DBT, mental health

Smile

DBT has a skill called the “half smile”.  Even the name brings on a smirk from people; however I want to take a moment to really explain this one…

Half smile is NOT about faking a smile or having a weird Cheshire Cat/Joker type cynical smile.  If I re-named this skill, I’d call it “pleasant expression”. Basically you are relaxing your facial muscles and then ever-so-slightly putting a pleasant expression on your face, almost as if you were recalling a lovely memory. When we use certain facial muscles, our brain is tricked into thinking we really are happy and it will send us the feel-good chemicals associated! It is so powerful and packs a big punch for being such a minor task.

Half smiling is similar to Tyra Banks “smize”.  If you actually watch WHAT she is doing differently between her normal face and her “smize”, she has ever so subtle crows feet appearing at the corners of her eyes, and the corners of her mouth are very slightly being tugged toward a smile.  These are minuscule details; however, your body will pick up on them and adjust accordingly!

 

Half smiling can be done at any point in your day for a mood boost, it works faster than caffeine and sugar! I would especially challenge you to half smile when you are irritated, it really takes the edge off! Mona Lisa is another great reference, she has the look perfected!

monalisa

 

Researcher Paul Ekman has in depth research available on his website that covers the science behind the half smile if you are interested on a deeper understanding! https://www.paulekman.com/

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mental health

Float Loft

Float lofts are popping up all over major cities, in Cincinnati I am now aware of four different locations where you can “float”.  Floating is described as a type of meditation, pain management and stress reduction strategy.  Of course, I had to try it so that I can report back to you!

Upon arrival, I was given a brief introduction to floating.  The attendant described floating as “Flying” if medication is like “driving across country”.  I was ushered into my room where there was a float pod and a shower.  They suggest you put ointment on any cuts you may have as the salt content in the water is very high.  The buoyancy of the water is the key to floating.  There is a salt content is the same as that of the dead sea.  It allows the human body to float on top of the warm water within a sensory deprivation pod.  The pod had some soothing music playing for the first few minutes before it faded into silence.  The lid of the pod can be open or closed; you get more of a sensory deprivation effect with it closed as it is PITCH BLACK.  I am grateful that I do not experience any claustrophobia!

I agree that I felt like I was in a meditative “happy place” much quicker than I am typically able to achieve with meditation; however, after about 30 minutes, I lost my focus and was unable to regain it.  Observing the pod environment became distracting: my hair swirled around and tickled my arm, I bounced off the sides, my arms were coated in crystalized salt, I scratched my nose and then the salt burned…at that time I knew I was done!

After floating, a shower is mandatory due to the saltiness of EVERYTHING in that room! I had to use a ton of shampoo (which they graciously provided) to help clean my hair and I think I used a gallon of conditioner! They also provided a room with hair dryers and mirrors to get yourself re-ready for the day. 

I enjoyed the experience and would highly recommend it to anyone who is stressed out or experiencing chronic pain.  There are discounts at many of the float locations if you have documentation from a medical doctor about your potential pain issues.

Happy Floating!

Inspiration

Real Life Moments

As I walk through my house turning off the lights…heading toward bed, there are things that catch my eye…things that fill my heart with joy, love, peace…

I cannot imagine my home without these things, although some are new; some are fleeting…yet all make a home.

I want to share with you the images that when I rest my eyes upon, fill me with such positive emotions, such positive thoughts!

First we have the artwork on the fridge. No…I am not the mom that keeps all art; rather I prefer to truly savor each peace. If I find myself walking past without notice, it is time for a fresh picture!

I could stare at this for eternity. A tree covered in the love of hand painted and hand crafted ornaments, stockings hung in anticipation: a reminder of the magic of Christmas, and my “happy painting” that is a staple of our main room. No matter how messy life can become…a reminder to live it fully!

This little piggy stayed home. This little piggy has been in my life for as long as I can recall. I remember emptying his contents as I prepared to head off to college, emptying it’s contents in a panic when trying to “adult” (unsuccessfully at times!) and now I look at this piggy with prolongued grief as I am aware of the cracks that will oneday (soon) expand and shatter my trusty sidekick…likely the result of me using it as a step stool and a chair one too many times in childhood!

Guidance. As is necessary in all endeavors. Knowing that the answers are there, waiting, anytime I care to ask the questions.

A reminder that our mindset matters…and that just as we can strengthen our muscles…we can strengthen our minds to seek the good in life.
Post a photo or two below. Share with us…where are your peaceful places?

DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Validation to Improve Relationships

Validation is the ability to communicate to another person that they, their perceptions, their feelings and/or their opinions are valid.  Our world tends to be quite Invalidating, in that we are berated with the message that we aren’t enough and we don’t make sense.  It reminds me of the teacher that we all had, that would correct your response even if you read from the text the exact answer.  Validation is a skill that will instantly improve relationships, especially if you learn to validate and then STOP.  The STOP is about not jumping into problem solving.  Think about how it feels when people hurl solutions to you (have you tried____________??) without taking time to understand the problem or communicate to you that the problem is anywhere near valid.

Validation requires you to find the truth in another person’s point of view.  This means that no matter how ___________ (dumb, pointless, absurd, irrational) you deem their experience to be, if you want to expedite their calming down, it is necessary for you to validate something. Validating is not the same as agreeing with them if you truly do not.  You could say something like “I can see that you are really passionate about this” or “It sounds like you had a difficult day and it has you feeling really depressed”.  If you agree with them, you can be more validating by saying “I think it makes sense that you feel that way” or “given your background, I understand why his statement bothered you”.  Letting someone know that you hear them will aide in their ability to calm down and thus problem solve.

Some tips for validating

  1. Make eye contact, stop what you are doing and put your phone down. Communicate to the other person that they are important enough that you can give undivided attention
  2. Pay attention to their body language and whether it is congruent (think slumped teenager saying “I’m fine” and attend to the one you believe is more authentic
  3. Be open to correction. If I think you have your head down because you are disinterested in what I am saying, I need to remain open to you correcting me and telling me you have a headache
  4. Communicate to them with your words, that you think the make sense either because of their history or because ANYONE would feel that way given their circumstances
  5. In unique situations, share the feeling with them (not one-upping them, not taking the focus off of them) ie: when they get REALLY good or REALLY bad news

 

I have a feeling that if you reflect on who you like to spend time with, they are a fairly validating people! If you can channel that person, it may be easier to validate by thinking “what would _________ say?” Take time to practice!

Inspiration, mental health

When The Head and The Heart Don’t Align

DBT individual session.jpg

I saw this photo recently and it moved me.  It was from Burning Man a few years ago (2015 I believe) and shows that even when two adults are at odds, pushing each other away, their inner children (the innocent, naïve inner self) can still be yearning for the comfort of the other.

What do you think? Do you take a different message?

Inspiration, mental health

Why We Love Upcycling

Who doesn’t love a good craft fair…especially the booths of upcycled items, repurposed into useful everyday items! Upcycling is when an item that was bound for the landfill is given a new life as a new item, often completely separate from it’s original purpose.

Upcycled chairs become kitchy planters for your indoor or outdoor garden. Upcycled pallets become…EVERYTHING!

Why does this matter?  I really do believe that we love upcycled items for many reasons (you know…not killing the environment and all) but the idea I like to ponder is the idea that all things can serve a purpose.  Things that were once discarded as useless by one person have immense purpose to another.  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. This idea gives hope for us as well! Who among us hasn’t felt worthless or cast aside at some point?  Who among us hasn’t wondered what our purpose in life is now that __________ chapter of our life has ended?

Just as these everyday items can be upcycled, so to can we upcycle ourselves!

If someone has told you that you are useless, you may need to find a new perspective! Just as this stool has been turned upside down to find it’s purpose, you too can look at things in a new light to find yours.

upcycled stool

Perhaps you have been told that you will only ever fit into one category.  Take a page from this dino’s book and think outside the box.  A tulip in a rose garden may not seem like it fits; however it can fit just nicely in a rose garden! I love the unexpected. Therapist’s with tattoos, teachers with blue hair, macho men who aren’t afraid to show affection…there is plenty of space in the world for you! Find the right garden!

Upcycled dino

 

Perhaps you have been told that you are not the right shape.  Perhaps you have received the message (directly or indirectly) that you cannot be worthy at your current stature. Forget that! Channel your inner wrench and appreciate your quirks.  By just bending into a 90 degree angle, these wrenches found a second life offering support to items that need hung up! You can be supportive to those around you, you are needed, you are important!

upcycled wrenches

 

 

 

DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Mindfulness of Color

color

My previous post got me thinking about color.  Color is all around us in nature, life, the foods we eat, the habitats we live and work in; and yet color is something we often overlook.  If I asked you to stop and tell me what color your neighbors house is, what color your boss’s car is, what color the tiles are at work or school…would you be able to?  Mindfulness is all about WAKING UP from auto-pilot.  Mindfulness of color can be a quick way to wake up and increase the amount of time you spend observing the present.

Try it…

Take the next few moment to spot something red…something orange…yellow…green…something blue…and purple.  You can expand from their if you would like: black, brown, white, pink…

Allow the search for color, really noticing the colors in your world, to anchor you to the present moment.  Stop worrying about what might happen or fretting about what did.  Come back to the now and take a moment to find the beauty and variety of color where ever you are.

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!

Uncategorized

Self Care

As a mental health professional, self care is paramount to my well being and ability to do my job well.  I often say that I won’t preach what I don’t practice, so I wanted to share with you five of my self care rituals.

1. Sleep.  My sleep is mandatory and highly schedule! I typically allow for 10 hours of sleep each night, knowing that sometimes it takes 15-20 minutes to unwind and fall asleep.  The longer block of time also allows for me to wake on my own (BEFORE the alarm startles me awake).  If my body happens to need more sleep, it is not difficult to get it with a 10 hour block.

2. Skin. I use a lot of lotion! I have a large bottle at every sink in my house, on my dresser, on my nightstand, in my purse and work bag, at my desk, etc.  I find putting on lotion to be a kind gesture to my body; whether it’s hands, elbows or feet.  It also allows me to pause for a moment several times a day just to reflect on the sensation.

3. Scents. I am an avid candle burner.  One of the first things I do when I get home is light a bunch of candles all over the house.  The warmth, flickering light, and scents are all very relaxing to me.  I also choose my body wash wisely, using a citrus in the morning and lavender in the evening.

4. Music. I always have music on. Records, playlists, Spotify, Pandora, radio, etc. Music to me is very soothing, both listening to it, searching for it, etc.

5. Me time. To me, this means scheduling time to explore.  From new stores, the library, trails, taking the scenic route or walking around the block.  I love to spend time exploring and learning about new places, people, and parts of the city I live in.

What do you do for self care?

Uncategorized

Attachment and Foster Care Research

I enjoy reading relevant research.  I came across an article in the Infant Mental Health Journal titled “Foster Parents’ State of Mind With Respect to Attachment: Concordance with Their Foster Children’s Attachment Patterns at 2 and 3 Years of Age”.  Wordy title…but of course I had to read it! Here’s what I learned:

  • Children with aversive caregiving experiences are at higher risk of abnormal neuroendocrine activity, behavior problems, reduced intellectual development, and attachment challenges. 
  • Infants need an emotionally committed caregiver if they are to develop in a healthy way
  • Children with sensitive and nurturing caregivers develop a sense of self that tells them they are worthy of love and that their caregivers can be trusted
  • It has been found that a parent’s state of mind with respect to attachment has been shown to be a good predictor of the child’s attachment type
  • Children placed before the age of two have better chances of developing secure attachments; children placed at an older age can have difficulties expressing their needs for soothing which can impede the foster parent understanding how to meet their needs
  • Foster parents tend to have healthier attachment styles which may be due to: their lower life stress, stable financial situation, a willingness to attach, and the screening and training process
  • The research found that the majority of foster children were able to develop healthy attachments to their foster parents 
  • Findings indicate that foster care licensing agencies should evaluate foster parents attachment styles and children should be placed with foster parents who display healthy attachment styles

I found this to be highly encouraging and hope that it will guide new parents to evaluate their parenting and attachment styles.