The Next Step

There is now a growing body of evidence that the mind and body, the brain and the immune system are not separate but bound together. A person must take all of these into account when planning a healthy lifestyle. This page provides information on ways to move forward with your life and take those difficult next steps into your future.

How to Stay Well (or Get Better)

  • Do things that bring you a sense of fulfillment, joy, and purpose. See your life as your own creation and strive to make it a positive one.
  • Pay close and loving attention to yourself, tuning in to all of your needs. Take care of yourself, nourishing, supporting, and encouraging yourself.
  • Release all negative emotions...resentment, envy, fear, sadness, anger. Express your feelings. Don't hold on to them. Forgive yourself.
  • Hold positive images and goals in your mind, pictures of what you truly want in your life. When fearful images arise, re-focus on images that evoke feelings of peace or joy.
  • Love yourself and love everyone else. Make loving the purpose and primary expression of your life.
  • Create fun, loving, honest relationships, allowing for the expression and fulfillment of intimacy and security. Try to heal wounds in past relationships, as with old lovers, and mother and father.
  • Make a positive contribution to your community through work or service that you value and enjoy.
  • Make a commitment to health and well-being and develop a belief in the possibility of being totally healthy. Develop your own healing program, drawing on the support and advice of experts without becoming enslaved to them.
  • Accept yourself and everything as an opportunity for growth and learning. Be grateful. When you screw up, forgive yourself. Learn what you can from the experience, and then move on.
  • Keep a sense of humor.

Pathways to Happiness

  • Decide that you want to be happy and that you are willing to make it happen and also let it happen. Envision joy.
  • Love. Friendship and intimacy can be yours. Share your innermost self that you may become knowable. Cultivate some humility that you may become likable. If you are honest you will be seen as trustworthy. Good will is unconquerable.
  • Work hard (but not too hard) at life. Choose a career that you can believe in. Find your true vocation or "calling". Don't give up. Don't settle for less.
  • Serve. Embrace altruism. Give to others. They need what you have to give them. You will see yourself in a much more positive light as you develop your God-given capacity for generosity and loving kindness. Teach what you know.
  • Create. You have mysterious talents. Some are unique to you. You have gifts that will enable you to make certain remarkable contributions to the community. You are an utterly new creature with a rare personal vision.
  • Risk. Stir yourself up. Try something different. Startle yourself. Variety is the spice of life. have the courage. You are resilient.
  • Care for your body. Make yourself healthy. Diet, exercise, and rest. You know what to do. Run. Jump. Breathe. Swim. Bicycle. Walk. Be well.
  • Laugh. Release tension. Play. Be a little kid again. Be spontaneous.
  • See the world and learn from it. Behold creation. Stand in awe. Become involved in wonder. Invest in the real.
  • Pray. Seek to encounter the God of your understanding at the same time that you permit yourself a greater understanding.
  • Permit the life process to unfold. Organize, but not too much. Plan, but not too much. Be ready to seize opportunities. Pay attention to the life processes working in your own life.
  • Hope to become humble, for in humility is our salvation, our redemption, our best chance at full humanness. Hope for anything. Expect nothing.

Silhouette of a man sitting at sunset.

Choosing Your Future

Among the feelings that accompany the loss of a loved one are feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. It is the experience of not being in control, of having things done "to you" rather than "by you".

As we go through the grief process one of the tasks we face is regaining our sense of personal power. While we do not control everything that comes our way in life, we do have power to choose within certain limits. We are not totally at the mercy of the world or the events in our lives. We can help shape our lives, our environment, and choose our future.

How can we begin to choose our future? We choose our future by choosing to feel, to think, to want, and to act. First, we can choose to allow ourselves to grieve, to feel our pain, and thereby, to begin to heal. Recovery from grief is a choice. Second, we can choose to identify distortions in our thinking that tend to lead us to give up on life or to give in to despair. One distortion is emotional reasoning where we assume that because we "feel it", it must be so. We assume our negative emotions reflect outward reality. In grief, we get caught in the distortion "I will never enjoy life again", or "I feel awful so life is awful".

Another distortion in grief is overgeneralization in which we see a single event as a never ending pattern. We say, "The death of my loved one means I will never be close to anyone again." Sometimes in grief, we personalize everything and assume we are the cause of a negative event for which we were not primarily responsible. We may blame ourselves for our loved one's death. We then tend to mislabel ourselves by saying, "I'm no good", "I'm a loser", "I'm a failure", or "I am powerless or helpless". Other distortions include magnifying our mistakes, minimizing our positive strengths, or jumping to negative conclusions without checking out the facts. We can choose to identify our distorted thinking and to correct it. Our thinking helps determine how we feel. It isn't just what happens that makes us feel good or bad, but how we interpret it. Watch your thinking. It determines your feelings to a large extent and it shapes your view of possible futures.

If we choose our future by choosing to feel, to think, to want, and to act, it is important to discover what we want. Knowing what we want is not easy for we confuse it with what we think we should want, what others want for us, and just the simple problem of clarifying our own desires. One way to begin to discover what we want is to keep a notebook and each day write down our answer to the question, "What do I want?". Over a period of weeks we may discover that the same answer appears often, while other answers appear once or twice. What we really want we will act upon, just as we will act upon what we truly believe and think.

Leaver, Wayne, Ph.D. Hope Hospice, Fort Meyers, Florida