Mindfulness Muse https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com Laura Chang, M.A., LPC | Doctoral Candidate of Counseling Psychology Fri, 07 Dec 2018 01:27:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 https://i1.wp.com/www.mindfulnessmuse.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/cropped-Mindfulness-Muse-Icon-Jacaranda.png?fit=32%2C32&ssl=1 Mindfulness Muse https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com 32 32 23034282 Values: The Necessary Building Blocks of the “Optimal You” https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/acceptance-and-commitment-therapy/values-necessary-building-blocks-of-the-optimal-you https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/acceptance-and-commitment-therapy/values-necessary-building-blocks-of-the-optimal-you#respond Fri, 10 Aug 2018 17:23:37 +0000 http://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/?p=50418 “A further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s threatening us.” – Pema Chödrön What thoughts or images come to mind when you consider what a healthy lifestyle is all about? For many…

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“A further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s threatening us.” – Pema Chödrön

What thoughts or images come to mind when you consider what a healthy lifestyle is all about? For many people, the concept of a healthy lifestyle conjures up ideas about physical well-being and how to best maintain it. I wholeheartedly agree that the physical fitness of our bodies is linked to both building and increasing optimal functioning over time. When the body is healthy and in a balanced state of relative homeostasis, it is not uncommon for the mental, emotional, and interpersonal realms of life to feel similarly balanced and at peace. However, the necessary building blocks of the optimal you encompass more dynamic and intangible aspects of wellness than you are likely to find in a gym.

You are much more than a physical body. No matter how many miles you run, weights you lift, or diets you follow, physical health and fitness alone are not generally sufficient to cultivate your optimal self. By this, I refer to the mental image housed in your mind of the best version of yourself… your ideal self. I hesitate to use the word potential, as that word is sometimes associated with abilities or achievements that can be measured by various sorts of external yardsticks. Rather than thinking about your ideal self in terms of reaching your potential – however one may define the term – consider the optimal version of yourself as an integrated, coherent manifestation of your personal traits, values, and aspirations into reality. This unique vision of your ideal self is for you – and you alone – to imagine, shape, and mold into reality. In that sense, you are filled with practically limitless potential.

Core Components of the “Optimal You”

The core building blocks involved in developing the ‘optimal you’ include a diverse set of skills, attitudes, and lifestyle choices. Try reading through the following essential components of personal development (adapted from Hodges, 2010). Pause to notice what aspects of personal development stand out to you as areas of strength, along with what areas may benefit from additional growth or attention. Remember that not all components of personal development will be of importance to each person, and that an important step towards constructing your ideal self is about getting in touch with your authentic values. For instance, perhaps spirituality / religion is of little personal importance to you… or maybe it is the most important value your ideal self holds. Both responses, and anywhere in between, are perfectly okay.

  • Spirituality / Religion
  • Personal Vision
  • Self Worth
  • Setting Goals
  • Thinking Rationally
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Resilience
  • Humor
  • Fitness / Recreation
  • Healthy Diet
  • Mindful Living
  • Stress Management
  • Sense of Self
  • Family / Cultural Connection
  • Career Development
  • Hobbies
  • Social Life
  • Intimacy

When connecting with your true values, take time to pause, reflect, and become mindfully attuned to what is truly most important to you. If it matters to you a great deal, then it is likely something you highly value… if it feels rather unimportant to you personally, this may not be something you highly value. There is no judgment when it comes to your personal values clarification process. When your values and behaviors are out of alignment, you may experience an internal sense of discomfort, or cognitive dissonance. Fortunately, this inner sense of discomfort is an opportunity to listen to your intuition, tap into wise mind, and pay attention to how you can begin to shift your thoughts and behaviors to more accurately reflect your core values.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you are striving to build your ideal self as a result of societal pressures, expectations from others, or from your own inner wisdom. It’s natural to internalize ideas about who you are, who you are supposed to be, or who you are not supposed to be based on messages from your earliest relationships… the ones with primary caregivers, or attachment figures. You may have received inaccurate mirroring, emotional invalidation, or inconsistent attunement within the context of these early relationships, which can make it more difficult to get a solid grasp on your core sense of self as an adult. Although it may be difficult, it is attainable… and an incredibly worthwhile journey of self-discovery.

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Additional resources:

Hodges, S. (2010). Counseling practicum and internship manual: A resource for graduate counseling students. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Featured image: 9032013 by Amanda T Photos 🙂

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3 Mini Mindfulness Exercises for Stress Relief https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/mindfulness-exercises/3-mini-mindfulness-exercises-for-stress-relief https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/mindfulness-exercises/3-mini-mindfulness-exercises-for-stress-relief#respond Wed, 20 Jun 2018 01:08:55 +0000 https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/?p=51413 “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” – Mahatma Gandhi Stress is inevitable… and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. When stress comes in the form of eustress, it can serve as a valuable motivating force that helps us spring into action, maintain necessary momentum, or stay alert and focused. On the other hand,…

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“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Stress is inevitable… and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. When stress comes in the form of eustress, it can serve as a valuable motivating force that helps us spring into action, maintain necessary momentum, or stay alert and focused. On the other hand, when stress manifests itself in the form of distress, it can chip away at our mental, physical, and emotion reserves… causing us unnecessary suffering and inner turmoil. Fortunately, it is possible to effectively tolerate distress by cultivating a more mindful attitude and approaching distress in a proactive manner.

Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness

The idea of beginning to cultivate a regular mindfulness practice may seem a bit daunting at first. It’s natural to experience a sense of tension or pressure when you’re in the early stages of developing and engaging in a new healthy habit. For those of us who long for more hours in the day to accomplish both necessary and desirable tasks, the notion of taking time out of your day to engage in a brief mindfulness exercise might seem unrealistic. If you’re feeling a bit ambivalent about whether or not developing a mindfulness practice is for you, it might help boost your motivation to engage in mindfulness exercises to know just a few of the many benefits associated with mindfulness:

  • You will be better able to live in the present moment, as opposed to dwelling on the past (which is unchangeable) or the future (which is subject to change).
  • You may be able to strengthen your emotional intelligence, which means greater awareness of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, as well as their impact on others.
  • You are likely to develop a greater sense of overall well-being, including reduced stress levels and mood disturbances, as well as a greater sense of empathy and likelihood to engage in altruistic behaviors.

The truth is, we all have small pockets of free time throughout each day… the amount of time it takes to brush your teeth, take a restroom break, or eat a meal. In order to reap the benefits of increased levels of mindfulness, we need only commit to a regular practice. If you’re still not sure that spending a few minutes each day engaging in a brief mindfulness exercise is realistic, consider challenging yourself to practice one of the following mini mindfulness exercises each day, for the next two weeks.

3 Mini Mindfulness Exercises

(1) Five-Minute Mindfulness Meditation

Find a quiet place where you can sit, undisturbed for about five minutes. If it’s useful for you to set a timer on your phone, go ahead and do this as you settle into a comfortable, yet alert, seated posture. Without being overly focused on the time, simply allow yourself to use the next few minutes to turn your focus inward and settle into the present moment. Know that the timer will chime in a few minutes, and all you need to do for now is give yourself permission to tune in to the rhythm of your breath.

Focus your attention on your breath as it enters your nose or mouth, as your chest or belly rises, and as the air leaves your nose or mouth on the exhale. Pay attention to the temperature of the air as you inhale – perhaps it feels cool and crisp – and the temperature of the air as you exhale – perhaps it feels warm and soft. Use your breath as an anchor to keep your attention grounded in the present moment, allowing all mental chatter, physical sensations, and emotional experiences to come and go with each inhale and exhale. Notice how you feel after having taken just a few minutes to tune into the present moment through paying mindful attention to your breath in this manner.

(2) Self-Compassion

You can also choose to engage in a mini mindfulness exercise focused on tapping into, strengthening, and enhancing self-compassion. The benefits associated with increased self-compassion may include a greater sense of emotional peace or stability, a greater ability to forgive yourself and others, and even potential increases in some aspects of emotional intelligence. Consider keeping a handwritten or electronic journal purely dedicated to cultivating self-compassion. Each time you notice a self-critical, self-invalidating, or self-punishing/critical voice arise, use this awareness as an opportunity to actively observe, accept, and release that self-criticism. Pause to write down the critical thought in your journal. Now, take a moment to notice its content with a curious and nonjudgmental attitude, accept the presence of the thought in the moment, and then allow it to pass.

Remember that acceptance is not the same thing as approval, and that by choosing to accept the presence of something unpleasant you are moving toward releasing it from your experience. It needn’t create additional, unnecessary suffering. Consider a more compassionate, realistic, and kindhearted thought or sentiment to replace the critical one. Write it down. Now, go through the same brief process of observing this new, more compassionate thought or expression, accepting it fully, and then releasing it from awareness. You may notice a greater ability to sit with uncomfortable thoughts or emotions, and skillfully replace them with more compassionate ones through intentionally engaging in this form of mindful self-compassion.

(3) Five Senses

This mini mindfulness exercise can easily be done anywhere, anytime, and likely without anyone noticing you are doing it. It is an easy way to ground yourself more fully in the present moment, revitalize your wakefulness or attention, or simply stay engaged in the task at hand. Look around you and notice five things that you can see… for instance, in this moment I can see my laptop, a cushion, my cat, a book, and some trees. Now, notice four things around you that you can hear. I notice the sounds of a fan, my fingers typing along the keyboard, my cat purring, and footsteps in the apartment above me. Now, pause to observe three things that you can feel or touch. For instance, I can feel the smoothness of the keyboard on my laptop, the softness of the cushion beneath me, and the weight of a blanket around my shoulders. Now, observe two things that you can smell. I can smell the scent of some spearmint lotion on my hands and the smell of the remainder of my lunch on the table beside me. Now, pause to see if there is one thing you can taste in the present moment. For me, can still taste a bit of kombucha that I recently sipped.

This mini mindfulness exercise is a fun, simple way to become more attuned to your sensory experiences in the present moment and perhaps become aware that there is more to observe and experience within each passing moment than you might believe there to be upon a cursory glance. This can also serve to increase your sense of gratitude for the richness inherent in each present moment.

The Importance of Practice

I am confident that you can engage in the new habit of practicing mindfulness for a few minutes each day, for the next two weeks. As with any new habit that you wish to develop, remember to make the new behavior as simple as possible to accomplish. For some people, this means setting a reminder on their phones at a specific time each day, for others this means placing a visual reminder to practice mindfulness in a location they see or interact with on a daily basis. The idea is to figure out what works best for you, and to follow through on your personal commitment to practice.

Featured image: Meditation by Tina Leggio / CC BY NC-ND-2.0

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Building a Self-Care Toolkit https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/health-and-wellness/building-a-self-care-toolkit https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/health-and-wellness/building-a-self-care-toolkit#comments Thu, 27 Apr 2017 00:07:17 +0000 http://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/?p=51245 “To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. ” – Thich Nhat Hanh How often have you found yourself thinking, or even saying aloud, that you’re simply too busy to slow down and take care of yourself? After all, there are so many…

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“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. ” – Thich Nhat Hanh

How often have you found yourself thinking, or even saying aloud, that you’re simply too busy to slow down and take care of yourself? After all, there are so many things that need to get done… and, the sooner the better! When we fall into this unmindful attitude of rushing from one task to the next, a slave to our to-do lists and external obligations, it’s easy to lose sight of our own well-being. These are the times when it’s most important to pause and take stock of your current self-care practices, and perhaps even add a few new self-care strategies to your burgeoning self-care toolkit.

Self-Care for the Mind

  • Pay attention to a daily activity that you usually do on automatic pilot, like brushing your teeth. Take the time to slow down and really notice the sensations of this simple routine.
  • Set a timer for one minute. Use this brief amount of time to pay attention to your breath, observing the sensations as you breathe in… and out.
  • Read an uplifting or inspiring article, book, or collection of quotations.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes, and use that time to organize or clean up a messy area of your home or work space. Notice how much better you feel after decluttering.

Self-Care for the Body

  • Take a walk outside while practicing mindfulness… really notice the sensations of your feet as they touch the ground, the smells you notice in the air, and the feeling of the sun on your skin.
  • Engage in 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise that you enjoy… perhaps you are replenished by yoga, or maybe going for a run is more your thing. Do an activity that gets your heart pumping while reaping the many benefits of exercise.
  • Set aside some quiet time to take a long, hot bubble bath, perhaps accompanied by candlelight and some relaxing music. This can serve as an excellent way for you to unwind and get ready for a relaxing night of peaceful sleep.
  • Make sure your diet is balanced and filled with fresh, healthy foods that leave you feeling nourished. Practice mindfulness while enjoying your meals to increase enjoyment and savoring.

Self-Care for the Soul

  • Keep a gratitude journal. Choose a time of day that you plan to write down at least three things for which you feel grateful. Research indicates a strong association between a regular gratitude journal practice and overall well-being.
  • Engage in a spiritual, religious, or secular mindfulness practice that resonates with your personal set of values and belief system. Use this connection to something greater than yourself to stay centered and grounded.
  • Meet with your counselor, therapist, or other mental health professional for ongoing support with maintaining your self-care regimen.
  • Set aside time to engage in a mindfulness meditation practice… and keep it up!

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Featured image: Hug by Bryant Wong / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

(2015) Bush, A. D. Simple self-care for therapists: Restorative practices to weave through your workday. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc.

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Increase Somatic Awareness with a Body Scan Mindfulness Exercise https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/mindfulness-exercises/increase-somatic-awareness-with-a-body-scan-mindfulness-exercise https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/mindfulness-exercises/increase-somatic-awareness-with-a-body-scan-mindfulness-exercise#respond Mon, 06 Mar 2017 18:41:05 +0000 http://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/?p=51232 “Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in Eternal awareness or Pure consciousness without objectification, knowing without thinking, merging finitude in infinity.” – Voltaire How tuned in do you tend to be to your physical sensations and sense of self within your body? In a world filled with distractions, to-do lists, and external demands, it can…

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“Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in Eternal awareness or Pure consciousness without objectification, knowing without thinking, merging finitude in infinity.” – Voltaire

How tuned in do you tend to be to your physical sensations and sense of self within your body? In a world filled with distractions, to-do lists, and external demands, it can be challenging to feel truly connected with your physical self. Sometimes a prolonged period of disconnection from somatic awareness results in chronic pain, illness, or fatigue. It’s as if your body is crying out to you, “Pay attention!” Fortunately, mindfulness provides one way to increase somatic awareness and gain a clearer sense of your physical self in the present moment.

One way to increase somatic awareness is through a mindfulness exercise called a body scan. This mindfulness exercise requires a quiet space where you can sit or lie down comfortably for anywhere between 5 – 30 minutes. If you have the time, spending up to 30 minutes engaged in mindful exploration of your current physical state can be an excellent mindfulness practice. However, even if you only have a few minutes to sit or lie down in a comfortable position and check in with your physical sensations, you will still reap the benefits of mindfulness and making contact with the present moment.

Body Scan Mindfulness Exercise

The goal of the body scan mindfulness exercise is to cultivate greater somatic awareness with an attitude that is open, curious, and nonjudgmental. As you read each set of instructions, pause to become more attuned to your body without judgment, simply increasing curious awareness of your physical sensations and the experience itself. If you like, you can make an audio recording of these instructions to aid in a more comfortable, eyes-closed mindfulness meditation.

  • Find a comfortable position, seated or lying down, where your body feels at ease and supported by the ground, chair, or cushion beneath you.
  • First, bring your attention to your breath. Notice the sensation of the air as you inhale through your nostrils, and again as you exhale through your mouth.
  • Pause to make room for whatever you may be feeling, including tension or discomfort.
  • Now, start at your feet by bringing your awareness to the physical sensations present in your feet, calves, knees, and thighs. Notice the sensations in your muscles as you allow your mindful focus to slowly move upward.
  • If you notice any areas of tension or holding during this body scan, pause to mindfully attend to this tension, then deliberately allow the tension to dissipate and release.
  • Next, take a deep breath in as you bring awareness to sensations present in your abdomen, torso, and lower back. Notice your spine as you gradually allow your focus to continually move upward along your body, remembering to pause at any areas of tension or holding, allowing those areas to gently relax.
  • Maintain a focus on the rhythm of you breath as you slowly breathe in… and slowly breathe out… allowing any physical discomfort to be released as you slowly exhale… imagining the tension dissolve with each out breath.
  • Continue to allow your focus to continue upwards, noticing your hands, arms, elbows, and shoulders. Become awareness of any tightness, discomfort, or holding in these areas. Use the gentle flow of your breath to bring your awareness to these areas, and allow them to release as you slowly and gently exhale.
  • Finally, bring your attention to your neck, face, and head. Notice the sensations present in your jaw, mouth, and eyes. Allow any areas of tension to relax, noticing the tension melt away as your bring your mindful awareness to these areas.

How was it for you to engage in this body scan mindfulness exercise? Do you notice increased somatic awareness as a result of taking the time to engage in this mindfulness meditation practice? Ask yourself if taking the time to pause and mindfully check in with your physical state of being is something you can incorporate into your ever-growing mindfulness repertoire.

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Featured image: dreamer by chiaralily / CC BY-NC 2.0

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The Importance of Mindfulness in the Workplace https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/mindfulness/the-importance-of-mindfulness-in-the-workplace https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/mindfulness/the-importance-of-mindfulness-in-the-workplace#comments Thu, 23 Feb 2017 19:48:15 +0000 http://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/?p=51212 “Without giving up hope—that there’s somewhere better to be, that there’s someone better to be—we will never relax with where we are or who we are.” – Pema Chödrön How do you “show up” at work? We spend so much of our lives devoted to academic and career-related pursuits, that it’s worth asking ourselves how…

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“Without giving up hope—that there’s somewhere better to be, that there’s someone better to be—we will never relax with where we are or who we are.” – Pema Chödrön

How do you “show up” at work? We spend so much of our lives devoted to academic and career-related pursuits, that it’s worth asking ourselves how the work environment and culture that we’re a part of fits with our most authentic selves. One way to go about doing this is to spend some time identifying your core values, and mindfully considering how these personal values are reflected in our school or company’s culture, our job descriptions, and our basic job functions. How much of your truest self do you have to give up in order to perform at your best in the workplace?

According to the American Institute of Stress, 80% of people feel stress in the workplace. Not only that, but the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that a staggering 75% of all doctor’s office visits are stress-related in nature. These numbers alone are enough to serve as a wake-up call to let us know that the workplace tends to be a significant source of stress for so many of us. It’s crucial to consider strategies that we can employ in our daily lives to serve as a buffer against the negative impact of work-related stress on our lives. Mindfulness is one avenue towards dampening the effects of stress on our physical, mental, and emotional health.

According to Warr (1987), there are nine basic factors in the work environment that contribute to mental health, or quality of working life: (a) opportunity for control, (b) opportunity for skill use, (c) externally generated goals, (d) variety, (e) environmental clarity, (f) availability of money, (g) physical security, (h) opportunity for interpersonal contact, and (i) valued social position. Warr (2007) considered these factors to serve a “vitamin” or protective function, and contended that the lack of these nine factors could lead to decreases in levels of overall well-being. How well are these nine basic factors being met in your current work environment?

Learning to be more mindful in the workplace can help reduce your overall stress levels, increase your present moment awareness, and even improve the quality of the interactions you have with coworkers. Consider how present you typically feel on any given work day… does the average work day feel like a drag? Do you find yourself bored, or watching the hours go by? Or perhaps, do you find yourself so busy and flooded with activity, that you barely have time to pause to take a deep breath? Whatever your current level of mindfulness is in the workplace at present, there is always room for improvement.

Tips for Increasing Mindfulness in the Workplace

Consider these tips for increasing your own level of mindfulness in the workplace and choose one you’d like to begin practicing right away:

Make Mini-Meditations a Habit

Take between three and five minutes out of your workday to intentionally practice mindfulness. This can be as simply as setting a reminder on your phone to take ten slow deep breaths in… and out… before you go on your lunch break. This could also mean making practicing everyday mindfulness by choosing to focus on your work in a deliberately slower, more intentional, open, curious, and nonjudgmental manner.

Practice “Office Yoga”

This idea of “office yoga” may sound a bit silly at first, but all it needs to mean is to practice some gentle stretching at your desk. It might mean reminding yourself to stand up and stretch your arms over head, or side to side, every once and a while. If you have a job where you have the opportunity to be less sedentary, take advantage of your time “on the move” to stretch your body and take in some cleansing deep breaths. Think of this as mindfulness in motion.

Be Present with Others

People can generally tell when another person appears to be distracted, thinking of something else, or not paying much attention. One of the greatest gifts that we can give to another person is our full attention. Consider ways in which intentionally paying attention to what your coworkers are saying to you, how they’re saying it, and the emotion(s) behind it. You may be surprised how different your interactions with other people can become when you adopt a more mindful interpersonal stance.

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Warr, P. B. (1987). Work, unemployment and mental health. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press.

Warr, P. B. (2007). Work, happiness, and unhappiness. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Featured image: working by little birth / CC BY 2.0

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11 Ways to Make Your Life Infinitely Better in 2017 https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/health-and-wellness/11-ways-to-make-your-life-infinitely-better-in-2017 https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/health-and-wellness/11-ways-to-make-your-life-infinitely-better-in-2017#respond Wed, 22 Feb 2017 21:42:32 +0000 http://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/?p=51203 “Despise no new accident in your body, but ask opinion of it…. There is a wisdom in this beyond the rules of physic. A man’s observation, what he finds good and of what he finds hurt of, is the best physic to preserve health.” – Francis Bacon The following article is written by guest author…

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“Despise no new accident in your body, but ask opinion of it…. There is a wisdom in this beyond the rules of physic. A man’s observation, what he finds good and of what he finds hurt of, is the best physic to preserve health.” – Francis Bacon

The following article is written by guest author Evelyn Kail. Much thanks to her for taking the time to write this article on starting 2017 with healthy habits and a mindful attitude!

We are in the first few months of the year 2017. This is the ideal time to prepare to get the best out of the year that is just unfolding. What better way to make your life better in 2017 than to improve your health and wellbeing? Here are some hands on tips to enable you do exactly that.

Physical Health

One cannot overemphasize the importance of taking care of one’s own physical and emotional health as a way to ensure a healthy mind in a healthy body. The state of both your body and mind determines your performance in all areas of life.

(1) Balanced Diet

Whether your routine is 3 full meals a day or 5-6 small meals spread out throughout the day, watch what you put on your plate. High calorie, nutrient empty foods deprive your brain cells of essential nutrients and rob you of optimal mental performance.

Eat wholesome foods; whole grains and nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables. Include as much variety in a meal as you possibly can. Eat your vegetables raw in fresh salads or minimally cooked. You lose nutrients by overcooking or reheating them.

If you can get vegetables organically grown and fresh, that is so much better. Breakfast if your most important meal of the day so never skip it. Give your body the right nutrients to carry you through the day by taking a balanced meal in the morning accompanied by a good, wholesome dietary supplement.

(2) Supplement Your Diet

In many cases you might have no idea how the foodstuffs you buy were actually grown and whether they contain the nutrients they should.  Fruits and vegetables can look healthy yet they were grown in depleted soils and using harmful farming methods.

Sometimes they have lost nutrients because of being stored for long since they were harvested. Incorporate a good, wholesome and natural (not synthetic) dietary supplement to fill the gaps in your diet and also cover you when your busy lifestyle causes you to miss some meals or to eat at irregular times.

(3) Drink Water

Keep your body hydrated. Choose healthy drinks over caffeine loaded unwholesome drinks. Clean water, fresh fruit and vegetable juices and herbal teas are king when it comes to keeping your body hydrated. Keep your consumption of caffeinated and carbonated drinks as well as alcohol down.

(4) Reduce Alcohol Intake

Drinking alcohol heavily over a long period of time can has long-term effects on memory and eventually damages brain cells. This is because alcohol affects the brain chemistry and processes. Drink your water at room temperature.  Avoid taking refrigerated water. Taking refrigerated water can result in water loss because the body has to use energy to heat cold water to body temperature.

(5) Detoxify

Toxins enter your body mainly through inhaling contaminated air. Carbon waste from vehicle exhaust pipes, cigarette smoke and toxic chemicals found in indoors such as in furniture, cleaning substances and paints; all contribute to contaminating the air we breathe.

We also consume toxins daily through produce that has been grown using pesticides as well as preservatives and chemical additives in processed foods and drinks. Our drinking water is not entirely free of toxins either as it contains contaminants such as chlorine. Detoxify your body regularly by taking adequate water, fresh fruit and vegetable juices as well as a good, wholesome dietary supplement coupled with a healthy lifestyle.  

Physical exercise helps with detoxification because our bodies expel toxins with sweat.

(6) Adequate Sleep & Rest

Getting adequate sleep every day ensures that your body is able to repairs itself. Ensure to get adequate sleep and if your schedules make it difficult to get 7 – 9 hours every night, plan to take short naps.

Your immune system repairs itself, your brains rest and grows, and you store energy for the next day while you are sleeping. Most people are constantly overworking themselves and by doing that, they put themselves at risk of getting stressed and reducing their productivity. Adequate rest and sleep is very important if you are to remain emotionally and mentally healthy.

(7) Flood Your Cells with Oxygen

Awaken your body every morning by saturating your cells with oxygen. Take the first 5 minutes to do deep breathing exercises preferably with the windows open or outdoors. Engage in some vigorous physical exercises even if it means jogging on the spot or up and down the stairs a number of times.

You can begin with 5 minutes and gradually increase as your body gets fitter till you can manage 30-45 minutes at a time. If you have an existing medical condition, speak to your doctor before you begin an exercise regime. You may need to adjust your waking up time to cater for your changed routine.

The best part with exercise is that fact that if you are willing to put in a bit of research, it doesn’t even have to be expensive. A garage gym is a great idea for home fitness. If you are looking for the best home gym ideas, then you only need to visit authority websites like garage gym planner.

Emotional Health

(8) Healing for Damaged Emotions

Chances are that you did not have a perfect childhood. Maybe your parents implanted negative messages in you from the time you were little, killing your belief in yourself. You might have been bullied by your elder siblings or by other children in school or in the neighborhood. Maybe your early childhood teachers belittled you or compared you unfairly with other children they considered to be better. All those negative early childhood experiences impact your adult life negatively.

Do not give excuses for those who harmed your early development. Children need love and care; there is no excuse for denying them that. Acknowledge that what happened was not right and that it affected you negatively. You cannot right a wrong if you do not even acknowledge that it was wrong in the first place.

Give yourself permission to feel the pain of whatever negative experiences you went through, and to learn to forgive those who caused it.

(9) Nurture Your Brain

The atmosphere around you is critical for your mental wellbeing. Choose carefully the people you surround yourself with. Surround yourself with people who inspire, motivate and encourage you; people who believe in you and your worth. Cut out toxic people from around you.  

Make a conscious effort to nurture your brain every day. Choose carefully what you read/watch/listen to. Listen to audiobooks as you sit in the car in traffic or as you do your chores. You will be amazed how choosing what you allow into your mind has the power to transform your external environment.

Read something motivational on your phone or tablet as you wait in queues at the bank, supermarket or doctor’s surgery. Being stuck in traffic or on queues might not get on your nerves if you are busy listening to something uplifting.

(10) Master Your Thoughts

Choose what conversations to get involved in, even on social media. Practice meditation during your quiet time. Take charge of your thoughts. Train your mind to adopt thought patterns that work for, not against, you. Say no to negative, depressing thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts, thoughts of consciously counting your blessings no matter how tough the times are. An attitude of gratitude attracts more blessings.

(11) Live a Balanced Life

Your brain is like a garden. If you don’t plant crops, weeds will spring up and fill the entire place. Feed your passion. What makes your face light up? What makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning? Devote time to doing what you love, even if it means volunteering. Live a balanced life. Balance between work, recreation and family. Work hard, play hard and enjoy quality time with family and loved ones. Life is not a rehearsal. You only live once so you might as well make it worthwhile.

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This article is for information purposes only and is not intended for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation. If you have questions about your physical or mental health, consult with a medical or mental health professional.

Featured image: Health & Fitness by Liam Matthews / CC BY 2.0

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Mindfully Befriending Fear https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/acceptance-and-commitment-therapy/mindfully-befriending-fear https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/acceptance-and-commitment-therapy/mindfully-befriending-fear#respond Sun, 25 Dec 2016 01:18:31 +0000 http://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/?p=51166 “One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” – Henry Ford It’s natural to feel a powerful, even overwhelming urge, to avoid people, places, or things that tend to elicit fear or worry. There are times when…

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“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” – Henry Ford

It’s natural to feel a powerful, even overwhelming urge, to avoid people, places, or things that tend to elicit fear or worry. There are times when fear is adaptive, and might just save your life… if you happen to be in a situation that presents actual danger. However, if fear reaches a point where it is interfering with living your life, it’s time to slow down and pay attention. Rather than plunging into the habitual tendency to run from, deny, or avoid fear, consider mindfully turning toward fear as an incredible opportunity for growth.

If you find yourself experiencing seemingly irrational fears, you’re not alone. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 28.8% of adults in the U.S. will face an anxiety disorder at some point in their lifetimes. While fear and anxiety can feel overwhelming or unbearable, it is possible to cope with anxiety and develop a new relationship with difficult emotions.

It’s important to direct patience and compassion toward yourself if you are struggling with fear or anxiety. Remember that it’s natural to experience fear, but when fear starts to take over important domains of your life, it’s time to do something different. It’s understandable to want to numb your emotions, ease painful physical sensations, or dull unpleasant thoughts when they arise. The problem with experiential avoidance is that rigid attempts to control our internal experience often come at a cost. Potential costs include detachment from friends and family, lack of passion and vitality, or inability to experience a range of emotions.

Getting to Know Fear

When fear begins to interfere with your ability to meaningfully connect with others, “show up” as your most authentic self, or behave in ways inconsistent with your true values, it’s time to pay attention. Consider actively seeking to dive into your fear. Give yourself permission to pause and reflect on the answers to these questions, even writing down a few notes to return to at a later time.

  • How do you know when fear is showing up in your life?
  • What information is fear trying to convey to you?
  • What is the cost of avoiding people, places, or situations associated with fear?

It’s understandable to feel discomfort or distress when actively reflecting on the experience of fear. Remember that your emotional experiences are always valid… there is no such thing as an invalid emotional experience. However, I’d encourage you to challenge the thoughts and behaviors connected to intense or difficult emotions such as fear. While the emotion itself is not to be invalidated, it’s possible to change your relationship with that emotion by mindfully examining the thoughts, behaviors, and sensations that tend to surface when experiencing that emotion.

What is one small step you are willing to take within the next week to befriend your fears? Perhaps the next time you notice the familiar physical sensations, behaviors, or thoughts that you tend to experience when fear comes up, you will simply notice. Or perhaps you’re willing to sit down and write a letter to your fear… what would you like to say to your fear? What would you like to ask the fear? Consider how “getting to know” the fear can take away some of its power and make it feel less threatening.

As you practice befriending fear, try to think of fear as an opportunity to learn something new, something important, or something that can shift you out of a pattern of unworkable action. In “The Mindfulness Solution: Everyday Practices for Everyday Problems,” Dr. Siegel points out that “mindfulness practice helps us see that our minds and bodies respond similarly… and at least some fear or anxiety shows up quite regularly. It can help us work with both the little moments of fear and anxiety that pass through our minds all the time and the big ones that can be overwhelming.” Remember that anxiety and fear are a natural part of the human experience, but choosing to befriend difficult emotions can lead to decreased suffering.

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This article is for information purposes only and is not intended for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation.  If you have questions about anxiety disorders or any other mental health issue described above, consult with a mental health professional.

Germer, C.K., Siegel, r.D., & Fulton, P.R. (2005). Mindfulness and psychotherapy. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Siegel, R.D. (2010). The mindfulness solution: Everyday practices for everyday problems. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Featured image: FEAR – Dublin, Ireland – Color street photography by Giuseppe Milo / CC BY-NC 2.0

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Check the Facts Before Acting on Emotions https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/dialectical-behavior-therapy/check-the-facts-before-acting-on-emotions https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/dialectical-behavior-therapy/check-the-facts-before-acting-on-emotions#comments Mon, 19 Dec 2016 02:15:26 +0000 http://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/?p=51085 “If there’s a single lesson that life teaches us, it’s that wishing doesn’t make it so.” – Lev Grossman Have you ever sprung into action after experiencing an emotion without pausing to reflect with mindfulness? You’re certainly not alone if you can relate to this tendency to react, rather than respond to your present moment experience.…

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“If there’s a single lesson that life teaches us, it’s that wishing doesn’t make it so.” – Lev Grossman

Have you ever sprung into action after experiencing an emotion without pausing to reflect with mindfulness? You’re certainly not alone if you can relate to this tendency to react, rather than respond to your present moment experience. Sometimes the consequences of acting in a reactive manner are insignificant, and sometimes they are even adaptive, such as feeling fear and then pulling a child away from being hit by a car. However, there are times when behaving without mindfulness, or on automatic pilot, may lead to deleterious consequences. This is why it is crucial to check the facts of the situation to assess whether or not your emotional reactions fit the facts before taking action.

DBT & Emotion Regulation

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a therapeutic treatment modality that offers concrete skills that can be learned, practiced, and applied to your everyday life. Similar to many skills, once learned and practiced over time, they have the potential to become a part of your natural repertoire. DBT consists of four modules: (1) mindfulness; (2) interpersonal effectiveness; (3) emotion regulation; and (4) distress tolerance.

Each skills-based module builds upon the other, although individual benefits may be derived from changing any part of the overall system. This is akin to changing one malfunctioning piece of a machine, and then noticing some improvements in how the rest of the machine functions. We can all benefit from the ability to effectively regulate emotions. Even if it’s tough to manage your emotions right now, the good news is that it is possible to acquire emotion regulation skills with knowledge and practice.

Goals of Emotion Regulation

  1. Understand and label your emotions
  2. Decrease how often you experience unwanted emotions
  3. Decrease emotional vulnerability and increase resilience
  4. Decrease emotional suffering and manage extreme emotions

Understanding & Labeling Emotions

In order to gain greater insight into your emotional world, it’s essential to learn what emotions do for you. The idea is that we all experience emotions for a reason. Emotions serve valuable purposes, and we need them to live full and vibrant lives.

Some of the things that can interfere with effective emotion regulation include reinforcing consequences, feeling moody, excessive worry or rumination, myths about emotions, and underlying biological vulnerabilities that interfere with changing emotions.

Remember that emotions are complex responses to both internal and external events. Emotions such as guilt or shame may arise from painful internal events, such as thoughts that amplify these emotions, or painful external events that elicit the emotional responses of guilt or shame. The complex system within which emotions operate can be changed by changing any part of the overall system. In other words, “changing any part of the system can change the entire response” (Linehan, 2015, p. 209).

Finally, we need effective ways to describe emotions. By learning how to apply DBT skills to your emotional experience, you can more effectively observe, describe, and name your emotions as a result. In turn, this can lead to increased effectiveness in regulating your emotions.

Check the Facts

Part of being effective in regulating emotions includes being adept at changing your emotional responses. In order to do this, it’s essential to pause and check the facts before taking action. This means being willing and able to explore whether or not your emotional reactions fit the facts of the actual situation. Consider what it might be like to mindfully observe the situation as a neutral third party. How would you describe the people, places, and events?

Checking the facts also means being willing and able to actively modify your beliefs and assumptions in order to fit the facts. For instance, consider the possibility that you may be assuming there is a threat present when this may not be the case. Ask yourself what evidence you have to support the existence of the perceived threat.

Additionally, try to be willing to truly consider alternative interpretations or explanations for distressing events. Challenge yourself to come up with a few reasonable alternative explanations by taking a different perspective. How might another person view the same event? Notice the ways in which your experiences with uncomfortable or painful internal events shift as a result of pausing to check the facts before taking action. Allow yourself to rest within the space of that pause between stimulus and response, simply observing your experience for what it is, describing what you observe, and selecting a course of action.

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Linehan, M.M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Featured image: sunflowers by marco magrini / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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ACT on the Paradox of Depression https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/acceptance-and-commitment-therapy/act-on-the-paradox-of-depression https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/acceptance-and-commitment-therapy/act-on-the-paradox-of-depression#respond Wed, 22 Jun 2016 07:49:58 +0000 http://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/?p=50972 “In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.” – Francis Bacon Depression can manifest itself in a variety of forms and impact people’s lives in a multitude of ways. It’s quite different from feeling sad every now and then, or even grief-stricken in the face of loss. For some people,…

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“In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.” – Francis Bacon

Depression can manifest itself in a variety of forms and impact people’s lives in a multitude of ways. It’s quite different from feeling sad every now and then, or even grief-stricken in the face of loss. For some people, symptoms of depression can become debilitating to the point of jeopardizing their relationships, careers, or even their own lives. The paradox of depression concerns the behaviors often associated with depression, such as avoidance of people and activities, which generally serve to maintain or even worsen the depression itself. Fortunately, it is possible to end this toxic cycle… one step at a time.

It is important to recognize that uncomfortable internal states such as fear and anxiety are not inherently “bad” or “wrong.” In fact, as with all emotional experiences, fear and anxiety can serve valuable functions and provide crucial information. In the useful workbook, ACT for Depression, Dr. Robert Zettle explains that “anxiety becomes problematic with deliberate efforts to avoid, regulate, or in other ways control the experience of it.” Within the context of Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), this process is referred to as experiential avoidance.

Paradox of Depression

The paradox of depression is often maintained by experiential avoidance. It is paradoxical in the sense that the experience of depression increases the likelihood of avoiding the very activities that may serve to alleviate the suffering associated with depression. For instance, when one is depressed he or she may not have the physical energy or hope for the future necessary to facilitate an action that was once as routine as rising out of bed in the morning.

No matter where your starting point is, remember that all one can do is take steps – one by one – in a given direction. If you find yourself falling into or stuck in a cycle of depression, know that your present moment experience is absolutely valid. Also… the constant of life is change, and this present moment will become a new fresh present moment as time passes. No matter how challenging this moment is, I encourage a part of you to allow for the mere possibility that the future just might be different… and better.

Self-Compassion & Healing

You have the power to make choices in this moment that will affect the likelihood of a more meaningful and enjoyable future. Try to actively practice self-compassion, especially when taking those first small steps towards the possibility of a brighter future. For some people, it’s not uncommon to compare their “depressed selves” to the memory of their “healthy selves,” which can understandably lead to setting unrealistic expectations… and feeding into the paradoxical cycle of depression.

This doesn’t mean that you are somehow “less than” the best version of yourself – it simply means that you are, in a sense, injured, and need time to heal. Imagine if you had broken your arm or leg… would you have the same expectations of yourself to be able to engage in regular physical activity or care for yourself in the same ways? Probably not. Depression is just as “real” as a broken limb, even though you aren’t wearing a cast or can point to it on an x-ray. Try keeping this in mind as a means of being kind towards yourself as you heal.

Experiential Avoidance vs. Acceptance

One way to counter the effects of experiential avoidance and begin to gradually shift your mindset is through the process of acceptance. It’s important to remember that acceptance does not necessarily equal approval. Rather, acceptance facilitates the creation of fresh mental and emotional space for internal experiences (i.e., thoughts, emotions, or sensations) that may be unpleasant or uncomfortable. In a way, this newfound space for previously suppressed experiences can be a powerful step towards decreasing unnecessary suffering. It is within this new space that you will begin to have room to begin working with your present moment circumstances just as they are… warts and all.

How to Practice Acceptance & Cognitive Defusion

Try reading through these strategies for practicing acceptance and cognitive defusion. Notice what ideas resonate with you as personally meaningful or doable:

  • Allow thoughts and emotions to occur without the impulse to take immediate action.
  • Acknowledge difficulties or struggles in your life without minimizing or avoiding them.
  • Mindfully observe how you internally talk to yourself during difficult moments.
  • Take a step back from your internal dialogue… ask yourself what evidence you have to support any negative self-talk.

If you are currently experiencing depression or have concerns about your emotional well-being in any way, it is important to meet with a qualified mental health professional to collaboratively determine the best potential treatment for your individual needs. If you, or someone close to you, is struggling with or has expressed thoughts of either self-harm or suicide, know that there are credible free resources (see below for some suggestions) that you can access for support, referrals, or information.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached 24/7 at (800) 273-8255.

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Resources:

Strosahl, K.D., & Robinson, P.J. (2008). The mindfulness & acceptance workbook for depression: Using acceptance & commitment therapy to move through depression & create a life worth living. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

Zettle, R.D. (2010). ACT for depression: A clinician’s guide to using acceptance & commitment therapy for treating depression. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

Featured image: Young freedom by Aiky RATSIMANOHATRA / CC BY-NC 2.0

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The Value of Solitude & Silence https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/mindfulness/the-value-of-solitude-silence https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/mindfulness/the-value-of-solitude-silence#respond Tue, 09 Feb 2016 22:46:00 +0000 http://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/?p=50915 “In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion.” – Albert Camus In a society where an aspect of success is measured by the accumulation of wealth, power, and prestige, it can be easy to lose one’s sense of self. The stress of feeling perpetually dissatisfied, comparing oneself to others,…

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“In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion.” – Albert Camus

In a society where an aspect of success is measured by the accumulation of wealth, power, and prestige, it can be easy to lose one’s sense of self. The stress of feeling perpetually dissatisfied, comparing oneself to others, and ruminating on perceived shortcomings can take a hearty toll on your overall well-being. When each day has become bogged down with negativity, it’s time to pause and take stock of your life and priorities. If you are constantly chasing one marker of supposed success after another, it’s worth asking yourself some simple, yet important, questions. Only you know what resonates as true for yourself… and there are no “right” or “wrong” answers.

  • How do I define success?
  • How will I know when I am satisfied or content?
  • How do I typically deal with setbacks or unexpected stressors?
  • How do I manage stress?

In order to gain greater perspective on the life you have created for yourself and the goals you are moving toward, you must be willing to look within yourself. This means taking a momentary break from jumping from task to task in order to listen to your inner voice. It’s possible that the still small voice within has been muffled for some time from constant noise on the outside. It is not unusual to feel uncomfortable to simply be with… sit with… and listen to your inner voice. The value of taking the time for mindful solitude and silence from the external world may be much greater than you think.

According to Dr. Robert J. Wicks (2008), our interior lives “provide us with inner strength, a sound attitude, and a sense of honesty or transparency” (p. 73). Consider how much time – and the quality of that time – that you devote to self-reflection. It is worth noticing how much time is spent on mindless tasks, trivial concerns, or incessant worry. When the mind is filled with so much inner chatter, it’s quite difficult – if not impossible – to experience mental clarity, self-compassion, and self-determination.

The choice to integrate even one simple mindfulness exercise into your day has the potential to boost your physical, mental, and emotional well-being… really. If your mind is interjecting thoughts about how you’re simply too busy to meditate, try challenging yourself a bit. Practice being honest with yourself… do you have 5 minutes in your day that you could use for a positive purpose? I’m willing to bet that most of us spend a bit of time each day ruminating about the past, worrying about the future, or feeling scattered in the present. As Dr. Marsha Linehan, founder of DBT, puts it, “mindfulness is living with your eyes wide open.”

Mindfulness meditation offers the opportunity for self-renewal and a healing respite from constant competition, anxiety, struggle, and self-doubt. It is within these moments of solitude and silence that you have the opportunity to build the inner stability and confidence to live with greater meaning, purpose, and integrity. Today is the perfect opportunity to direct kindness toward yourself and practice self-care. Try giving yourself permission to take a short break from your daily routine to be still and listen to your inner voice. You deserve it.

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Resources:

Wicks, R.J. (2008). The resilient clinician. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Featured image: Solitude at Dawn by Rick Schwartz / CC BY-NC 2.0

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