On this page you will find articles, free audio and video, and other resources that may give you tips on working toward healing and growth. Whether you struggle with stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, or addictive behaviors, no matter the struggles you come here with, this is a place for you to get some tips to support you.
Tuesday, October 4, 2016 · Leave a comment
The comic Calvin and Hobbes has always been one of my all time favorite since I was a teen. The author and illustrator Bill Watterson, really had a way with images and words. One of the pictures I’ve enjoyed looking at, and reminds me of this work in mindfulness, is with Calvin and Hobbes walking way together in the snow saying, “We’re so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.”
This is so simple and the mere recognition of this as a practice in daily life could help us drastically reduce our stress levels (and help us be happier).
I know for me, I’ve had a lot going on recently in my life and as I was sitting next to a pool watching my kids play my head was swimming with all the future endeavors coming up. In that moment, likely because of my mindfulness practice, I naturally took a deep breath and as I exhaled realized that in this moment I was safe. My kids were playing and this was a beautiful moment.
In the six month program A Course in Mindful Living, I introduce three statements that help deepen our “good moments,” getting those neurons firing in a resilient direction. The next time you notice a good experience say:
Monday, September 19, 2016 · Leave a comment
There has been a growing amount of evidence that mindfulness can help us kick our bad habits.
In a recent study, 63 participants who were addicted to stimulants received behavioral treatment for 12 weeks. Four weeks into the program they were randomly assigned to two groups – one group received mindfulness training targeted at cravings and urges and the other received health education. At the end of 12 weeks, researchers measured changes in participant’s use of stimulants, and their reported symptoms of anxiety and depression.
87% of the participants with major depression were no longer using stimulants at the end of the 12 weeks, versus only 67% of the health education group. One month later, 100% of the depressed patients were off of stimulants compared to 50% in the health education group.
How could this be?
Change happens through experience and community support, not as much through cognitive education.
Mindfulness helps slow us down and creates space from the cravings (desires) and urges (feelings) that can control our attention and decision making. The reality is the greatest “bad habit” we have is our thinking.
The snap judgment of whether something is good or bad, right or wrong, fair or unfair all happens faster than the blink of an eye and then leads to the behavioral bad habit. Mindfulness trains awareness of this and over time the actual craving or urge becomes a “wake-up call” in the moment to choose a different response.
A healthier response.
After we practice and repeat noticing the urges and cravings that span from cutting people off while they’re talking, to stress eating, to more intense and destructive addictive behaviors, our awareness starts to be more automatic. Our awareness of our choices also grows and so we actually expand our “cognitive flexibility” which is correlated with well-being.
On top of that, when we feel better, we also tend to be more resilient and so the spiral goes up!
A Breaking Bad Habit Exercise – 5 Steps
Friday, September 16, 2016 · 1 Comment
I haven’t met many people who say they wouldn’t enjoy feeling more relaxed or even being able to relax-on-demand. The good news is that according to a study published in the journal Nature, learning how to get better at relaxing, not only feels good, but increases our brain’s ability to remember new information (including strengths of mindfulness, compassion and joy).
The researchers in this study recruited eight epileptic volunteers who were shown 100 photos and then 30 minutes later were shown 50 of the same and 50 different photos. They then had to tell the researcher which photos they had seen before and which they had not.
While the participants were using their memory, the researchers used electroencephalogram (EEG) electrodes to record electrical activity in the area of the brain where memories are formed.
The findings showed that recognition was highest when participants were in a relaxed state (referencing “theta waves”).
Okay, it’s not necessarily news that we learn better when we’re more relaxed, so why does this matter?
It matters because at this point in time, we happen to live in a petri dish of overstimulation and fractured partial attention on a daily basis. The way we’re living right now stresses out our nervous systems making it really difficult for any new learning (mental or behavioral) to really stick.
Some people think mindfulness meditation is the answer – a tool that is meant to actively relax us. But no, it’s meant to help us cultivate awareness so we can make wise choices, which may be to Continue Reading →
Thursday, September 1, 2016 · 3 Comments
Enjoy these 11 Ways to bring more mindfulness (and happiness) into your daily life.
1. Eat Slightly Slower
With the speed at which we do most things today, eating can easily become just another thing to cross off your to-do list. The next time you eat, try slowing down—you’ll pull more enjoyment out of your food, feel more satisfied, and your digestive system will thank you.
2. Honor the Elements
Every piece of food we eat has its own rich origin story, which we usually don’t think about. Next time you sit down for a meal, take a moment to acknowledge everything that went into the food on your plate. Consider the people who made it, bought the ingredients, stocked the store shelves, delivered it, harvested it, and all the natural elements of sun, rain, soil, and wind that allowed it to grow.
3. Cook with Love
Even if you’re just making a sandwich, food tastes a lot better when we put a little love into it. Pay attention to the preparation of your food, think about who’s going to eat it, and say in your mind, “May this food help you be strong, healthy, and happy.”
4. Take a Trip
Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “Life is routine and routine is resistance to wonder.” Break from routine, try ethnic foods from different regions of the world and imagine, even if just for a moment, that the food is transporting you there for a mini vacation in your mind.
5. Try Something New
Novelty is the spice of life (and a source of healthy neuroplasticity), so be adventurous and reach outside of your comfort zone. Be bold. Push yourself to try something you never thought you’d like—you never know, you just might be pleasantly surprised!
6. Start from Scratch
Most of us eat the same foods week to week for convenience and taste. And that’s okay. See if you can approach a familiar food with a sense of curiosity: Imagine it’s the first time you’ve ever eaten this food; what new sensations or flavors do you notice?
7. Eat Local, Be Respectful
Fruits and vegetables don’t grow at the grocery store. Get to know where your food comes from by visiting a local farm (or at least a farmers market)—not only will you feel more connected to what you eat, but as a rule food tastes better when it’s fresher. For those of us who eat meat, it can be tricky to figure out where the meat came from and how the animal was treated. Whenever possible, buy from companies you know treat animals respectfully.
8. Use Your Nose (and any other senses that apply)
Our sense of smell has a lot to do with how food tastes. Before eating, pause for a moment to take in the aroma of the food. What scents can you pick up? Does a memory emerge? Take a second look, what colors do you see? Then take a bite and see how much richer the experience can be.
9. Just Eat
When we eat we are often “doing” something else at the same time (working, looking at a device, talking with someone, reading, etc.), which takes away from tasting and fully enjoying the food. See if you can, for at least one meal or snack this week, just eat.
10. Have a Communal Meal
Since the dawn of time people have made it a point to “break bread” together. Invite people over for a special dinner, have a potluck, or go out to a restaurant. Feel the connection grow.
11. Surf Your Urges
We have all been prone to want something that isn’t good for us—for many of us it happens more often than we’d like to admit. Try an experiment: Next time you are craving something you know isn’t healthy for you, set a timer for 20 minutes and then check back in to see if you still want it. That space can often invoke perspective that will help you make a more mindful decision.
Originally published in Mindful Magazine Dec’ 2015
Thursday, August 11, 2016 · 10 Comments
To be human is to be in relationship with difficult people.
The reality is if all the difficult people in our lives felt deep kindness in their hearts, they would cease to be difficult people. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Peace in oneself, peace in the world.”
Aside from learning how to create a calm and stable mind, one of the months in my 6-month global online program A Course in Mindful Living (coming early October, 2016) is spent entirely on learning how to realize the power of compassion and connection in our lives formally and informally. This not only impacts us, but the people around us, and the emotional contagion of it can create immensely beneficial ripple effects.
There’s an informal practice that I’ve been doing for a while that is so simple and yet so impactful in working with difficult people and also bringing a sense of balance and perspective in the moment, it’s almost shocking to me. I live in Los Angeles, California which is well known as a city with one of the highest degrees of traffic. If we were to be able to peek into the average LA driver’s brain I think you’d see a hyperactive amygdala and most of the blood flow moving out of the prefrontal cortex. In other words, LA drivers can be a large group of difficult people with emotions and stress running high.
One day while I was driving here I was cut off by some sports car who seemed to be speeding weaving in and out of the car lanes. My teeth locked together and my shoulders tensed and what went through my mind is only appropriate on HBO.
In that moment I realized how tense I was and likely how out of control that driver was. It made me think of all the cars on the road and how many people were very likely tense in their cars.
That simple recognition sparked the beginning of something important.
My shoulders dropped a bit and the question arose, “What is it that I’m actually needing right now?” The word “ease” came to mind.
So I said…