Part I: Smile Your Way to Wellness



To gain that which is worth having, it may be necessary to lose everything else.

~Bernadette Devlin

When people ask me how to find joy and peace, I always respond by asking the question: Where are you right now in your world? After listening to their response, I ask: What do you need in order to be shifted to a better place?  

The easier step to shifting is by looking at yourself in the mirror.  That’s it.  Look yourself square in the eyes and tell yourself that you’re going to be ok!  Say it with a smile! You have a choice to make. You can choose to wallow, be angry, tell yourself you’re sick, tired, or any tell yourself any other story you’ve been telling yourself for God knows how long. Whatever you’re telling yourself is true.


You can go another route.  A route that is much more compassionate and kind.  One where you choose to accept where you are and what you’re going through.  Breath deeply. Exhale fully.  Tell yourself, “All will be well”.

Once you are able to get yourself to that point, have fun playing around in that mirror. How silly will you allow yourself to be?  Can you make faces at yourself?  Can you tell yourself that you feel great?  Can you tell yourself that you’re filled with goodness and all things that feel great? Can you tell yourself that you’re going to be ok? Can you simply smile and love yourself? Can you believe yourself when you say it?


In order to SHIFT to a better place, you need to ask yourself if your belief system is working for you. What story are you telling yourself? Does that story need to change?  If so, you can begin with the mirror exercise above and have fun being silly.

I’m going to get a little scientific here but it’s for good reason.  When the brain is confronted with a vivid event, it treats that event as if it were the real thing.  The repetition of seeing, hearing, or believing this event builds neurological pathways in the brain.  It actually imprints a belief into the brain establishing long-term pieces of information and behaviors when repeated over and over again.


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To illustrate this, think about the person who is afraid to fly.  Most likely they feel vulnerable because they’ve seen crashes dramatized in movies and catastrophes on the news.  The more news they watch about plane crashes and the more times they watch Red Eye over and over again, they are imprinting that negative message about flying into their brain; when in reality statistics show the everyday routine of driving our car is much more life-threatening than traveling by plane.

I am not a doctor, a neuroscientist, a biologist, or a researcher; but I am a very curious individual who reads research and tries to figure out how to implement what makes sense to me and I work to align that new information with the needs of my body, mind, and soul.  Negativity does not work for me.  It is toxic and it’s not a part of my belief system.  Negativity can be one of your biggest hurdles especially if you’re surrounding yourself with people who find the dark side in everything.  They are naysayers, the Debbie Downers, energy suckers.  Let’s talk about dealing with them next!

People, Places, and Things

Twelve-step recovery programs encourage participants to change the people, places and things in their life if they intend to change self-destructive behavior.  Telling yourself a negative story is a self-destructive behavior. If you intend to SHIFT yourself to a better place, you need to change what you tell yourself.

“I feel like crap”. “I look like shit”. “I can’t believe this is happening to me!” ” What’s wrong with that nurse?!”  

The more you continue to use negative statements, the deeper these words are imprinted into your brain. You are literally making grooves in your brain and working those thoughts in deeper, where they will quickly become a part of your belief system.  The harder you work them in, the harder they are to work out.

Be patient with yourself.  

The Affirmation page on this blog will help to SHIFT your self-talk to a healthier, more positive dialogue; one that will bring about smiles and feelings of wellness. The good news is that you acknowledge any negative thought patterns and are willing to SHIFT yourself to a better place.  

It is essential that you cultivate your awareness.  Your words and actions have incredible power.

Dealing with People

I have become quite good at keeping negativity at bay.  I minimize the amount of time spent with those who feed on negativity in the world and I enjoy spending my time with people who make me laugh and have a positive spin on all of life’s experiences.

It’s hard to come back to life, as I call itand willingly dump yourself into a world of dis-ease and toxicity.  Doing so is not honoring where you’ve been and what you’ve gone through.  Your body, mind, and spirit deserve so much more.  Own who gets to spend time with you.

You now have a real sense of time. It is precious.  It is yours.  It is not to be wasted.  Honor it.  Honor yourself.   Be choosy.

Let’s face it, there are times when you find yourself in the thick of negativity and you have to do something to protect yourself.  Try my plexiglass exercise and see how it works for you. (It’s more recently morphed into a rose to send out softness.  In my mind, I write the name of the person, place, or thing on one of the petals of my rose to absorb the energy coming at me and keep it out of my field. Do what works for you.)    


When I sense a conversation heading down the path of pessimism, I quickly build an invisible plexiglass wall from the ground up separating me and the person I am speaking with.  My invisible plexiglass deflects any heaviness of their energy, their body language, and their words, and safely keeps my space protected.  Give it a try and see how light you feel when walking away from a Debbie Downer.

For a softer effect, visualize a rose the size of your torso right in front of you.  With your mind’s eye, write their name on a petal and allow their energy to go right down the stem to be incinerated at the Earth’s core. KEEP IT OUT OF YOUR SPACE.

There was a time when confrontation made me a nervous wreck.  I would avoid it at all times and often suffer silently and compromise my truths until I learned two powerful tricks that allowed me to lean in to the situation at hand and fully represent myself in a manner that was non-confrontational.

The first trick is a tactic I teach to students called Constructive Negative and Corrective Feedback.  Created by Richard and Elaine Solomon, this feedback is part of a complex set of listening skills used to help people become more assertive.  I share this skill with students when I see the need to help a child combat bullying behavior or an uncomfortable situation they find themselves in. Constructive Negative and Corrective Feedback is a special kind of negative feeling statement.  It involves telling a person what specific behaviors he or she is doing that bothers or irritates you.  The formula for giving Constructive Negative and Corrective Feedback is a follows:

1-State and own your negative feeling.

Example: I really do not appreciate…      I dislike…     I get upset…

2-State the specific behavior.

Example: …when you don’ t listen to me.     …when you ignore me     …when you forget to call me

This structure allows the speaker to state his or her feelings in behavioral terms as opposed to being general like when you tell someone, “You treat me terribly”.  The feedback is designed to help both the speaker and the listener and when stated properly, the receiver can acknowledge the message because the feelings have been made quite clear without any judgment.

Holding on to what makes us angry and annoyed is toxic to our immune system.  It is imperative that we manage our anger in a healthy way.  My go-to sentence starter for addressing what annoys me is, “I would greatly appreciate it if you would consider…”

When you state your needs as a request and not a demand, others hear what you’re saying because you are being respectful of the other person.

The second trick is not necessarily a trick as much as it is an affirmation that I came across recently.  The quote is attributed to Dr.Seuss but actually the latter part of the quote came from the presidential advisor of FDR, Bernard Baruch, regarding the seating arrangements at a dinner party he was hosting. 

Be who you are and say what you feel, those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

This quote is GENIUS!!! This quote hangs on our refrigerator to serve as our family mantra. It speaks to our truths. It helps us all greatly to put any drama that makes its way into our world into perspective.


Dealing with Places

What does your belly feel like when you’re on your way to work? a friend’s house? the store?  Is there hesitation? Tension? Anxiety?

Your belly is your second brain. It’s your intestinal intelligence; your gut instinct.  

Trust it, it is telling you something.  Listen to it.  While it’s not conducive to stay home from work, narrow down what’s giving you angst at work.  Is a friend or family member causing you undue stress? Put Constructive Negative and Corrective Feedback to the test and end the silent suffering.  Or, very simply, minimize the time spent with that person. If they are not bringing joy to your world or cannot find joy in what you have to share, they don’t belong in your space.  If shopping is getting you down, figure out if it’s a financial issue or a situational one.

I highly recommend It’s Not Your Money class taught by Tosha Silver if finances are stressing you in any way.

You have total control over what stresses you.  What you have to figure out is just how much control you have over your stressors: Full, Some, or None. If your commute to work each day is long and stressful due to traffic, consider what you can control fully, some, or not at all.



  • the time you leave for work
  • your attitude
  • the route you take
  • listen to audio books




  • leave earlier or later
  • carpool




  • other people
  • volume of traffic
  • where you job is located
  • weather



Dealing with Things

As a previous middle school librarian, I often feel the urge to recommend books to help people along their journey.  Whether it is to relax and get lost in recreational reading or to find answers to questions they’re in search of, there is a book out there that will bring you ease in your efforts to find peace.  

The Recommended Reads link on this blog is filled with the many books that have helped me SHIFT to where I am today. The pages of these books are filled with words of wisdom, inspiration, and encouragement.

Stay away from books that are filled with violent themes and sad plots and read books that put a smile on your face.  Watch TV programs and movies and listen to music that fosters positive messages and makes you smile and laugh.  Humor is by far, one of the most appropriate interventions for stress.  After all, it’s better to have laugh lines than worrywarts. 

What are some other things you can avoid that may discourage the positive SHIFT you are working to create?

S.H.I.F.T. Work…Practice-makes-progress

Journal Time!

  1. What is the story you are telling yourself? Is it working for you?
  2. What is your new belief?
  3. Practice using  Constructive Negative and Corrective Feedback. Start by writing to someone who you would like to give it to. (You don’t have to send it…it’s just practice! You may even want to burn it.)
  4. Practice sliding up your imaginary plexiglass wall or soft rose.  
  5. Watch and listen to your favorite music, TV programs, and movies that put a smile on your face.
  6. Find something to laugh about each day. 

Put the pen to paper (or use the voice recorder on your phone to create a stream of consciousness).  Don’t judge. Don’t censor or proofread.  JUST WRITE!  If you feel inclined, post your thoughts and finding to Shift of Wellness Facebook page to share with the Shift community.  What helps one, helps all!




error: You deserve to be well. You deserve to be whole.
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