Greetings! Megan here.
We know the brain has plasticity, so we know we can shape and mold it. However, many of us don’t know what to do to see a difference.
Oftentimes we see things as black/white, good/bad, like/dislike, right/wrong which are limiting perspectives and keep us stuck in just two options. To increase our flexibility and make training the brain easier, we have to work on the brain’s flexibility and give our brain more options and perspectives from which to see our life and the world.
If you want to decrease your anxiety, anger, irritability, and depression, here are some specific exercises that help you create flexibility in the brain.
Create a Mind-Body Connection
First, focus on your 5 senses.
Take a minute or two, wherever you are, to focus on each sense and be as descriptive as possible. Naming and noticing while not judging (they aren’t good or bad; right or
wrong; they just are).
Sight: What are you seeing? Colors, textures, name the objects, just notice.
Smell: What are the smells around you? Do you smell the grass, flowers, stale
office furniture, someone’s lunch, your deodorant, or shampoo? Again, use your
adjectives: pungent, sour, sweet, stale, fresh, etc.
Taste: What are you tasting? Toothpaste? Coffee? Breath mint? Be descriptive:
Minty, tangy, sweet, bitter, etc.
Touch: What does it feel like in the chair you’re sitting in or on the floor/ground
you’re standing on? Is there a breeze? Warm sun on your face? What do the
clothes feel like on your skin? Tight, loose, itchy, soft, cozy, etc.
Hearing: What are you hearing inside this space (room, car, etc)? What are you
hearing outside of this space (next room, outside, down the street)?
Next, Count your breathing.
Count to 4 or 5 or 6 on each inhale and exhale for the same number. It
doesn’t matter what number you choose, one’s not better than another, just do what feels
best for you. Counting in and out for the same number is very balancing. As you do this
breathing work, notice the break in breath at the top of the breath and at the bottom where it feels like the breath is suspended for just a moment.
Know what you have control over and what you don’t have control over.
The easy answer is: You only have control over yourself. Your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Even if sometimes it feels like you don’t, you can learn how to do this. What you don’t have control over is anyone else – what they do, what they say, how they think, how they feel.
Awaken The Auto-Pilot and be Kind to Yourself (and Others!)
Notice your critical voice. We speak to ourselves, in our mind, with many different voices. Sometimes we’re very parental with ourselves and sometimes we are free and playful. Other times we can be very critical. If you have any sort of perfectionistic tendencies or are a bit Type-A, this may really resonate. When we begin to just notice (no need to try to change it) when we are speaking to ourselves critically we inherently change it. Just the sheer act of paying attention and noticing (without judgment) has the ability to change the issue at hand. And remember, don’t be critical of yourself being critical – just notice it for what it is and move on!
For ultra brain flexibility do a routine task differently.
-If you have “your spot” at the kitchen or dining room table, move to another spot at
-If you have a morning routine in the bathroom, change it up. Brush your teeth first,
then take a shower, then floss your teeth.
-Soap up in the shower differently. If you usually start and your head, start at your feet.
Remember, there is no right or wrong, good or bad and we aren’t going for efficiency right now. We’re going for a change of perspective as well as flexibility of thinking and doing, which will help you change other, bigger, things if you want to! You’re building new neural pathways in your brain! Congrats!
I hope these insights are helpful! Let me know if you have any questions!
Have you noticed that you and your partner have arguments about the same thing over and over again? Or perhaps the subject matter in arguments gets changed to something in the past or unrelated to what caused the conflict in the first place? This may be a result of emotional dominos being stacked up within your relationship.
Emotional dominos are under the surface conflicts that are unresolved.
Usually, these dominos are hidden and only surface during a conflict. Often dominos are related to events of inclusion, affection, and influence. For example, whenever your partner does or says something to you that makes you feel unloved, a small domino appears regardless if it was intentional or not.
If we do not repair this domino, it grows into a larger one and likely breeds more dominos. These dominos then begin stacking up and leaning on each other, and small moments in your relationship can knock them over and cause conflict.
One such small moment, for example, could be your partner not sitting next to you on the couch. This action knocks all those other dominos down and the event of not sitting on the couch turns into something more emotionally intense than originally warranted.
The tricky part about dealing with dominos, besides them being hidden, is that we feel like we must solve the domino we are presented with now. In this case, it would be sitting next to each other on the couch.
Couples often make the mistake of trying to solve problems too quickly. Even if your partner just agrees to sit next to you on the couch forever, you are still left with the original domino of feeling unloved. In order to heal these past conflicts, your partner and you have to go through all of the dominos one by one to make sense of why they are there in the first place and then empathize with each one.
A behavior of listening to understand rather than respond or solve is a great first step. Instead of responding defensively or by immediately problem-solving, we should ask our partners to “tell me more.”
Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot of terms like: “peak performance,” “level up,” and “elevate yourself” as it relates to being our best self. However, our best self is something that we should take time to think of. Only once we have a good idea of what our best self looks like can develop a proper road map to achieving that.
One tool that can be very effective in achieving our goals, can be to take an inventory of ourselves and assess mindfully how we are trending. We might think of trending as it relates to social media. However, here the term describes an assessment of ourselves.
In therapy or counseling, we often use scales to take a personal inventory.
For example, if you have been experiencing constant anxiety you may say that the anxiety is at an 8 out of 10; 10 being the worst. Your long-term goal may be to get anxiety down to a 2 or 3. However, that can’t happen unless you develop a plan and utilize anxiety-relieving tools.
Understanding how you are trending allows you to set measurable goals where you are able to go from an 8 to a 6 and so forth. If you take that progression then you are trending in the correct direction.
Often individuals have great long-term goals. Which could be to feel more peace, to be happier, or to be less stressed. What often gets in the way of those goals is being unaware of the direction we are trending. After all, all of us carry busy schedules and have many things to do. When we are overwhelmed or highly stressed our brains go into survival mode instead of naturally assessing how we are trending.
If you have a goal or an idea of what your best self is; are you trending away or toward that direction? If you are trending away, what might you do to help yourself begin to trend in the right direction? If you notice you are trending toward your goal what has been working? And as always be gentle with yourself in any direction you may be headed.
Greetings! Megan here.
As a part of Women’s History Month, I’m highlighting some awesome women-owned/run businesses I really like and admire. Today I’d like to introduce you to Louisville Community Acupuncture. Owners, Margaret and Mike, have made it their mission to offer affordable acupuncture to all. They moved to Louisville from Austin, Texas about a year before I did. What’s funny is that we did not know each other in Austin. My Austin acupuncturist told me to check them out when I got to Louisville so I did, and now we are great friends. It’s been fun to support each other in our businesses and watch each other grow, both personally and professionally.
I started going to acupuncture years ago for seasonal and environmental allergies. It amazed me at how effective it was and how I didn’t have to rely on over-the-counter medication any longer. I quickly realized you can treat just about everything with acupuncture – even anxiety and depression. In fact, I refer many of my clients who would prefer not to take medication to acupuncture to see if it might assist them as well. I now go to acupuncture once a month for self-care and a “tune-up.” I leave feeling wonderfully relaxed and calm.
Community acupuncture is unique in that you are in a room with others while getting your treatment. This helps keep costs down. Everyone’s got their own lazy boy recliner and is distanced 6ft apart. LCA has refined some of this for COVID protocol but it’s still the affordable sliding scale rate of $25-$45 (pay what feels best to you!). If you go, be sure to tell them Megan Bartley from Louisville Mindfulness Center sent you!
Want to know more? Check them out online: https://www.louisvillecommunityacupuncture.com
Yes, you heard that correct! When I (Megan) lived in Austin, TX, I had the privilege to be mentored by author and relationship expert, Dr. Patricia Love. She encouraged me to think outside-the-box when working with couples which is what helps me be one of the “Three-Best Rated Marriage Counselors in Louisville.” You CAN improve any relationship without talking about it and that’s what I teach my clients and the other therapists at Louisville Mindfulness Center every day.
How you show up with others, invites them to show up that way with you. If you are acting as your “Best Adult Self” and setting appropriate boundaries and the other person you want a good (or, even decent) relationship with can’t meet you there, that gives you more information. With that more information, you can decide if being in that relationship works for you or at the very least how much time and energy you want to give to that relationship – especially if there is not a mutual exchange of energy…i.e. you’re doing all the work.
While I couldn’t find the video of Dr. Love on the Oprah show (yep, she’s done that!), I want you to see her YouTube page so you can watch her live! And here are some other wonderful books Dr. Love has written as well…
Hi Friends! Megan Bartley here.
This month is women’s history month and I’d like to highlight some other excellent female entrepreneurs that I have known and supported over the years.
This week I want to feature Nicole Bartlett at the Louisville Salt Cave. She and I have collaborated throughout the years and she’s always a joy to connect with. Nicole and the Louisville Salt Cave are always up to cool stuff. They have invited me, on numerous occasions, to lead guided meditations in the cave and be a featured speaker in their speakers series.
As you can see by Louisville Salt Cave’s photo, their mission to help you “Go Inside to Create Your Outside” is quite on-point with the overall philosophy of Louisville Mindfulness Center. What is going on with us internally, shows up for us externally. If your external world is feeling chaotic and uncomfortable, there may be some things to focus on internally and vise versa.
There are TONS of benefits of halotherapy, which is just one of the many benefits of being in the Salt Cave. Just as you might feel differently standing at the ocean breathing in the salt air, so too can you experience that same effect in the cave. AND it offers relief for many physical ailments such as respiratory ailments, asthma, and allergies.
Nicole and her team have also been very mindful about the COVID restrictions and being 6-feet apart. Their Safety Protocol is front and center on their website. You can view it HERE.
If you’ve never been to a salt cave or in particular, the Louisville Salt Cave, it is a unique experience and one that I’m glad I’ve been able to experience! Go check them out! They are a great women-owned business to support!
White Fragility is another wonderful book to read this Black History Month. The author Dr. Robin Diangelo has been teaching diversity training for 20 years. And she happens to teach at my alma mater, the University of Washington in Seattle. So cool!
Like Kendi, Diangelo speaks about her own discrimination and racism and the need for us all to consider important aspects of how we participate in racism even when our intention is to “not be racist” or even “antiracist.”
PLUS, through Metro United Way, Diangelo will be offering a “Beyond Buzzwords” event on February 23rd, 2021 from 12pm-1:15pm. Register HERE for FREE to attend!
Speaking of buzzwords, if you are noticing some phrases pop up that you aren’t familiar with, I encourage you to Google them and find out more. When we know better, we do better!
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the National Book Award–winning author of Stamped from the Beginning comes a “groundbreaking” (Time) approach to understanding and uprooting racism and inequality in our society—and in ourselves.
“The most courageous book to date on the problem of race in the Western mind.”—The New York Times
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • Time • NPR • The Washington Post • Shelf Awareness • Library Journal • Publishers Weekly • Kirkus Reviews
I. Loved. This. Book.
And, to no surprise, I’m not the only one.
As a cis white woman (she/her/hers), I am fully aware that there is plenty I do not know about racism. And not only am I not an expert on racism, there is plenty I don’t know about sexism, agism, ablism, and other prejudices. I also recognize that I still participate in racism and other prejudices even when I believe I am consciously trying my best “Not To Be” racist or prejudice.
Author Ibrim X. Kendi brilliantly addresses the difference between “not being a racist” and being “antiracist.” He helps the reader understand that whether we like it or not, we are all participating in racism (even him!), even when we would consider ourselves “not racist.”
While this is a “how to” book, it’s also a wonderful narrative of Kendi’s life. Not only does he talk about his journey with racism and discrimination, but also with cancer. This book is a great “must read.”
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.