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Loving the Adventure

When I am on vacation, I am acutely aware that I live differently.  I don’t mind driving to a restaurant, a museum, a park, etc. I don’t mind “wasting time”.  I don’t mind letting myself and my kids indulge in (less than healthy) treats.  I don’t mind weather that isn’t just right…

…we might say that I am more flexible.

So today I found myself in a dilemma: I had nothing planned.  I had no where to be.  We had no family appointments.  I was aware that we all needed an adventure though.  Post-vacation, I had imposed a bit of “family lock down” to get us back into our routine. We hadn’t gone out to dinner or on any outings in two full weeks.

I was a bit frustrated at the temperature: it was sunny and beautiful; however, there was a nip in the air that I didn’t appreciate.

Begrudgingly, I decided to confront the weather and head out.  We loaded up our bikes, snacks and hit the road to a fun park about 20 minutes away.  I was excited as I knew it was flat and my youngest is just learning to master peddling.  Upon arrival…we were greeted with road closed signs due to floods. SO DISAPPOINTING! Try explaining that to two preschoolers!

Next stop: a 15 minute drive to another fun park with relatively flat topography.  As we pull up I saw a SEA of cars in the parking lot and tons of parking signs…apparently it was an Earth Day celebration! That is typically the kind of thing I would avoid without mental prep….but I was not going to tell them we couldn’t go to this park either! So we unpacked and hit the pavement!

I am so glad that I chose to seek adventure today…in fact, I don’t think I ever really regret choosing adventure.  We all enjoyed the fresh air and sunshine.  We all enjoyed Dole Whip ice cream! We enjoyed the playground even if it was a bit over crowded.  I enjoyed each other’s company and making new memories!

 

Inspiration, mental health

Self Care Life Hacks

  1. Bring a water bottle with you EVERYWHERE. Seriously, hydration affects everything from our skin to our moods. The ripple effect of dehydration makes us moody, constipated, and our bodies will start to crave any foods we see (regardless of health content) because our body can leach water from the food. I most commonly hear people complain about the taste of water fountain water…I challenge you to conquer this fear as the cost of NOT drinking water fountain water is so steep.  You can certainly fill it before leaving your home with your water of choice…but in a pinch, fill up! Take the leap and buy the water bottle you have been lusting after…it is a small price to pay for the benefits reviewed.
  2. Take time at the beginning of your week to review your schedule and make a plan for when you will eat each day. This seems to be the first thing people skip and again, the consequences have a negative ripple effect on everyone you encounter (including yourself)! Each morning, make sure you have a stash of healthy snacks available in your bag, car, purse and/or desk. The magic time frame that you don’t want to exceed is 4 hours between meals.  The kindest thing you can do for your blood sugar is to keep it stable.
  3. Eat raw. There are oodles of studies that show the health benefits of eating raw fruits/veggies/nuts/seeds; there is even indication for reduced risk of cancer! Eating raw produce, nuts, and/or seeds also provides you with the nutrients, fiber, fluids and energy that you need for optimal mood end energy stamina to get through the day! I would encourage you to always keep your fridge (home and work) stocked with produce and cheerlead yourself into eating it before it goes bad! Some are easier than others to take on the road: bananas, apples and carrot sticks travel quite well.
  4. Meditate. I know…big eye rolls from about 75% of you. Mediation doesn’t have to mean full on lotus position for 60 minutes; mediation could mean you close your eyes and take 10 slow deep breaths to re-center yourself and then resume your day. Longer periods of quiet reflection time can produce more long-lasting benefits, yet you need to start somewhere!
  5. Go outside. I am not sure of an easier and more FREE life hack than going outside for fresh air and sunshine! The act of walking away from the task at hand, improving blood circulation and taking slow cleansing breaths will provide you with renewed energy and fresh perspective. Stand firm and insist on breath breaks…just as smokers insist on smoke breaks! If you have time on your drive home, stop at a local park and take a moment to yourself. Whether walking or sitting on a bench, enjoy nature.
  6. Take the stairs and the “bad” parking spot. We live a more sedentary lifestyle than ever before; we even have to rely on pedometer devices to encourage us to move our bodies! A quick few hacks for how to get more steps are to take the stairs more often (use a restroom on a different floor, don’t take elevators, make yourself go to a different floor of your house more often) and to opt for a really bad parking spot (ie: the one FURTHEST from your destination!).
DBT, mental health

Noticing in Nature

Continuing with the message from my previous post, I would like to share some nature (landscape, animal, plants) photography from my Texas vacation.  Nature photography is a way for me to cue myself; to remind myself to slow down and really observe.  I am fascinated, in awe of the variety and uniqueness in each plant (the same is true of each human)!  I wish we all remembered to slow down and smell the roses more often, this practice is a hidden gem that will always calm me (I bet you too)!

Animals are also great teachers because they don’t fear judgment at all! The giraffe doesn’t worry about whether she will will be judged for sticking her tongue out, the unidentified animal from the safari doesn’t care that it is muddy, and the peacock cares not that the people watching want him to display his tail-feathers.  Animals just are.  They are masters of being in one moment.

DBT, mental health

Learning to be mindful

I am a mindfulness teacher, and yet…I am still learning to be mindful.  I was caught off guard two days ago during a moment with my children.  We were at a nature preserve and they were playing at a free-play mud-kitchen type set-up.  They were sharing, playing together and truly enjoying themselves….and yet I found myself growing restless.  My internal dialogue was “hurry up”, “c’mon, let’s go”, “let’s go find the next thing” “I’m bored” AND it was very cool that I was fully aware of these urges to live on fast forward.

It dawned on me in that moment (thankfully), that this moment was perfect just as it was.  Sure, there are times that we must hurry children along…but this was not one of them.  In this moment, we had no where else to be.  In this moment, everyone was content.  In this moment, everything was at peace.

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Fast forward to today: we were visiting a Japanese Tea Garden (which was stunningly beautiful) and we came upon a waterfall.  Two things I am teaching the girls is to notice and point out the different colors they see in nature and to close their eyes and “just listen”.  Here is a pic of them practicing mindfulness of sound at a waterfall.

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I am so grateful that I have these mindfulness teachers in my life! Take some time right now, in just this one moment and take a deep breathe, exhale slowly.  Just this moment is all that exists.  There is no need to rush.

Inspiration, mental health

Yelling is Futile

Are you a “yeller”? Yelling at your kids, your dog, your spouse, your siblings, your parents, your friends?

I do fall into this pattern at times: yelling at my kids more than I intend.  Either after a bad day, a tiring day, or long stretches of grey weather.  It is futile and literally has no effect on the outcome (except that I feel awful and they avoid me)…

…so why do we do it???

In general, yelling at another person is a punishment.  From behaviorism research and theory, punishment is the least effective way to get another human to change their behavior…so…

…why do we do it???

In general, yelling at another person is a REWARD to the yeller…and we know that behaviors that are reinforced (it feels good and it relieves our pressure/stress) are likely to continue.  The fact that we feel calmer after blowing off steam keeps us coming back to it time and again, even though it does not get the results we want! So many times we want to blame others or say things like “I don’t know why I did that”, so I am here to unveil this conundrum.  We yell because yelling rewards US.  We also have a lot of beliefs surrounding yelling that reinforce the behavior:

  1. That they will take us more seriously (the opposite is true, you are probably regularly telling them to speak to you calmly and respectfully; you are not modeling the behavior which makes you a hypocrite)
  2. That they will respect us more (again, the opposite is true…see reasoning above)
  3. That they will listen better (the opposite is usually true: either they respect you less and therefore don’t listen, they might think you are blowing off steam and therefore don’t take your yelling topic seriously, or you frighten them which causes their anxiety to spike and their brain processessing abilities to tank)
  4. That they are more likely to change (research shows that they are actually just more likely to lie to you, avoid you, and resent you)

Debunking the beliefs and educating ourselves on the facts about yelling is one step toward reducing the behavior.  Taking time to understand why we act in certain ways can allow us to increase our awareness and become more mindful of our behaviors and triggers.

 

 

DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Four Options with Any Problem

I am struck by the quickness with which we feel we do not have a choice.  I hear myself (and others) saying things like “I didn’t have a choice…” or “I guess I have to…” on a regular basis and yet I am also equally struck by the concept that we do have a choice! In any given moment and with every given situation, you always have a multitude of choices!

I DBT we teach that a person always has four choices in coping with a problem:

  • Solve the problem

This is quite possibly the worst one on this list because if it were so simple, I think we all WOULD solve our own problems!  What is valid about this option is that we must take time to assess what the actual problem is and determine whether it is in our control or not.  If we are determining that the problem is: my spouse folds the towels wrong then I would challenge you and say that you need to dig deeper and look at what role you play in the scenario.  We might discover that the real problem is: I am clinging to my preference as to how the towels are folded and judging my spouse as incompetent.  In the second version of the problem, we now can apply the strategies below to solve the problem in a more creative way.

  • Change your opinion/thoughts/beliefs about the problem (one of my favorite…more below)

In continuing with the same problem above, we could work to change how we are thinking about the towels.  We could have a more comical thought: The way the towels are folded does not change their absorbency. You could have an attitude of gratitude: I am so grateful that my spouse took time to fold the towels.  You could have a change in your thought process: I never thought to fold them like that, I’ll give their way a try and see if I like it better.

  • Accept the situation (ie: stop lamenting how bad it is and accept that it just IS, letting go of your anger and resentment about the situation)

This option allows you to not get so angry every time you see the towels folded differently than you prefer.  It allows you to look at the towel and recognize that it is a towel, not a symbol of spousal defiance.  It allows you to see your partner as a partner, not a nuisance.  I also love this option due to the freedom it brings.  There is a freedom in not getting so angry about the “little things” or about the things in life that are out of your control.

  • Stay miserable (and/or make it worse).

This is the option we all tend to jump to! We belittle people we love, we yell and scream over things that really don’t alter our life’s course.  We throw things, we hurl insults, we give the silent treatment, we make passive aggressive gestures and comments that only serve to fuel the fire.  This option does not take into account the long-term goals (staying married) and only pays attention to the short-term urge.

 

Which do you jump to?

Which do you think would be the most effective one for you to start using more?

Take time this week to press pause when you feel yourself preparing to engage in a problematic reaction to a (perceived) problem and take a moment to ponder these 4 choices.  You may be able to free yourself from potential negative consequences!

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DBT, Journaling, mental health

Self-Encouragement

Today I want to introduce you to the skill of SELF-encouragement. In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) it’s taught as one part of the IMPROVE acronym. I believe that it is one of the most overlooked and under-utilized skills in the book. In short, self-encouragement is talking to you self as you would talk to a friend.

inspirational pooh

We would NEVER say to friends the negative statement that we say to ourselves. If a friend is crying to you about a life problem, I doubt you’d say “suck it up”, “get over it”, “what’s wrong with you”, etc…So why on earth would you say those things to yourself?

Furthermore, would you keep a friend around who talked to you in that way??? NO! You would avoid them like the plague.

 

So get with it and take a page from Hobby Lobby or Instagram’s book…
– print out those cutesy phrases
– follow inspirational people on social media
– splurge on that wall art that moves you
– set the backdrop of your phone and/or laptop to be motivational
– use a dry erase marker on your mirrors
– use bathtub crayons in your shower
– buy a positive though-a-day calendar
– buy the jewelry with the catchy calming phrase on it

self encouragement

Take control of that inner critic, silence the stadium full of nay-sayers in your head and BE NICE to you!

Feel free to share your favorite self-encouraging ideas, quotes and plans in the comments below.

 

Updated from original post on Edit“Self-Encouragement”

Inspiration, mental health

Stuck.

revisited from (and updated)

 

What do you do when you are stuck?

  • stuck in a meeting
  • stuck in traffic
  • stuck in line at the store
  • stuck at home?

The reasons for stuck-ness are innumerable…mandated attendance, weather, the person in front of you can’t move, illness (hello flu season!); however, the feelings associated are typically the same: anger, annoyance, resentment, frustration.  It may start off as slight irritation, moving into annoyance and frustration before moving into full blown anger; however typically, being stuck makes us mad!

So how are we going to get through this UNENDURABLE situation?  To start, stop exaggerating! It’s not unendurable.  It’s not typically as bad as we make it out to be in our head.  Let me give you an example:  I like Starbucks (fact), but the line at the drive through is absolutely ridiculous (opinion).  My problem solving skills lead me to park and go inside every time I go there.  I was very content with this decision.  One day, while inside, I was so excited to see that there is a screen for the baristas that tells them how long people have been in the drive-thru.  I expected to see 10 minutes….15 minutes…FOREVER! To my amazement, the longest wait time was 2 minutes 45 seconds.  Really??….the line was LONG when I walked in! Then it hit me: I’ve been inside for about 3 minutes too! Why is it that being trapped in my car causes me to perceive time moving so much slower?  I felt stuck!

 

How to guide to get unstuck:

  1. Realize that the trick isn’t actually to get unstuck, it’s to change how you feel about being (what you perceive as) stuck.
  2. Stop judging. Words like should, always, terrible, OMG, worst, never…are typically attached to a judgment.  Instead, be descriptive.  Explain how you feel and why.

Ex: Repleace “this is the longest line EVER, I ALWAYS get stuck in long lines” with “I am                              sitting in line at Starbucks, this has happened before and I can cope”

  1. Observe your posture.

Ex: Take your fingernails out of the steering wheel, let your shoulders fall from your ears                              back to their relaxed state, remove the scowl from your face…

  1. Consider other possible alternatives to catastrophizing

Ex: I finally have time to respond to those text messages (safely while not driving), I can plan the next few hours of my day, I can sit here and remember a positive memory to improve my mood, consider things you I am grateful for, or I can just enjoy this time to breathe!

  1. Stop fighting reality. In conjunction with #4, the reality is that you are in a situation that you can’t immediately get out of; catastrophizing is a great way to make the situation worse.  Accept that you are where you are! (this will reduce suffering).

Are you are willing to give it a try?   It’s amazing what changing your interpretation of a situation will do for your mood!

DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Meditation 101

Formal Zen meditation is the type that I practice and encourage my friends, family, clients, etc to practice also.  Notice I said practice…yes, sitting upright and still requires PRACTICE! The basic components are:

  1. Sit upright and still on meditation cushions (zafu and zabuton) with three points of contact with the floor to stabilize you.  This should be a comfortable position and should not cause straining.  For example, if you cannot get yourself into lotus position, don’t! It is encouraged that you find a position that you can hold for the duration of the meditation without discomfort.  Frequent shifting is discouraged, I recommend that you experiment with different positions in your first few weeks.

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  1. Clear your mind as best you can and focus on either nothing or your breathing.
  2. Practice non-attachment when you notice your mind drifting (as it will) by gently bringing your attention back to your breathing. The reality is that your mind will wander and it will wander more when you are new to meditation and/or when your stress is higher.  We can acknowledge this without judging ourselves or the practice.  It is simple, not easy! Many people complain that they feel MORE anxious when they try to quiet their mind…which may be true because they have removed all of the distractions that they normally put between their feelings and their consciousness.  Ride that wave, calmness will follow. It reminds me of snorkeling in choppy water…the water is only choppy until you put your head under the water to see the reef below!
  3. Length of meditation varies, the magic isn’t in the number of minutes; rather it is in the willingness to practice steps 1-3 over and over and over.  Meditation is a muscle that most of us forget we have, thus it is out of shape and needs to be worked consistently over time.

The benefits of sitting practice are innumerable.  Science finds that:

Benefits-of-Meditation

You can really meditate whenever your want, where-ever you want, with whoever you want. I recommend group meditation in the beginning…think about how much you cognitively know about exercising and eating healthy vs what you actually do in your day-to-day life…? I find that group meditation holds you accountable and achieves better results just as group exercise does! Most major cities have group meditations or a zen center to provide this structure.

 

 

Inspiration, Journaling, mental health

The Sound of Silence

In 2005 I took a trip as a college credit across the United States in a 15 passenger van with 12 other students that I really didn’t know.  The purpose of the trip was to experience different cultures and create art in ways that I could not experience in my Midwestern campus life.  The most inspiring part of the trip for me, that has left a lasting imprint on my psyche was a hike down into Canyon de Chelly in Arizona.  Hiking down into the basin of the canyon was the only time I have every experienced true Oneness with the world.

I recall a specific moment during the descent in which I subsequently felt minuscule and gigantic…and immediately started crying! In this one moment, I remember seeing a small flower growing out of a rock.  I was so much more complex, large, and evolved than this plant AND at the same time I looked across this canyon and realized that I am a tiny speck on this planet.  The hike into the Canyon is 1 1/4 miles each way and I would estimate that I had this experience about 1/3 of the way down.  I hiked the rest of the way with complete awareness of the awe of nature.

This is the sound of silence.

 

View of Canyon de Chelly

 

How would you capture silence in a photograph? Is it a positive image like this one, showing a much-needed break? Or is it the opposite, revealing the lack of communication in a friendship or the dangers of not speaking out? Show us your interpretation in a new post.