Recently, I was interviewed for a video series on tips for parents of teens. I think anyone can benefit from these though. Check out the video:
So much of how we operate as human beings is habitual. There are habits of how you get ready in the morning, of your movement, of how and what you eat, of how you spend your free time, etc. You even have habits of thinking! Typically, you operate from these places of habit on autopilot, without much awareness.
Most people try to change their habits at one time or another. It goes something like this for many… At some point, it becomes apparent to you that a habit is not working anymore, or it's not aligned with how you want to live, or it’s getting in the way of you functioning well. You decide to change it. You try to eliminate it, and after a few days or a week, you discover that it’s quite challenging. Maybe you do okay for a day or two and then slip back into that familiar way of being. You feel frustrated and maybe even give up…. If this has been your experience, you’re not alone. It is often the case that when you want to change a habit, there is a sense of urgency, often followed by disappointment and frustration when things don’t go the way you want quickly.
When you set out to change a habit, it may be the case that you’ve taken on too big of a task at once. It can be quite helpful to create small (tiny, even) concrete steps to focus on as you move toward changing a behavior or a habit. Commit to each step for a month, maybe even two, or three. For changes to integrate and be sustainable, the brain and nervous system need a lot of practice and repetition. A lot. Once a step feels like it is integrated and close to autopilot, it may be time to move on to the next step, and so on. Tread lightly and patiently.
While you’re in the process of changing an unwanted habit, challenging feelings will likely come up. It is important to recognize these feelings when they arise and name them. Naming how we feel lessens the intensity of the feeling. You may also choose to take some full, deep breaths and feel your feet on the ground as you practice being with your feelings. Remember to be gentle with yourself. This habit had served a purpose.
Another aspect of habit change that’s important is to choose a wholesome habit to cultivate as you decrease an unwholesome/unwanted one. It’s valuable to add a habit that feels joyful, meaningful or helps you thrive. In the same spirit as changing an unwanted habit, when you choose a wholesome habit to develop, create small, concrete steps to follow. Take one step at a time and be patient.
Changing a habit on your own can feel challenging and overwhelming. I invite you to contact me for support. You don’t have to do this alone.
Well, this year has been quite a wild one so far. I hope you're taking good care of yourself.
Due to COVID-19, our lives have changed in many ways. Some of us have circumstances that allow us to work from home, and all of us are encouraged to limit our time outside of our homes this year. I've spent some of my shelter-in-place time reading books and listening to podcasts.
Here's a partial list of books and podcasts that I've found worthwhile:
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully by Frank Ostaseski
Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier
Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection by Sharon Salzberg
Your Undivided Attention
Being Well with Dr. Rick Hanson
The Science of Happiness
The Ezra Klein Show
May you continue to take good care and be as well as is possible during this challenging time.
I had the pleasure and honor of being on my good friend's radio show, Radical Advice this week. The show is live on Tuesdays from 10:00a-12:00p on www.bff.fm and each episode is archived into the iTunes podcast app. Check out the episode, during which we practiced and talked about mindfulness, listened to some music and answered listeners' questions. Find this episode in the October 2017 archives in Itunes.
These days, all of us are communicating in various ways, all the time, with many different people. It may be face to face, on the phone, via email or text, or through social media.
When you feel negatively affected by what someone communicates to you, your emotions come to the forefront to protect you. As a side effect, your response may be less skillful and affect the other person negatively. This can lead to an escalation and prolong the negative feelings cycle.
Below is an acronym that can be useful to practice whenever you are communicating with anyone, via any medium. It can help you be more kind, clear, considerate and respectful in your message. It is often helpful to pause, take a breath and check in with yourself prior to your actions.
Before you speak, text, type and/or post, consider:
T. Is what you’re communicating true? Are you stating a fact or more your opinion or feeling about something? Check in with yourself and be clear.
H. Is what you’re communicating helpful? Are you helping the other person, yourself or the situation?
I. Is what you’re communicating important? How important is it and to whom? Is this something that can wait?
N. Is it necessary? Check out whether whatever you want to communicate is better left unsaid, or maybe you could benefit from giving yourself some space before you communicate this thing.
K. Is it kind? Check in about why you’re communicating. What’s your intention and purpose for this communication at this time? Will it be of benefit to you, the other person, the relationship? Is what you’re about to say skillful, respectful and thoughtful?
T.H.I.N.K. is based on a concept originally presented in the 1930s by Herbert J. Taylor
Take a moment to breathe in deeply and breathe out fully. Most people don’t pay much attention to this essential component of living. Yet, the breath is perpetually with us, providing information to the brain and the body.
The breath interacts with the autonomic nervous system, which is composed of two parts: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system activates the body; it is sometimes referred to as the “fight, flight, freeze” system. When the brain registers danger, whether real or perceived, it sends messages to the sympathetic nervous system to prepare for action: increase heart rate, breathe shallower, etc. Alternatively, when someone is relaxed, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated; sometimes called the “rest and digest” system. When the brain registers absence of danger, it sends messages to the body to slow down the heart rate, deepen breathing, etc.
Since the breath is a function we can regulate, there is a simple technique that can be used to engage the parasympathetic nervous system and help the brain and body calm down. This can be especially useful if you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed or stressed. The instructions are written below. You may want to read through the text before trying it out or practice as your read.
Many conversations I've had personally and professionally have led to discussing "self-compassion." It often lands heavily in people and a typical response is a lack of knowing how to be compassionate for oneself. Some of the most kind and generous people I know are the toughest on themselves.
Self-compassion may sound like an ominous or unrealistic feat, but perhaps it is possible to shift perspective, even a little. Merriam-Webster defines compassion as, "a feeling of wanting to help someone who is sick, hungry, in trouble, etc." Adding the "self," I suggest the following definition: a feeling of wanting to take care of myself when I'm sick, hungry, in trouble, etc. This seems like it may be a slightly less daunting. Perhaps just the intention of wanting to help is enough.
Aspects of compassion may include feelings of generosity, honesty, patience, kindness, and tolerance. I wonder if some ease can be found if "self-compassion" is replaced in the mind by a gentle intention such as, "May I be patient with myself right now," or "May I tolerate myself in this moment." The invitation is for this to be a well-wish for yourself rather than an expectation or demand.
If you're interested in investigating this practice in your life, I suggest starting with something that isn't very difficult or intense.
Often, it is helpful to get support when learning new coping skills such as this one. Contact me for a free consultation or to set up an appointment.
Many of us feel very busy most, if not all of the time. Recently, a comment from a pre-teen jarred me a bit. "I'm sorry I haven't called you. I've been really busy." It was a little amusing and then I found myself thinking about how this young man hears adults in his life say this, and it may be true as well, that he is busy. How can adults model and help cultivate a sense of slowing down for themselves and the young people in their lives?
One idea is to have a moment of awareness at the start and end of each day. When the alarm goes off, check in with what the mind is up to right away. Do you pick up your device and start working or interacting with others immediately? Are you already in meetings and/or rushing through the day? Perhaps take a moment to realize that you're still in your bed. The invitation here is to take an intentional breath or two before you get out of bed and start your day.
When you land back in your bed at the end of the day, perhaps turn off your device and take a few deep, intentional, aware breaths before you close your eyes and rest.
These simple practices may help start and end your day with a moment of connection, with yourself.
Want to learn more and get support around slowing down and developing more balance in your life? Call or text me for a free consultation: 415-533-0405.
I feel excited and thrilled to announce a new group I've started through meetup.com, Mindfulness Skills Meetup. The focus of the group is to learn about mindfulness, practice some mindfulness skills and meet like-minded individuals. At this time, we will meet once a month. The group will be informal and is not a therapy group, nor does it substitute medical or mental health care.
Please click the link below to learn more:
You're welcome to contact me with any questions or if you'd like more information.
The past Sunday evening, CBS' 60 minutes featured a segment on mindfulness. Anderson Cooper, who is a well known news reporter, experienced first hand a three day mindfulness meditation retreat here in Northern California.
Leading up to the retreat, he interviewed Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and was the leading teacher at the retreat.
The dialogue between them seemed meaningful, real and inspiring.
Particularly, I appreciated Kabat-Zinn's comment about showering. He suggested to check out if when we shower, if we are really in the shower. Sometimes, we could be already working, or talking with family or friends. In the mind, this means that we are no longer present and no longer really in the shower.
If you're curious about mindfulness; if you're skeptical about it; if you're a seasoned practitioner, I highly recommend watching this segment.
Please share your thoughts, if you wish.