Coping with loneliness during the holidays.

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When we feel a painful emotion, our first instinct is to pull away. To numb the pain. To hide from the intensity.

This was the case for Sarah and Jack, two unique individuals with vastly different circumstances. But they each experienced the same emotion: loneliness. An emotion that is heightened during the holidays.

Original Source:

I originally wrote this article for The Drive Magazine.

https://thedrivemagazine.com/posts/lean-into-loneliness/

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SARAH

Sarah was a 42-year-old recently divorced woman who was about to face her first holiday season alone. Living in a new town, miles away from friends and family, she was waiting to begin a new job in January. Hours felt like days.

Days felt like months. Sarah had tried everything to fill the void inside. The mistake she made was running away from the one thing that would help get her to the other side: loneliness itself.

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Knowledge is power

1. Understand the emotion

We need to first understand an emotion before we jump to the conclusion that it’s either good or bad, because in reality, emotions are almost entirely physiological in nature.

There’s not a negative or positive to them. It’s in our mind that we make it one or the other. This concept is supported by Schachter-Singer’s theory of emotion:

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This theory of emotion explains why two people can experience the exact same event and have completely different emotional reactions to it.

What matters most is the person’s interpretation of an event, not the event itself. After all, as they say, one person’s glass-half-full is another one’s glass-half-empty.

In Sarah’s situation, she interpreted her physiological response to idle time as loneliness, while another person might label it as much-needed relaxation. Ultimately, Sarah has a choice. One interpretation debilitates; the other empowers.

2. Witness the emotion

Now that Sarah understands the interpretative power she holds over her environmental triggers, the next step is to witness loneliness in a neutral, curious state rather than fighting it at every turn.

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In doing so, Sarah neutralizes the intensity of her emotions, allowing them to flow through her, rather than getting stuck in a repetitive loop of pain.

Here are four simple ways to create space between triggers and responses:

1. Count to 10

2. Take a long deep breath

3. Make three wishes

4. Look up at the sky

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Taken one step further, each time that Sarah experiences a challenging emotion during the holidays, rather than running from it she needs to lean in and ask that emotion, “What are you trying to teach me?”

3. Reframe the emotion

The final step for Sarah is to learn how to reframe the situations that trigger her loneliness, and understand why sometimes she overreacts, while other times she lets go without a second thought.

Solitude is perceived as isolation by one person and freedom by another.

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Reframing exercise:

1. Identify a situation that triggers loneliness.

2. Imagine the best-case scenario: “This situation is temporary.”

3. Look for evidence of the best-case scenario: “The longest I’ve been single is two years.”

4. Describe the worst-case scenario: “I will be alone forever.”

5. Name the benefits of the worst-case scenario: “I am free to do what I want.”

6. Finally, ask for help in reframing triggers, especially when feeling overwhelmed.

Once Sarah learns how to change the story “behind” the story, her instinctive loneliness lessens. And her ability to choose a higher thought improves.

Watch Video Summary

Click Here

JACK

At 55 years of age, Jack was also feeling the pangs of loneliness. His wife of 25 years died suddenly of a heart attack two years ago.

Unexpected was an understatement. They had run in three marathons together and had spent their weekends sampling new vegan restaurants in their local community. Ever since his wife had died, Jack struggled to face the holidays alone.

Jack’s story is as much about him as it is about the family around him. His family and friends’ automatic response was to feel sorry for him, a response that compounded his feelings of disconnectedness and misunderstanding.

Jack did not want people to feel sorry for him. He was a proud man who was ready to move on.

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Get out of your own head

1. Meet with “experienced” widowers

As much as Jack missed his wife, he also missed his ability to connect authentically with friends and family. Having been treated with kid gloves since his wife died, Jack longed to be seen as a victor rather than a victim

As such, I encourage Jack to connect with like-minded individuals who had been through a similar situation: widows and widowers. Specifically, ones who had been on their own for several years.

The benefits are twofold. One, Jack would learn new ways of relating to friends and family. And two, he’d be given the green light to grow and acclimate to his new circumstances.

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2. Connect with others in unexpected, low-pressure ways

The other component missing in Jack’s life was fun. Simple, cheerful, good-time fun. Everything had become so serious since his wife died, with almost every conversation beginning or ending with his wife’s death.

There was no doubt that he missed her with all his heart. But equally, he longed for moments where he could be free of the loneliness and pain.

I recommend that Jack reintroduce sports into his life. Something non-competitive that would get him out of the house on a Wednesday night. Better yet, if it involved people that he had never met, it would allow him to continue his journey of reinvention and rediscovery.

Equally therapeutic for Jack would be joining a cinema group or regular euchre meetup—both would offer him a chance to be in the moment and enjoy the simple pleasures in life.

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3. Honour the old, create the new

Finally, I advise Jack to examine the memories and traditions that he wanted to keep alive during the holidays—and, equally, the ones of which he was ready to let go.

Jack took the practice one step further. Declaring December a month of renewal and reinvention, he revived a strength and peace inside that radiated out to his entire family.

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Conclusion 

Jack and Sarah have a lot to teach us about loneliness and how important it is to honour the unique ways in which we process adversity.

One size does not fit all. Fellowship and fun were vital for Jack’s growth and recovery, while Sarah needed a more analytical approach to processing difficulty.

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• Lean into loneliness

• Approach it with openness and curiosity

• Make space for the lessons beneath the suffering

Disclaimer: This post and magazine article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. To protect the privacy of individuals, names and identifying details have been changed.

Your Turn

1. How do you cope with difficult emotions during the holidays?

2. What strategies do you use to make peace with the heightened pressures of the Christmas season?

3. What are your unique traditions and one-of-a-kind celebrations?

Video of Blog Post → Click Here

5 Ways to Focus Better | The Drive Magazine

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Why Can’t I Remember Anything?

One of the most frequent questions I was asked as a practicing psychologist and more recently as a psychology professor is why can’t I remember anything.

The problem is most likely a focusing issue — not a memory issue.

An important distinction between memory and attention that I share my Fall Focus Article in The Drive Magazine. And again, in more detail, in the focus video below.

In the video in particular, I describe how the Atkinson–Shiffrin memory model (see model below) differentiates between sensory, short-term, and long-term memory.

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And the important implications this model has for one’s ability to focus and remember information long term.

You can’t do big things if you’re distracted by small things.


Link to Fall Focus Article

5 Ways to Focus Better

Issue 124. The Drive Magazine.
Click Here: thedrivemagazine.com/posts/5-ways-to-focus-better

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Click Here: YouTube Understanding Memory

Thanks for your attention!

Dr. D 📚

ABC Technique: Transforming Painful Experiences

 Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing: your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves 

In this blog post and classroom video, I share strategies for transforming painful experiences. Especially those beyond your control.

Strategies include: Cognitive reframing (identifying and then disputing irrational or maladaptive thoughts) and the ABC technique (Antecedent, Belief, Consequence).

Dr. Andrea Dinardo ABC Technique

I also discuss my latest article in The Drive Magazine (link to article below) where I help a good friend transform the painful story in his life (house flood) into a more meaningful and empowering experience.

Read Here: https://www.thedrivemagazine.com/posts/the-stories-we-tell-ourselves

Dr. Andrea Dinardo The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Tips for Transforming the Painful Story in Your Life

1. Talk to others who have overcome similar circumstances. Be open to their lessons.

 2. Ask five people to identify five strengths. Refer to them during the low points in your day.

3. Reflect on times in your life when you have successfully overcome adversity.

4. Be proud of what you’ve been through and have faith in where you’re going.

Excerpt From The Stories We Tell Ourselves, The Drive Magazine

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

To Watch Video Click Here

DrAndreaDinardo.com

Failure as FEEDBACK | The Drive Magazine.

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There are two ways of looking at failure.

Failure as FEEDBACK.

Failure as PUNISHMENT.

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One energizes.

The other paralyzes.

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WHY FAILURE IS NECESSARY

I believe that failure is essential for success, at work and in our personal lives.

Failure lights our way to what we’re ultimately meant to do. Especially when we embrace it and consciously invite it into our lives. Pushing us past our comfort zones. Having the courage to take risks beyond our current circumstances.

Failure shows us what we’re good at, and equally what we are not skilled at. And how if we perceive failure as information (versus punishment) we will move on much more quickly to what we were born to do.

THE DRIVE MAGAZINE

I believe so strongly in the benefits of failure that I “pitched” failure as feedback to the editors of The Drive Magazine. And they said yes!

So here it is: A video overview of the February issue and links to the online edition of the magazine.

🔝  Psychology YouTube Channel 🔝

MAGAZINE edition
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of The DRIVE Magazine.

ONLINE edition
My psychology article “Failure as FEEDBACK” is also available online: https://www.thedrivemagazine.com/posts/failure-as-feedback

Related: Lean into loneliness | The Drive Magazine

Lean into loneliness | The Drive Magazine.

Good news to share!

This month I published my first psychology advice column for a Canadian magazine. The same magazine that profiled my work in positive psychology.

My intention for the psychology article is to inspire and comfort individuals experiencing loneliness during the holidays.

 VIDEO OVERVIEW

 Writing dreams & goals.

I have been writing psychology textbooks for McGraw-Hill Ryerson since 2009 and blogging since 2015.

But truth be told, I have always longed for something more. To write a psychology advice column for a magazine and eventually a book about psychology in everyday life.

Psychology for the people.

My intention is to make psychology accessible, engaging, and easy to apply. Integrate all of the stories, life lessons, and adversities I have witnessed over the years as a former school psychologist and now professor.

Empower the readers to find the strength inside.

Which is why I am thrilled to share an excerpt from the December PSYCH DRIVE column for The DRIVE Magazine.

 Lean into Loneliness —  Introduction

When we feel a painful emotion, our first instinct is to pull away. To numb the pain. To hide from the intensity.

This was the case for Sarah and Jack, two unique individuals with vastly different circumstances. But they each experienced the same emotion: loneliness.

An emotion that is heightened during the holidays.

Knowledge is power

1. Understand the emotion

We need to first understand an emotion before we jump to the conclusion that it’s either good or bad, because in reality, emotions are almost entirely physiological in nature. There’s not a negative or positive to them. It’s in our mind that we make it one or the other. This concept is supported by Schachter-Singer’s theory of emotion..

To continue reading article… click here

Lean into loneliness by Dr. Andrea Dinardo

Stay tuned for the next PSYCH DRIVE in 2019!

The Drive Magazine Interview.

Happy Monday Everyone!

I am excited to share my interview with The Drive Magazine on positive psychology and stress resilience. Inspired by my TEDx Talk: Thriving Under Pressure.

The 3 C’s of Positive Psychology

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My favourite part of this photo is the story behind it.

When the magazine was arranging the photo shoot, they asked where my favourite place to recharge was in Windsor (Ontario, Canada). I shared that it was a top of Blue Heron Hill overlooking Lake Heron and Lake St. Clair. So you can just imagine the photographer hiking his equipment up the hill, with me tagging along in my wedge high sandals!

But the reward was worth it..
All you can see is blue for days. My favourite colour and place. 💙🍃

I hope this interview encourages you to keep shooting for the stars and believing in your dreams.

Ultimately reminding you that the power within you will always be greater than the challenges around you.

Click on The Drive Magazine to read the full interview.

Good news to share.

The Drive Blog Promo

Hope everyone’s having a great day! I wanted take a moment and share some good news with you.

In June I was interviewed by THE DRIVE magazine for an article on mental health and thriving under pressure.

The creative director saw my TEDx Talk and reached out for input into their next issue. How cool is that!

Consequently, I will be their mental health expert for their “Pushing through the Boundaries” issue being published in August.

Which includes a professional photo shoot at my most favourite place, Blue Heron Lake. Pinch me please!

Nourishing mental health while reaching for the stars is something I hold dear to my heart. So please stay tuned for the rest of the story!

I’ll be sure to post a link to the interview soon!

Your Turn:

I’d love to hear your good news too!