The Focus On You

*Self-Care & Lifestyle Blog*

Category: Mental Health (page 2 of 11)

A Beginner’s Guide To Mindfulness

Mindfulness has been a popular buzzword in wellness circles even though it’s a practice that has been used for hundreds of years. Various cultures around the world embraced mindfulness techniques to deal with everyday difficulties and to help honor religious beliefs.

Using a definition from “The Mindfulness Solution”, by Ronald Siegel, M.D., mindfulness helps us observe how we interpret distress, how to let go of destructive mental habits and replace them with more useful ones.

Mindfulness is a practice of slowing down, listening to your body, taking one task at a time, unplugging, etc. Being mindful means you focus on just “being” and not “doing.” Click To Tweet

Other benefits?

  • Reduces anxiety and social phobia.

  • Can be used with children, elderly and anyone with physical challenges.

  • It’s free. That’s not a typo. Yes, it’s free.

  • You don’t need insurance, a prescription or a specialized therapist.

  • Helps with personality disorders like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

  • Useful in drug and alcohol recovery

  • Encourages physical activity

  • Increases connections with others

Based on this checklist, I’m happy to tell you that you don’t need any tools, skills or special coach to begin mindfulness practices. The book I quoted above is a user friendly manual that includes mindful practices and exercises for relationship issues, health problems, chronic pain, aging and grief, plus many more.

On a personal note, having fibromyalgia and anxiety disorder, I have to practice a form of mindfulness daily. It’s so routine that I don’t even know I’m doing it. So, what has a lack of mindfulness cost me?

  • I tripped down the stairs carrying laundry because I wasn’t paying attention.
  • Fibromyalgia flares have cost me time at work and missing important family events.
  • Anxiety attacks in public places.
  • Forgetting to check my bank accounts because I’m multi-tasking every other damn thing you can think of! Overdraft fees add up!

How can you become more mindful? Let me give you distinct examples:

  • Mindful Walking: Although my friends enjoy when I Snapchat my walks with my pup, that actually disconnects me from the healing benefits of walking my dog. When I’m NOT taking pics and playing music, I focus on taking deep breaths, watching her stride, monitoring where she stops to sniff, turning my head to the sunlight & taking notice of my surroundings. Wherever you walk, be aware of how your body feels, how the sun or wind feels and what you see.

Example: I have worked with anxious clients on paying attention to their surroundings & examining them. How many white cars are passing by while you wait for the bus? What do the billboards say on your way to work? Count how many Hondas you see until you reach your destination. Wiggle your toes as you examine your surroundings. How do your toes feel as you wiggle them?

 

  • Mindful Eating: How many people eat lunch at their desk or eat breakfast standing up in the kitchen? It’s difficult having a chaotic schedule but slowing down our meals is actually therapeutic. Some mindful practices involve eating one raisin at a time and paying close attention to all aspects of the raisin. Is it chewy? Sweet? Can you resist eating it and just rest it on your tongue? I have taught clients to use gum or Starbursts as a way to “ground” themselves into the moment. When we’re nervous, overthinking or about to enter a scary situation, an edible object can be therapeutic, reminds us to slow our breathing and moves our body’s nervous energy elsewhere. Challenge: Try eating one meal this week without any electronics, television or distractions. I encourage you to watch your breathing and posture as you eat. Sit comfortably. Take smaller bites and chew your food more. Sip your coffee or tea one day this week taking notice of the flavor, temperature and the feeling it gives your body. See what you notice.

 

  • Kill JudgmentOne of the main tenets of mindfulness involves limiting judgment on our thoughts. For example, let’s look at this sentence: “It’s hot and there’s a lot of traffic today.” Is this statement a fact or a judgment with a million feelings behind it? This introduces you to the Acceptance Theory. If you accept that it’s hot, grab an ice water before hitting traffic and play your favorite Spotify list, how has your mood adjusted? Sitting in judgmental thoughts invites low energy, grouchy attitudes and impatience. Being more accepting reduces negative thoughts and doesn’t attach you to people or outcomes (remember one of the messages behind The Four Agreements: Don’t Take Anything Personal).

Try some of these mindful techniques and see how your mood changes.

Does your breathing slow down?

What facts can you turn from judgments to plain acceptance? Start telling yourself, “Well, it is what it is.” Become more neutral towards thoughts that used to get you angry or sad.

This week I’ll be sharing some mindful exercises on my Instagram Stories! Follow my page here!

 

 

What Do We Miss When We Stop Listening?

Lately, I’ve been hooked on a new series on Netflix called “13 Reasons Why.” The story is told from the point of view of a teenage girl who dies by suicide.  13 Reasons Why features flashbacks from her past year in high school and all the hardships she faced prior to her death.

This show made me think about what happens when we don’t listen. Listening skills are not just based on verbal cues. What verbal and non-verbal cues do we miss when we don’t listen?

  • When pains in our body may be signaling us to a serious problem.
  • People’s facial expressions when we ignore them to look at our phone.
  • When we dismiss our dangerous behaviors even though someone we love becomes injured doing the same thing (distracted driving, alcohol intoxication, physical violence, ignoring medical treatment, unsafe sex)
  • When we lose a loved one and in hindsight, remember all the lessons they gave us.
  • When a loved one, friend or child averts eye contact and says “nevermind.”
  • Forgetting important dates because we quickly said “yes” before understanding what we agreed to.
  • Being unaware of our surroundings due to earbuds, scrolling social media and other technological distractions.
  • Being unaware of signs of illness in our loved ones or animals.

As a therapist, I have to be in tune with my clients when they enter my space. Did you know that crossing your arms is a non-verbal sign that says “I’m defensive and probably judging you?” I never cross my arms in session. I cannot appear “blocked” to whatever they’re expressing. I noticed that when I’m off work I cross my arms a lot (because I’m truly OFF DUTY).

What are other non-verbal cues to show you’re “actively listening?”

  • Leaning in towards the person speaking
  • Facing the person speaking
  • Making eye contact

In 13 Reasons Why, the main character, Hannah, tells a male classmate, “Here’s the thing. You’ve never been a girl.” As the world demands that our leaders LISTEN to our voices, their failure to pay attention is costing us our lives. Black Lives Matter wants people to LISTEN and take action. People young and old are YELLING for leaders to understand the impact of stripping away our health care. In hindsight, the characters in this show, realize where they weren’t listening to Hannah and appear remorseful for not being a better friend.

There is power in numbers.

The number of people who will listen to us when we need help.

The number of people calling their elected officials demanding that their rights be protected.

The number of parents who petition for change in their childrens’ schools.

There is power in numbers and power in our voice. If we’re being ignored, politely ask for someone’s attention. Find a way to get their attention. Your doctor, a 2nd opinion doctor, your boss, HR, your teenager, the principal, etc.

What happens when we stop listening?

I’m afraid to find out.

Let’s remember to reconnect, to stay in tune with our bodies and keep an eye on the ones we love. It’s hard to ask for help. Open up that conversation with someone and just listen.

Here are a few statements you can use to show someone you are truly listening

(tip: this is good for supervisors and parents)

“I’m on your side.”

“You’re making total sense.”

“I’m sorry you have to go through all of that.”

“I understand why you feel that way.”

“Wow that must have been frustrating.”

Please share this post with any loved ones or colleagues. Active listening is important in our families and workplaces. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of harming themselves, please use the following resources for assistance.

listening

 

 

listening

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