5 Intention-setting Ideas to Sharpen the Skills of Connection

Happy New Year!

Almost a decade ago, when I was contemplating what to name my business, I knew that I wanted the word “connection” in it because of my personal transformation from connecting with my authentic self and then connecting with others.  Making connections, and maintaining the health of those connections, continues to be at the top of my new year intention list.

Neuroscience has shown that humans are wired for connection.  It is a basic human need that is necessary to thrive.  However, that doesn’t mean all of us experienced healthy role models on how to stay connected to our authentic self and/or initiate, foster and deepen connections with others.  For those of us that might think we are not good at connecting, not all is lost.  Connecting includes skills that can be learned, practiced, and refined over time.  It is definitely worth your time and effort!

Below are some intention-setting ideas for exploring and enhancing the skills that support connection:

  1. Be present.   Setting aside time to be with others is important.  Research has shown connecting with others promotes health and happiness.  Yet it is not just the time we spend together.  It is the gift of your presence that makes the difference.  To be present requires us to pay attention.  This means we need to eliminate as many distractions (AKA smart phones) as possible, let go of the myth that humans can multitask, and dial down our own internal dialogue maker that is trying to identify a follow up response before the person has finishing speaking.  Yes, conversations are a two-way exchange and yet, perhaps try to notice beyond the person’s words for an underlying purpose or meaning for sharing.  From there, consider simply expressing appreciation to the person for sharing with you.  Then, watch their response!
  2. Listen deeply.  This skill is tied very closely with being present, so bundling them together will make practice that much easier.  To listen deeply to another, consider making eye contact with them, checking in with your body language to ensure it is open (i.e. avoid crossing your arms and legs as this is a more defensive posture), focusing on what the other person is saying with the intent to ask questions that are relevant or appropriate to what has been shared.  By doing so, the other person will feel seen and heard and will prevent the “Oh, I had a similar experience” reaction from taking over the conversation.  Contrary to popular belief, sharing your similar story does not necessarily make others feel seen and heard and, instead, can leave people feeling like you are in a competition for the best story (leading to less connection).
  3. Modulate your tone of voice.  This skill is a bit more nuanced.  It requires us to utilize variations in our pitch, pace, volume and inflection of our voice when speaking.  Sometimes the conversation will call us to match the tone of voice of the person we are speaking with, such as when they are expressing excitement about something, and other times it will require us to soften our tone, especially if the emotion being conveyed might be fear, anger, or sadness.  I have found that the more present I am in the conversation and the more deeply I am listening, my voice tends to modulate more naturally, as if it knows what tone is most needed in the moment for connection.  Consider trying to match the tone of someone that is sharing something they found exciting to them to start practicing this skill.  The more skilled you get with these subtle shifts in tone, the more you will notice your enhanced ability to connect with others in diverse situations.
  4. Apologize for mistakes.  Being human means you will make mistakes.  Making mistakes is how we learn as humans.  And sometimes our mistakes impact other people.  Unfortunately, when they do, most of us have not been taught how to own up to the impact and apologize for any harm it may have caused to the other person.  Offering a meaningful apology is part of the formula for healthy and connected relationships.  Apologies start with “I’m sorry.”  Apologies that contain words such as “but” or “if” or “may” imply that the apology is conditional and does not reflect ownership to the mistake, increasing the likelihood of further disconnection.  Healthy apologies that deepen connections are ones that are specific and sincere, reflecting ownership to the mistake and the impact it had on the other person, while sitting with the discomfort that the other person may not accept your apology.  I know this intention might be a difficult one for many of us to implement.  Perhaps the next time you sense the need to apologize to someone, consider writing it down first to ensure it conveys unconditional ownership to the mistake and it specifically addresses the impact the mistake had on the other person.
  5. Share.  Deep connections with others require a willingness to reveal ourselves through sharing both our struggles and our joys.  Yes, I mean we must embrace our vulnerability and begin to see it as our superpower.  Sharing our vulnerabilities, including our fears and insecurities, allows others to experience us as fully alive humans moving through a complex world.  This type of sharing opens the door to genuine and meaningful conversations by creating space for others to feel safe to do the same.  Sharing vulnerable parts of ourselves builds trust, which, over time, deepens our relationships.  If you choose to dip your toe into the pool of vulnerability, consider first to whom you might want to practice this skill with and second, what it is you might want to reveal about yourself.  Take it slow and my suggestion would be to not dive into the deep end too quickly!


Can cultivating compassion improve the process of psychotherapy?

Prior to becoming a therapist myself, I spent a significant amount of time on the couch as a client.  I am forever grateful for the encouragement and compassion I received on those couches as the therapists supported my journey of growth.  However, for all of the compassion they may have offered me, none of them taught me about compassion.  I learned about compassion through the Eastern philosophies I studied as part of my yoga training.  As I began to practice compassion consciously, I came to personally discover its deep healing power.  So, when I began to practice as a licensed psychotherapist, I integrated Eastern and Western approaches, and teaching compassion to my clients is a tool I rely upon to facilitate healing and transformation.

Compassion guides us into spaces of acceptance of our limitations as human beings, to embrace our imperfections, and to comfort ourselves when experiencing suffering.  It soothes the inner critic and perfectionist, it reduces the amount of pressure on our overly developed responsible part, and creates space in our lives for more connection, peace and joy.  Until perhaps more recently, compassion – and specifically self-compassion – was not something that was taught to us as children, or even as adults.  So, by the time we are adults, we have been led to believe that the inner critic is our internal motivator to do more and better.  Instead the inner critic partners with the perfectionist to wear us down, telling us we will be enough and worthy once we, and everything around us, is perfect.  That is simply an impossible dream that we are chasing, inviting in exhaustion, anxiety, depression, shame, and isolation.

Through the years of not only offering compassion to my clients, but teaching them to offer compassion to themselves, I have noticed how it has enhanced the process of psychotherapy and made the effects more enduring.  A mantra I offer my clients is that self-compassion is the antidote to what ails them.  Easily said, but perhaps not so easily implemented.  Yet, when clients begin to loosen the grip of the inner critic and perfectionist and begin to challenge the myth that self-care is selfish, they begin to experience relief from their symptoms.  I don’t need any more evidence than that to know that compassion works!

However, for those that might want to read more about the effects of compassion, including how it creates structural changes in the brain, click on the link below for the most recent research in this area.

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Celebrate Our Differences

July is Disability Pride Month!

President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990.  This law is one of those major milestones in our history as it prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.  It is the official recognition that valuing and respecting each individual uniqueness is our collective strength.

In order to continue to raise the collective consciousness around diversity and inclusion, July presents an opportunity to continue the celebration coming off the heel’s of June’s LGBTQA+ Pride Month.  It is only when each of us can truly honor all differences as normal, natural and beautiful that the soil in which we grow becomes richer, where the seeds of acceptance, belonging, compassion and connection are able to blossom in all their glory.

Therefore, below are intention-setting ideas for you to consider as you reflect on your relationship with disabilities and how you might honor and contribute to the elevation of the collective consciousness:

  1. NOT ‘Special’ Needs.  All humans have basic needs, whether abled or disabled, so saying someone has “special” needs feels shaming, similar to the feeling that arises when suggesting someone is “needy”, like they are a burden.  To reduce stigmatization, consider embracing “disabled” or someone “having a disability” moving forward.
  2. A Different Perspective.  For those that travel to other parts of the country or world, reflect on why it is you enjoy travel so much.  For me, it is, in large part, the opportunity to experience a different culture that enriches my life with new perspectives or views of the world.  I learn so much in those moments.  Well, considering doing an “immersion” into a disability to learn how people with such a disability see and experience the world.  Not only might you learn something new, you might just find that you are forever changed!
  3. Awareness to Ableism.  By leaning into (and not away from) becoming more aware of the myriad of disabilities, it grows your own awareness of systemic ableism, which is simply the discrimination that people with disabilities experience.   Abled body-mind people take so much for granted, without much thought.  Consider trying an exercise, perhaps alone or with your family, where someone in the family selects a disability to experience for a few hours or even a day.  Afterwards, journal about what you experienced, including how it made you feel and share it with each other or someone else.
  4. Attend an Event.  Consider attending a Disability Pride event this month.  If you can’t find a local event, perhaps a parade, to participate in, virtual opportunities are available.  Increasing visibility by adding your able voice in the demand for equal access for all is mission critical.  Becoming more actively involved supports the growing counter-culture that respects and values the worth of all people equally.  Easterseals is hosting a virtual parade on July 26th to celebrate Disability Pride.
  5. Read Up on the Experience of Disability.  Perhaps the most energy and time you have at the moment is simply to read a book to expand your consciousness this month.  Consider Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century by Alice Wong.  Then perhaps recommend it to a friend or two!

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Spread Hope

National Month of Hope

At the time of this writing, most of the country has been instructed to follow physical distancing guidelines and/or an order to “stay-at-home” to battle the unprecedented spread of the COVID-19 virus.  Although such mandated imposed physical isolation guidelines may be critical to the physical safety and health of many during such a pandemic, it is wrecking havoc on the mental health and well-being of all of us.As humans, we all have a basic need for connection, as connections have been essential for survival historically.  We also have a need for meaning in our lives, having a purpose or reason to get us up in the morning and move us forward, no matter what chaos may be swirling around us.  Some of these basic human needs are being challenged right now.

So, I thought it might be helpful at this time to highlight the fact that April is the National Month of Hope and offer some intention-setting ideas to spread hope.  At some level, I don’t think the timing of these two events is ironic.  Mother Nature has always been the great equalizer and demands our respect.  It seems that when there is an extended period of a lack of respect, she stirs something up to create a global shift to wake us all up!

Now, more than ever, might be a time to re-invite such respect into our lives as it can be a powerful guide to our ever evolving purpose and subsequent behaviors.  Perhaps we might recommit ourselves to such purposes as a healthier world, a more diverse, interconnected community, or a more just society that works towards reducing the suffering of others.  When we are able to clearly define our purpose, it brings hope as it can anchor and steer us in establishing and working toward goals that bring more meaning to our lives.

In addition, there has been much research on the impact of connection, purpose, meaning and hope on our health and well-being.  Hope is the spark that ignites our internal fire, while having a purpose that brings deeper connection and meaning is the gentle breeze that fans the flames of that fire, keeping our light vibrant and bright.  Hope keeps the collective light on during the dark times of such a global shift.  So, what can we do to spread hope now to increase the current of connective energy needed to move us through these dark moments in time?  Below are some intention-setting ideas to try this month:

  1. Use Social Media.  Consider setting an intention to post words of hope on your social media outlet of choice.  Perhaps challenge yourself to see if you can do so for the next 30 days. Or you might share a personal story when you overcame a difficult time, providing a source of inspiration to others that might be experiencing an increased sense of fear and anxiety at this time.
  2. Write Cards or Letters to Loved Ones.  If you are not a big social media user (like me!), perhaps set an intention to write a card or letter containing words of hope to someone you care about that you are unable to see in person at this time.  Personal, heart-felt written words may provide a longer-lasting effect, as they are a more tangible representation of your connection, that is available to be read again anytime that person might need a reminder that they are not alone.
  3. Reach Out to Keep Others Informed.  Stress can tend to make us focus on the negative and fear can make us withdraw even more from the world.  The simple act of reaching out to someone to keep them informed signals to them that they are important to you, that they are not alone, and provides you with an opportunity to express your concern for their well-being.  Even if the information may be considered negative, the act of sharing it demonstrates that you are not only thinking about yourself, but are thinking of them.  During this time, if you come across some news that brought you a sense of hope, consider sharing it with others in order to remind them that not all hope is lost and this too shall pass.
  4. Contribute Kindness and Encouragement.  Say “thank you” often.  We are being asked to rely more on virtual communication at this time to stay connected, so consider setting an intention to demonstrate the power of a sincere ‘thank you’ in each connection you make.  Feeling heard and valued by others can bring comfort when we are feeling unsettled, lonely or scared.  Hearing words of appreciation encourages us to continue what we are doing and reinforces our sense of purpose, inviting hope (Helping Others by Providing Encouragement), acceptance and meaning.
  5. Take Care of Yourself.  The world needs us at our best right now, which demands us to step up our self-care efforts.  Taking care of ourselves empowers others to do the same.  Because many of our sources for connection and well-being are closed right now, consider returning to the basics of health and well-being, which includes sleep, eating healthy, exercising the body and mind, and deep breathing.  When you take deep breaths, it facilitates the reduction of negative stress chemicals in the body and supports an increase in the positive ones the invite calmness into your entire system.  From the emotional shift that is a result of your own deep breathing, you are in a better position to help others who might need some support in making that same emotional shift.  So, if you are one of the many of us that struggle to prioritize our self-care, perhaps set an intention to spend some time reflecting on what self-care means to you.  Unfortunately, many of us were taught to think that self-care is selfish.  However, as the airlines inform us during each flight’s physical safety instructions, we must put on our own oxygen mask first, before helping others to ensure we are available to help others.  So, when you are able to maintain your own health (emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical), it is much easier to support and spread hope to others!

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas for Professional Wellness Month

When we start to attach our identity to our work, job and/or employer, we are teetering on a tight rope without a net.  Today, more than ever, it is vital to our well-being and longevity (both at work and in life) to find ways to maintain a balance between who we are and what we do!

Many employers, in an attempt to build a more harmonious work culture, encourage employees to socialize outside of normal working hours.  However, such encouragement from employers can create an internal conflict for those employees that are unable to join such social gatherings due to other commitments outside of the workplace.  It can also create a perceived sense of preferential treatment for those that do attend such gatherings versus those that don’t – or can’t – participate.

Employers would better serve their employees by supporting such things as flexible work hours, encouraging workers to go home after an 8 hour day in the office, requiring workers to take regular breaks and vacations, creating spaces in the office where workers can go for a few minutes of peace and quiet throughout the day, like a meditation room, a garden and/or a walking path, and offering regular group exercise opportunities during work hours, such as yoga, Tai Chi, or Qigong classes.

Until all employers buy into the research that indicates such things enchance a worker’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being, boosting productivity, focus, memory, and creativity, below are intention-setting ideas for you to implement for yourself, to remind yourself every day that you are so much MORE than what you do and avoid burning the candle at both ends:

  1. Walking meetings.  If you find yourself either needing to schedule a meeting with a colleague or are invited to one, ask your colleague if they would mind making the meeting a walking meeting.  Take the walk outside and, if possible, into an area that has some greenery, like trees or flowers, or near water, such as a lake or water fountain.  Perhaps you can locate a bench outside that you can stop at and sit for part of the meeting.  Even if you are able to make one meeting a week a walking meeting to start, before long this idea might catch on as others begin to feel the difference it makes in their day!
  2. Take multiple short breaks.  Consider taking a one-minute break every hour.  You can set an alarm on your phone or a reminder in your calendar.  Some ideas for each one-minute break include:  closing your eyes and taking several, long deep breaths while visualizing something that brings you joy; bringing in a jump rope and/or hula hoop and using it for one minute; doing some seated yoga poses at your desk; and/or listening to a guided meditation.
  3. Ask a co-worker for support.  If you find the support of another as motivation to hold you accountable, ask a co-worker to start an at-work health challenge with you.  It could be around the number of steps you take at work (think taking the stairs instead of the elevator) or the amount of time you hold a challenging shape, such as wall squats, plank or balancing on one leg.  It might also be eating more healthy, such as getting points for eating fresh fruit or a salad instead of a taco or hamburger.  If stress is an issue, maybe consider keeping track of the number of meditations you participate in (by taking those one-minute breaks every hour!).  Don’t forget to set a goal, perhaps the ‘winner’ at the end of the month treats the ‘other winner’ to lunch.
  4. Start a gratitude circle.  I know when I worked in the corporate world, it was very easy to get caught in the experience of complaining about work to my co-workers, whether it was about other co-workers not pulling their weight, the unrealistic work expectations, and/or the lack of communication.  Although at first it might have brought some temporary relief, such complaining did not change anything.  Therefore, consider turning complaining on its head the next time you find yourself looking for a co-worker to vent with by challenging yourself to identify something that you are grateful for from your experience at work and sharing it with another.  Better yet, start a gratitude circle with several co-workers, scheduling a 5 minute gathering at some point in the day where everyone gets to share what they felt gratitude for that day (limiting the time to 1 minute or less for the sharing).
  5. Play music.  No, not your favorite dance music or rock or rap album.  Find some music without lyrics that you might enjoy and make sure to play it at an ambient noise level to avoid disturbing your co-workers.  It might be jazz or classical or it could be nature sounds, like the ocean or the sounds of the forest.  Research has shown music to improve mood, which impacts productivity and creativity

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Support Our Basic Human Need for Connection

“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.” ― William James

There is more and more research today supporting what I think most of us already knew – whether consciously or subconsciously – that humans are wired for connection. What I have witnessed and experienced is when we find ourselves in healthy, reciprocal relationships, we grow and when we experience disconnection from our tribe, we wilt.

And yet our social culture tells us that we should value independence, not need anyone or fear being labeled ‘co-dependent’, and that we should be able to solve our problems on our own and, if we can’t, there is something wrong with us.

Well, with the research behind me, I’m here to challenge that culture that values independence more than interdependence, because as humans we are designed to be connected with others in relationships!

I understand it can be a bit scary to admit to our need for connection, so below are 5 intention-setting ideas to consider trying to support your well-being through expanding and deepening your connection with others:

  1. Volunteer.  In the language of yoga, “seva” is the Sanskrit term meaning “selfless service” and engaging in seva is believed to assist in someone’s spiritual growth while also improving the community.  Although this implies releasing any expectations of receiving anything personally in return for our efforts, my experience and research suggests that the reward is a felt experience, one of working with others that care about the same things you do . . . in other words, vibing with your tribe.
  2. Join a group.  With the advent of social media, it is not hard to find a group that has the same interests as you do.  Whether you enjoy indoor or outdoor activities, Meetup has a group for everyone and if you don’t find a group that is exactly what you are looking for, you can create your own and invite your tribe to join.  Whether you are looking for someone to hike, read, meditate, or socialize your dog with, there are others looking for the same thing.
  3. Share your care.  Have you noticed how good it feels to help someone else out that might be struggling with something, whether it is a stranger that needs a little help with opening a door or a friend that might be sick? Research is discovering that empathy is part of the hard-wiring connection between humans.  So when we see someone suffering, our empathy kicks in and encourages us to express compassion to others, because it makes us feel good to help relieve the suffering of others.
  4. Ask for help.  I know this one can be tricky, but think about it for a moment.  If you feel good when you help others, then why would you not want to create an opportunity for someone else to feel good, by helping you?  I always say “Any job is easy, if you have the right tools”, so, in this case, the “right tools” might just be the members of your tribe.
  5. Commit time.  Our social culture expects that we “do more with less”, leaving us chronically multi-tasking and wishing for more than 24 hours in a day.  With so many demands on our time, we can inadvertently find ourselves spending more and more time alone, even if we tell ourselves that it is because we just need to sleep.  What the research is leading us to understand, though, is that spending time with people who make us feel supported, valued, and accepted may contribute more to our overall health than other typical suggestions such as exercise and not smoking.  So, we need to make our connections a priority on our ‘to do’ list, knowing that by doing so we are contributing not only to our own well-being, but to the well-being of our tribe!