Creating Calm: The Mindfulness of Coloring

 

Colorfil2
I made this with the Colourfil app. Obsessed!


Welcome to December, the most wonderful -- and stressful -- time of the year! I absolutely adore the holiday season, but all of the extra to-do items added to what's probably already a long list can make things a tad overwhelming. It might seem counterintuitive, but one of the best things you can do when you feel overwhelmed is take a break and spend time on something that relaxes you. 

For me, that thing is drawing and coloring. And I know I'm not alone. Just walk into your local bookstore, and you'll likely find shelves and shelves filled with coloring books. The coloring trend is going strong, and there's good reason for that -- it's incredibly soothing. Not only does coloring require your full attention, but it also gives you a great outlet for creativity, something that many adults don't have in their day-to-day lives. 

I know that coloring doesn't completely replace mindfulness or meditation practices, but I've personally had such positive experiences with making time to color that I can't help but share with you some of the great benefits I've received. I've written about coloring before, but I've discovered something new that works in just the same way (and is perfect for this hectic time of

Colourfil1
Made this with Colourfil, too!

year!): the Colourfil app. It's basically an on-the-go coloring book that you download right to your phone. It's filled with amazingly beautiful illustrations that you can color in and, unlike a traditional coloring book, it has the added benefit of allowing you to play around with colors. Don't like the shade you picked? Just undo and try another one! 

This has been an absolute lifesaver for my mental state over the past few weeks. Whenever I'm feeling super stressed, I open up the app, pick an image and go to town with those colors. (I've been super into the holiday images, but I also love the "Underwater" and "Bird" themes. So pretty!) I still love coloring in the traditional sense (pencil on paper is so satisfying!), but there's something wonderful about being able to color anywhere, at any time. 

Not sure if coloring is really for you? (I know, I get it -- it's a bit of an odd hobby for an adult!) Check out some of the reasons why coloring could be the de-stressing exercise you need to help you get through the holiday season: 

 

COLORING IS GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH. 

Coloring might not be the only mindfulness practice you need in your life, but it does have some great health benefits. The act of coloring allows you to fine motor skills and also trains the brain to refocus, two things adults don't often spend enough time doing on a daily basis. As children, we do all kinds of things to practice find motor skills at school, but (depending on your job) as an adult, there aren't many opportunities to hone this important skill. Coloring helps you work on strengthening your fine motor skills and helps you improve focus, too. 

 

COLORING MAKES MINDFULNESS EASIER.  

For me, the most important benefit of coloring is that it really does quiet seem to quiet my overactive mind. Once you get into the coloring zone, whatever you're stressed or worried about really seems to take a backseat as you focus on choosing colors and filling in the blank spaces with something beautiful. Back when I was awaiting my surgery last fall, I spent a lot of time coloring to distract myself from worrying about the upcoming procedure, and it really helped. Since then, I've turned to coloring over and over again when I'm particularly stressed and I've found that coloring, for me, is a kind of meditation that helps me stay in the moment (and out of my worrying mind!). 

 

COLORING ALLOWS YOU TO BE CREATIVE. 

Even if you're fortunate enough to work in a creative field, as an adult you probably don't have as much time as you'd like to explore true, un-work-related creativity. Coloring is one of the best ways to explore the creative side of yourself. Whether you pick up pencils, make a move for the markers, or open up an app like Colourfil, when you're coloring, you have the opportunity to play with color and create something beautiful (without too much mental effort). And you don't have to be "creative" to do it. Anyone can do it! And, if you use an app, you don't even have to have coloring materials!  

 

COLORING GIVES YOU A PRODUCTIVE VIBE.

The biggest struggle I have with meditation and mindfulness is that sometimes I feel like I'm doing nothing, and that can be really challenging for me. I often feel like I should be doing something productive, even when I'm supposed to be relaxing. That's why, for me, coloring is such a great activity. It might not actually be productive, but it feels like I'm accomplishing something, even as I'm calming my mind and staying in the moment. That productive vibe -- and the sense of accomplishment you feel when you've finished coloring a page -- is one of the reasons I find coloring particularly relaxing when I'm overwhelmed with a lengthy to-do list.  

 

As I mentioned, coloring can't completely take the place of meditation or other mindfulness exercises, but I've personally found a lot of the same benefits -- and I've found that I'm a lot more likely to color than I am to meditate. The fact that I'll actually do (and enjoy!) it is enough for me to make coloring my go-to calming exercise. If it's been awhile since you've colored, give it a try. You might be surprised by how relaxing and fun it is! 

 

ColourfilThis post was brought to you by Colourfil, the free, easy to use digital colouring book for your iPhone and iPad! Create inspirational and beautiful artwork – you will be amazed at how creative you can be with Colourfil. All illustrations are hand drawn in the UK by our own team of award winning designers! Download now: http://ow.ly/qfxd306wmWU  


Positively Present Picks : December 2, 2016

  Positively-Present-Hello-December


Quote-of-the-week

“December, being the last month of the year,
cannot help but make us think of what is to come.” 

Fennel Hudson

 

Links-I-Love    
Holiday Giveaway!! : check out my latest YouTube video to see how to win

NEW Pink Pin : my "Less Hate, More Love" pin is now available in pink! 

So thankful to everyone who participated in the Gratitude Photo Challenge! :)

9 Ways to Keep a Positive Attitude in Difficult Times : much needed advice

Stop the Negative Self-Comparison Spiral : less comparing, more self-loving

Pretty Fluffy : one of my favorite dog blogs (so many great dog gift ideas!)

The Mental Habit of Feeling Rushed + Overwhelmed : so relatable 

Gratitude Everyday : November is over, but your gratitude focus shouldn't be

Striking a Balance During the Holidays : we can all use more balance!

The Magic Wand Store Is Closed : wow, this is a powerful little article

Let Go + Move On : a round-up of quotes to help you just let go 

7 Habits of Highly Resilient People : resilience is highly underrated, imo

Super Busy Over the Holidays? : take this advice + make time for quiet

The Empathy Toy : what a fascinating idea for a toy. love this!

5 Ways to Thrive During the Holidays : all of these are excellent tips

Support Good Companies : a list of great places to do your holiday shopping

Inspiring + Thoughtful Gifts : check out Danielle LaPorte's beautiful gifts

 

Listening

Listen to this playlist on YouTube.
Finally on Spotify! Follow me!


"Love Me Now" — John Legend
"The One Moment" — Ok Go
"Time Waits for No One" — Taywood
"Winter" — Daughter
"We Sink" — Of Monsters and Men
"True Disaster"— Tove Lo
"Seaside" — Wolf & Willow
"Love for Everyone" — Courtship
"Back to December" — Taylor Swift
"If You Want It" — Sam Roberts Band

 

Reading

Check out my reading list on GoodReads.
 

Unrequited Love
Lisa A. Phillips

The Handmaid's Tale
Margaret Atwood
 

I write books too! Check it out...

The Positively Present Guide to Life*

Effortless Inspiration Series:
Gratitude, Living in the Moment, 
Compassion, and Forgiveness*

Stay Positive: Daily Reminders
from Positively Present*
 

Some links may be affiliate links. If you click on them and purchase something, I receive a commission. There is no additional cost to you if you use these links, and I will never share links for products I haven't or wouldn't purchase myself. For more information on affiliate links, please visit the Terms of Use page. 


Hygge: What It Is + 11 Ways to Do It

  Hygge Positively Present

 

Recently I came across the concept of hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) -- a Danish word that doesn't have an exact English equivalent, but means something along the lines of enjoying cozy intimacy, celebrating by candlelit surrounded by friends, feeling content in the moment -- and I instantly became obsessed. Hygge is about finding meaning in the ordinary aspects of life. It's about exploring and celebrating daily luxuries, and connecting in a mindful way with the people around you. It's about comfort and kinship and coziness. And it's awesome

Ever since the weather turned a bit colder this autumn, I've been working on creating a very hygge environment (even before I knew about the concept!). Here are some of my favorite ideas for creating more hygge in your life! 

 

TURN DOWN THE LIGHTS

The right lighting is key for peak hygge. To create a cozier vibe, turn down (or off!) the lights, light some candles, and string up some Christmas lights (or fairy lights, as they say in the UK -- a term that instantly makes them feel extra magical!). Adjusting the lighting of any room is a quick (and usually easy!) way to make your home feel more hygge. 

Need ideas? Check out: Crackling candle | Fairy lights | Hygge candle

 

CLOTHE IN COZINESS

Crank up the cozy factor in your life by donning some snuggly attire. (Admittedly, this one probably only works if you live in a cold place, but still!) To feel hygge everywhere you go, swaddle yourself in cozy sweaters, soft scarves, wool socks, or any other kinds of clothes that make you feel cozy. 

Need ideas? Check out: Snowflake socks | Nordic leggings | Cable-knit scarf

 

CURL UP WITH A BOOK

While hygge often has to do with sharing warm moments with loved ones, there's something very hygge about curling up with a good book, especially one that might have a hygge-ish theme (I'm looking at you, cheesy Christmas, chick-lit!). Extra hygge points if you curl up in cozy socks with a candle lit!

Need ideas? Check out: The Ultimate Book Gift Guide | The Little Book of Hygge | Hygge Coloring

 

SEEK SOME SNUGGLES

Hygge doesn't have to involve others, but snuggling sure does up the coziness factor! If you have a loved one you can curl up with on the couch, go for it. If, like me, you're rolling solo, snuggle up with your pet. If no loved ones or pets are available, volunteer at a local animal shelter -- free cuddles and you'll be doing a good deed! 

Need ideas? Check out: Snuggle lamb | Boyfriend pillow | Volunteer match

 

RELAX IN THE BATH

When was the last time you allowed yourself to take a time out and soak in a relaxing, warm bath? Most of us don't make time for this solitude and relaxation, but it can be a very hygge thing to do. Not only does bathing have some great health benefits, it's also a perfect way to warm up on a cold day! 

Need ideas? Check out: Lush bath bombs | Luxury bath pillow | Bath caddy tray

 

HOST A GATHERING

This time of year, there's usually no lack of social events (or obligations, depending on how you feel about socializing!), but most of them aren't intimate affairs. Hygge seems to be all about the small, cozy gatherings of close friends. Instead of throwing a holiday party, consider hosting a small gathering for just a few good friends. 

Need ideas? Check out: Hygge games | Hygge notecards | Winter barn home fragrance

 

BRING THE OUTSIDE IN

Though I'm entirely certain if this is a hygge thing or just a Danish thing, but it seems like a lot of hygge images focus on bringing elements of the outside (branches, fresh bunches of holly, sprigs of spruce, etc.) inside. To add a touch of hygge to your decor, consider adding some natural, wooden elements to your home. 

Need ideas? Check out: Lighted birch tree | Wooden snowflake sign | Fir garland

 

FIND A ROARING FIRE

Nothing says hygge quite like a roaring fire, amiright? If you have a fireplace, kindle that wood and snuggle up by the flames. If, like me, you're not lucky enough to have a fireplace, find a friend who does -- or a restaurant or other place where it's acceptable to sit by the fireplace -- and set up a fireside date!

Need ideas? Check out: Electric fireplace | Fireside DVD | Fireplace gift basket

 

BRING IN THE BLANKETS

Recently I discovered that I own 15 blankets. Fifteen. For one person. A bit excessive? Absolutely. But I love blankets (and I always have -- as a kid I used to carry around my "blankie" and stuffed "doggy" everywhere, which I suppose isn't all that different from me as an adult!). Find a soft blanket (or two) and have it nearby for instant hygge. 

Need ideas? Check out: Reversible throw blanket | Cable-knit blanket | Polar fleece blanket

 

SIP A WARMING DRINK

Hygge isn't just what's around you; it's also what you put into you. Add hygge to almost any meal by choosing a warm drink -- coffee, cocoa, tea -- over what you usually drink. Not only will it warm you up, but a hot drink just feels cozy. (Bonus tip: put it in a giant mug and hold it with both hands for a very hygge look and feel.)

Need ideas? Check out: Tea gift set | Keurig coffee maker | Hot chocolate on a stick

 

PUT DOWN THE PHONE

As much as I love my phone, it's not a very hygge object. Hygge is all about being content and cozy in the moment, and staring at screen definitely takes away from that. Create a bit of hygge every day by putting your electronic devices away for a little bit and focusing on something in the moment -- a book, friends, your pet, etc.

Need ideas? Check out: The Year of Cozy | Hygge Journal | Hygge Phone Case

 

Just writing about these hygge tips put me in a cozy mood (in fact, halfway through, I paused to read my book in a candle-lit bath!), and I hope they inspire you to create an intimate, connected, warm, and comforting environment. This time of year can really increase stress (even if it is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year!) so it's important to take time to focus on making the most of your moments and finding coziness and relaxation where you can. Happy hyggeing! 

  

PPGTL-Footer Love-Self-Footer Find-Self-Footer Stickers-Footer


 

 


Positively Present Picks : November 25, 2016

  Good Karma Black Friday

Check out The Wild Unknown's list of shops giving back this Black Friday (including mine!). They started the #GoodKarmaIsTheNewBlackFriday a few years ago, and I'm so thrilled to be a part of it this year! If you buy anything from my Etsy shop, Twenty3, this weekend, 10% of all profits will be donated to Women for Women International.


Quote-of-the-week

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

Winston Churchill

 

Links-I-Love    
Gratitude Photo Challenge : it's not to late to join in (+ enter the giveaway!) 

Dog Obsessed : if you (or someone you know) loves dogs, you need this book

The Ultimate Book Gift Guide : books are always a good gift! check out my guide!

6 Questions to Help You Free Up Time : so you can focus on what matters

Fear and the Mountain : if you're afraid to do something, read this article

Productivity Is Really About What You Don't Do : so incredibly true

Teeny Tiny Happy : what a cute, inspiring kit (and free shipping through Monday!)

7 Tendencies of Narrow-Minded People : avoid these if at all possible

Gratitude Is a Verb : it's more than just saying "thank you"

The Compliment Project : help spread the love (and the compliments!)

How to Cope with Loneliness : a little bit of it can actually be good for you

Chasing Slow : this book, about journeying off the beaten path, sounds amazing

Behind Our Anxiety Is the Fear of Being Unneeded : wow. powerful stuff. 

The Three Sisters : an adorable, anti-bullying children's book 

3 Ways Self-Love Impacts Physical Health : loving yourself is good for you!

Holiday Card Sayings : working on your cards yet? check out these ideas

The Importance of Silence : it has a lot more value than you'd think

Letting Go of How Things "Should" Be : seven mantras to help with acceptance

  

Listening

Listen to this playlist on YouTube.
Finally on Spotify! Follow me!


"Drive" — Valley
"OD on You" — Violet Days
"Begin Again" — Brooks Dixon
"A Place You Like" — ISLAND
"EASE" — Troye Sivan
"People I Love"— Sick Individuals
"Gone" — STAL
"All We Know" —The Chainsmokers
"Christmas Lights" — Coldplay
"Oh No!" — Marina + the Diamonds

 

Reading

Check out my reading list on GoodReads.
 

Bark: Stories
Lorrie Moore

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Elizabeth Gilbert

Dog Obsessed
Lucy Postins
 

I write books too! Check it out...

The Positively Present Guide to Life*

Effortless Inspiration Series:
Gratitude, Living in the Moment, 
Compassion, and Forgiveness*

Stay Positive: Daily Reminders
from Positively Present*
 

Some links may be affiliate links. If you click on them and purchase something, I receive a commission. There is no additional cost to you if you use these links, and I will never share links for products I haven't or wouldn't purchase myself. For more information on affiliate links, please visit the Terms of Use page. 


How to Share Your Beliefs (Even with People Who Don't Agree)

  Positively-Present-Beliefs
Like this list? Download the free PDF here.

 

Since the election, I’ve been writing and writing and writing. It’s what I do when I feel overwhelmed, when I feel like I have a lot to talk about but am not sure how to speak it aloud. I’ve been writing blog posts, then re-reading them and thinking, I don’t know if I should share this. I don’t want to offend people. And, even worse, I’ve been thinking, Maybe I shouldn’t share this because they might not like me after they read it. (Ugh, that ego!)

Like many people around the country (and the world), I’ve been torn between two sides of myself the one who wants to focus on the positive, keep the peace, and maintain my loyal following of readers, and the one who wants to use my blog for change, shake things up, and finally open up about controversial topics.

For the past two weeks, there’s been a war raging in my head between these two sides. Over the past few days, there’s been a new voice piping up, a slightly more rational, less-ego-driven voice, asking things like, Is there a way to be positive and share your beliefs? Is there a way to voice your opinion and still keep the peace? Is there a way to talk to people — especially those with opposing views — and not fight?

The answers to these questions are situational. If you’re dealing with someone who is violent, judgmental, or narrow-minded, you’re going to have a hard time discussing tough topics (politics, religion, sexuality, race, etc.) with him or her. However, if you can find people who are open-minded and willing to listen and talk about contentious issues, I do believe it’s possible to share your beliefs in positive ways. Will the peace always be kept? Probably not. Will conversations be completely fight-free? I can’t guarantee it.

What I can guarantee is that you’ll feel a lot better when you speak up for what you believe in. I know it’s hard. I know it’s scary. And I know that, if you’re surrounded by a lot of people who don’t share your beliefs, it can be intimidating. But, over the past few weeks, I’ve come to realize that one of the worst things you can do is be silent. You don’t have to agree with everyone  and not everyone has to agree with you but silencing yourself is an act of self-hate, shame, and fear. And you deserve better than that. We all do.

Okay, so, you’ve got some beliefs. You’re feeling brave (and safe) enough to share them. How do you go about doing it without putting other people off? How do you do it in a way that might actually make a difference? I’ve been thinking (and reading) a lot about this and practicing it my own life (many people close to me voted for the candidate I vehemently opposed and I’ve had many productive, positive conversations with them since the election) and here are some of the best ideas I’ve found for talking about your beliefs with people who don’t share them.

 

KNOW WHAT YOU BELIEVE.

It might sound obvious, but a lot people aren’t actually certain about what they believe. Many people flip-flop on certain issues, have beliefs based on one-off op-ed pieces (rather than real facts), or base their beliefs on those held by the people surrounding them. Before getting into any serious discussion (especially with people with opposing views), do your research  both the fact checking and the soul-searching kind. Carefully consider the issue, taking stock of what you know and what you might not know.

Just as importantly, consider how you feel really about it. It's incredibly tempting to jump onto the bandwagons, to join groups, and to identify with the labels, but remember: you are complex human being with unique experiences, insights, and ideas. We all want to belong, but think carefully about what beliefs you align yourself with. Before declaring, “I’m a _______________________,” or “I believe in _______________________,” ask yourself if that’s 100% true. It may very well be true, but it’s important to check in with yourself and make sure that you not your peers, not your family, not a portion of society you aspire to be like  do, in fact, hold these beliefs.

Also, it’s important to keep checking in with yourself periodically to see if you still hold the beliefs. We are ever evolving, changing creatures and what you believe at one point in your life will not be what you believe later. Because sometimes we get lazy, we might cling to beliefs we’ve had for a long time because we think we still believe them, not because we actually do.

 

SCRUTINIZE YOUR SOURCES.

It is so very, very important to check your sources, and then check them again. So many people hold — and speak about  beliefs not based on facts. With the incredible rise of the Internet, you’re able to read this article and countless other things that literally anyone can post online. Sometimes this is amazing — different viewpoints!  unique perspectives! — and sometimes this is just insane — fake news sites created just to get clicks, opinion pieces skewed with untrue claims, etc.

Not only is important to make sure the facts you have are, indeed, facts, but it’s important to be aware of how greatly biased the Internet is. A recent Fast Company article made me see this more clearly than ever. The Internet, as the article states, helps us take sides. We’re encouraged — by the sheer nature of how the Internet is set up — to cultivate either/or mindsets.

Every day we are given a choice to pick one thing or the other: like or dislike this post, agree or disagree with that article. Social media, while it does allow for comments and more lengthy explorations into "gray" territories, often encourages us to choose one thing over the other, usually in a yes-or-no, black-or-white dichotomy.

And here’s the scariest part: what we choose is constantly reinforced with algorithms designed to personalize our content. We are given more content that aligns with what we like, less that showcases what we don’t like. Most of us don’t actively realize this, so it starts to seem like everyone and everything supports our views.

Unlike in the old days, when people all saw the same images on TV and then disagreed or agreed with those images, we’re now shown images that support the ideas we’ve told the Internet we like. What we see online is meant to appeal to us — which can definitely be nice sometimes — but, as the Fast Company article argues, this is creating little individual bubbles where we’re all seeing the things we want to see, having our beliefs and preferences reinforced (often without even seeing information from the other side).

When you pause and think about this for a moment, it’s pretty crazy how much power the Internet has over what we see and think — and it’s pretty important to keep in mind as you’re gathering data and information to support your beliefs (or counter someone else’s). Do your best to go out of your way to find new sources, to find unbiased articles, to even reach out to those who hold opposing views and ask them for their thoughts.

Bonus Tip: When discussing tough topics (or having hard conversations in general), it’s useful to focus more on “I” than “you.” For example, “Based on what I’ve read, I believe…” or “What I’m hearing you say is…”

 

CHANNEL YOUR COURAGE.

Speaking up about the things you believe in can be extremely challenging sometimes, particularly if you’re speaking to someone who doesn’t share your perspective, but having courage is so important. It’s something I’ve personally struggled with a great deal, especially here on Positively Present. Because what I do and say must reflect my brand, I often feel restricted in what I can and cannot write about, and it pains me to have to withhold some of my beliefs and insights.

I have been afraid to talk about a lot of things because I’ve been afraid of people disliking what I have to say. I’ve been afraid of alienating readers. I’ve been afraid of, pathetic as this is to say, people being mean to me.

Here are some topics that matter a great deal to me, but that I never write about because I’m scared people will judge me, stop reading my work, or be hostile to me: feminism, agnostic atheism, sexuality, choosing not to marry or have children, money, and the list goes on. Most of these are things we're taught, from a young age, not to talk about because it's rude, which makes it more difficult to speak up about them as an adult. In addition, because what I write about is directly tied to my income, it’s even more difficult for me to write about things that might offend readers. My livelihood literally depends on the words I write. 

But here’s the thing: if you believe in something, you should talk about it.

There’s obviously a right and wrong way to do this. The initial post-election articles I wrote for myself —  filled with quite a bit of sadness, pain, and some pretty aggressive feminism that I’m pretty sure the average reader would be overwhelmed by — were not the best way to go about it. Some people might have responded well to those articles, but the negativity, anger, and in-your-face language used to evoke strong emotions would likely have shocked many people.

Now that a little time has passed, I’m able to think a bit more clearly and realize that what we need now is not more anger and negativity. What we need now is someone who is brave enough to speak her mind, but thoughtful enough to do it in a way that (hopefully) won’t offend or alienate her audience.

In the future, I do plan to tackle some of these topics that I’ve been afraid to touch —  especially those related to feminism and gender, which I studied in graduate school and feel particularly passionate aboute —  but I’m hoping to find a way to do this bravely but gently. I know longer want to place arbitrary restrictions on what topics I will or won’t tackle, but, unlike the day-after-election Dani, I know it’s not right to take this site —  a curated place of positivity, awareness, and self-love  and turn it into my personal feminist soapbox…

 

BE CLEAR AND HONEST.

…which leads me to my next point! When it comes to talking about difficult topics or beliefs, one thing most of us don’t do often enough is begin the conversation by being clear and honest. Too often, we are driven by strong emotions and triggered by the words of someone else rather that striving to be levelheaded and thoughtful in what we say and do. I know this is much easier said than done, but imagine what it would be like if you opened up a conversation like this:

“Hey, I know we have totally different views on this issue, but I’d really like to talk about it. I’m going to do my best to share my point of view calmly, and to listen and keep an open mind to what you have to say. I know neither of us will probably change our minds on this issue, but I think it’s important enough that we should talk about it.”

When starting a conversation with someone of a different political background or belief, it can be helpful to make it clear that you’re not necessarily trying to change his or her mind. One of the reasons we have such heated debates about politics is because it often feels like the opposing side is saying, “You’re wrong. Here’s why.”

Or, if you are trying to change someone’s mind, what if you were honest about it? You could say something like, “You know I feel really passionately about this topic. It’s very important to me, and I’d really love it if I could change your mind about it so that you could see it the way I do. I know that might not be possible, but would you be willing to listen to what I have to say? After I share my thoughts, I’ll be more than happy to listen to your point of view too.”

The key takeaway from this point is this: you’re never going to transform someone else’s mindset through trickery, bullying, or manipulation. (Okay, you might be able to, but is that the kind “win” you want?) You’ll get a lot farther —  and probably have a more positive conversation —  if you’re honest and clear about what you want to talk about and what your end goal for the conversation is.

 

SPEAK WITH COMPASSION.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote Campaigning for Compassion: 8 Essential Tips We Need Now, which is a must-read if you’re going to be talking about any tough topics with people who have opposing viewpoints. Compassion is a word we hear often, but its actual definition isn’t always clear. Compassion is about recognizing another's pain and desiring to alleviate it in some way (regardless of whether or not you agree with that person's beliefs).

When you’re passionate about a topic, it can be hard to channel compassion in the way you speak and react, but it’s important to do so  not only for the other person’s benefit, but for your own mental state as well.

For the most part, I see a lot of compassion from the people I follow online (and from the people who follow me), but the day after the election, I saw a lack of compassion that was, quite frankly, astounding to me. On Instagram, someone wrote to me, “Your positivity sickens me.” The person who wrote this was a young girl. It broke my heart to read that comment, to see how society taught her that, in order for progress to occur, we must be negative.

On the contrary, we need optimism. And, just as importantly, we need compassion  especially for those who display aggressive, angry, and hateful behavior. Without compassion, we’ll never be able to find our way in this shadowy, complex jungle of political discourse. Compassion is our flashlight in the dark. It, alone, is not going to get us from point A to point B, but it sure as hell is going to make the path easier to see.

As I wrote in my article on compassion, defending what you believe and having compassion for those who think differently are not mutually exclusive. You can be passionate and compassionate. Remember this when you’re speaking with someone who has completely different views and you’re struggling with compassion. (Also, try your best to go into the conversation with a compassionate mindset!)

 

LISTEN – REALLY LISTEN.

Listening isn’t just about opening your ears to the sounds coming from someone else’s mouth. It’s also about paying attention to body language, tone, facial expression. It’s also about looking past the words and considering what someone might actually mean, instead of just focusing on what they’re saying. Often, below the surface, it's clear that "I voted for ______________" really means "______________ is really important to me and that candidate really seems to represent that."

Will it be challenging to listen to other people talk passionately about what they believe in when it’s completely different from what you believe? You bet. But, if you want people to be tolerant and accepting of your views, you have to show others the same courteousness. If you want people to listen to you, you must listen to them. And when I say really listen, I mean it. It’s so tempting to assume you know what someone is going to say or to take a stand on it before it’s even been said, but don't allow yourself to make assumptions. Listen with your ears, watch with your eyes, and pay attention with your mind. 

Also, even if others' beliefs might sound crazy to you, don’t punish them for their honesty. Never forget that listening isn’t just about opening your ears — it’s about opening your mind as well. The point of talking about difficult issues with someone of differing beliefs is to open the lines of communication. 

 

RESPECT BOUNDARIES.

Not everyone is going to want to have passionate discussions with you, and that’s okay. It may be frustrating not to be able to talk to people about what you want to talk about, but it’s important to respect others’ boundaries. If someone makes it clear that s/he doesn’t want to talk to you about an issue, respect that. (Also, consider finding some people who do want to talk to you.)

Here are some other times you might want to respect boundaries — your own and those of the people around you — and not bring up, or keep talking about, tough topics:

 

  • When the other person is emotionally unready or unwilling to hear what you have to say. You’ve probably seen lots of pictures of people around the country in tears post-election. If you encounter a Hillary supporter curled in a ball sobbing, that’s probably not the time to bring up your list of reasons why Trump deserved to win. This isn’t to say you can’t talk about it at some point, but assess the emotional state of others and determine if it might be better to choose a different time to talk. Also, on a less dramatic scale, consider the general emotional state of yourself and the other person. If you (or s/he) had a terrible, long day at work, maybe it’s not the best time to get into a heated political debate.

 

  • When violent acts might be committed against you. This is not a reason for a whole group to be quiet (if it were, we’d still have horrific institutions like slavery), but in one-on-one situations where you would be in great physical or emotional danger if you were to speak your mind about a certain topic, it’s best to remain quiet until you can find a way to communicate without harm coming to you or someone else. Please be safe when it comes to speaking up.

 

  • When you’ve honestly, openly stated your beliefs with kindness and compassion, and you’re receiving only hatred, judgment, and accusations in return. Some people are just not open to listening and talking. This is sad and it can be painful, but it’s just the way it goes. Once you’ve said what you wanted to say, repeating it over and over (however nicely!) will no longer be productive.

 

  • When a large group of people is ganging up on you. Again, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t speak your mind —  I used to do it all the time in college, boldly stating my feminist thoughts in roomfuls of hyper-masculine athletes who, for the most part, had zero interest in feminism, resulting in the lovely nickname "Beliefs" — but sometimes it’s better to speak up when you either (a) have at least one person on your side or (b) can have a one-on-one with individuals of the group, instead of speaking to the group as a whole.

 

Regardless of what you’re talking about — or who you’re speaking to  it’s very important not only to respect others’ boundaries, but to take care of your own boundaries as well. If you’re unsure about whether or not to keep talking, ask, “Would you like to keep talking about this topic?” If you’ve gotten to a point where your own boundaries are being threatened, say, “I’m glad we were able to start this conversation, but I feel it is no longer productive, and I think we should stop talking about it for now.” 

 

TAKE POSITIVE ACTION.

Actions speak louder than words, they say, and it really is true. You can talk yourself blue in the face about what you believe in, but if you don’t support those words with actions, it’s going to be much less likely that people will take you, and your beliefs, seriously. Here a few ideas for how you can take positive action on your beliefs:

 

  • Donate to a cause that supports what you believe in
  • Volunteer for an organization you support
  • Share (legitimate, fact-based) information on social media
  • Offer to organize an event or fundraiser for a cause
  • Watch a film about the topic with someone who opposes it
  • Research the issue and consider new ways to offer help
  • Give (well-researched) books on issues you support to skeptics
  • Vote for the people who support what you believe
  • Call Senators / people in Congress and ask for change
  • Ask experts on the issues for ideas for how to help
  • Join local (or online) groups who share your beliefs
  • Read up on what others are saying (and gather facts!)
  • Shop at stores that uphold your beliefs (don't know? ask!)

 

It may seem like this action-taking isn’t a necessary step to talking about what you believe in, but it’s actually essential. Anyone can say they believe in anything, but to really have those beliefs heard (and have them matter), action is necessary. You might also want to see if you can have someone with opposing views take part in the action in some way. Sometimes people don’t realize what they believe until they see a situation for themselves.

 

FIND A CREATIVE OUTLET.

Finally, one of the best ways I can think of to share your beliefs is to find a creative outlet. This, of course, might not be for everyone (though I do think we all have the power to be creative and share that creativity, even if you don’t consider yourself a creative type!).

Talking about what you believe in is great, but sometimes it can be really useful to share your ideas through some other medium. Ideally, you want to share your creativity with others —  to encourage those who think the same way you do and to provide a new perspective for those who think differently —  but you can also just use this step as a way to cope with your own internal thoughts on the topic, which will ultimately make you better at sharing your beliefs with others.

For me, the creative outlet I’ve been channeling is a new Instagram account, This Uncommon Life. For weeks, I’ve been working on this little secret project —  a creative way to explore some of my thoughts around living what I consider to be a pretty uncommon life as an unmarried, child-free, sober, agnostic atheist, INTJ feminist. I know I’m not alone in living this life, but sometimes it feels lonely.

I started the Instagram account as a way to explore these feelings, to share some of my beliefs. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever actually make it public, but, for me, it’s important not just to have a creative outlet for my beliefs, but to share it as well. (Even though I'm honestly kind of scared about how people will react to it!)

If curious about what this little project is all about, go check out This Uncommon Life on Instagram. (Warning: it's not always positive and it's not always family friendly.) I basically take words I've found in old magazines and arrange them, ransom-note-like, into what I hope are thought-provoking phrases. It's been really fun, therapeutic, and inspiring for me, and, even if you don't care for that kind of thing, I hope seeing how I've channelled my beliefs into an outlet will inspire you to do the same. 

Whether you share your creativity or just keep it to yourself, Having a place to channel your thoughts and openly write, draw, paint, sculpt, etc. about your ideas and beliefs can be hugely beneficial when it comes to sharing those beliefs with others. And if you’ve found a creative outlet for your own beliefs, or plan to create on now, I’d love to see or hear about it!

 

Phew. That was quite the long post. If you’ve made it all the way down here, thanks for reading!! I hope these tips and tactics will help you feel confident in sharing your beliefs with those who don’t share them. And don't forget to download the free PDF here to keep these tips in mind as you share your beliefs. I know it’s scary, but if I can do it, you can do! Now, go out there and be brave!

  

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