Using Mindfulness to Navigate the “Holiday Blues”

From Asheville Insight Meditation

For many, the Holiday season is one of great joy, sharing and togetherness. Along with joy, however, this season has also been known to set up the perfect conditions for darker and more difficult moods to emerge. It is well-known that this season tends to bring up a lot of confusion and stress for many, whether from current obligations, or from conditioned mind habit patterns resulting from previous family/life experiences. Put all of this together and for many, the Holidays become a period to “get through” or “endure”.

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For those of us who experience emotional swings, difficulties, or even depression during this season, it can be helpful to see this time as great fodder for our practices. So how can we work skillfully with these difficulties?

For those of you who choose to boycott the holidays and not participate, even if you don’t experience the same stress during this season, it is safe to assume that you are still subjected to some of the collective’s energetic response during this period. After all, people all around you are probably acting quite differently than you are usually accustomed. As part of your practice, it may be helpful to see if your withdrawal from participating in this holiday is the result of your harboring any underlying beliefs, resentment, or negativity towards any particular traditions, persons or society? If so, this doesn’t make you bad or wrong, but any such resentment or negativity is something you can know, acknowledge, feel, and work with without adding any extraneous narrative. On the flip side, you may want to look and explore if you have any feelings of pride or superiority around your choice to withdraw. If so, this is just one more thing to work with, as skillfully as possible.

holidaybluesOnce we start to experience the “holiday blues” or difficulties, the first things some of our minds tend to do is to help us by trying to understand or contextualize the origins of these downers. By doing so, the mind collects data from past and present scenarios to weave intricate stories which explain or support the “blues”. When told regularly to ourselves, these stories actually energize, worsen, and/or prolong these difficult states – it’s as though we are adding fuel to already blazing fires.

Others minds help their hosts deal with the Holiday Blues by denying or avoiding the downer moods. Unfortunately, as many of us know, the more we attempt to deny or avoid something, the stronger it rears its head to become known, ultimately growing stronger over time. Many avoiding minds are motivated to use alcohol or other addictive substances to appease or avoid this growing unpleasantness. It’s easy to see how our helpful minds can actually be quite unhelpful.

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The middle and most helpful path to take is to use our mindful awareness to be present with and acknowledge the Holiday Blues or emotional frustrations that may arise during this time period. The trick here is to acknowledge difficult states without energizing them with explanations or story lines. Even though they may be based on reasonable facts (like my Aunt Sharie talks constantly without seemingly taking a breath), it is still most helpful to stop energizing already difficult situations with our stories about them. Acknowledge only the pain, sadness, frustration, impatience, judgment, worry, indigestion, or whatever is arising at the moment.

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Another important inquiry is to see if we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves or others to “be” a certain way. If so, drop these expectations and accept ourselves, family members, and friends, just as they are. After all, your brother who has told really corny jokes each year for the past 30+ years (that he thinks are hilarious) will most likely continue telling corny jokes that you find no humor in. Then again, he may stop telling jokes, period. As long as the people in your life are not intentionally trying to harm others, you will experience a lot more peace during this season if you stop expecting, and start accepting.

After we acknowledge and accept our present situation, the next most helpful thing to do is bring our mindfulness to our experience without judging it. We mindfully explore our emotional, mental, and physical sensations related to this difficulty. In this way, we give the difficult state the time and space it needs to be known and felt, without making ourselves bad or wrong. It sounds easy but in practice can be quite challenging. Just keep practicing acknowledging, accepting, and opening mindfully to our present circumstances, and eventually difficulties will begin to lessen and fade into the background.

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There are many obvious triggers – like the loss of a loved one, or being alone – that can make the holiday season much more challenging. During such difficult times, it is important to surround yourself with a network of caring and supportive friends and/or family. It is imperative to be patient with yourself during this process, while also giving yourself the love, care, and compassion you so greatly deserve. If these blues get too severe to handle, please reach out to someone who cares, possibly even a CRISIS Hotline.

Whether you typically get the Holiday Blues or not, it will be very helpful to continue to practice being mindfully aware of your present experience of each moment. With regular practice, you will start to see how mindful attention can bring a deep sense of peace, joy, wisdom, and acceptance to the variety of life’s ever-changing ups and downs.

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Source: http://www.ashevillemeditation.com/using-mindfulness-to-navigate-the-holiday-blues-652

Contact me if you are feeling the holiday blues and would like to talk to someone who can help you. I offer a free 20-minute phone consultation, if you have any questions about my style of therapy or to see how I may benefit you. Call 323-920-9278.

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The happy secret to better work and life

TED TALKS with Shawn Achor

smiley-237145_640-pixShawn Achor is the CEO of Good Think Inc., where he researches and teaches about positive psychology.

We believe that we should work to be happy, but could that be backwards? In this fast-moving and entertaining talk, psychologist Shawn Achor argues that actually happiness inspires productivity. (Filmed at TEDxBloomington.)

Why should you listen

Shawn Achor is the winner of over a dozen distinguished teaching awards at Harvard University, where he delivered lectures on positive psychology in the most popular class at Harvard.

He is the CEO of Good Think Inc., a Cambridge-based consulting firm which researches positive outliers — people who are well above average — to understand where human potential, success and happiness intersect. Based on his research and 12 years of experience at Harvard, he clearly and humorously describes to organizations how to increase happiness and meaning, raise success rates and profitability, and create positive transformations that ripple into more successful cultures. He is also the author of The Happiness Advantage.

For more information:

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work

by Shawn Anchor

Source: http://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work?language=en

Contact me, if you are interested in working with a therapist who works with Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB) and Positive Psychology. I offer a free 20-minute phone consultation to discuss any questions you may have and to find out how I may benefit you as your personal therapist. Call 323-920-9278.

Stop Comparing the Present with the Past

Written by Sara, from Institute of HeartMath.  October 26, 2014

Stop Comparing the Present with the Past

I drove past a church the other day en route to Santa Cruz and the sign they had out front displayed this message: “Don’t dwell on the past because you’re not going back there.” That says it all to me. One of the hardest things for any of us not to do after a crisis or major change is to compare the way life was before with how it is now.

It’s perfectly okay and possibly necessary to do this comparing as we move through grief or deep loss. The time it takes to vent our anger and recover from despair can be different for all of us—and time can’t be forced because healing heartache doesn’t respond to schedules or agendas. Yet, in our own time, we will start to regain some stability and decide to move forward with our life. This was certainly true for me in a past crisis.

It’s a good idea to learn from history – we can get good perspectives about how to do better – and hindsight is 20/20, as they say. But if we dwell, we go around in circles and get caught in the snare of the past, we don’t focus on where we’re going and we can’t create the future we want. In fact, we may recreate what we don’t want. We stay in thought forms that are like carrying a heavy backpack of guilt, blame and other negative emotions. The past weighs a lot when there are unresolved issues and you’re the one paying that price.

Man in TunnelWhen the present is more rewarding than the past, we don’t tend to hang out in the past, so creating more fulfillment in the present can help the healing. HeartMath founder Doc Childre told me how he did this. In a past personal crisis, eventually he realized that to move forward, he had to redirect his thoughts and feelings from the past situation that he couldn’t change in order to be at peace now and build the future. After an understandable period of grief, he started to realize that he was perpetuating deep pain and depression by constantly comparing now with the past. Often, his heart’s intuition would whisper: “Constantly comparing with the past is not helpful for you now. It’s time now to use that energy to move forward with your life.” It was hard at first, but being honest with himself, he knew it was time to take a responsible step towards reducing the emotional toll and inertia from dwelling in the past.

Below is a HeartMath practice that helped him. It is for after the first phase of our initial anger, grief or despair. No one would expect us to be able to stop comparing the past with the present during the first phase of sadness and despair. Be comfortable with your own timing, however long it takes you. Some people do not experience as much loss, pain or despair as others because their situation is different. For them, the first phase could be much shorter, so they may choose to use this practice earlier in their emotional recovery process.

With self-compassion and patience, make a genuine heart commitment to practice recognizing some of your thoughts and feelings of comparison with the past. As you become aware of these thought loops and feel your energy down-spiraling, then from your heart accept that it’s normal to have these thoughts and feelings. Yet, know that constant preoccupation with them can drain and depress your spirit, which you need at this time to re-stabilize and move forward.
Then, in an easygoing way without force, choose something to focus on that doesn’t cause as much pain and energy drain. It often helps to switch thoughts by changing what you are doing in the moment or changing the subject if you are Happy Couple with Dogrehashing the past with someone. You can also replace the thoughts with appreciation for someone you care about.

With practice, you will be able to recognize the thoughts and feelings and then just shift—to something that doesn’t bring you down and leave you with depressed feelings. When this is done from the heart, then you are not repressing feelings, you are transforming them.

HeartMath practices, such as the above, are used by mental health professionals to help people get their system into heart coherence, an optimal state in which the heart, mind and emotions are operating in-sync and balanced. As people activate their hearts to get in sync, they have more capacity to hear their intuition which helps guide them to shift perspectives, so forgiving and releasing the past become possible. Using HeartMath’s emWave® technology before talking about a problem can also help.

Some years ago, I went through a relationship breakup that I didn’t want. It was hard for me not to dwell on comparing every person I met thereafter with that man. It took me a long time to let go of that hurt and accept that maybe life had something else in store for me that would open those same heart feelings so I could feel fulfilled again. I felt like I would never have that great of a relationship experience again. I think a lot of people end up feeling this way. They assume the person they were in the relationship with is the only source of those good feelings they had. It’s helpful to realize that it’s not so much the person you’re enjoying but the feelings you experience that are fulfilling – and you can have those feelings by re-opening your heart with or without another person. This was a big life lesson for me: It’s the feelings in our heart that are opened by love. We can experience those feelings again, even when the one we loved who helped us open our heart is not present – our heart feelings are not dependent on one person. As long as we think so, we’re trapped.Women laying in field

With self-compassion and patience, you can emerge from the depths of challenging times, especially if you connect with the strength that comes from truly putting your heart into the intention to move forward. The first step to activating your heart is having compassion for yourself, which quickens recovery and re-stabilization. It’s important to come from the heart not just the mind to get the full physiological and emotional benefit. You may also need help to re-open your heart if the past you’re trying to release was traumatic. Be proactive: When you start creating the future, your mind starts to free up. And then you can move on.

Source: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/surefire-stress-relief-part-6-reduce-comparing-the-present-with-the-past.html

 Note: For traumatic past events it is best to work with a professional therapist that can guide you through the process.

Contact me, if you are interested in working with a therapist trained in Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB). I offer a free 20-minute phone consultation to discuss any questions you may have and to find out how I may benefit you as your personal therapist.

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Understand more about Interpersonal Neurobiology with Dan Siegel

The Limbic System- where “Flight, Fight, Response” occurs

“Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB) is just a fancy way of saying that the brain is a social organ of the body… Relationships are our life’s blood, and this is what gives us resilience, not only as individuals, but as a collective community.” — by Dan Siegel

 

TEDxBlue – Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. – 10/18/09 (24:20)

Incredibly uplifting video on the possibilities of creating an integrated brain and how teaching mindsight and mindfulness as early as in preschool, has the potential for a kinder and more compassionate world.

Uploaded on Nov 12, 2009

Dr. Daniel Siegel explores the neural mechanisms beneath social and emotional intelligence and how these can be cultivated through reflective practices that focus on the inner nature of the mind.

Daniel is a child psychiatrist, educator, and author of Mindsight, The Mindful Brain, Parenting from the Inside Out, and The Developing Mind. He is the Founding Editor of the Norton Professional Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology, co-director of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, and executive director of the Mindsight Institute.

About TEDx, x=independently organize event
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-
organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.
At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep
discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized
events are branded TEDx, where x=independently organized TED event.
The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but
individual TEDx events are self-organized.*
(*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

 

Dan Siegel, M.D. – Discussing the science of mindfulness (21:02)

Fantastic video and introduction into benefits of mindfulness to brain development, including children and adults.

Published on Apr 14, 2013

Room to Breathe is a surprising story of transformation as struggling kids in a San Francisco public middle school are introduced to the practice of mindfulness meditation.

Visit roomtobreathefilm.com for more information.

 

Dan Siegel – Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain (Family Action Network) (1:22:44)

http://youtu.be/kH-BO1rJXbQ

Published on Nov 16, 2013  (note video file size was too large to be uploaded here, please click on link above)

Siegel illuminates how brain development impacts teenagers’ behavior and relationships. Drawing on important new research in the field of interpersonal neurobiology, he explores exciting ways in which understanding how the teenage brain functions can help parents make what is in fact an incredibly positive period of growth, change, and experimentation in their children’s lives less lonely and distressing on both sides of the generational divide.

Find links to recent Dan Siegel’s books on my Resources page.

Contact me, if you are interested in working with a therapist trained in Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB). I offer a free 20-minute phone consultation to discuss any questions you may have and to find out how I may benefit you as your personal therapist.

Follow my blog and feel free to share it, if you are interested in learning more about healing, psychology, mindfulness, and all things related to helping you feel good about yourself.

 

 

The Wounded Healer Within…

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The Wounded Healer by Alex Grey

The wound is the place where the light enters you.

–Rumi

Depth Psychology, the Wounded Healer, and the World of Trauma

by Linda Friend, MA, MFT, Healdsburg Holistic Health News, 1999

Because I am a practitioner of Depth Psychology the archetype of the wounded healer is central to my life. In order for psychology to be “deep” it must be continuously mining the light of the spirit and the recesses of the darker chasms of the human soul. Healing for me is the rebuilding of a broken bridge between these two dimensions of the self.

The awareness, which has become more focused through the women’s movement, of the effects of early childhood abuses – emotional, physical and sexual – has led us to a deeper understanding of how the “split” develops between spirit and soul. When the infant does not experience “a good enough mother,” a mother who can relate consistently and often enough with empathy to the child’s pain while also providing a protective and safe environment, then the infant cannot incarnate. He or she does not come into their own body and as a result, the world itself becomes a frightening place. Through the experience of emotional abandonment the child learns to abandon life and so fails to respond to its own needs. Later, in adulthood, happiness and fulfillment in life remain illusive. If the child was physically or sexually abused early on as well as experiencing emotional abandonment then the child creates a “self care system” which is full of persecuting demons. We now know that the victim of trauma continually finds himself or herself in life situations where he or she is re-traumatized.

Trauma can also happen in adulthood through wars, illness, financial loss, death and divorce, etc. If the initial or early trauma is too severe life passages, which are often traumatic, can trigger a deep depression. Sometimes it somatizes into a physical illness.

To the Jungian school of thought this can be seen as a “creative illness,” mental or physical, which results in the breakdown of the old, egocentric personality and the breakthrough of the individual initiate. “Spiritual emergencies,” mental breakdown, depression, and “creative illness” are all doorways, each one an opening, an opportunity for the individual to reach for their higher potential.

Donald Kalshed, Jungian analyst, defines “trauma” as any experience that causes unbearable psychic pain or anxiety. “Unbearable” means it overwhelms the usual defense measures. In its place the severely traumatized person develops a self-persecutory defense system in their inner psychic life and the rage turned back on the self keeps the person imprisoned in the cycle.

In psychotherapy the client can experience an empathetic and supportive relationship with the therapist and gradually develop and internalize this positive experience and thus be able to mourn the past. Grief over the lost satisfactions and unmet needs of childhood, and the resultant split between spirit and soul-body must be experienced. Ultimately, the psyche must find a way to allow the grief to unite both hope/faith and disappointment/loss since they are both essential facts of life. In “mourning integration” the attachment to the identification with the persecutory experience can be given up, permitting new positive attachments to be made.

The factors involved in the process are complex. Early on, the traumatized person learns to dissociate as a defense. Cut off from his or her unconscious, this person develops aggrandized fantasies to substitute for life lived in the real world. Only through hard work and much suffering can these defenses be overcome. Initially, the therapist often is idealized when the client experiences support never experienced in the past, but eventually the therapist must be seen as a person, too: not perfect, but good enough despite any human faults and limitations. Ultimately, the client must also be able to see themselves in this light.

In response to my own early trauma I developed a defensive dissociative process that allowed me to develop my innate highly intuitive self into a highly psychic self. From an early age, I had the uncanny ability to directly access a very magical world and to know profound spiritual truths. My personal healing journey as a wounded healer has centered around coming more and more into the “real world” of everyday banal reality. Mothering my daughter has been the crucible for my development on the human level. Accepting of my human limitations and integrating that with my ability to access the Divine is where my “mouming integration” is taking me. It can be very much a struggle to hold both but life would not be fulfilling to me without enchantment, magic, wonder and mystery along with routine and the mundane. Otherwise, if the worlds remain separate, the all too human me has no access to the magical world and the spiritually gifted me has no access to the human suffering and its transformational potential. In the transition between these worlds trauma is transcended, and here wholeness and fulfillment are experienced.

Source: http://www.lindafriendtherapist.com/articles-depth-psychology.shtml

I believe that the best therapists are those who have worked on their own wounds. Through that transformation, they become wounded healers, as I have through my own healing. 

Contact me, I offer a free 20-minute phone consultation to discuss any questions you may have and to see if we may be a good therapeutic fit.

Follow my blog and feel free to share it, if you are interested in learning more about healing, psychology, mindfulness, and all things related to helping you feel good about yourself.