Wednesday, December 12, 2018
People travel and put up real or artificial evergreen trees and decorate everything from home and office, to shop and community center. They plan large meals for the November and December holiday gatherings of family, friends and coworkers. And as you can imagine, stress levels rise right along with all the festive activities.
Lucky for us, Mindfulness and Mindfulness Meditation practice made its way to our shores in the 1960's and 70's and has made its mark in helping many people learn to try to stay focused and not let the mind run amok even during times of stress. But there is another therapy that is very similar to--and includes--mindfulness and mindfulness based cognitive therapy concepts that is not frequently talked about. A gentle and graceful method that originated in Japan called, Morita. Morita is one of the best known of five "Quiet Therapies" in Japan, and was created by Shoma Morita. Like the concepts found in other mindfulness based therapies, its goal is to help people "accept life as it is".
Shoma Morita was a researcher and philosopher who was also trained in Zen Buddhism, so some of his own methods for confronting life are built into Morita Therapy, including that his method has its foundations in ecology or nature, thus helping people learn to follow the natural order of things instead of battle against them. Morita is one of five Quiet Therapist, which include naikan, seiza, shadan, and Zen.
I like to think of this kind of Quiet Therapy as a "reboot", in the same way one might reboot a computer. The idea is to shut down first and then gradually reintroduce the realities of life in order to get a fresh start. Of course the original idea with the four stages of this therapy was to "shut down" the human being by means of hospitalize, and then begin to slowly reintroduce life to that individual in increments, but very few of us really ever need to be hospitalized due to our stress, and so what we mean in everyday life by "shut down" has to be taken as it is relative to your personal life. Maybe it means a vacation from work and family, maybe it means going on a retreat, maybe it means nothing more than one day off from work for a mental health day. No matter what method you use to shut off the constant flow of stress that streams into your life on a regular basis, the first stage of shutting down is then followed by a second stage of light activity, and a third stage of heavy activity, and finally a fourth stage of re-entry to life "as it is". You can read more about Morita Therapy here: Morita Therapy, and through a book by David Reynolds, called The Quiet Therapies
So what does this mean for the holidays? It means that much can be done with a holiday week off. The week can include a mini "shut down" and restart. Or, if you don't get the holiday off to shut off the stressors of daily life, consider what you can do come the new year in order to get a brief break to restart your system. The bombardment of activity, pressures, requirements, stressors and demands (especially in America) cannot constantly go unchecked. There needs to be an occasional shut down and restart in order for you to stay connected to life as it really is. Real life has a sunrise and sunset, flowers to see and smell, a body that needs rest, and time limitations that remind you life does not last forever... and you are missing it.
Thanks to Robert Couse-Baker for the excellent photo
Monday, November 12, 2018
Unfortunately, I'm once again writing just after another set of mass shootings in the United States, as well as just after the American midterm elections of 2018. If you don't think your fellow citizens in the US are stressed out, think again. This stress has reverberations that travel around the world as well, making people uneasy in every country and small community.
It's tempting to pull inside, close the shutters, and let your anxiety get the best of you, but this is actually not a time for that. Part of the problem is a growing lack of community and support among people, and so trusting less is not the solution.
Instead, I encourage you to see that it's important right now to lift one another up and support one another so that fear does not get the best us. There are little things you can do every day that help to reduce the stress of your fellow neighbor. From complimenting them on something they do well, to thanking them for something they've done for you or for others.
Since the holiday season is coming fast, we will be giving thanks for all that we are grateful for, as well as celebrating a festive and even spiritual idea of what this time of year means to each of us, personally. I encourage you to recognize your connection to others and to heighten your awareness that your stress is a reflection of their stress as well. Try to do things that help to reduce the stress of others. In doing so, you recognize you are in this world right alongside them and in reducing their stress, you also reduce your own.
Here are some ideas for you to try that could reduce your stress, and the stress of those around you:
*Consider having a holiday gathering that includes the widest array of diverse people you can think of. This can bring people together, let those in targeted groups feel welcome, assure others that there are safe places, and remind us all that not every situation must include conflict.
*If you see people in the community who seem frightened right now, find a way to let them know you are a safe person. That you are not hate filled, rejecting, or unable to discuss an issue or hear a view you disagree with without raising your voice or becoming violent.
*Learn as much as you can about the concept of compromise
*Practice your listening skills which, by the way, are not just sitting silent and nodding. They include active participation, questions of interest, engaged body language, and requests for clarification so you can more deeply understand what another person is saying.
*Show genuine interest in the views of others and how they came to them. Even if you disagree.
*Pay compliments to others that are not just about looks, success, money, or accomplishments. Tell them you loved a meal they made, or thank them for something they did, or let them know what qualities you appreciate about them.
*Let people know what you are hopeful about in life. Do you see things will get better? Do you have confidence in your fellow humans? Are there signs of life you can point out to those who are discouraged? Don't be a Pollyanna, but if you have a positive outlook, try to help the discouraged see what you see.
Keep in mind that you are not the only one that is stress out about the way things are going right now in the United States. However, you are a part of the solution. By actively participating in bringing down the stress level of those around you, you actively work to bring yours down as well.
Thanks to oatsy40 for the great photo (cropped)
Monday, October 15, 2018
A lot of stress is created when those who disagree with each other refuse to take steps to meet halfway. This can only be done by means of the apparent lost art of compromise, which is something we are in short supply of lately. Yet compromise could be the solution to a lot of situations that are leading to a growing amount of stress in communities across the country. Learning about compromise and improving your skill at it can help you be a part of the solution in your own community, family, and workplace. And we all know that getting things corrected in these smaller arenas leads to correction nationally.
Let's begin with the definition of compromise: "an agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions." What does concessions mean? It means that you give in a little bit by giving up something. Notice that compromise is not that each side makes more demands, or more insistences, or is more forceful than the other side, or even attempts to "win" by any means possible. Instead, a compromise is when opponents of BOTH sides of an issue, give up something in order to give in just enough to meet the other side halfway. Also notice, it does not mean that just one side gives in, but that BOTH sides give in.
If Sue wants dinner at 7pm and Sarah wants dinner at 5pm, a compromise is to meet halfway and have dinner at 6pm. If Bill wants a salary raise of $5000 a year and the budget suggests only $4000, maybe a compromise could be made to raise Bill's salary by $4500 to keep a good employee and not break the bank. These kinds of compromises happen because each side is willing to give in a little bit (i.e., make concessions).
Where problems begin to happen is when one or both sides refuse to give up their demands and feel entitled to get their way without compromises. In fact, more and more we hear the phrase, "We are not willing to make concessions." Which is basically saying that one is not willing to give up anything at all in order to meet another halfway.
Here are some ideas to help you practice learning to compromise on a more frequent basis in order to prevent relationship or conversational problems from bogging down into stagnation.
*Before approaching a conflict, debate, conversation, ask yourself what areas of the topic or issue at hand you would be willing to give up or let go of a little, as these are the least significant areas in which you would have concessions to offer.
*Determine where your own moral and ethical boundary will be on any given issue so you know where you are able to give in a little and let some things go. Don't dwell on what you refuse to give up, but on what you are willing to let go of.
*Try to determine in what areas you actually agree or could agree partially with any opposing view so that you are able to verbalize that you can see, or partially see, your opponent's point of view. This is a place you can honestly say, "I give you that." That is a concession.
*Keep the end goal in mind. This helps you push yourself a little harder to try for a compromise instead of tossing the end goal out the window because you can't have your way. The aim is to move things forward through compromise, not get bogged down in stubborn refusals.
Creating a system of compromise in your family, workplace and community helps to create a system that lets everyone know they will be treated fairly. If only one person in the family, community or workplace always got their way and no compromises were ever made, others would feel slighted and only stress would follow. Compromise is a great art to develop individually and collectively. It's what democracy is all about.
Thanks to Amtecphotos for the great photo
Monday, September 17, 2018
Knowing your source of stress is a great place to begin. It can be the job, the kids, health concerns, or any number of things that contribute to your daily stress. If you have not yet identified what it is that leads to your stress, try to spend some time journaling about when your stress is more prominent or when it begins and ends. This can help you identify where it's coming from. Once you know the source or cause of your stress, you can identify what needs to change or what needs to be added to your life in order to better cope with the stress, reduce the stress, or completely eliminate the stress entirely.
Coping with the stress might mean that while staying in the stress, you practice ways to reduce your physical symptoms without removing yourself from the event. For instance, you might learn breathing techniques that slow the breath and therefore slow the heart rate and blood pressure. Reducing the stress can include breathing retraining used in coping with stress, but it might also include other kinds of adjustments such as reducing hours at work, reducing the frequency of exposure to stressful events, reducing productivity, and working with cognitive behavioral techniques to reduce the amount of time you worry. Eliminating stress can mean that it might be time to let that current job go and find a better one with less pressure. It can also mean moving if the area you live in is stressful and unlikely to change. Eliminating stress means just that, removing it from your life and making a change for good.
Taking the time to develop a set of stress management techniques for yourself is well worth the time. Once you know what works for you, it's easy to reach for and easy to apply.
Thanks to Dimitar Nikolov for the great photo
Monday, August 27, 2018
The point is that no one else can tell you what relaxation "should" be--for you. Each individual will need to come to an awareness on their own as to what it is in life that brings them a state of calm, meditative peace.
Each of us does need to keep in mind, however, that we do not have to adhere to the expectations of others that what they find to be personally relaxing, is what we should find to be relaxing, too. Just as important, is to know that we have a right to enjoy the things we find relaxing, without others telling us we should not find those things to be relaxing just because they do not find them to be relaxing for themselves.
Though a beekeeper may find it very relaxing to suit up and spend time working with their bees and honey, someone else might find it difficult to understand how spending time with hundreds or thousands of flying insects, with the potential of stinging, could possibly be relaxing.
At the same time, there are many who find massage therapy to be very relaxing, healing, and calming. Yet, for others, the notion of being touched in this way by a stranger is more stress and anxiety inducing that it is relaxing.
When it comes to relaxation, self-trust and self-knowledge is key to making the best of your time and effort, but for this you may have to explore a little bit and try a few new things in order to discover what things may bring you the most sense of relaxation and peace. In the end, it is you who will be the decision maker about what is and is not relaxing for you personally. In this way you give your body your full attention and let it know you are listening to what it has to say.
Here are a few (non-animal-harming) ideas for things that some have found relaxing:
*Sailing, canoeing, kayaking
*Sauna, Hot Tub, or Steam Room
*Art (Painting, drawing, pottery, etc.)
*Tai Chi and Qigong
*Peaceful time with animals
*Conversation with friends
Thanks to JacobEnos for the great photo
Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Traditional definitions of meditation include things such as "concentration on one's breath" or "repeating a mantra". They can also include activities such as staring at a candle flame or using a guided imagery in one's mind.
But when it comes right down to it, meditation is actually all of these as they all have one thing in common, and that is that they train the mind and consciousness to be fully present and focused on whatever it is that is happening right now.
In meditative conversation, one must work to sharpen their listening skills so they can remain fully present. It's not uncommon to talk about oneself too much, or change the topic your companion is presenting to be all about "me, myself, and I". Other common mistakes that distract from being fully present in conversation are things like talking over the top of your friend, rushing to reply before your conversation companion has finished their sentence, and continually changing the topic to focus on your own life and events. There is a common misconception that conversation is made up of, "I talk about me, then you talk about you". Which is not really a conversation. It's two people talking about themselves in the presence of another person. It's talking "at" someone, not with them.
Here are some tips for meditative conversation you can try the next time you plan to get together with a good friend, companion, acquaintance, or partner.
*Meditative conversation is best done in a quieter, relaxed setting where complete focus can be directed at listening and responding to what is heard. A bar scene is for other kinds of communication, and the loud music and distraction does not make for truly focused discussions.
*Practiced listening skills are key, in that one cannot be listening to another if they are already trying to figure out what their own next sentence will be. Actively work to not just remain silent (which is not all that "listening" is), but to also hear what is being said. Active listening involves responses that let others know we are following them, are curious about details, want to know more, can relate to what they are saying, and are truly interested and have heard what they've just said. Rushing in to turn the topic focus to oneself is not the idea.
*Eye contact, or at least facing one another if outdoors or wearing sunglasses, is a way of showing interest. Looking away, or over the top of someone's shoulder only says, "I'm not really interested in whatever it is you are saying." Today we have a very big problem with people looking down at their phones or computers and not really demonstrating attention when others are speaking to them. Bragging that you are only "multi-tasking" doesn't help the other person feel you are truly present for them. So put gadgets away and bring your full attention into the present. When it comes to meditational conversation you are either "fully" present, or you are not. Partial presence is not fully present.
*When it's your turn to speak, don't dominate the airspace too much, but also don't deadpan or respond with one-word replies. That causes an imbalance in conversation in which the other person has to "carry the load" of the entire conversation by themselves, and it also says you are not bringing yourself to the moment and are not participating fairly in conversation.
*A good conversation is done with just one other person. Many good talks can come with more people present, but all involved would need to practice these meditative skills and as the crowd grows, the listening skills and etiquette tends to meander.
Meditative conversation with another can be relaxing and enjoyable, especially if both individuals are fully present. Try this with a good friend or companion and see how different a conversation can be.
Thanks to vxla for the great photo
Wednesday, June 20, 2018
It's not just the physical presence of a computer--its screen and keyboard; or a cell phone, with its thumb typing and scrolling that keeps us distracted from the life that exists right in front of us. It's everything that comes with those machines. Such as emails that fill our message box. Voice messages that must be listened to and replied to. Updates that require our attention. Battery charging that has to be addressed throughout the day. Tones and sounds that alert us all day to who is trying to reach us or what message type we just received (i.e., voice, email, page, etc.).
And then, there is the constant, unquenched human sense of curiosity that keeps us glued to our devices in order to extract endless information. Anything at all we might be curious about can be typed in to one of our handy devices at any time, and it will produce enough information for us to feel we've gathered at least a piece of the answer. Right there. On the spot.
But we are forgetting what it really means to be human beings, and since we aren't the machines our machines push us to be, we need to go back now and then and remember to just be human.
Human is much more non-mechanical than a machine is. Human beings need rest and it's clear we don't go as fast as machines do. When we try to, we exhaust ourselves and then wonder why we are so tired. Much of today's stress is caused when human beings attempt to keep up with a world pace that has exceeded their ability. When this world pace pushes us on a daily basis to constantly stay plugged in, it's imperative that we take the initiative to intentionally unplug now and then. This means putting the phone down, leaving the laptop at home, shutting off alerts, and yes, even unplugging completely sometimes.
If you find that just one day is more than you can handle to be away from your electronic connection to the world, then start out slow. Try going for just one hour to begin with, and work you way up. Leave the phone in the car during some events, or shut it off and set a timer in order to not turn it back on until the timer goes off. Consider unplugging your computer an hour before bed and not plugging it back in until morning. See how you do.
The point is that machines and humans are not the same thing. A human being is not a machine. It's a living organism and living things need rest and restoration periods in order to prevent and reduce stress. When we become identified with our machines, we forget that they are not who we are and to put them down now and then and let the body rest, is one of the best things you can do to reduce your anxiety and stress level.
Thanks to theilr for the great photo
Friday, May 25, 2018
In addition, isolation leaves us in the company of only one set of ideas... our own. And if our ideas about life are negative or we tend to do a lot of catastrophic thinking, we have only ourselves to listen to day and night, and only our own catastrophic conclusions to come to.
That's why it's important to break out of our shell now and then and seek out the company of others-- be they friends, family, or new acquaintances, because it is in this occasional arena that we remember our human nature and the social aspect that comes with it.
Even if you are an introvert and need your down time to re-energize, too much isolation can only lead to more anxiety and stress since it does not offer any of the interactive human needs such as conversation, validation, support, encouragement, or many of the other perks that come from social interaction with other human beings. The key for introverts is to know how much human interaction you need, and to set boundaries from there.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
*Consider taking a class at your local recreation center. It's a way to meet other people and get out into the community where you hear the voices and opinions of others.
*Ask a coworker to lunch. Even if it doesn't go well, you have introduced a new view and personality into your day, that is different from your own.
*Attend a meetup group that you find interesting. Meeting others of like-minds and like-interests can lead to life long friendships.
*Call an acquaintance and ask them to lunch, dinner, or simply for coffee and conversation.
*Join a local competitive group such as softball, golf, chess, running, etc. It really doesn't matter if you join to win, the point is getting involved and meeting others who do the same.
"We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone,... alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders." ~Maya Angelou
Thanks to cuatrok77 for the great photo
Monday, April 16, 2018
So what is "play" for an adult? Play is "activity done for enjoyment and recreation rather than for serious or practical purposes."
When we think of play, we typically think of children and their endless energy, games and activity. Not to mention the laughter involved in their activities.
For adults, play holds the same kind of action and creativity as it does for children, but has a few differences. Though children are using play to develop their minds and bodies, adults can use play to stay healthy, happy, and even to reduce stress created by lives that require of us that we stay serious, mature, and focused for so much of the time.
Play can range from card games with friends, to making cookies or building something with wood. What is "fun" and "playful" is unique to each person since what is fun for one, is never always fun for all. It's what brings you joy and laughter.
Here are some ideas to get your Inner Child hopping:
-Climb a Tree
-Try finger painting
-Go swimming at a water park (take some water toys)
-Go ride a bike
-Go kite flying
-Have a water balloon fight
-Play with your cat or dog
-Go to an amusement park
-Play a board game
-Try snow-shoeing or cross country skiing
-Ride a Ferris wheel or Merry-Go-Round
-Find a go kart race track
-Join a softball or bowling team
Thanks to Ivan Dimitrov for the great photo (left side cropping)
Monday, March 19, 2018
Our fear of death can drive us to perform a lot of avoidance behaviors in life. From avoiding a drive on the street closest to the cemetery, to drinking or using other substances to numb out from the reality that life has limitations and will not go on forever. A healthier approach to the reality of death is to come to terms with it in a way that allows you to live your life as fully and meaningfully as possible without denying its eventual end. Extreme avoidance of this reality can lead to delusional, faulty, and catastrophic thinking.
Many of the more common anxieties among humans stem from this typically unconscious fear of death, including the fear of traveling over bridges, the fear of heights, the fear of traffic, and the fear of dangerous animals. But what really happens when fear takes hold is a faulty thinking style called Catastrophic Thinking.
In Catastrophic Thinking, people tend to leap from a first thought, such as, "What if the bridge collapses?", to a rapid set of thoughts that are unconscious, and which trigger each other like dominoes falling one on the other. As the fear thoughts are triggered, they eventually end in a catastrophic thought such as, "I'll die", or "I'll be injured or unable to survive", or "I won't be able to handle it, and that will be the end."
Catastrophic Thinking can be approached with a couple of coping skills. First, we can practice something called Positive What Ifs, in which we rethink the fear thoughts and trigger a whole new set of feelings. For instance, we might consider "What if the bridge does not fall? Then what?" This question promotes a new set of thoughts that like before, trigger each other like dominoes falling, but the end result is a thought such as, "Well, then I'd just walk across it and go on with my day."
Another approach to tackling Catastrophic Thinking is to use a scaling question in which a scale from 1 to 100 is used to rationalize the thinking. On the scale, 100 represents the chances that the event will actually happen. If you are 100% sure an event will happen, then you would rate the fear thought at 100%. But if you use some rationalizing, then you would first ask questions such as, "If the bridge has been there for years and has never fallen, then the chances of it falling today when I walk over it are about 5% or less." Realizing the rational helps lower fears and reduce the chance of catastrophic thinking, as well as the anxiety that would follow.
The thing to remember is that our brain is wired to be on the lookout for dangers because we have a survival instinct and fear death, but we can sometimes over-do it with our worry and begin to think our way into fearing death a little too much. To believe that things are more dangerous than they really are is a form of faulty thinking, but we can reduce or minimize unnecessary faulty thinking by practicing our rational exercises and disputing negative thoughts.
Thanks to feistytortilla for the great photo
Monday, February 19, 2018
The research that was done by Martin Seligman in 1967 on Learned Helplessness taught us that we are capable of believing that we are helpless when, in fact, we are not. Once this belief sets in, depression can take root as people gather a sense that there is no hope.
What Seligman's research taught us as well, was that once this belief sets in, we can become a bit blind to any actual solution or path that leads out of a seemingly hopeless situation, and the result is that we begin to give up trying to find a path out.
The solution, of course, is to become aware of the open doors and paths that can lead back to a sense of grounding or footing that feels even the slightest empowering, inspiring, and motivating.
When I asked people recently what they themselves could do to try to bring change to the world regarding mass shootings, many felt powerless to find an answer. It seemed some felt their answer would not be good enough, and others seemed to worry that something might be expected of them if they suggested a possibility. The sense of powerlessness also resulted in expressed anger that many have directed at various targets. The NRA. The politicians. Child rearing practices. Men.
These feelings are understandable as each individual tries to sort out for themselves what the problem could be. It's very human of us to try to identify the problem so we can resolve it somehow. But if we feel overwhelmed by the problem, and not fully sure of the solution, we may begin to slide into that abyss of helpless feelings that lead to depression and surrender.
One of the keys to this problem for each of us, is to search within ourselves to try to determine what we personally can do to move society as a whole toward a remedy of the problem. Even if it seems like just one small step onto the path that leads us all toward a solution. There are small things each of us can do now to try to help.
For one thing, check your own passive-aggressive behavior at home and in the workplace. Be the non-violent role model you want to see in the world. In addition, become comfortable with your own sense of human anger so when others express theirs, you don't shut them down or stop listening because you are so uncomfortable with the emotion. Unheard anger gets stuffed and ends up coming out in ways none of us want to see or experience.
There are lots of people right now making attempts to create change regarding our growing history of mass shootings. If you are having a hard time coming up with an idea or solution to champion, then get on board with someone elses' project to raise funds for metal detectors, or raise awareness for changing gun laws, or parent-child conflict skills training, all of which move us down the path that does exists for reaching a solution. Don't assume that someone else will take care of the whole thing or that someone else "should" take care of it for you. Get involved and be a part of the energy for change.
It's very important to look most strongly in the mirror at yourself and what you personally can do to participate. From protesting to writing letters, from making a call to making a donation, from writing a blog to volunteering. There is a path out of this, but it's not something that each of us is helpless to. It's also not something that only everyone "else" is going to do. The reality is that you are not helpless. Each one of us can do something and if everyone of us does something, the whole of our society moves along the path one step at a time towards the solutions that do exist.
Thanks to Brenda Clarke for her wonderful photo
Saturday, January 13, 2018
A popular way to relax and unwind is to soak in one of the many natural hot springs pools from around the world.
These thermal springs have water temperatures higher than the air temperature in the surrounding area. The water has been heated by shallow areas of molten rock.
The water found in these springs contains many different kinds of minerals, which have been found to improve blood circulation.
Soaking in the warm mineral waters can sooth sore muscles, relieve pain, help with skin problems, and reduce joint pain. All of these combined lead to a more relaxed body and mind.
If you are a resident of Colorado, you are in luck because we have plenty of hot springs in the area. Here is a list of 30 different springs in the area you can try:
There are some rules to follow when you visit one of these locations in order to make sure you don't over do it. First of all, RELAX. Take your time and remember to go with the full intention of relaxation. Be sure to take water with you! Drink water 15 minutes before entering any hot springs pool, and after soaking in limited intervals, drink more water during breaks.
While soaking, practice your mindfulness meditation. Relax the body, relax the mind. It's a time to put your worries away and not try to solve life's problems. Let the warm mineral water heal and re-energize you. There will be plenty of time to work on life's issues another time.
As they say in the Lion King... "Hakuna Matata" (No worries).
Thanks to Chi Tranter for the great photo of Snow Monkeys