Archive for December, 2012

Dr. Seuss’ Advice on Bringing Gratitude into Life

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

It’s easy for us to look back on a time of that was good and when it comes to an end focus on the loss. While grief is healthy to experience, there is also a time and place to widen our perspective. I’m reminded of a Dr. Seuss quote that one of the members of The Now Effect Community recently brought up,

“Don’t be sad it’s over, be glad it happened.”

We can take this to the present moment as well. There’s a chapter in The Now Effect called “Present Nostalgia,” a term I coined to represent how we can use the concept of nostalgia to appreciate the present moment more often and be “glad it’s happening.”

The Practice:

The practice is to project yourself into the future to a time when your current mode of life has passed. If you’re single, it’s when you’re in a relationship, if you’re in a relationship, maybe it’s if or when you have kids, maybe it’s 10 years from now and your body is a bit older or you can even go as far as the moment you’re lying on your deathbed.

From that place, look back onto this moment right now and have that future person tell you what you’re missing. What is it about this moment that is precious and impermanent? What will no longer be in the future that you have and can appreciate right now?

Maybe it’s a sense of freedom of being single or in not having kids. Maybe it’s that your kids are young and will soon be older and want more independence. Maybe you have youth, an able body that can move around with ease, good hearing, or even strong teeth.  Maybe it’s just a season and you’re missing the changing colors of the trees or the beauty of the snow that eventually will pass.

Whatever it is, there are often things we take for granted only later to be sad they’re gone haven’t had appreciated them in the present moment.

What do you have to be grateful for today that you aren’t seeing right now? If something comes up for you, post it on the gratitude wall in The Now Effect Community. 

Practice present nostalgia more often and step into the good of life a bit more often.

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

Mindful Recovery During the Holidays

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

As family and friends begin to gather during the holidays at one point or another may have to face either ourselves or a loved one with addiction. There are really very few people who are not touched by addiction in one way or another. Addiction comes in the form of alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, eating, sugar, and other compulsive behaviors that are an avoidance strategy and eventually cause distress.

When caught up in the cycle of addictive behavior, there is an inability to accept whatever is being felt in the present moment and the mind is constantly wandering onto the next ‘fix.’ So it’s safe to conclude that addiction often builds a wall of disconnection and makes it difficult to actually be present for the holidays.

If you or someone you love struggles with addictive behavior I recommend checking out the Mindfulness and Addiction series I wrote about in past years.

  1. Mindfulness and Addiction Part I
  2. Mindfulness and Addiction Part II
  3. Mindfulness and Addiction Part III

Aside from those, it may be a good idea to do a bit of preparing and planning for the holidays. Here are some tips:

  1. Plan some activities that don’t focus on alcohol, like games, sports, or talking
  2. Be aware that there may be people who have addictive behaviors and don’t make the flaw of saying, “Hey, how come you’re not drinking?” In other words, don’t bring attention to the fact that someone isn’t drinking.
  3. If you have an addictive behavior, make sure you have a trusty alternative. Remember, cravings often last a maximum of 20-30 minutes. Bring a bottle of water or if sugar isn’t your addiction, make sure to bring some chocolate with you, sometimes sugar can trick the brain into feeling satisfied.
  4. Keep a number on you of a trusted friend or someone who can talk you down if a craving pops up.
  5. Take a time-out and go to the bathroom or outside and practice some mindfulness with urge surfing or another short mindfulness practice, or maybe go on a walk. If you’d like to practice mindfulness as an approach for addiction and relapse prevention, you can check out the CD program Mindful Solutions for Addiction and Relapse Prevention.

You may want to write some of this on a card and take it with you to remember because the brain may not function that clearly when cravings hit.

As much as possible, practice kindness with yourself and others during this holiday.

Please share what works for you below or any comments and questions you may have. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

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

Got Stress? Here’s a Short Practice You Can BET On

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

stress tipsNo matter what time of year it is, stress will likely be a part of it. A little stress is good, it fuels motivation, but there’s a tipping point where it starts to have diminishing returns. When that higher level of stress hits, if it’s left unchecked it can lead to anxiety, depression, chronic pain, addictive behaviors, you name it. Today I want to give you something that you can BET on anywhere, anytime to help turn the volume down on the chaotic mind and bring you back into balance.

I’m a big fan of things that are short and sweet. Something I can remember that can help me in a pinch.

Here’s a short acronym that you can BET on throughout the day:

  • B – Body – At any point, bring attention to the body. How is it feeling? Is there any tension anywhere, in this moment of awareness, can you take a breath and allow it soften?
  • E- Emotions – What emotion is there in that moment? Is it anxiety, sadness, anger, confusion, joy, calm, or maybe just a neutral feeling? How does it feel as a sensation in the body? Research shows just labeling emotions turns activity down in the emotional center of the brain.
  • T – Thoughts – What’s on your mind? Is it busy or calm? If it’s a self-judgment or a judgment of another person, ask yourself, Is it absolutely true? How does this thought make me feel? What’s another way I can see this? Practice opening your mind.

Then just refocus on what matters in the moment.

That’s it, it’s that simple.

You can BET in the morning, before a test, during a business meeting, during stressful travel, while waiting at a stop light or on hold on the phone. You can BET before you open your email, in the midst of your kid’s temper tantrum, or just while taking a nice walk outside.

If you BET a few times a day, my guess is that you’ll break out of routine and back into the wonder of everyday life.

Try it out and let your experience be your teacher.

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

Source: Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler: Quick Exercises to Calm Your Mind

Man looking out the window photo available at Shutterstock

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

New Research Says Mindful-Multitasking Leads to More Focus and Calm

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

If you’re reading this you have access to technology and that means that you are likely going to engage in media multitasking at some point or another. In a previous post I looked at a study that says that media multitasking leads to poorer cognitive performance. That’s not so shocking since our attentional capacity is limited and when it’s splintered off we’re not going to be as sharp on any one thing. However, the reality is, we’re going to multitask, it’s not only rewarded in work environments, but it’s something that comes natural to our brains. So if we’re going to do it, what’s the best way?

Research suggests you look into mindfulness training.

In 2012, David Levy and Jacob Wobbrock, Information School professors at the University of Washington, conducted a study with Human Resource Managers and asked them to engage multitasking through all the usual methods of calendar, email, instant messaging, word-processing, and others and measured their stress. They split them up into three groups, (1) taking an 8-week mindfulness course, (2) taking an 8-week relaxation course and (3) business as usual.

After the 8-weeks they had them engage in multitasking again and found that not only did the mindfulness group experience less stress while multitasking, but they were able to focus better.

Part of the reason multitasking may lead to poorer cognitive performance is that stress can quickly get to a point where we experience diminishing returns.

In The Now Effect I make the argument that there are two ways we’re going to experience the benefit of mindfulness training. The first is through a singular moment where we experience that space between the stimulus and response and in that space we get in touch with choice and insight into what matters. The second is by influencing the auto-pilot that lives in our brains and makes most of the decisions moment to moment.

When we practice and repeat a procedure it programs the auto-pilot. So if you practice becoming more present, focused, flexible and self-compassionate in face of difficulty, then the auto-pilot is going to make more skillful decisions in the face of stress.

There’s nothing mystical about this, it’s just the way our brain works.

It’s always great to see science backing it up.

Here’s a short practice to get you started or if you have a long time practice, this is a moment of mindful retreat.

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

Video Source: The Now Effect: How a Mindful Moment Can Change the Rest of Your Life

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

Compassion: Live a Day through Thomas Merton’s Eyes

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Thomas Merton was a Trappist (Catholic) monk who spoke these words a couple hours before his final breath:

“Compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.”

I’ve made it a practice to be interested in what people say toward the end of life. I think at that point, people often come to a space of presence and clarity that I’ve called The Now Effect. This isn’t a special moment of wisdom that is reserved for our deathbeds, it’s something we all glean at some point or another and yet at the same time it is a skill that can be cultivated.

Merton’s quote strikes at the fundamental delusion that underscores much of our dis-ease.

We walk around life with this belief that we are somehow separate from one another and this growing feeling of disconnection leads to a state of imbalance. When we’re mentally imbalanced it’s a lot easier for our buttons to get pushed sending us into states of stress, anxiety, depression and addictive behaviors.

What would be different if we flipped it around and we walked around day to day with a fundamental belief that we are all connected, that there’s an interdependence of all being and that my actions reverberate in an interconnected web that cause ripple effects?

Maybe we wouldn’t be so quick to judge others. Or maybe we’d be more likely to help out other people or beings in this world. What would your life be like if there was more of that sentiment in it? What would the world be like if more people believed that?

Here is a truly worthwhile endeavor to practice today:

Take on the belief as an experiment that there is an interdependence of all living being. Your actions affect the web of connection which comes back to you. Harming another person is akin to harming yourself, helping another person is akin to helping yourself.

See how this belief feels as you try it on for a day.

Life is about choices and in this way, we can allow our experience to guide us in choosing the life we want to live moment-to-moment.

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

The Fear and Anxiety Solution: An Interview with Friedemann Schaub, MD, PhD

Monday, December 10th, 2012

You may have experienced it yourself or can become aware of it just looking around. There’s a rising feeling of anxiety in our culture today and people are searching for answers from mental health professionals to spiritual gurus. Today I want to bring you someone who has some insight into what’s going on and what might help us in the more difficult times. Friedemann Schaub, MD, PhD, is a physician specializing in cardiology and molecular biologist who has helped thousands of people with his Personal Breakthrough and Empowerment program that combines his medical expertise with NLP, Time Line Therapy™, clinical hypnotherapy, and more. He is author of the recent release The Fear and Anxiety Solution and lives in Seattle, Washington.

Today, Friedeman talks to us about what fear and anxiety are, how we create it, what role our subconscious minds play, how do we overcome self-sabotaging behaviors and what the limitation are of anti-anxiety medications.

Elisha: Why are fear and anxiety so pervasive in our society – and of what are we so afraid? 

Friedemann: Generally speaking, our modern society has little room and patience for feelings.  Reason and logic are far more accepted and valued than sensitivity and emotions. The problem is that we usually interpret negative emotions such as fear and anxiety, as flaws and weaknesses that need to be overcome, managed, or suppressed, rather than trying to understand their deeper meaning. Consequently “negative” emotions don’t get adequately addressed; instead, they accumulate in our subconscious and eventually cause greater emotional and physical challenges. In other words, the real problem is that we don’t know how to listen or relate to our emotions, let alone consciously guide and work with it – which is a major reason why, around 17 percent of the world’s population has been diagnosed with anxiety disorder.

What are we afraid of today? Besides the fear of losing health, face, relationships, and love, other common modern fears are losing a job, money, security – and a viable environment. At first glance, these fears could be summarized as “the fear of losing something of value.” However, underneath the fear of losing something that’s important to us often lingers a greater fear:”the fear of losing control and being powerless.” This deep-seated fear can lead to a vicious cycle, causing us to believe that hypervigilance, micromanaging, and even obsessive behaviors are the only way to maintain some sense of power and control when, in actuality, it is fear and anxiety that control our lives.

Elisha: How do we create fear and anxiety? What are the roles of the subconscious mind and cellular memory?

Friedemann: However, although anxiety can appear as an uncontrollable energy that exists within us, it is simply a feeling that we create. Understanding some important facts about fear and anxiety is the first step to demystify this emotion and regain control—the more we know about something, the more we can find ways to deal with it.

Every second of our lives, we’re surrounded by an incomprehensible amount of information. But how do we distinguish the tiny fraction of information that is relevant from all the remaining input that needs to be ignored? This is where our subconscious mind comes in and employs specific filters to separate what it perceives to be important for us.

Subconscious filters delete, distort, and generalize information that passes through them and leave us with a condensed and altered version of all that surrounds us—an internal interpretation of reality. In other words, how we see ourselves and the world around us depends on the fabric of our subconscious filters. Our fear filters dictate how we interpret the danger or safety of your reality. They consist of emotional baggage of the past, unresolved inner conflicts, and limiting core beliefs, and are ultimately the subconscious root causes of anxiety. The more pervasive these subconscious fear filters are, the more they alter our internal perception of ourselves and the world we live in, which makes us more susceptible to experiencing fear and anxiety. Giving a talk becomes the equivalent of facing the firing squad. A plane ride feels like a one-way trip in an aluminum coffin. And a difficult conversation with a friend or family member reinforces our fear of ending up alone and abandoned.

So it makes sense that to break through these emotions and their ensuing behavioral patterns, we need to consciously remove and replace these filters, which is what The Fear and Anxiety Solution is all about.

Elisha: How can we resolve these inner conflicts and overcome self-sabotaging behaviors?

Friedemann: Inner conflicts are one of the three fundamental root causes of fear and anxiety (the others being stored emotions and self-limiting beliefs). Most often, it appears that the battle is fought between a “negative” part in our subconscious, which brings up anxiety, worry, insecurity, and shame, and an opposing “positive” side, which makes us feel more confident, motivated, and optimistic. While the agenda of the positive subconscious part seems to be about promoting growth, success, and happiness, the negative is usually perceived as the inner obstacle, the weakling, the critic, or saboteur—that which holds us back from living up to our potential. Through the Parts Reintegration Process, which is described in my book, you’ll be able to clearly identify, which part of your subconscious mind is fighting another and then work through specifics steps, which allow these two parts to reconcile, appreciate their mutual purpose, and to collaborate with you and each other. This will leave you with a much greater sense of wholeness and clarity.

Elisha: What are the limitations of anti-anxiety medications?

Friedemann: Medical research has focused largely on a physiological solution to emotional problems such as anxiety and depression. The good news is that this form of altering the brain’s physiology and chemistry can indeed successfully dampen fear and anxiety and make these emotions more manageable. However, this “improvement” often comes with a price. One of the challenges with anti-anxiety medications, besides their common side effects, such as drowsiness, nausea, constipation, and lower sex drive, is that they potentially lead to physical addiction, and you must wean yourself carefully when you want to stop taking them.

Many of the clients I have worked with complained that their medication didn’t only reduce their anxiety, but also dulled or even turned off their emotions in general. It appeared to them as if their mind had been wrapped in cotton or a lid had been placed on their ability to feel anything. But what still hadn’t vanished were their deep-seated insecurities and the limiting core beliefs they had struggled with for a long time. Beliefs such as “I’m not good enough” or “The world is not a safe place” still remained a part of their mind-set, even though they didn’t have the same emotional impact. As a client put it, “I basically still have the same issues, but because I don’t feel them as intensely. They seem to be further out of reach. It’s a relief, true, but not really a resolution.

I like to look at anti-anxiety drugs as a form of emotional painkiller. The purpose of pain medication is not to mend the fracture or close the wound that causes the pain, but to make the time it takes to heal more tolerable. It would be denial or plain ignorance if you would drown out the pain without tending to its root causes. If fear and anxiety are like physical pain, then their natural purpose must be to call your attention to the deeper emotional and mental wounds they are caused by. What if tending to these inner wounds—whether they are unresolved traumas, self-sabotaging patterns, or limiting beliefs—could lead to greater peace, wholeness, and self-empowerment? Would it still be enough for you to just fix and get rid of fear and anxiety? Or would you want to take advantage of their true meaning, heal yourself from the inside out, and gain access to your true potential? This is what I call the healing power of fear and anxiety. As you’re moving step by step through The Fear and Anxiety Solution, bridging the conscious with the subconscious and higher consciousness, you will learn how to address fear and anxiety and take advantage of their healing power.

Elisha: Thank you so much Friedemann for your wisdom.

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

When Forgiveness is the Only Thing Left to Do

Friday, December 7th, 2012

Almost 15 years ago Saundra Adam’s grandson, Chancellor Lee Adams came into her life in the most heart-wrenching way. One night in 1999 after the past NFL player Rae Carruth and Cherica Adams went to a movie they got into separate cars to drive back to Cherica’s house. As Cherica parked another car drove beside her revealing a gun and fired a number of rounds into Cherica. At the time Cherica was in her third trimester with Chancellor and had enough energy to dial 911 and implicate Rae in the shooting. The paramedics got to Cherica in time to save her son’s life and performed an emergency c-section. Because of Cherica’s death, Chancellor had been oxygen-deprived and would spend the rest of his life with severe disabilities unable to feed and change himself.

But Saundra, his grandmother who inherited him tells this a different way.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated she says:

“I’m not gonna have anything negative to say about him,” Saundra says of Carruth. “I thank him for my grandson. I thank him for my grandson. . . . Like I say, you can focus on what you’ve lost or what you have left. So I didn’t lose. I have my grandson. I have my daughter with me in my heart, always.”

Some might say that Saundra is in denial, but Saundra made the decision not to hold onto the hatred and anger and instead spend her invaluable resource of attention in a different way.

In The Now Effect you’ll read Lily Tomlin’s quote that says,

“Forgiveness means giving up hope for a better past.”

and…

“You have already been wronged once; why continue to let something in the past cause you pain by holding on to it? Many people maintain the erroneous belief that holding on to past events somehow hurts the other person. It does not. It hurts only yourself. In fact, the practice of forgiveness has been shown to reduce stress, anger, and depression and support many aspects of well-being and happiness.”

Sometimes we can spend months, years or the rest of our lives holding onto something that inevitably burdens our soul and actually causes mental and physical illness. It’s a feeling of stuckness where we just don’t know what else to do.

Perhaps the only thing left to do is give yourself the gift of forgiveness.

Whether the affront was done knowingly or unknowingly, it is often done from a place of fear, anger, confusion, or ignorance. Sense into the time you have held this pain and to the extent that you are ready to release this burden.

Forgive, forgive, forgive, it’s one of the greatest acts of self-compassion you can perform. There’s no doubt in my mind that Saundra is better off for it.

“Breathing in, I acknowledge the pain, breathing out, forgiving and releasing this burden from my heart and mind.” ~ 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

4 Morning Tips for a Calm and Joyful Day!

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

How we start the morning often sets the stage for how the rest of the day unfolds. Of course life throws us curve balls in the middle of the day, maybe you get a stressful email or someone rear ends you with their car or you lost that deal that you were looking forward to. Anything can happen in the present moment, but how we start our day can often affect how we greet those challenges.

Here are four tips to start your day that will help you with the inevitable ups and downs that you get handed.

1. Mindful Check-In – It’s good to begin the day simply noting where you are starting the day from. How is your body, what emotions are present, is your mind calm or already racing off to work? If you’re lying in your bed, you just note that, getting a sense of the body feels comfortable or tense. Are you feeling calm, anxious, annoyed, or maybe neutral? What is on your mind?

Here’s a 2-minute video from The Now Effect to give it a go:

2. Prime Your Mind for Good – After a brief mindful check-in, one way of inclining your mind toward resiliency and even opening up to the good of the day is to consider an intentional gratitude practice. What in your life right now do you have to be grateful for? It could be something simple, like waking up on the right side of the bed, to having a roof over your head, to having a good cup of coffee in the morning. Just practice inkling your mind to the good in life.

3. Bring Presence to the Morning Activities – When you’re in the shower, be in the shower, not solving problems at work already. When you’re making breakfast for you or your family, consider the intention of that being to take care of yourself and others through the day. Put some love into your food. If there are pets or other family members in the house, before you leave make sure to say an intentional goodbye, looking into their eyes

4. Red Light Practice – As you drive to work use red lights as an opportunity to just check in, pressing the reset button if traffic has got you flustered or just using it as an opportunity to get centered and focus on what matters. You can make the choice to listen to your favorite music, intentionally plan the day out in your mind, or just have a quiet drive for a change. If you take public transportation you can do the same thing every time the bus, train, or subway stops. If you work from home, try this before turning on your computer. Exposing yourself to choices and acting on them just feels good and primes your mind for the rest of the day that you have choices in how you want to respond to situations.

Try these four things each morning as an experiment to see how your life changes.

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