seek happiness

Old Ideas About How to Seek Happiness

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

“If there are things that are causing you to suffer, you have to know how to let go of them.”

~Thich Nhat Hanh

As many of you know, I love the theme of letting go. Sometimes we hold on a little too tightly to expectations we have for ourselves or thoughts of what we “think” we need to be happy, fulfilled and successful. Old habits die hard and it can be difficult to let go of an idea that you have about yourself or your life that no longer rings true.

For example, I was doing a values assessment recently and the things I thought would come up, like creativity and curiosity, these really core ideals I connect my sense of identity to, didn’t. What surfaced were things I already have in my life, that not everybody has. Things like freedom, safety, and security.

And it reminded me that, while as a culture we are always striving for more, perhaps during this time of uncertainty, we should seek happiness from what we already have. To make time to be grateful for what is right in front of us in this moment. Things that many of us take for granted everyday, like freedom, safety and security can bring us so much peace if we allow them to.

So often we wait for happiness.

We tell ourselves that we’ll be happy when “x” happens. We’ll relax when we reach a certain goal, or breathe a sigh of relief as we accomplish a milestone in life, but the truth is, we have everything we need to be happy and at peace right here in this moment, if only for a moment.

So, repeat after me:

“I have everything I need.” 

In times of doubt, stress, you name it, this is a mantra that has brought me calmness, reassurance and gratitude.

I hope it does the same for you.

worthy

We Are Worthy Of Surrender

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

“Let every Exhale
Remind you
You are worthy
Of Surrender.”
Morgan Harper Nichols

What a wonderfully deep and great reminder for letting go! On our Exhale we are letting go of our breath, surrendering and trusting that there will be an inhale to fill up our lungs with the next breath.

The word worthy caught my attention. Perhaps it caught yours too. The idea that we are worthy of surrender speaks to me as “you deserve to let shit go” and even have permission to let shit go.

I’ve been re-reading “Awakening the Buddah Within” by Lama Surya Das and have been reminded of the idea that we suffer (get anxious, angry, annoyed) due to our attachments, especially to ideals and expectations.

Dealing with Difficult People

I have noticed in my own life, when I allow people to be exactly who they are, letting go of who I think they “should” be, I’m not so irritated or frustrated by them. This allows me to be more at peace and less irritated or frustrated with that person because I’m not wasting my energy thinking the person might change or that I could even get them to change.

For years, a practice of mine is to embrace that I only have control over myself. I have no control over anyone else. What I can choose is how I want to show up with others when I experience them as difficult. I choose not to allow myself to react to their current difficult nature even while my heart is racing and I want to scream. I choose not to hand over my power to that person or allow their behavior to control me.

Instead, I imagine as if they just threw me a rope in an effort to play tug-of-war with me. I get to decide if I pick up that rope and play their game or not. My goal is to notice the rope and think, “well, there’s that,” then redirect my attention and the conversation in a different direction.

This has not been easy for me. I have been at this particular practice for 12+ years and still struggle at times. Perhaps you may give it a go?

progress

Choosing Progress Over Perfection

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

As a high achiever, entrepreneur, leader, and CEO, I know how hard I tend to push myself and how critical I can be of myself. Through my own therapy, self-care, mindfulness, and meditation, I’ve been successful at increasing positive self-talk and decreasing doubt, guilt, and criticism.

My Mantra?

Strive for Progress NOT Perfection!

Think about it…we will never reach perfection (especially in our own minds since we’re so hard on ourselves).

It’s just not possible. So why are we wasting our time and energy trying?

We are always in Progress…we are progressing through life.

Even if we hit 60 or 75 or 80% of what we *think* is “perfect” it is likely not “good enough.”

Want to feel *good enough*?

Let go of the idea of being perfect.

Let’s be honest (with ourselves AND others) instead. Besides, who’s judging us anyway? We are likely much harder on ourselves than anyone else is or would be!! This vicious cycle is exhausting!

Want more energy? Want to feel good enough? Give yourself permission to know there is no such thing as perfect. Give yourself permission to be kind and graceful with yourself. And then feel the weight lifted from your shoulders so you feel lighter and more energetic!

Remember, we are works in progress…

If you are noticing yourself reassessing your work, your relationships, or even your location, good for you! It means you are being mindful of what all your options are. While you may not truly entertain most of those options, the more choices you give yourself, the less stuck you’ll feel.

And if you are stuck, no problem!

Pushing and forcing works for us at many stages of our life, but there comes a point when we begin to reassess if we need to keep doing things the same way we’ve done them.

Perhaps it’s time to shake shit up a bit?

That’s what we’re here for!! Working with a therapist can offer you more clarity and focus for your path forward. And you’ll feel calmer, lighter, and more peaceful.

Self-Sabotage

Self-Sabotage: The Ways in Which we Hurt Ourselves, and What to do About it

Written by Ashley Vaden, LMFT

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re familiar with the benefits of mindfulness and prioritizing self-care in day-to-day life. For the most part, we understand how mindfulness can bring awareness to harmful and intrusive thoughts and patterns, help us become less reactive, and is an adaptive, accessible way to deal with stress. We hear over and over again to “love ourselves” and put ourselves first, but as soon as we feel triggered or overwhelmed, our self-care practices are the first to go, if we even implement them at all.

What is getting in the way of our self-care?

What is contributing to our self-neglect, and how can we “fix” it? One obstacle to prioritizing our self-care may be self-sabotage. Now I know this phrase may sound quite dramatic, and your initial thought might be, “I’m not sabotaging myself!” But in fact, all of us can exhibit self-sabotaging behaviors to protect ourselves. That’s right; sometimes we self-sabotage to offer ourselves protection from painful feelings or realities. This becomes problematic when we aren’t aware of how we’re doing this or that we’re doing this, and we over-protect ourselves.

For example, if one has a deep fear of intimacy or commitment, one may continue to pick fights with a partner or even choose partners that are not compatible. Or I may have a project that I need to work on that typically gets put on the backburner as I prioritize running errands or hanging out with friends because I’m afraid to fail or put myself out there. An even more subtle way we can self-sabotage is by experiencing a lot of anxiety or cyclical thoughts to avoid dropping into the physical sensation of grief, which can be a very intense emotion.

What do we do about our self-sabotage?

Let’s go back to the word “fix,” because I think this is an important point: We don’t need to fix ourselves or even work on ourselves. I know this may sound like it’s conflicting with my overall message or point of this article, but let’s go deeper. There isn’t anything about you that needs “work” or “fixing.” In fact, all of the behaviors, patterns and thoughts that you’ve experienced and exhibited are ways that you’ve learned to survive throughout your lifetime to get your underlying needs met. The bottom line is, even if you’re self-sabotaging, you’re doing the best you can!

We all have needs; to feel safe, to feel seen, to have others notice us, and take delight in who we are. However, because we are imperfect humans and thus our parents or caregivers are imperfect, throughout our lives we will experience times when our needs are not met, or we are faced with something that floods our system that we just can’t integrate or make sense of at the time. These things can become “stuck” in us, or become part of our programming.

Understanding is Key

Maybe our parents got divorced when we were little, so we feel fear around close relationships. Maybe we saw a family member pursue a creative dream, and we heard our parents discuss how that person “will never make any money as a ____,” so we push down our own creative aspirations. Whatever the cause, once we bring awareness to our self-sabotage, that’s really all we need to do! Because that awareness and understanding are key. We learn what the underlying need is, and then we can determine how to meet that need in an adaptive way, instead of setting ourselves up for failure. We may also see that we don’t need protection from our worries at all!

How to Increase our Awareness of Self-Sabotaging Behaviors:

Here are 3 simple strategies to increase awareness of self-sabotaging behaviors so that we are in greater alignment with our worth and value:

Identify Core Beliefs

Let me ask you this. If I told you by next year, you would have a dream come true, such as a loving relationship, or double the amount of money in your savings account, what negative thoughts or obstacles come up for you? “Oh that would never happen, I’m too needy” or “I’m terrible with money; I’ll never have a cushion to fall back on.” Write them all down. Now, instead of spending time obsessing over what is getting in the way of you reaching this dream, use these thoughts as guides for what you want to work on and what needs you have.

For example, feeling insecure and desperate in relationships may be an indicator that I need to work on building self-trust and keeping small promises that I make to myself. Poor money habits can lead me to make a plan and keep boundaries around my spending. This awareness is key because once we understand our negative core beliefs and thoughts, we can be awakened to how we are holding ourselves back. When we see that these beliefs are optional, we can then be intentional about our worth.

Develop a Journaling Practice

Type or write from your stream of thoughts without editing, trying to write “well,” or judging your thoughts. This is how you meet yourself! You’ll notice themes that continue to re-emerge, identify triggers much more readily, and even solve your own struggles by being introduced to them more and more over time. When you feel triggered, ask yourself “Does this feeling remind me of an earlier time in my life?” By looking back, we may recall painful memories or experiences where this feeling originates and our needs were not met, or we were not authentic to ourselves. Then, direct your attention to what you need to stay in your worth in the present moment.

Remember that “self-sabotage,” while it may sound scary, is really just a way we’ve protected ourselves when something is no longer working. Sometimes, we get tired of our own stuff or tired of feeling the way that we do. It’s important to remember in those moments that we’re doing the best we can, and we aren’t “wrong” for feeling how we feel. But in order to implement self-care practices that we know will be helpful for us long term, we have to identify ways in which we are holding ourselves back, and how to meet those needs and feel security while attempting to branch out and put ourselves first.

I hope you’ve found this helpful. If you’d like to go deeper, next time I will be writing about what to do to implement changes in your life and work toward your goals/leave self-sabotage in the dust!

ground yourself

How to Physically Ground Yourself In the Present Moment

Anyone else DONE?! Over it? Fried? Frazzled?! We sure are! The holidays have come and are almost gone, leaving many of us reeling from too much “stuff,” too many “people,” and too many “things” to do. This is especially true if you are a Highly Sensitive Person or an Empath…

How can we best take care of ourselves when we’re in this space?

Perhaps getting grounded and centered in the present moment!

Here are a few physical activities we can do to direct our mind back to the here and now:

1. Savor a food or drink

While most of us rush through our meals to get back to a task or event, try to savor your next bite to eat. You can do this by taking small bites or sips. Pretend you are trying your food or beverage for the first time, letting yourself fully taste every flavor. Think about the temperature, texture, smell, and presentation of your food as well.

2. Take a short walk

What do you see? Focus on the texture, movement, and color of each item. Challenge yourself to think of specific colors, such as crimson, burgundy, indigo, or turquoise, instead of simply red or blue. How fast is that squirrel darting from the tree? Can you see your reflection in the puddle of water on the sidewalk? Are the trees bare or still full of leaves, do they move with the wind or simply stay still?

3. Hold a Piece of Ice

What does it feel like at first? How long does it take to start melting? How does the sensation change when the ice begins to melt?

4. Savor a Scent?

What are some of your favorite smells? Maybe you enjoy the wafts of a baked good rising in the oven, coffee brewing, onion or garlic cooking on the stove, laundry fresh from the dryer, or a candle. Whatever it is, inhale the fragrance slowly and deeply.  What are its qualities?

5. Listen to your surroundings

Take a few moments to listen to the noises around you. Do you hear birds? Dogs barking? The hum of your computer, or the dryer running? If you hear people talking, what are they saying? Put on some music. Let the sounds wash over you and remind you where you are.

6. Try the 5-4-3-2-1 method

You can rely on your 5 senses to bring you back to reality anytime you are starting to “spin out.” Counting backward from 5, use your senses to list the things you notice around you. 5 things you hear, four things you see, three things you can touch nearby, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.

Make an effort to notice the little things you might not always pay attention to, and remember which of them brings you joy. Then you can incorporate these little rituals into your day to help keep you centered.

choose happiness

Choose Happiness

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

It’s not always easy or even possible to “choose happiness.”

With that said, when you surround yourself with people, environments, activities, and animals that you love it helps “lighten” your mood and “lift your spirits” so happiness doesn’t feel so far away.

Lately, I’m finding that that bringing Lemon Drop into the office seems to be just what people need to brighten their days. For me, his presence helps me get out of my own head and remember the carefree life of a dog.

After all, if you pay close attention, your dog will share with you the most important things in life: a good meal, playfulness, rest, curiosity, companionship, and the wonders of the great outdoors. When all else fails, taking the time to slow down and enjoy these daily rituals with them can help pave the way to happiness even in the darkest of times.

Remember, Dog spelled backward is God. Just sayin….

What are some ways you help yourself feel “lighter” emotionally?

How can you incorporate them more into your day?

why mindfulness

Why Mindfulness?

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

Why Mindfulness? Why is it so important? This quote sums it up wonderfully:

Mindfulness is the Gateway to Peace.

So many of us feel chaotic and worried, pulled in many directions…feeling like a hamster on a hamster wheel, spinning and stuck, wasting away our energy without purpose or direction. I’ve been there. I know what that feels like. And then I was done with feeling that way. I wanted to feel grounded, centered, and at peace.

Peace felt weird at first. The first time I felt it I really didn’t know what it was.. it felt very odd, and different. Finally, it dawned on me and I said to myself, “So this is what it feels like to feel content.” I was used to mood swings… highs and lows. I was always irritable,  frustrated with myself or others and I felt constantly overwhelmed. My body went into “fight, flight, or freeze” mode daily.

Now, my body and mind are used to feeling grounded, centered, and at peace.

I practice practical mindfulness constantly throughout the day by noticing my 5 senses when doing tasks. This means I allow myself to become aware of what I’m doing, thinking, and feeling and check in with myself to see if there is a better option for me at that moment.

I stopped asking, “Why?”

I realized the “Why” is a bottomless pit. We don’t really need to know “why.” “Why” focuses on the past. I’m not going in that direction. I’m moving forward. Instead, I ask, “How?” “What?” Or “Where?”

As in: How do I want to feel differently? How can I get there? What do I need at this moment to best take care of myself? What do I want out of life and what is meaningful to me? Where do I want my life to go?

I also have a flexible morning and evening mindfulness meditation routine. Every day I focus on what I’m grateful for. I also visualize where I’m headed, what I am intending for my day, my year, my life. And I spend time wondering and listening. I’m not formal or rigid with my practice. Rigidity hurts me more than it helps. Instead, I am gentle, kind, and forgiving with myself and subsequently others. I am at peace. And that feels wonderful!

subconcious

What Story Are You Feeding Your Subconscious?

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

Did you know your subconscious believes whatever you tell it?

When we have a story that we tell ourselves that limits us or our abilities our subconscious believes that.

When we have a story that is hopeful and empowering, our subconscious believes that.

Often we take from the past, which has already been experienced and written, to write our story of the future. And, of course, we feel like imposters! We are making this all up as we go. None of us have ever lived this day, this way before.

What if instead, we IMAGINE the story we want, that hasn’t been lived or written yet. When we DREAM about it, over and over and over again, as if we have already lived it THEN our subconscious believes that!

Don’t like your current story? Start writing and imagining a new one. Skip the chapter you’re on and see what’s in the chapters ahead. Or better yet, perhaps put this book down and try out another book. See if you like that story better.

What story are you feeding your subconscious? Remember: What we feed, grows. 

instincts

Trusting Your Instincts

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

“Be willing to trust your instincts, especially if you cannot find answers elsewhere.”~Brian Koslow

This means listening to your gut and your heart. You are the expert on yourself. No one knows you or your situation better than you. So trust yourself.

Many of us have a hard time trusting ourselves. This is to be expected when we are surrounded by others placing their expectations for us on us. Our loved ones love us AND they manage(d) their anxieties of being a parent by “parenting” us in ways that sometimes didn’t feel great for us when we were young (and perhaps even today as adults!).

Were they wrong or bad for doing this? Not necessarily. They likely didn’t know better and saw others doing the same.

What we can do now is offer ourselves new options.

Pretend we’re re-parenting ourselves. We all still have the little 7 year old in us who is still needing something they haven’t gotten. Ask them what it is they are needing. I’m sure they’d be happy to tell you. And likely you already have a good idea.

Then allow your adult self to help get your 7-year-old self’s needs met. You likely do this easily and willingly for others. Now do it for yourself. You deserve it, even if you’ve felt perhaps you didn’t.

Perhaps you also allow this to have an impact on your own parenting?

Notice when you’re managing your anxiety by expecting certain things of your children rather than just allowing them to show up exactly as they are. Don’t get me wrong, there is a fine balance between guiding/teaching/parenting children and allowing them to be themselves. However, perhaps this is a reminder that we all just want to be loved and accepted for exactly who we are.

We all deserve that.

recovering serious person

Hello My Name is Megan, and I am a Recovering Serious Person

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

I love to laugh. Being a recovering serious person, that wasn’t always the case. 

I think I really started to lighten up when I was in grad school to become a therapist in my mid-twenties. By then I had moved from Seattle to Tucson and was now in Louisville, KY. My adventurous spirit transformed my anxiety into excitement. My cohort helped as we collectively had to find some levity in the midst of darkness and heaviness.

Then I met my husband, who has had such titles as “University Mascot” and “Professional Mascot” and “Improv Comedian.” While he brought levity to my life, I also found myself digging into my old ways of seriousness in an attempt for him not to have too much of an influence over me so I wouldn’t subsequently “lose myself” in the relationship.

Then I became a parent and was in a tension between not wanting to be a rigid, overthinking, anxious person and wanting to do things the “right way.” (As if that is possible.)

Ultimately I realized flexibility was the key. Of course, I opt for a “flexible structure” so that I have a bit of a plan, but am not rigid about it. The more flexible I am with myself and others, the better I feel. And the better others feel around me.

And this flexibility does not mean getting walked all over. I love me some boundaries! I am very clear about what works for me and what doesn’t and I readily speak up for myself.

This brings me back to laughter. I’m realizing laughter is a wonderful medicine. We feel lighter when we laugh.  And perhaps it’s that lightness that helps us become more enlightened.