Know Your Superpower!

One of the benefits of the Mindfulness Matters group is to help us get a better sense of our moment to moment experiences. The thing is, I am sometimes asked why this matters.

For many of us, we find ourselves going through our day on autopilot. The downside of that is that, when we are not connecting with our experiences, things seem to pop up out of nowhere… and then we are left in a panic, reactive, or even frozen.

Becoming more Mindful in our routine, day-to-day interactions and mundane activities can help us develop a cumulative buffer against feeling like we are always caught off guard. In fact, it can leave us better equipped to more easily surf and navigate the things that do seem to come out of nowhere for us.

In the short video below, Sharon Salzberg does a very nice job of illustrating this concept in describing the two wolves (metaphorically!) that we all deal with. In fact, having this skill gives us a bit of a superpower in the sense that it can leave us feeling empowered and acting from a place of empowerment rather than reactivity when we are met with difficult situations.

I would love to hear how what you thought of this story! Be sure to share with us in our social media communities listed below so we can celebrate your superpower with you!

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Mindfulness with 5 Senses

One of the aims of my Mindfulness Matters group is to provide people with accessible, fool proof tools to help them ground in the present moment so that they can eradicate the inner critic, paralyzing self judgments, and gain the sense of empowerment they need to make the best choices about how to react to what pops up in their lives. Today, I wanted to share one of these tools with you. This is a quick and relatively easy exercise to bring us into a mindful state quickly. If you only have a minute or two or, for whatever reason, you don’t have the time or tools to try a body scan, this five senses exercise can help you bring awareness to the current moment in a short amount of time.

Use this exercise to quickly ground yourself in the present when you only have a moment. The goal is to notice something that you are currently experiencing through each of your senses. Begin by making sure you are seated or lying comfortably enough that you can relax, yet still upright enough that you can focus on the following questions. As you go through this set of questions, allow yourself to become immersed in each experience before moving on to the next question.

What are 5 things you can see?

What are 4 things you can feel?

What are 3 things you can hear?

What are 2 things you can smell?

What is 1 thing you can taste?

The numbers for each sense are only a guideline. Feel free to do more or less of each – remember to make modifications with Mindful awareness. You can also listen to a guided audio version of this exercise with my “Beyond the Couch” podcast episode easily. 

I would love to hear how this went for you! Be sure to share with us in our social media communities listed below so we can celebrate with you!

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Celebrate Your ‘Social Brain’ with Group Therapy!

Recently, I spent some time talking about GROUPS with Katie K. May of Creative Healing Philly. Katie K. May is a DBT Certified, Licensed Therapist for Teens in Pennsylvania.  She specializes in running groups for teens who experience anxiety, depression and self-harm behaviors, with a passion in helping clients learn to express and cope with overwhelming emotions in healthy ways so that they can move forward in life EMPOWERED and able to create their own path to happiness.

In our discussion, Katie and I explored the ways that our group connections help us to build a life we want to celebrate. In fact, groups have helped people excel in work place dynamics, school related tasks, as well as family functions. Katie shares some top tips for connecting in group therapy, below, and debunks some myths about getting started with groups.

Katie’s Top Tips:

+Our interpersonal relationships are one of the most powerful predictors of both our mental and physical health.  People are happier and healthier, with lower rates of depression and greater overall happiness when they are connected socially.

+Take advantage of the “social brain!”  We are by nature social creatures and are strongly influenced by what happens around us in our world.  Be mindful of whom you surround yourself with and the choices these people are making as you are likely being swayed by their thoughts and behaviors too.

+Practicing gratitude for the people in your lives, how they have impacted you and why they are important to you can help you feel more connected and accepted socially.  Each day reflect on something you appreciate about your loved ones and what you appreciate about this person.  At the end of the week, find some way to connect face-to-face to express this gratitude and notice how your own mood improves as a result.

I would love to hear what thoughts you have about the ways groups can help you celebrate your life! In fact, I frequently hear from “graduates” of my groups that they have gone on to silence their inner critics and surrounded themselves with people who uplift them so that they can overcome anxious, debilitating thoughts and overwhelming depression and isolation. As a result, they’ve begun to reshape the celebratory lives they have been looking to build! Be sure to share with us your hopes and goals for groups in our social media communities listed below so we can celebrate with you!

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How Can You Connect More In Your Relationships?

Relationships can be some of the most incredible experiences of our lives. They can also be hard.

You want to feel connected to your partner, but it feels like there is a wall up between the two of you.

You want to understand your partner, but sometimes it feels like you’re speaking two different languages.

You have the same argument again and again. You can predict exactly how it will go, yet can never come to a resolution.

You may be facing a crisis, like infidelity, in your relationship and you’re trying to figure out if you even want to stay.

Maybe you find yourself listening to your partner, but focusing more on what you want to say next. And maybe you find yourself holding back on what you want to say out of a fear that it will cause a bigger issue.

One of the most important skills in relationships is effective communication. We may not ordinarily have trouble communicating and exchanging ideas or information with our partner, but find that when difficult situations come up, we can’t seem to get on the same page.

Most of us are guilty of these mistakes. In fact, these kinds of communication challenges can sometimes become so ingrained that many of us don’t even notice when we’re guilty of them. However, the consequences of ineffective communication take a toll. Feeling unheard can lead to resentment, frustration, and pain.

I want to point out that, sometimes, the best communication will still end with the acknowledgment: “We disagree.” But that’s OK‐it’s far better than the alternative: “I’m right, and you’re wrong.”

The ability to express your own ideas effectively is only half of what it takes to be a good communicator. Listening is the second half. This means more than simply hearing words. It means hearing, thinking, interpreting, and striving to understand. If we’re thinking about the next thing we want to say, we aren’t really listening. We’re just hearing.

Reflections are a powerful tool to improve communication between you and your partner. Using a technique called reflection can quickly help you become a better listener. When reflecting, you will repeat back what your partner has just said to you in your own words. Those who haven’t used reflections fear that it’ll seem like they’re just parroting the other person without contributing to the conversation. However, reflections typically result in a positive response.

Those who haven’t used reflections fear that it’ll seem like they’re just parroting the other person without contributing to the conversation. However, reflections typically result in a positive response.

So, what do reflections actually do? They act as confirmation that we heard, and more importantly, understand, what our partner has said. Reflections validate a person’s feelings by showing that we get it.

Often, a concern I hear is that it might seem like a reflection would kill a conversation ‐ there’s no new question to answer. Paradoxically, though, the opposite is generally true. Reflections encourage more sharing because our partner can trust that we are listening.

Learning to use reflections does take practice. As you first begin to practice it’s typical for reflections to feel a bit forced. But if you implement reflections regularly, they’ll quickly start to feel natural once you and your partner begin to notice how helpful the responses are. Oh, and start with less serious or neutral topics, at least in the beginning!

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