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

watchwatertree

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.

jontreecloseup

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.

 

tree

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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Everyday Beauty

birdonmountain

 

Walks with my dogs help me not only to get outside and get exercise, but also savor the pleasant and interesting things around me.  Just this morning, I saw a baby fox looking at us from a safe distance.  Often, I take a photo of what I am enjoying (unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of the fox) which helps me amass a riches of positive feelings.  Taking time to stop and smell the roses boosts my positive emotions.

oldtreeroots

In our daily lives, we are often distracted by our thoughts or tasks at hand, so it is good to purposefully take some time to notice and savor positive things around us.  This is one thing we can do to increase our happiness.  A trip to the Bahamas or Belize, though awesome, is not needed for us to savor the everyday beauty around us.

redtreeagainstblue

If you like, try taking a short walk of about 15 – 20 minutes each day, or however often works for you.  Use your different senses to notice some charm in the moment.  Feel the cool breeze on your skin.  Notice the dramatic cloud formation.  Smell the roses.  Keeping a written journal or a photographic journal is an additional way to accumulate a treasure chest filled with simple pleasures.

windshielffrozen

The photos on this blog are some of the visual treats I’ve enjoyed.  Most are from walks with my dogs, but some are from walks I’ve taken without Dali and Oskar.  Yes, that does happen from time to time.  I hope you enjoy.

sunset2

And if you decide to give this “helpful hint” a try, feel free to let me know how it goes by writing below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

The Energy Within

 

I went for a hike on both Saturday and Sunday this past weekend.

Being in nature.  Hearing the birds.  Getting my body moving.

I returned, energized to work on projects I’d been avoiding.

Want to create change?  Pump up your energy.

Connecting with your body in a slow, gentle way is important, but so is experiencing the joy and excitement of movement.

I remember taking a dance class many years ago.  We’d learn steps and then dance to pounding music.  I left feeling like I could take on the world.

So walk, dance, move and experience the energy within you.

Good for your heart and good for your soul.

 

 

 

(professional website:  www.BethLevineCounseling.com)

Inner Critic

 

As I try to find the just right idea

To write about

Different possibilities float up

And some part of me bats them away

Like some expert gnat swatter

Nope, that’s not five-star

Not that one

Or that one either

In rapid succession

A firing squad to ideas

And so I sit

And sit

And sit

Not writing anything

Because nothing is

Good enough

For this Judge

 

Click the link below for Tips on Quieting Your Inner Critic

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/podcasts/item/quieting_your_inner_critic

 

 

 

 

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

Healing from a Broken Heart

 

I have written about connection and attachment and love, but what about when that romantic bond is broken.  What about heartbreak?

I thought I’d share with you my take away from the TED Talk, How to fix a broken heart, by Guy Winch, shared below.

Whoever came up with the term “heartbreak” was right on.  Heartbreak is painful like a heart that is broken.

Heartbreak is an injury.  It is complex and psychological in nature.  It can cause insomnia, intrusive thoughts, and immune system dysfunction.

When we are recovering from a heartbreak, our brain tries to make the pain go away by figuring out what happened, what went wrong:  as if it is a math problem with a solution that will provide a soothing balm to our wound.

But indulging in that craving is actually a way of feeding our love addiction when we can’t get the real thing.

Brain studies show that the withdrawal of romantic love activates the same mechanisms in our brain that are activated when addicts go through withdrawal from cocaine or opioids.

We get a hit by thinking of all the good times, hoping our romantic interest will come back to us, trying to figure out why the breakup happened, and/or idealizing our ex or the relationship.  To beat the fix, we need to:

  1. accept the reason they gave us, or make up one of our own
  2. refrain from looking our ex up on social media or contacting him/her
  3. keep a list of all the things that were wrong with the relationship and why that person was not the one for us

In addition, we need to rebuild our lives and get back to who we are, what we’re about.  We need to make efforts to fill in the missing links of our social lives and invest in activities that interest us.  We need to leave ourselves open to connection by learning about ourselves in relationship.

Recovery from a breakup is an arm wrestle we win in a multitude of ways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Reflecting on this Past Year*

 

 

Even if you don’t like making New Year’s Resolutions, the beginning of a new year can be a good time to reminisce on the passing year.  It can be beneficial for us to highlight certain memories.  Specifically, we can benefit from reflecting on:

  • a time when we successfully dealt with a challenging situation, and
  • an experience that shaped the person we are today.

Research shows that this exercise is uplifting because it promotes resilience and self-exploration.

You might want to take a few minutes of quiet time to come up with at least one example of  each of the above situations.  Maybe you would like to journal your examples.  It might be fun to gather with one or two friends and share your responses.  Of course, feel free to share below.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

*From How to Find Happiness When You Reflect on the Past Year (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_find_happiness_when_you_reflect_on_the_past_year?utm_source=Greater+Good+Science+Center&utm_campaign=d4b50f449d-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_January_Theme&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5ae73e326e-d4b50f449d-52221859)

 

 

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

Black and White Thinking

 

 

I was journaling the other day and wrote “He always says sarcastic things.  What’s wrong with him?”  And continued on my negative spiral.  A few sentences later, I caught myself and realized I was in an all-or-nothing thinking trap.

All-or-nothing thinking has its roots in survival.  When faced with a life threatening situation, we need to make a quick decision.  Fight or flight.  We don’t have time for grey areas.  But most of the situations we face these days are not life threatening.

It is important to honor and understand that part of you that is acting quickly to protect you in some way.

And it is important to learn ways to calm down that part of you so it doesn’t hijack you from being your best Self.

One way is to notice when we are caught in black-and-white thinking and ask yourself:

  • Can I be basically an intelligent person and still do something stupid?
  • Can I love my children and still get angry with them sometimes?
  • Can my partner love me but sometimes be insensitive?
  • Can one part of my life be difficult and other parts be easier and more enjoyable?
  • Can a part of my life be difficult now but in the future get easier?
  • Can some parts of an experience (such as a social engagement or vacation) be awful and other parts of it be OK? *

Of course the answer to these questions is “Yes”, but when you ask yourself these questions, you help slow things down, ground yourself and be more realistic in your thinking.  It’s a way to untangle your Self from that part of you that can get depressed.  I hope this is helpful.

 

*These questions come from the article called “’All or Nothing’, or ‘Black and White’ Thinking and Depression (http://www.clinical-depression.co.uk/dlp/understanding-depression/all-or-nothing-or-black-and-white-thinking-and-depression/)

 

 

 

 

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