How to Become More Compassionate

Compassion brings both short and long-term happiness. Showing compassion not only
allows you to feel better, but it helps those around you to feel better, too. Since we all
want to be happy, showing compassion can be a common goal for everyone.
Cultivating compassion is a worthwhile goal. It’s a significant part of being human
and can make you more grateful for the many good things you already have in your

How can we be more compassionate?

1. Have good intentions. Each day, simply have the intention of being
compassionate and showing compassion to everyone you encounter. Make it a
part of your morning ritual to remind yourself to be compassionate.

Before you go to sleep at night, reflect on how you were compassionate or
failed to show compassion that day. Remind yourself again to be
compassionate the next day.

2. Focus on the similarities you share with others. Human brains are great at
spotting differences. However, we have to make a conscious effort to spot the

When you find yourself feeling less than happy with someone, try to list as
many things as you can that you share in common.

Remember that all humans are similar in the ways that matter. For
example, we all need love, attention, happiness, affection, food, and

3. Be empathetic. With everything happening in our lives, it’s easy to focus on
ourselves and ignore the plight of others. Consider the similarities that others
share with your loved ones. Now imagine your loved one is suffering.

If you can see another person as being similar to your loved one, it will
become easy to be sensitive to their suffering.

Keep in mind that another person is someone else’s loved one.
How would you want your loved one to be treated during a challenging

4. Be compassionate with yourself. You might have noticed that the least
compassionate people are those that are the hardest on themselves. If you
won’t give yourself a break when you need it, you’re less likely to do it for
someone else.

Appreciate yourself and the challenges that you’ve experienced in your
own life. You’ll become more capable of doing the same for others, too.
Recognize that time you spend on yourself is time well spent. Refrain from
viewing it as an act of selfishness. You’re just as important as anyone else.
Let go of needing to be perfect. Nobody’s perfect, so it’s a game that can’t
be won. If you’ll stop demanding perfection of yourself, you’ll stop requiring
others to be perfect, too.

5. Be fully present with others. The ultimate kindness is to be 100% present with
someone. It’s also a great time to practice being mindful. Be supportive and a
good listener without thinking any stray thoughts.

It’s not always easy to stay in the moment when someone is hurting, but
you’ll be a better person for it.

6. Remember the times that others have been kind to you. Perhaps you can do
the same favor for someone else.

7. Remember the times that others have been unkind to you. Perhaps you can
spare someone else from feeling the same pain.

Being compassionate is really a gift you give to yourself. When you’re kinder to others,
you learn to be kinder to yourself. You also encourage others to take an interest in
your life and to direct compassion back in your direction.

How To Ask For What You Want…And Get It…

If you are like many of the clients I work with in my 1:1 coaching sessions, asking for what you want is a challenge and often right up there on your list with going to the dentist.  In other words, you know you really need to…you just don’t WANT to. 
Well, here are seven sure fire action steps you can take that will make it easier to ask for what you want AND get it.
A quick way to remember these skills is by using the acronym DEAR MAN. 
It stands for:
 Mindful (stay mindful)
 Appear Confident
To make this more clear, let’s go through each skill one-by-one.
Describe the current situation (if necessary).  It’s important to stick to facts, of course, but you need to tell the person exactly what you need and what you’re reacting to.
Express ‘your FEELINGS and OPINIONS about the situation.  It’s important you don’t assume that your feelings and opinions are already clear.  Use phrases such as “I want” or “I don’t want” instead of phrases like “I need” or “you should” or “I can’t.”
Assert yourself by ASKING for what you want or SAYING NO clearly.  It’s crucial that you don’t assume people can read your mind.  Assume that others will not figure it out unless you clearly ask.  And, don’t expect others to know how hard it is for you to ask directly for what you want.
Reinforce or reward the person ahead of time by explaining CONSEQUENCES.  Tell the person the positive effects of getting what you want or need. Tell him or her (if necessary) the negative effects of your not getting it. Help the person feel good ahead of time for doing or accepting what you want. Reward him or her afterwards.
Mindful (stay mindful)
Keep your focus ON YOUR OBJECTIVES. 
Maintain your position and don’t be distracted.
You may have to employ the “broken record” concept of repeatedly asking, saying no, or expressing your opinion over and over. 
You may also have to ignore the other person if they attack, threaten you, or attempt to change the subject, ignore facts, or try to divert you.  Ignore distractions and just keep making your point.
Appear Confident
Appear effective and competent.  Use a confident voice tone and physical manner.  Make good eye contact. Don’t stammer, whisper, stare at the floor, retreat, or say things like “I’m not sure;’ etc.
Be willing to “GIVE TO GET.” 
This can take many forms, and books have been written on this topic alone. 
However, here are some concepts and strategies you can employ.

  • You can offer or ask for alternate solutions to the problem.
  • You can reduce your request.
  • You can maintain a position of “no” but offer to do something else or solve the problem another way.
  • You can turn the tables by turning the problem over to the other person.  For example, try phrases like “what do you think we should do?” or “I’m not able to say yes, and you seem to really want me to, so what can we do here” or “how can we solve this problem?”

So, in conclusion, if you keep the acronym “DEAR MAN” in mind, you will be more likely to get what you want when you ask for it. 

To help you remember this technique, we created a freebie.  Simply enter your name and email to the right.

5 Tips To Help You Create a More Loving and Happier Family Life

What does it take to have a more loving family dynamic?

  1. 140207-family-group2Focus more on what everyone does right. Instead of focusing on what displeases you, focus more on what you love. Your spouse and children love praise more than they love criticism. So, start looking for all the things that make you happy and focus on the positive. You might even get more of it.
  2. Practice forgiveness. We all argue and have disagreements. We all have bad days and can irritate each other. The key is to ask for forgiveness and easily forgive our family members when they hurt our feelings. Holding grudges will steal your joy and happiness. Conflict is a part of life and we learn to forgive quickly if we practice forgiveness.
  3. Hug several times a day. Make hugging a big part of your family routine. Hug when you wake up, before you leave the house, when you come home and before you go to bed. Hugging is shown to reduce stress and actually make you happier. So, make hugging a big part of your daily routine even if you have teenagers.
  4. Connect and schedule quality time. Most of us are very busy and have a lot of responsibilities. It’s not always the amount of time we spend with our loved ones, but it’s the quality. Most of us are physically with our family, but we are not ‘really’ with our family. The key is to give your undivided attention to your family when you are with them. This makes them feel important and that is what most of us want to feel…IMPORTANT.
  5. Find ways to LAUGH together. The family that laughs together stays together. Find ways to loosen up and have fun. Each day find ways to connect and laugh over funny stories from the day, a joke, a little goofy or silly time or even watching a funny comedy together. Laughter is still the best medicine and can do wonders for creating a loving and happier family.
Today life can feel so overwhelming and sometimes we just have to take a step back and remember what is most important.

Your Weekly Meditation: Emotions Are Friendly Messengers

Emotions are friendly messengers.

In the same way that you might feel overwhelmed by the sight of a tidal wave coming toward you, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the experience of your own intense emotions welling up within you – or the strong emotions of others headed in your direction. Emotions are not the enemy. They also do not necessarily belong to you. Sometimes you may be tuning in to the elevated emotions of peers, supervisors, or loved ones. Other times the emotions may belong to you, but their intensity may relate not just to one specific situation, but to one or more unresolved experiences you have had over time. In any case, emotions are not your enemy. They are friendly messengers letting you know that your own attention is needed.

This week I resolve to: Welcome whatever emotions may come – and become willing to examine each in their turn, accepting and processing the ones that belong to me, and returning the ones that don’t, back to their rightful owners.


Your Weekly Meditation: It is Okay To Feel Afraid

It is okay to feel afraid.

We often expect ourselves to leap towards every new goal or undone item on our to-do list with confident enthusiasm. But how often have we actually ever made any kind of change or progress while feeling this way? Most of the time, for most human beings, we feel some fear, some trepidation, some inner dissension, some reluctance, or some resistance to trying something new.  To expect any more of ourselves is both unrealistic and unkind, and to refuse ourselves the right to take action until our feelings improves is even more so.

This week I resolve to: Accept that feeling fear or resistance is a normal human response to taking on new challenges, and encourage myself when I notice my fear and refuse to let it stop me from moving forward.

Weekly Meditation: Emotions Are Always a Sign That I Need My Own Attention

Emotions are always a sign that I need my own attention.

We may think we want more attention from our spouse, more recognition at work, more visibility in our community, or more attention from our families. But what we always and ultimately are craving as we project these desires outward is our own attention. When we get too far away from ourselves, our own emotions let us know when and how to find our way back. Like a flesh wound that signals a need for care, emotions like sadness, fear, rage, joy, and peace, beg us to return home to share the experience, learn, and grow with ourselves.

This week I resolve to: notice my emotions and return home to myself to experience them with myself, learn, and grow.

I Don’t Need Others to Change to Be Happy

It is a very painful place to live – on the edge of our seats, chair’s edge cutting into our legs, holding our breath as we watch those around us to see if they are going to change in the way we think we need them to change in order for us to be happy. Today, we can begin to perceive that it is not others who need to change, but we ourselves. Today, we can begin to ask ourselves, “Is it true that I need so-and-so to do such-and-such in order to experience happiness? Is that really true?”

This week I resolve to: challenge my assumptions that I need others to change in order for me to be happy, and ask myself how I can find happiness in each moment even if others stay exactly as they are.

Fear and My Bicycle

When I was a little girl, I suffered a fairly serious foot injury as a result of a bicycle accident at the bottom of my grandparents’ driveway. Fortunately, I healed and have no permanent damage except for a nasty scar, but I spent that entire summer having to soak my foot several times a day. I was miserable being stuck inside with a gaping hole in my foot, and feeling left out that my friends were outside playing or swimming at the pool. So for the next few years, I avoided a bicycle out of fear that it would take me out of commission from everything else that I enjoyed.

As I have gotten older, I have developed a huge fondness for cycling, and my bicycle has actually taught me a lot about fear. For instance, while I was on a recent bike ride, it started to rain. I wasn’t yet that far from home, but worrying about the sudden thunderstorms of summer, I decided to turn back and change my route to circle my neighborhood in case the weather deteriorated. While I was riding, I started to think about how this pattern reflects many other areas of my life. When something slightly different or threatening starts to happen, I often become afraid that something much worse will follow, and sometimes I even change my course to not stray too far from what is familiar and safe. How sad is it when I allow my fear of what might happen dictate my ability to leave my comfort zone? And even sadder, what am I missing by worrying that a storm may come, when a good thunderstorm can actually be fun?

In Thom Rutledge’s book Embracing Fear, he proposes that fear is healthy when it is the rational kind and is warning us of some real and imminent danger, yet unhealthy when it is neurotic and based on the past or our imagination. Healthy fear is quiet unless there is something actually threatening our safety, then it is very clear about what we are to do. Unhealthy fear is that constant chatter in our heads warning us about what could happen, even though we may have no evidence to prove it ever will, and it certainly isn’t at the moment.

Back to my bike. Healthy fear was engaged a few weeks ago when a deer ran out in front of me on a bike ride, and I had to make a snap decision whether to go right, go left, or try to stop. The fear was very clear in its message – watch what the deer does, and do the opposite. Unhealthy fear would be in play if I never rode my bike on that road again, because I was afraid a deer might run out in front of me. I have, and it hasn’t. And besides that, if I handled the situation the first time, I certainly could if it happened again. 

So today I went on a ride, and was listening to that neurotic fear chatting away in my head about a totally different situation in my life. “What if … You better not … You know what’s going to happen if …”  You get the picture.

As is fairly common on my bike rides, I had an epiphany as I started to descend a hill over a section of broken pavement. How much scarier is it for me to go fast down this hill, than it was to climb it about an hour ago?  Translation: Even though nothing in my life is a huge struggle at the moment and I’m basically “coasting,” I am more comfortable when things are hard and I’m forced to climb and claw my way to the top. WOW… there is nothing to be afraid of staring me in the face, and yet I had allowed myself to listen to this neurotic chatter about fear that was taking up valuable space in my head, for no reason. Am I really that afraid of coasting along, allowing things to happen, and enjoying the ride?

The answer is NO. I’m not afraid, and I am grateful for the wisdom that came from that descent. 

Thom begins the first chapter of his book with a quote by Oriah Mountain Dreamer: “There is only one freedom: the freedom from fear.”  Ask yourself this question – do you feel free from fear? Can you listen to your fear and determine if it’s a healthy warning or neurotic chatter?  What would you be doing in your life if you weren’t afraid?

At Southlake Counseling, we understand fear and how to listen to it. If you are troubled by fear and want to take the first step in your personal freedom from it, schedule an appointment with us today.

Be well,


Your “Say Yes to Life” Monday Motivator: The Price of Beauty

When you think of the word “beauty,” what….and who….comes to your mind? How comfortable do you feel applying the word “beautiful” to a new blossom, a piece of art, the ocean – or yourself?

When I went to the dictionary to look up classical definitions, I was surprised by what I found – and then I felt surprised that I was surprised! One popular definition stated that “beauty is the quality that gives pleasure to the mind and senses.” Another lesser-known definition that I liked stated that “beauty is anything that resonates with personal meaning.”

When contemplating these definitions, it becomes difficult to wrap either mind or senses around the reasons why finding, feeling, and expressing our awareness of our own beauty often feels so impossible. However, the culture that surrounds us has a powerful impact on us even when we don’t realize it, and that culture seems to have a very different definition of beauty – one that says that “beauty is whatever we can sell you to break down and then build back up your fragile self-esteem.”

No one knows this better than Jessica Simpson, the hostess for a timely new well-intentioned show named “The Price of Beauty.”  The petite blonde singer-turned-actress-turned hostess has had her share of the appearance-related limelight, and sometimes with emotionally devastating results. The opening previews for “The Price of Beauty” shows one clip of Simpson breaking down into tears, and then laying down on stage, right in the middle of one of her concerts.

Interestingly, despite a widespread media-fostered viewpoint that Simpson’s brains went fishing and got lost at sea along with the chicken, er, tuna, she enjoys for lunch, she has stubbornly refused to stay silent on the subject of a woman’s right to feel beautiful regardless of others’ opinions. In fact, Simpson speaks frequently during episodes of “The Price of Beauty” about the pressure and scrutiny she has endured around every aspect of her appearance and the inner strength she has had to cultivate in order to hold her self-esteem intact. In fact, her song “In This Skin,” written in direct response to record company executives who encouraged her to continue to lose weight even when she weighed in at a size zero, she sings that she wants – and has the right to – feel worthy to feel beautiful in her own skin.

“The Price of Beauty” is not going to turn Simpson into a blonde Gandhi by any stretch of the imagination, as she and her two cohorts go gallivanting through the spas of India, Thailand, and Paris, hobnobbing with the highest echelons of fashionable society and occasionally spending a few moments plugging Simpson’s favorite charity, Operation Smile, or eating disorder awareness. But this is media after all, largely controlled by the moguls who make money by hawking low self-esteem and body hatred on every street corner.

This is also exactly why any attempt, no matter how minor, to give real women with real bodies and real choices a voice and a chance to feel beautiful must be watched and celebrated and supported. Over and over Simpson and her friends ask women in each country they visit, “what does beauty mean to you?” In India, she is told that beauty is laughter and honesty and living your life. In Paris she is told that beauty is “joie de vivre” – the joy of living. She shares with viewers that she is struck by how beautiful confidence is, and how inspired and grateful she feels when she meets a woman who exhibits the willingness to confront media-generated low self-esteem with direct action…like when the 5’4” Simpson decides to strut her stuff alongside the supermodels on a Parisian runway…..

…..or host a show like “The Price of Beauty.”

In her song “In This Skin,” Simpson sings, “they see me in a magazine -I’m the one they want to be – Still don’t feel I’m good enough – still don’t feel I’m thin enough – I stand up and I’m pushed back down – and every opinion now – It makes me feel inhuman – givin’ in and givin’ up.”*  But far from giving in or giving up, Simpson has once again found a way to push back against those who keep trying to push her and all of us into ever smaller, thinner boxes. With “The Price of Beauty,” however subtly, Simpson is forging ahead in her quest to feel beautiful in her own skin, and offering us the opportunity and the encouragement to do the same.

At Southlake Counseling, our transformative and empowering “Say Yes to Life” wellness program offers you the opportunity to experience your own radiant inside-out beauty through achieving balanced wellness in body, mind, heart, and spirit. In choosing what does not work for us to bring pleasure to mind or senses, we are then free to explore what does allow us to experience personal, vibrant, and radiant meaning and joy within ourselves, in our relationships, and throughout our lives. To learn more about how you can take charge of your own experience of health and beauty in your life, visit us today at

Be Well,


* “In This Skin”, Lyrics & Music by Jessica Simpson, Album “In This Skin”, © 2003

Are You Worried About Your Daughter?

Adolescence is a tumultuous time, in which rapid physical, emotional and mental changes occur, along with profound environmental transitions. Over the past decade, parents, teachers and therapists have become increasingly concerned with the effects of this period of development, and particularly with how adolescent girls are managing this critical time. Research has shown that adolescent girls are twice as likely as boys to suffer from depression, and the causes contributing to the prevalence of this problem are varied. Society pressures, combined with their desire or need for the approval of others, makes these girls overly sensitive to signals from other people that confirm or deny their feelings and behaviors as appropriate. Unfortunately, our society may be guilty of socializing young girls into depression proneness.

Friendship attachment has been proven a strong predictor of healthy mental development in adolescent females, and girls with lower levels of friendship experience higher levels of anxiety and depression, and exhibit less effective coping skills. Another study indicates that girls cite disconnection from important people in their lives, including peers and family members, as a major factor in causing depression.

The 2005 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance survey, conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reveals some troubling facts about adolescent girls in the United States. According to the data collected from almost 7,000 high school age girls, 37% of them reported having felt sad or hopeless to the point that they ceased their usual activities for two or more weeks during the year preceding the survey, and almost 22% of them had seriously considered attempting suicide. The incidence of depression in adolescent girls is prevalent at a serious level and can lead to a wide range of social, physical and mental problems. Mary Pipher in her bestselling book Reviving Ophelia points out that depression in adolescent girls ranges in degree from ordinary adolescent misery to the extreme of severe clinical depression, but that given the impulsivity of this age group, any degree of adolescent depression should be taken seriously.

Research on the effects of socio-evaluative concerns theorizes that girls experience depression at higher rates than boys, because they are more concerned with what their peers think of them. Although there are benefits to the importance that girls place on interpersonal relationships and the support that they provide, there are also negative consequences when an adolescent girl worries incessantly about concerns such as her appearance and being accepted by her peers. Adolescent girls cite feelings of loneliness and lack of support as contributors to a purposeful withdrawal from social interaction, leading to depression.

As a concerned parent of an adolescent girl, what can you do? First, pay attention to your daughter. Get to know her friends, be supportive of healthy friendships, and acknowledge her dreams as well as her fears. In order to keep their true selves and grow into healthy adults, girls need support and acceptance from both family and friends, meaningful goals, and respect, as well as physical and psychological safety. They need identities based on talents or interests rather than appearance, popularity, or sexuality. They need good habits for coping with stress, skills for self-nurturing, and a sense of purpose and perspective.  They need quiet places and quiet times, and they need to feel a part of something larger than their own lives.

Secondly, allow your daughter enough freedom to make some of her own choices, with clear and consistent consequences. Girls need homes that offer both protection and challenges.  Inside that home, they need both affection and structure.  The best message for teenage girls is “I love you, and I have expectations.” Ask your daughter questions that encourage her to think clearly for herself.  Listen for what you can respect and praise in what your daughter says, and whenever possible, congratulate her on her maturity, insight, or good judgment.  In other words, “Catch her doing good.”

At Southlake Counseling, we offer individual, family and group therapy services for adolescent girls and their families. If you are concerned about your daughter’s well-being, schedule a confidential assessment and allow us the opportunity to provide the guidance and support that she may need to thrive during this difficult phase of her development.

Be Well,


Debbie Parrott, MSW, P-LCSW
Southlake Counseling