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stress-management

Is All Stress Bad?

New research is changing the way we view stress and our relationship to it. For some time, there seemed to be a cultural acceptance that all stress was bad and needed to be avoided. New findings suggest otherwise.

So, is all stress bad?

The answer is no, not all stress is bad. In fact, it’s a natural part of life. It is unavoidable and inevitable. Stress can take the form of loss of a loved one, loss of a job, an unhappy relationship, an illness, or a demanding career.

Even so-called happy events can be a major source of stress. Getting married, receiving a job promotion, moving to a new place, or having a baby can all cause major stress. Often, people feel guilty when they find themselves stressed and unhappy in the face of something good.

Sometimes, we even need a little bit of stress to help us get motivated. This is called “healthy stress.” It’s what gives us the get-up-and-go in the morning and keeps us going throughout the day.

Depression is a condition of having an under-activated stress response. The nervous system is simply not online or engaged. Therefore, people with depression find it hard to get out of bed or be active in daily life. It does not mean they don’t have stress. In fact, usually the opposite is true. The nervous system may have shut down due to seemingly insurmountable levels of stress.

The key is to find balance and get the nervous system and stress response to function in a healthy manner.

How did it get so out of balance?

A programmed stress response helped keep our ancestors alive; they were able to mobilize in the face of attack from a large predator. It also drove them to compete for food and resources that ensured the survival of the species.

However, our modern day stress is less about actual life or death. It’s about caring for sick family members, keeping up with finances, and dealing with traffic and deadlines. Our current stress response system hasn’t evolved to help us keep up with these never-ending demands of daily life.

Your brain may be signaling that these situations are a threat to your survival and readying you for extreme action that is not appropriate (or helpful) for the circumstances.

The truth

The truth is, it’s less about the presence of stress in our lives, and more about our relationship to it.

Our relationship and to stress determines the physical and emotional response we will have to it.

Luckily, the latest research in neuroscience gives us evidence-based techniques for calming down the brain’s automatic stress reaction.

You can learn to respond to stress effectively so that life stressors become more manageable and less overwhelming. Mindfulness offers practical ways to begin to change your brain and your relationship to stress.

Changing your relationship to stress requires:

  • Staying grounded in the present moment
  • Acknowledging and accepting your emotions
  • Cultivating self-compassion
  • Developing psychological flexibility
  • Focusing on the positive

Even with mindfulness, lasting change does not happen overnight. In order to truly shift your stress response, you must take small, incremental steps toward becoming more resilient.

If you are interested in learning about one-on-one work for stress management, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Contact me anytime.

jennagriffith-ground-breath-sound-mindfulness

The 1, 2, 3: A Simple Exercise to Ground Yourself

Learn to Ground Yourself in the Present Moment

Today I wanted to share another one of my favorite exercises with you. It’s something I have been practicing and sharing with clients for years, but I had never given a formal name to.

Recently, on a retreat, I took a yoga class with relaxation specialist, Sibyl Buck. She introduced the 1, 2, 3 and it stuck. I appreciated it because it was simple and easy to remember. It also rhymes (don’t ‘cha love it when that happens).

So, without further delay, here it is. Use it whenever you need to ground or center yourself in the present moment. It’s especially helpful when you need to relax but are having a hard time getting there.

The 1, 2, 3:

  1. Ground

  2. Breath

  3. Sound

1. Ground: The ground or surface beneath you is always something you can rely on. No matter where you are or what you are doing, there is always something supporting you.

Whether you are sitting, standing, or lying down, bring all of your awareness to the ground beneath you. Notice all the points of contact the body makes with the chair, couch, floor, or earth. Allow yourself to relax your muscles and release any tension or holding. Sink into the ground even more.

2. Breath: Just as you can count on the ground to support you, you can also count on the breath. Without you even thinking about it, you are always breathing. The breath brings fresh oxygen to the lungs, muscles, and tissues. It brings nourishment. You can access the breath anytime, anywhere, and it is free.

Bring your awareness to the breath. There is nothing to do or change about the breath; you are simply noticing it. Allow the breath to be as it is; simply focusing on the inhale and the exhale. Allow this to bring you more fully into the present moment. Let it usher you into what is.

3. Sound: Sound is one more thing you can always open yourself to. Even if your environment is seemingly filled with silence, you will begin to hear sound as you focus your attention on it.

Bring your awareness to any sounds that surround you. This may be a ticking clock, the sound of birds, the sound of cars passing by, dogs barking, or muffled voices. Notice the sounds with equanimity. In other words, see if you can notice the sounds without going into judgment or story.

And there you have it! A mindfulness practice that really is as easy as 1, 2, 3!

I hope you enjoyed this exercise. For another mindfulness-based exercise for grounding, go here.

emotional agility-mindfulness

Emotional Agility

I recently came across a Ted Talk video, presented by Psychologist Susan David.

I really resonated with it. She says, “You don’t get to have a meaningful career, or raise a family, or leave the world a better place, without stress or discomfort.”

Too often we feel shame for experiencing “negative” emotions and try to force ourselves into false positivity. However, most of these “negative” emotions are within the range of normal human experience.

I say we stop labeling emotions as good or bad and learn to accept what we are feeling, knowing that it will pass with time.

All that is worthwhile does not come to us if we are not willing to experience some disappointment, failure, discomfort or fear along the way. Stress is an inevitable part of life.

I shared the video with my own soapbox spiel on social media and got an overwhelming response, which told me that other people strongly agree. Apparently, I am not alone in feeling like we have been conditioned to struggle against any emotions that are seen as negative. I’ve personally come to believe that “undesirable” emotions are not inherently bad or wrong — they just get us hooked.

In David’s book, Emotional Agility, she outlines the feelings that so often get us hooked. She lists things like self-doubt, shame, sadness, fear and anger and notes that these feelings can often steer us in the wrong direction.

She states that emotionally agile people aren’t immune to stresses and setbacks, instead they adapt. In essence, they unhook. They align their actions with their values and make small but powerful changes that lead to a lifetime of growth.

She goes on to say, “Emotional agility is not about ignoring difficult emotions and thoughts; it’s about holding them loosely, facing them courageously and compassionately, and then moving past them to bring the best of yourself forward.”

I can really get behind her ideas because these are also some of the key components underlying my mindfulness-based approach to therapy.

It’s also the underpinnings of Buddhism (the original masters of mindfulness). So, in short, these concepts are not new. However, they are not very well understood or utilized in our current society.

There is a cultural conditioning that tells us we should seek out pleasure and avoid displeasure, no matter the cost. We are on a perpetual wheel, seeking happiness and joy as a constant state.

emotional agility-mindfulness

The reality is, all emotions are just passing states. We struggle when we try to cling or hold on to any one emotional experience. As a society, we value certain emotional experiences over others.

The good news is this doesn’t have to be the case. We have the power to choose. We can choose to suffer and fight against what is, or we can adapt and align our actions according to our own values.

I think that Susan David’s work on Emotional Agility is highly relevant to us as a society now. It is based in science and is comprised of over 20 years of her research and experience. It also speaks to those of us who are driven in ways that Buddhist monks simply were not.

She looks at how Emotional Agility contributes to success, rather than takes away from it. She says that, “no matter how intelligent or creative people are, or what type of personality they have, it is how they navigate their inner world – their thoughts, feelings, and self-talk – that ultimately determines how successful they will become.”

In conclusion, I am in full support of dropping false positivity and instead celebrating ALL of the feelings that accompany every meaningful success or life experience. I am releasing the need to struggle against my feelings, and I am embracing acceptance at the highest level.

Are you with me?

If so, please reach out for a free 15-minute phone consultation. We can discuss if this counseling is right for you.

What Your Anger is Really Trying to Tell You

Have you ever felt angry and wondered why? Did you feel like something was wrong with you because you couldn’t just let it go? Or maybe you’ve felt like you had very good reason to be angry, but you should be able to “control” it?

Many people see anger as an undesirable or an unhealthy emotion. However, while it is not always pleasant for us to experience (or people who are in the path of our anger to experience), it can be a powerful messenger that something is not right.

It’s common for people to think that something is wrong with them if they lash out in ager or feel it bubbling up to the surface. Our society prefers that we put a lid on it, and keep it to ourselves if something is bothering us. (This societal superficiality in itself can be angering).

There’s the notion that if you express anger, then you are crazy. There’s the idea that you should be able to “keep it together” at all times.

Yes, I am totally normalizing anger here. However, how you handle your anger DOES matter. Of course, it is not okay to use anger as an excuse to abuse or harm others. Rather, notice how your anger may be signaling how you are feeling abused.

Have you been highly self-critical lately (partaking in self-abuse)? Have you been letting others consistently trample all over your boundaries or needs? Has someone gone too far and you feel violated? And finally, are you just left feeling completely powerless in some area of your life?

In my opinion, anger itself is NOT a signal that something is wrong with you. Anger is not necessarily a bad thin

In physiological terms, anger is simply a message from the primal part of the brain to the body that says, “This is not right! Do something!” This triggers an array of physiological responses in the body to get us to get whatever “it” is to STOP. This in itself is not problematic, but in today’s culture, we may not feel like we can do anything about it to get it to stop.

In a spiritual sense, anger points us to our deeper needs for healthy self-preservation.

Generally, we feel anger for 2 fundamental reasons:

  • Someone has violated one of our boundaries
  • We are feeling powerless

For example, if you had a boss that perpetually belittled you (violating your boundaries) in front of others, you would probably feel angry, which would trigger a set of physiological responses. However, if you know you would lose your job if you said anything to your boss, then you are likely left feeling powerless to do anything about it. This violation, combined with feeling powerless, means that your body gets stuck in anger mode, and it can take a toll on your health and happiness if nothing is done about it.

Feeling one (or both) of these two things can pull us into a real personal crisis. In reality, we are never powerless. We are only powerless to the degree that we give our power away. However, if someone is consistently acting is ways that threaten our sense of empowerment or safety, then we need to remove that influence from our lives. If no solution can be met after repeated attempts, then it may require that we leave a job, a relationship, or an otherwise good situation in order to restore our well-being.

It can be tough to make the changes or choices required to “get it to stop” (whatever the anger is sending a message about). It calls on every part of our being to find the strength to risk doing things differently.

So, the point is not to push anger away when it arises, but to honor it fully as a messenger. To master this is to work wisely with your anger, and to fully understand what it is telling you about your own personal truth.

The Power of Belonging

I have recently come to appreciate Brene Brown’s work on the power of belonging. She says, “True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.”

I recently attended a retreat in Joshua Tree, comprised of 100 women. It was four days, filled with art, yoga and 5Rhythms movement meditation practice. In short, it was bliss.

There was also some serious personal work taking place. I am in awe of the courage it took for everyone to truly show up and be seen. Over the course of the four days, it was apparent that the masks and facades were beginning to drop, the inner walls were coming down.

It was due to the incredible atmosphere of trust that allowed this to happen. A sacred container was created to be able to make it safe enough for people to be themselves.

And wow — to be oneself — that is scary! It’s not often in life that we really, truly get to be the weird people that we actually are. Most social situations demand a certain amount of professionalism, put-togetherness, or even false positivity.

We mold ourselves to these ideals in order to avoid the awfulness of rejection. And in this, parts of us are lost.

True Belonging

In her book, Braving the Wilderness, Brene Brown writes, “True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness both in being a part of something and in standing alone when necessary. But in a culture that’s rife with perfectionism and pleasing, and with the erosion of civility, it’s easy to stay quiet, hide in our ideological bunkers, or fit in rather than show up as our true selves and brave the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism. But true belonging is not something we negotiate or accomplish with others; it’s a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity. It’s a personal commitment that we carry in our hearts.”

Belonging vs Fitting In

First, I appreciate how she differentiates between belonging and fitting in, because at the core they are very different. Brown said that when we “fit in” as opposed to “belong,” we acclimate to the situation instead of standing for our authentic self.

Taking the Risk

Second, I appreciate how she talks about belonging as not always going with the flow. Authenticity requires great risk. Nobody wants to be called out or seen as an outcast, but sometimes we must stand alone in order to be in alignment with our own heart’s truth.

“As it turns out,” she says, “men and women who have the deepest sense of true belonging are people who also have the courage to stand alone when called to do that. They are willing to maintain their integrity and risk disconnection in order to stand up for what they believe in.”

During the course of the retreat, I saw the full range. People who agreed with each other and people who risked disconnection in order to stand up for what matters most in their heart. Regardless, people were standing up and expressing themselves. It became a forum to express thoughts and beliefs that are not always socially acceptable; but they are REAL.

Personal Commitment

Third, I appreciate how she says that it’s a daily practice, or a “personal commitment that we carry in our hearts.” I don’t think we ever just “arrive” at being authentic and belonging. It’s an ever changing landscape that mirrors our own ever changing internal landscape.

Belonging Embodied

The facilitators also encouraged participants to confront them if there was something that they felt was not done in integrity. They encouraged us to exercise our ability to say no and to stand in our power, instead of mindlessly handing it over to others (especially those in perceived positions of power). This created an atmosphere of the utmost freedom and permission.

People were given the permission to be who they really are. In the presence of this permission, instead of an increase in discord, there was an increase in cohesion. People felt like they belonged, based on who they were, not who they had been conditioned to be.

There were other ways that we bonded with one another. Many of us (who were complete strangers to each other) laughed together, cried together, and shared stories of love, loss, sickness and joy. We were able to feel deeply connected through the range of life experiences that make us all human.

Brown says, “”We need to hold hands with strangers. We need reminders – collective joy and pain – reminders that we are inextricably connected to each other.”

This is what we had.

We also had the full experience, in mind, body, and soul, that told us we belonged. For me, every cell in my body felt like it belonged. The power of this, I am learning, is immeasurable.

Wired for Belonging

I’ll finish with this quote from Brown, “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

hands giving heart

Next time you are feeling alone or like you don’t belong, don’t beat yourself up. A sense of love and belonging is a core human need. Instead of feeling stuck or paralyzed by it, see how you can reach out and connect; with a loved one, an animal, or nature.

Find a place (or places) where you can truly be your authentic self. Don’t settle for less. Make it your mission to belong. Your health and vitality depend on it. Others also need examples of brave people who are willing to take risks and stand up for what they believe in. Next time you step into your own authenticity, you may just be a catalyst to help someone else step into theirs.

This post is dedicated to Amber Ryan, Kate Shela, and the 99 other women at the retreat who were willing to take a risk; I see you, I feel you, and I am inspired by you. Thank you for helping me remember how much I belong.

If you are feeling alone and like you just don’t belong, please reach out. I offer free 15-minute consultations, so you can see if counseling or therapy is right for you.

mindfulness explained-santa rosa

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness Explained

I often get asked, “so…what is mindfulness?” Mindfulness has become a buzzword over the last few years, but what it actually is still remains unclear. I’ll begin with the basics.

The Origins

Mindfulness is a way of life derived from Buddhist teachings and philosophy. Buddha believed that pain is unavoidable and inevitable in life, but suffering is optional. The teachings compare suffering to two arrows. The first arrow is pain and stress. It is a part of being human. No one is exempt from it. The first arrow’s pain can be felt from things like natural disasters, death, loss, aging, betrayal, etc. These are all things that are out of our control.

The second arrow, however, is the one you shoot yourself in the foot with when you ruminate about the painful event or circumstance. You are, in essence, creating your own suffering when you rehash the thoughts and feelings again and again. You beat yourself up for the way you are feeling. You don’t want to feel the stress associated with loss or change. Therefore, more suffering ensues.

Core Concepts

The idea of mindfulness is to be open to feeling your feelings; the full range of them. When you struggle against what is, you suffer.

Mindfulness is about acceptance at the deepest level.

Even if you are not able to come to full acceptance of something, you can at least learn to tolerate difficult feelings and emotions better. Thus, you will suffer less and you will struggle less against unwanted reactions to events outside of your control.

The Role of the Amygdala

When you do find yourself in a place of stress, there are a range of physiological reactions occurring in the mind and body.

In this post, we will focus primarily on what is happening in the part of the brain called the Amygdala. The amygdala is the middle part of the brain that is always scanning for threats in the environment (or even in your own emotions). Its job is to sense a threat and then sound the alarm to initiate the fight-or-flight response in the body.

Now, the amygdala is very important (it’s not all bad!). It keeps you safe from real dangers. We would not have survived as a species without it.

The problem with out modern day lifestyle is that even things that are not truly dangerous or life threatening are seen as dangers by the amygdala. Things like being in traffic, running late, or having a lot of work to do. The body reacts to these stressors in much the same way as it would an attacking lion. Thus, we find our amygdala’s often end up highly sensitive and highly reactive, causing a cascade of physiological issues. The body and the nervous system become very dysregulated over time. Things get out of whack and out of balance.

Mindfulness is both:

  1. A way of life

  2. A skill

Mindfulness as a Way of Life

When I talk about mindfulness as a way of life, I am referring to the set of values inherent in mindfulness. These are values such as openness, non-judgment, non-attachment, compassion, and acceptance.

The idea is to be open to the present moment without judgment; to allow yourself to experience the range of thoughts, feelings, and sensations without being attached to them (merging with them) or pushing them away.

The intention, then, is to experience the thoughts, feelings, and sensations with compassion and acceptance. You accept reality as it is, without clinging to it OR trying to change it in any way.

This is where I lose some people with the concept of mindfulness. I mean, if something were bad, why WOULDN’T you try to change it? Great question! (And it isn’t the point).

What we are talking about here is things that aren’t in your control (truly). You can’t change certain events or circumstances, but you can change your response to them. And THIS is what mindfulness is really about. It is about the choices you make in each and every moment, when you are truly present and grounded in what is.

You can choose openness, non-judgment, non-attachment, compassion, and acceptance in any moment.

Mindfulness as a Skill

This brings me to my next point; that mindfulness is a skill. When you learn to quiet the reactivity of the amygdala, then you are better able to think and function in any given moment. You are able to respond with clarity and calm, rather than reacting to a never-ending set of perceived crises.

With practice and over time, the amygdala will become less reactive to stimuli (including your own inner states). You are effectively wiring the brain toward greater resiliency and less anxiety.

Your stressful thoughts and feelings will become more manageable. You will be less inclined to fight, run, or freeze up under pressure. Life becomes SO much more enjoyable when you are not fighting against it.

What I love

As a therapist, I strive to be inclusive. What I love about mindfulness is that is it is applicable to people of all ages, races, physical abilities, and religious or spiritual beliefs.

This, my friends, is mindfulness explained in a (little) nutshell. There is much more, and that’s the beauty of it. It is a simple concept, but offers us a deep well to explore and seek nourishment from.

Looking to learn mindfulness for self-mastery? Click here to learn more.

Need mindfulness explained one-on-one? I am happy to chat. I offer a free 15-minute phone consultation you can schedule here.

yoga-benefits-mental-emotional-physical

Why Yoga? How Yoga impacts physical, mental and emotional health.

The latest research is showing us that yoga benefits mental, emotional, and physical health greatly.

Sometimes, when we think of yoga, we think of super flexible people bending into crazy contortions. However, the most therapeutic forms of yoga are very far from this.

To me, the real benefits come from moving the body in a healthy manner and learning to connecting to the core aspects of oneself.

There are infinite definitions of yoga. However, Bija Bennett, author of Emotional Yoga, explains it simply when she says:

“Yoga is the art of linking to all parts of yourself – your body, your thoughts, your awareness, and your emotions. Each time you attempt to link with any aspect of yourself or your world, you are doing yoga.”

Yoga connects you to every aspect of your being through the vehicles of breath, movement, and meditation. Cutting-edge research in neuroscience is confirming what ancient yogis knew; yoga is a complete system that allows you to shift habitual patterns in astounding ways that can profoundly impact your thinking and your physiology.

Yoga has been shown to regulate hormones, restore natural circadian rhythms, increase heart rate variability (a key indicator of health), and rewire the brain. This is no small feat.

Yoga also works to help rebalance both the right and left hemispheres of the brain. By doing cross-lateral movement, you are repairing functioning to your brain and improving communication between both hemispheres.

The practice of yoga, breathwork and meditation helps shift the mind from rumination and fear into clarity and calm. Therefore, yoga provides an effective means for addressing depression, anxiety, PTSD and the chronic stress that is so prevalent in our modern society.

Yoga benefits us on the physical, emotional, mental, energetic, and spiritual levels to effect lasting change. As you connect and link to all levels of yourself, you are internally facilitating powerful mind-body communication that can radically change your life. You may discover that you sleep better, find more balance through life’s ups and downs, and feel more fully alive than ever before.

Additionally, your emotional life will reap the benefits. Bija Bennett says:

“As you connect with your emotions, you begin to accept them for what they are, instead of resisting them. You begin to explore your perception of reality – the fears and habitual responses, which you believe to be real. This exploration initiates a shift from a defensive reaction to a more conscious action.”

Overall, you will find that a consistent yoga practice provides a sense of internal spaciousness. This spaciousness will leave you feeling both calm and empowered, knowing that you have the always have the ability to make choices for yourself and your relationships. In turn, this can help you be more proactive, productive and effective in your daily life.

Most importantly, yoga benefits can be for everyone. One of my teachers, Amba Stapleton, says:

“If you have a spine, you can do yoga.”

Even if you are simply watching your breath as it enters and exits your lungs, you are doing yoga.

Certainly, not all types of yoga are appropriate for every person. There are many different styles of yoga out there, and some are more conducive to therapeutic work than others. When choosing a yoga class, be sure to choose something that is a good fit with your physical ability level and accommodates to any special needs you may have. Chair yoga is surprisingly effective for many people, whereas other people require a highly rigorous practice. Whichever style you choose, know that a properly suited yoga practice can benefit your entire system.

You are never without choices. With careful attention, you can shift your physiology and emotional responses over time to discover a life that is more deeply fulfilling and enjoyable. Now that you know how yoga benefits mental, emotional, and physical health, there is no reason not to give it a go.

Yoga is a cutting-edge approach to mental and emotional health. If you have tried other approaches and are interested in experiencing something different, please reach out. I offer a free 15-minute phone consultation so you can see if yoga in therapy is a good fit for you.

Ho’oponopono: A mindfulness meditation to heal the thoughts.

Ho’oponopono is a powerful meditation practice, based in Hawaiian spiritual tradition.

As humans with active minds, we can be extremely harsh with our self-talk and inner dialogue. We may say cruel or hurtful things to ourselves, or we may think negatively about others

As a species, our brains have become more efficient over time by learning to categorize and label.

However, inadvertently we have also become trained to judge and compare. It’s a natural reflex.

It’s a tendency that has been helpful in our survival, but it can do great damage to our psyches. Being overly judgmental is a corrosive stance that can eat away at you over time.

Just as we blame ourselves for not being better or doing better, we blame others for not doing better or being better.

Often, if a client is having a hard time practicing mindfulness and becoming aware of his or her thoughts, I will teach them the Ho’oponopono Meditation Practice.

This practice provides a concrete “protocol” for becoming aware of negative, hurtful, or judgmental thoughts and then shifting your thinking.

Generally with mindfulness, the idea is to notice the thought, acknowledge it, and then let it go.

However, this meditation takes it a step further by offering an opportunity for healing the thought or thoughts.

It works on the mental, emotional and energetic levels.

There are 4 simple steps to this Ho’oponopono practice. If you find yourself having a negative or judgmental thought (about yourself or others), then give this a try.

It goes like this:

In your own mind, say to yourself:

  1. I’m Sorry
  2. Please Forgive Me
  3. Thank You
  4. I Love You

This is powerful stuff! First of all, just saying “I’m sorry” (even to yourself) can help you shift away from blaming yourself, trying to justify your actions, or looking for evidence about how others may have caused your actions. When you say, “I’m sorry,” you are acknowledging and accepting responsibility for your part, without judgment.

“Please forgive me,” helps solidify the apology into a concrete act. It’s a direct request to move on from it.

“Thank you,” is an acknowledgment and acceptance of the previous steps. It allows you to move forward in gratitude.

“I love you,” is setting the path for the new direction. It sets a tone of a peaceful, happy heart. This energy undoubtedly radiates out to others, and generally is received and reciprocated.

Doing these 4 steps in the Ho’oponopono can work wonders in your life. The key is to practice it very regularly (as much as possible!).

Blaming yourself or judging others does not make us feel good deep down. Even though many people do it in an attempt to feel better in the moment, it usually has a negative effect over time.

This meditation practice has the power to help you develop self-compassion and forgiveness.

Thoughts have the power that you give them. Why not use your thoughts to build yourself and others up, instead of tearing down.

I also want to note that this meditation is not intended to shame you for having negative or judgmental thoughts. We all do — it’s okay! It’s normal and natural, and it happens to everyone.

This meditation is also not intended to “push away” the so-called bad thoughts or feelings. Instead, it is a spiritual process of noticing, acknowledging and attending to the thoughts in a mindful way.

Want to learn more practices like this one? Contact me about individual work. I offer a free 15-minute phone consultation to see if mindfulness-based therapy is right for you.

empowered-life-choices

Ten Questions for Making Empowered Life Choices

We all make choices everyday.

Debbie Ford, author of The Right Questions, says:

“Choice might just be our most precious gift”

In my work as a mindfulness-based therapist, I would have to agree. Much of what I talk about in session is around choice. Part of the work is shifting perspective from a place of choice-less-ness into choice-full-ness.

With that comes a great deal of responsibility. It is with a sense of choice-full-ness that one must own their actions completely.

When you own your choices, actions, and outcomes, there is little room for blame or other avoidance strategies.

You accept that you can make choices that support and affirm your being, or you can make choices that disempower and derail you.

You can make choices that enhance your vitality, or you can make choices that increase your suffering.

It’s really up to you.

Inevitably, some discomfort will arise when you are making decisions about matters that are close to your heart. And thats okay — it’s part of being human! Discomfort can be a sign that you are fully alive. It’s an indicator that you are getting out of your comfort zone and taking a risk.

Maybe you find yourself at an important life crossroads. Or maybe you are just trying to make decisions today that will improve your tomorrow.

Either way, I recommend asking yourself these questions anytime you are faced with a choice.

These questions are from Debbie Ford’s book, The Right Questions. You can use them to get clear on your motivations for making a certain choice, or you can use them to clarify if a certain choice will support your best interest (or not).

Here are the ten questions:

  1. Will this choice propel me toward an inspiring future, or will it keep me stuck in the past?
  2. Will this choice bring me long-term fulfillment or will it bring me short-term gratification?
  3. Am I standing in my power or am I trying to please another?
  4. Am I looking for what’s right or am I looking for what’s wrong?
  5. Will this choice add to my life force or will it rob me of my energy?
  6. Will I use this situation to grow and evolve or will I use it to beat myself up?
  7. Does this choice empower me or does it disempower me?
  8. Is this an act of self-love or is it an act of self-sabotage?
  9. Is this an act of faith or an act of fear?
  10. Am I choosing from my divinity or am I choosing from my humanity?

You can use any (or all) of these questions when faced with a choice. Some of the questions may apply to certain situations more than others, or some of the questions may not resonate with you at all.

My advice: use what works for you.

I personally find all of these questions to be powerful opportunities for reflection. I have also found that when I check my choices against these questions, I end up feeling more empowered and less uncertain. These questions help reduce my anxiety while propelling me toward what I really want.

I hope that these questions will serve you well as you work to build your ideal life. May they guide you to an inspiring future.

Still need help making some big life decisions? I can help! Whether you are thinking about a career move, ending a relationship, or making some big lifestyle changes, I am here for you.

Through the process of inquiry, we will get to the bottom of the matter and develop a strategy that will leave you feeling more confident in the decisions you make.

Reach out now.

self-sabotage

Here’s Why We Self-Sabotage

It can be so frustrating when we know we self-sabotage, but we don’t know WHY.

Perhaps you find:

  • You keep dating the same kind of person that is wrong for you
  • You keep ending up in a job you hate
  • You keep sabotaging your own efforts to get fit and lose weight
  • You keep losing your temper, despite your best efforts not to
  • You give up when things get hard, again and again

If any of this resonates, keep reading.

From my experience and training, I think it can be pinned back on one thing.

The subconscious mind.

What does the subconscious mind have to do with it?

Well, it likes to keep us safe.

I’ll say more about that…

The subconscious mind is the part of the mind that runs the “programming.”

It’s the habits, patterns, and tendencies that are hard-wired into us.

How do they form?

We become “wired” in certain ways from a very young age. It is based on survival techniques we employed to keep us safe and help us get our needs met.

We relied completely on our primary caregivers when we were young. Therefore, getting our needs met from them was of the utmost importance.

We needed them to feed us, clothe us, and provide us with shelter. We also longed for touch and attention.

Those things kept us alive, and the strategies we used to get them became hardwired into our subconscious mind.

Now let me tell you a secret about the subconscious mind (and this is important!):

The subconscious mind doesn’t like change.

It doesn’t like it at all.

Why?

Well, change poses a threat to the subconscious mind. The subconscious likes to use the strategies it knows. It favors the familiar.

Doing new things is threatening to the status quo.

The subconscious would rather things stayed the same, even if they aren’t working that well.

It’s a creature of habit. It likes what it knows.

This is why you may find it hard to change an old pattern or habit that isn’t serving you any longer. This is why you unintentionally self-sabotage.

Likely, the subconscious mind is running an old program that no longer fits. This is so frustrating to the adult self.

It may seem obvious to your conscious mind that things need to change, but no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to do things differently.

You are probably getting the point here:

The subconscious mind is wired to try and keep you SAFE, no matter what.

So, don’t beat yourself up if you keep repeating the same (unhealthy) patterns again and again.

The brain contains billions of neurons that communicate with each other. The neurons and neural pathways that you use all the time only become stronger with use.

Chances are, the old pattern or habit you are trying to kick has become very strongly embedded in your brain’s wiring.

When a set of neurons get activated, they become intricately connected. It becomes a whole sequence that is more likely to repeat in reaction to that type of circumstance or event in the future.

Thus, in order to change things once and for all, you’ve got to uncover what the trigger is and then re-wire your brain for new habits and patterns. Ones that will serve you well for who you are now.

The good news is that we have the help of the latest research in neuroscience. This research shows us that the brain possesses neuroplasticity, meaning that the the brain’s structure and wiring can be changed or molded by experience.

The research also informs us exactly how we can effectively re-wire new habits, as some experiences are more impactful on the brain than others.

This is exciting stuff!

The bottom line: Things don’t have to stay the same forever! You have the potential to stop self-sabotage and change old, outdated behaviors that no longer fit.

Need help stopping self-sabotage and learning to re-wire old habits and patterns? I can help! Schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation to learn how.

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