Living Mindfully in the Moment

Living Mindfully in the Moment

We live in a society where more than 1 in every 4 Americans say they have a great deal of stress in their life. Stress is normal and is a necessary part of one’s daily life. Stress is a feeling that’s created when we react to particular events. It’s the body’s way of rising to a challenge and preparing to meet a tough situation with focus, strength, stamina, and heightened alertness. How do you handle stress? When stress feels overwhelming does it paralyze you with anxiety, worry, fear or helplessness? Or does it manifest in depression, keeping you from letting go of the past? Can you instead bring your focus to the present, to ground you in the moment? The practice of mindfulness, founded by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, is maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. It involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune in to what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future. Here are a few key components of practicing mindfulness that Kabat-Zinn and others identify: Pay close attention to your breathing, especially when you’re feeling intense emotions. Notice—really notice—what you’re sensing in a given moment, the sights, sounds, and smells that ordinarily slip by without reaching your conscious awareness. Recognize that your thoughts and emotions are fleeting and do not define you, an insight that can free you from...
Five Positive Practices

Five Positive Practices

We all want to live happy and fulfilled lives. Research in positive psychology suggests that the following tips have the power to actually change your outlook and help improve your satisfaction with life. Whether it’s with a friend, family member, or as a personal challenge, here are five positive practices to bring greater happiness in your life: 1. Live in the Moment.  It is easy to let our thoughts drift into the future or the past.  We think about goals and deadlines, reminisce on good times or perhaps ruminate on bad ones. Perhaps the most difficult, yet rewarding task we can do is to keep our minds in the present.  There are many ways you can practice living in the moment – starting with a personal practice of mindfulness. Not all mindfulness happens in a yoga studio or in a Zen space – it can be as simple as taking deep breaths in the office or listening to the rhythmic sound of your shoes hitting pavement on a walk.  2. Listen to Loved Ones.  With so much information vying for our attention, sometimes it gets hard to focus and we miss important moments. If loved ones are confiding in you, put whatever you are doing aside and listen to the meaning behind their message. Listen to learn. Listen to understand. Put aside the need to fix or help them with whatever they’re saying. Reflect back what you hear them say. Ask them for clarification if their message is confusing. These counseling techniques helps them to become more clear about what is disturbing for them. People typically vent so that...
Five New Year’s Resolutions that Could Change Your Life

Five New Year’s Resolutions that Could Change Your Life

  This year, consider a list of resolutions that can transform your life and relationships. Research in positive psychology suggests that the following tips have the power to actually change your outlook and help improve your satisfaction with life. Whether it’s with a friend, family member, or as a personal challenge, here are five positive practices to bring with you into 2015:   1. Live in the Moment. It is easy to let our thoughts drift into the future or the past. We think about goals and deadlines, reminisce on good times or perhaps ruminate on bad ones. Perhaps the most difficult, yet rewarding task we can do is to keep our minds in the present. There are many ways you can practice living in the moment – starting with a personal practice of mindfulness. Not all mindfulness happens in a yoga studio or in a Zen space – it can be as simple as taking deep breaths in the office or listening to the rhythmic sound of your shoes hitting pavement on a walk. 2. Listen to Loved Ones. With so much information vying for our attention, sometimes it gets hard to focus and we miss important moments. If loved ones are confiding in you, put whatever you are doing aside and listen to the meaning behind their message. Listen to learn. Listen to understand. Put aside the need to fix or help them with whatever they’re saying. Reflect back what you hear them say. Ask them for clarification if their message is confusing. These counseling techniques helps them to become more clear about what is disturbing for...
The Gift of Self-Compassion

The Gift of Self-Compassion

  Are you one of those individuals who has a big heart, is able to forgive others, and drops everything to help others – sometimes at the expense of taking care of your own needs?   Based on a study conducted at the University of Texas at Austin, self-compassion is strongly related to happiness, optimism, reflective wisdom, and personal initiative. If you find yourself continually berating yourself for not meeting your own harsh standards, you may be crippling yourself from actually being able to be happy. Whether it’s showing up late to a meeting, eating a few extra treats during the day, or losing patience with the kids, we’re overly critical and judgmental of ourselves when we believe we have disappointed a loved one or have failed. We jump to extreme conclusions – “I’m such an Idiot! I am never going to get this right!” – and blow often trivial mistakes out of proportion. Rather than being kind to ourselves so that we can do better next time, this dramatization only increases our anxiety and attachments to the problem. Self-compassion is extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering. It encompasses three areas: * Being kind to the self amidst failure and perceived inadequacy * Realizing that failure is part of the human experience, and * Being mindfully aware of our emotions.   Consider treating yourself as you already treat others:   Be Nice to Yourself When You Fall. Different from having a positive self-esteem, practicing self-compassion means that you are kind towards your own perceived failures and inadequacies. In the same way...

Closure

Guest post by Alexandra Katehakis, MFT, CST, CSAT Do you grieve your losses or do you immediately replace them? We’ve all had the experience of losing a cat or dog that meant the world to us, and before we’ve had time to grieve, some well-meaning friend suggests that it’s time for a new puppy or kitten. If you don’t have time for emotional closure regarding how that animal’s companionship enriched your life, then the idea of a new pet can feel wrong, insensitive, and disrespectful to your process. Likewise, without proper closure to a relationship, whether three months or thirty years, we’re likely ignoring our feelings of grief and loss. Ending a relationship has many lessons to teach us about how we love, both good and bad. Recognizing where we compromise or withhold, the ways we’re giving or controlling, how we can be driven by fantasy over reality, or the ways in which we’re selfless or selfish all provide us with data for who we are. Don’t sell yourself short by moving on with someone new if you haven’t taken the time to do a proper emotional autopsy on your last relationship. After all, you were (or thought you were) in love with that person at one time. Once you feel complete with yourself about your prior relationship and feel like you’ve had proper closure with your partner, meaning you’re not holding on to any anger or resentment, then, and only then, is it time to move on with the new. Photo credit:...

Forgiveness – A Journey Toward Freedom

When people get hurt by a loved one they react with anger or resentment and if not dealt with, inadvertently shut down. While these feelings may be appropriate responses, unresolved issues manage to drive a wedge between two people and is likely to reappear in the next argument. Forgiveness is letting go of the need for revenge. It is a process that heals emotional wounds and restores power to the individual. It does not condone the inappropriate behavior or personal violation. It does not erase or attempt to conceal the painful act. It is not forgetting or pretending the offense doesn’t matter. Instead, forgiveness allows one to let go of the confining shackles of anger and resentment so that you can get on with your life. So long as one holds on to these destructive thoughts and feelings, we give control of our lives over to those who have hurt us. Forgiveness sets us free. Steps to learn how to forgive: Acknowledge your own inner pain. Take time to understand what the hurt is about for you. Anger and resentment are secondary reactions to emotional pain. Determine the underlying primary emotions of hurt, fear, shame, and grief. Consider the other’s point of view. Try to understand the point of view and motivations of the person to be forgiven; replace anger with compassion. Release the desire for revenge. The wish to inflict suffering or pain on the person who hurt us keeps us in a place of suffering and pain. Forgive yourself for your role in the relationship. Express those emotions in non-hurtful ways. Decide whether or not to confront...