Category Archives: Mindfulness

Three Days to Less Stress – Meditation Can Help

alarm clocksEverybody is looking for a quick fix to be less stressed.  We try shopping, drinking, distracting ourselves with TV, and even complaining to try to feel better.  However, these strategies are only temporary and often have negative side effects (e.g., financial difficulties, being hung over, being overweight, and feeling more negative).  Let’s face it, there are usually no quick, easy fixes to life’s challenges.

However, now researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have given us some hope.  David Creswell and his research team did a study where they had one group of participants complete a brief mindfulness meditation training program – 25 minutes of meditation for three consecutive days.  The meditation instructed them to monitor their breath and pay attention to their present moment experiences.   The comparison group participants were given instructions to enhance their problem-solving skills.  After their training, all participants were compared on stressful speech and math tasks in front of stern-faced evaluators in white coats.   The participants who had the meditation training reported less perceived stress than the comparison group, indicating greater psychological resilience—a known indicator of greater physical and psychological well-being and health.

If you would like to try the test for yourself, here is a 30 minute sitting meditation. Use it for three days in a row and notice how you feel.  Pay attention after day three how you react to things that usually create stress for you. If you’d like, share your experience by commenting below.  If you notice it working, you might like to try some other meditations as well. Pretty soon you might be doing something everyday. You will find meditations of varying lengths on the Audio/Video Tab on this website.

Good luck!

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Be Mindful of Your Day

FlowerPlanning a presentation recently, I decided I wanted to give people an idea about how you could spend a mindful day. These are the three suggestions I came up with that could enhance each and every one of our lives.

1.  At the beginning of the day, make a plan to engage in at least one activity that brings you joy.

2.  Choose the attitude you want to have throughout the day.

3. At the end of day, remember three pleasant moments you enjoyed.

Enjoy an Activity

How much of your life is spent doing something for someone else or just getting through the work of the day.  Each day make some time for yourself.  The activity can be something as simple as reading a few pages from the book you’re reading, listening to some music, taking a different route home to see something new, walking on the trail, learning something new, or having lunch with a friend.  It’s your life. The key is to enjoy it every day.

Choose Your Attitude

In the stress reduction class I teach, I tell people to take a slip of paper from a bag marked “choose your attitude” — referring to the attitudes of mindfulness.  It is one of the favorite things that people do.  One the slips of paper are the attitudinal qualities associated with mindfulness. They are patience, non-striving, non-judging, acceptance, beginner’s mind, trusting, and letting go.  You could choose one of these or you could choose to be kind, gentle, helpful, confidence, optimistic, reliable, honest, and happy. The list is endless.  It’s your life. The key is to choose how you want to be.

Three Pleasant Moments  

Pleasant moments are occurring all of the time and we miss them because we’re lost in thought—planning, remembering, worrying.  Don’t miss your moments filled with smiles, tastes, touches, sights, sounds, laughs, cries, nature, pets, children, spouses, and friends. Life is all around you with pleasures that abound. It’s your life. Be present for the pleasure that’s available to you.

~One of my pleasant moments today was writing this blog.  I hope it adds something positive to your life.

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Five Tips for Mindful Emailing

tastingmindfulness-stockimage1Emails in the workplace often come with questions, work to do, goals to reach, and obstacles to overcome. That makes them inherently stressful or anxiety producing. Plus, communication is hard enough when we are face-to-face and email makes it much more challenging. Face-to-face we have the ability to read another person’s intentions and emotions. Over email, we are left guessing what the other person is trying to express. When you read an email that upsets you, it is often because a reaction is being triggered that may not be appropriate to the communication as it was intended.

Knowing this, here are some tips for what to do when you feel triggered emotionally by an email you receive.

1. Use the STOP sign technique before you respond.

S = Stop (do nothing)
T = take a breath (or five breaths or breathe until you’re more relaxed)
O = Observe (What are you feeling and thinking? Is this someone you have reacted to in the past? Is there a pattern of reacting that you can begin to understand better?)
P = Proceed (when you feel calm again, now you can respond if you need to)

2. After you have calmed down, re-read the email in question. Does it say what you thought it did? Or, does it say something slightly different? When I go back and re-read emails I often discover that they were much less of a problem than the first time I read them.

3. Put yourself in the shoes of the person sending the email. What might they be trying to accomplish? Usually someone doesn’t send an email to make you mad and, in fact, the email is often sent with good intentions. Assume good intentions whenever possible.

4. When you’re sending an email, check in with what you intend to convey. Never send an email that you’ve composed when you’re angry. Take a few breaths and wait until you’re calm. You will be much more capable at getting your message across in a way that can be accepted without defensiveness.

5. When possible, pick up the phone and talk or walk down the hall to speak to someone in person. While email is absolutely a necessity in this day and age, there are still times we could take advantage of some old fashioned face time.

The workplace is fast-paced and hectic. No wonder it can be filled with misunderstandings. When we practice slowing down, even a little, we can discover many new things in our communications with others. We can begin to illuminate the ways we get stuck in repetitive patterns and we can begin to understand how others operate so that we don’t take their messages so personally. When we practice mindful emailing, we have an opportunity to help the workplace be a little more friendly and manageable.

 

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Just BE – 7 Tips for a Mindfulness-based Approach to Life

IDo you multitask your way through life? Do you find yourself constantly making a to-do list or planning? Do you feel restless if you aren’t doing something? Do you think you don’t have time to meditate or engage in other self-care? Do you eat to keep yourself busy or from being bored?  If so, then you may have become a “human doing” rather than a “human being.”

The art of “being human” has been lost in the midst of our need for entertainment, distraction, and constant motion.  In fact, I just asked the people in one of my classes if anyone felt their lives were too busy and every person raised their hand.  And, although everyone thinks they are too busy, if you ask them to sit and meditate or do yoga there is often a resistance to it. So, we have quite the conundrum.  I can’t “be” because I’m too busy.

Here are seven tips to help you become human again.  Try them on a regular basis and notice how you feel.  You can start with just one and work your way up. Each attempt to come back to sanity will be a healing moment for your mind and body. Continue reading

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BASICS of Mindful Eating Teleconference

avatars-000072455684-y8tfkc-t500x500In case you missed the BASICS of Mindful Eating teleconference last week, but still would like to listen to it, you’re in luck!

The recording is now available on The Center for Mindful Eating site, if you want to listen, or share it with others:

http://www.thecenterformindfuleating.org/Default.aspx?pageId=1863600

This can also be listened to directly on Soundcloud:

https://soundcloud.com/tcme-org/2014-june-26-basics-mindful-eating

At the end you will be able to do the following:

1. Name 3 of the 6 components of the acronym “BASICS” as a mindfulness-based approach to eating.
2. Experience a “Taste of Mindfulness” meditation to help you explore your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations.
3. Identify two challenges in stopping eating before you are too full.

You might also want to bookmark the Center for Mindful Eating Website.  They have lots of wonderful teleconferences and informative articles about mindful eating.

Happy 4th and Happy Eating!!!fireworks

 

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Diabetes and Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is important for all of us who want to be healthy, but it is even more important for people with diabetes.  I was pleasantly surprised when I received the latest copy of Diabetes Self-Management magazine and noticed “The Benefits of Mindful Eating” on the cover.  The article described the research that has been conducted on the effects of meditation and other mindfulness practices on stress, anxiety, healthy-related quality of life, and hemoglobin A1C, a measure of blood glucose control.

It reported that a few studies have now demonstrated that people with diabetes who complete an 8 week mindfulness-based program can significantly reduce emotional symptoms which often trouble people who are trying to manage a chronic disease and show improvements on biological markers of their disease.  One small study conducted in 2007 even reports that people who did not change their diets, level of physical activity, or medication, but did practice meditation for 8 weeks, had improvement in their blood glucose control.

Anecdotally, I had a friend with diabetes who took a weekly meditation class with me for years and she would check her levels right after the class.  She said that her levels were better after meditation than any other time that she would check.

Eat for Life ClassesIf you have diabetes or are just interested in being more mindful about how you eat, join me for 10 week mindfulness-based intuitive eating program designed to help you have a healthier relationship to your food and your body.  We are starting soon, so if you are interested, register TODAY!!

Here is the link to register for the online class which starts Friday, May 30, but you need to register by Friday, May 23. You take the class on your own time but you have practices and readings to do each week that relate to a particular theme. Email me if you are interested in the in-person class in Columbia, Missouri, which starts May 27 (RossyL at umsystem.edu).

Now take a deep breath and feel your body from head to toe before you proceed to the next activity of your day.  May you be mindful!

 

 

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The Pause That Refreshes!

iStock_000002538269LargeThere probably isn’t anything I find more powerful or helpful than a pause.  Stopping and taking a deep breath when you’re stressed, angry, impatient, or frustrated can keep you from (a) saying things that you wished you hadn’t said, (b) sending emails you wished you hadn’t sent, (c) doing things that you wish you hadn’t done, or (d) all of the above.

People call the pause by many different names.  Tara Brach, in her book Radical Acceptance, calls it the “sacred pause.”  Janice Marturano, in her book Finding the Space to Lead, calls it a “purposeful pause.”  The authors of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy for Depression call it a “three minute breathing space.”  I often call it a “taste of mindfulness.”

Call it what you wish, a pause from your busy lives to check in with how you are feeling, what you are thinking, and how your body feels is all that you might need to avoid any of the behavior above and to help you settle down enough to let your clarity and wisdom arise.  If nothing else, it gives you time to rethink your next move.  It helps you tap into the wisdom of your body so that you take care of it better.  Instead of reactively reaching for a cup of coffee when you’re tired, you might get up and walk, stretch, lie on the floor, take some deep breaths.

A pause can help you re-center into the present moment and really take in what is going on. At work this is particularly helpful.  Perhaps you’re in a meeting but your mind is thinking about something else and you’re not really catching what’s going on.  You miss some of the main points and then you feel pretty timid about asking what you missed. I have put a random mindfulness bell called Lotus Bud on my phone that can go off at any time.  It rings and says “take a breath and be mindful.” When it goes off in a meeting, we all pause and take a breath or two.  It’s amazing how it slows things down (in a good way) and helps people stay more focused on the task at hand.

A pause can be short or long.  Short pauses are particularly good when you feel stressed.  Longer pauses can be taken throughout your day, such as when you are walking to lunch or driving home from work.  Just walk or just drive.  Don’t do anything else.  You’ll be surprised what you might discover.  It is always from the stillness that I have my most interesting, creative ideas.  In fact, when I ask people where they get their best ideas, it is almost always in the middle of a pause.

Think about times when you could use a pause and set an intention to work them into your day.  I’ll bet you’ll amazed at how refreshing they are.

 

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My Advice to People Getting into Mindfulness

bepresentjpgI’ve recently been asked to say, in one sentence, my advice to people getting into mindfulness.  There are so many things I would like to say that parsing it down to one sentence seemed like quite a challenge.  To help me and (hopefully) you in the process, I will share the advice that I’ve been given and have given to others over the years and maybe I’ll come up with one sentence in the end.  Let’s see what happens…

“Just Do It” – This is one of the first and best pieces of advice I ever received.  No, it wasn’t advice from Nike, but from Jon Kabat-Zinn and I’m sure he’s shared it with thousands of people around the world.  This advice has served me well and has gotten my butt on the cushion to sit in meditation on innumerable mornings.  You see, my mind never tells me that this morning is a great morning to get up a half an hour early to do my mindfulness practice.  But, I “just do it” anyway.

“Make space for formal practice” – When I say “space” I mean create an actual physical space where you do formal practice (e.g. a particular chair, room, place at work), but I also mean “space” in terms of setting aside the time for practice.  It helps if you write it down on your calendar or set your alarm.  You can even start with just a few minutes a day and it will make a difference.   Try even a couple of minutes during the work day and notice how you feel.

“Relax” – There is really nothing to do.  Mindfulness is an un-doing of all the things we think we are and how things are supposed to be.  Relax into the present moment with openness and curiosity.  One meditation teacher said “stop seeking peace and happiness and peace and happiness are here.”  Take a deep breath, relax, and see if you can sense the truth of that statement.

“Don’t give up” – Mindfulness practice is simple but not easy.  You keep coming back to the present with kindness over and over again.  Eventually you begin to get better at noticing when you aren’t present, and you stay in the present more often.

“Be gentle with yourself” – One of my favorite ways of describing mindfulness is “affectionate attention.”  You are gentle and kind with yourself, with others, and with your experiences.  We are such perfectionists in this culture.  Instead “try a little tenderness” as Otis Redding would say!

“Find a community or support group to practice with” – There is a great power and energy in practicing mindfulness with others.  We support and learn from one another in community and hold each other more accountable.

“Realize that everything is practice” – What this means is that you can bring your mindfulness to anything and make it a meditation.  In fact, your entire life can be a meditation.  You pay attention to all of your senses with kindness and curiosity.  You can do that anywhere and anytime.

So, I can’t really sum all of that up in one sentence, but if I only have one this is what I’d say.  “ Taste a little bit of mindfulness every day, even if it is one mindful breath, and do it with kindness.”                                    

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When all else fails, check in with the wisdom of your own body.

imagesCAXK8S3UThe problem: Conflicting and confusing diet and nutrition information.

The New York Times had an article on Sunday entitled “Why Nutrition Is So Confusing” that I want to share with you.  It resonates with me a lot, because I teach a class on mindful eating filled with people who come in confused about what they should or shouldn’t eat because of all of the different and conflicting messages we hear and read.  I am sure they are not alone.

Even when you follow the research carefully, as I try to do, you will be left shaking your head in wonder.  There are studies showing success on many diets –low carbohydrate/high protein, moderate-carb, high protein, moderate-fat, Mediterranean, etc.  Then there are the lists of diets that “experts” have determined are the best.  According to U.S. News rankings, even the Slim-Fast Diet made the list at #6 this year.  Granted, there has been research demonstrating it’s efficacy in the short term. The problem is that we also know that most diets aren’t realistic over the long haul.  You go off the diet and then you gain the weight back. Are you really going to drink Slim Fast all of your life?  Even if you did, chances are you will also eat a lot of other things that will not result in long term weight management.

The solution:  Mindfulness of the Body

In lieu of waiting for the definitive answer on what to eat and why, there is a fount of wisdom inside your body just waiting for you to listen.  It may take some time for you to really hear what the body has to say if you have ignored it for a long time.  However, before too long you will be able to discern the food it does and doesn’t like for you to put into it.  When you eat food that it likes, you will have more energy and feel healthier.  When you eat the “right” amount, you will not feel weighed down.

When I started mindfulness meditation practice, I was shocked at the messages my body was giving me that I had managed to miss for most of my life.  The first thing I noticed was the chemical taste of Diet Coke.  I had been a dedicated Diet Coke drinker for years and, all of a sudden, I REALLY tasted it.  The taste was so unappealing I immediately stopped drinking the stuff.  Do you really think your body wants colour (caramel E150d), sweeteners (aspartame, acesulfame-K), caffeine, phosphoric acid, citric acid and phenylalanine (the ingredients besides water in Diet Coke).  Granted, I still drink coffee and get my cup a day caffeine fix, but without the extra chemical additives.

Fifteen years after that discovery, I’m still checking in with my body at every meal to see what it wants and how much.  Just today at noon, at lunch with a friend, I looked down and saw that both of us had left food on our plates.  Just because there was food doesn’t mean that we needed to keep eating.  We were both full.  We threw the rest away.  My body feels good this afternoon because it’s not loaded down with food I didn’t want or need.

Body awareness is a key component in the road to weight management. Any program or diet that doesn’t include this as a foundation is likely to be doomed. Start your body awareness practice right now by simply scanning your body from head to toe (with particular attention to the belly).  Spend even a minute in this way and you can begin to notice and release tension.  Done before you eat, you are more likely to discern what and how much you need.  Practice with all of the BASICS of mindful eating and find out what you’ve been missing about what you eat and drink.

 

 

 

 

 

To re-train your taste buds and your mind to listen to your body, start by using the BASICS of mindful eating.  Here is a reasonable road to weight management.  If you followed these guidelines alone, you would solve most of your problems with food.

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Happy at Work?

rec-man-juggling-work-10-13-11-md[1]Do you feel like you’re juggling more balls than you can keep in the air?  Are you becoming increasingly distracted, irritable, impulsive, and restless?  Are you having difficulty keeping up with your work?  If so, you may be experiencing what most working people have at some time or the other.  It’s called Attention Deficit Trait (ADT) and you’re not born with it.  It’s a “workplace-induced attention deficit caused by the constant, relentless input of information.”

Edward Hallowell, the psychiatrist who identified ADT identifies the symptoms as follows: “When people find that they’re not working to their full potential; when they know that they could be producing more but in fact they’re producing less; when they know they’re smarter than their output shows; when they start answering questions in ways that are more superficial, more hurried than they usually would; when their reservoir of new ideas starts to run dry; when they find themselves working ever-longer hours and sleeping less, exercising less, spending free time with friends less and in general putting in more hours but getting less production overall.”

If those symptoms sound familiar, now is a good time to take a deep breath.  In fact, breathing and being aware of your breath and your body can be the first step in overcoming ADT.  “Most people don’t realize that there is a reciprocal relationship between the breath and our emotions, and that improper breathing can create mental distress,” states Dr. Patricia Gerbarg who has studied the relationship between stress and the breath for decades.

I first read about ADT in a new book called “Real Happiness at Work” by Sharon Salzberg.  I’m not finished with it, but so far I would give it RAVE REVIEWS!! I had the good fortune to be at a meditation retreat with Sharon in January in Massachusetts at the meditation center she co-founded in the 70’s.  In fact, she is one of the first people who brought meditation practice to the West back then.  She is a fabulous teacher and offers very accessible practices for bringing sanity back into the workplace at a time when it is desperately needed.  One of the people that she interviewed for the book said “one deep, meditative breath can settle my mind before a meeting or even just checking an email.”

Get the book  and practice more easy exercises to bring happiness to your workplace.  Listen to some meditations on Sharon’s website or start here http://www.tricycle.com/online-retreats/real-happiness-work by listening to Sharon talk about “mindfulness and concentration.”  She is doing an online retreat through Tricycle Magazine during February.  The first week is free.

 

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