habits

Habits That Center Us

I remember the day I came to the mind-shattering conclusion that the right pair of yoga pants wasn’t going to bring me peace. I also remember the day, after a week of grueling busy-ness, I found myself in the little nook between my closet and my bed, taking deep breaths, repeating, “You are going to be okay. You are safe.” And feeling calmer than I’d felt in years.
Many of us aren’t sure how to soothe ourselves as adults. Maybe we learned that anxiety and panic are just a part of daily life. But here’s the thing. They don’t have to be.
Mindfulness therapy takes you on a journey. You get to decide what’s sacred or peace-bringing to you and what is not. You get to play around and build your own toolbox of sacred habits that keep you centered in a world that often feels it is tilting on its axis.
Lately, for me, it’s cuddling up with a movie a few nights a week and being quiet, a pet on each side. Other times, it’s walking through the woods, noticing the feel of winter on my cheeks, the crisp sense of something new being ushered in. Sometimes it’s a patio drink with a friend on a work night when the world tells me I should be asleep.
Staying sane in our world requires us to carve out these nooks and crannies that bring peace. They are not indulgent. They are necessary. And they are our sacred, centering habits. And I invite you on a journey to uncover yours.
law of giving

The Law of Giving (and Receiving) = FLOW

Hi Friends! Megan Bartley here.

This year Louisville Mindfulness Center is giving away one book a month that has been influential to me in my life to better understand and love myself, my relationships, and in the work that I do as a therapist, mindfulness coach, speaker, and author.

January 2021 we are giving away, “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success” by Deepak Chopra (scroll down to enter to win!)

Today I’m reflecting on the Law of Giving.

For those of us who are natural caregivers or maybe even people pleasers, we tend to give and give and give and give and give some more which can lead to us feeling depleted and perhaps frustrated when we feel no one is looking out for us and our well-being.

How I understand the Law of Giving is that there has to be a balance of Giving and Receiving. This creates a FLOW. Energy flowing out and energy flowing into our lives. If energy is only flowing out of us, then we will feel exhausted if we aren’t allowing others to care for us, or making time for us to care for ourselves. This is why we preach the necessity of “self-care” and “loving yourself.”

It’s the premise behind putting your oxygen mask on first and then assisting your dependents. If you are pouring all the water out of your pitcher into other people’s water glasses, and you don’t have a supply of water coming into your pitcher, then you will soon become dehydrated, emaciated, and feel “stuck” since there is no hydration to sustain you. And I don’t know about you, but when I’m hungry or thirsty my moods get grumpy and negative and resentful that I’m giving everyone what they need, but not receiving what I need in return.

Creating this FLOW involves allowing others to give to you

To help you out, to bring you treats and gifts, to offer their compliments and for you to receive them gratefully and without guilt. I’m sure when you are offering your help to others you are being genuine and truly want others to take you up on your offer. How do you feel when people turn you down? Perhaps not trusted, not good enough, brushed off? When we say “no thanks” to others when they are offering help to us, we are perhaps sending these messages to them without even realizing it.

I know what you’re thinking… you’re thinking you say “no thanks” to others because you don’t want to burden them with your stuff. So ask yourself this question, “When you offer your help and assistance to others, do you feel burdened by them?”

Perhaps you can challenge yourself to get the FLOW going by asking for help.

I know, I know, many of us have a hard time asking for help, but again, when someone asks you for help, I wonder if you sometimes feel special, or trusted, or honored that they thought you were the person they could rely on for help.

When we start to shift our mindset from worrying about burdening others to creating the wonderful flow of giving and receiving, we are choosing to allow others to think of us, to “have our backs,” and we are honoring others with trusting them to help us out.

The visual I like to think of is of the ocean waves coming up to shore on the beach. There is a constant motion of waves coming in to shore and going back out again. The movement doesn’t stop, EVER. There is a flow of water coming in and a flow of water going back out to sea. The ocean is in constant FLOW. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to feel this flow in your own life? Perhaps you already do in certain areas. And perhaps there are other areas where you might challenge yourself to be more in “FLOW” with life.

I’d love to hear your feedback and if this was helpful to you. If there are other topics you’d like me to write about, please let me know!

trust playbook

How To Rebuild Trust: A Playbook

Written by Rob Giltner, MAMFT

A lot of couples get in “gridlock” where they find themselves in conflict over the same subject or find themselves continuously in conflict. Couples in “gridlock” are trying to solve the issue that is the tip of the iceberg. Partners may get frustrated with this issue not being solved, and begin to feel like they’re not being heard or understood. This then makes partners listen to respond to each other rather than listening to understand each other.

Once we work to come from a place of understanding rather than one of response, we realize that many arguments are not about what we see on the surface, but are really ice that has built up underneath the surface. Many times once our partner understands our ice below, we began to feel connected and understood which melts away the ice. We then find ourselves no longer stuck in “gridlock.”

After such continued conflict, it can be important to practice trust-building. The following is a playbook for strengthening the trust within your relationship.

Signs someone is suffering from PTSD as a result of betrayal:

  • Hypervigilance
  • Emotional numbing with explosions
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Depression

The 3 Pillars for Rebuilding Trust: Atone, Attune, Attach

One can Atone by:

  • Continued expression of remorse and sincere apology (even in the face of skepticism)
  • Confession
  • Dealing with triggers
  • Behavioral change, transparency, and verification
  • Understanding what went wrong
  • Reasons for return or relapse
  • Understanding the high cost of future betrayal
  • Acceptance and forgiveness

After conflict with your partner, the key to healing is to process and repair. It is vital that we are mindful of our partners’ feelings, as well as our own related to the event. Identifying triggers to those feelings is a great way to begin to repair from conflict. Triggers can come from events related to influence, acceptance, and affection.

Attune stands for:

A=Awareness
T=Turning toward
T=Tolerance
U=Understanding
N= Nondefensive Responding
E=Empathy

Couples must learn to handle conflict by tuning in, so it doesn’t overwhelm them and create distance in their relationship.

When an individual feels emotionally overwhelmed, it makes it very difficult for them to listen to understand, offer empathy, and dialogue. Their brains are in fight or flight mode. This may then result in stonewalling, criticism, and defensiveness. If a couple is able to find ways to self-soothe, they are able to approach an argument rationally and gently and they have a higher chance of a positive outcome. Sometimes couples need to take a break from the argument to soothe, but they must agree to return to the conflict.

Attach

When we talk about attachment, we are asking, “Are you there for me?” You can practice connecting to your partner through:

  • Rituals of connection
  • Building intimacy
  • Turning towards one another
  • Accepting bids

Establishing Rituals for Connection

One of the keys to a strong relationship is creating shared meaning between you and your partner. Shared meaning can be big things like sharing overarching goals and visions for your relationship and life, but it also comes from establishing rituals of connection. These are rituals that you do daily, weekly, or monthly that bring you together and allow you to connect as a couple. These rituals ensure that you are taking the time to develop deep emotional connections with each other.

It can be helpful to start by examining each partner’s memories of family rituals and then script new rituals. Be specific about what, how when, and where. Restructure your time the following week to include these.

  • Waking up, waking one another up
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, & or coffee together
  • Bedtime
  • Leaving one another
  • Reuniting
  • Handling finances
  • Hosting others at home
  • Athletics, exercise
  • Celebrations (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.)
  • Taking care of each other when sick
  • Renewing your spirit
  • Recreation, games, play
  • Dates and romantic evenings
  • Watching television
  • Running errands, doing chores
  • Doing schoolwork
  • Soothing other people’s feelings
  • Apologizing or repairing feelings after an argument
  • Common hobbies
  • Making art

Resources: The Gottman Institute

book of the month

2021 Book of the Month Giveaway!

Hi Friends! Megan Bartley here.

One of the fun questions that was asked during our Mindfulness Center holiday party was, “What’s your favorite holiday?!” We had many varied answers from Easter to Fourth of July to Thanksgiving to Christmas. My answer was unique. My favorite holiday is New Year’s Eve and Day.

I have always liked the idea of a fresh start, of starting anew. Of putting the past behind me and stepping into the unknown of the future. Now, with that said, I am a planner, in a big way, so I usually have many goals and intentions for the New Year. I also LOVE to challenge myself…to learn new things, read new books, try new activities, explore new places, eat new foods…you name it.

One of my favorite books is The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra. One of the laws is the Law of Detachment. Choprah so elequently writes,In detachment lies the wisdom of uncertainty . . . in the wisdom of uncertainty lies the freedom from our past, from the known, which is the prison of past conditioning. And in our willingness to step into the unknown, the field of all possibilities, we surrender ourselves to the creative mind that orchestrates the dance of the universe.”

Aaaahhhh…. I could read that passage over and over. It seems so simple, freeing, beautiful and exciting.

So in the spirit of newness and giving, I am excited to announce that every month this year we will be giving away one of my most favorite books that has helped me

  • 1) learn new things,

  • 2) see old things in new ways, and/or

  • 3) challenge the norm of what we “know.”

In January 2021 we will give away a copy of The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. Simply submit your information below to enter the drawing. We will announce our winner in our email newsletter the last Friday of every month. If you can’t wait to read the book… Order it HERE!

understanding mindfulness

Understanding Mindfulness

Written by Bridgette Allen, MAMFT

The definition of mindfulness is simply paying attention to what is transpiring in the present moment, without judgment.

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, renowned mindfulness teacher and researcher, mindfulness is also “a particular way of looking deeply inside to promote understanding and healing with an acceptance of what is.”

To fully understand mindfulness we must first recognize the importance of focusing on our breathing. Since our breath is always with us and easily accessible, following it anchors us in the present moment. It is our “friend” and regulator. When our mind wanders, and it will, we gently bring it back to our breathing and the present moment, without judgment.

In addition, our feelings about our mindfulness practice play an important role in the success of living “mindfully.”

Nine inter-related attitudinal factors form the foundation of mindfulness:

Non-judging: Learning to be an impartial witness to our own daily experiences. Not labeling them either good or bad, but just taking note of what they are now.

Patience: Understanding and accepting that things sometimes unfold in their own time and being open to each moment in the present.

Beginner’s Mind: Seeing afresh…looking at things as if for the first time with an unbiased view and a sense of curiosity.

Trust: Honoring ourselves and our feelings; believing in our own instincts.

Non-striving: Being in a state of non-doing and allowing ourselves to “be” without trying to change anything.

Acceptance: Coming to terms with what is and seeing things as they really are in the present.

Letting Go: Accepting things as they are with no attachment or expectation.

Kindness: Bringing compassion for ourselves as we are now without self-blame or criticism.

Curiosity: Noticing what is happening in the moment with our emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations.

As we cultivate these factors in our practice, they in turn strengthen mindfulness within ourselves and in our relationship with others.

Mindfulness can be practiced informally or formally.

Formal mindfulness practice involves setting aside a specific amount of time, usually thirty minutes or longer every day, to consciously “go inside” and be aware of what is sensed or felt in the body, using the breath as an anchor. This practice can include a sitting/walking meditation, body scan (systematic scan of body parts), or yoga session.

Informal mindfulness involves finding brief moments in everyday life to be present. Instead of multi-tasking or spending extended periods on automatic pilot, the focus is on one activity at a time, without distraction. Whatever your preference, practicing mindfulness can help reduce the amount of mindlessness you experience day to day.

holidays

Coping with Pain, Loss & Stress During the Holidays

The holidays can be a time of great joy, peace, and fun! We may have traditions that enhance our close relationships this time of year, feel more connected to a higher power, or are simply looking forward to much needed time off. However, for many of us, the holidays can be a time of pain, loss, and stress.
This pain can come from hurt or damaged relationships, loneliness or be the result of a traumatic event. If you are feeling pain, it can be helpful to view this pain as a wound or a symptom of a wound. Remember that emotional wounds do not heal over time like physical wounds. Emotional wounds can heal by utilizing mindfulness, empathy, and other therapeutic remedies. If you notice pain this holiday season; try to shift your focus to healing these wounds.

Loss is always difficult and can become harder around the holidays.

Maybe we are dealing with the death of a loved one and an empty chair around our table. Perhaps it is the loss of a relationship or, in the face of the pandemic, the loss of an activity we enjoy and cherish.  Like pain, if we notice loss we need to give ourselves the time and space to heal from it. Allow yourself to grieve, and if possible, sit with the feelings of loss and befriend those feelings. If you notice loss, be kind and gentle with yourself. Loss can create a further loss of self. This can manifest in loss of sleep or loss of personal value you may have. Make sure to protect yourself from any possible loss of self during this time.

Stress is also very common around the holidays. Specifically, when dealing with difficult people…

Whether it’s a difficult family member or a person you have just come across, difficult people can trigger stress. It is first helpful to not take their behavior personally. Also, know that if you feel that someone is difficult, it is likely someone else feels the same way. Be aware if this person is trying to elicit a response out of you. It can be helpful to have a plan or script when dealing with a specific difficult person. Lastly, if you are able, try to have empathy for that person. If you allow yourself to be consumed by their behavior then you are ultimately giving the difficult person power. Empathy gives you the opportunity to eliminate some of that power.
overthinking

Overthinking Things ALL THE TIME

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

Do you catch yourself constantly distracted by your thoughts? Are you consumed with thinking about things – how a situation will turn out, what someone might say, how you will respond, worrying about things that have not happened yet, etc? Do you get stuck in the same thought patterns? Do you get stuck not making decisions or taking action because you can’t stop weighing all the options? Can you remember the last time you felt really happy or really sad or really angry?

I like balance. If we are too lopsided one way – thinking too much for instance – it usually creates problems for us and those around us. What would it look like if we strive for a balance between THINKING, FEELING, & DOING? We think sometimes. We feel sometimes. We do (or take action) sometimes.

I bet we would find a relief from a lot of the dialog in our head, the worry we constantly feel, or the meaning we’ve made out of things that might not have any meaning at all.

Go ahead, give it a try!

triggered

How to Respond When You Get Triggered

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

The holidays are upon us and that usually means lots of time with our extended family. 2020 has no doubt brought an extra helping of limitations and pressure for us to navigate this season.

Do you dread this time of year or certain aspects of it? Do you wish you had ways to cope with the parts you don’t enjoy? Is there that certain someone who triggers something within you every time you see or talk to them?

Remember this:  You only have control over yourself…how you think about things, your behaviors, how you are feeling, and what you say.

  1. Act, don’t react to the times when you are triggered.  his means slowing yourself down enough to regain control of the situation by choosing how you want to respond (if at all) to inappropriate, mean comments or people. Have a plan for how to respond before you are in the situation. “If he says something mean, I will just look at him blankly while taking some deep breaths to soothe myself. Or if I decide I can’t not say anything, I’ll just say ‘Huh, that’s an interesting perspective, or Huh, that’s a good question, I’ll have to think about that.'”
  2. Acknowledge and validate your feelings that get triggered, “Of course I want to scream at her for commenting about my weight, that was inappropriate for her to say.” Take a deep breath and know that you have zero control over that other person and instead you will take control of yourself and respond appropriately, if at all.
  3. Let yourself off the hook.  Often we think we have to respond to negative comments or inappropriate questions so we can defend ourselves or to make sure the other people in the conversation don’t feel awkward. Remember to be your best adult self and sometimes saying nothing at all communications more than we could ever say with words. In fact, if we don’t respond, it shifts the awkwardness back to the sender.

Ultimately be gentle and tender with yourself and others.  Allow each new moment to unfold as it needs to.  Trust that you will do your best in each new moment and allow others the opportunity to be their best in each new moment.

boundaries

Creating Healthy Boundaries

Written by Bridgette Allen, MAMFT

Healthy boundaries keep us safe, both physically and emotionally. They keep us clear about what’s “me” and what’s “not me.” They are rules we make for ourselves that determine just how much others can come into our “space.” And like societal rules, personal boundaries can be looser or more rigid, depending on what the situation requires.  The purpose of boundaries is to keep us feeling safe on the outside as well as the inside.

Healthy Boundaries are:

  • Flexible: we are able to be both close and distant, adaptable to the situation. We are able to let go of destructive relationships and connect with nurturing ones.

  • Safe: we are able to protect ourselves against exploitation from others. We can read cues that someone is selfish or abusive. Also, we are not offensive to others.

  • Connected: we are able to engage in balanced relationships with others and maintain them over time. As conflicts arise, we are able to work through them.

In order to develop healthy boundaries, we must know what we like and don’t, what feels good to us and what feels bad. We must know “who we are” and “who we are not.” Healthy boundaries are developed in childhood when a kid gets the message from caregivers that his/her thoughts and feelings matter. This happens when a parent models healthy boundaries by guiding and correcting a child in a firm, nurturing, and consistent manner. The parent doesn’t use the child to regulate his/her own difficult emotions by beating the child, for example, or by demanding emotional nurturance from the child. When this occurs, a child grows up unable to separate his/her thoughts and feelings from others’.  He/She takes undo responsibility for others’ thoughts and actions, blames others for his/her feelings, or needs to control and manipulate in order to feel safe.

In therapy, we “redraw” our boundaries. We reconnect with our feelings and strengthen the muscle that sets limits and keeps us safe.

“Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.”
― Brené Brown, Rising Strong

change

A Tornado of Change

Written by Jennifer Komis, MAMFT, MDIV

I don’t know about you, but this year has felt like a tornado of constant change. And that’s putting it mildly. Whether you’re pulling your hair out homeschooling your kids, bent over a laptop trying to work from your couch, or trying to figure out what dating looks like in the time of COVID, all of us are experiencing some feeling of mental spinning.

Change… now adapt. Change… now adapt. And repeat.

When life brings this level of upheaval, it’s going to bring stress. And that’s normal.  In fact, it would be pretty unusual for you NOT to feel stressed right now. Stress alone doesn’t have to be a bad thing. But recognizing when you need a little help managing your stress is a good thing.

Check out the image below to understand more about how too much stress can effect your mind, body, emotions and behavior.