I was looking for a way to stop obsessing over the future. I’d spent my adult life as an underground musician, and it had been wonderful for the large part. The thing is, it wasn’t good for me anymore.
I felt anxious onstage. I felt really uncomfortable with so many people looking at me. I had changed as a person, and yet I continued putting myself through performing even though I hated it.
Have you ever done that? Have you ever continued to do things that you hate because you identify so strongly with what you are doing? If I wasn’t “a musician,” which I had been all of my adult life, then what would I be? It felt as if I would be nothing at all.
Through dabbling with various new musical projects, I became increasingly aware that whatever was going to be creatively fulfilling (if anything), would inevitably lead my mind to obsess over it, sending me into a dreamworld of scenarios where I was the center of everything. Perhaps this is why I continued singing: I wanted to “be something special.”
In my imagination (which was extremely active), singing always seemed so important, and after each gig I would only remember the fun parts (of which there were many too, don’t get me wrong). Then I’d get onstage the next time and think, “What am I doing here?”
The awareness that I was letting dreams and fantasies dictate my life wasn’t profound, it was just a product of getting a little older and thinking, do I really want to live like this for the rest of my life? I looked into ways that I could enjoy the here and now a bit more; ways of appreciating life as it was actually happening, rather than several years later through filtered, distorted, and romanticized memories.
I’d never meditated or done anything that I would have previously disregarded as “hippy rubbish.” I had read something about mindful breathing somewhere.
I didn’t know anything about mindfulness, but I had an impression that it was something that middle-class people did a lot alongside their yoga. I didn’t relate to that image at all. I didn’t realize that it was simply a tool for paying attention to what is happening.
Then one day I focused on my breath while I was on a walk in the local park with my dog, Euro. Suddenly, everything was alive. The world was just beautiful.
At that moment, focusing only on what I could see and sense, my mind went right back to basics, to where I remember it being when I was a very small child. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck (and all over my body) and I couldn’t stop grinning.
Several blackbirds popped their jerky, judgmental eyes out from under some shrubs, bobbing forward for worms and eyeing me up cautiously as I walked past. I didn’t just see a bird and move on. I saw strange, beaked, winged creatures who fly about this land—singing, to boot! (If birds existed only in myth and folklore, they would make elves and unicorns seem positively dull.)
Walking around the park, I was in a calm ecstasy, grinning at everything around me, occasionally wondering if I looked to others like I was on some serious happy pills (but not much caring what other people thought).
I didn’t see trees and move on. I saw wooden beings, some of them hundreds of years older than me, growing out of the ground and displaying leaves and petals reaching up into the sky. Why we were there together, swapping gases, was a beautiful mystery.
A year or so after this experience, and others like it, I realized that what I was practicing that day was “ecotherapy” or “nature therapy,” although I didn’t know about those terms at the time. I’ve since trained to become an ecotherapist to help other people find this amazing connection to nature, and this is honestly something I would never have seen myself doing five years ago.
Somehow, when I became an adult, I had forgotten what nature meant to me as a child. I think most of us are connected to nature deeply as children, and yet we get easily distracted from it as we get older. I don’t think I am unique in that respect at all.
One day, back when I was seven or eight years of age, I was allowed to set my alarm clock for the early morning hours. I went to the local park with a notebook and pen to see what animals I could find.
I saw my first ever hedgehog, and it felt like meeting a visitor from another dimension. I just couldn’t believe that there was this unique spiky creature in front of me, living completely independently, getting on with its weird little life in shrubs and muck. I still get a feeling of awe when I recall that moment, watching it curl up in the early morning dew.
I grew up as a proper city boy in the suburbs of Liverpool, England. Somehow, when I became a teenager, I did what many of us do and I got so caught up with ‘finding out who I was’ that I neglected what was happening on the earth around me for decades! I had fun for the most part, but I spent so much of my life lost in fantasy and living in honor of some so-called ‘identity’ that I forgot how important nature was to me.
Earth is a wonderland. The diversity of life that we encounter each and every day (and often ignore) is mind-boggling. Creatures that crawl, fly, and speak are everywhere. The vivid colors present in giant plants that grow from tiny seeds is just awesome (in the traditional ‘awe-some’ sense of the word)!
It took me years to comfortably move away from a life in music to be doing the things in life that I am doing now. I think changing our callings in life always comes with a sense of grief to some degree; we attach and identify with the things we do quite naturally.
Nature has taught me to enjoy not being the center of attention, to simply enjoy feeling that I’m a part of this beautiful world, and it’s such a relief! We are tiny and yet we are miraculous at the same time. I don’t need to do things that make me anxious if I have the control to stop doing them.
More About Ecotherapy/Nature Therapy
The term “nature therapy” is used interchangeably with the term “ecotherapy,” but they are referring to the same thing. In a nutshell, ecotherapy refers to therapies and activities that deliberately aim to improve our mental health and well-being through connecting with nature. It is a broad, umbrella term.
Some ecotherapists may be qualified psychotherapists who offer “walk and talk” outdoor counseling sessions, whereas others may focus on helping people to create art or poetry inspired by nature. Some ecotherapists run gardening groups, and there are many more approaches still! Ecotherapy is totally, 100 percent something that you can do for yourself; it’s actually very simple!
For me personally, the most powerful ecotherapy exercises are based on mindfulness (it was this kind of work that changed my life, and so I’m bound to feel like that)! Here are three simple exercises to try that have been amazing for me personally, and I hope that they help you to find a deeper connection to nature.
1. Look toward the new.
Take a walk somewhere you go often and give attention to your regular habits. Notice your walking habits closely: how you often pay attention to the same things in your environment without conscious awareness. Deliberately shift your attention elsewhere every time you notice you notice your attention going to a habitual place. What new things do you notice around you?
2. Use your senses.
Find an outdoor space where you feel comfortable and safe. With your eyes closed, focus on your senses, especially tuning into sounds, smells, and the feeling of the air against your skin. Open your eyes after a few minutes and take in the color and sights all around you. How does it feel? (Please note, if you have any sensory impairments, simply adjust the task to work in the best way for you; this exercise can be effective with whatever senses you use.)
3. Notice nature reclaiming space.
Take a city/town walk where there is lots of concrete and look for the weeds and wildflowers popping up through the pavement and walls. How often can you spot nature appearing through the cracks? How does it feel to notice it?
Nature is not separate from us. We are a part of nature too, and I hope that these simple exercises help you to feel that connection. If all else fails, simply spend a little time outdoors, or even open a window if there are restrictions on you going outside. Just remember to pay attention to what’s going on out there!
Mihran Kalaydjian Introducing Breeze (zepur gi tarnam) Զեփյուռի նման I seldom think about my limitations, and they never make me sad. Perhaps there is just a touch of yearning at times; but it is vague, like a breeze among flowers. When the oak is felled the whole forest echoes with it fall, but a hundred acorns are sown in silence by an unnoticed breeze.
I’ll be the gentlest breeze that Descends from the mountains to rest at your door. Like a knight seared by your love I’ll surrender my sword at your garden’s gate.
And I’ll watch for you, night and day. Only hurry back to your garden So I can see your face, put my heart to rest. Drunk with your love, I would die at your door.
Disguised as Spring I’ll enter your garden to cling to your rose like the singing nightingale. I’ll kneel by your door as a sacrifice for your life. I’m your Shahen; I’ll sing you a thousand songs.
Again I’ll watch for you, night and day Only hurry back to the garden So I can see your face, get drunk with your love. Put my heart to rest so I can die at your door.
When it comes to relationships, people can call you “crazy” and “needy” all they want. I can only guess some people don’t know how crazy it feels when every cell in your body feels like the only way to breathe is to stop this person you desire from abandoning you right now.
You may not realize it as the emotions hijack your mind and body, but unconsciously, you only have one job in that moment—to stop history from repeating itself by keeping this person close. And so, you do and say everything you can to try and control the situation: the incessant texting, questioning, crying, overthinking, over-pleasing, phone checking, and the list goes on.
Of course, in most cases, this person cannot leave you because they were never with you in the first place, either physically or emotionally. Either way, as soon as you get even the slightest hint of rejection and abandonment, you experience what I call “The Emotional Takeover.”
Now, not for one second am I defending the unhealthy behaviors that you have in place in that instant, but I do understand them.
Because it used to be me. I used to feel so insecure when I felt there was even the slightest threat to my relationship, and I would become preoccupied with ‘fixing’ the situation in any way I could. It was draining, upsetting, and hugely unsettling.
I know you are not crazy because who you are in those times is not you. You must know that, while it is you that has not yet learned how to break free from that toxic pattern, how to walk away from people who are no good for you, or the art of self-soothing, it is not you.
Sadly, you might not realize that, because it is likely you don’t know who the real you is. You’ve lost yourself to the fear of abandonment.
If you relate to this, it is highly possible that, like me, you fall into the attachment style that is “anxious attachment.”
We tend to experience anxious attachment when we had inconsistent love as a child. It is likely your relationship with your caregivers was unpredictable. As an adult, you struggle with feeling secure in relationships and may find that you experience a ‘need’ to be wanted and intense emotions of anxiety and jealousy when you sense this is being taken away from you.
In a bid to keep people from leaving you, even the wrong ones, your internal blueprint is designed to put others first, to take on their feelings as your own, to prioritize what they want and need, to ‘fix’ them, to mother them, and to do what needs to be done in order to never be abandoned.
I can honestly tell you the science of adult attachment styles has transformed my life. Not only does everything now make more sense to me, but I now understand that my perception of love was totally warped.
For the anxiously attached, it’s hard to know what love is. Chances are, you haven’t had much experience of stability in love, especially from those you desired it most.
It’s probably fair to say you’ve felt intense feelings you believed to be true love. You may have even felt this with one person and become fixated on them, or you may have felt this many times in your life, with different people. Yet there is always a question mark over it because deep down, you know that the love hurts and/or is not reciprocated.
That is often what makes this attachment style so hard: the excruciating moments when you know you are being treated poorly, the times you consider you are in the wrong relationship, and the lack the belief you could ever leave.
What makes it even tougher is how skilled you are at pushing that truth back down and fully convincing yourself that this person does love you back, and if you just work harder, it will eventually turn it to the right relationship.
Often, the anxiously attached are attracted to the avoidants (hot and cold, suddenly not interested, giving you crumbs), and this makes for an incredibly difficult time. It’s not a match made in heaven because you have very different intimacy needs, and much to your dismay, you cannot change the way they feel about you or love.
Trust me, I know how much that hurts to hear, but it’s best you hear it before you meet the next one, or the same one comes back around (again).
I have come across many others with the same attachment style as me, all with a very distorted view of what love is, and I can’t help but notice just how much we love love.
We love it so much, we think that without it, we are not worthy. Without it, we cannot be happy.
That is why you settle for people who don’t meet your needs or chase the person that doesn’t see you or never allow yourself time to just be on your own.
As impossible as it sometimes feels, I can tell you with absolute certainty that you can break free of this pattern.
I’m not saying I’m perfect, and that I don’t feel the feels or drop the ball from time to time, but I now know how to manage the intense emotions, how to recognize the unavailable guy before I’m in too deep, and how to live life as securely as possible (note: secure attachment is considered the healthy style).
You are no different than me; you too can tap into the mind-set of the secure attachment style so you can be happy on your own, invite in sustainable love, or where possible, save your relationship.
Below, you will find the top seven tips that have helped me to become happy in myself and more secure in my relationships:
1. Try to resist overthinking.
If you’re insecure in love, one pattern we have in common is overthinking. Thinking about the potential of the person you ‘love’, overthinking why it ended, overthinking why they haven’t texted, overthinking why they canceled on you, overthinking their latest Instagram post, overthinking how you can get them back, overthinking what they really feel… overthinking.
Your brain feels threatened, and you are trying to think of every single reason this could be happening and of every single solution to solve it. But it’s an impossible job because there is nothing to figure out right now. Remind yourself that the stories you are making up are adding to your stress, and as much as you can, be in reality rather than wasting your precious time searching for closure or answers that do not exist.
2. Beware of chemistry.
You know when you’re with someone and you have that rush of love and excitement even though you hardly know them or they are treating you poorly? That feeling is not love.
That feeling is what you perceive to be love, but it is not love. It’s the rush of an activated attachment system, the feeling of familiarity. Feel like you’ve met this person before? You have, in many of your other relationships from childhood through to now.
It’s your job to re-wire your pathways to see that this feeling is not love. That ‘chemistry’ you feel must instead become your warning sign that this may be the kind of person you need to consider backing away from.
3. Give up on the love you desire most.
This is usually the love of a parent. No matter how many of these people you attract, they will never be the love you desire the most. I know that’s sad, but I can’t sugar-coat it for you (us). I’m not saying miracles don’t happen, but I just think you have so much potential in this life, and seeking that love and approval is holding you back.
We all know how parents and caregivers ‘should’ love, but it is simply true that not everyone is able to or knows how to. Rather than try and fix the past or change your past experience with love, your time is better spent figuring out a more realistic and secure view on love. You cannot change your past, but you can influence your future.
4. Pick yourself.
If you ever felt in any way that one or both of your parents did not pick you, you may find you have a mission to get picked now.
Ever feel like you are second best to the person you desire? You are attracted to that. On a subconscious level, you have found a person where you can continue your fight to be picked.
Deep down, way beyond any conscious level, you believe that if you can get this person to pick you then it undoes the very abandonment that got you here in the first place.
As a child, I wanted to be picked over drugs. As an adult, I found people who were ‘too busy’ with work, sports, and/or drinking. I spent my time trying to make them pick me because I thought I needed that to prove my worth.
Learning to pick myself and quit seeking that external validation meant I am able to live my life confidently and not settle with anyone that has a highly different values system to me.
5. Master the art of emotional intelligence.
Here’s the thing, those with anxious attachments styles do possess a very unique skill in noticing when there is a slight shift or indication that there is a threat to the relationship. As soon as that is noticed, you get triggered, the old familiar feelings take over your whole being, and your only mission is to do what you can to save this relationship.
You must come to understand that the emotion you feel is simply a stored memory from your past. This is your bodily response to abandonment.
Take time to notice where you feel it in your body, and what happens to you physically, and name the emotions that you feel in those times. These symptoms should become your greatest warning sign that your anxious attachment system is activated, and it’s time to soothe yourself, the same way you would a child who is feeling overwhelmed because their mother has popped to the kitchen for five minutes.
Life isn’t enjoyable for anyone that goes through it without their own needs being met. So, get to work and write out what needs you have in your relationships.
Not only will this exercise highlight to your subconscious mind that you actually have needs, it will make it more likely that you admit it to yourself when they aren’t being met—so when you do find yourself back in the unhealthy pattern, it will be harder to lie to yourself about what this person brings to the table and how real this relationship really is.
It will become less likely that you will stay in the situation when you are working on this kind of conscious level and understanding.
7. Create something bigger for yourself.
I call this “Following Your Fire.” Whether you know it or not, you have a purpose, you have desires, and you have unique gifts to bring to this world.
When it comes to experiencing a real level of contentment and being able to walk away from crumbs, finding what lights me up as an individual has been the greatest move I have ever made.
I created a life that I care about. I nurtured the right relationships, I found the activities that I truly enjoy on a soul level, and I followed my deepest dreams that I had otherwise buried. While a healthy love is something I desire, I know for sure that my life is way more than that. That makes it so much easier to walk away from what does not serve me.
When you begin to practice the tips above, you likely won’t see progress straight away, but every now and then you will have monumental moments where you’ll see your growth and give yourself a high five.
When you get to know your attachment style and build a life that you adore, your confidence and self-worth will grow, and you’ll find yourself at a point where you won’t sacrifice your happiness for a person that doesn’t see your value.
You’ll decide that being single is nowhere near as bad as the anxiety that comes from the unhealthy relationships you’re used to. The fear of spending your life with someone who cannot meet your needs will become scarier than being single.
We may always be anxiously attached, but we can learn to live a secure life. So what are you waiting for?
Eleanor Roosevelt once said that “Happiness is not a goal; it is a byproduct.” As humans, we often believe that when we buy a house, or fall in love, or receive that well-deserved promotion at work, we will be truly happy. But why do we infer that happiness is only attainable through milestone events or achievements?
The reality of this tendency is that it may not be happiness that we are seeking and experiencing on a daily basis but instead satisfaction. Perhaps we live our day-to-day lives pursuing the things that make us happy, which then contributes to our overall sense of satisfaction.
If you look up happiness and satisfaction in a dictionary, the two definitions are quite similar. Both use words such as “joy” and “contentment,” describing a pleasant and delighted emotion. But why is it then that people often say, “Do what makes you happy” but never think to advise “Pursue what satisfies you”? It may have a different ring to it, but it is a good indicator of a different sense of contentment.
We reached out to cognitive behavioral therapist and clinical psychologist Jennifer Guttman, Psy.D., to better distinguish happiness and satisfaction.
The difference between happiness and satisfaction.
Research shows that the most frequent uses of the word happiness revolve around describing someone’s personality, as in being characterized as a happy person. It is also used in association with materialism and experientialism, conveying that when you purchase or experience something, you may experience happiness. Although definitions are vague and vary, happiness ultimately seeks to portray a moment of temporary bliss.
“Happiness is fleeting,” Guttman explains. “Happiness is a feeling someone gets when they experience something out of the ordinary that brings them joy. With that feeling, a neurotransmitter, dopamine, is released, which gives us an elevated mood state. However, this elevated mood state is not sustainable because it’s reliant on the release of this neurotransmitter.”
Satisfaction, on the other hand, is an enduring feeling experienced for a longer period of time, as a result of the collection of life events and feelings you’ve experienced. Guttman describes satisfaction as a more balanced, sustainable state because it’s not neurotransmitter-dependent the way happiness is.
Or as Daniel Kahneman, Ph.D., Nobel Prize winner and psychologist, explained in his TED Talk, we experience happiness in our lives as well as happiness with our lives. This latter principle is akin to the concept of satisfaction, which we experience more frequently and thus influences our attitudes and behaviors. Satisfaction is a better indicator of how content we feel toward our lives overall and may contribute to more mindful decisions that bring our lives meaning.
For example, you come home from a long day at work and are greeted by a package at your front door of a new pair of shoes that you had ordered a few days prior. At the moment of opening that package, you might experience excitement and happiness. The moment then passes, and you are onto your next activity. However, each day you wear those shoes, you are reminded of your purchase and are satisfied. Therefore, feeling satisfied has a longer-lasting impact on people’s moods, whereas experiencing happiness is an instantaneous, temporary sensation.
Which is more important?
Guttman describes satisfaction as a more long-term and tangible solution than happiness. “When people think ‘happy’ as joy or effervescence is attainable, it creates cognitive dissonance when that feeling is not sustainable,” she explains.
That said, happiness and satisfaction are intertwined, as “most people experience satisfaction on an ongoing basis, interspersed with moments of happiness,” Guttman explains. “They are both attainable, but satisfaction is more sustainable.”
“People become more satisfied by becoming more self-confident, self-reliant, by developing a strong sense of self, by developing a sense of their effectiveness in the world, and by believing in their inherent lovability,” Guttman says.
To strengthen your sense of self, she recommends finishing tasks (not just starting them), making decisions for yourself, facing fears, and avoiding people-pleasing behaviors. Facing your fears, for example, may not make you happy—but it sure is satisfying.
2. Write down at least one good thing that you experience each day.
As the saying goes: Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day. Especially in today’s current climate, you may feel that your daily routine has become redundant and complacent. However, it is all about where you channel your energy and focus. Whether you meet an old friend for lunch or go for a relaxing bike ride, write it down. Those moments will turn into memories and will leave you feelingmore grateful and optimistic in the long run, as you are able to go back and read them. The benefits of gratitude are all about creating a sense of lifelong satisfaction, as opposed to simply seeking moments of exuberant happiness.
3. Put yourself out there.
Some research suggests extroversion is associated with more life satisfaction and overall well-being. Despite this pandemic, it is easier than ever to reach out to someone and make a new friend. From becoming a pen pal with a patient in a nursing home to just messaging an old friend you’ve lost touch with, you may rekindle or create new friendships that could enhance your interpersonal skills and revitalize your daily routine.
The bottom line.
Making happiness your destination may cause you to miss out on this exciting journey of life, a journey that has many twists and turns, with new opportunities appearing each day. Recognizing what makes you feel satisfied, on the other hand, can contribute to a more positive attitude and outlook on life while feeling more fulfilled. By living through this lens, we can experience not just moments of happiness but a lifestyle that is enduringly satisfying.
You can tell a lot about a person by the way they communicate. If you pay close attention, you might notice things like a coworker struggling with confidence or a potential boss with impressive levels of emotional intelligence. Those insights allow you to make better decisions — say, lifting your coworker up in meetings so you can produce more impactful team work together or sizing up whether you want to accept an offer based on your impression of your future boss.
“Through a person’s communication style, you can tell their level of emotional intelligence. You can tell how authentic and sincere someone is by their willingness to speak from a vulnerable place,” says Rina Rovinelli, speaking coach and co-founder of global speaking competition Speaker Slam.
But what about what your own communication habits reveal about you? Knowing how others might potentially perceive you and gaining more self-awareness can only help you navigate professional waters more smoothly and improve the way you carry yourself at work. We’ve asked Rovinelli, who’s coached and judged hundreds of professional speakers, to share her insights on what different communication habits say about a person. Whether you’re an awesome listener or tend to learn information by heart before meeting a prospective client, take notes and elevate your speaking skills.
If you are a good listener
“If they are a good listener, I see them as being introspective and considerate. I see their emotional intelligence in their willingness to hear me without thinking about what they’ll say next. I see their desire to understand me fully. In a business sense, I want to work with people who understand me and who are willing to meet me where I’m at,” says Rovinelli.
So if you are an introvert who prefers to pay attention rather than talk for the sake of talking, you’re doing something right. Tap into your natural sense of empathy by using your understanding of other people to be more effective, whether you’re delegating work to reach team goals or personalizing a business proposal.
If you communicate vulnerably
Think vulnerability at work is a recipe for disaster yet you just can’t stop sharing your true feelings? You might want to rethink your stance — times are changing and showing your human side without worrying about appearing perfect can actually help you connect with others and build trust, according to Rovinelli.
“If they communicate vulnerably, I see their authenticity and realness. I trust this person more. I resonate and connect with their honesty. I see them as a person beyond an employee and it allows me to trust them,” she says.
If you are well-spoken and articulate
If you are a seasoned public speaker who loves to command attention in a room full of people, you project confidence and make those who work with you feel secure in your abilities. “If they are well-spoken, and articulate I feel a level of confidence in their abilities. I feel secure with people who I view as intelligent and well-versed. I assume that someone who is so profound and well-spoken must represent a business that has integrity,” says Rovinelli.
If you are rehearsed and repetitive
Do you tend to get so prepared before important professional interactions that you rehearse at home over and over again? Are you overly concerned about staying on message around your company’s mission and values? You might have good intentions, but it could be hurting your chances at building rapport. “If they are rehearsed and repetitive, I lose trust. I feel that they are sharing the company propaganda and I tune out. So often in business, professionals are taught the company lingo and it ends up feeling contrived and insincere.”
In this case, less is more. Try prepping by understanding the information you want to convey rather than learning what you want to say by heart. And trust your ability to internalize the information well enough to speak about it in a more organic, spontaneous way when needed.
If you struggle and use a lot of filler words
If you struggle to speak and tend to use filler words such as“like” or “um” every two seconds, you might be unknowingly hurting your credibility as well — especially in a customer-facing role, according to Rovinelli. “If they struggle to speak and use a lot of filler words I lose confidence and feel a lack of security. If a company’s best salesperson or representative can’t speak powerfully, it says a lot to me about the lack of credibility of the organization,” she says.
Don’t fret just yet, the habit of speaking confidently can be cultivated. It’s all about practice.