Tag Archive for: mindfulness

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!

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.

emotional roller coaster

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Living with Chronic Illness

Written by Cheryl Young, MAMFT

Being diagnosed with chronic illness can often feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster ride!

Here are 9 that are often relatable to both the individual and family members after a diagnosis
has been made:

1. Relief

  • “Finally an answer, I’m not crazy after all!”
  • “At least now I can build a plan of action and keep from getting worse. It sucks
    not to know!
  • “Well, at least it’s not going to kill me. So I have that going for me. It could be
    much worse!”

2. Jealousy

  • “Why do I feel so limited by my illness while others I know with a chronic
    condition seem to do just fine?”
  • “How unfair! My friends and family are getting to follow through with all the
    plans they made for their future – now I have this roadblock in front of me!”
  • “Why don’t other people understand – I may look just fine, but they can’t see
    the invisible symptoms I am feeling like fatigue, depression and anxiety”.

3. Impatience

  • “Why all the long waits for a doctor’s appointment – it feels like they just don’t
    care about me!”
  • “When will I know if this medication is actually working?”
  • “How come they don’t have a cure by now?”

4. Disappointment

  • “I feel like crap but my doctor says I am fine.
  • “I give up! Why bother eating healthy and going to PT – nothing is making me
    feel better!”
  • “I used to have dreams and ambitions. Now I can no longer do the things I
    wanted to do with my life. What do I do now?”

5. Exhaustion

  • “All I do is think about my condition – I just wish I could take one day or even one
    hour off from all the worrying!”
  • “I hate having to rely on others all the time for help – I worry about adding more
    stress to their lives too!”
  • “I am so anxious and worried that I can’t sleep, I can’t concentrate, and I have mood swings all the time.”
  • “There are so many unpredictable problems -I am worn out by all the emotional ups and downs.”

6. Loss of Identity

  • “Do I have any choices anymore? I feel like my body has betrayed me and I am
    no longer who I once was.”
  • “I have lost sight of who I actually am as a whole human being.”
  • “Can I still have a career? Will I still be able to perform my job without asking for
    help?
  • “Can I still find love as a person with this condition? Will I ever be able to enjoy
    romance, friendship, sex or care for my own family?”

7. Fatalism

  • “My doctors do not care about me, they just want to collect my insurance – they
    probably don’t even want to find a cure.”
  • “Things aren’t getting better…why do I even bother trying to fight this disease?”
  • “So much for living mindfully. I may as well live on the edge because nothing I do
    for myself makes a difference.”

8. Withdrawl

  • “I don’t talk to friends or family or coworkers anymore because it’s too difficult
    to explain – they wouldn’t understand anyway.”
  • “I don’t work or take part in my usual activities anymore because I can’t perform
    them the way I used to and it is embarrassing. I used to be good at these things.”
  • “I don’t want to leave the house anymore because it is physically too hard, there
    are too many obstacles out in the world for people with disabilities and people
    can be cruel and stare at me.”

9. Getting Perspective (Gratitude)

  • “I am grateful to my friends and family who through this journey have helped me
    by being good listeners and also sharing their feelings in a way that helps me
    clarify and value my own journey.”

Humility

Written by Jennifer Komis, MAMFT, MDIV

Humility is the willingness to stay teachable regardless of how much we already know.

Have you ever spent time with someone who views her or his self as the best human in the room? Maybe it was a friend, partner, boss, or coworker. How did it feel? How’d the conversation go? Did you enjoy it? Want to talk more to this person or less?

It’s hard NOT to assume we don’t own the truth.

Our experiences shape us to believe and think certain things, sometimes passionately. It’s hard for us NOT to see our version of reality as the right (or only) version of reality. BUT. While it may feel threatening, there’s so much more freedom and opportunity in allowing others to “own truth” too. Think of it as trying on another’s experiences, imagining how their life may have led them to their thoughts, fears, biases, dreams. Think of it as trying on humility.

When we get stuck in the idea that we own the truth, we constrict around that.

People become “good” or “bad” as judged by our inner critic and we fight against them and their ideas from a place of self-protection. We are less apt to seek to understand them. Instead, we seek to protect our truth above all else because we believed the false rumor that doing that somehow protects us. We hunker down, refuse feedback, and struggle to imagine that safety, security, AND multiple truths can coexist.

Instead of trying to be the best human in the room, what if we tried to be the best version of ourselves in the room, in our families, careers, and relationships? What if that was less about proving something and more about listening? What if the deepest strength is really found in compassion, empathy, and humility? How might we experience ourselves and life differently if we trust that?

speaking your truth

Speaking Your Truth

Written by Jennifer Komis, MAMFT, MDIV

I learn a lot from my 3-year-old niece. Last time she visited, she walked in and immediately said, “Do you have Popsicles?” When I said “no” (terrible aunt oversight), she looked at me point blank and said, “Well, you should get some.”

Such directness. Such self-assurance. She asked for what she wanted. And while her attitude is typical of a 3-year-old, she made me wonder on a deeper level how we lose this directness, this wildness. When do we stop asking for what we need? What causes us to get all “polite” and quiet and afraid to say things like, “I need this. I want this. I miss this, love this don’t like this.”

Many of us stop making these requests as adults.

We think staying quiet equates to “making things work” or “keeping the peace.” But does it?

For a very long time, I thought my messy parts were unacceptable. I thought the “in process” version of me needed to be hidden in order to be loved and accepted. And so I hid, and watched many of those around me do the same.

I was presenting to the world the image of a final product instead of the messy, always-becoming work in progress that I am, that we ALL are. And that was not helpful. If anything, it was destructive and furthering a lie that being all of ourselves is somehow not okay.

The world NEEDS us to be messy because it gives others permission to be messy too.

When we stop pretending we have it all together all the time, we meet each other in actual reality, which is complicated, beautiful, good, bad, scary, exciting, and so much more. We grow together in ways false facades don’t allow. Most importantly, we get real and know that we are loved precisely because of that realness.

Isn’t there still a voice inside of you that has something important to say, something that might make life more authentic and real? When we don’t share those words, we create a barrier.

How do we share our truth in a kind and direct way? How do we ask for what we need and hear others’ requests for what they need? It’s certainly not easy, but when we do it, when we begin to cross those bridges with ourselves and others, we find ourselves feeling closer, realer, and safer than we ever could have imagined. Be you. Be loving, be wild.

trauma

Living with Trauma

Written by Rob Giltner, MAMFT

“Trauma has become so commonplace that most people don’t even recognize its presence. It affects everyone. Each of us has had a traumatic experience at some point in our lives, regardless of whether it left us with an obvious case of post-traumatic stress.” ~Peter Levine

What living with trauma can look like:

  • Feelings of hopelessness and beliefs that aren’t meant for you
  • Constantly finding ways to escape from reality
  • Sleeplessness, fatigue, nightmares, sleep disorders
  • Avoidance of anything connected to a traumatic event
  • Difficulty regulating emotions like anger, fear and sadness
  • Reoccurring flashbacks of past events
  • Extra sensitivity to physical and emotional pain
  • Addiction to alcohol and other substances
  • Increased panic and anxiety

Everyone responds to trauma differently, and finding healthy ways to cope and heal from those events and their after-effects is key to living a healthy life. It’s easy to minimize, normalize, and rationalize some of these less severe symptoms, but if healthy coping mechanisms are not developed, they can lead to patterns of self-sabotage and withdrawal from the world and relationships. Like Peter Levine also said ,”Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence.”

The most courageous thing we can do is love our self during times of pain and struggle.

Being aware of our story, and owning it, requires immense bravery. After all, to be human is to think and feel, and our emotions are here to try and protect us. If we see anxiety and stress as friends and offer them empathy, kindness, and thankfulness, they will be able to relax and dissipate. When you feel them approaching, welcome them, be kind to them, be thankful that they are there, and then invite them to leave. Bringing our minds to the present can reduce stress, anxiety, and connect us to everything around us.

 

joy

An Exercise In Joy & Success

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

“…the measure of success is absolutely the amount of joy you feel.”

Take a minute and think about a time when you felt pure joy. Oftentimes we think of moments that were life-defining. When we proposed to our sweetheart and heard “YES!” Or maybe our wedding day, or the day our first child was born, or when we got that new job, that raise or promotion.  Unfortunately for many of us our emotions fluctuate fairly rapidly and it’s rare that we can maintain that feeling of pure joy.  But what if it didn’t have to be this way? What if we could live joyful, or joy-filled, lives and experience this joy a majority of the time? Well, we can!

“Yeah, right!” I hear you saying.

Give me a minute to explain… What we’re talking about is viewing your life from a bit of a different perspective.  Instead of a perspective of LACK – “I’ll feel joy when I get that raise, meet the right person, lose 20 lbs, etc.” – and shift into a thinking of ABUNDANCE – “Everything is exactly as it needs to be. All I need to be is myself. Everything I need to know is already within me.”

See the difference?

Here’s what I want you to try: Write down the above messages of Abundance on sticky notes and stick them on places you look often – on the microwave, on your dashboard, at the bathroom mirror, on your computer screen. Make an effort to look at the messages and remember that feeling of Joy.  Soon you’ll start to associate the two together – the feeling of Joy with the message “Everything is exactly as it needs to be.”

Stick with it for 21-30 days and see what happens.  This is how long it takes to make a shift in belief, perspective or behavior change.  You are actually building new neural pathways in your brain.  The more attention you give the new perspective, and don’t give attention to the former perspective, the stronger the new perspective of Abundance becomes and the perspective of Lack begins to die off.  Remember, what we feed, grows. Give it a try!  What do you have to lose?!

When we focus on Joy FIRST, our lives will begin to shift so we experience success in multiple areas.

If there is an area that seems like a problem area now – your relationship, your job, your living situation – they will work themselves out as you are focusing on joy.  This might mean they will begin to bring you joy in new ways because you are seeing them differently OR because you see clearly now that there is no way they will bring you joy and you will make confident decisions to move beyond them.

Wouldn’t it be AWESOME to feel Joy AND Confidence?! Oh yeah, it can happen. You can do it.  Stay focused and give it 21-30 days. Be gentle with yourself. You will mess up but chalk it up to a learning experience and keep moving forward. Growth comes with growing pangs.

And if you find you need some help, we are always here to be a guide (and cheerleader!). Keep at it! We believe in you!​

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.

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