreme worrying can be a symptom of a mental health issue such as depression or generalized anxiety disorder. Some people who worry constantly and their worrying derails their lives may have a chemical imbalance and need medication, therapy or both.

For many of us, we worry because we want to control a situation, person or outcome that we usually don’t have that much control over. Worrying a lot usually means that you are trying really hard to control something, yet worrying usually doesn’t do anything to help or change the situation, it just causes us more emotional anguish.

Here are five tips to help combat worrying:

  1. Allow yourself to worry in small increments: I’ve told clients who worry a lot to designate one part of their day as their worry time, that way their worrying doesn’t build up nor do they worry throughout the entire day.
  2. Try to problem solve: Worrying is a poor attempt to solve a problem. It simply doesn’t work. Instead of wasting the energy on worrying, try to think of solutions to the problem you are worrying about.
  3. Learn to deal with uncertainty: Uncertainty is just a part of life, sometimes random things just happen, but many of us are unwilling to except that. We have to know and/or be in control of things that we simply can’t be. The faster we learn to deal with uncertainty, the easier it will be to stop worrying and the easier it will be to actually deal with the unexpected.
  4. Stay in the present: When we worry, we aren’t actually enjoying what’s going on around us now. We are so far into the “what ifs” of the future, that we are missing out on the great possibilities of right now. You can acknowledge your worries, but that doesn’t mean you have to allow them to pull you in. Meditation and mindfulness activities can help ease some of the stress from worrying and bring you back to the present.
  5. Get out of your head: You may find that putting what you’re worrying about down on paper helps release some of its power over you. Some people keep a worry journal next to their bed so that if their worries keep them up at night they can just jot them down on paper and “release” them. Guatemalan worry dolls, for example, are dolls based on a legend where children in Guatemala make dolls to tell their worries to and the doll “takes” their worry away.

“I have spent most of my life worrying about things that have never happened.” -Mark Twain

Who And Where You Are Today Is Right Where You Are Supposed To Be

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Many of us spend a whole lot of time not being happy with ourselves and our current situations. We we always think there is somewhere else we should be at this point in our lives and would have a lot less stress if we learned to embrace who we are and where we are right now. We would have a lot less stress also if we learned to let go instead of trying to control situations and other people.

How much of our energy is spent beating up on ourselves or trying to make an outcome turnout in our favor or stop someone from doing something that really isn’t in our control?

I have to admit that during certain parts of my life I wasted a lot of energy trying to control the future, trying to control other people’s behaviors and even emotions. I went to great lengths to keep people from getting mad, to keep people from leaving or to get people to be who I wanted them to be. It was exhausting and robbing me of my sanity, but during those times, I thought it was keeping me sane. I thought it was keeping my world balanced, but in reality it was destroying certain parts of myself and my life.

A lot of the desire to control outcomes and people come from us not trusting that things will eventually workout in our favor. Some people will call it not having faith in God or the Universe, therefore we try to take control over things that are really out of control. I’m not talking about sitting back and not taking action in your life and just hoping things will happen by happenstance, but I am talking about not worrying excessively over whether you’re going to get the job you interviewed for when you’ve already interviewed and given it your all. I am talking about not worrying whether or not your friend will be mad when you let her know you can’t lend her $20 because you barely have $20 yourself.

We all have our own way of trying to keep our world in balance, especially when we don’t trust that things will be okay no matter what and that the Universe, for the most part, is working for our good. What we have to learn, what I am still learning, is that life is good right now. That everything that is happening right now is just the way it is supposed to be. That where I am right now is where I am supposed to be. I am not behind, I am not trying to play catch up to this other me that is living a better life, and I have not missed out on some magical opportunity that will never come back. I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now.

Realizing that and letting go of trying to control every little thing frees us from our past. Who we were back then and what we did back then was just fine for back then. Who we are at this moment is also just fine for right now. Once we stop trying to control circumstances and people, once we stop beating up on ourselves for not being better, we will realize how much control we actually have over ourselves, our thoughts, our emotions and our present moment. We all want to be better, to be happy, to grow, but sometimes we have to enjoy life as it is today and just be and realize that where we are and who we are right now is good enough for today.