Thursday, March 27, 2014

What, Me Worry?

When I was a kid I loved Mad Magazine. Every month my brothers and I would wait excitedly for the new issue to hit the newsstand so we could dive headfirst into our favorite features like Spy vs. Spy, The Lighter Side of..., and the Mad Fold-In. The front of the magazine, of course, featured freckled-faced coverboy Alfred E. Neuman and his trademark catchphrase, "What, Me Worry?"

The expression aptly describes the care-free and clueless persona of someone without a care in the world who lets life's troubles just roll off his shoulders -- an attitude toward life mirrored years later by singer Bobby McFerrin in his 1988 chart topper Don't Worry, Be Happy, and by Pharrell in the more recent hit Happy, from the movie Despicable Me 2.

Last Thursday, March 20, was the International Day of Happiness. "Never heard of it," you say? Well, I hadn't, either, but it's a day of global celebration established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012, which, in its resolution establishing the day, states that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal, and encourages the happiness and the well-being of all peoples. Can't argue with that!

In a recent post on The Positivity Blog entitled, "How to Stop Worrying: 9 Simple Habits," Henrik Edberg offers helpful and practical guidance on how to decrease worry and reach a higher level of happiness and well-being by utilizing, among other strategies, the disciplines of mindfulness and good, basic self-care. It's worth checking out.

Many of us, I  guess, would like to worry less. I know I'd like to! But the reality is it's not always as easy as repeating a McFerrinism like, "Don't worry, be happy," or as simple as adopting a clueless and naive, ignorance-is-bliss attitude as a coping mechanism for maneuvering our way through the obstacles of life. Rather, it requires being honest regarding those things about which we worry -- naming them for what they are, and recognizing when it's realistically within our control to do something about them -- and when it's not.

Say more about that...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood!

Today is Fred Rogers birthday! It's also the first day of Spring. And it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood!

I feel a connection with Mr. Rogers because 1) he was a Presbyterian minister, as am I; 2) he was a musician, as am I; and 3) he liked to wear cardigan sweaters and sneakers. Okay, well, two out of three ain't bad!

And even though I was 11 years old (and practically an adult!) in 1968 when the television show Mr. Rogers Neighborhood first aired, I still have fond memories of Mr. McFeely, Queen Sara, and the opening theme song Won't You be My Neighbor. I also remember well Eddie Murphy's parody of the show on Saturday Night Live in the early 80s, which Rogers himself allegedly described as "amusing and affectionate." Murphy's parody was funny stuff, I think, albeit a bit edgy!

In recognition of Rogers birthday, PBS Parents posted the following quote from Mr. Rogers regarding his philosophy about children and sense of self: "You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are."

As a therapist and counselor, I often work with clients who struggle with low self esteem -- a less-than-positive sense of self based on the perception that who they are as individuals is just not very good. Often these perceptions are the result of past experiences that have left them feeling like they're pretty much worthless and don't have much to offer the world. Conversely, when children are taught to feel good about themselves -- that they have value and deserve to be valued -- they tend to make better choices in life. And so, it follows that if we teach our children to have positive self regard, that goes a long way toward helping them make healthy, positive choices in life. I think Rogers understood that. It was surely reflected in his work.

Rogers made the world special. And you know how? By just being himself.

Can you say more about that? I knew you could...