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train your brain

Exercises to Train Your Brain to Think, Feel & Behave Differently

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.

Set Boundaries

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
each meal.

-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!

trending

How Are You Trending?

Written by Rob Giltner, MAMFT

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.

happiness

When are you willing to experience happiness?

Written by Bridgette Allen, MAMFT

We often set limitations for when we can be happy.

I’ll be happy when I:

*get a house
*am in a relationship
*get a new job
*move out
*have straight A’s
*gain/lose weight
*don’t feel stressed
*get invited
*get married
*achieve more
*have more
*know they’ve changed
*am certain
*work more/work less

How would life be different if we gave ourselves permission to be happy unexpectedly, for no reason at all? What if we noticed and embraced moments of happiness even in the most difficult of times?

Happiness is not and never will be a final destination. When we chase after happiness and allow it under self-inflicted limitations, like the list above, we are often greeted with unmet expectations. That’s because happiness is simply a state of mind to be enjoyed and not captured.

What limitations are you willing to release? When will you choose to be happy?

How To Be An Antiracist – February 2021 Monthly Book Giveaway

how to be an antiracist #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.”

 

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!

self love

What Is Self Love?

Written by Ashley Vaden, LMFT

What is self love?

I’ve found the idea of self love to be an elusive concept. A term that people like to throw around that I’ve never really grasped or experienced fully for myself. It’s like when you’re a kid in the backyard and mysteriously, a butterfly lands on you, only to fly away and never touch down again on purpose.

Has self-love ever felt like that to you? A feeling that comes close but never quite sticks? That’s why, for the past year, I’ve ventured to expand upon my understanding of self love and the explanation of it in more concrete, tangible ways. I’ve read books, listened to podcasts, worked with a mentor, interviewed trusted friends, and along the way, I’ve learned that instead of falling in love with ourselves, we grow in love with ourselves.

Self love is really about growth of self.

I’ve learned that it’s messy, and difficult, and a choice hell bent on expansion and expression. I’ve learned that we never really are the best versions of ourselves, because we are growing each and every day, but we can operate from the best versions of ourselves by choosing self and embracing authenticity. Here are my thoughts on how to grow in self love.

Self Discipline

Self discipline is the act of making promises to yourself that you in turn keep. These promises can be and should be small and specific, especially as you build confidence in yourself and require momentum in practicing self-compassion. As we strive toward bigger goals, the challenges we face may become greater, but the self discipline remains the same. Here, consistency is king. It is intention followed by action. It is choosing these values and these promises even when they are difficult to uphold.

I have found many small acts that have helped me achieve self discipline and thus expansion of self love. These include daily meditation, making my bed, drinking more water, reading for 15 minutes a day, spending time connecting with a loved one. I don’t achieve each of these tasks every day; but every day, I try to at least incorporate 3 of these intentions, whether I’m feeling rushed or I’m feeling good.

Jordan Peterson writes,

“As you attempt to climb a higher mountain or aim at a higher target, the things around you become increasingly dramatic and of import. That happens by necessity because if you’re aiming and working hard at something difficult and profound, your life is going to become increasingly difficult and profound. That might be exactly what you need as an antidote to the implicit limitations that you face as a human being.”

I think we often get this illusion that if we face obstacles that this means we are not on the right path, when essentially you must understand that the fact that you are feeling resistance means you are moving forward. I think we also misconstrue that these tasks of self discipline are difficult when we are in a place of low mood or energy. When we are feeling well, we forget the grounding practices and habits that keep us humbled and persistent. So, make promises to yourself, and keep them. Those promises lead to a larger goal when kept consistently. This journey of action aligned with value keeps you in synchrony with the growth of yourself and self love.

Click here to read the full article!

Setting New Year Resolutions, Intentions and Goals: Your Wording Matters!

Setting New Year Resolutions, Intentions and Goals: Your Wording Matters!

As a therapist I am constantly aware of the words we use with ourselves and others. Wanting to accomplish goals leaves you “wanting” to accomplish them, not necessarily getting them done.

When we use present-tense and the phrase “I am” ( or “I love”) it sends the message to our subconscious that THIS is what is happening right now and we start seeing it show up. “This is” who we are and our subconscious  starts to feed and nurture it.

When setting your goals and intentions for 2018 use phrases like:

“I am wildly successful at my job.”

“I love my job.”

“I have all the money I need to feel secure.”

“I love the way I feel in my body.”

Remember, even if you aren’t feeling that way just yet, when your subconscious hears you speaking and thinking that way, it starts to get on board.  You start to feel the way you want to feel and start seeing the results you “want” to see. Give it a try! What do you have to lose?