Archive for April, 2013

#YouAreBeautiful

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

You may have seen the video and maybe it touched you in a way that brought you to tears. A forensic artist sat down and asked the woman sitting on the couch next to him to tell him about her face. He opens with the question, “Tell me about your hair?” and then, “Tell me about your chin. After one woman thinks about it she says, “It protrudes a bit especially when I smile.” He continues, “What about your jaw?” Another woman answers, “My mom always told me I had a big jaw.”  He then asks, “What’s your most prominent feature?” Taking a moment, she answers “Kind of a fat rounder face” or “I would say I have a pretty big forehead.” After he got his sketch he said thank you very much and left.

He didn’t see them again. But what happened next reveals a truth we each need to hear.

How we think of ourselves:

Prior to sketching the first women, the artist paired the women up and asked them to “get friendly with each other.”

Then he brought them in and asked them to describe the features of the women they had conversations with.

The answers were enlightening.

How others see us:

“She had a nice thin chin,” one person said. Another said, “She had nice eyes, they lit up when she spoke.” And yet another, “I remember blue eyes, very nice blue eyes.”

The artist made another sketch from their description, one that looked far more beautiful than the self description.

When asked about her self-portrait, one woman summed up the other responses, “She looks closed off and fatter, sadder, and the second one looks open, friendly and happy.”

How we treat ourselves affects our relationships, jobs, and how we treat our children.

Learning how to see our innate beauty is critical to our happiness.

From Self-Judgment to Self-Compassion:

Whenever you notice self-critical thoughts arising in your mind, take note of them; see how they make you feel. Then immediately swap it out with a thought of what you appreciate about yourself.

This can help reverse that negative habit and open up to the beauty that has always been there.

Let your light shine through and see what happens.

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

Squash Doubt and Step into Joy

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

joycrpdYou may have read, and you’ve certainly experienced, that our brains are wired with a negative bias. From and evolutionary perspective this is to keep us on the lookout for danger in order to be prepared if it is ever to strike. But when we get a new job, relationship, parenting or many other areas of life, it squashes what could be a joyful and exciting experience. In fact, one of the greatest offenders when it comes to the negativity bias is “doubt,” but there’s a way to reverse the doubting habit and open up to the joy that is already there.

Here’s the practice and I’ll keep it short and sweet so you can take it and begin experimenting with it in your life today:

  1. Be on the lookout for doubt – Get curious about where doubt comes up in your life. Does it spring on you in the midst of a positive experience? When you look over the bed at your beautiful sleeping baby, do you wonder if something terrible might happen that may take him away? If you get a new job offer and then immediately wonder if you’ll measure up? Does doubt arise in the midst of any opportunity or challenge that squashes the excitement for it?The task here is simply to be on the lookout for where doubt arises in your day.
  2. Understand the purpose of doubt – Doubt is there to keep you safe, however misdirected it may be. Sometimes doubt can save your life, like when you see a shiny blade swinging in a dark alley way, the doubt about going down that alley way is telling you something important. However, often times it’s misdirected, but it’s still important to recognize the intention is still to keep you safe.The task here is simply to recognize that doubt is not your enemy, although it may be misdirected in the moment.
  3. Thanks, but no thanks – When you notice the doubt and understand it’s trying to be helpful, you can note this to yourself and also note that this doubting habit is actually causing you more suffering and squashing the upside of the moment.Practice: “Breathing in, acknowledging the doubt and its purpose, breathing out, letting it go.”
  4. Swap it with gratitude – After acknowledging the doubt, seeing it for what it is, and practicing letting it go, immediately bring to mind what you’re grateful for about the situation at hand. If the doubting is around your parenting and children, think about what you’re grateful for around your own awareness with parenting and your children. If it’s around a new upcoming job, what do you appreciate about this upcoming opportunity? If it’s about any challenge, consider what you’re grateful for.

If you set aside any intentions of achieving the elimination of doubt and instead focus on what you learn as you make this a practice in your life, you will be well served.

Remember, doubt has its place, but if it’s placing itself in a situation that is stripping away your joy and excitement, this may be a good place to implement this reversing the doubting habit.

Try it out as an experiment, let go of any expectations and see what you notice.

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

Man at the beach photo available from Shutterstock

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

The Neuroscience of Learning to Trust Yourself

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

A research study just came out in the Journal of Neuroscience where scientists at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston used sea snail nerve cells to reverse memory loss. The scientists were able to help the cells compensate for memory loss by retraining them when the nerve cells were primed for optimal learning. Of course they’re hoping this has implications for working with Alzheimer’s, but the implications don’t stop there, it could also support a neuroscience for learning to trust ourselves in times of difficulty.

Helen Mayberg, a neuroscientist from Emory University called depression, “emotional pain without context.” In other words, here is this emotional pain and the brain can’t figure out where it’s coming from and so it feels lost, stuck and helpless. There is a strong lack of self-trust in these moments. The hippocampus is a part of our brain that is involved in memory, learning and also in giving us a sense of context. In other words, the hippocampus is part of what tells us it’s not appropriate to burst out in tears at work and yell at people at the top of our lungs (even if we feel like doing that). It also tells us that it may be more appropriate to let our guard down with someone who feels safe.

We know through past studies that there are various ways to create neural growth in the hippocampus. Creating an enriching environment has been connected with stronger neural growth in the hippocampus; we’ve seen growth through steady 8-week practice of mindfulness meditation, and one of the earliest studies showed this area of the brain larger in taxi drivers versus bus drivers because they had to constantly use memory to navigate versus just being on auto-pilot.

When it comes to trusting ourselves, we need to have retrievable memory of experiences where we were able to rely on ourselves to handle a difficult situation.

I have a theory that human brains (perhaps sea snail brains too), are primed for learning in times when we are mindful or aware of what’s here. I think that we are primed even more intensely for learning when we’re mindful during an emotionally vulnerable moment.

We know that the emotional center of the brain is a primary decision maker for us throughout the moments of the day. Emotional experiences (especially difficult ones); influence our snap judgments that form our perceptions and actions.

Most of us see vulnerability as something to stay away from because there is the fear of getting hurt or rejected in it. But the truth is, we can’t learn to trust ourselves without being vulnerable. You need one to build the other.

If we can learn to intentionally pay attention to our moments of vulnerability, without judgment, and meet it with a curious and caring awareness, we can build that into our hippocampus, and make it readily retrievable when we need it most. We condition the natural ability to trust and rely on ourselves.

But like anything, it takes intention, attention and practice.

Just sitting with yourself for 5, 10 or 15 minutes (or more) and paying attention to your breath or your body is, for many of us, an act of being vulnerable. The fact is, most of us are guarding against being alone all throughout the day by either staying busy in activity or staying busy in our mind.

In doing this you build trust that you can actually be with yourself with whatever is here. Through practice and repetition, the brain changes and a new thought emerges from the neural growth that “I can handle this, it’s going to be okay.”

Here’s a link to a 5-minute sample of a mindful practice to get you started. 

The fact is we are active participants in our health and well-being, we all have a hand in learning how to shape our brains to trust ourselves.

hand brain

It starts right now and whenever we all off the path, we can always begin again.

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

(Picture Source: Unknown)

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

Every Little Bit Counts – Daily Now Moment

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Here’s another Daily Now Moment that if spread around can have tremendous ripple effects in your relationships, communities and beyond.

The ancient Greek writer Aesop left us with these words:

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

Be on the lookout for kindness in others today. You may find more of it in the world than you think is there.

Then, try bringing more intentionality to your own acts of kindness.

We may not always get it back, but in the long run this simple practice primes your mind for good and can be life changing.

Try it out today.

Warmly,
Elisha Goldstein, PhD

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

Teens Get More than Better Test Scores with Mindfulness

Friday, April 12th, 2013

A study out of the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) recently came out that showed how a two week mindfulness training improved students GRE reading-comprehension scores and working memory, while reducing mind wandering among students prone to distraction. Of course this story went viral because of the value our culture places on test scores over almost anything else, including mental health. But underneath the better tests scores, this study reveals something far more important, it suggests that with practice teens can rewire the ability to regulate attention and stress. In today’s academic race to nowhere that might mean the difference between just surviving and thriving.

In my mind, it all comes down to stress.

Kids nowadays are under a tremendous amount of stress with a push from our educational institutions and from parents to get the best grades, do the most extracurricular and conform to fit into the highest social circles.

Families don’t seem to have the time they used to have. The kids are so booked with activities that a 20-minute dinner together as a family is a major accomplishment. Many of those 20-minute dinners are then interrupted with everyone’s miniature media boxes intruding with texts, Facebook messages, tweets or sports scores. I’d say phone calls, but who does that anymore.

What happens is that the adolescent brain (as does the adult brain) defaults to certain ways to cope with this high level of stress. These unhealthy habits include, but are not limited to: Procrastination, over-eating, under-eating, isolating, self-harm, sleeping too much, not sleeping enough, working harder into the night at the expense of health, worrying and at times, the extreme attempt of suicide.

It’s hard to focus on a test when all this is going on.

When my wife, Stefanie Goldstein, PhD and I created the CALM program – Connecting Adolescents to Learning Mindfulness – we were floored to hear their stories in going through a mindfulness curriculum.

~ “From this class I learned about mindfulness, how to communicate better, how to manage stress, and how to be more compassionate with myself and others.” -Anna, age 17

~ “I was very amazed and happy at the effects mindfulness has had on my panic, focus, and mood.” -Paula, age 16

~ “Mindfulness for me, has become a practice in my life that helps me to have some perspective over my feelings instead of being lost in the middle of it all. It makes feelings less confusing.” – Lana, age 17

~ “A word I would use is “refreshed” because that is what I feel being in this class, coming from a long week and everything that leads up to the class” – Brandon, age 15

If you’ve read any of my work you know I often reference a quote that has been attributed to Viktor Frankl:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space likes our power to choose our response, in our response lies our growth and freedom.”

Mindfulness trains us to see that space and enter into it, seeing the “choice point” for a healthier coping response.

While we now know that we can influence neural growth throughout the lifespan, the teenage years are a time of intense synaptic pruning. This is the time of “use it or lose it.” That means it is an opportune time to have an influence on the strength of neural connections.

That’s why it’s so important to bring mindfulness into our educational systems, the future will be far better for it.

Here’s a link to a short practice to give to yourself or a teen near you, to not only get better test scores, but to influence a stronger and healthier brain (Source: The Now Effect: How a Mindful Moment Can Change the Rest of Your Life, just released in paperback).

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

Now Moment: Balance Your Brain’s Negativity Bias with Food

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

Find some food today with which to truly engage in mindful eating.

Please don’t let this pass you by, make it your
intention.

Eat slightly slower than normal and give yourself the chance to really taste the food.

Consider all the people and natural elements like wind, dirt, rain and sunshine that went into creating this food that is now being used as nourishment (and maybe joy).

Research has shown that our brains have a natural negativity bias, more prone to attend to what’s difficult. Take this moment to create some balance and prime your mind toward the goodness in your life.

Make this a practice and watch the ripple effects unfold.

Warmly,
Elisha Goldstein, PhD

Source: The Now Effect: How a Mindful Moment Can Change the Rest of Your Life (Launches in paperback today!).

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

Take a Short Respite

Friday, April 5th, 2013

Here is a mindful practice from the “Daily Now Moments” to play with today:

Take your shoes off and spend one minute feeling the sensation of the floor or earth beneath your feet.

Wherever we are provides us with a “choice point” to bring awareness to what surrounds us in the moment.

Enjoy!

Warmly,

Elisha Goldstein, PhD

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

There’s Always Someone to Blame: Wisdom from Brene Brown

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Picture this:

You have a big business meeting in the morning and you ask your partner to get home at a decent hour so you can both get to bed early. Your partner sneaks in a bit later and disrupts your sleep. You wake up in the morning a bit more tired than you wish you would be, make your coffee and while bringing it to the table your fingers fumble the cup. When it falls to the ground it breaks into a million pieces and the coffee shoots up ruining your outfit. The first words that come out of your mouth are, “Dammit Jim! Why did you have to get home so late?”

This is a story adapted from Brene Brown’s new audio program The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection, and Courage. This was her story, but in her version she was wearing white pants making it that much worse.

The fact is there’s always someone to blame. In Brene’s research on shame and vulnerability she says that blame is “A way to discharge pain and discomfort.” I loved hearing that because it is rang so true.

In The Now Effect I share this personal and comical story of blame:

When I was a kid, my family went on a ski trip to Mammoth Mountain, California. I felt like I was pretty good and told my dad that I was ready to go on a harder run. So up we went. My body was becoming increasingly filled with nervous and excited energy as I saw the lift passing the usual stops and approaching the end of our ride. I performed a flawless exit from the lift, and as you can imagine, I was extremely proud of myself. I took off down the hill ahead of my dad and soon noticed that there were a number of moguls (small bumps in the snow). I started going faster. I then hit the moment that anyone who has skied or snowboarded experiences where you feel out of control; fear surged through me as my legs became wobbly, and I smashed into the snow face-first. When my dad came up to where I was lying in the snow, the first words out of my mouth were “Dad, it’s your fault!”

The fact is I was embarrassed and so my brain discharged the embarrassment by blaming my Dad. There’s really no other value for blame other than that discharge. When you start to be on the lookout for it you’ll notice that it’s just one way your brain automatically releases negative energy. But ultimately, blaming is a mind trap that only serves to fog up our lens of reality and strips us of our power to make a change for the better. We either hold others responsible for our own shortcomings or blame ourselves for others’ problems.

Either way, blame takes us away from knowing and doing what is most important right now. It also keeps us stuck in looping cycles of stress, anxiety, depression, addiction and even trauma.

We can take Brene’s finding around blame and make it practical in our lives to gain freedom from it.

Here’s how:

  • See it in yourself – Spend a day being on the lookout for moments of blame. This may be blaming yourself or another and see if you can recognize how it was a moment of expelling pain, discomfort or some negative energy. How does it make you feel after? Was it relieving, does more negative energy creep in?
  • See it in others – Spend the next day noticing when other people use blame. Do you notice some pain or discomfort that preceded their moment of blaming?
  • See the freedom unfold – See what happens as you start to get curious about the experience of blame. 

It may just be the ticket to getting freedom from this depleting mind trap.

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