You Don’t Have to Meditate to get the Benefits of Meditation

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I can get very stressed and have strong emotional responses to situations.  Over the years, many people have suggested that I meditate or do yoga – neither of which appeals to me.  So, I was pleased to come across the work of Ellen Langer, a social psychologist and professor at Harvard University.  Her research shows how to be mindful without meditating.

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Here are four take-aways from watching her video (below):

  1. Notice new things. When you do, whether it be about a person, a place you’ve walked before, or whatever you put your attention to, is mindfulness.  Intentionally noticing new things is being in the present.
  2. Make what you are doing new in some way. Bring your style, perspective, interpretation to it.  Even subtly.  When musicians in an orchestra were asked to play their part, something they do over-and-over again, in a subtly new way, both the musician and the listener enjoyed the piece much more.
  3. Words and perspective matter. For example, instead of thinking of vacuuming as a chore, think of it as a chance to get exercise.  Or, instead of thinking of your friend as “gullible,” think of him as “trusting.”  When you change words, you change perspective and you get a change in mindset.
  4. The mind and body are one. Placebos work because of the mind-body connection.  Her video has a lot of cool examples of how our mindset effects our health.

 

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I’ve started noticing new things walks with my dogs.  One of the things I’ve noticed is how different each tree is from another.  They’ve got their own fingerprint.  I enjoy the exercise of noticing new things and it certainly get me to be in the moment.  And more relaxed.

If you decide to try some of these lessons, feel free to let me know how it goes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Profession Website:  http://www.BethLevineCounseling.com)

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Leading a Meaningful Life

 

 

How do you find your purpose?

If you’re interested in finding meaning in your life, then I recommend this article:

You Don’t Find Your Purpose — You Build It

https://hbr.org/2017/10/you-dont-find-your-purpose-you-build-it

 

It is a short article, but my summary below is even shorter.

  1. We need to make meaning in what we do.
  2. There are multiple sources of meaning in our lives.
  3. Our sense of purpose is likely to evolve over time.

Here’s to the adventure of bestowing meaning on what we do.

 

 

 

 

(professional website:  http://www.bethlevinecounseling.com)

Stop Trying to be Happy

 

Stop trying to be happy.

Yep.  That’s the key to happiness.

Of course, it’s not as simple as that, but according to Susan David, author of Emotional Agility, people who focus on being happy are less happy over time.  Dr. David believes that getting to know ourselves, understanding what is really happening for us, slowing down so we can figure out how we would like to respond to our emotions are skills that help us be happier.

Here are some highlights from an interview Maria Shriver had with Susan David:

“One of the first things is showing up. Instead of trying to push our emotions aside or trying to put on a happy face—what I call bottling and brooding—instead, literally drop any struggle that you have within yourself by ending the battle. Not saying to yourself, “I’m unhappy, but I shouldn’t be unhappy.” Or, “I’m miserable in my job, but at least I’ve got a job.”

Really just open up to the fact that we have a full range of emotions. These emotions have helped us and evolved to enable us to position ourselves effectively in the world.”

Emotions offer us important information regarding what is important to us.  In the interview, Dr. David goes on to say:

“It’s important to recognize that our emotions contain data. I’ve never met a mother who’s feeling guilty about her parenting who, at some level, isn’t wanting to be present and connected with her children. Our difficult emotions [point] to the things that we value.

Instead of struggling with whether we should or shouldn’t feel something, it’s important for us to say, “What is the function of this emotion? What is the value? What is this emotion trying to tell me?”

Here’s a link to the interview if you’re interested in reading further:

http://www.dailygood.org/story/1696/embrace-authenticity-how-to-break-free-from-the-tyranny-of-positivity-heleo-editors/

I know that I am not always happy and positive so reading that my happiness does not depend on me being happy and positive all the time made me happy!  I hope it helps you, too.

 

 

(professional website:  http://www.bethlevinecounseling.com)

Neuroscientists Discover Song that Reduces Anxiety by 65%*

Need I say more?

Here’s a 10-hour version:

 

And here’s an 8-minute version with a cool video:

Let me know what you think.

*https://ideapod.com/neuroscientists-discover-song-reduces-anxiety-65-now-going-viral-listen/?utm_source=Ideapod&utm_campaign=e42b384185-Neuroscientists_discover_a_song_that_red11_12_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b72f288493-e42b384185-54776493

 

 

(professional website:  http://www.bethlevinecounseling.com)

Skills to Calm Down: Petting Time and Getting a Different Perspective

Dali is barking and barking at the top of the stairs.  Nonstop.  I can’t figure out why.  Normally, I offer her “petting time,” which as the phrase suggests, is when I pet her and rub her neck.  When I do that, she calms down over time.  I call up to her and “Dali, come down for petting time.”

But she doesn’t come to me and she doesn’t stop barking.  At another time, I might go to her, but I have a broken toe and don’t want to get up from the couch.  She keeps barking.  I think it is on the fourth or fifth time of me offering to console her that she comes downstairs, trots over to me on the couch and then sits next to me ready for “petting time,” whining the whole time, expressing her internal discomfort with something.

She reminds me of how I can get sometimes.  Internally upset and having a hard time calming myself down.  It is important to have people in our lives we trust and can turn to for support, but I also believe we need to be our own support.

It can take a lot of work to calm ourselves down when we are having a strong reaction to something.  It’s good to have a couple of skills to turn to at these times and it’s good to practice these skills at times other than when we are emotionally dysregulated, so we are pretty good at doing these skills.

Here is are some good questions to ask yourself when you are revved up (I got them from getselfhelp.co.uk).

Ask yourself:

  • What am I REALLY reacting to?
  • What is it that is really pushing my buttons here?
  • What is it that I think is going to happen?
  • What is the worst (and best) that could happen?
  • What is most likely to happen?
  • Am I getting things out of proportion?
  • How important is this really? How important will it be in 6 months time?
  • What harm has been done?
  • Am I expecting something from this person or situation that is unrealistic?
  • Am I overestimating the danger?
  • Am I underestimating my ability to cope?
  • Am I using a negative filter? Is there another way of looking at it?
  • What advice would I give to someone else in this situation?
  • Am I spending time ruminating about the past or worrying about the future?
  • What could I do right now that would help me feel better?
  • How would someone else see this situation? What is the bigger picture?
  • What would be the consequences of responding the way I usually do?
  • Is there another way of dealing with this? What would be the most helpful and effective action to take?  (for me, for the situation, for the other person)

These are a lot of questions, probably too many to remember.  I recommend writing down about 6 questions that resonate for you and have them handy for when you are feeling emotionally overwhelmed.  By taking time to think through the answer to these questions, you can get a different perspective on the situation and that can help you manage your emotions more effectively.

Please let me know if you find this approach helpful or if you have some other strategies that work for you.

 

(professional website:  http://www.bethlevinecounseling.com)

Knowing Who You Are Through Actions

 

Dali is one of the most strong-willed individuals that I know.  She pursues what she wants with every ounce of energy that she has.  When I had to take my other dog, Oskar, to the emergency clinic, Dali snuck out the front door so as not to be left behind.  On walks, she sits, unmovable, when she doesn’t want to go the way I want to go.  When she desires a neck rub, she sits by my feet and communicates with body language that says it is time.  And there is no alternative for me but to massage her neck.

Pretty good for a 20-pound dog.

Though Dali is getter older and the hot, humid summer is hard on her, she still is clear on what she wants.  She lets me know when it is time to go home.  She makes it clear when she wants to sit and soak in the sun.  And she determines when it is time for her, at least, daily neck rub.

In her honor, I am taking steps to go after what I want.  I am doing art every day, whether painting or writing poetry, even for a few minutes a day.  Taking this first step gave me more energy to do more of the things that are important to me.  I started a Google Group that I’ve thought about for at least a year and am taking a bike ride at least once a week.  I feel better about myself and more competent.

 

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” Thomas Jefferson

 

(professional website:  http://www.bethlevinecounseling.com)

Speaking your truth

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I joke around that Oskar is my boyfriend (who could resist that face?). If I go upstairs, Oskar goes upstairs. If I go downstairs, Oskar goes downstairs. When he comes in from a walk that I haven’t taken him on, the first thing he does is run to find me. He’s very attached to me and that’s why I was so surprised that he went to bite me when I was wiping his paws after he was out in the snow, ice and salt that they put down to prevent people from falling, but if it is not dog friendly, can really hurt their paws.

Oskar didn’t actually bite me. He just went to bite me, but I scolded him more from being so startled that he would actually try to hurt me. He looked so sheepish afterward. Maybe it was from being misunderstood, I don’t know, but the way he looked got me thinking. I knew he didn’t want to hurt me and I realized that he must have been hurting and wanted me to stop and it was the only way he had to tell me.

Something similar happened on one of our walks. A small rock got in between his paw pads and he couldn’t walk without hurting. So I went to take it out but was only using one hand because it was so cold out I didn’t want to take off my other glove. I didn’t realize at the time that in only using one hand, I was rubbing the rock against his pads while trying to remove it. In a flash, he turned his head around and put his teeth on my hands.

This time, I didn’t scold him. This time, I apologized and said to him he must be hurting and I realized I needed two hands to make sure I didn’t cause him any more pain. He gave me a kiss.

I later thought to myself if I can be so understanding toward Oskar and why he might lash out at me, maybe I could be understanding with myself when I get angry with friends or family when I’m hurting. That happened to me the other idea. I felt rejected and instead of telling my friend I was feeling hurt, I got angry with him. And then I felt terrible for getting angry and putting him on the defensive and feeling rejected.

After the now infamous Oskar incident, I was able to be compassionate with myself and know that I was not a bad person for getting angry, my anger came from a genuine place of feeling hurt. That helped to let go of the shame I was feeling. What a relief! Afterward, I also felt more capable of being vulnerable and telling my friend straight-up the next time I was feeling hurt. It’s a lot easier that way.

Sara Bareilles song, Brave, captures the theme of this post beautifully and with a lot of flare.  I hope you enjoy dancing to this as much as I do.