DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Mindfulness and Hot Tea

I was sitting here reflecting on what to write about when I noticed my mug of tea.  To some, it may seem irrelevant; however I try not to do things that aren’t on purpose (meaning, I like to be mindfully awake to my life: what and why I make choices).  Mindfulness means that you happen to your life, not the other way around.  When I used to be less aware and less mindful, I would often go all day without drinking anything…or i’d be half way through a frappachino before I realized that I had ordered it.

Being mindful and tuning into my body, my emotions, my urges, my sensations…has allowed me to notice when I am thirsty, when my body needs a hug, when I am feeling overwhelmed.  This is not a bad thing or a thing to fear as many believe; rather, it allows me the chance to make wise-minded choices.

Hot tea is like a warm hug from the inside.  When I sip my tea, I feel nurtured and cared for.  It reminds me to slow down.  The process of making tea can be a mindful practice on it’s own: experiencing the smells, sounds, sensations, etc.  Hot tea is not something I drink fast either, which makes it a lovely reminder to slow down and enjoy this one moment. The reality is, that all we have is this one moment. Now is now. You might as well enjoy it!

The reality is that my moment currently doesn’t look as beautiful as the photo above…yet when I close my eyes and take a sip, I can transport myself to that photo each time!

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Nature Is My Happy Place

I went for a 2 mile hike yesterday morning and a 3 mile hike today…and I am GLOWING. I feel so clear and positive, which is such a welcome emotion. When I got back, I started researching why hiking helps the mood so much and stumbled upon a research article on the positive effects of hiking. In short, the article found that going on a hike (without your phone):

  • Improved cognitive function
  • Improved problem solving
  • Increased focus
  • Increased impulse control
  • Burned calories
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Improved self-esteem

It seems like such common sense and yet many of us resist the idea of exercise of any type…but hiking can achieve the same results as medication, so why not??

Check out the article below and let me know what you think:

http://www.pnas.org/content/112/28/8567

Inspiration, mental health

Is life sucky right now? GOOD!

A friend of mine sent this to me recently after I was having a difficult time emotionally.  I got to thinking about what Jocko is saying in this video.  It is so easy (SO EASY) to fall into the pit of despair…the “it’s not fair” lifestyle…the woe is me attitude…

…and yet is is so POINTLESS to go there; stagnation doesn’t produce growth.  We have to WAKE UP to our lives and realize that we have CHOICES…every single moment of our life presents us with CHOICES…

I love when someone tells me that I can’t do something. This video reminded me of the “watch me” mentality that I adopt when someone doubts me.  I am not a weak, dependent female…I am not incapable…

I am:

  • a role model to my girls
  • a strong independent woman
  • a proud survivor
  • a motivator
  • a teacher
  • a brilliant thinker
  • a talented artist

 

….and I became all of these things out of the struggle! The hurricanes that life throws at us are an AMAZING gift because they make us who we are! They make us stronger and more resilient! Embrace the struggle and have faith that you will come through this and you will be able to help others once you are on the other side.

So I ask…who are you?

 

watch meI can

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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

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.

 

 

DBT, mental health

Thoughts, Feelings, Behaviors

ThoughtsBehaviorsFeelings

Thoughts, feelings, behaviors. They are all connected and the relationship is transactional.  This means that while one influences another, that change will in turn influence another factor.  None of the three can exist without the other two.

This begs the question, where do we make the change in our lives if we have suffering?  Do you change what thoughts you have, do you change your actions before or after the thoughts, or do you change how you feel about the situation?  The answer is ANY of the three will elicit change; however, I will tell you that I believe that it is easier to BEHAVE your way into thinking differently than it is to THINK your way into behaving differently.  Feelings will happen.

Think about it: You wake up to your alarm.  You are very tired as you didn’t sleep well.   You were up late crying, emotional about something that had happened.  Is it easier to get yourself to think “gee, I am so glad to be awake early! The fact that I have a headache from crying is no problem! I look forward to seeing people today who may ask me how I’m doing!” OR is it easier to get out of bed, turn on the radio to some upbeat music, and pour a bowl of fruity pebbles?  I imagine that if you try to change your thoughts, you may end up with anxiety, dread, sadness (and you may never get out of bed, at least not on time!)…whereas if you try to change your behavior, you may actually feel pride, competence and contentment.

We know it is one of the HARDEST things to do, to act differently than we may feel.  Think back to the last time you were feeling depressed, I bet it would have been REALLY hard to get you to go exercise!  The last time you were really anxious, I bet it would have been REALLY hard to convince you to go lay down and listen to a meditation.  And the last time you were fuming mad, I bet it would have been difficult to get you to go for a walk…and yet this is what I suggest! Why would I suggest something so radically difficult? Mainly because if you do, you will see how quickly it remedies the intensity of the emotion and thoughts.  I propose that if you do it a few times in a row, you will begin to trust the process…this is pretty much what all people with good habits say about how they stick to their routines!

So work on doing the opposite of your (ineffective) urge and see if the thoughts and feelings come along in a helpful way!