Monthly Archives: December 2012

Learning to Be Joyful

My friend, Patty, called me this morning to ask how I was feeling.  I told her, “Well, I can breathe through my nose, my Eustachian tubes are about 90 percent unclogged from my allergy stuff, I can run around, and nothing hurts – so I’m good.”  We both laughed.  We were just both so grateful for our parts still working and for the opportunities that go with that. 

Finding joy in life is not terribly difficult, but it is a learned skill.  First off, being in a state of joy is not the same thing as being happy.  Joy is more of a deep and profound type of feeling.   Secondly, joy is not innate.  You are not born with it – it’s learned.

Some of you have a tougher time acquiring this skill because you were raised in harsh or negative families.  However, it’s still possible for you to learn – it’s just harder. 

One of the first things you need to do to be joyful is to change the way you talk to yourself.  You need to take all that negative-speak going on in your mind (e.g. “I suck,”  “I’m terrible,”  “I should have never done ___”) quite seriously.  You may flippantly say, “I suck,” but you are really hurting yourself deeply on the inside.  Stop the negative self-talk, and instead, replace it with the phrase, “I could be doing ___.”  By giving yourself some leeway, you’ll have choices and flexibility.  These statements give you room to explore and not feel so bad about yourself.  Tearing yourself down is not motivating.  By saying, “I could have made another choice and the next time I will,” you’re going to provide yourself with a lot more opportunity.

Another thing you can do to experience more joy is to have at least one big laugh each day.  It has been proven that laughter makes you feel better and reduces stress.  Laughter makes hormones that boost immunity and creates beta-endorphins that stave off depression.  Moreover, laughing every day is not all that difficult.  There are copious amounts of things to laugh about: funny articles, comic strips, movies, hilarious memories, etc. 

Another tip: try absorbing nature.  Focus your attention on your natural surroundings.  If you do something as simple as examining a plant leaf by leaf, you’ll improve your attention and begin finding joy in the every day.

Now just to be clear: I’m not saying that you should gloss over the negative, ignore painful emotions, or pretend that everything is OK.   What I am saying is that you should be moving forward and trying to be flexible.   Paying attention and practicing gratitude gives you some peace.

It’s hard, no doubt about it. But just because something is “hard” doesn’t mean it should stop you.

Every day I put up a question at Facebook.com/DrLaura.  Recently, I asked, “What’s your secret for remaining joyful even in the midst of tough times?”  Here are two of the responses:

From Loren:

Last night I was reminded of this as we were traveling down I-5 with our three kids under 4.  They had colds and were coughing constantly while trying to drift off to sleep. We were well on our way and had already stopped three times to accommodate the needs of everyone. My oldest son, 4, started coughing harder and harder in a sleepy daze when he started vomiting.

Ugh! I was so tired – my husband and I had been on a nonstop agenda for weeks and we wanted to escape for a peaceful early Thanksgiving break with family, but now this happened. I know both my husband and I could have very easily argued and been stressed, but I grabbed a blanket, caught all the upchuck, and snapped at my husband desperately, “Pull over!!!” He didn’t want to because of the small shoulder on the road, but he did anyway. Barefoot and now smelly, I got out and assisted my son.  Together, my husband and I worked to switch out the car seat, wipe him down, and change his clothes, and we were back on the road 15 minutes later.

Four minutes after that, the rain started.  We both looked at each other and laughed thinking the same thing, “Well, at least we missed the rain!”

Although it was supposed to be a relaxing vacation, we found joy in the midst of the unexpected, unplanned interruptions of the journey.  My husband offered me his hand and said, “That was good teamwork.”

Now, they certainly have a good marriage.  And here is Deborah’s response:

As the parent of a soldier killed in Iraq, for a while joy didn’t seem to fit my vocabulary or mindset, but with time and meditation, I knew the only way to feel joy again and to honor our son and all those who have sacrificed for our country was to dwell on how they lived, not on how they died, and to let our son’s humor, leadership, and love of family and friends shine as best as I could through myself

I also choose not to keep company for very long with family or acquaintances who thrive on negative thoughts and attitudes. As our son did, I find ways to serve others, which brings much joy. I surround myself with words of positive thoughts by way of motivational books and framed motivational thoughts in each room of my home. As a person who deals with depression, “changing the way I think, speak, or do to the positive” helps keep me balanced with a heart of joy.

Video: My Teen is Shy

Although high school yearbooks have categories for “Most Likely to Succeed” and “Class Clown,” there is no superlative for “Most Shy.”  The teenage years can be a difficult transition period, especially if you’re not an outgoing person.  If your teen is shy, I’ve got some tips to help them break out of their comfort zone.

Read the transcript.

Not Everything is Forgivable

I am really ticked off that so many experts, shrinks, religious leaders, and medical doctors say that if you’ve been wronged, regardless of how severely, you must forgive the person who wronged you or you are considered a bad person who will never heal.

I think that is some of the stupidest tripe I have ever heard expressed.

First of all, if unconditional forgiveness itself does not allow for judgment, how is it fair that other people can judge your virtue simply because you won’t find it in your heart to forgive somebody?  (Throw that at the next person who tries to judge you for not forgiving someone). 

Secondly, forgiveness focuses on the perpetrator.  A victim should not be fixated.  It freezes them and prevents them from getting on with their life. 

I want to tell you a story about someone who I have never forgiven.  This person – who shall remain nameless to protect their identity – was someone who I trusted to arrange something for me.  I put my mind, body, soul and savings into this experience, and this person did not take the responsibility to make sure serious information was checked.  And because of that, everything I put in was blown. 

They ruined something that meant a tremendous deal to me.  And, to top everything off, this person still wanted compensation.  I thought it would have been more professional and classy to say, “Since you did everything I asked you to do and I blew it, don’t pay me.”  But instead, they sent me a bill.  After some period of time, I finally told them, “The truth is I don’t, can’t and won’t forgive you.  This was your responsibility and you blew it.  You’ve been compensated, and I’m left here staring at my fingernails.”

As you can see, I expressed no forgiveness, and yet, I think it was still extremely healthy.  I get very frustrated hearing how many of you go through tragic situations or horrible things and then get pressured by people to forgive the person who wronged you.  The truth is, forgiving may be the worst thing you can do. 

Over the three decades I’ve been on the air, it has been horrifying to hear so many people say that they’ve been pressured to forgive a perpetrator.  I’ve listened to countless stories about families who have turned their backs on victims of crimes like sexual abuse because the victims wouldn’t keep their mouths shut, forgive their attacker, let things go, and get on with life.  There have been many women who have called in saying that they stood up to an abusive husband only to be cut off by their children because they wouldn’t forgive their abuser. 

That’s what makes a lot of people say, “I forgive you” – family members telling them that if they don’t forgive, there will be hell to pay.  Out of fear of being banished or messing up their family, many victims keep their hurt on the inside.  However, this becomes very toxic because they don’t and shouldn’t actually forgive their abusers. 

I say don’t give in to this pressure.  Most of the time, everyone in the family simply wants there to be forgiveness because it will make family functions seem normal.  But there are things that are unforgivable.

Another thing that infuriates me is when people say victims are supposed to forgive as a gift to their offender.  In my opinion, this takes responsibility away from the offender, and a lot of times, the forgiveness serves as a benefit to the offender.  I’ve seen sick things like people put on trial for molesting, torturing and killing children, and the parents say, “I forgive him.”  I just want to take those parents and slap them up one side and down the other.  Why?  Because they are betraying their children, that’s why.  They may be making themselves feel better and look really good, but they are betraying their children.  I find that despicable. 

After the Columbine High School shootings, mourners put flags on a hill with the names of the children who were murdered.  And beside them, somebody decided to put up flags for each of the psycho-creeps who shot them because they died too.  I went on the air that day stating that it was a desecration because showing compassion for evil is showing evil to the innocent.  That was one of the most disgusting displays of phony righteousness I have ever seen.  The parents who had lost their kids had to deal with flags for those creeps placed on the same soil as the ones for their murdered children. 

You should not forgive someone until they have earned the potential for forgiveness.  How do they earn it?  They need to follow the four “R’s”:

1) Responsibility — The perpetrator needs to take complete and absolute responsibility for what they’ve done.  They should not blame it on anyone else, their childhood, bullying, or moon spots.  If it was their own decision, they must take full responsibility for having made that decision without justification or excuses.

2) Remorse — The perpetrator must be truly remorseful.  Most people feel bad because they were caught or had to suffer consequences, however, that’s not true remorse.  The only problem with this step is that no other human being can tell for certain if another is truly remorseful.  People can say it, but we don’t really know what’s in their hearts. 

3) Repair — The perpetrator must do whatever it takes to repair the damage.  Some damage cannot be repaired.  I remember reading a story about a driver who plowed into a group of young people riding their bicycles.  One biker, who was a superior human being and an athlete, had his arms, legs, and just about every rib broken, and his brain would never be the same again.  People wanted the driver to be forgiven after creating a lifetime of torture for this young man.  To that, I say, “No!”

4) Repetition – The perpetrator must take whatever steps needed so that this action is never repeated.

A lot of you folks who simply forgive your drinking or philandering spouse over and over again only give them permission to repeat their behavior.  Don’t be weak. Follow the four R’s.

Everybody who has been hurt has to go through a grieving and healing process.  It often takes a long time.  No one can tell you how to do it or how fast to go.  If someone is obsessing over you not forgiving someone, tell them to leave you alone.

And if someone continues to lay judgment on you because you refuse to forgive what you consider an unforgivable act, send them to me.  There are things that are unforgivable.

How to Pillow Talk

Should you and your spouse engage in pillow talk when your heads are on the pillow? 

Most people don’t communicate about sex in general, much less when they are in the middle of it.  There are some reasons for that.  You could be afraid of your husband or wife getting angry and interpreting it as criticism.  You may also be worried about making them feel inadequate or spoiling the mood.  Or, you may simply not care about pleasing your spouse (yes, there are people like that out there).  But generally, I think that while you’re having sex is not the best time to be talking about it.

There has been significant research showing that non-verbal communication while having sex is a lot more effective and fulfilling.  “Non-verbal” means the way your body moves and the sounds you make (e.g. the moaning and the groaning, the “Yes, that’s good, a little more to the left…Oh, that’s fabulous,” and the “Let’s try ___”).  Even though you’re speaking, it’s not really verbal – you’re just egging on the situation.

However, it is still very important for married couples to talk about these things because it leads to more satisfaction in their relationships.

So when is a good time?

When you’re not in the bedroom. 

At some point in the near future, say to your spouse, “You know when you did such-and-such?  That really turned me on.”  He or she may not even remember that they did it, but it doesn’t matter.  It’s really important that you give each other positive strokes – literally and figuratively.  It should all be enthusiastic, and none of it should be critical.  The second your statements start turning critical, it’s over.  Your spouse will realize that they didn’t please you, or even worse, that you’ve been miserable for a very long time. 

In addition, when you are talking about it, try saying something like, “Oh yeah, honey, that felt good.  Do you want to try doing ____ while you do that?  I think I’d like to know how that feels.”  In other words, you’re not critiquing your spouse – you’re exploring your own body. 

Husbands and wives are usually enthusiastic about pleasing each other, and yours will most likely be willing to try something out (unless you’re asking for kinky, weird stuff).  Just remember, people who communicate their enthusiasm, interests and positive reactions have more fulfilling sex lives with their spouses.