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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 linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Spread Kindness

Valentine’s Day is a reminder to share the love!

This “Hallmark Holiday” doesn’t have to have the market corned on romantic love.  We can challenge the world to broaden the view of February 14th as a reminder to share the love and kindness with ourselves and others.

Below are some intention setting ideas to spread kindness and, by doing so, bring more peace and joy into our hearts and into the world:

  1. Write a note.  When was the last time you received a hand-written note expressing sentiments from the heart?  Can you remember what it felt like?  Take a moment now and bring to mind someone in your life (past or present) that meant a lot to you, perhaps because they took care of you in a time of need or maybe because they had your back during a difficult time in your life.  Consider writing them a note expressing what their kindness and thoughtfulness meant to you.  It is never too late to share the impact people have had on our lives, even if they have transitioned from this life.  Once the note is written, if possible mail it.  If not, light a candle, sit with the light of the candle visualizing the person (maybe you have a picture you can look at) and read them your note.  Trust the energy and love behind your words will reach them.  Take a moment to tune into your heart, noting any sensations present.  Often, the sensations are the human experience of love and kindness being shared!
  2. Say ‘thank you’ more.   These two simple words have a powerful effect!  Practice saying ‘thank you’ to yourself, when you make a decision that serves you well or when you remember to use one of your self-care tools in your tool box.  As you practice, again tune into your heart center and sense the response.  If you find this practice a little challenging, try saying ‘thank you’ to another, maybe your mail delivery person, the cashier at the supermarket, a co-worker or your child.  Like anything else, the more you practice, the easier it gets.  Don’t forget to come back around and thank yourself!
  3. HUG more!  Research suggests giving and receiving hugs has a positive impact on your body and mind health.  If this gesture of care, kindness and appreciation is not currently one of the tools in your self-care tool kit, no worries.  You can simply start by hugging aspects of Mother Nature, such as trees (yes, trees!) and animals.  Children also love to receive – and give – hugs.  You can also give yourself a hug, especially when life throws you a curve ball.  As you begin to embrace (pun intended!) this practice, if you are inspired to hug someone, make sure to ask permission first no matter their age, especially if it someone that you are just getting to know better!
  4. Take a walk & pick up litter.  Speaking of Mother Nature, it is important to share our kindness and love with her as well.  The next time you plan to take a walk, whether around the block or a 10-mile hike, bring a trash bag with you and pick up any litter you might come across in your travels.  As you do so, thank Mother Earth for all that she provides us, including the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat.  She also provides for the materials utilized to build our shelters, so she has a significant and vital part in our lives.
  5. Write a kind story about yourself.  Start by listing 3-5 aspects of yourself that you like or appreciate.  It might be good qualities that you sometimes display, such as patience or generosity, or values that are important to you, such as beauty or connection.  Now, write a story with you as the central figure, including these good qualities (and any more that might rise into awareness as you are writing).  The story can be drawn from past memories of times when you allowed these good qualities to be seen by the world or the story might be written about how you might let these qualities come forward more in the future.  Remember, if any uncomfortable feelings arise as you are writing, you can step into the role of a compassionate friend and let them finish writing it for you.

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 linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Increase Your Sense of Lightness of Being

“Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion. – Buddha

Last week, on a day when southern California experienced a rare, heavy winter rainfall, a dear friend and colleague and I were scheduled to gather to collaborate on our co-creations for the new year when she came across a beautiful butterfly in her path that was unable to fly due to wet wings.  She stopped to help it relocate somewhere dry and it welcomed her support.  It stayed with her, almost not wanting to leave the warm jacket upon which it found itself and I was able to capture the image – see below!

I think we both immediately knew it was a blessing being delivered to us in support of our efforts to help empower, elevate, and enlighten others in light of the fact that these butterflies typically don’t fly on cloudy days, none-the-less on rainy days!

Butterflies symbolize the soul in many world cultures.  This animal totem is most often associated with transformation and rebirth, while other associations include endurance, hope, renewal, life, and lightness of being.  It is this last association that shifted something for me in that moment and encouraged me to share the following intention-setting ideas to help you shake free from whatever it is that might be weighing your wings down, keeping you from taking flight and sensing into your lightness of being:

  1. Ask for Help.  When we begin to sense a heaviness in our energy, it is a signal that we might be carrying too big of a load for just one person.  This signal suggests that it is time to consider asking for some assistance, whether to delegate some of the tasks on our “to do” lists or to simply reaffirm that we are not alone and we have people around us that are ready, willing and able to help and support us.  Remembering how it feels when we help others can be just the motivation to allow others to help us – why would we ever want to rob others of feeling that joy of connection!
  2. Share your Stories.  We cannot experience the lightness of being when our minds are full of thoughts that make us doubt ourselves.  Finding someone you can trust to simply listen as we put words to the stories in our heads helps to put own experiences into context and perspective, without which invites separation and loneliness.  When our stories only live in our heads, they get distorted, blown out of proportion, and become ripe for self-judgment and criticism.  When we share them with just one other person, it creates a space for a new outlook and opens a door wide for a sense of connection to our authentic being to enter.
  3. Act of Kindness.  Which brings me to . . . performing an act of kindness towards yourself.  Society promotes and supports doing for others, which does feed our souls.  However, it is mission critical to our well-being to offer that same empathy towards ourselves if we want to find lasting ease in our bodies and peace in our minds and hearts.  Might I offer the first act of kindness to consider:  challenging your inner critic that is the voice of judgment that says you need to do more to be worthy.
  4. Write down your Mantra.  Which leads me to . . . documenting a mantra that challenges your inner critic’s judgment.  Maybe it’s “I am enough” or “I am perfect just the way I am” or “I am worth it” – take the time to find one that makes your heart sing, write it down using a writing tool with a color that appeals to your eyes, and place it somewhere where you will see it at least once a day, if not more.  The act of committing something to paper creates energy around it and reflecting on it each day, even if only for a few moments, begins to align the energy between our minds and hearts, rewiring our neural pathways for health.
  5. Shine a Light on Shame.  Shame lives in the darkness.  When we invite it into the light, getting curious about it and challenging it, it cannot survive.  Shame silences us or worse, cuts us off from experiencing connection, isolating us from the world around us.  Shame is the intensely painful belief that we are flawed and, therefore, unworthy of love and belonging.  We are all human beings, which implies we all experience limitations of one kind or another, making each one of us uniquely and perfectly imperfect.  So we need to stand up to the belief that our imperfection is something to be ashamed of or that if we speak up for ourselves, no one will listen because we are not worthy of care and concern.  There is a flame that burns within each one of us that others might have tried to snuff out in the past through the weapon of shame.  Our inner flame might have gone dim in the darkness of shame, but as long as we breathe, it has not gone out.  To truly experience lightness of being, we need to do whatever we have to in order to cast out shame from our minds and bodies.  The first step in doing so just might be to invite it out of the darkness and into the light for a long overdue conversation!