Learned meditation is not meditation…

“but our complex minds are often too “knotted up” to perceive directly without looking through the contaminated screen of past knowledge”
I love this.


Playlists: the good, the bad, and the ugly

I have come to find that everyone has a “sad” playlist.  Now, I realize that statement is an overgeneralization…perhaps what I should say is: As a therapist, I have encountered that most of my clients who struggle with depression, also have a “sad” playlist.

Let me give you a visualization: dirty bath water.

Listening to a playlist full of depressing music when you are depressed, is the mental equivalent of sitting in someone else’s dirty bathwater and expecting to feel clean.  NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!  In general, I do assume that most of us would seek a clean water source to bathe in, if the goal is to feel refreshed.  Why on earth do we reach for the sad songs in an effort to feel better? Has it ever worked? After listening to an hour of melancholy music have you every decided to get up and go for a hike? Or get dressed up to go out with some friends? Doubtful!  I would venture to guess that you transitioned from sad playlist to sad movie, to ice cream, to staying up too late and then going to bed.  So why do we do it?

Answer: Validation.  It seems that the primary function of the sad songs is to let you know that you aren’t alone.  Hearing lyrics that speak to the emotional pain that you are experiencing can be joining and comforting during a time when you are most likely feeling lonely and isolated.

Ok, so here’s the thing: take a shower, not a bath!  I hear you and I appreciate the desire to feel connected to someone/something. You are right that songs can serve this purpose, but too much of anything can be a problem. I propose you shower.  Listen to ONE, maybe two sad songs…then get out and towel dry.  With or without music, sitting in dirty bathwater until it turns cold is a terrible idea! Why would you think that is going to make you feel better?! You need movement…stay standing…try a shower:

  • Step One: listen to your ONE or two sad songs while standing upright, maybe taking a walk around your neighborhood?
  • Step Two: Transition to a playlist that brings on a different emotion (calming, happy, pumped up, sexy)
  • Step Three: Go on about your day.


  • Step One: Make a UPLIFTING playlist
  • Step Two: Listen to UPLIFTING playlist!
  • Step Three: Go on about your day.


Some of my favorite uplifting songs for my own uplifting playlist:

  1. Roar by Katy Perry
  2. Tongue Tied by Group Love
  3. Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys
  4. Build Me Up Buttercup by The Foundations
  5. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper
  6. Living on a Prayer by Jon Bon Jovi
  7. Uptown Girl by Billie Joel
  8. Dancing Queen by Abba
  9. Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson
  10. Can’t Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake
  11. Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO
  12. Wannabe by Spice Girls
  13. London Bridge by Fergie
  14. Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus
  15. Happy by Pharell
  16. The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars
  17. Block after Block by Matt & Kim
  18. Mountain Sound by Of Monsters and Men
  19. Love Love Love by Avalanche City
  20. What A Feeling by Irene Cara
  21. Time of My Life “ Dirty Dancing”
  22. Stuck in the Middle by Stealers Wheel
  23. I’m a Believer by Smashmouth
  24. The Way You Make Me Feel by Michael Jackson
  25. Shake it Off by Taylor Swift

(For the record: looking up these songs took a ton of time…because I had to re-listen to them…and re-dance to them…and re-smile! I may or may not have had to check a few concert tour schedules too…but either way, my mood is GREAT right now 😃)


Feel free to check out my “feel good” playlist on YouTube, or make your own!

Comment your favorite feel good songs!


Self Soothe Kit meets Sobriety Toolbox

So one thing we know in the therapy world is that people need coping skills to manage stress.  In DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy), we encourage clients to make a self soothe kit, which is literally a box/bag/container that holds items or reminders of coping skills they can use that specifically tune into their 5 senses as a method for managing their emotions (instead of resorting to problematic or addictive behavioral patterns).  Our world is really good at doing this for babies (pacifier, blankie, nightlight, music, patting their back, warm milk…etc); however, as children age, we take all those things away “because you’re too old for that stuff”…and we give a tablet in return! It’s no wonder we have a generation (or two) of young people that don’t tolerate distress well!

Here is an example of (one of) my self soothe kit(s):


What you see for each sense (and many overlap):

  • Sight – glitter jar, stone, flame from candle
  • Smell – candle, essential oil
  • Taste – tea, gum, snack item
  • Touch – molded cross, chap stick, lotion, warmth of tea
  • Hearing – earbuds (music or guided meditation)

I mentioned that this is “one of” my self soothe kits as I have learned it is wise to always have self soothing items on hand in all settings; therefore my car, my purse, and my office all contain variations.  Kits can be as small as a snack-sized Ziploc baggie or as big as a shopping tote.  The idea is to have it readily accessible wherever and whenever you might need it.  It is not very helpful to wish you had a stick of gum or to have the motivation to listen to a meditation but not be able to find your earbuds.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~The prompting for this post was actually that I came across this great blog: http://www.hipsobriety.com/home/2015/10/20/how-to-build-a-sobriety-toolbox

The writer describes a similar strategy for making a “sobriety toolbox” that she can turn to whenever she is having problematic urges/cravings.  I was eager to hear some of her ideas as they included coping skills outside the 5 senses.  I also love that she honors the fact that her problem behavior was a coping skill and she didn’t immediately BAN it or judge herself for turning to it, rather she kept trying to “binge” on healthier coping ideas and positively reinforce herself for that…thus making the addictive behavior less effective.

Some of my favorite ideas that she included were:

  1. Specific links to breathing and meditations that she has tried and benefited from.  The challenge here is that you have to be WILLING to try new things.
  2. Specific bedtime/calming tea blends.
  3. A mix of dance music (because be honest…you have a sad playlist don’t you…why not have a HAPPY playlist??!)
  4. Amy Cuddy power poses (pretty sure I wrote a blog on these…)
  5. Post-It note mantras/self-encouragement collection.

Try it out!


Your Life Isn’t Over. Don’t Give Up.

“Don’t try to end your story just because this chapter sucks”

This gives me chills every time I listen.  A message I am glad I can deliver and I know sometimes it may sound to my clients that I am speaking a foreign language…it gets better. You just have to borrow someone else’s faith that it will get better.  There are far too many underdog stories for you to give up.  Everyone loves a good comeback story…work with me on this!