Archive for February, 2012

The Mindful Instinct: How the Now Effect Works, Why it Matters and How to Get More of It

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Dr. Christopher Germer is friend and colleague of mine who grew up with a great fear of speaking. It wasn’t always easy, but over time he began to cultivate an awareness of the feeling of fear as it arose and practiced systematically relating to it with greater mindfulness and compassion. Chris trained his brain to have what I call “The Mindful Instinct.”  What actually happened?

In a Chapter titled “Compassion is a Verb” in The Now Effect I share how this practice led to an experience that changed Chris’ relationship to the fear of speaking.

“One day when he was speaking onstage, the fear came over him, physically gripping him, and in that moment, without his even being conscious of it, phrases of kindness and compassion began to wash over him. It’s as if he had reprogrammed the subconscious snap judgments to be ‘It’s going to be okay.’

The speech was great. This is The Now Effect in action.”

The fact is we can all do this and it will make us happier and more effective in our lives.

Compassion isn’t just a feeling, it’s a skill and it can be practiced and cultivated so it begins to happen more naturally. This has been studied in research and more recently Sara Lazar, MD, Instructor at Harvard Medical School, and her colleagues found that mindfulness training led to an increase in gray matter in an area of the brain called the Tempoparietal Junction. That’s a mouthful, but it’s known to be the seat of empathy. The experience of putting yourself in another’s shoes and is fundamental for compassion.

This is just neuroscience backing up the cultivation of a mindful instinct. If we can grow new neural pathways in the part of the brain that lights up when we’re feeling empathy, than it seems that we can make empathy and compassion a more automatic part of our experience in life.

If you think about it, the decisions are brains make in one moment affects the next moment and so on and so forth. What the practice and repeats becomes automatic. If it practices reacting to things with fearful thoughts and avoidant behaviors that is what it makes more automatic. If it practices automatic negative thoughts, that becomes stronger.

But, if we are aware of this and can intentionally practice engaging the moments of our lives with greater mindfulness and compassion, that becomes stronger and the experience of thousands of people and neuroscience back it up. Training our minds to tap into the “choice points” that are all around us has enormous implications for stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, parenting, sleep issues, at school, at work, in relationships and beyond.

A suggestion for today:

See if you can put your judgments aside for a moment of whether this will or will not work for you and let your experience be your teacher.

When you notice a comfortable or uncomfortable feeling (could even be right now) today, take a moment to recognize you’re in a space of awareness, this is that choice point to relate to it with a sense of curiosity. How does it feel, where is it felt, and can you wrap it in a caring attention? Don’t worry about the results, just know that no matter the outcome your practicing creating that mindful instinct en route to a more enduring mindful brain and making The Now Effect a greater part of your life.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interactions create a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

***Join The Now Effect Community: Get free Daily Now Moments directly to your inbox and access to free monthly live online interactive calls with Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on Psychcentral.com

Rewire Your Brain for Love: An Interview with Marsha Lucas, PhD

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

When many of us think about mindfulness, we might picture a common misperception of someone sitting on a floor in a state of peaceful meditation. Mindfulness is so much more than that. That is why I’m so happy to have my friend, colleague and Neuropsychologist Marsha Lucas, PhD, author of the newly released book Rewire Your Brain For Love: Creating Vibrant Relationships Using the Science of Mindfulness to show us how we can bring mindfulness outside of ourselves, to change our brains and improve our relationships.

Today Marsha talks to us about how our brains can actually rewire in relationships, where our relationships with our parents influence our relationships today and a practice that can get us started in rewiring our brain for love.

Elisha: I love the title of your book. Can you give us a few ideas on how we can actually rewire our brain for love?

Marsha:  I’m glad you like it, Elisha! The title’s an acknowledgement that we have the capacity to create actual changes in the connections and pathways in our brain that for many of us are, well, “less than optimal” for relationships.

Now, here’s what’s most exciting (especially for anyone who is “relationship challenged”) — the research being done in neuroscience and brain-imaging labs has been showing that the practice of mindfulness meditation seems to change the size and activity in brain regions that are deeply involved in how we “do” relationships.

And you don’t have to practice for years to see these changes in the brain — some of the most recent findings have looked at people who have never practiced meditation, then taught half of those folks how to meditate and had them practice it for eight weeks. When the researchers compared the “never meditated” group to the “meditating for eight weeks” group, the people who had meditated for just eight weeks showed beneficial brain changes. Richie Davidson, PhD, who is a phenomenal researcher in this area, talks about changes in as little as two weeks of regular mindfulness practice.

So what does this look like “in real life,” not just in a brain scan? The benefits that I see in my patients, and that researchers are also seeing, include what I call the seven “high-voltage” relationship benefits – things like greater emotional resilience; increased response flexibility; healthier, more balanced empathy, and so on. As a clinician and as a human being, it’s very, very cool.

Elisha: Wow, two weeks is a short amount of time. To back up a bit, can you tell us a bit about how our relationships or attachments with our parents influence our relationships today?

Marsha:  The first couple of years of life is when your brain is growing and wiring itself at an amazingly rapid and exuberant pace, so your “early experiences have a disproportionate impact of the shaping of [y]our neural systems, with lifelong consequences” (to quote Lou Cozolino, PhD).

And those early experiences of what it was like to be attached, how it went between you and your parents during those first few years of your life, determine in large part the style of attachment you developed — for example, anxious, or avoidant – which is typically a lifetime deal.  Experiences like these are what shape your brain’s relationship wiring, and these early experiences aren’t tagged, or accessible to your conscious mind (related to the same reason most of us don’t remember things from before we were two years old or so – for example, we don’t remember learning to walk, but the experience and the wiring make it so we can walk even without that conscious memory).

That’s why it’s such a powerful idea that you can rewire your brain – kind of like being able to re-write that early attachment program, even without having direct access to it. The practice of mindfulness seems to integrate your brain in ways that allow you to get past the limitations of your original attachment programming.

Elisha:  The idea that we can rewire our early attachments is really validating to those of us who have been working with the concept of re-parenting ourselves. Share with us one practice that we can immediately put into our lives to begin rewiring our brain for love.

Marsha: A friend of mine who’s an arborist told me that the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago – and the next best time is today. Planting a mindfulness practice today — even if you only practice for two minutes at first – is the best way to immediately start growing more love.

There are so many ways to practice mindfulness – that’s part of why I included a different mindfulness practice at the end of every chapter in the main part of Rewire Your Brain For Love.  One place to begin is with a basic mindfulness practice.

If you’ve never meditated before (or even if you have), you may have some idea that meditation requires being able to sit on the floor with your legs crossed, in a perfectly constructed, perfectly peaceful room, gentle sunlight streaming in while the faint hint of incense wafts over you and the warmth of a candle imperceptibly finds your serenely closed eyes, with your mind completely still.

Gaaaahhh—no wonder so many people think they can’t meditate! Who can achieve that?

Let’s try again—this time, with equal doses of reality and compassion.

First, I heartily recommend that you read all the way through the instructions and notes before you actually start.

And second, know that while meditators in glossy magazine ads always look quiescently blissed out, meditation isn’t always pleasurable. Walking around as most of us do, with lots of stress, has our bodies pumping out stress hormones much of the time. Those find their way into special receptors in your brain, and they basically make you want to seek pleasure—and seek it quickly.

The brain is jonesing for a quick squirt of dopamine—sometimes referred to as the “feel-good neurotransmitter,” even though it does many other things—and impels you to do something to provide this, such as eat some ice cream or look to see if a new e-mail has arrived. While this will make you feel better now, it turns out that it’s not good for long-term well-being. So keep in mind that even if your meditation practice doesn’t feel good in a given moment, or if your brain is telling you to go do something else quicker and/or “more pleasurable,” know that by practicing, you’re training your brain to deal with stress more effectively, eliminating much of the stress—craving pleasure—indulging—stress cycle in which we so often get trapped.

To begin, just sit down somewhere. You can sit on a chair. The idea is for your body to be able to keep itself upright with ease, a sort of natural balance.

Some people like to have their hands in the crook of their lap, resting like two spoons facing their belly. Others like to have their palms on their thighs.

Your eyes can be slightly open, with a “soft focus,” or closed.

Try to remember that this is about ease, not about stretching or pushing, and that being kind to yourself is part of the practice.

Now, just breathe. Really. Just let the natural rhythm of your breath, whatever it is, lead you; there’s no need to force it or change it in any way. Your only task right now is to bring your awareness to the sensations of breathing—the slight tickle of the air just under your nose as you breathe in. The coolness of the air as it enters your nostrils. The movement of your chest and belly as your lungs expand, then contract. Bring your awareness to any one, or more, of these sensations (or any others you become aware of) as you breathe in and out.

Did your mind immediately wander? Good! With kindness and gentleness, simply bring it back. Just like a puppy that’s naturally curious, your mind is meant to wander off, get distracted, and so on. So, when it does, gently and lovingly bring it back to the sensations of your breath, just as you’d bring that soft, sweet puppy back to you. The busier your brain is, the more opportunities you have to notice that your mind has wandered and to gently and lovingly bring it back.

That’s all there is to it—that’s the basic form of how you practice mindfulness meditation.  Whenever you’re done, gently open your eyes and slowly reenter your day. Start with just a few minutes of practice and invite yourself to gradually increase your practice over time.

One more important note before you move into meditation—and as a good reminder all along the way: please be gentle with yourself. Sometimes, while meditating, things might come into awareness that we otherwise avoid, or that are particularly difficult. It may be helpful to stop the meditation and get some support, such as psychotherapy, to help you deal with the issues.

Thank you so much for your wisdom Marsha.

As always, please share your thoughts, questions and stories below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom that we can all benefit from.

***Want free daily now moments delivered to your inbox to weave mindfulness into daily life? Check out The Now Effect Community. 

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on Psychcentral.com

The Now Effect: How this Moment Can Change the Rest of Your Life

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

“A man lies dying in a hospital bed. He has spent his entire life building for the future, doing what needed to be done to amass wealth and raise his status to a level he thought worthy. Now he has reached the end of his days and finds himself filled with remorse rather than satisfaction.

In his final moments, he turns to his doctor and says, “I spent my whole life stepping on people in order to get to where I want to be, and now there’s no one left for me. It’s only now that I realize it’s so simple. It’s who you love and how you love and the rest of it, the rest of it never mattered.”

That is a powerful lesson, yet he has little time left to make use of it. 

He came to clarity at the end of his life; what if you could get this clarity now?”

Grounded in science, psychology and a modern twist on ancient practices, The Now Effect is a book about training our minds to see the “aha” moments of clarity and choice that are all around us. Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, MD once said, “In between stimulus and response there’s a space, in that space lies our power to choose our response and in our response lies our growth and our freedom.” The fact is an awareness of that space could change the rest of your life. That’s the promise that millions of people, including professionals in mental health, medicine, business, sports, and even politics have begun to realize.

It’s not news that most of the time we live in a state of auto-pilot where our brain is making rapid fire decisions beneath our awareness.  After an event occurs, the brain reaches back into its reference bank of memories and experiences to make a judgment call on what to do next. For most of us, after that snap judgment, autopilot kicks in and carries us into an unintentional habitual pattern of thinking and living.

“The way you wake up in the morning, do your work, eat your food, interact with your digital devices and engage with friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances, and strangers over time all become routine. Our brains ability to make things automatic enables us to function, but when life itself becomes routine, we miss out on the choices, possibilities and wonders all around us.” ~ The Now Effect

It makes sense. Our brains are designed to handle an increasing amount of complex information and as more avenues of information have become available (e.g., PDAs, internet, etc.), our brains adapt and we can’t help but live in shallow noisy waters and lack a sense of depth of what is most important. It’s not really our fault; our brains have adapted to handle the complexity of modern day life.

But as we begin to train our minds to see the spaces of choice in our lives and meet them with mindfulness, we can literally rewire a healthier brain and change the way we think before we think.

Recent neuroscience (woven throughout the book) and thousands of personal stories show us this is real and powerful. We can reconnect to what matters, break free from the limiting stories in our minds, rewire a stronger and healthier brain, incline our minds toward the good in life and even learn how to relate to our difficult feelings differently to realize an emotional freedom from the confines of our habitual thoughts and reactions.

You could say this is a book about the practical applications of mindfulness with a twist as it has the philosophy and practices (including tags to instructional videos) woven throughout it. However, I’ve written this book to more specifically prime our minds to that very moment where someone gets in touch with what truly matters and then has a choice to respond. The most skillful response may then be to choose to apply mindfulness.

To give you the best opportunity to apply these teachings and practices in your life I created the Free Now Effect Community with the option of daily now moments delivered to your inbox, a weekly offering of teaching, videos and event updates and a free live online event to go over some of the teachings, practices and answer some of your important questions.

This book is an opportunity to unlock the confines of your mind and begin a playful adventure. You will soon see the doorway into the space of awareness that might have seemed so elusive before. It’s through these spaces that you will realize the Now Effect and begin to change the rest of your life.

Before you move on with your day consider this:

As you’re reading these words you are living in a space between where you were previously and where you’re about to be.

What is most important for you to be paying attention to in this next moment? Recognize right now that you have a choice onto where you can intentionally place your attention.

May you enjoy more of the Now Effect in your life.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on Psychcentral.com

A Radical Way to Break Free from Automatic Negative Thoughts

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

I often write about the demanding and criticizing voices in our heads because they are so amazingly prevalent and I figure just about anyone can identify with that and almost all of us need support with them. Every day these voices arise out of habit, telling us “I can’t do that right,” “I’m never going to achieve that,” or “I’m not good enough.”

More often than not we indulge and get overwhelmed by these limiting beliefs or as Thich Nhat Hanh says,” we water the seeds of our own suffering.” The end result is we end up hating ourselves. But what if these voices were trying to help us in some way?

That may sound crazy, but really, consider it for a moment. What if these negative and limiting voices were looking after our best interest?

Many of us have past wounds in our lives, whether it was parent seeming too busy to pay attention to us or losing someone early in life, or being the victim of assault. Voices start arising inside us to help us maintain some control over our environments to keep us safe from being wounded again. These voices may judge us or others so we don’t get too close and run the risk the danger of either losing them or being hurt by them.

Or maybe the voices just criticize us so we don’t have to face the discomfort inside and spend all of our time taking care of other people. Although at the end of the day, these voices aren’t effective in maintaining a life of health and well-being, they can be viewed as really trying to help.

The moment we can see these voices for what they are is a moment of clarity where we step into the choice to relate to them differently with greater mindfulness. This space of choice is called The Now Effect and it gives us immense mental and emotional freedom. The end result is that we can learn to be more kind and caring to ourselves instead of damning and hating.

So, rather than damning and hating these voices that keep us down, we can learn to be a bit kinder to them, acknowledging their presence, and then choosing a different path. For example, if the voice arises “you’re not good enough, don’t even try it,” try and notice it and see it as a part of you that is simply trying to keep you safe from a past wounding experience.

Whether the negative voices come to you in relationship to abilities at work, parenting, traveling, procrastinating or issues with stress, anxiety, depression, addiction or trauma, you can acknowledge and view this wound coming to life and rather than entertaining it, thank it for trying to keep you safe and rather than cursing it, see if you can acknowledge the pain.

In that space of awareness you can get perspective, telling yourself that you know this is a difficult task, but that was then and this is now and you’re going to give it a shot anyway.

Easier said than done, but in practicing and understanding that even our damning voices have the intentions of keeping us safe, we can begin to “water the seeds of happiness” by breaking the habitual cycle of sending hate into ourselves and instead sending compassion and care.

See if you can put the Now Effect to work for you and notice how past wounding in your life may be sending you messages that keep you from getting too close to others or risking success to keep you safe from harm. When they arise, thank them for trying to keep you safe. Notice what a difference this can make than struggling with the messages.

As always, please share your thoughts and comments below, you additions here provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

***Announcement – The Now Effect: How This Moment Can Change the Rest of Your Life hits bookshelves Tuesday, February 21st 2012. Order your copy now and get it the day it comes out.

***Want free daily now moments delivered to your inbox to weave mindfulness into daily life? Check out The Now Effect Community. 

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on Psychcentral.com

Right Now: Get Your Self-Judgments in Check

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

We all have them; they’re the most prevalent thoughts in our heads at times. Sometimes I think if our minds only spoke out loud we may not have any friends and we certainly wouldn’t want to be friends with ourselves.

It’s the inner critic that lives in our heads that is constantly judging ourselves and others. This inner critic doesn’t make us feel good and can keep us stuck in cycles of stress, anxiety, depression and addiction. So why do we let this auto-judge run rampant? The reality is most the time we’re not aware enough to keep it in check and even when we are we don’t know what to do about it.

Here’s one trick to get your self-judgments in check:

The first thing you need to develop before gaining freedom from the inner critic is an awareness or acknowledgment of it. That allows a space to sit between your awareness and the judgment itself. In this space you find perspective, clarity and regain the choice to engage a healthier response. This moment is what I call The Now Effect.

Once you’re sitting in that space you can choose to count the judgments that arise.

Note right now if your mind is making a judgment about this idea before even trying it out. That’s numero uno. Great job!

This may sound silly, but counting your judgments has a specific effect. It not only widens the space between your awareness and the judgment itself, but it also impersonalizes it. When you impersonalize something you stop identifying with it and so it loses its hold on you.

One thing we know is that as you intentionally practice and repeat something it starts to become automatic.

Here are two ways to get your judgments in check:

  1. Toward others – It may be easier to start this process noticing judgments of others. Get these in check by setting an intention right now to count your judgments toward other people for one day.
  2. Toward yourself – The next day count self-judgments.

Your mind may wander from this practice at times and that’s perfectly fine. The moment you notice you’ve wandered is a moment of clarity, a moment of mindfulness where you can choose to gently redirect your intentions back to the practice. That’s the Now Effect in action.

Don’t be enslaved by your judgments, give this a shot and let your experience be your guiding teacher.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

*** Want Free Daily Now Moments that pop you into a space of awareness and remind you of what really matters delivered to your inbox?

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on Psychcentral.com

The Necessary Ingredient to Prime Your Mind Toward Happiness and Success

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

A while back I wrote the blog Neuroplasticity, Gratitude, and Your Mental Health: Food for Thought and thousands of people viewed it being reminded of the really powerful effects of counting blessings over burdens. This made me think of two critical elements that can help shape our happiness and success.The first is proactively looking at what it is we actually want in life. The second is looking at a key element that can help prime our minds toward the happiness and success we are looking for.

So here we are, in this moment right now, a space of awareness and choice to intentionally reflect on these 4 very important questions to help give you the support to making the change you’re most interested in.

  1. Think back to when this year started-what were your expectations?  What did you want/hope for? Have any of those begun to manifest?
  2. In this past week, what are you grateful for?
  3. What are your intentions for the rest of the year, how would you like to be (e.g., more calm, a better listener, more focused, kinder to yourself and others, more present to friends and family?)
  4. Looking forward, what are you wishing for yourself (e.g., health, feeling safe, free from fear, happiness, a sense of peace)?

Take this into the hours, days, weeks and months ahead. Making change stick is about setting an intention and repeatedly coming back to review that intention as if it was a doctor’s appointment. Repeatedly coming back and reviewing your intentions is an important thing to do to ensure making the changes you want to make.

BUT, there is something potentially even more important and that is controlling the environment you live in to maximize opportunity to make that change.

What does that mean?

Who do you surround yourself with? Is there a way to put people in your life who are supportive to the changes you want to make? That will maximize your potential.

This is exactly why I created The Now Effect Community, a free resources to support you with daily now moment reminders, a weekly support letter and a free live online monthly call where I and other special guests (i.e., Rick Hanson, Tara Brach, Sharon Salzberg, and more) share a teaching and interact with you live to answer your important questions. You can register now for free, first call is with me starting Wednesday at 12pm PST. You don’t need to have all levels of support, just customize it and choose the one you want.

The factors included in making change truly happen are your intention, effort, strategy and controlling your environment. The latter is key to priming your mind toward success.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from. 

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on Psychcentral.com

Getting Unstuck from Automatic Negative Thinking

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

If you were sitting in a room and just outside you heard the waves of the ocean on one side and a jack hammer on the left side, assuming the decibel level was the same, which would your brain be drawn to?

If you guessed the jack hammer, you’re right. But why is it that our brains are drawn toward what’s annoying or negative more than what’s pleasant and positive? And how can we rebalance this automatic nature of our minds?

This is a tricky one. It’s been well established that our brains have an automatic negativity bias. In the animal kingdom the magic rule was, as author of Just One Thing Rick Hanson puts it, “Every day, eat lunch, but don’t be lunch.” Those people whose minds were not primed to immediately target danger didn’t pass their genes on through the evolutionary chain. So our brains, over time, became more deeply ingrained with the bias toward focusing on threats and negativity.

An awareness of this bias alone can help you with the old adage “Don’t believe everything you think.”

Simply the knowledge that your thoughts are more inclined toward the negative primes your mind to begin to question these thoughts as they come. For example, in a moment you find your mind swirling on negative details you may start to also have a thought arise, “my mind has a bias toward the negative.” This thought pops you into a mindful space, a moment of clarity and choice that I call The Now Effect.

In this space you will have the awareness to ask the question “Is this thought true? What evidence do I have for this thought? Is there another way I can see this situation?” This opens the door to see opportunities and possibilities you never knew existed.

As we intentionally practice and repeat having these experiences they get stored as implicit memories. These are the memories that influence our immediate snap judgments and decision making from moment-to-moment.

So imagine a time where you get caught in a swirl of automatic negative thinking about the future, yourself, or the past and seconds later an awareness comes over you like a moment of grace allowing you to break free from this cycle and into a space of choice to be your own best friend in that moment instead of a reactive enemy.

The truth is, just reading this right now has already primed your mind to see these moments of choice to break free from the confines and unhealthy habitual patterns in the mind and into a space of choice, possibility and freedom.  As intentionally practice this, you’ll literally retrain the auto-pilot of the mind toward healthier and more effective ways of responding to life, this is one of the greatest gifts of the Now Effect.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates  a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on Psychcentral.com

The Happiest People Don’t Have the Best of Everything

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Throughout our lives we’ve been interpreting and making meaning out of all kinds of events. Every event by itself is just an event, but the way we see it, the importance we give it, how it weaves into the fabric of our cells makes all the difference. This meaning that we make then goes on to affect how we interpret other things, it informs the choices that we make and the behaviors that we conduct.

For example, if I were to get pulled over by the police for speeding I might think “the world is out to get me” or “I need to slow down.” I may miss the possibility that this may have saved me from an upcoming accident. Some people say life is like a blank canvas, go ahead and paint your masterpiece.

The problem with that statement is that life is not like a blank canvas because we bring all of our past experiences, woundings, traumas, and triumphs with us to the seat. These inform that immediate snap judgment that occurs beneath our awareness in any given moment.

If you were abused as a child that is going to have an instant effect on how you view and interpret relationships and the world. If you are a veteran who has just come back from war and saw some of your friends wounded or killed, that is going to affect how you make meaning of many different things in life. Many different forms of therapy ask us to shift the way we seeing things, have a different outlook on life.

It’s not so easy.

However, it’s also important to not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, says that people can survive any experience if they learn to make a more positive meaning out of it. He says, “even the worst circumstance can be transformed by our minds.”  We do walk around the world shaped by our experiences and the meaning we give to events can have a dramatic effect on how we feel emotionally and physically.

Here’s a sign that makes this point:

The fact is the moment we are aware of the meaning we are giving events is the moment we have stepped out of auto-pilot and into a space of clarity and have experience the Now Effect. To begin to train this to happen more often and cultivate a flexible mind, practice being on the lookout for the meaning you are giving events. Think of your initial interpretation as one slice of a pie and then from this space of awareness asking, “what’s another way I can see this?”

Notice your initial responses to these and then consider the other:

  • When the boss walks down the hall and doesn’t say hello does that mean that s/he is mad at you or that s/he is stressed?
  • Does showing your emotions mean a sign of weakness or a sign of courage?
  • If you get turned down by a job, does that mean that it’s the end of the world, or potentially giving you the opportunity to land a job that you would like better?
  • If you’ve just been laid off, does it mean life is over or a new start?
  • If s/he’s not calling you back, does that mean s/he just isn’t that into you or that s/he is just busy?

What did you notice with your interpretations? There are all kinds of examples like this that come to us on a daily basis. When we’re feeling particularly anxious, depressed, or panicky during the day it seems almost impossible to perceive things any other way than with negative or crisis-oriented judgment. The truth is, an event could almost mean anything. See if you can try and practice seeing other pieces of the pie and then you be the judge as to how that shifts the way you feel.

As always, please share our thoughts and comments below, your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on Psychcentral.com