LAUGHTER MEDITATION: 5 HEALING BENEFITS AND A 10-MINUTE PRACTICE

Laughter Meditation: 5 Healing Benefits and a 10-Minute Practice
By Melissa Eisler

In a world where there’s much to be taken seriously, it’s important to remember to laugh. Not to make light of the severity of war, discrimination, terror threats, or climate change, but to maintain a perspective that there is still much to be thankful for and to celebrate in your life.

Laughter meditation is an effective and easy way to create this balance. If you’ve done it, you likely understand its healing benefits (http://www.textbooks.com/Healing-Benefits-of- Acupressure/9780879835361/Fred-M-Houston.php). If you haven’t, you might be a little skeptical of its power to improve your mood and awaken your inner child. Before writing it off as an off-the-wall meditation practice, take a look at the benefits laughter meditation can bring to your life.

Whether you’re looking for an escape from the somber state of the world, or just wanting to reengage a part of you that’s been dormant—accessing joy, pleasure, and connection—practice laughter meditation and embrace all it has to offer your mind, body, and spirit.

Dee:

How do you see the glass?  Half full or half empty or even refillable?  Today I try to live my life looking at people, places and things in a positive way.  Even with the severities we have occurring all around us on a daily basis, we need to be mindful of the moment right in front of us.  We need to acknowledge our gifts and our journeys that have made us better human beings.  We need to be grateful for what we have and not focus on what we haven’t.  I oftentimes use laughter to change my mood and attitude to get back into that positive mindset.  I love being a kid, acting like a kid, laughing and playing like a kid!

Here are five healing benefits of laughter meditation.

Presence 

As with most meditation practices, laughter meditation provides an opportunity to slow down and be present in your life. With your smartphone usually within arm’s reach, it’s easy to be somewhere physically, but at the same time be somewhere else mentally. With human nature always planning for the future or analyzing the past, it’s hard to maintain a sense of awareness where you are right now. The truth is, your body can never be anywhere but present. Bring your mind and spirit into that same realm.

When you practice laughter meditation, the main focus of your meditation is to laugh. There are no objects to concentrate on or visualizations to take you elsewhere. You simply laugh. Once you become aware of your body while laughing—how your belly moves in and out, or your head moves side to side— you become aware of your surroundings and ground yourself in the present moment.

Dee:

When I meditate my thoughts usually interfere with my focus on breathing and mind-clarity.  The same happens when I practice laughter meditation.  I embrace those thoughts and thank my Higher Power for them and then ask that they be taken away, whisked away on a cloud.  Then I get back to meditation…until the next random thoughts.

Lightness 

The world can sometimes seem like a dark, cruel place. There is so much pain and hurt happening across continents that it can be easy to slip into the belief that you need to take life seriously. This can translate into taking yourself too seriously. After all, there is much to be done to create peace and balance in the world.

While there is nothing wrong with seeing problems and figuring out a way to fix them, making sure you’re doing a stand-up job at work, or taking care of your family, issues can arise when you do all these things with a heaviness of spirit. There is a cost when you don’t give yourself the opportunity to experience pleasure, fun, and frivolity, and laughter meditation can help. When you sit on the floor or stand in a room and simply start laughing, you can’t take yourself too seriously—it’s not possible. Laughter meditation invites you to set aside your serious “adult” ways and enjoy being funny, helping you to remember the important element of lightness.

Dee:

Again, focus on and live in the moment.  Even if briefly, do some laughter meditation.  No one cares.  No one is judging.  And if so, don’t give a shit.  Be you.  Love you.  Right now.  And remember all the negativity with which we are bombarded in the news is what sells news.  Only a small percentage is the feel-good stuff that we need to remember is happening everyday, everywhere.  And when we do witness the tragedies occurring on this planet, remember the comraderie, empathy, compassion and love that has come about from these incidents.

Connection 

It’s easy with technology to “connect” with others via social media, or perhaps you have a handful of acquaintances through work, but take a step back and assess how intentional you are with truly connecting with someone else.

Laughter meditation can provide an opportunity to connect with someone in a fun, meaningful way. While it can be practiced alone or with others, when others are involved, you forge a connection that truly celebrates the joy in life. It can be intimidating to practice laughter meditation with another person because you probably don’t want to look foolish. But once you enter into that space, you have an immediate support system because they too will probably feel the same way.

Dee:

Being an active member in Alcoholics Anonymous I get to laugh so much at hearing some of the most incomprehensible demoralizing things we’ve done.  Some are truly tragic but, together, we’ve come out of it and don’t dwell on it.  On the contrary we are so grateful to have made it to the other side and to experience and share the joys of recovery…together!

Stress Reduction 

When anxiety rears its ugly head, it steals the joy from your life. Anxiety can hijack your emotions and sabotage any effort you make to live a balanced, peaceful, and harmonious life. There are many ways you can combat anxiety, including medication, exercise, and mindfulness, but an easy and often overlooked method is laughing.

Laughter has been proven to help decrease anxiety, stress, and depression (https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/effects-of-laughter-therapy-on-anxiety-stress-depression- and-quality-of-life-in-cancer-patients-1948-5956-1000362.php?aid=60533), while increasing quality of life. In fact, laughter can actually alter dopamine and serotonin activity (http://www.laughteronlineuniversity.com/laughter-scares-depression-anxiety-boosts-moodstates/) in your brain, offering a noninvasive and non-pharmacological option for dealing with stress and depression. Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, make time to practice laughter meditation and harness the power of its healing benefits (http://www.textbooks.com/Healing-Benefits-of- Acupressure/9780879835361/Fred-M-Houston.php).

Dee:

Don’t you love a good comedy?  I remember watching Bad Dogs over and over and laughing so hard my face hurt.  Good tear-jerker laughter that you’re crying.  I feel so much lighter after a good laugh just like a good workout that alters my dopamine and serotonin, but way more fun!

Emotional Release

Emotions are not meant to stay bottled up. Quite the contrary, the release of emotions is critical to your overall well-being. In a world where you feel hurried and are rushing around from one commitment to the next, it can be hard to create the space to let your emotions bubble to the surface.

Laughter meditation provides an opportunity to access your emotions in a creative way. By just focusing on laughing, you’re concentrating on the release of a major emotion, which can open the door to other major emotions like sadness, anger, and fear. At the end of your laughter meditation practice, take some time for stillness and silence. Be open to what comes up, including other emotions. This can be a powerful way to deal with underlying thoughts and feelings that you may not realize you have or have gone unnoticed (either intentionally or unintentionally).

Dee:

I feel so blessed to be part of the AA Fellowship where I learned and have experienced that I am never alone.  I never have to let my emotions bottle up.  Sharing helps take the power about whatever my woes may be.  And I have an awesome husband who will listen to my issues and give me honest feedback.  Rigorous honesty and communication with no hesitation is icing on the cake of recovery!

10-Minute Laughter Meditation 

Laughter meditation is one of the easiest forms of meditation. You’ll start by stretching your body, then you’ll practice laughing and end with silence. Follow these simple steps and reap the benefits of this healing practice:

1.1-2 minutes: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and stretch your arms high above your head. Rock your body side-to-side from your torso, then bend over and touch your hands to your feet. Next, massage your jaw and yawn at least two times to loosen your mouth and relax the muscles in your jaw.

2.3-5 minutes: Find a comfortable position to sit or stand. Start by slightly smiling and then begin laughing without too much effort. Move to deep belly laughs. (Hint: try different types of laughs to encourage your true laugh to come through. Even if it begins as a forced feeling, most people find the forced laughter catalyzes authentic laughter in no time.)

3.3-5 minutes: Sit or lie on the floor in stillness and silence. Be mindful of what comes up for you—how your body feels, emotions that present themselves, and thoughts that arise. (Optional: share what comes up with a trusted friend or write it down in a journal.)

Dee:

Try doing your laughter in front of a mirror or with a friend.  Good fun!  And remember that all is perfect at this very moment…that you are perfect…that you are a gift!  And be grateful for what is in front of you…right here…right now!

Aloha, Dee

For those interested in Inspirational (and Funny) Gifts with a Message, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and have a fun day!

Slow down and tune into the joy that surrounds you with Deepak Chopra (https://www.amazon.com/Deepak-Chopra-Dream-Weaver-3-0/dp/B01CIEJ2AO) and Chopra Center master educators at our signature yoga and meditation retreat, Seduction of Spirit. Learn More.

From Laughter Meditation: 5 Healing Benefits and a 10-Minute Practice | The Chopra Center

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Follow Your Passion in 4 Steps

Follow Your Passions in 4 Steps

By Nicolette Stinson

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Following your passions sounds incredibly exciting and enticing. “Leave behind this soul-sucking job? Yes, please!” Wouldn’t you want to spend your days and nights doing the things you are most passionate about?

As you prepare to make the leap, suddenly Steve Jobs quotes fill your social feed and Katy Perry’s song “Firework” is on your playlist 24/7; it’s great. Then you have to take that first uncomfortable step and you’re face to face with a major fear. Eventually things get uncomfortable on the passion path. You will inevitably rub up against limitations and things won’t always go exactly as expected. In these moments it is vital be able to access your confidence and be courageous.

Dee:  Four years ago I made that leap.  A lot was happening in my life at that time.  I had just got back into recovery again after being clean and sober for 13-1/2 years.  But when I made the move to Hawaii three years prior, I failed to get back into meetings and fellowship and sharing my Experience, Strength and Hope.  I failed to be around newcomers.  I failed to remember who and what I was and where I came from.  I failed…  

My husband had recently made the move from the Mainland to join me in Hawaii.  I was here over two years on my own.  It was the first time in our 30+ years of marriage that we were together as man and wife without children and without drugs and alcohol.  Did we even know each other?  Did we like each other?

The negativity in my head was becoming apparent.  It started to spew from my mouth to customers in Self-Check Out where I worked at a grocery store.  I failed to use the Serenity Prayer.  I failed to use my Higher Power.  I failed to use my toolbox for living.  I failed…

So rather than getting fired having spent the last 20 years with this company, I chose to make the leap into an early retirement to live my passion.  Of course, I was fearful.  My Higher Power was just being allowed back into my life.  I was told not to make any major changes during the first year of my sobriety.  It had been only six months.  But I made the leap and never looked back.  Steve Jobs’ quote is still on my vision board…”Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.  And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.  If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.  Don’t settle.  As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know what you find it”.

The word confidence comes from the Latin word confidere which means to have full trust. Psychologist Albert Bandura, who devoted his life to the science of confidence, created a term related to this confidence and trust called “self-efficacy.” Self-efficacy is your belief that you will succeed and create whatever you intend to in life. Your sense of self-efficacy can play a major role in how you approach goals, tasks, and challenges. When you are confident you have a sense of self-efficacy and your actions align with that. So, then, how do you create self-efficacy?

Dee:  For me confidence and self-efficacy came from working Steps 4 and 5 in Alcoholics Anonymous.  It was by taking my own inventory and sharing it with a trusted person that I was able to be set free from my fear.  I found myself getting more comfortable in my own skin and to finally start loving myself for who and what I am.

Trust and hope and faith comes from reuniting with a Power Greater Than Myself and turning over everything!  That includes turning over my thinking and reactions, my business and my family life, my past and my future, my everything.  And each day I find more gifts being bestowed upon me without my pursuit.  Just by turning it over, having faith, sharing with others, I get to follow my passion.

Bandura found the following four strategies to be the building blocks of self-efficacy.

Mastery Experiences

When you don’t consistently live up to your highest standards or potential and continually shrink back into safety you begin to lose trust in yourself. Mastery experiences are simply past experiences of success and these past experiences give you a sense of confidence. You can begin to cultivate mastery experiences by setting up little wins for yourself and getting incrementally better at something.

Don’t try to take on too much at once or take giant leaps forward. Mastery experiences are all about getting slightly better day by day. If you get 1 percent better at something every day, in one year you will be 365 percent better—that is the essence of creating mastery experiences!

Dee:  Just like the AA slogans state, “One day at a time”, “Progress, not perfection”, “Let go, let God”, “No expectations, no disappointments”, I get to experience little wins for myself with my business and with my life.

ACTION STEP: Embrace Uncertainty and Lean into Fear (in Reasonable Doses) 

Write down a list of what you need to do in order to follow your passions, then break that list down into small actionable tasks you can complete each day. It’s important to recognize that by embracing a new level of uncertainty and leaning into a healthy level of fear, you are inviting in desired change. Doing small things that feel a little scary will help you on your path to creating mastery experiences and increased self-efficacy.

Dee:  Fear is where I spent most of my life before getting to AA and working the steps.  I didn’t believe in myself.  I did not have a Higher Power.  I did not have a toolbox for living.  I had no self-worth and definitely no self-love.  But slowly as I learned to shed my fear-based living did I find that delving into fear was for my highest good.  I could either win or lose, but I would always win for the fact that I tried helped me to grow and taught me life lessons.  “Better an oops than a ‘what if’”.

Vicarious Learning

This idea relies upon the fact that if someone else achieves what you want to achieve you can live through them, and you can learn by seeing what they do to achieve their goals. If someone else has done it, so can you! You have to be careful with this one because there is a tendency to compare yourself with these people as well and that will create the opposite effect of confidence—doubt. It is important that whenever you think about the person who is doing what you want to do that you celebrate their successes or find a way to serve their successes. Learning vicariously through someone you look up to is a great way to build confidence.

Dee:  So hard to not compare myself with others.  Again, I did this throughout most of my life, living in fear and worthlessness.  But being a work in progress as a result of AA’s 12 Step Program helps me to stop comparing and accept myself for who and what I am, right now at this very moment.  It also helps me to grow strong relationships with those around me, rather than compare.  To be of service.  Look for the similarities and not the differences.  So with that I move forward trudging the road to happy destiny.

ACTION STEP: Find a Mentor and Make a Plan

Find a mentor or teacher who can help you confidently make a plan to follow your passions.

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Social Persuasion

The concept of social persuasion takes vicarious learning one step further. This is getting verbal guidance or inspiration from someone you look up to. Hiring someone like a coach who is encouraging you to become better can be a form of social persuasion. But more than anything YOU are in your head all day long and it’s important to learn how to become your own best coach and learn to persuade yourself in positive ways. To be fully confident you must convince yourself that you have what it takes and also practice giving other people that persuasion.

Dee:  Since I started my business, Deesigns by Harris, four years ago, I have studied greatly how to make my business a success.  With the internet there is a wealth of coaching and valuable information at our fingertips.  “But I don’t want to do the business part, I just want to create”.  Well, it’s taken four long years to come to the acceptance that most of my business comes from the administrative part.  No admin…no creativity…no fun.  So when the student was ready, the master appeared.  What I’ve been learning for four years I was ready to apply.  It’s a long and slow process, but I feel the baby steps are moving me in the direction I want to be going.

ACTION STEP: Learn How to Flip Your Limiting Beliefs

Think about what you want to achieve, write down all the reasons you believe that you CAN’T achieve it, then write down the opposite of each of those beliefs to create affirmation statements—use these as fuel for your confidence! You are going to have to get very good at managing your own mindset. Life coach and entrepreneur Anthony Robbins is quoted as saying “80 percent of success is due to psychology—mindset, beliefs, and emotions—and only 20 percent is due to strategy—the specific steps needed to accomplish a result.” That is applicable here as well!

Dee:  This reminds me of Drop the Rock, a recovery/addiction book aimed at helping to remove character defects (Steps 6 and 7 in AA).  At the back of the book is a list of Character Defects/Shortcomings and another list of Program Principles.  The pluses and minuses.  The pros and cons.  How to turn those defects, fears I believe I cannot overcome, into positive beliefs.  This works with recovery; this works with business; this works with life!  Let’s change our mindsets.

Physiology

The last concept from Bandura is that your physiology plays a crucial role in your self-efficacy. In order to feel confident, it’s important that you feel good in your physical body. Generally, this comes back to the basics. Make sure each day you are eating well, getting enough sleep, and getting some form of movement. Do the things that feed a healthy body.

Dee:  This has been slow to come to me as well.  Being the obsessive-compulsive being that I am, I struggle to find moderation.  So when I get in the work mode I stay there until I crash.  Forget eating, resting or exercise.  When I think I am too busy to go to a meeting, I now get up and go.  When eating is the last thing I want to do, I do it.  The seed has been planted to get up and move for 10 minutes every hour or two (still a seed).  And I have joined a gym where I can work out and do Yoga a few times a week.  And I get even more and better work done in the end!

ACTION STEP: Practice Meditation and Yoga

Practice meditation to soothe any negativity or doubt, or take a yoga class to enliven your mind, body, and spirit. Both of these are powerful tools for a healthy physiology.

Use the strategies above that Bandura suggests to set up your own “confidence gym.” The action steps above will help you get started. Intentionally practice these four strategies day in and day out, just like you would go to the gym to get in physical shape; this is how you can get your confidence “in shape.” Start with the action steps here and then make your own unique list for each category. Today, what can you do to create your own mastery experiences, learn vicariously, be socially persuaded, or care for your physiology as you follow your unique passions?

By intentionally practicing these strategies and taking your own action steps, your challenges will begin to inspire you to grow instead of hold you back. The next time you come face to face with your fear it won’t seem so intimidating and it won’t stop you or detour you on your passion path. What will you do today to build your self-efficacy?

Dee:  Just do it!  If you’re not happy or don’t like it, then go back to your old ways knowing you tried!  What do you have to lose?

Aloha, Dee

For those interested in Inspirational Gifts with a Message, please visit my shop at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and have a great day!

About the Author, Nicolette Stinson

Certified Coach, Yoga Instructor and Perfect Health Instructor

Nicolette is an online personal brand strategist for coaches and wellness professionals. She is also a Certified Coach, Chopra Center Perfect Health Instructor, and Yoga Teacher as well as an avid student of mindfulness, creativity, personal development, and spirituality. Visit www.nicolettestinson.com to learn more.

From the Chopra Center.

The World

I found this photo in my Photo Saves.  I don’t know where I got it, nor when, why or from whom, but it must have touched me that day I saw it, so I kept it.  Well, it’s really resonating with me again today, today, at this very perfect moment in front of my nose.

The world is increasingly designed to depress us?  Well, what really is the world?

world

noun

1 he traveled the world: earth, globe, planet, sphere.

2 life on other worlds: planet, moon, star, heavenly body, orb.

3 the academic world: sphere, society, circle, arena, milieu, province, domain, orbit, preserve, realm, field, discipline, area, sector.

4 she would show the world that she was strong: everyone, everybody, people, mankind, humankind, humanity, the (general) public, the population, the populace, all and sundry, ‘every Tom, Dick, and Harry’.

5 a world of difference: huge amount, good deal, great deal, abundance, wealth, profusion, mountain; informal heap, lot, load, ton.

6 she renounced the world : society, material things, secular interests, temporal concerns, earthly concerns.

Ok, yes, if using description 4, “every Tom, Dick, and Harry” is out to get us.  To make us feel less than.  Pieces of shit.  But wait!  They have solutions for us low-lifes out here.  Bandaids for problems we don’t even have.  Does it say “stupid” on my forehead?

Boy, did I fall into the “stupid” category for most of my life.  I wanted to be prettier, younger, richer, famous.  I cared more about what the world thought of me than what I thought of me.  Because I had no clue what I thought of myself.  I had no self-worth.  I took no time for self-love.  I was void of that capacity in those chapters of my life.

I only remember being influenced by “the world” during my formative years, so that is what I took with me to my adult years.  FEAR!!!  My M.O.  Fear that I wasn’t good enough.  That you wouldn’t like me.  Most of my life has been lived with this fear until…

In my forties my greatest fear wasn’t that I could not go a day without drinking, but the fear that I would be found out.  It seemed like I lived a lifetime of sneaking around, buying my liquor at different liquor stores because what if they thought I had a problem, or buying loads of liquor and saying that I was having a party.  Yeah, right.  Then I would take swigs of the liquor on my way home so when I arrived home, I could drink like a lady.  I would hide my liquor.  I would replace liquor in bottles with water so no one would no how much I drank.  Then I started buying wine in a box wondering if anyone would pick it up and feel how much weight was gone since I bought it yesterday.  What an exhausting and wasteful way to live.  Or was I even alive?

You know, it wasn’t wasteful.  It was my story, my journey bringing me to the appreciation of having a choice today on whether or not to drink.  Yep, I got found out.  I just wanted to go somewhere, like the hospital, where I couldn’t get alcohol so I could be “normal” for awhile.  Maybe get my act together.  I thought about being locked up in a jail cell, but, no.  Too expensive for bail.  Everyone would know I had a drinking problem.  Maybe I killed someone.  Yikes!

But I got found out by not “coming to” in time for work like I did forever and FINALLY coming clean to my boss who helped get me on the right track.  FINALLY.  My Higher Power said that Dee was ready for a new chapter for her book!  Thank you, God!  I spent 20-whatever days in a treatment center for alcoholics.  I learned and learned and sponged and absorbed so much during this time, I can’t tell you.  I felt such a weight lifted from me and hope and understanding of me and what made me tick.  It was a life changer and I finally started to feel that Dee was gonna be all right.

But it was scarier than hell being thrown back out to the wolves, which would be me, with my diseased brain, the Devil.  Those hiding places were still there.  Those chores were still there.  My family was still there.  And that job.  How could I do this without alcohol?  One day at a time.

One day at a time I did what was suggested.  Alcoholics Anonymous was suggested.  I did what the fellowship suggested as well.  I got to work the steps.  I got to figure out what to do with this fear-based Dee.  I got to do it with others who didn’t judge me.  One day at a time.

And one day at a time the new sober Dee got feeling better, got to ride the pink cloud, got a life, got to feel comfortable in her skin.  One day at a time Dee didn’t go to as many meetings and didn’t reach out to those in need.  One day at a time got Dee to pick up a drink again after 13-1/2 years of sobriety.  Dee even said, “No, thanks.  I don’t drink.”  But when that shot of tequila was left for her nevertheless, the Devil with his wicked smile yelled,  “Drink me!  Drink me!  No one will know.  You’ll be fine.  You don’t have a problem anymore.  Just one!”  Well, I was off and running again, just like I was taught in AA.  That first drink woke up that part of my brain that was resting for a decade, allowing my heart to be my guide.  It yelled, “MORE!”

It was no wonder I drank.  I no longer had an insurance policy against the disease.  I stopped paying my premium long ago when I removed myself from the fellowship and the newcomers who needed me and who I needed to remind myself of where I came from.  I was no longer in service.  One day at a time.  I rationalized so much shit in my head again.  My journey.  My lesson.  I can’t keep it unless I give it away.

So I’m back and even more grateful and humble and closer to my Higher Power than ever.  I’ve been chosen once again to be sober, to live with my toolbox of solutions for a better and meaningful life with a fellowship of genuinely caring, loving people.  They are “the world” with whom I choose to surround myself.  Not “Tom, Dick and Harry” who tell me I am less-than and not worthy.  Today my purpose of carrying the message of “Experience, Strength and Hope” to and with whoever enters my Dee Bubble is key.  It is a gift.  And I can be proud of who and what I am today because I’m not drinking or using.  I am keeping my insurance premiums paid.  I am giving what was so freely given to me when I needed it most.  Life is awesome!

Let’s share with our planet, our humanity, that we together can make a world of difference!  And with our ripple effects we shall get to experience the beauty that is right here, right now, at the tips of our noses.

Aloha, Dee

For those interested in Inspirational Gifts with a Message of Hope, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and have a great day!

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others: Tips and Tools  

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others: Tips and Tools  

By EmilyHolland

The neighbor with the perfect lawn. The friend with a successful, high-paying career. The stranger on social media that you’ve never met but assume, given their seemingly perfect photos, that they lead the perfect life.

In today’s world, where it has become the norm to spend countless hours scrolling through photos of friends, family, celebrities, and complete strangers, the temptation to compare ourselves to others is at a cultural high.

While competition has long been a basic function of the human condition, it would seem that the rise of the digital age over the past several years has put an unnecessary, and even harmful, precedence on who’s in the lead. As if it were possible to measure all human successes on a single scale (or worse, by number of ‘likes’).

But even before social media’s take over, the groundwork for social comparisons was already in place. Social norms have long been established along with the relentless reminders that we’ve yet to live up to all of them. A 30-something woman sees her friends getting married and panics that she’s still single. A hard-working employee watches his co-worker move up in the company, prompting him to ask, “Why him and not me?” These comparisons can become so habitual that often you may not even realize you are doing it.

Reasons to quit may go beyond the fact that they’re simply unproductive and leave you feeling poorly about yourself. Making these social comparisons can be damaging to your health, both physically and psychologically. Being aware of how harmful comparisons are could serve as great motivation to give them up.

Dee:

When in school from elementary to high school I remember wishing my family had more money, that I could be more popular, even be famous.  I wished I was prettier, smarter, more self-confident, yet I had everything I could ever want and need.  Where did all this self-lack come from?  Why could I not just be comfortable in my own skin and love who I was?

It wasn’t until decades later when I found my wish list changing to “I wish I wouldn’t drink today” or “I wish I would stop at just three” that I found myself in a treatment center for alcoholism.  Yes, “found myself”!  It was then and there that my wish list dramatically changed as did my self-worth and opinion of myself.

But this did not happen overnight.  I needed to undo the decades of “my” thinking which is an ongoing process.  One day at a time, yeah? just like not taking a drink today, maybe tomorrow.

Sobriety, recovery and solutions has changed my life…given me a life…given me purpose.  First I “got to” learn and understand what alcoholism is, a disease, not a self-control problem.  From there I was introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Steps and the Big Book.  I “got to” make up a Higher Power of My Own Understanding to whom I could turn my will and my life over to.  I “got to” switch my life from a thinking human being to a feeling human being.  Slowly.  One day at a time.

And the miracles, evolution, journey continues.  I have turned that fear-based waste-of-space-on-the-planet to one who is finally comfortable in my own skin and loves me for who and what I am!

Harmful Effects 

In 1954, social psychologist, Leon Festinger proposed the theory of social comparison (https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/social-comparison-theory), which argues that your own feelings of self-worth are dependent upon how you think you measure up to those around you. You may be constantly evaluating how you stack up to others, in turn creating our self-image. A self-image based on anything other than intrinsic factors is destined to have harmful effects.

For one, making social comparisons can have a devastating impact on your self-esteem, particularly when comparing something you are already insecure about or sensitive to. For example, if you suffer bodily insecurities and follow nothing but fitness accounts on social media, you are setting yourself up to make not only an unhealthy comparison but an unfair one at that.

The majority of social media users show only what they want the world to see. They are less likely to expose their own insecurities and overcompensate by pushing perfection instead. It essentially boils down to a comparison between one’s reality to another’s best attempt to portray perfection. Not only can this influence your self- esteem, but it also distorts your perception of reality.

The stress that results from constantly making social comparisons that deflate your self-esteem and hinder your self-image can harm your physical health as well. Chronic stress (http://www.chopra.com/articles/how-to- reverse-the-effects-of-chronic-stress) can lead to high-blood pressure, heart disease, hypertension, and a weakened immune system. Moreover, when left unchecked, which can easily occur when you are unaware of its cause, chronic stress can lead to psychological problems such as depression and anxiety attacks.

In addition, social comparisons can hold you back from reaching goals and pursuing what matters most. Accomplishments stem from self-confidence, motivation, and clarity—all three of which can be hindered by images of others who you think are already a few steps ahead of you. In short, making social comparisons can be paralyzing and leave you wondering, Why bother? 

(http://www.chopra.com/online-courses/the-quest/on-demand

Dee:

Because of Alcoholics Anonymous, the Twelve Steps, and my toolbox for living, I discovered how fear-based I was living my life.  How important your opinion of me mattered.  That was because I did not feel worthy of your opinions nor expectations.  I felt “less than”.  Today I realize that I have God-given gifts and talents.  I was chosen to get sober and share my experience, strength and hope with those who enter my “bubble”.  And that is the purpose today.  It took me 48 years to realize this.

When I can be grateful for who and what I am today, for my journey and my story, I can share this and give hope to those who do not have “light at the end of the tunnel”.  When I can realize that if I do the best that I can at any given moment with any given talk, that I am progress not perfection, that everything is perfect at this moment in time, I can be okay with myself.  I can be light, grateful, humble and content.  

I know today that not everyone is going to like me.  And that’s okay.  There are those of you I would rather not be around.  But I don’t have to react nor prove myself nor take it personally.  You are who you are with your story, and I am who I am with mine.  Just perfect.  Right here.  Right now.  What a weight off my shoulders being able to live this way!

Tips to Stop Comparing 

It may sound simple to just suggest putting a stop to social comparisons—but the question is how do you actually stop? Here are some ways to help you stop making social comparisons.

1.Limit (or eliminate) time on social media. As mentioned, social media is often used as a place to share what you want people to see, not necessarily what’s closest to reality. Whether or not its content’s even accurate, at the very least it’s likely exaggerated. Cutting back on social media (http://www.chopra.com/articles/comparing-yourself-again-4-tips-to-survive-social-media-envy) or taking a break altogether can do wonders for your mental health. Spend the extra time understanding the triggers that lead you to making social comparisons so that when you log back into your accounts, you’re prepared to let those things go.

Dee:

What do we hear about on social media, the news and newspapers?  What sells the most, draws our attention and brings in the most money?  Negative news.  Tragic news.  Although most of life around us is good and positive, it does not sell news.  So one straw at a time we get weighted down with negativity.  If not careful, that negativity finally breaks our backs and we lower ourselves to that mentality.  Don’t do it!  Remember the 95% of the good things happening on our planet and with our humanity that does not sell news.  That’s our focus.

2.Make a list of accomplishments you’re proud of. The more confident you are in yourself, the less inclined you’ll be to evaluate how you stack up against others. Write a list of your proudest accomplishments, traits, strengths, and even things you’re grateful for. This will put you in a healthier mindset, making you less likely to engage in the comparison game.

Dee:

I am sober.  I have a Higher Power over to whom I can turn my will and my life.  I have a purpose.  I can be of service.

3. Become clear on what you want. When you’re unsure of what you want in life or how to go about achieving it, you can tend to feel unanchored. Become more grounded by gaining clarity as to the direction your life is going. Write out your short-term and long- term goals and steps necessary to accomplish them. Once you feel more secure in your own life, the temptation to over-invest in others will dissipate.

Dee: 

When things start to feel unclear, I HALT.  I check myself to see if I am Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.  If so, I treat those symptoms.  I go to an AA meeting.  I get back in the moment.  I appreciate the here and now right in front of my nose.  I quiet my mind and open my heart.  I re-center.

Theodore Roosevelt said it best when he stated, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” If you want to become your best self, making your mental and physical health top priority, you must choose joy and resist the urge to make unhealthy comparisons.

Become your best self with The Quest: Spiritual Solutions for Creating a Life You Love, our online course led by Deepak Chopra and Martha Beck. Learn More. (https://www.chopra.com/online-courses/the-quest/on- demand)

About the Author 

Emily Holland Certified Health Coach

Emily is a certified Health Coach and freelance writer with a focus on psychology, mental health, and optimal living. A combined interest in healthy living and human behavior led Emily to pursue a certification in health coaching at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition as well as a master’s degree in General Psychology. Her personal struggle with anxiety motivated her to research and implement a variety of holistic approaches into her lifestyle, such as changes in diet and the adoption of mindfulness meditation. She credits these lifestyle changes as well as many others with helping her better manage symptoms of anxiety and everyday stressors. She is most passionate about sharing what she has… Read more (/bios/emily-holland)

From The Chopra Center

Dee: 

I am not a representative of Alcoholics Anonymous.  I only know that when I could not stop drinking, the fellowship and the Big Book offered me solutions.  Today I am sober.  Today I am happy, joyous, and free!

Aloha, Dee

For those interested in Inspirational Gifts with a Message of Hope and Self, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and have a great day!!!