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I'm guilty of not taking time to recognize my wins. I'm one of those crazy work-aholic types who's always pushing myself to do the next thing, striving towards the next goal and skip that crucial step of acknowledging what I just did.
The result is me feeling bummed out and burnt out way more often than I should (or like).
I was listening to Brené Brown's podcast recently and she talked about how we underestimate midlife as a developmental milestone for adults. She described a midlife crisis (or unravelling) as the time when all the mechanisms you used to protect yourself no longer serve, but instead get in the way and prevent you from succeeding.
Well, I guess I'm deep into my midlife unravelling! hmmm.
I decided to reach out for help and thought you might appreciate this expert advice too.
I reached out to a health coach, a relationship therapist, a spiritual guru, and an early childhood development expert to find out the what, why, and how of acknowledging and celebrating milestones.
This is a long one, so grab a cup of tea and settle in for some great tips…
I kicked off this search with a conversation with my sister-in-law Mary Grisez. She is an early childhood development expert working for Help Me Grow, a program that teaches low income, new mothers how to break the cycle of abuse and addiction by showing them what it means to be a good mom. Many of the young mothers she works with didn’t experience a loving childhood, instead growing up in abusive and/or neglected environments. She is often teaching these moms the basics - the importance of talking to their babies and playing peek-a-boo, for example. Teaching a baby that you are there for them is a fundamental need to be successful in life.
Remember that feeling of excitement from being seen and appreciated after showing your parents that special art project or A+ on a hard test? Our first reward system is one of praise and love.
My conversation with Mary reminded me how powerful those early acknowledgements can be - a reward system from an early age builds confidence and self esteem. Love, affection, praise, and acceptance build trust. Trust in connections, a sense of self, that everything will be ok.
When you have a solid foundation of trust and love, you have an intrinsic sense of self worth. When you solidly believe in yourself, you are more inclined to strive for more and generally prone to a happier life.
When you feel happy and successful, you have more drive.
So it makes sense that it’s essential to build a reward system into our lives. One that makes us feel prosperous, appreciated, and seen on the outside and in our core being.
That reward may be a simple high five to yourself in the mirror, a hug from a partner, a diploma on the wall, or a special piece of jewelry. The important thing is that we acknowledge our wins to perpetuate this cycle of happiness and success.
Which leads me to 3 primary areas where many of us often seek a feeling of success, contentment and happiness…
From Rebecca Rosati...
My clients have come from constant dieting, all-or-nothing mentality and a willpower based system which leads to failure. I work with my clients on starting small and having big goals yet focusing on doing only a little better week over week. Small things add up to big things over time. It's also so important to enjoy the process. This isn't a race with a finish line, it's a lifelong journey. I encourage and help women enjoy and celebrate the whole process.
Improving your relationship with food and body image while learning a new lifestyle that is sustainable takes a lot of time, hard work, and patience. If you don't celebrate all the small wins along the way, then it can be difficult to keep going. I teach my clients the importance of celebrating your accomplishments (both big and small) because you're worthy of feeling proud and allowing yourself to feel happy and accomplished. When you stop relying on praise from others and learn to find that within yourself, you start to transform your life for the better.
Get started with something. It can be as simple as increasing your water intake, replacing one snack with fruit a day, or taking a 10 minute walk daily. Start small and focus on doing a little better each day.
Rebecca Rosati, founder of the Well Dressed Kitchen, is a Certified Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach helping women overcome restriction, dieting, and low body image.
After years of personal struggle and then healing, Rebecca honed in on her own foundational healthy habits, implemented some structure, and with passion, insight, and evidence-based information, created a coaching program to help women create a life of freedom around food and body.
Find out more: Well Dressed Kitchen Website or on Insta @thewelldressedkitchen
From Jennifer Kennett...
For most couples, recalling good times is a great way to improve fondness and admiration. In Dr. John Gottman’s research, expressing fondness and admiration are a cornerstone of building a strong friendship system, which is the most important element in a healthy long-term relationship.
Neuroscience has taught us a few things in the last 15 years. First, our brains tend to remember negative experiences more easily than positive ones. However, we also know that recalling positive experiences prompts a cascade of positive hormones such as serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine. Additionally, what we pay attention to becomes easier to access over time. This is known as the principle of “neurons that fire together, wire together”.
So what does that mean for couples? It means that actively spending time recalling positive experiences will increase not only positive hormones that help promote emotional intimacy and connection, the more we do it, the easier it is to access those feelings in future.
It also means that when we rehearse those experiences in our brains, and share those memories with our partner, it’s easier to keep the relationship in “the positive perspective”. The positive perspective allows us to see our partner positively in times of conflict, helps us give our partner the benefit of the doubt, increases our ability to accept influence from each other, and we compromise more easily.
And finally, it means taking time to consciously create rituals of connection – actions and activities that we repeat regularly that help us feel safe in the relationship. Rituals of connection can be events such as birthdays, or they can be ways a couple engages in a particular activity. For example, some couples have a special restaurant they attend for birthday celebrations. For others, a date night isn’t complete without hearing a particular song. A ritual of connection can also be a goodnight kiss. Whatever the ritual is, the more often we remember and honor the rituals, the greater the sense of safety we experience.
I encourage you to take 5 minutes to recall 3-4 good memories from your relationship. Write them down, then commit to taking 10 minutes before the end of today to share the memory with your partner. Let them know what you remember about the memory and how the memory makes you feel. Express appreciation for your partner’s role in the memory (i.e. “I love that we went on that trip together; thank you for helping plan it”). Remembering one memory and sharing it every week just might transform your relationship for the better.
Jennifer S. Kennett, MA LMHC, is a couples therapist trained in the Gottman Couples Therapy method. She is the owner of Eastside Couples Therapy as well as Private Practice Alchemy, a business coaching and consulting firm for therapists in private practice.
(And from me, Catherine - On a personal note, the work of the Gottman's has helped my relationship through tough times and strengthened our ability to work though issues so I love this advice from Jennifer Kennett.)
Find out more: Eastside Couples Therapy Website
From Victoria Heemstra...
My practice involves guiding, teaching and mentoring in Spiritual, Energetic, Emotional and Physical realms. Milestones are essential in this work, to guide us and to help us note our progress along the way.
For decades I’ve supported people of all ages, on their unique journeys of growth, healing and expansion. Milestones mark the path. Some mark success. Often though, it’s perceived “failures” that teach us and propel us forward. No matter how big, small, good, disappointing, or maddening…milestones MUST be acknowledged. They are the markers of movement.
For example: The first time I see morning as a new start every 24 hours. The first day my partner began listening to me, fully, with intention. When I became able to fully forgive someone for hurting me. The day I was able to forgive myself. The day I realized I had acted out of integrity. The morning I had water instead of coffee. The time I wanted to give up…but didn’t. The day I got fired. The day I lost a friend. The day I decided to care for me. The first time I felt my true, empowered self.
I offer teachings and tools to help notice and acknowledge milestones as markers of growth…in order to keep us moving. Things as simple as:
A piece of jewelry, a shell, photo, stone, pinecone…any reminder that helps you to stay on your path and to remember how far you have come.
Ask yourself questions, use rituals and symbols to remind and show yourself where you are on your journey.
Victoria Heemstra, a Mental and Spiritual Health Advisor, Educator, Visionary, Mentor, Ordained minister, Soma Coach, and Life Consultant with 10 years of formal education, 3 degrees, over 13 specialized trainings and certifications, 50 years of mentoring with international indigenous elders and shaman, and 30 years in private practice as a psychotherapist.
Eclectic healer in FOUR REALMS: Spiritual, Emotional, Energetic, Physical
(from me Catherine, on a personal note - Victoria is an amazingly gifted mentor (and previously therapist) whom I've worked with for many years. Her advice is always full of deep seated wisdom and profound insight.)
Find out more: Victoria Heemstra Website
And there you have it!
So many words of wisdom from these fabulous women.
Mary reminded us of the importance of feeling appreciated and praised from an early age.
Rebecca gave us some great tips to kickstart a healthy habit and enjoy the process.
Jennifer cited the science of positivity and how we can use that to strengthen our relationships.
Victoria emphasized how celebrating milestones shows us how far we've progressed in life and goals.
I'm a huge fan of using physical objects as totems to symbolize intentions, goals, and accomplishments. (I have a terrible memory so seeing something in front of me helps!) I have an elaborate collection of rocks, shells, art, and curiosities that serve this very purpose.
But sometimes, jewelry is the best symbol of all because you can wear it everywhere you go. I realize I'm biased, but if you ever want a reward to remind you of all your wins and successes, here's the best selection!
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