The Seven Habits Of Emotionally Healthy People

The Lotus Blosom symbol of Health and Wholeness

The Lotus Blosom
symbol of Health and Wholeness

In his article, “The Seven Habits Of Emotionally Healthy People” the author Guy Winch makes the point that most of us are more alert to threats to our physical well being as opposed to threats to our emotional well being.  I couldn’t agree more.  Many of us guard our physical health religiously and proactively by eating right, taking vitamins, exercising, taking our medications…ect ect.  When we are physically injured we treat that injury, by setting the bone, or putting dressings on the scrape or abrasion.  In our daily lives we try to adopt healthy habits in order to minimize physical issues.

What about in the realm of our emotional and psychological health?  Are we generally “proactive” about safeguarding our emotional health?  Do we consciously adopt lifestyle habits that enhance emotional health?  What might these habits look like?  Dr. Winch has identified seven “habits” that he argues are the best indicators of emotionally healthy and resilient person.  I invite you to take an inventory and see how you do.

.Develop the habit of  “failing” successfully.

You can do this by “debriefing” yourself after each life incident that did not meet expectation.  Separate the factors that were in your control from the ones that were out of your control.  Now you can reassess.  Do you need to change expectations, or change your approach?  Simply put, learn from your mistakes…move on

 2.    Derive Meaning from your Losses

There is obviously no way to guard against the fact of “loss” in our lives.  It will happen.  All the research suggests that those who thrive after a devastating loss do so only because they move toward finding meaning in the event.  Think of Paul Klass who after the murder of his daughter Polly, discovered that his healing comes in helping parents find their lost children. As human beings we need to find meaning.

 3.  Disrupt the Cycle of ruminating over distressing events..  The incessant going over and over events that we do in order to understand “what happened” or “why” rarely brings any fresh insight. After a time, it is simply not helpful, and becomes harmful.  Better to distract yourself with something else.

 4 .Nurture Self Esteem. Flagging self-esteem means that the emotional immune system needs to be refueled. Practice “radical” self-love, acceptance, and compassion. Become your own best friend as you remind yourself of your best qualities

5. Boost Self Worth…. related to self-esteem, this means actively engaging in activities that showcase your best self.  Whatever you are good at do it…doesn’t matter what it is. Be with people who constitute your “fan” base…. don’t be with people who don’t appreciate you…. at least any more than you have to.

 6.  Combat Loneliness…It is Dr. Winch’s contention that loneliness is an often under diagnosed problem in chronic depression.  When we are isolated, the feelings of self worth diminish in a downward spiral. It is easy to convince ourselves that we are unloved and to stop reaching out to people for fear of rejection. Its important to not let this happen.

7. Forgive and absolve yourself and others.  Forgiveness research is pointing more and more to the importance of forgiving others for what they have done to you, as well as apologizing for what you may have done. Of course it’s not always easy, and it’s important to keep in mind that forgiving is not tantamount to condoning the action. Related to forgiving is cultivating empathy for yourself and others.

So, that’s the list.

Looking at this myself I can identify that some days are better that others in terms of my good emotional habits.  How about you?








A Day To Remember….Bill and Camille’s Wedding….October 19 2013

picture curtesy of Linda Muniz

picture curtesy of Linda Muniz

Two days ago I attended a wedding at “Notre Dame Des Victories” Church in San Francisco.  The reception was held at the famous “Palace” hotel nearby.  Pictured here are the bride and groom, Bill and Camille, as they “kick off” the wedding reception and their married life with “The First Dance”.  The photo only begins to reveal the exquisite beauty of the Palace hotel with its Beaux Arts architecture and signature chandeliers…you had to be there to fully appreciate it.

This day was memorable to me, not only because of the extraordinary beauty and elegance of the Church and the Palace hotel. I was also deeply moved by the detailed planning of the event which made it not only a celebration of new beginnings for this couple but an honoring of “past” new beginnings.  The church, for example was the same church that the grooms parents had been married in.  The reception was held in the exact location that the bride’s parents had held their reception.  Pictures of these events of the past were displayed for wedding guests to see.  How cool is that? When wedding guests entered the church they were given a program of events. In this program was the following collective message from the bride and groom.  It reads (in part)…”Thank you especially to our parents for raising us to be the perfect person for the other, and for making this wonderful day and every other day possible”.  On reading this I was struck by this simple but profound acknowledgement of the chain of events that is always guiding each of us to experience the exact perfect moment of “now”.  Our parents are, of course our most direct link in the chain, but in a larger sense everyone we meet is part of the chain.  I reflected upon this often during the course of the evening.

In the days following the wedding, I found myself reflecting on the fact that events such as weddings, graduations, and other “rites of passage” are always very emotional…especially for me, as I grow older.  What is that “prick” of tears that begins to spill over during the wedding procession?  What is that euphoric joy mixed with melancholy that overcomes us when listening to the bride’s father as he remembers the birth of his daughter?  Thinking about it now, it occurs to me that weddings, graduations, and other rites of passage are simultaneously a beginning and an ending. It’s almost too much to process, in a way, that knowledge that you are the witness to a shift.  Change is actually happening all the time, but with transitional events it seems to occur so suddenly…we don’t always see it coming. I guess that’s why we need the ritual…to celebrate, acknowledge, and maybe even grieve a bit for what has been lost in order to make room for what is now gained.

As the evening wore on with the wedding reception, it felt so important that the music reflected the music of all of the generations of wedding guests.  I have no idea if this was intentional or not, but it seemed that the music was planned so that it began with “baby boomer” and even earlier music…and ended up with contemporary stuff…the stuff that seems utterly “undanceable” to me.  The kickoff song “I’m a believer” by the monkees was so perfect.  At that moment I think all of us there felt that we were “true believers”.  We believed in what was happening right then and right there.  I noticed a full participation happening.

Toward the end of the evening (for me), I had a conversation with someone close to my age range.  She lamented that when she was younger she could “dance all night”….no longer.  No longer for me either.  There was some sadness with this realization, but also some relief…I have to say.  I think of Maurice Chevalier in the movie “Gigi” when he sings,..”I’m so glad that I’m not young anymore”.  In the course of this song this dashing French actor of the 1930’s and1940’s speaks of how he can now just sit back and watch the “drama” of the young as their lives unfold before him.

I kind of feel the same way. In the last hour before I left this memorable day it was time to just “sit back and enjoy the show”…. and that’s exactly what I did.




Old(er) People In Love….The Rewards Of A Mature Relationship

the rewards of mature love

the rewards of mature love

 The folksinger John McClutchen sings a song about the sweet ripening of love discovered and nurtured later in life. It brings a tear of joy to my eye to hear him sing it.  The song, entitled “Old People In Love”, has a chorus after each verse.  It goes like this:

Old people in love

I wonder how they do it

Old people in love

What kind of grace gets them through it?

Listening to this song recently got me to thinking of the kind of grace at work in mature love.  When you have been living a long life, and you have experienced the “full catastrophe” of living, I don’t think you “fall” or “stay” in love in quite the same way as when you were young.  In our youth, it seems to me, “falling in love” is fueled by hormonal excitement and sexual chemistry. As I recall “young” love, it’s also about exhibiting your “catch” to family and friends.  What a “hunk” is he, or what a “babe” is she. Later on… not so much.  Hormones and chemistry may still play a part but mature love has a different texture to it.  It feels quieter and subtler.  In fact, it has been my experience and observation that more “mature” attraction is often difficult for others to understand.  The attraction you feel is more of an “inner “ experience.  Furthermore, it ceases to matter weather other people really “get” your devotion to your partner.  It only matters that you “get” it, and others feel your sense of peace and contentment.  Its part of the “grace”

For me the “grace” is also the fact that you are willingly attaching yourself to someone who will most assuredly be declining in health in the coming years.  Added to this, you yourself are  declining as well.  Of course we all are, no matter what our age.  The difference is, in old age there is no longer the illusion that it can be otherwise.  The evidence appears in the mirror, and in the face of our beloved on a daily basis.  Eventually, we all see it.

Letting go of the illusion of eternal youth can be incredibly freeing in a mature relationship.  Whereas earlier in life you may have looked at your partner and focused negatively on the imperfections of the sagging flesh, the pot belly, or the receding hairline, now all of these things become incredibly dear to you.  They are dear just because they are part of your loved one’s corporality and proof of his/her continued existence in your life.  Your beloved acknowledges and loves the imperfections in you as well.  These little oddities in both of you can even be part of your conversation…. but not in a bad and demeaning way.  Not ever in a way that seeks to change anything.  Time is precious, as you are reminded every day the longer you live.  Why waste it?

In another verse of his song, John McClutchen refers to the expanded clear vision of mature love in the following way:

“Cause they see with a truth

They were blind to in youth

It’s a gift from above

Old people in love”

It does seem to be a “gift from above”, this kind of love that stands the test of time and indeed gets better and deeper with each passing year.  John McClutchen ends his song in this way:

“So let the long years have their way

Still every night of the year I pray

That the first and the last thing I see

Each day is you”

Old People in Love.

I couldn’t possibly say it any better

There Are No Strangers Aboard The Train Of Life

friendship On Amtrak

friendship On Amtrak

 For a long time I’ve had a fantasy about traveling on an overnight train over a long distance. I guess its something about the romance of falling asleep to the rhythm of the rails, as well as being drawn to an earlier era when travel was leisurely and relaxed.  For whatever reason, a long train trip was on my “bucket” list.  Now I can check it off. Two weeks ago, my husband and I boarded the California Zephyr in Emeryville, California and arrived in Chicago, Illinois 52 hours later. Yes, I loved sleeping to the rhythm of train travel. Yes, the scenery as viewed from the observation car was breathtaking. What was the most surprising and delightful, though, was meeting and interacting with all the passengers who boarded the train at various locations. These were, after all, totally random people.  These were people who I ordinarily would never meet, let alone carry on amazingly intimate conversations with. And yet, intimacy was exactly what developed between myself and this odd assortment of people.  How did this happen?  I’ve developed a theory to explain it. Here it is:

  When you pay for a “roomette”, formerly known as a “Pullman” berth in a train…you also get all of your meals included.  On Amtrak they practice “community” seating at meals.  This means you will be seated with new people at every single meal.  At first I was really resistant to this idea, but since there was no choice, I got used to it.  By the end of the trip I really loved it.  Here are the things I discovered that surprised me.

  1. People are rarely who you expect them to be when you just glance at them briefly as they board the train.  I suspect I am like everyone else in that I make up stories about people based on how they look, move, talk, and dress.  What I discovered, though, was that my stories were just that….. Stories.  The “hick” looking couple from Mississippi were far, far from ignorant and “redneck”.  I guess it just takes being captively placed with people to make that discovery.  What a shame. I think I need to look at my “storytelling”.
  2. Once you open up a little bit to people and ask them about their jobs and families, you would be surprised how much you have in common. A rebellious teenager in Cleveland Ohio is much the same as a rebellious teenager in Oakland.  This was comforting to know. I felt less “lonely”.

I guess somewhere along the line it occurred to me that I could say anything I wanted, and share anything I wanted with the people on this train.  The reality was, I was never going to see any of them again.  That’s kind of the “deal” you make in these situations I think.  Its part of the appeal of travel that there is ultimately no “reputation” to worry about…no nasty gossip to follow you around.  Essentially, you get to be anonymous, which is incredibly freeing.  It got me to thinking that if I was in any way “famous”, I would never be free in this way. (No danger of that!)

My final thought about train travel is that it’s actually a metaphor for life. Aren’t we all, after all, just “Passing Through” the lives of all the people we come into contact with? I’m reminded of a song I learned in the sixth grade entitled “Passing Through”.  Here’s the chorus to the song:

Passing Through, Passing Through

Sometimes happy, sometimes blue

Glad that I ran into you

Tell the people that you saw me passing through

I’m so glad I met all the people on this train. They will never be strangers, even though it’s unlikely I will see any of them again.