Archive for March, 2012

Daily Now Moments to Cultivate Mindfulness and Happiness

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Today in my inbox I received an email that reminded me to engage in something that has been proven over and again through research and experience to lend our brains toward mindfulness, happiness and connection.

Here is what the email said:

The medieval German theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart said,

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”

So here we are in this moment, reading this post, and I’m inviting you to do a 1-minute practice of the things in life you’re grateful for.

If your mind is restless and wants to skip past this short exercise, check-in and see if there’s any discomfort.

Sometimes we actually have discomfort when considering what we’re grateful for. In fact, this discomfort can even cause us to skip over the practice of gratefulness altogether.

The result is that we may be denying ourselves the benefits of a practice proven to aid in the experience of life satisfaction and the encouragement of comfortable emotions.

If you experience discomfort, sense into it – allowing this awareness to also become a part of the practice.

This is an example of a Daily Now Moment that are available free through The Now Effect Community. While these are not the actual Now Moments from The Now Effect, they’ve been created to support you toward intentionally practicing bringing a greater sense of clarity, possibility and happiness into your life.

Note the very important piece that directs you to become aware of the mind’s restlessness, impatience or snap judgments around engaging gratitude, which is an act that has been proven to be an integral to connection and happiness.

It’s this type of experience that we want to pay attention to because it’s doing something very interesting. It automatically steers us in the opposite direction of health and well-being. While our individual reasons for why our brains are doing that  would be worth inquiring into, for now, just note when it happens, note the feeling and redirect to giving yourself the chance to experience this practice fresh, with a beginner’s mind and just see what you notice.

Let your experience be your teacher.

Please take this gift with you today, read the passage over again and integrate it into your day as an experiment.

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

A Simple Way to Trick Your Brain Toward Mindfulness

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

It’s important to understand that making changes in life isn’t just about sheer willpower. For most of our lives, we’re on auto-pilot and our brain is making rapid decisions for us. It references our history, mood and environment to come up with the most adaptive response. However, when we’re trying to make changes in our lives, being more mindful, for example, we can do a simple trick to set up our environment in a way that supports our success.

If you have The Now Effect you may have found a “5 Step Cheat Sheet” in the Appendix that gives you ways to prime your mind toward the present moment and reinforce a certain way of being that you aspire to.

One of the five steps references controlling your environment. Just like signs on the road may help remind us to slow down or remind us of children crossing, we can put up signs with short verses in our day to day to remind us to be how we want to be.

Note: Check for auto-pilot reaction before moving on: Take a moment to check in with any judgments that might be arising right now. For example, “short verses? Is he nuts? How could that ever help me?” or “What is this, an affirmation?  Those never work.” Or “why am I even continuing to read this?” If anything like this arises, this is normal,  just take a moment to notice the automatic judgment, let it be, take a breath to help ground to the here and now and then gently continue on with the next paragraph.

Acclaimed author and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh uses short phrases all the time to support himself in being more present, grounded, and aware in daily life. He has taught this practice to medical professionals, psychologists, and students for many years now. He teaches the practices of walking and/or breathing and using these phrases to support us in calming our distressed minds and being more present to every day life.

I suggest reading these examples below and creating little signs in your environment at work and home that serve as reminders for you to automatically drop into more mindful moments throughout the day.

Short Verses

  • You may take three steps while breathing in and say “Breathing in, I calm my body” and then with the following three steps “Breathing out, I relax.” You can then shorten this to saying “calm” as you breathe in, and “relax” as you breathe out.
  • “Breathing in, I notice the colors all around me, breathing out, I smile.” Then shorten to “Breathing in, colors, breathing out, smile.” Even if we don’t feel like smiling, the simple act of doing a half-smile sometimes can change the tension in our faces, which in turn affects our mood.
  • “Breathing in, I have arrived, breathing out, I am home.” Then shorten too “Breathing in, arrived, breathing out, home.” Have you ever had the experience where you were rushing home to relax? It doesn’t make sense and isn’t effective in calming the nervous system. Sometimes reminding ourselves that we have arrived to the present moment already and that we are home can help calm an anxious mind. We can then slow down and get home a few minutes later in a more collected and relaxed state.
  • “Breathing in, I wash my hands, breathing out, may I use them wisely throughout the day.”  Shorten to, “Breathing in, washing, breathing out, wise hands.” This practice can not only bring appreciation to one of the unsung heroes of our bodies, our hands, but also reinforce the idea of being aware of all they do during the day and being more mindful with them.  This cultivation of appreciation can support us in feeling well.

These are just some examples and many more are woven throughout the writings and videos in The Now Effect. As you get the hang of it, you can make up your own that fit for you. You can do this while walking or just sitting and breathing. And of course, most important of all, don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself.

If it’s not for you, cast it aside, but give it a shot. Pay attention to how you are feeling physically, emotionally and mentally before doing it and then again after you do it for a few breaths.

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

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

Using The Now Effect to Break Free from Mind Traps

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

There’s a funny print cartoon that has a man and woman sitting on the couch staring at a TV screen and the caption below reads, “It’s 12 O’clock, do you know where your mind is?” As time goes on and we grow up from children to adolescents to adults, for many of us, somewhere along the way, life begins to become routine.

Day in and day out whether we’re walking, driving, talking, eating, going to the grocery store, or being with our families, our minds get kicked onto auto-pilot and continue to develop their habitual ways of thinking, interpreting, expecting, and relating to other people. These habits of the mind can keep us stuck in stress, anxiety, depression, or even addictive behaviors..

Here are a few habits of the mind and a mindfulness practice to help you break out of auto-pilot and gain more control over your life.

The Now Effect lays out some Common “Mind Traps” that are not effective for well-being:

Catastrophizing – If you’re prone to stress and anxiety, you may recognize this habitual mind trap. This is where the mind interprets an event as the worst case scenario. If your heart is beating fast, you may think you’re having a heart attack. If your boss didn’t look at you while walking down the hall, you thinking you’re going to get fired. You get the picture. This style of thinking will support increased stress, anxiety, and even panic.

Discounting the positive and exaggerating the negative – The news is wonderful at supporting us with this one. This is where we habitually reject or minimize any positive feedback and magnify the negative feedback. The glass is always half empty. If you catch yourself saying something positive and then saying “but” followed by a negative, you are practicing this. “I got a 95% on this test, but I didnt’ get a 100%”. Without awareness, this style of thinking will likely land you in a depressed mood.

Blaming – Be careful of this one. We all do it, pointing the finger at someone else for our woes or point the finger at ourselves for others woes. “If my boss wasn’t so hard on me at work, I wouldn’t be so anxious” or “It’s my fault my parents got divorced.” Just check in with yourself after noticing this style of thinking. It doesn’t cultivate any solutions and just makes you feel stuck, anxious, or depressed.

Cultivating the ability to be more present to these mind traps will help you break free from them and shift your attention on more effective ways of interacting with life. If you notice catastrophizing, actually say to yourself “catastrophizing is happening right now,” then bring your attention to your breath for a moment to steady your mind and then ask yourself, “what are some other possible reasons why my heart is racing fast (e.g. , I just ran upstairs, I’m nervous)?

If discounting the positive, come back to the breath, and then switch the “but” to an “and” so at least the positive statement get its equal weight, being more realistic and balanced. If blaming, call it out, say to yourself “blaming is happening.” Remind yourself that blaming simply isn’t effective for anyone and then come back to your breath to steady your mind and bring yourself back to the task you were just doing.

This is not an easy process, but its important one for regaining control from the ineffective habits we develop in our minds. If we’re not mindful in our daily lives, our minds could just fall into their habitual states to the point we’re on our deathbeds asking “where did it all go?”

Just check in with yourself during the day, look at the clock and say, “It’s X O’clock, do I know where my mind is?” You may catch yourself in some mind traps and if not, just notice whatever you are doing in the moment and then continue if you still want to be doing that or change if you’d rather be doing something else.

Try to be patient through this process and not judge yourself if you find the mind traps arising. In fact, the moment you’re aware that you are in a mind trap is the moment you have stepped outside of it, this is what is called The Now Effect, that “Aha” mindful moment of clarity where you can choose a new response. Judging yourself as bad or wrong is another mind trap that holds keep you stuck. Breathe in, breathe out, and just redirect your focus.

As always, please comment below on thoughts or questions about this blog. Do you notice when you’re on auto-pilot? What kind of mind traps do you catch in your daily life, what works for you? Writing below helps create a living wisdom that we can all share and benefit from.

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

You Want to Be Happy? Bring this Essential Ingredient Back into Life

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “Life is routine and routine is resistance to wonder.” As we get older this statement may seem too ring true more often, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

With children, research has shown that play has a significant impact on physical, cognitive, emotional, and social health. Why would it be different for us adults? How do we bring this mental health boosting attitude back into our lives?

John Kelly, a Sociologist once said,

“Adults need to play. We are working creatures, we are bonding creatures, and we are playing creatures.”

Martin Seligman, past president of the American Psychological Association and author of Authentic Happiness, says that the three pillars of mental health are love, work, and play. In a blog post, Therese Borchard interviewed fellow blogger John McManamy to bring up the value of play in relation to our mental health.

When we were all kids, play seemed to come so easy, but as our lives started to become busier and “more serious” it started to move lower down on the totem pole of “important” things to do and soon even off the list. He also notes that when adults engage in play nowadays, we may do it with ulterior motives to meet or network with a person which alters the true nature of play.

There has been a growing trend in research in the field of Positive Psychology that is looking at the health benefits of adult play.  Play can engage that sense of flow, where your abilities meet the challenge of the task and cultivate positive qualities. Not only can engaging in play help reduce stress, but it can also give us a sense of pleasure and satisfaction or mastery which support us working with anxiety and depression.

The theme of this blog is mindfulness and psychotherapy. When I teach people about integrating mindfulness into their lives I underscore that while mindfulness can be considered a discipline, it is a playful discipline. This is a grounding theme in The Now Effect.

How can we engage play once again and come back in touch with the wonder of life which can be so healing?

Here are some tips:

1. No Goal Attitude – John McManamy, along with many others, have suggested for years, “play for the sake of play.” That’s right, don’t have a goal in mind when playing, just engage play and know you’re playing

2. Get on Your Hands and Knees – Somehow as adults we feel this is beneath us or not acceptable. This is particularly helpful if you have any pets or children. Get down on the ground and engage with them, be present, see how you feel.

3. Laughing Yoga – This has been known to be contagious and bring about a great sense of play

4. Play Activities – Start to think about what past hobbies you enjoyed or what activities you are currently doing that incorporate playfulness. Make a list of these activities. Next time you engage in these, remember rule #1.

5. Vacation – This doesn’t have to be elaborate, it could be just a day or an afternoon. Take a day for its own sake and do something you’ve wanted to do for fun, but have just not gotten around to. You can choose to do this by yourself or with other people. Make a date for this today!

Incorporating just a bit more play in your life, or even changing to way your relate to playful activities that you’re already doing can have great benefits in your life. Choose to sprinkle some of this in today.

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

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

A Simple Trick to Reduce Stress and Create a Happier Brain

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

It’s no secret that there’s more stress now than there ever has been. Maybe it’s a result of having more things than ever to pay attention to, or perhaps it’s the increasingly panicked way the news comes at us, or maybe it’s that people are feeling more alone today than ever before. Whatever the reason, one thing we now know is that a very simple type of connection actually reduces activity in the area of the brain that is responsible for releasing our stress hormones.

In an interesting study, Director of Virginia Affective Neuroscience Laboratory, Jim Coan, PhD, found that when people are chronically stressed and had their hands held by a significant other, the hypothalamus, the region of the brain responsible for secreting the stress hormones, is less active.

Coan took 16 married women and had them go into a brain scanning machine (fMRI). Then an electrical shock was administered to them while holding their husband’s hand, a stranger’s hand and no hand at all. Not only did the women report less stress when holding their husband’s hand and the stranger’s hand, but the brain scan confirmed it.

As you might imagine the stress levels were least evident in the hands held of happier couples.

It’s always fun to see neuroscience backing up what many of us have known through experience for quite some time. For some reason it seems to add validity to it. Probably because we’re trained from the time we’re young to trust the experience of professionals, but not our own experience.

In The Now Effect I intentionally reinforce the notion of allowing our experience to be our best teacher so we can develop accurate and healthy intuition.  I dedicate an entire section to Getting Connected with the understanding that when we’re connected we simply feel better and happier. We don’t really need neuroscience to tell us that, but it’s just fun that it does.

An important fact to understand with relationships is that the brain is wired to make them routine (like everything else). While you might remember holding hands quite a bit in the beginning, perhaps that’s gone by the wayside. Good to notice and also good to know that we can always begin again.

Now that neuroscience has confirmed it, perhaps it’s worth trying a little experiment of hand holding.

If you’re in a relationship, see if you can set any presumptive judgments aside and recognize that moment choice to hold the hand of your significant other and just see what you notice. As you practice and repeat this with intention, my guess is you’ll begin noticing some positive effects not only on your stress levels, but on your relationship as well.

The two go hand in hand (pun intended).

If you’re not in a relationship, it’s also my experience that taking time to give yourself a hand massage can be stress relieving too. There’s just something about making connection through physical touch.

It all boils down to connection. Connection creates balance and that leads to feeling happier. This is just one little thing you can experiment with, a little mindful hand holding, to deactivate ongoing stressors, feel more connected and maybe even live a happier life.

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

Holding hands photo available from Shutterstock.

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

Neuroplasticity Isn’t Necessarily an Ally, But Understanding It Is

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

There’s been a lot of talk about the new findings of neuroplasticity and the ray of hope it has brought many with the understanding that we can use our mental processes to change our brains throughout the lifespan. If you’ve been reading The Now Effect you know that I open up the Know Your Mind, Change Your Brain section with the story of the young violinists who showed similar shifting in the motor cortex of the brain whether they were actually playing the violin or just imagining playing the violin. This conveys the power of our minds to shape our brains. But it’s not all roses.

In a recent interview that is part of a new brain science series put on by NICABM with leading health professionals like Dan Siegel, Daniel Amen, Sharon Begley, Marsha Lucas, and others, Norman Doidge shares that neuroplasticity isn’t necessarily an ally, but understanding how it works is.

In terms of anxiety he says:

For example, we can look at someone going out at night and being mugged. They become chronically anxious about going out at night, about darkness and… that is a brain that has been neuroplastically altered. That nervous system is no longer functioning as it previously did.

So, plasticity is not always a positive thing. The brain can change in good or bad directions. With the anxiety in traumatic disorders, the change is in a negative direction. Luckily, therapists who understand how plasticity works or at least how they can make use of neuroplastic principles can often correct those runaway negative forms of plasticity.

It’s important to understand that how we pay attention and what we pay attention affects our brain architecture. This brain architecture is what spits out rapid fire decisions of what is good or bad, right or wrong, fair or unfair, safe or unsafe, important or unimportant, or urgent or not urgent.

We don’t deliberate about our automatic reactivity; it’s the wiring of the brain that reactively does this for us for better or worse. Often times in terms of stress, anxiety, depression, addiction and trauma, it’s for the worse.

The wonderful news is that once we have an understanding of this, we also understand that while the architecture may have a strong, natural component to it, is changeable by learning. It just usually doesn’t happen overnight.

This isn’t breaking news.

Learning theory has taught us for quite some time that what we intentionally practice and repeat in life is what becomes automatic. However, Norman Doidge, MD and the other scientists are helping us see the neural correlates of this which at the end of the day is fascinating and I believe helps give many of us the motivation to help us put it into practice.

In terms of mindfulness, if we intentionally practice and repeat dropping into spaces of awareness throughout the day, these spaces of awareness and choice will start dropping in on us like moments of grace during the day, where we literally begin recognizing more moments of choice, possibility, opportunity and freedom that we never knew existed before. This is the central theme and practice behind The Now Effect.

Begin or recommit to your practice today!

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

Note: Learn more about The Now Effect Community and get Free Daily Now Moments delivered to you inbox and access to the Free Monthly Online Event around understanding how a mindful moment can change the rest of your life.

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

Outsmart Your Stress at Work: The “Email Meditation”

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Prior to becoming a Psychologist,  I was in the corporate world leading teams of people and becoming intimate, maybe too intimate, with being overwhelmed and feeling stress at work. The amount of workers today that say job stress is a major problem in their lives has doubled in the last decade. Recently, I wrote a popular post called Outsmart Your Stress: The 1-Minute “Be” Practice and now it’s time to see how to make this now effect come alive at work.

In today’s accelerating business world people are constantly being told there’s no time to “BE” and they don’t manage their time well, so it’s no wonder why more and more people every day are left feeling exhausted, unfocused, unproductive, unhealthy, and burnt out.

“You need to manage your time better and learn to juggle more,” is the conventional reply to getting more things done faster. The American Psychological Association put out a report saying, the inability to focus for even 10 minutes on any one thing at a time may be costing you 20% to 40% in terms of efficiency and productivity.

What more and more business leaders are finding is instead of doing more things faster, you need to learn how to prioritize your attention and do the most important things really well.

It may not be a major surprise that mindfulness has been shown to help us reduce stress and be more productive in the workplace. This is the reason companies like Google, Apple, Yahoo, Aetna, among many others have begun bringing mindfulness programs into the workplace. Recent research came in The Journal of Occupational Health, with a 12-week live online program I designed for eMindful called Mindfulness at Work™  to explore effects on stress.

The published results: participants reported significant reduction in perceived stress levels and an enhanced ability to respond to stress.

So whether you’re trying to be more effective and less stressed at your current job or schooling, or more effective at finding a job because you just got laid off, attention management is the key in today’s New Business World. In other words, the issue isn’t so much time management, but attention management in work and life.

When we learn how to prime our minds toward the spaces of choice in the day, the effect of that is the ability to more readily refocus our attention on what is most important, become more effective, less stressed, and perhaps surprisingly, seem to have more time.

The Email Meditation

In The Now Effect I have a chapter called Now at Work where I give many ideas about how to bring mindfulness directly into the workplace to make a positive impact.

One example that you can immediately implement in your day is the Email Meditation:

EMAIL MEDITATION: When you’re emailing, e-mail for a certain period of time (i.e., 10, 20, or 30 minutes), and practice “See, touch, go” when your mind or behavior wanders.

“See, Touch, Go” is something learned earlier in the Getting Started section of the book and it simply means when your mind wanders, “see” where it wandered to, “touch” or notice the thought, and “gently go” back to the task at hand. Practicing “See, Touch, Go” when we’re focused on email, will strip away any of the wasted attention on self-judgment or any other distracting thoughts and get you back to the task with greater focus, making your more productive and less stressed.

See, Touch, Go 

The 3-minute video below is the first instructional video of many included in the book, but I wanted to share it with you to give you an experience of “See, Touch, Go.” Give yourself a chance to practice it right now, then go ahead and bring it to the tasks at work, even your email

(Note: The introduction the video says, “thank you for buying The Now Effect” because the reader experiences this as the first video in the book.)

Come back to this to practice throughout the day and bring it informally to the tasks at work whenever you notice your mind wandering from what’s most important to pay attention to. You may even want to schedule a pop up in your calendar asking yourself “Where is my attention now?” When it pops up, take a breath and then answer the question.

After you answer, redirect your attention to what is most important right now. You may do this dance over and over again. The purpose isn’t to judge yourself if you’re distracted, but just become aware of it and gently refocus your attention. This mindful focus has been proven to help you become more effective and less stressed at work.

Try it out!

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

Outsmart Your Stress: The 1-Minute “Be” Practice

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Over the course of thousands and thousands of years our brains have become wired toward creating, fixing, solving, basically just doing. It’s been a great benefit; we have roofs over our heads, cars to drive, chairs to sit on and even this technology to connect around. But when it comes to our stress or uncomfortable emotions, the brain mistakenly uses the same approach and unknowingly make our stress and pain worse.

We can begin right now to train our brain with a more effective approach.

This is what I call, the “BE” practice and it can be experienced in one minute.

Note: First, see if you can set any judgments aside of whether this practice will or will not “work” for you. Engage this just with the goal of being aware of your experience.

  1. Breathe – Take a few deep breaths and as you breathe in, know that you’re breathing in, as you breathe out know that you breathing out. The instructions are very simple. You can even say to yourself, “In” as you’re breathing in and “Out” as you’re breathing out. This is meant to pop you out of auto-pilot and steady your mind.
  2. Expand – This is the process of expanding your attention throughout the body and just feeling the body as it is. You may feel warmth or coolness, achiness, itchiness, tension, tightness, heaviness, lightness or a whole host of sensations. Or perhaps you notice no sensation at all in other areas. When you’re here also be aware of how emotions are being expressed in the body. Stress may be tension in the chest or shoulders, calm may be looseness in the back or face. Whatever you notice, just practice allowing to be as it is without needing “to do” anything about it.

That’s it! It may sound too simple to be impactful, but again, set your judgments aside and let your experience be your teacher.

Just practice being, Breathing and Expanding into the body in mini-moments throughout the day to experience the effect of being in the now, that space of awareness and choice that will lead you to a more balanced and mindful life.

To help you remember you might consider posting signs in your environment that say “Just Be” knowing that means to engage in the “Be” practice. Or maybe putting a note in your digital calendar to pop up a couple times in the day as a reminder.

The benefits are enormous – it just takes intention and practice.

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

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

A Violinist, A Crowd and the Secret to Happiness and Resiliency

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

A number of years ago a story came out of renowned national violinist Joshua Bell playing in a DC Metro stop during rush hour. By the end of his playing a few people were there standing around but everyone else was rushing by.

Watch this 2-minute video and then we can look at how our brains are wired to miss the wonders of our lives that could very well be the secret to happiness and resiliency.

The story is that people dropped a total of $30 in his case, while that same night he had a sold out conference that went for $100 a seat. If we had a window into the commuter’s minds what would we see?

My guess is a lot of planning or rehearsing future events about where they need to go, the things that need to get done, maybe rehashing past events or possibly “rushing home to relax.” This video does a brilliant job at underscoring how we get so caught up in our habitual ways of thinking and doing that we fail to see the wonders that are all around us.

What’s the consequence of this? As the story I bring up in the introduction to The Now Effect conveys, it’s not too uncommon for our lives to go by only toward the later years to get in touch with what really matters. What if we can get this clarity now?

Not only would we begin to experience the freedom that’s always been there and connect to a more meaningful life, but we’d also sow the seeds of happiness and resiliency during difficult times.

When Richie Davidson came out with his study in 1993 that showed how mindfulness caused a shift in activity in the left side of the prefrontal cortex, known for positive emotion, he was conveying the neuroscience of resiliency. In other words, when difficulties arise, they’re met with a person who feels more balanced and grounded. Like a tree with shallow roots might get ripped out or blown over by strong wind, but when the roots are deep and grounded, it can stand its ground.

Take this with you today, begin to step back from your routine and get back in touch with the wonders of life. Actually stop and smell the roses if there are some. Walk slightly slower than usual feeling the gift of your legs, bringing awareness to sipping your drink and eating your food and actual taste it, recognizing it’s nourishment to your body.  If you have kids or a partner who you’ve established a pattern of relating to, see if you can recognize the impermanence of their lives and take time to be with them (without your smartphone).

The fact is, research shows us that connecting to the here and now lights up different parts of our brains that prevent stress, anxiety and depression. We also have proof that it grows certain areas involved in learning, memory and empathy. But what matters most of all is your life and the lives of those you love, so why not drop into them as a practice. This is the effect of mindfulness, this is The Now Effect.

Give it a try and allow your experience to be your best teacher.

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 Mental Workout: 100 Seconds to Greater Health, Happiness and Success

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

I love when people in various areas of life integrate mindfulness into their work. Dr. Jason Selk is the Director of Mental Training for the St. Louis Cardinals, and best-selling author of 10-Minute Toughness and newly released Executive Toughness. He contributes to ABC, CBS, ESPN, and NBC radio and television and has been featured in USA Today, Muscle and Fitness, Men’s Health, Shape, and Self Magazines.

Jason utilizes his in-depth knowledge and experience of working with the world’s finest athletes, coaches and business leaders to help individuals and organizations outperform their competition.

Recently Jason shared with me very practical mindful ways to create mental toughness to increase our happiness and success. He says:

“Everyone wants to be mentally tough, however very few spend any time working on it. Human beings are made up of thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Our thoughts control the way we feel and behave. To dramatically increase health, happiness and success, all one needs to do is learn to control what goes on between the ears. Research on mental toughness has shown that those who are in control of the manner in which they think live up to 14 years longer than their less mentally tough counterparts, and they are happier, healthier and more successful in those extra years of life.

Your mind can be strengthened just like a muscle. The mental workout is a concrete and proven process that delivers results in the same way as a physical strengthening plan. That is, if you complete the exercises as instructed on a regular basis, you cannot help but develop mental toughness.

The mental workout is a 5 step process that many of the world’s top athletes and business people credit with taking them to the next level of success. The mental workout is an incredibly powerful tool that will undoubtedly put you in a position to dramatically improve confidence and help you execute at a higher level more consistently.

The 5 step mental workout:

Step 1: Centering Breath; a controlled breath where you breath in for 6 seconds, hold for 2, and then exhale for 7 seconds. The Centering Breath will control your heart rate and allow your mind to work effectively.

Step 2: Identity Statement; essentially a personal mantra that reflects who you are and what you hope to achieve. An example of an identity statement is “I am confident and I thrive on pressure, I am the most focused and successful CEO in the country.”

Step 3: Personal Highlight Reel; The Personal highlight reel is 60 seconds worth of visualization in which you spend 30 seconds remembering 3 things done well in the previous 24 hours and then imagining 3 things you are going to do well in the upcoming day.

Step 4: Identity Statement; Repeat to yourself again your identity statement further driving home your self-image of success

Step 5: Centering Breath: Take another centering breath to remind yourself of the feeling of being calm and in control.

Just as your body responds to consistent strength training, your mind responds to regular mental workouts. Try to take the 1 minute and 40 seconds each day to develop your mental strength and stay in shape for performance. If you should miss a day here or there, don’t panic. One missed appoint­ment with your physical trainer won’t sink your overall physical fitness, and the occasional missed mental workout won’t kill your progression to success. If you do miss a day, simply make the commitment to get back on track the fol­lowing day.

By making mental workouts a habit, you will set your­self on a trajectory toward developing mental toughness and focus as you have never experienced.”

It’s so important to carve out space for mindful reflection, it’s truly what many successful people do. Give it a shot and allow your experience to be your teacher.

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