Is The Glass Half Full or Empty?

Is The Glass Half Full or Empty?

When I was younger, I thought I was clever by answering this question with “it is a half a glass of water.” Turns out, it may have answered the question in a different way, but still gave information on how I saw the world.

How we see the glass of water can determine how well we will weather in a storm.

What predicts well-being and the ability to advance to where we want to go lies in how permanent or temporary we see bad and good events, how much does failure and success overflow into areas of life, and who do we give credit to when things go crappy or excellent.

Let’s start with permanence. What creates resilient and optimism is viewing negative events as temporary and seeing positive events as permanent like personality or characteristics. People, who view negative events as long-lasting and successes as temporary or situational, tend to have a harder time when life gets difficult.

Pervasiveness is a measure of how many areas of life are affected by success and failure. Failures that are seen as universal and successes as specific are indications of a more pessimistic viewpoint. Successes that are seen as universal and failures as specific tend to have more resilience. For example, two people lose their jobs. The person who sees this as a specific problem in their career yet feels competent as a parent, lover, singer, etc. will be able to bounce back more quickly from set backs.

Do you blame yourself when stuff hits the fan or do you blame the fan? Personalization of misfortunes and fortune is the last factor. People with high self-esteem frame misfortune as outside of them (i.e. the equipment was faulty, people were tired) while attributing fortune directly to them (i.e. I am a good public speaker, I am a hard worker).  People with lower self esteems consistently think setbacks are their fault and give praise to others when it is on the up swing.

Next time your faced with a hardship or success pay attention to how you think about it. Who do you give credit to when problems occur? Who gets credit when things are going well?

The Misunderstood Introvert: 5 Myths About Personality

“There’s a difference between preferring books to parties and preferring sixteen cats to seeing the light of day.” -Lauren Morrill

Introversion is often misunderstood in our culture. The media and the structure of our society tend to idolize the attractive, magnetic and gregarious characters. But what if you or your child is a soft-spoken, reflective type? To appreciate our differences, it’s important to know what introversion is and isn’t.

Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like people. Introverts prefer less stimulation and tend to spend time with friends, family and colleagues 1:1 or in small groups. Many introverts have a deep compassion for humanity and want to contribute in their own way. Gandhi is a great example of an introvert who loves people and contributed to society in his quiet, committed way.

Myths #2 – Introverts don’t have social skills and can’t enjoy parties. Quieter, reflective types can have tremendous abilities to relate and connect with people at parties, work, or events. After a while, they do prefer to go home and recharge their batteries.

Myth #3 –Introverts are shy. Both extroverts and introverts can be shy. Shy people turn inward, partly as a way to manage their anxiety around socializing. Many introverts may become shy as a result of receiving feedback that there’s something wrong with their preference for reflection.

Myth #4 – Introverts can’t be leaders. Because this personality type relays heavily on listening, asking questions, and collaboration, they are highly successful in leading initiative-takers. Employees often feel introverted leaders are open and receptive to their ideas which motivates them to work harder.

Myth #5 – We should teach introverts how to be outgoing so they can be successful in life. Many studies have shown that children that observe interactions or situations (sometimes for weeks or months) before participating actually relate better than their peers when they do join in dynamic social interactions or groups. Scientist attribute this to their ability to observe and learn complex systems before they engage making them well equipped to navigate challenges that arise.

About 50% of the world’s population is introverted. This number may seem high as extroversion is often sold as the ideal in our culture. Because of this ideal, many introverts play a “pseudo” extroverted role particularly in the school and workplace. Another reason it may seem high is that introverts can be passionate and incredibly engaging when discussing topics and ideas that they think and feel deeply about, thus appearing extroverted when being their passionate selves.

Not sure if you or someone you love is an introvert? Below are characteristics of introversion:

  • Enjoy solitude
  • Prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities
  • In classroom setting, prefer lectures to seminars.
  • Prefer to express yourself in writing
  • Dislike small talk, but enjoy talking in-depth about topics that matter to you
  • Described as a good listener
  • Not a big risk-taker
  • Often described as “soft spoken”
  • Prefer to celebrate birthdays on a small-scale (one or two close friends)
  • Wait to discuss your work with others until finished
  • Do best work on your own
  • Often let calls go to voicemail
  • Feel drained after being out and about, even if you’ve had a good time
  • Tend to think before you speak
  • Prefer weekends with absolutely nothing to do than one with many things scheduled
  • Dislike conflict

If you are looking for a good read on introverts, I suggest Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Many ideas from this blog came from this book.

What’s your story and how does it affect attachment?

“You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story & hustle for your worthiness.” – Brene Brown

What’s your story? How does your story affect your children? According to research by Daniel Siegel, how you make sense of your childhood and the relationships you had with primary caregivers is the biggest predictor of attachment in your children. This is significant because it isn’t what happened to you that influence the relationship with your children, it’s how you interpret it.

Let’s back up and talk about what kinds of parent-children attachment there are:

  • Secure – In a secure attachment, children experience their parents as responsive and consistent. The child feels safe, soothed and seen enough. I say enough because parenting isn’t about perfection; it’s about showing up enough and repairing when mistakes happen.
  • Avoidant – Children experience parents in avoidant attachment as rejecting and distant. The adult in this type of attachment tends to struggle with non-verbal cues from loved ones and can over verbalize when overwhelmed. This indicates a stronger left-brain hemisphere.
  • Ambivalent – Children experience parents as inconsistent and/or intrusive. This adult attachment has difficult with self-regulation and tends to run anxious. This indicates a strong right brain hemisphere.
  • Disorganized – Children experience parents as frightening, confusing and fearful. This type of attachment is usually due to unresolved trauma. Unresolved trauma affects children rather they witnessed the event(s) or not.

The first three attachment types are functional, however, secure is ideal. Disorganized is a maladaptive attachment and all types are reversible. Coaching and counseling help strengthen secure attachment by helping the parent change the narrative of their trauma or life circumstances.

How do adult stories differ?

  • Free – flexible, coherent, and self-reflective. It’s a balanced perspective and this narrative predicts with 85% (once child is born, 75% if child is unborn) a secure attachment between parent and child.
  • Dismissing – incoherent, inflexible, minimize emotional significance and lack of recall. This type of narrative has many “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” and is associated with avoidant attachment.
  • Entangled – preoccupation with past intrudes on present and intense idealization. This type of story often gets stuck in the past and has trouble discussing the future. It’s associated with ambivalent attachment.
  • Unresolved – disorganization and disorientation around issues of grief or trauma. The story is often scattered and it’s difficult to understand what’s in the past, present and future.

65% of the population have secure attachment (according to Daniel Siegel) and a free flowing, integrated story that includes the past, present and future. For those people not yet in the secure attachment category, it’s never too late to move up the attachment ladder. Counseling and coaching services can help parents retell their story with a balanced, cohesive narrative. By talking through your past, present and what you want for the future, you give your child the gift of security, safety, and the ability to self regulate with a fully integrated brain.

Empathy: Shame’s Antidote


“Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.” ~ Brené Brown

Shame is an obstacle for connection, courage, and creativity. Shame is gender neutral, we all experience it. According to Brene Brown’s research, what grows shame is secrecy, silence, and judgment. Empathy is the antidote to shame.

Below are two videos by Brene Brown. Her Ted Talk on vulnerability and shame is the first link. Second is a short, humorous clip on the difference between empathy and sympathy.

Click here to watch Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on Listening to Shame.

Click here to watch Brene Brown’s YouTube video on Empathy

Spring Cleaning and Purge

“I am never five minutes into stripping the clutter from my life before I start running into the clutter that is my life.” —Robert Brault
We are moving our office, so the purge has begun. The new space is organized, clean, and clutter free.  Home, not as much.  And, it is Spring….
When looking at a project like Spring-cleaning an entire house or apartment the best plan of attack is a plan.   To reach this goal by the end of the day, it helps to break this large task into steps.  Below are Spring-cleaning lists to get you started:
An 8 hour schedule designed to clean your entire house room by room:
A thorough list that starts with foyer and ends outside:
A 12 page Spring cleaning Guide that includes how to delegate tasks and cleaning tricks:
Happy cleaning,
Sarah Ward is a Licensed Marriage Therapist and Personal Coach who works in private practice in Portland, OR. For more information, or call 503.407.1816.  You can also follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

Our Brain on Exercise


“I have to exercise in the morning before my brain figures out what I’m doing.” -Marsha Doble
Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity. -John Fitzgerald Kennedy
“Those who do not find time for exercise will have to find time for illness.” -Earl of Derby
We know that exercise is good for the body.  But, what about the mind?  Below are 7 benefits exercise has on our brain:
It reverses the effects of stress.
  • Working out (average of 45 minutes) in a 3 day period assists in slowing the aging process.
  • Rids ruminating “by altering blood flow to those areas in the brain involved in triggering us to relive these stressful thoughts again and again,” says study coauthor Elissa Epel, an associate professor of psychiatry at UCSF.
  • Calms as the brain increases “soothing” chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
It lifts depression.
  • Working out 3x/week (burning 350 calories) through sweat-inducing activity can be as effective as anti-depressants.
  • Yoga 3x/week boosts the brain chemical GABA which helps improve mood and calms anxiety.
It improves learning.
  • Exercise helps make new brain cells and connections between cells. The more complicated the activity (and the more coordination required), the bigger the brain growth.
  • Attention and concentration skills improve after a complicated fitness routine. The more complicated the activity, the more our capacity to learn.
It builds self esteem and positive body image.
  • Improvements in fitness level (i.e. running a faster mile or lifting more weights) improves self-esteem and body image.
People on Mountain
It brings euphoria.
  • We get “high” post interval workouts.
It keeps the mind sharp.
  • Leisurely walks helps fend off memory loss and keep skills like vocabulary retrieval.
It may fight Alzheimer’s.
  • Exercise protects the brain’s hippocampus (in charge of memory and spatial navigation). The hippocampus is one of the first areas to be affected by Alzeimer’s.
    • Aids in preventing Alzheimer’s.
    • Helps lower the impact once it has begun.
This information was paraphrased from U.S. News Report7 Mind Blowing Benefits of Exercise

A Pause Button in Life

Some days require more patience than others.  When emotions are flaring and self-management is fleeting, push the pause button.   Visualize pressing a button to stop, breathe and take inventory.  In these few seconds, you have a chance to note where you are and what you want. Pausing gives an opportunity to stay active instead of reactive to people and/or situations.  Remaining active and present allows for more possibilities in responses.  Increasing chances for a better outcome.
Sometimes it’s tricky to decipher what is active (present and calm enough) or reactive (anxiety driven).  Below is a flow chart for clarity.

When active and present, problem solving attempts produce multiple (3 or more) possibilities.   There is contemplation of choices and next steps.  Information is gathered by asking yourself questions beginning with what, when, how, who, and/or where.   In a present state of mind, a decision will be made after you’ve weighed your options.
Problem solving attempts made when reactive or anxious limits are choices (a maximum of two). Reactive solutions usually boil down to fight or react right now versus flee, avoid or do nothing.  There are no follow up questions, it comes down to picking A or B with an urgency to decide immediately.
Once you’ve paused, it’s time to make a plan.  If reactive, the best plan is to walk away and take some time to be calm enough.  Once calm and present, ideas and solutions flow with greater clarity.
Follow Sarah Ward on Twitter and Pinterest.  

New Year Resolutions? 5 Tips To Be Successful

“Cheers to a new year and another chance to get it right.” -Oprah Winfrey

Many clients describe ambitious resolutions for the New Year.  Shortly after these are made, they are forgotten, ignored, or avoided. Below are some ways to make resolutions you can keep.
1.  Measurable.   How will you know if there’s progress?  Where are you starting?  Where do you want to be? Put a number to your resolution. For example, if you want to exercise more, give it a quantity i.e. 3 times a week for 45-60 minutes.
2. Wiggle room.  Start off small.  If you rarely exercise, begin with 20 or 30 minutes daily with an option for a day off.  A goal of working out for an hour or two every day is a plan more likely to fail.  Once there is failure, motivation goes down.  There’s always an option to up your goal after the first one is met.
3.  Track and reward.  We often forget where we began and are discouraged that we “aren’t there yet.”  Every week or every other week, check in on accomplishments. Reward yourself daily, weekly, and/or monthly for positive changes.
4. Slippage happens.  It takes 6 months to solidify any new habit.  A bad day is normal.  What determines success is how fast you catch yourself, regroup, and get back on track.
5.  Positive works better.  What are you going to be doing or replacing? Let’s say the goal is no smoking.  Create a plan to stop smoking by replacing smoke breaks with a walk outside or chewing gum.  Want to lose weight?  Focus on eating healthy, exercising, or going to the gym instead of no junk food.

Happy New Year,
Follow Sarah Ward on Twitter and Pinterest.

11 Energy Boosting Tips

Can’t take a nap and want more energy?  Here are ideas to refresh and shake off fatigue throughout your day.
1. Chocolate. One tasty piece of dark chocolate (slightly less of an affect with milk chocolate) can get your endorphins up.  Less is more in this example.
2. Rock out. Turn on music and sing. You increase your adrenaline by singing and moving along to a song. Bonus points for a group sing along.
3. Power snack. Having a healthy, low sugar, high protein morsel can deter the lull of the day. Suggestions: fruit or veggie and peanut butter, plain yogurt and berries, mixed nuts, smoothie, or granola bar.
4. Take a break. Walk to the water cooler or bathroom. A little co-worker banter and a short walk, brings your stress level down and revitalizes your mind.
5. Brighten your wardrobe. When we wear cheery or energizing clothing we give off a positive vibe. In return, other people will project a positive attitude back. Bonus points for dressing up and wearing color.
6. Drink water. Dehydration can cause fatigue. Make sure you consume water throughout the day.
7. Avoid energy drinks. These beverages cause a spike in energy but the crash is rough. “Energy drinks are like energy credit cards — you’re spending future energy to get short-term energy. The resulting energy deficit gets worse until you hit energy bankruptcy.” -Leo Babauta
8. Cardio exercise. Getting your blood pumping increases stamina and endurance. This helps during an afternoon of meetings or projects. Bonus points for an a.m. work out. The earlier your endorphins flow the more productive and awake you will be.
9. Laugh. Seek out funny people, tell a joke, or find humor in situations. Regular laughter gets your mood up and stress down.
10. Go outside. Clear your head, change your scenery and breathe in fresh air. A short walk outdoors improves mood and motivation.
11. Citrus. Smelling citrus stimulates alertness. Eating citrus or vitamin C helps absorb nutrients while combating tiredness. Chronic fatigue has been correlated with Vitamin C deficiency.
Ready to change your habits? Pick one or two things to start. This increases motivation and chance for success. When the first one or two changes are more automatic, you can always add a few more into the mix.
Follow Sarah Ward on Twitter and Pinterest.