Play the Hand You're Dealt : Life Lessons from Solitaire


Positively-Present-Solitaire

 

Whenever I'm super stressed and anxious (particularly when I have upcoming doctor's visits or surgeries scheduled), I've noticed that I tend to turn to games like Solitaire, Scrabble, and Boggle. Unlike zoning out with a show or YouTube video, games keep my mind engaged and I have to be paying attention to them (instead of my nagging anxiety-ridden thoughts). I'm actually in a bit of a Scrabble phase right now, but for a good chunk of 2017, I was all about Solitaire. 


And, of course, being me (creator of this fine site that you're reading today, haha), I started noticing some good life lessons as I was playing — and there ended up being a lot more than I would've imagined! 


You can be dealt a bad hand, and still end up winning. You can be dealt a great hand, and still end up losing. 


There's strategy involved, but also a heck of a lot of luck in what cards you're dealt.


You can't focus only on the card you need now; you have to look at the whole game.

Playing a card the first time you see it isn't always the right move. 


You — and only you — are in charge of what you do with the cards you've been dealt.


Sometimes you take winning for granted. More often than not, it's pretty anticlimactic.


A high score is nice, but it's better when you play for the joy of it.

You've got to play the cards you're dealt, whether you like them or not. (Though you can start a new game at any time.)

When you don't rush while playing, you make a lot fewer mistakes. 


Sometimes you know you're going lose, but you just keep playing. (You usually shouldn't.)


If you look, you'll find patterns, but if you're not paying attention, it'll seem like random chaos.


You often lose when you have too many of the same color or number; sameness doesn't win. 


Pay attention how you feel when you win or lose. Your reactions aren't always what you'd expect.


One card can change everything. You can be on the verge of losing, and draw a game-changing card.


I thought about writing more details for each point, but I'm guessing you can figure out how these lessons might apply in real life. (And if you can't, dig deeper — you're just as wise as I am!) And if you haven't played Solitaire (or any other game) in awhile, I highly recommend giving it a try. It can give you mind a break from the incessant thinking (or is that just me?!), while not allowing it to completely zone out, the way it might do with endless Netflix episodes or some other candy-like brain food. If you already are a fellow Solitaire-lover, did I miss any lessons? Anything you've noticed while playing? 

 

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Hooray! It's Gratitude Challenge Season!


2017-Gratitude-Challenge

 

It's the SEVENTH year of this Gratitude Challenge, and I couldn't be more excited to tune my attention to what I'm thankful for throughout the month of November. It's been a bit of a rough year for me, but one thing that has helped me stay positive and present all year long is keeping a gratitude journal (I used my Every Day Matters diary as a way to track gratitude this year, and it worked so well!). Whether things are good or bad, focusing on what you're thankful for makes them even better, and I'll hope you'll join me in the Gratitude Challenge this year and get some of that gratitude goodness in your life. 

This year is going to be a little different for me. As you might have noticed if you follow me on Instagram, I've been doing a lot more illustrating since I got my iPad for Christmas last year. It's been a game-changer for me, and I haven't posted photos on Instagram since the spring. So, while I encourage you to share whatever you want in your personal Gratitude Challenge, I'll be focusing on sharing my gratitude through illustrations. 

 

THE CHALLENGE DETAILS

  • “Challenge” is just a word.

    The goal of the Challenge is to take and/or share something (a photo, illustration, quote, etc.) every day using the prompts to help you feel more appreciative. Feel free to get creative, make up your own prompts, etc. And don’t feel pressured to attain perfection, either. Thankfulness is what it’s all about; no need to be a professional photographer or artist!
  • Join in at any time.

    The point of the Challenge is to focus on staying thankful for thirty days. You can start the challenge on November 1 and do it for the whole month (as I am doing), or you can start the challenge any day that works for you and follow along at your own pace. I see people discovering and partaking in the Challenge all year 'round so don't feel limited to November!

  • Use the hashtag #Gratitude30.

    Sharing your pics on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.? If you tag them with #Gratitude30, others can see them and you’ll be able to see all of the other cool things that other people are sharing. It's one of my favorite things ever to look through all of the posts and see the various ways people interpret the prompts. 

  • Save or print out a reminder.

    Keep up with the prompts by downloading the photo above (save it to your phone, perhaps!) or, if you’re more of a IRL type, print out a version to post wherever you'd find a reminder helpful so you can stay on top of the prompts. Of course, you don't have to do them all in a row, but there is something special about spending 30 days focusing on what you're thankful for. 

 

THE 2017 PROMPTS


Day 1: Beauty

If you pay close attention, you can find beauty almost anywhere. Today, make seeking beauty your goal. Strive to find something beautiful in every situation, and share as much beauty as you can with others.

Day 2: Happiness

What brings you happiness in your day-to-day life? We all find happiness in unique places! Consider, today, what brings you joy and why you find it so enjoyable. 

Day 3: Nature

Nature is one of life’s great gifts. Pay attention to the nature around you today and how it makes you feel. Is there an aspect of nature you feel particularly grateful to experience?

Day 4: Inspiration

Tune into the world around you, and you'll have a pretty hard time not being inspired by someone or something. What inspires you the most right now?

Day 5: Amusement

Laughter is the best medicine, they say, and it's often true. Today, focus on what you find entertaining, amusing, or comical and, if possible, share some of that with someone else!

Day 6: Kindness

When have you experienced (or shared!) kindness this year? In addition to sharing this experience with #Gratitude30, consider adding a kind act to today's to-do list.

Day 7: Comfort

Today, focus on your favorite form of comfort. Do you love the physical comfort of a hug or a blanket, or is emotional comfort (a good listener, wise advice) your go-to? 

Day 8: Self-Love

No matter what you're experiencing in any given moment, the one thing you can always count on is yourself. Spend the day reflecting on your positive traits and embracing the amazingness that is YOU.

Day 9: Feeling

Feelings can evoke positive or negative vibes, but try, today, to embrace all of the feelings you're experiencing, and celebrate both the good and the bad. What's your favorite feeling?  

Day 10: Nourishment

What nourishes your mind, body, or spirit? Today, tune into what provides you with energy, enjoyment, or excitement, and be grateful for the ways they add positive value to your life.

Day 11: Music

As Nietzsche said, "Without music, life would be a mistake." What music are you most thankful for right now? What sounds have shaped your life this year? 

Day 12: Freedom

What are some of the freedoms you're thankful to have in your life? Pay attention today to the activities in your life that make you feel the most free. 

Day 13: Optimism

Attitude is everything, and even if you're not always optimistic, you're likely to have experienced a positive perspective at some point. Today, be thankful for all the times you've found the good. 

Day 14: Challenges

Struggles always make us stronger. Be thankful today for the challenges you’ve encountered, and, if you’re in the midst of a difficult period, be thankful for the lessons you’re learning now.

Day 15: Health

This is one almost always makes gratitude lists, and for good reason! Reflect on (and be thankful for!) all of the ways in which your mind and/or body is working well today.

Day 16: Creativity

Regardless of whether you consider yourself a creative person, you've created your life up to this point so far! Today be grateful for your own abilities or those of someone you admire. 

Day 17: Memories

Staying present is usually ideal, but that doesn't mean you can't be grateful for good moments in your past. Focus on one of your favorite memories and be thankful for the opportunity to have experienced it.

Day 18: Home

What comes to mind when you see the word "home"? Home can be so many things — a place, a person, a feeling. Whatever the word means to you, take time to embrace the comforts of home today.

Day 19: Friendship

Friendship is priceless, and today’s the perfect day to be grateful for the loving, supportive relationships in your life. (And to say "thank you!" to your friends!)

Day 20: Innovation

The world is filled with amazing innovations (especially in the realm of technology!) that make our lives better. What innovation are you most thankful for in your life right now? 

Day 21: Love

Love comes in so many shapes and forms, but regardless of how it arrives, it brings with it a bit of magic. Today, be grateful for every bit of love you've given and received (and share more today if you can!)

Day 22: Awareness

Staying in the moment is tough a lot of time, but try carving out some time today to be fully engaged in something — your work, a conversation, a moment in nature — and appreciate how it feels to do so.

Day 23: Family

Regardless of whether, for you, "family" means blood relatives, a partner, your friends, or all of the above, it’s a wonderful thing to have. Be thankful for your family-filled moments today. 

Day 24: Solitude

Not everyone loves alone time, but it's often during time spent alone that we grow closer to understanding ourselves. If possible, spend some time alone today and be grateful for the solitude.

Day 25: Generosity

What was the last thing you gave or received? The generosity of others is something to be thankful for (and you can pay it forward by being generous to someone else today!).

Day 26: Wonder

Out of all possible scenarios, here you are, in this life, being you. Spend time today pondering the wonder-filled things in your life, and be thankful for all that's wonderful.

Day 27: Meaning

We choose what we give meaning to, but meaning itself is something we should all be grateful for. Without it, life would be pretty hard to get through! What means the most to you? 

Day 28: Peace

In today's crazy world, peace isn't always easily attained, but reflect, today, on the last time you felt truly at peace. What made you feel peaceful? Could you recreate that feeling today?

Day 29: Knowledge

If you're truly living, you're probably always learning. Use today to reflect on what you’ve learned (maybe focusing on the past year) and share some of knowledge with #Gratitude30.

Day 30: Growth

Consider all of the ways you've grown in the past year. What growth have you experienced recently? What growth was most important? Be thankful for your ability to keep flourishing!

 

I'm so thrilled to be doing this challenge for the seventh year, and I can't wait to see all of your photos and creations this year! As you might know from social media / previous posts, I'm currently recovering from surgery (ugh!) so I might not be as on top of it this year as I've been before, but I'll be doing my best — and I'll definitely be checking on the #Gratitude30 hashtag for inspiring and uplifting content as I recover! 

 

    

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6 Steps for Dealing with Emotionally Draining People

 

Emotional-Drain-Positively-Present

 
 
Do you have a friend (or coworker or family member) who leaves you feeling exhausted and emotionally drained after you interact with him or her? You're not alone. Empathy and sympathy are incredible skills to have and maintain, but practicing them can, at times, be overwhelming and emotionally (and sometimes physically) draining, especially if you are a highly sensitive person who tends to absorb the emotional states of others. A friend recently emailed me and asked for my advice. What should I do, she asked, when my best friend calls me and shares traumatic events she frequently experiences frequently as a result of her career? How do I cope with the negative emotions I indirectly experience as a result of listening to her? Is this just what best friends are supposed to do, allow themselves to be emotionally hijacked in order to offer support and comfort? 
 
My first reaction to this was: no, friendship is absolutely not about being supportive and comforting at the risk of undoing your own mental wellbeing. My second reaction was: I've experienced this before, too, and I've heard others talk about similar situations as well, so it seemed like a great topic to dive into this week. If you haven't already, at some point you're going to encounter someone who feels emotionally draining but who, due to circumstances out of your control (or because you don't want to), you cannot completely remove from your life. Here are some of the best ways to deal with emotionally draining people. 
 
 
 
 
STEP 1 : CREATE PERSONAL PEACE
 
First and foremost, you have to be in a peaceful emotional state yourself, or it's going to be really difficult to cope with others' emotions. Of course, creating personal peace is no easy task (it's kind of the point of this whole website, in fact, and I'm still learning how to do it!), but it's important to make the effort. Your life as a whole (when you're not interacting with this emotionally draining individual) influences your interactions with others, so it's important to do the best you can to take care of yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally so you're in the best possible shape to cope when others come to you for comfort or counsel. This will always be a work in progress so don't beat yourself up if you don't have this down. Just keep trying to create as much personal peace as you can. 
 
 
 
STEP 2 : ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES
 
Once you have personal peace (hahaha, jk, that's a lifelong journey, but at least you're trying!), it's time to establish your boundaries for what you'll allow to penetrate that peace. It sounds like this wouldn't be too hard, but it's actually quite a tough task when it comes to people you love (or people you have to work with and can't just avoid). Years ago I wrote Preserving Your Perimeter: 4 Steps to Set Boundaries, and it's worth a read if you're struggling to identify, set, and maintain your boundaries with others. Learning about personal boundaries has been life-changing for me, and it's one of the best ways to combat emotional fatigue. 
 
 
 
STEP 3 : BE HONEST + DIRECT
 
Now that you're perfectly peaceful (ha!) and you've identified what your boundaries are, it's time for the challenging part: communicating your thoughts and boundaries to those around you. It's important to remember that other people can't read your mind. Most of the time they don't have any idea that they're negatively influencing your emotional state. You don't have to be harsh or cruel when you communicate with others, but you must be honest and direct. You'll probably feel vulnerable (and maybe even a bit selfish) by expressing how you feel, but it's worth it to maintain your own mental health, and to ultimately be a better friend / coworker / partner / etc. 
 
 
 
STEP 4 : OFFER AN ALTERNATIVE
 
After you've conveyed your feelings, it may be helpful to offer an alternative. For example, let's say a friend is sharing her heartbreaking experiences with emotional abuse, pain so raw and real that it's difficult for you to cope with. After explaining to her that the emotional burden is too much for you, do some research and offer her solutions, information, or suggest a professional who can better help her deal with her situation. While it's wonderful to be a good listener and a empathetic friend, if someone you know is going through deep emotional stress, the best thing s/he can do is seek the advice and guidance of a professional, not simply the comfort of a friend. Friends ≠ therapists.
 
 
 
STEP 5 : COUNTERACT THE IMPACT
 
If you have to interact with an emotionally draining person (and, despite all of your efforts to create boundaries and honestly convey your feelings, you will), one of the best things you can do for yourself is to counteract the emotional impact with positive experiences. If possible, bookend your emotionally draining experience with uplifting and inspiring ones. These don't have to be grand activities -- just reading an inspiring quote, for example, could count as a positive bookend -- but they should be implemented as much as possible. Know you're going to have a tough meeting with a coworker? Treat yourself to reading a chapter of an uplifting book beforehand and schedule a meeting with an inspiring colleague after to make the experience more bearable.  
 
 
 
STEP 6 : CONSIDER DISTANCING YOURSELF
 
If you're dealing with a close friend, coworker, or partner, this can be challenging, but it's up to you to enforce your own emotional boundaries. It might feel like you have no choice (I can't dump my best friend! I can't leave this job! I don't want a divorce!), but you always have a choice. If someone drains you to the point that it's unbearable, you need to consider the possibility that this person isn't a good fit for your life. If you've done the five steps above and this person continues to drag you down emotionally, it might be time to remove yourself from the friendship / job / relationship. That's not easy to hear, but you'll know, deep down in your heart, if this person's impact is so great that it's preventing you from living an emotionally sane life. Yes, a great deal of your emotional state is up to you, but part of maintaining your own personal peace means making choices to eliminate the people who threaten the kind of life you want to be living. 
 
 
 
If you're currently in a situation with an emotionally draining individual, it's my hope that these tips with positively impact that relationship in some way. Always remember: You can be a good friend without being a therapist. You can be a good coworker without being a therapist. You can be a good partner or parent or sibling or child without being a therapist. You are not required (nor qualified, in most cases) to be anyone else's therapist or emotional dumping ground, and you can, with kindness and compassion, often find a way to maintain a relationship with this person without sacrificing your own emotional health. 

    

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