Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Year’s … (cringe) … resolutions.

It’s that time. Even if you’re not typically the type of person who is into resolutions, there is something about a new year that causes us to reflect on the last one, and plan the next.
And hey- plans are good.

Thing is…. having a plan or goals is one thing, but making them happen is something different altogether. Planning is important, but how many of us have painstakingly laid out a course to meet our dreams, (or just a course to get through the day without forgetting to pick up the milk…) and not followed through?
In my experience with people, I think it’s safe to say the answer to that is: all of us.
“Follow through.” We hear the term at work, raising kids, within friendships and with our spouses- we expect it privately from ourselves, and get frustrated when it’s lacking. But what determines our likelihood to follow through? What is it that affects our potential in any given situation?
We each carry beliefs about our potential- our personal ability to do something, as well as how outside conditions will affect an outcome. Every time we try something new, we already hold a belief about whether we will be good at it, or how likely we are to succeed. The problem with this is that most people have limiting beliefs- meaning they do not recognize their own greater potential. Due to past performance, or what they’ve been told, most people hold internal beliefs about what their abilities are, that are far below their actual ability. The tricky thing is- this belief will affect the outcome of any attempt. Negative belief- negative outcome. And it gets worse—the negative outcome, (caused by the limiting belief) REINFORCES the original belief! (did you catch that? --read it again.) Yikes…vicious cycle.
So what’s the good news? This process also works in reverse. This is why some people seem to excel naturally- taking on lofty goals, and meeting them….constantly growing. (Think Steve Jobs and the Apple empire.)This is because they are certain that they will succeed- so they do. The things we are certain of, we will continue to do well.
Let me give you a more manageable example. This morning I made delicious apple pancakes. I happen to be an excellent pancake maker, getting the slightly browned and crispy edges perfect every time…even my apple pieces come out evenly spaced making each bite deliciously balanced. When I set out to make them this morning, I knew they would be delicious-  and when they were, I quietly congratulated myself on what an amazingly well equipped human being I am. I guarantee you that the next time I make apple pancakes, they will be just as good. ; ) You see- my interpretation of the process, and my belief about my success makes all the difference! I believe that I am skilled at timing my pancake cooking, I know that I will use my tools and ingredients with ease, and therefore, that my outcome will be positive. 
All right, this is a goofy example, but it gets the point across, no? 

Those folks who seem to “simply excel” in business, or at work or at living a healthy lifestyle, hold the belief that it is not only possible, or even probable that they will succeed- it’s certain. They believe in their ability to use the tools and knowledge that they possess to navigate in a world where things are possible.
Of course, there are always natural talents. Some mathematicians or musicians are simply born- good for them! (and us!)…. That may not be us--- but most of us can learn trigonometry or learn to play the violin—very well in fact! 
WE ALL HAVE UNTAPPED POTENTIAL. Many times in the areas of our lives we want to change the most, all it comes down to is tapping into that potential.
Those of us who can recognize that there is room for growth and improvement will be able to more easily access our own skills and perform at a greater level, and more readily make lasting change. This goes for following through on even the largest goals. In fact, this simple premise will help us to create any life we choose. We can use it to help us follow through on the things in life we want to give our attention to. 

So.....my resolution? To apply my belief in myself....to KNOW that this year, I will grow and become the best version of me that I can be! 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Re-discovering Walking......

      How many times have we heard that when we are anxious or feeling down, it's a good idea to take a walk?  The recommendation for exercise is included in just about any article on mental wellness, and wellness in general.... 

      For those of us who are able to get out there for a walk, I thought I'd collect some information on the many benefits that may come our way as a result. 

 In honor of our early "spring" let's rediscover this common sense activity!! 

(Just) A FEW OF THE BENEFITS TO WALKING:(excerpt from www.rodale.com) 
# 1: It deflects diabetes. New research links brisk walking to a significant risk reduction for developing type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance is a predictor of this disease, even in people with normal glucose levels. But a recent British study found that people with a family history of the disease who walked briskly, or performed some other type of moderate to vigorous activity on a routine basis, improved insulin sensitivity.

#2: It saves you on gym costs. In this icky economy, people are cutting excesses, and that includes trips to the health club. In an American Heart Association survey, a quarter of the 1,000 people questioned had axed their gym memberships sometime in the previous six months. But no matter where you live, there’s a place you can pound the pavement or trek a trail to experience the benefits of walking, and 150 minutes of moderate-intensity walking a week can help manage stress and prevent heart disease. Moderate walking equals an average of about 100 steps per minute. San Diego State University researchers suggest using a pedometer and aiming for 1,000 steps in 10 minutes, and working up to 3,000 steps in 30 minutes.

#3: It can help fade fibromyalgia pain. This chronic condition affects more than 4 percent of the population, and often involves pain, fatigue, and brain fog. A small study found that in women 32 to 70 years old, those who walked 60 minutes, performed light exercises, and stretched three times a week for 18 weeks reported significant improvements in walking and mental capacity, and were less tired and depressed.

#4: It helps you beat breast cancer.Women who walk regularly after being diagnosed with breast cancer have a 45 percent greater chance of survival than those who are inactive, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Yale researchers heading up the study also found that those who exercised in the year before being diagnosed were 30 percent more likely to survive, compared to women who didn’t exercise leading up to their diagnosis.

#5: Strolling reduces stroke risk.Walking briskly for just 30 minutes, five days a week can significantly lower your risk of suffering a stroke, according to University of South Carolina researchers. After studying 46,000 men and 15,000 women over the course of 18 years, those with increased fitness levels associated with regular brisk walking had a 40 percent lower risk of suffering a stoke than those with the lowest fitness level.

#6: It can help your memory. Italian researchers enlisted 749 people suffering from memory problems in a study and measured their walking and other moderate activities, such as yard work. At the four-year follow-up, they found that those who expended the most energy walking had a 27 percent lower risk of developing dementia than the people who expended the least. This could be the result of physical activity’s role in increasing blood flow to the brain. Because walking has so many health benefits, it is no wonder that so many people have chosen it as their physical activity method of choice. If you are considering starting a walking program, run it past your physician. 


Starting to Walk

Once you are ready to begin your walking program, start slowly if you are not active now. Try to walk 5 minutes a day for the first week. Walk 8 minutes the next week. Stay at 8-minute walks until you feel comfortable. Then increase your walks to 11 minutes. Slowly lengthen each walk by 3 minutes, or walk faster.
 Some other tips for walking include the following:

  • Wear comfortable walking shoes with a lot of support, including proper arch support, a firm heel, and thick, flexible soles that will cushion your feet and absorb shock. If you walk frequently, you may need to buy new shoes often. You may wish to speak with a podiatrist about when you need to purchase new walking shoes. 
  • Wear garments that prevent inner-thigh chafing, such as tights or spandex shorts. Also wear clothes that will keep you dry and comfortable. Look for synthetic fabrics that absorb sweat and remove it from your skin.
  • Make walking fun by walking with a friend or pet. Walk in places you enjoy, like a park or shopping mall.
  • Choose a safe place to walk. Find a partner or group of people to walk with you. Your walking partner(s) should be able to walk with you on the same schedule and at the same speed.
  • Wear a knit cap in winter for extra warmth. To stay cool in summer, wear a baseball cap or visor.
  • Think of your walk in three parts. Warm up by walking slowly for five minutes. Then increase your speed and do a fast walk. Finally, cool down by walking slowly again for five minutes.
  • Do light stretching after your warm-up and cool-down.
  • Try to walk at least three times per week. Each week, add two or three minutes to your walk. If you walk fewer than three times per week, you may need more time to adjust before you increase the pace or frequency of your walk.
  • Start gradually to avoid stiff or sore muscles and joints. Over several weeks, begin walking faster, going farther, and walking for longer periods of time.
  • Set goals and rewards. Some examples of goals are participating in a fun walk or walking continuously for 30 minutes.
  • Keep track of your progress with a walking journal or log.
The more you walk, the better you may feel and the more calories you may burn. Experts recommend 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week. If you cannot do 30 minutes at a time, try walking for shorter amounts and gradually working up to it. 
                                                                                                                      ....Happy Walking!!!

What are your thoughts on a Compeer Walking Group? Anyone interested? 



Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mental Wellness is.....

What is mental wellness?
     While there is a wealth of information on the varying definitions of mental illness online, it was not as easy to find information on mental wellness!! The best definition of mental wellness that I could find was by Dr. Jane Myers of the University of North Carolina, one of the founders of the concept. She says,
"Wellness refers to a holistic approach in which mind, body, and spirit are integrated. It is a way of life oriented toward optimal health and well-being in which body, mind, and spirit are integrated in a purposeful manner with a goal of living life more fully… Wellness is more than the absence of disease, [or] a state defined as “health.” [It] incorporates a concern for optimal functioning."
Being mentally well is intertwined with being physically and spiritually well
Mental wellness, physical wellness and spiritual wellness are co-equal
By its very essence, mental wellness cannot be separated from physical and spiritual wellness. The three work together to produce the very concept of wellness. They are also always changing!!! One cannot "achieve" wellness-- because day to day we change, our circumstances change, and challenges arise. ALL OF US are in fluctuating states of health, making mental illness and mental wellness varying degrees of our health. We  all work to maintain a level of that health where we can be comfortable. 
The following list was compiled by Dr. Myers as a general guide to what it is to live in wellness. These are essential areas of concern along life’s way and not an absolute checklist that measures success or failure. You may not even agree with them all. Choose the ones you want to aspire to and make them your milestones along the mental wellness continuum. Note that most of the points below deal with mental health and wellness in some way:
Creative Self
   Thinking. Being mentally active and open-minded. The ability to be creative and experimental. Having a sense of curiosity. The ability to apply problem-solving strategies to social conflicts.
   Emotions. Being aware of or in touch with your feelings. The ability to express appropriately positive and negative feelings.
   Control.  Beliefs about your competence, confidence, and personal mastery. Beliefs that you can usually achieve the goals you set out for yourself.
   Work. Satisfaction with your work. Feeling that your skills are used appropriately. Feeling you can manage one’s workload. Feeling a sense of job security. Feeling appreciated in the work you do.
   Positive Humor. Being able to laugh at your own mistakes. The ability to use humor to accomplish even serious tasks.
Coping Self
   Leisure. Satisfaction with your time spent in leisure. Feeling that your skills are used appropriately.
   Stress Management. On-going self-assessment of your coping resources. The ability to organize and manage resources such as time, energy, and setting limits.
   Self-Worth.  Accepting who and what you are, positive qualities along with imperfections. A sense of being genuine within yourself and with others.
   Realistic Beliefs. Ability to process information and perceive reality accurately. The absence of persistent irrational beliefs and thoughts and need for perfection.
Social Self
   Friendship. Social relationships that involve a connection with others individually or in community, but which do not have a marital, sexual, or familial commitment. Having a capacity to trust others. Having empathy for others. Feeling understood by others.
   Love. The ability to be intimate, trusting, self-disclosing with another. The ability to give as well as express affection with significant others and to accept others without conditions.
Essential Self
   Spirituality. Personal beliefs and behaviors practiced as part of the recognition that we are more than the material aspects of mind and body. Belief in a higher power. Hope and optimism. Practice of worship, prayer, and/or meditation; purpose in life. Compassion for others. Moral values. Transcendence (a sense of oneness with the universe).
   Gender Identity. Satisfaction with and feeling supported in one’s gender. Ability to be androgynous.
   Cultural Identity. Satisfaction with and feeling supported in one’s cultural identity. Cultural assimilation.
   Self-Care. Taking responsibility for one’s wellness through self-care and safety habits that are preventive in nature.
 Physical Self
   Nutrition. Eating a nutritionally balanced diet. Maintaining a normal weight (within 15% of the ideal).
   Exercise. Engaging in sufficient physical activity through exercise or in your work to keep in good physical condition.
 General Feeling of Well-Being
   Perceived Wellness. The extent to which you believe you have achieved wellness in all areas, or total wellness. Your estimate of your total wellness.
   Perceived Safety. The extent to which you believe you are safe in your home, neighborhood, and community, and the extent to which you feel safe from harm by terrorists.
   Context. The extent to which your wellness is influenced, in a conscious manner, by individual, institutional, and global contexts, and the extent to which you are aware of and intentional in responding positively to changes in wellness over time.

At our most recent Compeer poetry night, we wrote a group poem about mental wellness.....Seems fitting to share it here: 

Mental Wellness is.......
Mental wellness is...a feeling of security and open-mindedness.
Mental wellness is...when you feel good, when life is good......it is mind and body in sync.
Mental wellness is...what I strive for throughout my lifetime.
Mental wellness is...pure bliss- the personification of perfection. 
Mental wellness is...the sun, shining on your back...urging you to move forward. 
Mental wellness is...a confident spring breeze.  

Today let's remember that Wellness is not a 'goal' we can 'reach.' Rather, Wellness is living the best life we can live--- for us!!! 


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Just say NO.

Remember the 80's anti-drug media blitz?    "Just say NO!" to drugs.

Catchy. Powerful. (And definitely good advice when it comes to experimenting with illegal substances.)
It would seem common sense that it's also good advice to "just say NO!" when it comes to doing anything that will jeopardize our health and well-being, including over-extending ourselves.

Maybe common sense, but you chronic 'yes' people out there know that it's not always that easy.

I used to be a major 'yes' person, and sometimes I still fall into the trap of over-doing. My motto has seemed to be "Just say YES!" to anything that I think will in some way help someone, allow them to have a better day, or....(blush).....make them like me.
I said it.
I like to be liked.

Not that there is anything inherently wrong with wanting to be accepted by others. It's built into our genetic makeup, in fact. We're social beings. We tend to live in communities. Here at Compeer we especially know that friendship is  an extremely powerful and healing force within the human experience.
So, of course, we want to say yes to our friends.  We want to be accepted in our community structure of choice, and sometimes that means going above and beyond to help those around us. Sometimes.

Other times, it is very important to be true to ourselves, be aware of our boundaries and recognize our own limits. Saying yes when you need to say no causes burnout. You do yourself and the person making the request a disservice by saying yes all of the time. Worrying too much about others needs, and not enough of our own can even lead to resentment that may show up as depression or anxiety....resentment can cause friendships to end. 

We can say no and still be accepted!! Trust me, I do it, and you're still reading, right?

See?    ; )

For tips on just how to do this, (nicely!) I've included a suggested method by Colette Carlson, an expert in communication.

Stop, Look and Listen—then Go

Stop: Instead of rushing to make a decision, simply stop and take a deep breath. Depending on the immediacy of the situation, you may say something like, “Gee, that sounds interesting, let me get back to you,” or “Please give me a minute to gather my thoughts and take a look at my schedule.” (This is also a great parenting tip so you don’t have to go back on your word.) In other words, remove the pressure of feeling like you have to reply immediately.
Look: Take a long, hard look at your current commitments and calendar. If you say your health is the most important thing in your life, have you put your calendar where your mouth is? Put your focus on what you want and schedule it in to make sure it happens. No one is going to give you what you need to get for yourself. When you’re clear on your internal goals and schedule your time to reflect your desires, it’s easier to find the confidence necessary to say no to others in order to say yes to you.
Listen: Listen to and acknowledge your feelings. When you first hear the request, what is your immediate reaction? Are you excited and enthusiastic about the opportunity, or do you wish the person would just magically disappear? Do you truly want to do what is asked, or is it something you think you “should” do? “Shoulds” come loaded with guilt. Guilt is simply anger turned inward because you can’t do what you really want. Honor your true feelings for long-term personal sanity and happiness.
Go: Go on with integrity. Let go of your fears and simply speak your truth. Don’t give excuses – just a simple, “No, I won’t be able to participate, but I hope you have a wonderful time,” or “No, my calendar is full but thank you for thinking of me.” Or in Jill’s case she could say, “Gary, I won’t be able to help. I have just enough time left to finish my own commitments.” Then, zip it. No need to elaborate or apologize. If you still feel guilty, ask yourself a simple question: What is my intent? If your intention in saying no is purely to respect your own priorities and needs, then release all fears and go forward. If anyone gets upset, it’s about them, not about you.
I absolutely love the last line here...."if someone gets upset, it's about them, not about you." This is a concept that can be hard to really understand, especially for those of us who tend to react to others negativity with guilt. Sometimes folks have their very own reasons for becoming upset when we can't fill their needs- reasons that have nothing to do with us. 
When we clear our schedule of unnecessary obligations that do not fulfill our own needs, we take away from ourselves the energy and time we could be applying to efforts we enjoy. A life of Wellness is a life of balance, and  while we cannot (nor should we) always "just say no," 

........sometimes saying no to someone else means saying YES to you. 


Thursday, February 9, 2012


Last night was our first Compeer Poetry Night......and this morning, I am still feeling inspired by the sharing we experienced.

I was a little nervous getting ready for this group- I wondered if people would come, and if they would be willing to share their personal writing.... I wondered if everyone would have a good time.....

                                       I couldn't have been more pleased with the evening!

We had a nice spread of good food to choose from,  (our Senior Program Director, Sarah, had some fun at Wegmans!) and the room felt warm and accepting as we all chatted and ate. I got to meet some new people, and was excited to see some faces that have become very dear to me......that happens a lot at Compeer.  I couldn't help but think to myself, "Wow, I might just have the best job in the world-- I get to be surrounded by friends."

We began the night by learning a little about reading poetry-- it's not as simple as you might think. (and not as hard as I thought!) We started with this interesting poem about-- what else?? Reading poems!!

HOW TO EAT A POEM by Eve Merriam

Don't be polite.
Bite in.
Pick it up with your fingers 
and lick the juice that may run down your chin. 
It is ready and ripe now, whenever you are. 
You do not need a knife or fork or spoon or plate or napkin or table cloth. 
For there is no core or stem or rind or pit or skin to throw away. 

We talked a little about what we think the author of this poem was trying to say:

Poetry is for everyone. There is no wrong way to read or write it. There are no 'bad' parts....poetry just is. It is ready and waiting for us, like a friend, and if we accept a poem for all that it may bring, we can enjoy it endlessly.

We also learned about how to read and interpret poetry--- that it is important to read and speak slowly, in order to soak up the message, and better understand subtle meanings within the words. It is especially helpful to look for imagery within a poem-- what does the author want us to see....smell...taste?

Ashley shared a great poem full of imagery about a beautiful day spent with a lost love. (I'm hoping to add it here- with her permission, so check back!!)

Many of our friends took a risk, and read us their own poems.....we shared about the anxiety we can get just waiting for a call from someone special.....about the changes that the internet has brought to our lives.....the upsides and downsides of having that cigarette break....we interpreted some favorite song lyrics....and more.

I can honestly say, I can't remember a time when I have seen a group of people who have not met before become so open with such personal thoughts--so quickly. It was such a gift to be a part of this awesome group!

In the spirit of friendship, I'll end this post with a poem from Patty about her friend Carol.....thanks to all who participated last night, and I look forward to having more of our Compeer friends join us for our next reading!!

I prayed for a mentor, 
And then God sent her.

She has been faithful, 
For that I'm grateful.

She has fed me, 
Both physically and mentally.

I thank God for her. 

My dear friend is near…..
….My Compeer. 

Patty and Carol

I'm not sure about you.....
But I am REALLY looking forward to doing this again!!!


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Friendship Bracelet GIVEAWAY!!!

Don't you just LOVE winning things?? 

Well, today you have the opportunity to jump in on a great giveaway from the Compeer Buffalo blog. Jewelry anyone?? 

We are giving away this bracelet design created in our Compeer Shared Profits Artisans (SPA) group!  Winning is easy- see the giveaway entry rules below. 

Giveaway bracelet!

The bracelet being given away this week was made by me, but many other designs made by the members of our Shared Profits Artisans group are available for purchase as well. Call Compeer at 716-883-3331 for more details!
                (ask for Jennifer)

Compeer’s SPA group is made up of Compeer friends and volunteers interested in being a part of a cooperative craft-producing environment.  Group members engage in open and supportive social interaction while working toward completing a production goal.  Whether making jewelry, sewing therapeutic eye pillows, or sharing artistic or creative writing skills, individuals engage in the group production of a completed product. Through their work, members develop skills transferrable to support success in the community, as well as develop a social sense of belonging and camaraderie with their peers. All donations received in return for our bracelets are put toward purchasing supplies for future groups-- we are self-sustaining! 

The simple answer is YES. It has been long understood in the fields of psychology, occupational therapy, art therapy, and neurology that group work benefits both the physical and mental health of participants. Compeer matches are based on the fact that friendship and social interaction is healing in and of itself. Our SPA groups blend these theories in an effort to bring motivation, validation, social support and a sense of purpose to the lives of its members in a sustainable way.


Winning is easy!

Step 1: "Like" Compeer of Greater Buffalo on Facebook.  Compeer of Greater Buffalo, Inc.Non-Profit Organization521 like this

Step 2: Follow this blog using the 'join this site' button in the upper right column. It's important you join, so that we can contact you if you are our winner! 

Step 3: Leave a comment on this post about one of your favorite friendship moments! Could be something nice a friend did for you or a special day shared with a friend-- get creative!! (be sure you don't post anonymously-- you must use your google friend account, or I won't be able to contact you if you win!)

A winner will be picked at random from the comments section next week Thursday, February 2nd. You will be notified by email if you are the lucky winner!!  (Unfortunately, we can only ship to the US and Canada, so international readers can't participate in this giveaway....my apologies to our world-readers!)

Good Luck Friends!!!



The names of those who entered were placed into RANDOM.ORG, which (randomly!) selected our winner............

The winner is..........Stephanie!!!  

Congratulations, and thanks to all those who entered! 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Adding 'purpose' to every day.....

Lately, I've been really hung up on the idea of a sense of 'purpose' as a guide for everyday life....

It's not a new idea for me, and actually, I think that this concept led me to work in the 'helping' professions to begin with.....

Even when I was little, something inside of me always pushed me toward what it was that I was 'meant' to be doing. I knew that there were certain times when I felt the most confident, the most sure, and the most at peace. These times almost always were when I was engaged in something creative, and usually also involved helping others. It seems that I knew even then that these factors were in tune with my purpose, but as a child I certainly didn't have the words to say that, or even the awareness to think it........Back then, I just knew what felt right. And back then, I wasn't held back by the roles that society tends to impose upon us as we grow.
I knew I liked to draw, so I did...I knew I liked to cheer people up-- so most of the time I would give my drawings away, and get a smile. It was intuitive, it was easy, and I felt good about it.

So what changes?  As adults, so many factors come into play as we decide how to spend our time, and where to focus our energy. We may have work obligations, a family to raise or older parents to care for, a home or apartment to maintain. (Bills to pay!) These are all real concerns that, most times, we cannot do much to change.

There are however, many things that keep us from our purpose driven ideas that we can get around. The biggest obstacle most people have to face when deciding to be true to themselves and their desires is the fear of disapproval from others.
For me, this could look like, "I love to paint, but I have so much to do around the house--- I would look irresponsible if I left the dishes in the sink while I paint a picture."
The fact is, a couple of dishes in the sink are not likely to affect me in any way-- washed or unwashed. If I spend my time on the dishes, I will be no more energized than if I don't. If I leave them there,  I will be no worse off.....the task has no meaning to me.
On the other hand, if I take twenty minutes to paint- I know that I will feel excited by the creativity, and energized by the sense of accomplishment. I also know that when I am excited and energized-- I get more done!! (including dishes-  bonus!)
The point here is, if we let all of our daily activities become those we feel obligated to do....the outcome will always be less than what a day with purpose could bring.

Nine times out of ten, what we think others are thinking of us is not even true. Let's get back to what moves us-- let's get back to PURPOSE.

The filter technique below allows you to identify your purpose by bypassing the conditioned thought associations relating to ‘permission’ and ‘disapproval.’ It's broad enough to help you make big choices, like job moves, or small ones like how to spend a Saturday afternoon-- with YOU in mind!! :


Your purpose is what links these three things together. In other words, it is the way you can use your favorite characteristics, abilities and attributes in activities you like best, to manifest your vision of a perfect world. Don’t be deceived by the simplicity of this technique.   -exerpt from Anxiety Culture, how to find your own purpose.

So here's what I got when I tried this:

1. I like that I am artistic and creative.
2. I like spending my time with friends and working on projects.
3. My idea of a perfect world is one where people can accept each other and work together.

One way to link these things together for me is: Providing a creative group project open to all of my friends..... like the Compeer Care and Share Jewelry group. You can check your Compeer newsletter for more info on the group, but basically, in this setting I get to be artistic and creative....I get to spend time with friends working on a project....and we can all accept one another and work together. This ties in all of the three things I identified- so cool!

Try the technique above and feel free to share one of your purpose-driven ideas in the comments section!