The Power of a Mind-Shift to Ease into Change

 
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Here we are almost at the Autumnal Equinox defining the changing of seasons. With this movement from the warmth and fun energy of the summer into the cool and focused energy of the fall, how to approach change with grace has been on my mind. Within a single moment I have the power to focus on what I perceive as positive about this change such as more work, beautiful scenery, lower electric bill OR what I perceive as negative about this change such as less daylight, looming cold temperatures, less fun to be had roaming around the city. It’s all about my momentary perspective and how I choose to view this particular inevitable change and how that directly impacts my mood state.

Change is constant and may or may not be within our control. Daily, weekly, monthly and yearly, we may potentially experience changes in mood, circumstances, relationships, jobs, weight, finances, seasons, locations and so on. Resistance to change only causes suffering, pain and an increase in discomfort in mind, body and spirit.  

Ultimately, our perspective is the most valuable tool we have in creating a powerful mind-shift towards change that can lead to personal growth and personal transformation. When you align with how you want to feel, you align with the flow of change and you can create a perspective that matches your experience. You own this power, no one else can create it for you.

Life is weird. Life is hard. Life is painful. Life is beautiful. Life is miraculous.

These are all true statements and all of them exist as truth at the exact same time. The truth comes from our personal circumstances and individual perspectives. We cannot go through life without adversity and yet we tend to fear and resist it. While we may not welcome or encourage adversity, when you approach it with a mind-shift from resistance to accepting a message about your own personal lesson embedded within the seemingly dark time, it can open you up to the opportunity to develop resilience and create the positive experience of acceptance and growth. Resistance and avoidance only lead to increased fear, pain and suffering. Resilience leads to growth, personal strength and empowerment.

In every life event there is a message, a lesson to be gained and the opportunity for growth and personal evolution. Abraham Maslow (creator of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) says, “One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.” Forward is the only direction that leads to contentment and inner peace.

What is occurring in your life at this time that you could stand to offer a new internal perspective?

Where could you use a big-time mind-shift?

Creating a powerful mind shift is essentially problem solving in its highest, most productive form.

The most beautiful element of this is that you get a choice. You get to choose as how you will think about, respond to and learn from challenges within your life as they are presented to you. 

How do you want to feel?

How do you want to grow?

How do you want to create a mind-shift that opens you up to new possibilities and potential outcomes?

Today, give yourself time to journal. It is said that the way to move from your head to your heart is through your hand. Writing down your challenges and taking time to reflect on this specific challenging circumstance within your life is healing and life enhancing. How can you look at this circumstance with a differently and fresh perspective?

Is there any potential mind-shift that can create a whole new way to approach to this challenge, a whole new perspective for you?

Whatever your present challenge or perspective on change, giving yourself time for self-reflection, self-awareness and self-exploration will lead you closer towards acceptance and contentment. Be kind to yourself throughout this process, this mind-shift is especially difficult to access in times of challenge, however, it is worth the effort to get there.

When it all seems like too much, I use the mantra All Will Be Well to help create the mind-shift. When you know that in the end it will all be ok, so if it’s not ok, it’s not yet the end.

I will be diving into the concepts of positive psychology this fall to help guide the journey towards approaching change with acceptance and growing in resilience. Thank you for reading and stay tuned!

Has shifting your perspective created deeper awareness and acceptance for you? I’d love to hear your story!

Welcoming Change

 
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Hello and Happy September! Now that the summer is coming to a close I’m back to writing a weekly blog. I hope you had a great summer and that you are ready to dive into the fall and to begin (re)focusing on your commitment to your overall health and wellbeing.

As we welcome a new month and a new season, we need to be prepared to welcome change. Change can be tricky for some, uncomfortable for most, and we all tend to resist change in one way or another. Why is that? I have a few ideas… Over the next several weeks I’ll be writing about change and how to embrace it with grace, preparation and even some positivity.

Positive psychology is a whole branch of psychology dedicated to the science of happiness. You know science-y people, they love a formula and measurements and outcomes in order to create “evidence-based practices” that you can engage in for a specific desired result. I don’t think mental/physical/emotional wellbeing can be achieved through an exact formula and replicated for each individual person. However, this branch of psychology has some very useful tools you can integrate in your own way. I am more of a practice person and I like to study and learn about it all— but really I feel that I need to experience something before making a decision about its efficacy. Positive psychology offers a system of practices that help build awareness and development of your internal strengths and then using these strengths to weather the inevitable storms in life. The focus is more on utilizing and knowing and accessing your personal values and inner strength within, in order to create a more peaceful inner state and overall wellbeing.

Over then next several posts I’ll be talking about resistance to change, how to approach change and using themes and offerings from positive psychology that offer useful, practical and doable tools to manage any challenges (like fear and resistance) to change. I do know that wellness is a wholistic state and a wholistic practice. Wellness is not only about eating well, exercising, self-care and sleep. While those are all super valuable components to be, feel and live well, if our minds aren’t right it’s tough to engage in these wellness practices consistently. Positive psychology offers solutions and anecdotes to some of the challenges, anxieties and stressors presented inevitably by life and specifically in response to change.

Some themes you can expect to learn more about here (with encouragement and ideas to practice them!) are elements such as:

  • Mindfulness (yeah I know, I talk about mindfulness A LOT, but it’s super central to feeling good & overall wellbeing!)

  • Solution-focused problem solving

  • Savoring

  • Gratitude

  • Hope

  • Equanimity

  • Balance

  • Living in flow

  • Contentment

  • Positive thinking/challenging & understanding the origins of negative thoughts

  • Identify, building and using your inner strength

  • Aligning with you personal values

  • Optimism

  • Creating your own personal definition of happiness

So here’s to a new season, welcoming the changes that are to come and building on your internal resources to roll with these changes in order to grow, evolve and create a an opportunity to up-level your life!

I’ll leave you, for now, with this wisdom to contemplate throughout the week:

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world.

Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
― Rumi

The Health Benefits of Meditation

 
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The final area of wellness that I will address here that is essential to living a long, healthy, happy life of vitality is developing and using a consistent meditation practice. Just as a reminder, the foundations of physical wellness that I have addressed so far are sleep, nutrition, and exercise/movement. The foundations of mental wellness that I have addressed here are the benefits of a strong social support, core relationships, remaining open-minded and curious, and the willingness to take on challenges and life-long learning.

Meditation offers health benefits that impact mind and body. Meditation addresses the stress response allowing us to access the relaxation response which creates increased mental wellness, creative expansion while releasing uncomfortable and non-useful thoughts and emotions.

Meditation is certainly not something new that I have talked about here! In fact, I’ve mentioned it over and over (as it is one of the primary ways that I keep myself sane) because I’ve see the direct impact that it can have on a variety of struggles for those that I work with, including anxiety, emotional eating, eating disorders, panic attacks, depression and limiting thoughts and beliefs—which directly impact the ability to take action. Meditation is one of the core practices that I have studied both in relation to my yoga studies along with all of the emerging research within the therapy, mental health and wellness world—and all of the benefits really are pretty vast and astounding.

When you are able to add in even just a small amount of meditation daily, you can have a tremendous return on your time investment in the way of health and wellness benefits. As little as five minutes a day can impact stress hormones, neurotransmitter production and circadian rhythms. Twelve minutes a day has shown an even greater impact such as improving telomere length of neurons in the brain (which indicates a younger brain!) increasing focus and concentration and decreased cognitive decline. Not to mention that meditation improves your self-awareness and reduces emotional reactivity which is one of the most valuable ways to improve the quality of your life on a daily basis.

There is often a lot of confusion about meditation. People tell me all the time, “I can’t meditate, I can’t get my mind to be quiet.” This is the primary misconception of meditation. The fact is that meditation is not about turning off your thoughts and sitting in perfect silence. I can tell you from experience that this is not what happens, and definitely not when you are just beginning the practice. Now maybe a long-long time meditator can silence their mind for long periods of time, but most of us have A LOT of thoughts constantly running through our minds. So let’s say that you generally have 100 thoughts a minute, and through a concentration and meditation practice you have 60. That will still feel like A LOT of thoughts, but it is still an improvement! With more practice maybe you’ll have 45 thoughts a minute, and with more 30, but again, that may still feel like a pretty active mind.

The purpose is not to silence your thoughts, the purpose is to distance yourself from the thoughts, to not be so reactive to the constant stream of emotionally provoking thoughts which may only cause stress and tension. In meditation you learn how to witness your thoughts rather than respond to them. This is the true practice, to recognize that you are not your thoughts and that they do not define you. Traditionally meditation is done in a seated posture and connecting with a single point of focus. This single point of focus could be your breath, a word or phrase, an image, a candle flame, or an image you create in your mind such as a sphere of light.

Mindfulness meditation is about being aware of all external and internal potential distractions, such as sounds, body sensations, thoughts and emotions and the mindfulness process invites you to simply notice them. You can even label them for exactly what they are. Here’s an example, as you sit and observe your internal and external space, if you hear the sound of a car, plane, ticking clock or someone talking, you simply label it as a sound rather than letting your mind consider the story of the sound. When you get into the story of the sound you will most likely evoke emotions and then thoughts, such as “ugg, that’s so annoying, I’m trying to meditate and that car keeps honking it’s horn.” That’s how we typically address annoyances in life, however mindfulness invites you see the honking just a sound, no thoughts or emotions necessary. Do you see how this may help improve your response to other potential annoyances in your life?

Meditation is allowing your mind to fully focus on one thing, and when you find you are distracted, you bring your focus back to that single point of awareness—that one thing. It really doesn’t matter so much what your point of focus is so long as you make a consistent effort to maintain it. Not judging your experience or getting involved in your emotions is helpful as well.

The most important element in order to reap the benefits of the practice is to be consistent. Daily is ideal, and even 1-15 minutes is great. If daily does not feel doable quite yet, you might start with 3 days a week and increase as you are ready. I am planning to roll out some support for those interested in a supportive community of beginning/skeptical/interested meditators in the fall! Stay tuned for updates! If you find you’d like some support getting started now, feel free to reach out. No matter how you start, try not to get caught up in the details, it is the experience and practice that matters most, not that you have the right chair, lighting, props or anything else!

If you have been implementing these eight areas of wellness that help support a long, healthy and happy life I’d love to hear how they are working for you!