Don’t Say That Later Will Be Better

I envy my friend Lori (name changed to protect the shy). She has reached adulthood possessing one of my most sought-after traits: self-discipline. She regularly makes healthy choices about what she eats, then rewards herself on a weekly “cheat day,” when she eats anything she wants. She gets up early every morning to exercise, and at 50 looks and moves more like 35. She gets her work done ahead of schedule, then saves her evenings and weekends for the things that bring her pleasure. That is one of the great tasks of growing up, is it not — learning to delay gratification? Those of us who don’t learn to get the less pleasurable stuff done first grow up instead to become habitual procrastinators.

Much has been researched and written regarding procrastination. Procrastination is described both as a state, as in “I am procrastinating that task,” and as a trait, as in, “I am a procrastinator.” In the previous paragraph, it sounds to me like I am more convinced that procrastination is a … state? That it’s something I can change if I put my mind to it? That I can become disciplined INSTEAD of procrastinating, that I can learn instead to delay gratification and thus become a more productive person and that perhaps more happiness will follow? Let’s go with that explanation for a minute.

[Note: Now, some of you are going to be tempted to stop reading when you come to the words “biology” and “dopamine.” Please hang in;  it will only last for a moment.] Some of  the biology behind procrastination has to do with the release of dopamine in the brain with certain pleasurable, “rewarding” behaviors. Simply put, dopamine acts on your brain by making you want to repeat behaviors. With behaviors like playing video games, checking Facebook, or watching a funny TV show, we get small, continuous rewards via dopamine release. For other tasks that we are putting off — such as that research paper that is due in school, or finally getting taxes done, or getting that report done at work — the reward comes later, after the project is completed, and it’s only once. With that in mind, it may be helpful to schedule more frequent rewards to train yourself toward task completion. Write down your goals, make a plan, stick to it for an amount of time that you know is a reasonable expectation  and even set a timer for yourself (the suggested period of time is 25 minutes), then reward yourself with a quick check of your social media site, a snack, or whatever. This is a tried and true approach, called the Pomodoro Technique (Nowell, 2013).

It turns our that procrastination isn’t as simple a topic as it may appear on first glance: a basic time delay that makes life more stressful. Procrastination is a fairly complicated topic, and is related to stress, self-esteem, motivation, personality, fear, anger, empathy, mindfulness, and coping. Research shows a negative correlation between procrastination to self-compassion (Sirois, 2014). Self-compassion is an adaptive quality — one that helps us on our journey to well-being. Self-compassion involves recognizing and accepting our own human failings; in contrast to the hyper-critical stance that some of us take when judging our own failings, self-compassion involves viewing ourselves kindly when we are faced with suffering due to things that happen to us AND due to things that happen because of our own failings (Neff, 2003). So, basically, the research shows that the more we procrastinate, the more we view ourselves negatively. Or, that the more we view ourselves negatively, the more we procrastinate —  the direction of the relationship between the two factors isn’t clear. Regardless, procrastination is not a happy place to dwell. Armed with this information, it may be useful to not only try to cut procrastination off at the pass by changing behaviors (using Pomodoro Technique), but by changing the way we think and feel about ourselves.

Dr. Timothy Pychyl, procrastination researcher, suggests that the better we are at visualizing ourselves in the future, the better we are at getting things done now, rather than waiting until some future date (Pychyl & Sirois, 2013). I love this idea of enlisting my future self to help me get unstuck in my present. I tried this out for the past couple of weeks. And, by the way, this is called imagery intervention. So, I’m working the imagery intervention on my own darn self. I have used this in several different scenarios, such as: I am trying to decide what to eat for breakfast, or to eat at all. I ask myself, “How would my future self feel about this choice? Will my future self be happy I skipped breakfast? Will my future self be happy I ate a chocolate chip cookie and a Diet Coke for breakfast? Will my future self be glad I took five minutes to scramble some eggs and eat a half-grapefruit?” And I visualize how I really will feel tomorrow for each of the choices. And I’m telling you what, it is powerful! It may be that power is in the mindfulness of this process, which is a critical component to self-compassion. And guess what, the more self-compassion, the less procrastination. You see how that works?

In conclusion, as U2 reminds us, “you’ve got to get yourself together. You’ve got stuck in a moment and now you can’t get out of it. Don’t say that later will be better.” Set some goals, write them down, be specific, imagine how your future self is going to feel when you accomplish right now what you’re considering accomplishing. Above all, be kind to yourself. C’mon.

peace and love,



Neff, K. D. (2003). Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity, 2(2), 85 – 101.

Nowell, D. (2013). Manage procrastination with the Pomodoro Technique. Psychology Today,

Pychyl, T. & Sirois, F. (2013). Procrastination and the priority of short-term mood regulation: Consequences for future self. Social & Personality Psychology Compass, 7(2), 115-127.

Sirois, F. (2014). Procrastination and stress: Exploring the role of self-compassion. Self and Identity, 13(2), 128-145.



Everybody Hurts

As I end my twelve month hiatus from writing blog, I reflect on my own journey. My path this past year has taken me through mud, sand, meadows, steep mountain trudges, ocean, rocky ledges, sun, and storms — all of this quite literally, and even more poignantly, metaphorically. This path has been one of loss, of grief, of gratitude, of struggle, of detachment, of depression, of comfort, of exhilaration, of fear, and of love. As I struggle to redefine my life’s purpose after big changes, I want solitude then company, famine then feast, old and then new. My depression has been so acute at times that the line between loneliness and hibernation is blurred; there is a real indentation on the couch where I have been so often planted these past months.

Through all of this, I have known that there is no person who can fix my world or drag me out of my depression. I have known that grief is a process and is not on a fixed time-table. I have known that I am fairly expert at hiding the severity of my feelings of confusion, sadness, and even hopelessness. Yet, somewhere in there I have also known that life is precious, and that someday I would be ready to run again, and that friends will be waiting, and oceans warmly welcoming. I have known that I am truly a courageous being, and that I am more than capable and have strength enough to face life’s big and small challenges. I have practiced gratitude and forgiveness, and have listened to music that stirs my heart and sometimes my tears; I have turned my face to the sun and have kept moving forward. And, it should be known that I have received regular good help and advice from a caring and insightful therapist, and from a weekly support group whose members know my pain as their own and have forged a similar path in their own lives.

And yet … though I have known what I needed to do to start feeling better, I have been in that place where that is all much easier said than done. You have a moment where you feel like you might be able to move forward, then by the next morning, you’re back in the cloud. Here’s one thing I did, and mind you, I know we all have our own journey to make, and it’s rarely the same for everyone: I reminded myself how helpful physical exercise can be in combating depression, then I waited for the day, the moment, when I felt like maybe I could do something, and in that moment, I forced myself to move quickly before it was gone. I went to the gym. I jumped in the pool. I swam laps for 30 minutes. It was difficult; it had been a long time for me. The water was quiet, soothing, and somehow challenging. I felt so good when I finished that I decided I would go back the next day, which I did. Same thing: I felt good, energized, and decided I would go back the next day, but something came up and I didn’t make it. By the time my schedule freed up again, I didn’t feel like doing anything anymore. I continued instead to become one with my couch and lost in Netflix. But you know what, a few months later, that moment happened again, and I was ready for  it. I knew what to do. I got myself to the gym. I listened to some fierce music (thank you Marshall Mathers). I ran, I swam. And I went home, printed out six months’ worth of calendar pages, and wrote monthly goals at the bottom of the page, and daily goals/action steps that I could check off. And I have done that. I will admit that this has worked for me because I did my thinking within a window of time that I knew would close, but because I pre-thought and pre-planned, I can detach and work at it robotically. The day is prescribed for me, and once I head like a robot to swim, to run, to lift, to sweat, then I get to the place every time where I feel better and always glad that I made it there. And my heart opens, and I like being with me, and I enjoy the challenge, and I enjoy the benefits of the physical activity, including the results that I can actually see. And I start to remember who I am, and that I matter, and that I am worth taking care of. And tomorrow, when I want to spend time with my Netflix lover, I will be compelled to instead move and work and glide through the water (still clumsily and with much effort, but always buoyant regardless) because it is written and so shall it be done. And I know that I’ll have to start again at some point. And that’s okay. 

My heart goes out to those who are suffering through depression, some who will move through it many times in their lives. I am not a doctor nor a therapist. I am just a girl. In the world. Writing a blog. Hoping that something I write will strike a chord of familiarity with someone and bring comfort or even inspiration. And here’s the thing: “When you think you’ve had enough of this life/Well, hang on.” There will be a window, a moment. Hang on. 

With love,


Pencil Full of Lead (Gratitude)

“I got legs on my chairs and a head full of hair
Pot and a pan
And some shoes on my feet;
I got a shelf full of books and most of my teeth
A few pairs of socks and a door with a lock
I got food in my belly and a license for my telly
And nothing’s going to bring me down.”
– from Pencil Full of Lead, by Paolo Nutini

If there is one thing that you could do to give your life the oomph it needs to take it up a notch on the happiness-o-meter, that one thing is practice gratitude. Gratitude makes everything better. EVERYTHING. No matter how tough it gets, gratitude makes things better. It may not fix everything, but it will make things better. For sure. And over time, it just MAY fix everything (this statement is my opinion, based on fact and experience).

Here’s why: your brain is made up of neurons (nerve cells). When you do something, or think something, or feel something, or experience something in some way, neurons connect to neurons and create a pathway. The more you think that same thing, or feel that same thing, or experience that same thing, the more used that pathway becomes, and before you know it, it is the go-to pathway in your brain. This is the physical reason that “practice makes perfect,” because as you do something over and over again, you are increasing the likelihood that the something will occur more readily or easily the next time. IF you become accustomed to perceiving the world in a negative way, THEN you are creating and strengthening a thought pathway that is negative in nature. IF you become accustomed to perceiving the world with gratitude, THEN you are creating and strengthening a thought pathway that is positive in nature. Positive = happy.

One really simple and easy way you can create and strengthen a gratitude attitude neural pathway in your brain is to keep a gratitude journal. At the end of your day, write down a few things (the suggestion is usually three because it has been tested and works) that you are grateful for. That’s it. What happens is, you are controlling your thoughts and directing them in a positive direction each day. You reflect on the good things in your life for a moment or two — strengthen neural pathway. You write down a few good things in your life for a moment or two — strengthen neural pathway. You read over last week’s list — neural pathway becoming a superhighway up in there.

Expert Robert Emmons, Positive Psychology Prof at UC-Davis, says that a couple of ways to make your gratitude journal really rock your world is to not overdo — once a week writing seems to be better than every day — and to consciously think of each thing you write about as a “gift.” So, when I list a run in the mountains as something I’m grateful for, I should stop and think: “That trail run in the lovely late-afternoon sun was a true gift in my life.” That way, you are more deeply processing the gratitude, and better establishing the physical brain pathway that changes your perspective.

The subject of gratitude is not closed. We’ll visit it often.

In conclusion, name your blessings, change your brain, improve your life.

peace and love,



Emmons RA, et al. “Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Feb. 2003): Vol. 84, No. 2, pp. 377–89.

Sansone RA, et al. “Gratitude and Well Being: The Benefits of Appreciation,” Psychiatry (Nov. 2010): Vol. 7, No. 11, pp. 18–22.

Seligman MEP, et al. “Empirical Validation of Interventions,” American Psychologist (July–Aug. 2005): Vol. 60, No. 1, pp. 410–21.

Sleeping with the Television On

Unless you really HAVE been living under a rock, you likely are very much aware that there has been a lot of information in the recent past regarding the importance of sleep. We know that driving while sleep deprived is at least as harmful as driving drunk (and therefore just as important that drivers make a personal commitment to never drive drowsy in much the same way we make a commitment to never drive under the influence of alcohol). We know that different people require different amounts of daily sleep for optimal functioning, but that the average amount is around eight hours, unless you are a teenager or young adult and then you need more. We know that sleep is critical for not only physical restoration, but also for cognitive restoration (not only does lack of sleep make you feel physically weaker and less-coordinated, and achy too, it also makes it harder to articulate in conversation, more difficult to concentrate, and also contributes to difficulties in memory and learning). A very new study even suggests that older adults who get less sleep experience a speedier deterioration of brain structures (Lehman 2014).

Here’s something related to sleep that you may or may not know: light does more for us than illuminate our world. It also works with the brain and body to signal hormones and regulate sleep/wake cycles. The light receptors in our eyes respond to all visible light, and have evolved to do so basically to help our bodies adjust to a 24 hour cycle related to the natural light and dark of day and night. The blue waves of light peak in mid-day, when the sun is at its brightest and shiniest, but we don’t even have to have our eyes open in order for the receptors to detect the blue light. So, blue light provides a special function, which is to help us feel alert and awake. As a matter of fact, there have been recent experiments using blue lights in car interiors in order to help drivers feel alert while driving in the dark, and it appears to be an effective tool (Taillard 2012). Cool!

It would logically follow, however, that if blue light works great to keep us alert, it of course has the opposite effect on our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. So, while blue light may belong in car interiors, it is the enemy in bed. I am still amazed at the number of people I know who complain about insomnia issues yet list watching television or spending time on the computer as a way they try to fall asleep at night. A friend of mine recently complained that his toddler was waking up in the night, and to keep the toddler quiet so that others in the house could continue to sleep, he and his 2 year-old watched a video from 2:00 a.m. until 4:00 a.m. What?! I know. Television, like other electronics, emits blue light and therefore sends signals via photoreceptors in the eyes to the brain to slow or shut down the release of melatonin, the body’s main sleep hormone. Smart phones, iPads, computers, etc. are no friend to the person who would just like to fall asleep.

In conclusion, you know that sleep is very important to your health and well-being. Thus, as part of your efforts to get that sleep you need, turn off the electronics! I mean it!

peace and love,



Hecht, J. (2012). Better than sunshine. New Scientist, 214 (2871), 42-45.

Lehman, S. (2014, July 10). Less sleep may accelerate brain aging. Business Insider. Retrieved from

Taillard, J., Capelli, A., Sagaspe, P., Anund, A., Akerstedt, T. &Phillip, P. (2012). In-car nocturnal blue light exposure improves motorway driving: a randomized controlled trial. PloS One, 7(10), 106.

I Just Wanna See You Be Brave

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” – Nelson Mandela

He ought to know, don’t you think?

Not a lot of empirical research on courage exists, but there is some, and it is important. Courage happens to be a pet topic of mine. A pet that I love and feed, and take to the vet when necessary. I give it a lot of attention. It sleeps, curled up, at the bottom of my bed. I take it for walks. We spend a lot of time together, Courage and I. I’ve been trying to get to know Courage better, but it seems that more often than not, when I get close, Courage snarls a little bit, and I retreat, frightened. And so it goes.

I like Mandela’s definition of courage, and it is actually very close to how researchers define courage. According to Paul Tillich, “Courage is self-affirmation ‘in-spite-of,’ that is in spite of that which tends to prevent the self from affirming itself” (1959). In 2004, we got that courage is “persistence or perseverance despite having fear or apprehension (Woodard). And, my favorite, because I think this definition encompasses all aspects of courage: “Courage is the willingness to act even in the presence of fear, risk, and threat” (Biswas-Deiner 2012).

Here’s a cool thing about courage:  it can be studied, measured, quantified. And it is a quality that has been correlated with happiness in study after study. Happy people are courageous people.

And what do we fear? Lions, tigers, bears, certainly. Spiders sometimes. The fears that hold us back though, and require daily courage, are fears that we may not even recognize as fears. We need courage to change what needs to be changed. We need courage to face tough decisions. We need courage to confront what needs to be confronted in relationships.

Courage, in my book, is the thing, along with love and gratitude, that can transform lives! And as it turns out, courage isn’t something you are either born with or not – courage is a skill that can be learned! Isn’t that cool? And the more you practice courage, the better you get at it, just as any skill. In the interest of space and time, I’m going to recommend two books that I wish everyone would read. The first is The Courage Quotient, by Robert Biswas-Diener. Biswas-Diener approaches the topic of courage scientifically – in fact, the subtitle of the book is “How Science Can Make You Braver.” You will love this book, I promise. It is so much fun to read, and there is just so much to learn and then act on within its pages. The second book is Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown, which discusses the courage to be vulnerable. Below is a link to a Ted talk by Brene Brown, where she introduces the topics that she explores in her book. This talk is just PACKED with delicious aha moments; I have listened to it several times, and I just cannot feel good about merely referencing it then moving on. Please take the time to listen to this talk! I am going to summarize what I deem to be the most important points of the talk, but listen to the whole dang thing!

Brene Brown, information collected through research:

  • Connection with others gives purpose and meaning to our lives.
  • In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to truly be seen for who we are (vulnerability).
  • People who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe theyare WORTHY of love and belonging (whole-hearted people).
  • These “whole-hearted” people have some striking commonalities:

1.    They share a strong sense of COURAGE, including the courage to be imperfect.

2.   They have the ability and the compassion to be kind to themselves (we can’t be compassionate to others until we learn to treat ourselves kindly).

3.   They display authenticity (willingness to let go of who they think they should be in order to be who they are).

4.  They have fully embraced vulnerability – they see vulnerability not as comfortable, nor excruciating, but as necessary.

  • Because so many of us do not have the courage to be vulnerable (to risk whatever it is we need to risk to connect whole-heartedly with others), we numb our vulnerability.
  • The problem is that we cannot selectively numb emotion. If we choose to stand back, not connect, because it is too hurtful, we are also numbing from other possibilities. When we numb out from the hurt, we also numb out from the joy.
  • We need COURAGE to be vulnerable.


In conclusion, you must be willing to persevere through your fears. You must be willing to ACT, even though the thing you fear (conflict?) is hovering RIGHT THERE! You must have the courage to take those necessary risks, to face the threat and move forward, and to be vulnerable. And then … happiness.

peace and love,





Biswas-Diener, R. (2012). The courage quotient: How science can make you braver. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly. New York: Gotham Books.

Tillich, P. (1959). The courage to be. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Woodard, C. R. (2004). Hardiness and the concept of courage: categorization and measurement. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 135-147.



Your Decision

Do you know that the way you make decisions can affect your happiness?

When you are trying to make a decision, about a purchase, for instance, do you spend a lot of time researching your choices, narrowing your choices, researching some more? Do you spend time searching through consumer and/or expert reviews? Do you know your choices inside and out before you make your final – the optimal – decision? Are you forever seeking to find the best of whatever it is you are seeking? If so, you are a “maximizer.”

Or, when making a decision, do you have in mind what you want, look for it, and then make your decision without further ado when your criteria are met? Are you content to find the thing that meets your criteria, without worrying too much about the “perfect” or “best” out there? If so, you are a “satisficer.”

It may not surprise you to know that the maximizers amongst us usually do end up with the best – the best cars, the best electronics, the best jobs. As a matter of fact, there are some statistics that show maximizers make an average of $7000/year more than satisficers (Barry Schwartz, 2004, The Paradox of Choice).

On the other hand, it may surprise you to learn that though the maximizers have the best stuff, they suffer when it comes to happiness. It’s true! The research shows that in many measures that correlate with happiness, satisficers come out ahead. Maximizers report being more depressed, stressed, frustrated, and tired. Satisficers report feeling less overwhelmed; they report feeling lower levels of anxiety and regret (Schwartz). Satisficers are, in a word, happier.

Now, please be advised that the implication here is NOT that we shouldn’t care about our decisions. The implication is that making a decision based on established criteria, then ending the search once the criteria is met, will lead to greater happiness and feelings of well-being than making a decision based on finding the very best: “I want a house with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a garage, and a covered patio, and I want to pay somewhere between $200,000 and $230,000” vs. “I want a house with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a garage, and a covered patio, and I want to find the very best price in the very best location, and I will not stop looking until I have looked at every property in a 200-mile radius.” You don’t have to search under every rock to find something that will satisfy your criteria! Satisficers feel good about their decisions, then move on. Maximizers often agonize over their decisions, conduct exhaustive searches, then agonize that there is probably something better out there still, and instead of feeling satisfied and moving on to the next decision, they feel regretful and stressed.

In conclusion:  figure out what you want, look for it, then stop looking for it once you have found it. Be a satisficer, and be happy!

peace and love,



The Heart of the Matter: Forgiveness

“I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the heart of the matter

But my will gets weak

And my thoughts seem to scatter

But I think it’s about forgiveness…”

-Don Henley

I have decided that Don Henley is right, it IS about forgiveness. Apparently there is quite a body of research that also agrees! The experts say that forgiveness is about a shift in the way we think about people who have wronged us. They describe the letting go of the desire to “get even.” Sometimes, oftentimes, forgiveness is also about a growing goodwill toward that person, and may include a desire to improve the relationship with that person. But WHY forgive? WHY spend your precious life moments and energy in forgiving someone who really might “deserve” your resentment and revenge? Here’s why:

Forgiveness not only has the power to mend relationships (though forgiveness isn’t the same thing as reconciliation), it has the power to make YOU better, in so many ways! Let us count the ways.

1. Forgiveness is associated with happiness. Active and positive feelings and behaviors in regards to forgiveness lead to long-lasting happiness (Maltby et al. 2005). Don’t wait for the forgiveness to happen; DO something about it! Be proactive, and be happy.

2. Forgiveness is associated with better physical health. Oh yes it is!! Cardiovascular health included, endocrine and immune system included, self-perceived good health included — forgiveness is a sweet, sweet pill (Lawler et al. 2004, Owen et al. 2011, Toussaint et al. 2001, Toussaint & Williams 2003, Wilson et al. 2008).

3. Forgiveness can help heal depression and anxiety. There is actually a “forgiveness therapy” technique used in psychotherapy. Seriously! (Freedman &  Enright 1996, Hebl & Enright 1993, Reed & Enright 2006)

4. You will LIVE LONGER if you learn to forgive! It’s true. Research has established a connection between longevity and forgiveness (Toussaint & Cheadle 2012). Is it worth it to give away years of your life so that you can walk around feeling terrible?

Okay, so those are some pretty compelling reasons to forgive. Often, like with many things that are good for you, forgiveness is easier said than done. Here are some tips I have compiled to help with this.

  • It starts with a thought. Once you decide to TRY to forgive, that is the beginning of the melting away of resentment. Forgiving and forgetting are not the same thing. Forgiveness involves the ability to remember without resentment. That is an amazing feeling.
  • Write. Make a list of the good things that came out of the experience for which you are working to forgive. How are you a better person because of the experience? What did you learn about yourself that is constructive and positive? In what ways are you wiser?
  • Remind yourself: We are ALL so very flawed. We need to give each other breaks, constantly! Avoid demonizing a person because of one thing they did.
  • Remember, this forgiveness is about  you, it’s not about the other person. It’s about you feeling better, living longer, being happy, or being able to enjoy a relationship. Sometimes the person who caused you the need to forgive is no longer in your life, through death or breakup or for whatever reason. Sometimes that person needs to stay not a part of your life.
  • If you are interested also in the benefit of a mended relationship as a result of the forgiveness, all of the above strategies can help with that as well. I read somewhere that imagining the offender as a child helps to find the compassion that you need in order to forgive. I’ve tried this. It works. Along those same lines, I have also reminded myself of the divinity in that person, as in, “She is God’s child. Treat her accordingly.”
  • Practice gratitude. It helps with everything I can think of. It makes life better in every way. It aids the forgiveness process. More on gratitude soon.

In conclusion, do not carry around that heavy, ugly, sickly resentment. Kick it to the curb. Trade it in for the sweet pill, Forgiveness.

peace and love,




Freedman, S. R., & Enright, R. (1996). Forgiveness as an intervention goal with incest survivors. Journal of Consulting and   Clinical Psychology, 64, 983-992.

Hebl, J. H., & Enright, R. (1993). Forgiveness as a psychotherapeutic goal with elderly females. Psychotherapy, 30, 658-667.

Lawler, K. A., Younger, J. W., Piferi, R. L., Billington, E., Jobe, R., Edmondson, K., et al. (2003). A change of heart: Cardiovascular correlates of forgiveness in response to interpersonal conflict, Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 26, 373-393.

Maltby, J., Day, L., & Barber, L. (2005). Forgiveness and happiness. The differing contexts of forgiveness using the distinction between hedonic and eudaimonic happiness. Journal of Happiness Studies, 6, 1-13.

Owen, A. D., Hayward, R. D., & Toussaint, L. (2011). Forgiveness and immune functioning in people living with HIV-AIDS. Paper presented at the 32nd annual meeting of the Society for Behavioral Medicine. Washington, DC.

Reed, G. L., & Enright, R. D. (2006). The effects of forgiveness therapy on depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress for women after spousal emotional abuse. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74, 920-929.

Toussaint, L., & Cheadle, A. C. D. (2009). Unforgiveness and the broken heart: Unforgiveness tendencies, problems due to unforgiveness, and 12-month prevalence of cardiovascular health conditions. In M. T. Evans & E.D. Walker (Eds.), Religion and Psychology. New York: Nova Publishers.

Toussaint, L, Owen, A.D., & Cheadle, A. (2012). Forgive to live: Forgiveness, health, and longevity. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 35(4), 375-386.

Toussaint, L., Williams, D. R., Musick, M. A., & Everson, S. A. (2001). Forgiveness and health: Age differences in a U.S. probability sample. Journal of Adult Development, 8, 249-257.

Toussaint, L., & Williams, D. R. (2003). Physiological correlates of forgiveness: Findings from a  Racially and socioeconomically diverse sample of community residents. Presented at A Campaign for Forgiveness Research Conference, Atlanta, GA.

Wilson, T., Milosevic, A., Carroll, M., Hart, K., & Hibbard, S. (2008). Physical health status in relation to self-forgiveness and other-forgiveness in healthy college students. Journal of Health Psychology, 6, 798-803.


Sunshine On My Shoulders

One of the oldest and best-known remedies for a variety of maladies is exposure to sun. Perhaps you can relate to the happiness felt on that first day of true spring sunshine after a long winter of dark skies and cold temperatures. If you have felt that first-hand, then you have an idea of the wonderful healing powers of the sun.

It seems strange that something as easily accessible (and free!) as the sun can help build bone strength, slow osteoporosis, or even ease pain, among other things. Strange but true. We humans (and most other vertebrates as well) need Vitamin D in order to maintain musculoskeletal health throughout life. Vitamin D is sometimes referred to as the sunshine vitamin, for good reason! It is estimated that most of us get upwards of 90 percent of the required amount of Vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. Studies dating way back to the 17th century showed evidence that rickets, a disease affecting bone development and strength especially in children, is best treated by sun exposure. We now know that the sunshine vitamin is also critical in the maintenance of muscle strength and in the prevention of many diseases such as type I diabetes, lots of kinds of cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, MS, heart disease, and even kidney disease (as evidenced in studies conducted at Boston University School of Medicine, by Dr. Michael Holick, 2005).  And check this out: patients who recuperate in rooms filled with sunshine heal faster and experience less pain and stress than those who don’t get the sunshine treatment (Walch et al, 2005). Holy cow and duh at the same time! Even Florence Nightingale knew that – she campaigned to have hospitals built to include lots of sunshine.

So, those are all pretty good reasons to dose on sunshine, don’t you think? But, wait! There’s more! Sunshine can also just make you FEEL better! You already know this – first day of spring sunshine and all, referenced early in this fascinating reminder of things that you probably already know but may not think about enough. Here is why: sunshine triggers the release of serotonin. Serotonin is the major “feel-good” chemical produced by the brain. The more sunshine, the more serotonin. The more serotonin, the more feel-good.

You KNOW I am not advising you to go lay out in the sun all day so you won’t be depressed. That’s silly. I remember one time we were discussing this very topic in one of my psychology classes, and one of my students asked if I thought it was a good idea to hit the tanning beds in the wintertime in order to get that coveted vitamin D. Seriously? Isn’t that like taking up smoking as a way to lose weight?  We know that too much exposure to direct sunlight can lead to skin cancer, so there must be some happy medium, right? Wear a hat to protect your face, ears, and neck. Wear sunscreen. Limit your time in the sun. Avoid sunburn. Be smart! It’s not rocket science.

But oh, make sure you feel the sun on your face every day if you can! Run, hike, pull weeds, lie in that hammock in the shade, walk a few blocks instead of automatically jumping in the car, go for a swim, play! Let that serotonin free! You canNOT overdose on Vitamin D from the sun! And while you’re freeing the serotonin and feelin’ good, you’ll also be working on your bone and muscle strength, easing pain, and staving off disease.

Sunshine. Just do it.

peace and love,




Genuis SJ, Canadian Family Physician Médecin De Famille Canadien [Can Fam Physician], ISSN: 0008-350X, 2006 Apr; Vol. 52, pp. 422-3, 429-31; Publisher: College of Family Physicians of Canada

Holick MF, Seminars In Dialysis [Semin Dial], ISSN: 0894-0959, 2005 Jul-Aug; Vol. 18 (4), pp. 266-75; Publisher: Blackwell Science.

Walch JM, Rabin BS, Day R, Williams JN, Choi K, Kang JD. The effect of sunlight on postoperative analgesic medication use: a prospective study of patients undergoing spinal surgery. Psychosom Med. 2005;67:156–163.

Bring On the Rain

The first of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism is that life is “dukkha.” Roughly translated, that means life is “suffering.” If that is indeed truth, and I believe it is, do we just give up now, because we are doomed to suffer? No, no, no! We welcome the suffering, because suffering means learning. Suffering means recognizing the goodness and the joy because we know what their absence feels like. Suffering means we have the opportunity to face adversity and come out the other side, more resilient and feeling good.

Guess what the research reveals about adversity and resilience? You guessed it! Research supports the idea that some amount of adversity and suffering makes us happier, stronger, more resilient, better able to face future adversity with positive coping skills, and actually physically able to handle pain better. A study by Seery et al (University at Buffalo) in 2011 revealed moderate adversity across a lifetime to be associated with well-being and resilience. Just a little bit of adversity: not good! Too much adversity for too long: not good! A moderate amount of adversity across a lifetime:  really good!

Now, let’s think about this. If adversity is good because it requires us to face our problems head on, become resilient, feel mastery over bad circumstances, etc., does that mean we should seek out adversity? Should we go asking for bad things to happen in our lives so that we can get a good workout? Uh, no. Don’t do that! Bad things feel bad, sometimes end up changing things permanently for the bad, and sometimes really just screw things up. Please believe me when I say that there will be enough challenges and adversity in your every day WITHOUT seeking them out! The trick is to realize, really understand, that every day of your life will include some kind of crap. Every day. Because life is dukkha! But, oh my goodness, that daily suffering is your friend, because you know what to do with it! You work through it! You understand that it’s just a thing, a thing you have the muscles and the perspective to deal with. You look forward to the good, you feel gratitude for the many many wonderful things in your life. You don’t make a big deal of the suffering, because you accept that it will be there, and that you will know what to do, and that afterward you will be enjoying the feeling that you faced a problem like a badass, and now you can relax and drink a delicious smoothie and laugh with your loved ones. Look for the silver lining, always.

peace and love,


Lean On Me

I am sure you have noticed, but I will remind you anyway, that when you do something nice for someone else, it makes you feel good. And when you do something nice for someone else without any intention or thought of reward or reciprocation, it makes you feel REALLY good (altruism)! The intrinsic motivation for doing a good deed is reward enough!

Here’s the science behind the good feeling of giving: thought to be an evolutionary adaptation, the brain releases dopamine in response to altruistic acts (Reuter et al. 2010). Dopamine is a brain chemical that is involved with reward, as in “that felt good, let’s do it again!” There have been some clever experiments which tested and supported the hypothesis that altruism leads to happiness. In a now famous study conducted at Harvard School of Altrusim (just kidding, there is no Harvard School of Altruism, but that sounds kind of cool, don’t you think? It was actually Elizabeth Dunn in the Psychology Department of the University of British Columbia, who conducted the study, 2008), participants were asked to rate their happiness, then were given money and instructed to either spend the money on themselves, or to spend it on others. Long story short, those who spent the money on others reported greater levels of happiness. So, it turns out that money does indeed lead to happiness, provided you GIVE the money away rather that keep it yourself. By the way, in another study conducted by Dunn, she asked a group of college students to predict which would make them happier, spending money on themselves, or spending money on others. The majority of the participants predicted that spending money on themselves would feel best. So, maybe we are not such great judges of what will make us happy. Perhaps we should listen to Dr. Elizabeth Dunn! While we’re at it, let’s also take heed of the findings of studies conducted by Sonja Lyubormirsky of Stanford University (2004). Her study showed that participants who “committed” five random acts of kindness all in one day reported significantly higher levels of satisfaction. Random acts of kindness could be anything from volunteering at an assisted living facility to leaving a generous tip, from holding the door open for another to delivering dinner to a sick friend. Be a listening ear for a friend, allow him/her to lean on you; help them to carry on! And, where possible, commit the kindnesses anonymously (it feels better).

In short, do something good today! Do five good things today! Not only will someone else benefit from it, which is totally awesome, but so will you! You will feel happier, more satisfied, and really good!

peace and love,