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

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.

download

 

  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.

Inspiration, mental health

Things I learned from my 5 year old daughter:

1. Tell other people they are beautiful if you think they are.

It never ceases to amaze me how kind-hearted and honest kids can be. The truth is, I am shy! My daughter doesn’t get her outgoing nature from me! And yet…even today as we were walking into a building, she turned to another little girl (a stranger, approximately 9 years old) and said “you’re beautiful!” to her….and the little girl smiled so big and said “thanks! you are too!”

IT WAS AMAZING! In what world would two adult women (strangers) exchange compliments like that!?!

Furthermore, she does this often…grocery stores, church, etc…If she thinks you are beautiful, she will let you know 🙂

2. Dancing is a guaranteed mood boost.

Again…shy mom…NOT SHY kid! She can dance and dance and dance…My child will hear the faintest music in a store and break out dancing to her heart’s desire! It has taught me to join in occasionally…and it ALWAYS cheers me up 🙂

3. Slow and steady wins the race.

Being the mom of a preschooler is hard.  There are a LOT of comparisons.  There are parenting books about which parenting books to read! At every turn it seems like your preschooler is falling behind because she doesn’t know 7 languages and can’t write her entire name in cursive… but what I am learning right along side her, is that comparisons are crap.  Kids all get there in their own time and no amount of stress is going to speed them up, if anything, it will slow them down.

 

So think about your own life, what would be different if you were vocally kinder, danced more, and stopped comparing yourself to others?

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!

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!