Category Archives: Stress

Why Don’t We Complain

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Have we become more stressed or more Zen-like?

Sure, we all tend to complain about ourselves–our day, our health, our work. That’s a real catharsis when we’re able to destress and release our frustrations. Life’s not fair, and that often is expressed with a justified complaint.

When it comes to inconveniences or less than ideal service, however, mostIMG_3285 people are preferring to go with the flow and let it go. Why don’t we complain? Have we become more compassionate towards those workers in front of us, seeing them as co-habitants of stressful living? Cutting them slack is like an invisible nod of I feel the strain of your job. 

An aversion to confrontation can also be a reason why we don’t complain. People would rather adjust to a defect or go without their request rather than object and risk an altercation. Why don’t we complain? It may be related to how stressed we are and a matter of picking our battles.

In 1961, William F. Buckley, Jr. wrote an essay that describes his amusing struggle to assert himself, called “Why Don’t We Complain?” It originally appeared in Esquire in 1960. He wrote:

Every New Year’s Eve I resolve to do something about the Milquetoast in me and vow to speak up, calmly, for my rights and for the betterment of our society, on every appropriate occasion… When our voices are finally mute, when we have finally suppressed the natural instinct to complain, whether vexation is trivial or grave, we shall have become automatons, incapable of feeling. (Read his entire essay here.)

One of Buckley’s reasons, 55 years ago, for why Americans didn’t complain was due to a reluctance to assert ourselves because of an increased sense of helplessness in an age of technology and centralized political power.

10d69f3e-9b69-4700-9155-2f934eb05151-mediumI can see how that conclusion may no longer be why we don’t complain. There may be people who don’t verbalize what they really think because they don’t want to make a fuss and be thought as difficult. The problem with that plan is that the people who really need to be heard, won’t be. If they don’t share what they think, how will they be heard?

As American’s, we must assert ourselves for the cause of equality and the demonstration of human kindness. Any abatement from this basic human right deserves complaint. Otherwise, we fail as a society.

FullSizeRender (5)Think about it.

drsandy@e-couch.net  ♦  ©All rights reserved 2014, Dr. Sandy Nelson, E-Couch.net  ♦  Photos courtesy of Pixabay unless otherwise noted

 

A Life Altering Experience – Part 2

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A Life Altering Experience – Part 2

So many losses. Mercy. Words painted gray with disappointment in my head. What was wanted didn’t come. What came wasn’t wanted. We’re left with shattered lives. In the dark, there resides a pounding and persistent uncertainty between us. Ron isn’t who he was. I’m not who I was. The lost parts of ourselves are vast. How do we proceed with a life altering experience? Good Lord, what’s next?

With a blood clot still in his brain two years after his stroke, Ron, tried to settle 10888736_945259278841328_7498673198762713532_ninto the reality of a different life, and so did I. Physicians had decided that the episode of dizziness that Ron had at work was actually his first stroke, not a pinched nerve. Well, that pissed us off. You mean he was misdiagnosed? How do you miss a stroke? A little more than a week later after his “pinched nerve” on that September day, a major stroke turned his life upside down.

There were many activities he could not do. I was sad for him. He hated taking blood thinners to prevent additional clots. He hated the caution he needed to take so he wouldn’t bleed out from unintentional cuts or injuries. He hated me pushing him to do more than retreat to the sofa. He was quiet, withdrawn. Depression was a companion. He battled to accept the many losses of things that were once routine: his job, playing sports, being able. Now he was disabled with no job, and could only watch sports.

It was about this time that I noticed a tremor in my hands. Like that jitter when you’ve had too much coffee. Except I didn’t drink coffee. Maybe it was a fluke. When I saw my PCP, she thought it was anxiety–stress from Ron’s condition and the stress of my job, and stress of medical bills, yeah, stress. No doubt. I had that!

Anxiety medication did nothing, the tremor remained. Then one day at work when providing an oral report in the daily meeting that takes place, the paper I was reading from was quivering. It was quivering because it was in my hands.

IMG_1027Now I was having anxiety over this alleged anxiety!! Then, while in treatment to determine the cause of my hand tremor, on January 18, 2012, my employer of ten years, suddenly and without warning, “eliminated my position.” What? I was devastated. Wait, what? Crushed. Hurt to the core. I laid in a fetal position betrayed. No one could console me. I didn’t understand. I did nothing wrong. Why did they do this? Was it my hand tremor? Because I was unable to hold paper still?

Ron was on disability and I had no job. Fear pooled in all the spaces left in me.

There were many tests of my nerves, muscles, brain, and blood. There were second and third opinions from the best movement disorder clinics. In April 2012, a month before Ron’s third stroke, at the leading Movement Disorder Clinic in the country, I was diagnosed with Parkinsonism at Rush Memorial Hospital in Chicago. I have the symptoms of PD, but it has not progressed into the full-fledged disorder.

I must seek a way to put myself back together because I feel like someone dropped me on the floor. I’ve broken into pieces. What was God doing? God broke me. He dropped me and I broke. What was I going to do?

I didn’t have much time to reflect on that question. Ron came to me saying he had a headache–that’s kinda a big deal when there’s a blood clot lodged in the brain. He also had sudden vision problems.

Back to the hospital where they again tried to remove the blood clot stuck in his brain. No go. It’s still in a location that they didn’t want to mess with. The physicians agreed he should be transferred to Northwestern Memorial in Chicago where leading neurosurgeons were having some success with cases like Ron’s. Well, that could be a life altering experience.

Nope. After a gazillion tests at Northwestern, they weren’t going to touch it either. But they did discover that Ron’s left carotid artery in the neck is 50 percent blocked. Wonderful. Ron’s lodged blood clot is on the left side of his brain. Oh, AND, he’s diabetic. He’ll need insulin injections, twice a day. Okay, so now I know this was some kind of joke, right?

No.

So that’s the story of the past six years. This is how I became a Life Coach and IMG_1267blogger. Ron does a lot of volunteer work at church and it’s given him a purpose in life and it makes him happy. He gets tired quickly, his speech is off, his attention span is non-existent, and he forgets things most of the time. But he’s stable.

We’re both on disability. Oh, and, we’ve lost everything.

I know there are many people with disabilities that are in even worse situations, I empathize. Tell me how you make it through the day. I want what I don’t have. I wish things were different–the way they were before. I play moments the way I want them to be, not as they are. Damn Reality! A life altering experience.

FullSizeRender (5)Think about it.

drsandy@e-couch.net  ♦  ©All rights reserved 2014, Dr. Sandy Nelson, E-Couch.net  ♦  Photos courtesy of Pixabay unless otherwise noted

 

Got A Knife

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Got A Knife

 

I can feel my pulse quicken in fear just thinking about him again. But I’m getting ahead of my story. A true story.

 

It was the week of Thanksgiving, and the mood of the staff I supervised was a bit more lively. It was the PM shift—the 3:00-11:30 pm in what is called the Psych ER of a behavioral health hospital. The staff in our adjacent registration department were in good spirits, too. My son, Bret, worked there after classes at Lake Forest College. He and his co-worker Beth (not her real name) were anticipating the four-day weekend.

 

There was a steady flow that night of people seeking assessments for substance abuse, hospitaldepression, anxiety, psychosis, eating disorders—all areas of mental health and substance use. The outcome of the assessment determined what treatment would be recommended.

 

Later in the evening, an older couple brought their adult son in for an assessment. I’ll call him Joe. He was friendly and responsive, but Joe also was depressed and had some delusional thoughts. These thoughts interfered in his ability to care for himself. So Joe and his parent’s agreed when the psychiatrist recommended an inpatient stay for a few days to stabilize his mood. Joe’s parent’s decided not to wait for the sign-in process and they said their goodbyes until visiting hours the next day.

 

Then, it happened.

 

I was in the hub of our department where all the clinicians and nurses complete their notes, speak with doctors, and so on. From the corner of my eye, I saw Beth running to me from the registration department, shouting something. Then I heard what she kept screaming over and over. I felt like I was under water and someone was yelling something very serious, but it was all a muffled echo. My brain tried to take it all in.

 

“He’s got a knife.” “He’s got a knife.” “He’s got a knife,” Beth yelled pointing to registration. I didn’t have to ask where Bret was. I started running.

 

knifeAs I turned the corner into registration, there was my son …MY SON …pinned against the wall …with a knife pressing on his neck. A KNIFE ON HIS NECK! Someone’s got a knife!

 

I was in charge and I tried to focus, but in one second my brain took in the entire traumatic scene and then warped my mind a mile backward at what felt like the speed of light. What is that called when the brain does that? Disassociation? Paralyzing Trauma?

 

No, no, NO, I thought to myself. Then I was back.

 

“Hey,” I yelled.

 

It was Joe. I startled him. He looked at me still pressing the knife on Bret’s neck. Joe explained he knew we were the FBI and our plan was to kill him. He wanted out.

 

“You want out?” I asked. Without waiting for an answer I said “I’ll let you out.” Joe looked at me and then at my son.

 

“Joe, you let him go and come over to me,” I pleaded, “and I’ll get you out of here. I promise.” I aged 20 years waiting for a reply. Joe slowly took the knife off Bret’s neck and walked over to me brandishing his knife back and forth in front of him, and in front of me. We were face-to-face.

 

“Okay Joe, let’s go. Just follow me.”

 

Joe remained behind me with his knife at my back. I unlocked the door to leave registration. I hospital2could see my staff going towards Bret as we left. I took Joe down the main hallway—the one he used to come in. This way he would know I was keeping my promise and taking him back to the main doors. When a mob of staff appeared to join the fight I waved them back. Yes, Joe should have gone upstairs to an inpatient unit, but how many would be hurt getting that knife.

 

I walked Joe through the main doors and we entered the lobby. I told the receptionist to let him go and Joe walked out our main entrance and into the night.

 

Returning to our department, my staff had already called 911 and the police were outside waiting. Bret was fine. Everyone was okay. We learned the police had Joe in custody.

 

My son, in his late 20s at the time, laughed off the whole experience. No big deal for him. I, on the other hand, needed therapy for months after this event. Symptoms of Traumatic Stress plagued me. Even now, today, I close my eyes and see the image of my son being pinned against the wall with a knife at his throat. It’s been almost ten years but feels like last night. Thank God it’s all in my head!

 

FullSizeRender (6)Think about it.

drsandy@e-couch.net  ♦  ©All rights reserved 2014, Dr. Sandy Nelson, E-Couch.net

Traits of Toxic People

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TRAITS OF TOXIC PEOPLE – Dr Sandy Nelson

What is this mysterious crowd of individuals called toxic people? And why are they toxic? The personalities of toxic people are prone to traits found in codependency—they seek to control people for their own gain. Their thought process tends to be subjective and egotistical. Their behavior is chronically taxing and frustrating.

The agenda for most toxic people is to take advantage of others. They’re masterstoxic people2 of control—not the psychologically healthy self-control, but the psychologically unhealthy dominating control of others. They use people for their own specific needs.

Toxic people can appear to care about you, but typically the goodwill is not genuine, it’s a front, a scam. They resist supporting your goals for personal development because they want your time and attention to be spent on their needs and agenda. By degrading and criticizing you, they are able to lead you away from your pursuits and manipulate your devotion to theirs.

toxic people1Dr. Travis Bradberry states: Toxic people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people’s buttons. (read Dr. Bradberry’s article here)

You probably know some toxic people—they might be co-workers, they might even be friends, odds are you have a toxic person in your family, or you might live with someone toxic. Toxic people are sly. They edge their way into your life, and before you know it, they’re creating chaos and drafting you into their woes and problems. Toxic individuals are completely exhausting to be around and they can have a negative impact on your career and personal goals in life.

The distractions and stress that toxic people bring into your life are usually toxic peoplecostly. Most mental health clinicians would recommend ending relationships with a toxic people for your own well being. You deserve to have genuine friends and loved ones who value you without selfish motives.

Alexendra Palmer states: Detoxing makes you feel lighter, happier and healthier. Doing a food detox is easy, but what about getting rid of toxic people? (You can read Alexendra Palmer’s 5 Ways Your Life Will Improve After You Purge It Of Toxic People here.)

The sooner you remove toxic people from your life, the better.

FullSizeRender (8)Think about it.

drsandy@e-couch.net  ♦  ©All rights reserved 2014, Dr. Sandy Nelson, E-Couch.net  ♦  Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com unless otherwise indicated

Out of Focus

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OUT OF FOCUS – Dr. Sandy Nelson

Today, in the National Hockey League Western Conference finals, the Chicago hockey1Blackhawks will play game four with the Anaheim Ducks. The victor of this series will play for the Stanley Cup—the championship trophy awarded annually to the National Hockey League(NHL) playoff winner.

I’m a Blackhawk fan. I watch the games. I get the gist of hockey. I don’t know all the rules, but I think any idiot, myself included, knows that this game, among other things, takes focus and attention.

So I stopped to think about what I focus on. Suddenly my mind was bombarded with a cazillion things that occupy my day and I found it difficult to sort it all out to even have a focus.

IMG_1577Should I focus on my attitude? Or topics for my blog? What about my family? How about those bills? How much housework should I get done today? Maybe I should focus on more research and reading. Then the phone is ringing, the doorbell goes off, the dog is barking. Wait, where are those tips about staying focused; they’re here somewhere on my desk where the cat is sleeping.

To accomplish anything takes focus. And to focus, we need to remove distractions that could take us way off track. We need to put down our phones, turn off the music or TV, defer conversations until later. Then we’re ready to sit down with concentration for the task at hand.

I think it’s wise to start the every day with intentions.IMG_1034

1. Set your intentions for your attitude. Envision your outlook for the day–one of gratitude, kindness, and giving.

2. Decide what’s tasks need to be accomplished. Set the priorities of what projects need your focused attention at work and at home.

4. Then focus on those priorities, without distraction, and you’ll be finished in no time.

Then relax and enjoy what remains of the day. Turn on that TV just in time for a hockey game! I bet you can focus on that!

images (96)Think about it!

drsandy@e-couch.net  ♦  ©All rights reserved 2014, Dr. Sandy Nelson, E-Couch.net  ♦  Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com unless otherwise indicated

 

 

Ditch That Godawful Attitude Here – Dr. Sandy Nelson

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Beyond your heart beat, and everything, how do you know if you’re alive? Is there any excitement or interests in your life? Any passion?

Vernon Howard was a man on a mission. In his books and lectures, it was clear that each day he aspired everyone to experience an emotional awareness of being alive. He was probably one of the first trailblazers for mindfulness in the 1950’s with this statement Try to see what attitudes rule your day, then ask yourself what kind of a day you usually have.IMG_2308

What kind of days have you been having lately? Are you sick of the same crap? If the past week has been bleak and negative, or filled with resentment and criticism, chances are high that your attitude on those days has not been working well for you. The bold truth is that if you latch on to a negative outlook you’re experiences in life are going to be negative which then prompts a negative outlook, and so on.

Instead of waiting for life to treat you better before changing a negative attitude, change your attitude first. Focus on the good in your life, find it, accept “what is” in everyday situations, be thankful for what hasn’t gone wrong, and then expect the positive. With that outlook, you’re bound for a good day which then prompts a good attitude!

IMG_2327Joan Baez reminds all of us that: You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live.

Most of us are guilty at some time or another of taking life for granted. We’re blinded with the eluding belief that there’s always tomorrow, and next week. In taking life for granted we become immune to the treasures found in each day and instead complain about this or that unfairness. We’re indifferent with other people. Instead of filled with kindness and gratitude, we’re filled with indifference and resentment.

Each dawn is to be a celebration because it’s a gift.  If tomorrow’s arrival was up in the air, how would you live today?

FullSizeRender (7)

Dr. Sandy Nelson

Think about it.

 

drsandy@e-couch.net  ♦  ©All rights reserved 2014, Dr. Sandy Nelson, E-Couch.net  ♦  Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com unless otherwise indicated

Problem Shattering Strategies – Dr. Sandy Nelson

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Problem Shattering Strategies – Dr. Sandy Nelson

I’m the first to admit that I bought into the idea early on in life that my experiences day-to-day should not contain difficulties. I remember in my 20’s having the thought that if lived properly, I would be exempt from struggles and problems. You can imagine the turmoil and jolt this caused me when reality arrived. When problems would of course occur, instead of seeing them as a part of life, I viewed them as evidence that I was not doing something correctly.

Someone once said: There’s not a single human being who has dodged the experience of difficulties in life.

My life changed when I realized that what was wrong was my thinking! See your difficulties today not as evidence that you’re flawed, rather proof that you’re alive! Seek solutions, check your thoughts against reality, and seek the coping CAVTL1oWYAAqihQskills needed to overcome! Here are the strategies most useful:

1. If at all possible, give yourself 24 hours to process the problem and brain-storm possible solutions. Rarely are their circumstances where a decision is required immediately. Time provides you a chance to not react in the moment which almost always makes things worse.

2. Gather as much info as you can about the situation and dilemma so you’re able to respond with facts.

3. Seek wisdom from someone who may have experienced the same situation, or who could advise you. Gain support and encouragement.

4. Keep your feelings separate from reality. Going forward, your action plan needs to be based on what’s true, not what you feel.

5. There’s no benefit in blaming yourself or feeling sorry for yourself. In fact, it can make matters worse. Accept that in the real world everyone screws up and makes mistakes, even you.

problem6. Take responsibility and follow through with the best solution for the problem.

Steve Maraboli, a Behavioral Scientist specializing in Motivational Psychology, wrote: Sometimes life knocks you on your ass… get up, get up, get up!!! Happiness is not the absence of problems, it’s the ability to deal with them.

Think about it.

 

drsandy@e-couch.net  ♦  ©All rights reserved 2014 Dr. Sandy Nelson E-Couch.net  ♦  Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com unless otherwise indicated

The Blah Epidemic – Dr. Sandy Nelson

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Some people seem to always be in happy moods. But, exactly what is happiness? What encompasses a good mood? Is this disposition genetic or dependent on specific neurotransmitters in the brain? Is there a blah, unhappiness gene distributed to a select population?

Scientists are searching for answers to these questions which means they still IMG_2321do not know what specially causes depression, or for that matter—happiness. Previously called Melancholia, depression has been recognized as a common condition for more than three thousand years. Some experts think depression is the result of learned experiences. Others say it’s all about brain chemistry. And then there are those who believe it’s in the genes.

Everyone knows what depression feels like because all of us at one time have experienced its character traits of hopelessness, helplessness, sleep disturbances, eating changes, consuming sadness, and an inability to function. These episodes, typically, are not chronic, only last a day or two; and usually result from life events. Most of us are able to adjust to the changes in life that are uninvited and demanding. We may pout for a time, rebel at reality, express our frustration, but then accept “what is” and move on to tomorrow.

IMG_2311Just like the common cold, the symptoms of depression are generally the same for everyone, but the same can’t be said about happiness. Scientists know more about the state of depression than they do about the state of joy. Taking into consideration that happiness is the most important goal in the lives of people, experts can’t even agree on an explanation for it. What is happiness? Is it being in a good mood? Is it having fun? Is it securing the approval of other people? Lots of money? No worries? What is happiness to you? Americans might say that happiness is a consistent state of well-being, void of stress, worry, frustration, and disappointment.

The full extent of depression is unknown because the menacing stigma towards mental health remains in our culture. As a result of ignorant people that still judge mental conditions as the equivalent of insanity, many people do not seek IMG_2096treatment for depression. They suffer quietly because of the perceived rejection they would otherwise experience if more folks knew their struggles. This accounts for the strong isolation that depressed individuals experience. Our culture still believes on some level that we shouldn’t need help or support for the problems or events that pre-empt our plans and land us in despair. There’s still the idea that it’s a weakness to seek counsel or take medication for mental conditions. On the contrary, it takes strength and wisdom to seek help, and I respect those individuals who do so.

HealthyPlace.com offers a list of hotlines and referral resources for better mental health! Help yourself, or someone you care about, to be happy!

Think about it.

 

drsandy@e-couch.net  ♦  ©All rights reserved 2014 Dr. Sandy Nelson E-Couch.net  ♦  Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com unless otherwise indicated

Your Mind Can Make You Sick – Dr. Sandy Nelson

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But what is quackery? It is commonly an attempt to cure the diseases of a man by addressing his body alone. -Henry David Thoreau

IMG_1681Worry can cause high blood pressure and stomach disorders. Anger can cause heart disease. Even cancer can have a beginning that originated with emotional distress. A focus on emotional health has been minimized for so long that it’s not surprising what scientists are discovering. Ignoring your mental health can have the same consequences as neglecting your physical health.

There are conclusive clinical studies that show clear connections between our emotions and our physical health. Researchers believe that 50 percent of people who see their physician have physical symptoms directly caused by their emotions. Some researchers think that amount is as high as 90 percent.

There’s a scientific reason why feelings impact physical health. Different parts of the brain are associated with specific emotions, and they are connected with IMG_2962 (1)certain hormone patterns. The release of hormones affects our bodies. When a person is aggressive and anxious, too much nor-epinephrine and epinephrine is released into the body, even while the person appears to be relaxed. Experts are convinced that a person with prolonged anger will experience negative changes in blood chemistry. The arteries thicken, and an excess of hormones cause blood vessel muscles to constrict which raises blood pressure and narrows the arteries. This can result in chronic hypertension, stroke, or heart failure.

Many studies conducted have shown that cancer-prone persons tend to hide, ignore, or deny their feelings—especially anger, resentment, and depression. They also determined that three specific emotional characteristics predispose a person to developing cancer: a perceived lack of closeness with one or both images (47)parent’s, responding to stress with a sense of hopelessness, and bottling up emotions or having no emotional outlets. Hiding, ignoring, or denying emotions has been linked so closely with cancer proneness that many researchers are now considering it a valid risk factor for cancer.

Cancer survivor and author Kris Carr wrote: If you don’t think your anxiety, depression, sadness and stress impact your physical health, think again. All of these emotions trigger chemical reactions in your body, which can lead to inflammation and a weakened immune system. 

Do you dismiss the importance of dealing with emotional stuff? Understandably most people want to forget about past hurts, disappointments, and even some childhood memories. But it would seem that your body remembers it if you fail to resolve it mindfully. If you don’t address it, your body will express it. Whatever you have been avoiding emotionally, deal with it today for a healthier tomorrow.

For more details about the latest scientific proof that attitudes and emotions do indeed affect physical health, read Mind/Body Health: The Effects of Attitudes, Emotions, and Relationships by authors B. Hafen, K. Karren, K. Frandsen and N. Smith.

Think about it.

drsandy@e-couch.net  ♦  ©All rights reserved 2014 Dr. Sandy Nelson E-Couch.net  ♦  Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com

What if tomorrow doesn’t come? —by Dr. Sandy Nelson

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IMG_1999Gosh, we live hectic lives. I mean, seriously, busy lives. And each year appears to pick up speed. Our day’s ordinary routine seems to blur into the next sunrise. Our daily agenda’s become something we take for granted, even if it’s one of boredom. Our family and friends come and go with hello’s and bye’s. The day leaves us exhausted as we lay our tired body down for sleep planning the next day’s schedule and obligations.

But what if tomorrow doesn’t come for us? What if today is the last day granted to us on this earth?

Sounds kind of real, or scary, doesn’t it? The tick-tock of reality is one verity weIMG_1902 tend to shove aside and not think about. We may realize that our date of departure from this earth is marked somewhere on a universe calendar, but when we tuck ourselves into bed at night, we rarely think about that date being tomorrow. We hope it’s a time way off, down the road, decades later. Yes, maybe.

Time. The supreme calendar of existence for us—of living, breathing, thinking, loving. What is it that we take, or make, time for? Should our priorities change? What should we do differently?

We have only so much time.

IMG_2922It’s a matter of mindfulness, I think. Living in the here, now. Being aware of this moment. Paying attention to one another. We can easily pick out from a crowd those who are attempting to live and give the fullest to each day—those who are kind to one another, who seem thankful, who are helping, who speak with an enthusiasm for life.

We all have a reason to be here today.

Our lives matter. Each of us have a specific task and purpose that benefits humanity. We all have gifts and talents to contribute for a better tomorrow. Because, when tomorrow arrives, life goes on.

Think about it.

drsandy@e-couch.net  ♦  ©All rights reserved 2014 Dr. Sandy Nelson E-Couch.net  ♦  Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com