holiday stress

How Couples Can Support Each Other During the Holidays

Are you dreading family get-togethers this holiday season? Are you bracing yourself for holiday stress? Strained relationships or family dysfunction can suck the joy out of your holidays.

In this video segment, Dr Linda Miles talks about how couples can support each other during the hectic holidays. Family dynamics during the holidays can be taxing. Here are some ideas for how you can help each other through them.

Read an excerpt of “Change Your Story: Change Your Brain” on Amazon.

Dr. Linda Miles is a leading expert on relationships and mindfulness. She is a psychotherapist, author, media expert and speaker. She has studied and worked in her field of counseling psychology for over 30 years and often speaks about mindfulness, stress reduction, mental health and relationships. Dr. Miles is personable and accessible in her books, articles and talks about how mindfulness and loving kindness can positively change your brain, your chemistry and your life. She can be reached at www.DrLindaMiles.com or followed on Twitter.

dysfunctional families

Coping with Dysfunctional Families During the Holidays

Do you have one of those dysfunctional families? Do holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas easily turn contentious when certain family members get together? Does this make you dread the holidays?

In this video, Dr. Linda Miles shares insights on how to cope with bad behavior from family  members during the holidays. The behaviors that are a problem are often automatic. If a family is dysfunctional, it’s easy to get swept up in these behaviors. If you feel like freezing or fighting in bad family situations during the holidays, here are a few things you can do.

Read an excerpt of “Change Your Story: Change Your Brain” on Amazon.

Dr. Linda Miles is a leading expert on relationships and mindfulness. She is a psychotherapist, author, media expert and speaker. She has studied and worked in her field of counseling psychology for over 30 years and often speaks about mindfulness, stress reduction, mental health and relationships. Dr. Miles is personable and accessible in her books, articles and talks about how mindfulness and loving kindness can positively change your brain, your chemistry and your life. She can be reached at www.DrLindaMiles.com or followed on Twitter.

thanksgiving

Peace and Joy at Thanksgiving

Peace, joy, and gratitude – feelings we all wish for, but ones that can be hard to come by in our stressful world. When we’re bombarded with our own negative thoughts, it can make us feel as though we’re in a self-made prison of blame and judgments, making it feel impossible to relish the good in our lives.

During holidays with family (like Thanksgiving) old hurts and negative patterns can be triggered. A practice of mindful awareness can help to retain inner peace in the midst of old reminders. It is important to keep personal boundaries and retain inner light in the midst of triggers fro suffering.

Happiness has a biological basis, and research shows that we can take steps toward creating a positive and healthy mental space, despite the stresses of living in a demanding, technology-driven existence.

By actively exercising kindness and appreciation, we can promote the brain’s natural production of oxytocin and dopamine- two chemicals that help us feel pleasure and well-being, while decreasing the secretion of adrenaline and cortisol, which make us feel agitation and stress. By focusing on simple pleasures and practicing a mindfulness of the present moment, we can get out of our own heads and into the world around us, allowing for an increased awareness and connectivity to the blessings and positivism in our lives.

If you find yourself in a negative dance from the past, take time to regroup, take a walk, write or find other ways to take time out until you can feel centered again.After you calm down choose to celebrate the moment in constructive ways…help in a food kitchen, visit elderly relatives or old friends. Refuse to repeat the old family dramas that are hurtful to you.

It’s encouraging to know that learning mindfulness is possible. Ups and downs, joys and stresses, and hopes and expectations can all guide us to learn to take better care of ourselves and redefine the way we think about ourselves and others, which in turn changes our perception of the world around us. As neuroscientist Dr. Wayne Drevets attests, “In the brain, practice makes permanent.” If you would like to try some practices to foster your own peace of mind, here are some suggestions:

1. Focus on your breathing. When breathing in, think, “be.” When breathing out, think, “calm.” Breathe in and out slowly and purposefully.

2. Spend 30 seconds (or more) allowing your attention and senses to be fully in the present. Focus on simple, tactile pleasures; the scent of pine needles on a tree, a fabric’s texture against your fingers, or the taste and aroma of homemade bread.

3. Label your negative thoughts.  Categorize them as “judgment,” “fear,” or “reliving the past,” as they pass through your mind.  Then, redirect your attention back to the here and now.

4. Understand that you may have been programmed to engage in a negative way of thinking, and with this understanding, recognize that you have the choice to turn toward positivity instead. Many of us come to realize negativity has somehow become our “default” way of thinking, and we had been moving through life on autopilot.

Work on generating those positive chemicals: oxytocin and dopamine. Repeat in your mind:

  • May I be at peace
  • May I be healed
  • May I send out loving kindness to others
  • May you be at peace
  • May you be healed
  • May you be filled with loving kindness

5. Notice when you feel moments of joy, and focus on what brought you that joy.

6. Notice when you feel jealous or resentful and ask yourself why that happened. If a negative thought finds its way through, simply notice and acknowledge that thought, then return to the moment.

8.   Forgive yourself.  Say, “For the ways I was jealous or resentful, may I forgive myself.”

9.   Give appreciation to yourself.  Appreciate when you have offered kindness and love to others.

10. Notice the many blessing around you.  Consider writing down these blessings as the day ends.

11. Intend to look for joy, love, and miracles around you.  If you have trouble noticing such things, ask yourself why.

12. Set “mindfulness alerts” as reminders to stop during the day and experience the moment.

Dr. Linda MilesDr. Linda Miles is a leading expert on relationships and mindfulness. She is a psychotherapist, author, media expert and speaker. She has studied and worked in her field of counseling psychology for over 30 years and often speaks about mindfulness, stress reduction, mental health and relationships. Dr. Miles is personable and accessible in her books, articles and talks about how mindfulness and loving kindness can positively change your brain, your chemistry and your life. She can be reached at www.DrLindaMiles.com or followed on Twitter.

 

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rebounding

How to Tell If The Person You’re Dating Is Rebounding

Rebounding often has a negative connotation, but rebounding is not necessarily negative. Relationships may end making us better or bitter. Over three decades as a licensed and marriage and family therapist, I have watched many people end relationships and move on to make healthier choices. The definition of rebound refers to an object hitting a hard surface and bouncing back. There can be healthy rebounds.

How can you tell if someone is rebounding in an unhealthy way into a new relationship?

What Is Their Attitude Toward the Last Relationship?

Since the opposite of love is not hate but indifference, a rebounding partner who still maintains a significant degree of anger is probably not ready to begin anew. Such people will need some time and space to understand the part they played in the former destructive relational dance that should not be repeated. When there remains inordinate shame and blame it is unlikely that a person is ready to move on.

Are You Trying to Rescue Them?

Another red flag is when the potential new partner continues to feel a need to rescue the person from the former relationship. If stuck in roles as rescuer, victim or a persecutor in relation to former partner it is unlikely he/she is ready to begin with someone new.

I will give you a couple examples of healthy and unhealthy and rebounds:

Jerry was a 50-year-old who initially came in for marriage counseling with his wife. In the process they made a decision to divorce. He remained in therapy for another six months and examined the part that he had played in behaviors that led to divorce. He had been critical and at times contemptuous of her and she responded by being defensive and building an emotional wall. He was determined to change those patterns in future relationships and met and married someone else the next year. He has gone on to create an extraordinarily strong marriage.

On the other hand, an example of an unhealthy rebound was a 35-year-old woman with two children who caustically blamed her husband for all their problems. She remained unwilling to look at her choices and part that she played in the destructive patterns. She rebounded quickly into another marriage after her divorce. In the beginning things went well because she ranted about her ex-husband and her new husband saw himself as of white knight who came to the rescue. Within two years, she began to blame her new husband for their problems and demonized him in her mind. Despite his willingness to work on the marriage, she separated and rebounded quickly into yet another relationship.

Rebounding is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. It depends upon one’s attitude and whether the person becomes bitter or better.

About Dr. Linda Miles

Dr. Linda Miles has worked in the field of mental health for over thirty years as psychotherapist, consultant, educator and writer.

She has appeared on national television, radio and in magazines such as Woman’s World, Parents and Entrepreneur. She wrote the award-winning book The New Marriage, Transcending the Happily Ever After Myth with her husband, Dr. Robert Miles. Recently she has published:

Dr. Miles has also served the mental health community through public service, including on the National Advisory Board of Access Technologies Social Simentor Model for Intervention with Autism and the Florida Commission on Support Initiatives for Marriage and Family. She has received several professional awards for her service, such as the “Outstanding Educator in Business and Industry” award from Florida State University and the “Outstanding Contributions to Knowledge in the Practice of Marriage and Family Therapy” award from the Tallahassee Association of Marriage and Family Therapy.

Dr. Miles has a continued passion for creating a better world through loving relationships. Visit her online at www.DrLindaMiles.com

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jealousy

Slaying the Green-Eyed Dragon: A Lesson in Jealousy

  • Do you discuss problems in your relationship with friends or family instead of with your partner?
  • Do you often find yourself feeling or acting judgmental towards your partner?
  • Do you allow negative feelings—about your partner or relationship—to fester, and discover that they are ignited or further fueled by conversations with friends and family?

WHEN JEALOUSY IS IGNITED

Perhaps one of the most classic stories about secrecy and jealousy is that once penned by Shakespeare—the tragic tale of Othello. The play delves into the consequences of a closed communication within a relationship: hiding true feelings from one’s partner and instead discussing problems, concerns, and suspicions with other people who may not have your best interests—or your relationship’s best interests—at heart. Shakespeare’s play, as timeless today as it was when it was written in the early 1600’s, reveals a frightening scenario of what can ensue from marinating negative emotions—something that’s sadly all too common in our culture.

Othello, the protagonist of the play, is a black Moor and a General in the Venetian army who falls in love with the beautiful Caucasian Desdemona, an esteemed Senator’s daughter. Though they marry for love—and are both genuinely in love with one another—Othello can’t bring himself to truly believe in his good fortune. It seems he can’t believe and thus trust that Desdemona unconditionally loves him despite their cultural and social differences. Instead of sharing these emotions and thoughts with her, he instead marinates in his own insecurities. Worse, he confides in Iago—a man whom Othello considers a trustworthy friend, but who in fact has his own evil agenda to undermine the marriage due to his own jealousy at Othello’s success and the couple’s apparent happiness.

Iago proves to be greatly manipulative; as Othello opens up to him and shares his private insecurities, Iago fuels these insecurities and fears, ultimately convincing Othello that the lovely Desdemona has been an unfaithful wife. Othello, plagued by his fears, succumbs to jealousy; this jealousy, in turn, ignites such a rage in him that he actually murders his wife. Upon realizing—too late—Iago’s manipulative nature and lies, Othello then commits suicide.  

While this may seem like an extreme example of how insecurity, jealousy, and clinging to grievances all fuel resentment in the most lethal way, it is an apt representation of how marinating in negative emotions leads only to a darker perception of—and reaction to—reality. Life is, after all, 5% what happens to us and 95% how we react to it. Othello’s tragedy exemplifies the importance of examining personal insecurities, fears, and projections, and trying first to resolve them within a relationship before turning to those who feed off of—and contribute to—the negativity.  

“O! beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock, the meat it feeds on.” –William Shakespeare, Othello

NOW

We are all human; we are each a living embodiment of light and shadow, of yin and yang. By looking objectively at ourselves and opening up to our partner about our journey, we move towards better and away from bitter. The NOW strategy reveals how Othello trapped himself in a downward spiral of toxic thoughts and feelings, allowing the negative influence of others to further chain him down…

 

  • Notice that Othello never asked the questions that he needed to directly ask his wife. He had nothing to lose—and everything to gain—if he’d approached Desdemona to talk to her about his fears and concerns from the very beginning. With open communication and mutual trust, they could have worked to forge an unbreakable bond that would ensure their lifelong commitment, love, and joy together. Even if (despite being driven by his doubts, fueled by Iago), Othello had thought to confront his wife at the last moment in a calm and reasonable manner, he would have given her a chance to open his eyes to the truth.  
  • Opportunities… were plentiful for Othello to see that he was clearly projecting his own insecurities on Desdemona; he did not see her as a unique woman and his worthy partner in whom he could confide—instead, she was the mirror for his deep-seated fears. Had he allowed himself to step back and examine more clearly his own feelings and the cause of those feelings, Othello would have given himself the opportunity to question his thoughts and reactions before reaching the point of no return.
  • Within… The biggest journey and battle Othello would have ever taken in his life—a famed Venetian General (and actually one of the first black heroes in English literature)—would be the journey of self-discovery. Such an exploration always begins within oneself. He could have discovered and deciphered the venomous stories he told himself and would then be able to choose to be better instead of bitter.

“Jealousy—tormenting yourself, for fear you should be tormented by another.” –Paul Chatfield

THE PATH TO MINDFULNESS

Relationships can truly make or break us—but their power to influence us is at whatever degree we give them; it depends on us. Through relationships, we have the power to grow and improve alongside our partner. The best relationships, indeed, are those that make you say “he/she makes me want to be a better person”—and ideally the feeling is mutual. It’s a journey you embark on together. It’s something you must work on daily, providing compassion for both yourself and your partner, exposing yourself and becoming vulnerable to true intimacy. It’s the only way to fully live.

Unlike Othello, it is best if you realize it sooner rather than later.

In my years as a psychotherapist, I’ve seen countless people turn away from their partner and seek, instead, the solace of friends and family, when their first choice should have been their partner. Too often, the problem escalates just because well-meaning people fuel the flames of fears and insecurities; these friends or family members may even have the best intentions, but they give bad advice just because they can’t imagine that that their loved one might be telling them only half of the story: their perception of the story, biased by grudges or insecurities.

I remember one couple that was undergoing therapy to overcome their toxic feelings towards each other, and I called out the husband because he clearly believed that he played no part in their destructive dance. My approach was to use humor to soften the blow; I turned and asked him: “You think you’re a cupcake, don’t you?” He laughed at the metaphor but I noted that it did hit home; from that day, he began tackling the very difficult task of examining the part that he played in their mutual grudge story, and then at last accepting accountability for his own actions. Years later after the therapy’s successful completion, I happened to run into him again; he told me that when his female neighbor had once visited and tried to complain about all her husband’s shortcomings, my former client told her to come back when she knew she was not a cupcake.

It’s remarkably easy to begin a destructive dance within a relationship. Mindfulness can prevent this by providing the self-awareness and focus needed to ground oneself—and therefore the ability to assess a situation and calmly respond. It provides these tools to change the dance steps. It enables responses, not reactions. Sometimes all it takes is sitting out the dance, learning to watch, and becoming curious about how it proceeds.

You can change your steps once you mind the music.  

“It is also good to love: because love is difficult. For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us … loving does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person (for what would a union be of two people who are unclarified, unfinished, and still incoherent?); it is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself … for the sake of another person.” –Rainer Maria Rilke

PRACTICE

In healthy and happy relationships, the rights of the individual are inexpiably tied to the family; members are able to be close yet separate. That is a dance which we work to perfect all our lives. The maxim, “Love one another as thyself” is a natural, guiding principle in successful relationships.

Do you love yourself? Othello’s insecurities, self-doubt, and self-loathing inevitably ate him alive. Learning to change your inner narrative is a challenging process, but the rewards are invaluable as you learn to live and act from a source of love instead of anger and fear. Through mindfulness practice, you learn to shine your inner light onto the world, casting it gently and without judgment.

When your partner hurts or angers you, use mindfulness to bring compassion to your partner by stepping back and watching how the dance between both of you unfolded. Seek to understand why your partner uses destructive steps and how you follow. Recall times that you might have done or said something similar and begin to see your partner and yourself as flawed human beings. As you soften your thoughts you will notice a shifting away from thinking of the other person as villain and you as victim.

  • Step back.
  • Seek to understand the pattern of the dance.
  • Recall times you have also mis-stepped; you, too, are beautifully flawed.
  • De-vilify your partner and de-victimize yourself; soften your thoughts by watching the dance objectively.
  • Choose a difference step; begin a different dance.

You will be better able to see the part you play in a negative dance and move in the direction of love and healing. A famous family therapist and researcher, Dr. Sue Johnson, notes that couples begin to change when they soften towards one another. Remember that healing your relationship begins by healing yourself; healing yourself is done by adjusting your perspective and mentality.

“The door to the human heart can be opened only from the inside.” –Spanish Proverb

How do couples keep the flames alive and glowing without burning out? How can you remain the best of lovers and the best of friends? Find out in Friendship On Fire.

getting married

Marriage: How to Remain The Best of Lovers and The Best of Friends

Are you getting married? Or newly married? Have you wondered, “How do we remain the best of lovers and the best of friends after we’re married? Is it possible for us to stay in love for decades? Can our love last? Can we live our dreams and still live in reality?” The answer is yes, but you will need a map for your long journey of life together. 

As a marriage and family therapist for over thirty years, Dr. Linda Miles has lived the questions of how to manage the energies of love on a daily basis.  Based on her work and counseling sessions with couples – and her personal experiences – she has prepared a practical and engaging book that shares how it is to live and enjoy good relationships by building it on Friendship on Fire.  Only when a couple establishes a loving and lasting connection that they will have a fulfilling union.

So what is it?  How does one achieve Friendship on Fire?  Let Dr. Linda Miles share the ways good relationships give life.  For you to enjoy a compassionate, sensual, and lasting bond, you have to find your true home with your partner.  Friendship on Fire is the key; the friendship will offer safety and the fire will provide the sparks in your connection.

Love is a fire.  Like a fire, it explodes then it gradually dies down.  It’s up to you to keep the fire aglow.  You hold the matches so you have to keep the fire under control.  Let Dr. Linda Miles share some secrets to successful and lasting relationships based on real life  Friendships on Fire….couples who have been married for 30,40 or 50 years whose brain scan still look like teenagers in love without the anxiety.

Commitment Ignites Great Sex

Laura was a middle-aged woman with a lasting and loving marriage to Hugh. Her parents were strong models of a Friendship on Fire. As a child, she shared a bedroom with her sister and her bed happened to be next to the wall of her parents’ bedroom. Most nights, she went to sleep to the sound of her parents’ laughter.

When she was a teenager, she figured out that after many years of marriage her parents still shared a joyful intimacy. She thought that all children grew up with parents who ended their day with a joyful and loving connection. As a result she sought out and married a happy and loving man.

Masters and Johnson referred to good sex as, two children under the sheets.” In order to have this kind of physical intimacy you must be able to let go and relax. Orgasm is about letting go. It takes time for a couple to learn how to pleasure one another in a way that meets individual needs and invites the process of letting go. You may find temporary release and passion with a stranger, but it takes time to develop mutually satisfying and rewarding physical intimacy that honors who you really are.

If you have sex with a stranger there are many questions: Can I trust this person? Who else has he/she been with? Is it safe? What does he/she think about cellulite? Does he/she like my size and shape?

Think about a phrase from the theme song for the  television show, Crime Scene Investigation (CSI): “Who are you?” Do you consider the risk you may be taking when you decide to bare all and get intimate with someone you don’t know?

A new sexual relationships may not be like those in magazines or romance novels. Sex doesn’t always work with a new partner. Often you are in trying-to-impress mode, which means you are not your real self and may not feel safe enough to let go. Or you try to second guess to impress and decide to try some new techniques wondering if this is the right thing to do with this new partner.

Studies from the University of Chicago show great sex happens most often with safety and commitment. Mature loving is resolute, not restless. There is a level of comfort, reassurance, and satisfaction within the level of commitment you have for one another.

friendship on fireSo what is it?  How does one achieve Friendship on Fire?  Let Dr. Linda Miles share the ways good relationships give life.  For you to enjoy a compassionate, sensual, and lasting bond, you have to find your true home with your partner.  Friendship on Fire is the key; the friendship will offer safety and the fire will provide the sparks in your connection.

Love is a fire.  Like a fire, it explodes then it gradually dies down.  It’s up to you to keep the fire aglow.  You hold the matches so you have to keep the fire under control.  Let Dr. Linda Miles share some secrets to successful and lasting relationships based on real life Friendships on Fire….couples who have been married for 30,40 or 50 years whose brain scan still look like teenagers in love without the anxiety.

How do couples keep the flames alive and glowing without burning out? How can you remain the best of lovers and the best of friends? Find out in Friendship On Fire.

Tamia & James Ingram – How Do You Keep The Music Playing

Feature Image: Copyright Tverdokhlib / BigstockPhoto.com

dating someone with anxiety

Dating Someone With Anxiety

Dr. Linda MilesWhen you’re dating someone with anxiety you are in for a different experience than the norm. You’ll want to be prepared for what could come up.

What should you be prepared for?

Remember that those with anxiety disorders may have fears that you consider irrational. It is not helpful to argue with their logic because the response is emotional. It is best for you to remain calm. It will help your partner calm down. You also need to be aware that there are changes in brain chemistry in someone with an anxiety disorder resulting in an overactive sympathetic nervous system change resulting in very real symptoms such as pounding heart, sweating, dizziness, and nervousness.

How do you handle certain situations?

PLAN AHEAD about what to do in the case of extreme anxiety in your partner. For example, if you are going to a party with a partner with high anxiety, be sure you take your own car so that you can leave if needed.

mindfulnessPRACTICE Mindfulness with your partner. I have a book titled Change Your Story, Change Your Brain with many practices and there are resources through UCLAMindfulness.com and Dukemindfulness.com. UCLA and Duke also offer phone courses that couples can take together.

What are the biggest challenges?

A good example of the typical challenges faced by couples who have one partner with anxiety disorder is a couple that I saw in therapy. Let’s call them Jim and Jane. Jim had a severe anxiety disorder and Jane would try to argue him out of his fears. He felt deeply misunderstood. He was trying his best to act normal around the family and this took a great deal of energy.

It was extremely helpful when Jane was able to let Jim know that she understood he was struggling instead of arguing. They also agreed that she would attend more of the group functions she enjoyed without him when he was feeling too symptomatic. He agreed to continue to find effective ways to deal with his anxiety.

It is a challenge to understand why a person with anxiety disorder retreats to a corner or avoids social contact without understanding the symptoms such contact may trigger including PHYSICAL effects like racing heart, sweating, dry mouth, dizziness; PSYCHOLOGICAL effects like persistent worry and EMOTIONAL effects such as extreme fear.

Compassion and calm are two of the best coping mechanisms in a partner. Anxiety is a very treatable condition so hopefully, therapy will be a consideration if needed.

mindfulness

Out of Your Head and Into Your Soul

“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.” –Jon Kabat-Zinn

. . .

Do you fear that you’re missing out on life?

Are you waiting for something? To be loved? To be successful? To be happy?

Do you often feel like life is simply carrying you along, as something beyond your control?

 

In ancient Greek mythology, Narcissus was a beautiful youth who caught sight of his reflection in a pond one day and became completely enamored with it. It is said that he lay down by the water to gaze at his face, growing obsessed with his own image. Since he was unable to obtain the object of his desire, he died where he lay, overcome by grief. Sounds pathetic, but in many instances it’s a frighteningly accurate metaphor. The term “narcissist” is derived from this myth, and it tellingly refers to a person who is self-enamored and self-preoccupied, often to an obsessive and dangerous degree.

In his novella The Beast in the Jungle, author Henry James introduces us to exactly such a character: John Marcher, an extremely self-centered young man who is convinced that he has been selected by fate for a special event that will occur in his lifetime. He encounters a sensitive and intelligent young woman, May Bartram, who listens to John’s theory concerning his personal foreboding and conviction that he’s destined for greatness. May offers her friendship and agrees to watch and wait with John until this special fate comes to fruition. For many years, John sits idly and refuses to let May get close to him, ignoring the love of a good woman and killing time as he waits for his “spectacular fate”.

The story unravels to become a tale of lost life and lost love; it is only after May dies that John realizes that he’s missed most of his life—and the opportunity for true love—while waiting for a rare, strange, and self-concocted “event” that never happens. By living in his head and focusing on a fantasy, he missed the true meaning of life. He missed out on friendship, love, purpose, adventure, discovery, and self-growth. Gambling for nothing, he lost everything.

Narcissists typically do not empathize nor can they appreciate the beauty of the life that surrounds them. They exist at the opposite end of the spectrum as opposed to mindfulness. John “woke up” when May died; this was the emotional event that triggered his realization—too late—that life extended beyond himself.

Mindfulness is about exactly that: waking up to the world and connecting with life.

. . .

“By breaking down our sense of self-importance, all we lose is a parasite that has long infected our minds. What we gain in return is freedom, openness of mind, spontaneity, simplicity, altruism: all qualities inherent in happiness.” –Mathieu Ricard

. . .

As a teacher of mindfulness meditation and the founder of the University of Massachusetts’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program, Jon Kabat-Zinn says:

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

By cultivating conscious awareness of the present moment, we extract ourselves from our own toxic thought patterns. By learning to sense and see and appreciate life, we need not regret an unfulfilled existence. Mindfulness is a practice that can immediately ground us back into the world, helping us delve within ourselves while simultaneously shifting us beyond ourselves.

As mindfulness is all about “living in the now”, the idea suitably circles back to the NOW philosophy:

  • Notice.

Look around you and experience the life and love that surrounds you. It is right beside you! If you haven’t seen it, open your eyes and your mind. It’s easy to remove those mental blinders and barriers, as long as you truly want to.

  • Opportunities.

Seek out and you shall find opportunities to grow and connect with life without judging yourself. By staying in the moment with those who are nearest and dearest to us, we can cultivate compassion, love, kindness, and morality within us—and then extend this compassionate attitude towards others.

  • Within.

By becoming more mindful, you will achieve a stronger inner peace. It is foremost beneficial to you, and then—from you—it explodes tenfold out into the world around you. You can be deeply affected by the people around you, and can gain insight from and power over their thoughts; never forget that this is mutual—so work to make a positive impact.

. . .

“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).” –James Baraz

. . .

Not sure where to start? Dr. Kabat-Zinn lists the following simple exercises as key components to mastering mindfulness:

  • Pay attention to your breathing in the present moment.
  • Notice what you’re sensing right now—use all of your senses. What can you see, hear, smell, touch, and taste? Increase your awareness of your body’s physical sensations to better ground yourself in the moment.
  • Understand that your thoughts and emotions are like clouds. They will come and go and will always pass through; they need not define you.
  • Keep a look-out for negative thought patterns so that you recognize them and then can make changes.

Get out of your head and get into your soul. Don’t waste life—live it. And begin living it now. If you do it now, you will always have time.

. . .

“In this moment, there is plenty of time. In this moment, you are precisely as you should be. In this moment, there is infinite possibility.” –Victoria Moran

mindfulness

Choose Joy: Using Mindfulness to Increase Joy in Your Life

  • Do you want more joy in your life?
  • Do you dwell on the negative in your day?
  • Do you want to live more in the present moment?

“For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half-lived life.”

                                          Melville

Leah, a middle-aged administrative assistant, had a history of depression. She had experienced problems in her past relationships and isolated herself because she felt like a loser. She did not want to repeat that pattern, but her new partner began to complain that she was always negative.

Leah sought help to learn mindfulness to help her become aware of her negative thought patterns. She tended to apply a negative filter to her thinking. Cognitive psychologists have found that this type of despondent thinking is prevalent in those with depression and can be changed. Negative filter thinking refers to when we focus on the negative and discount the positive. The brain is like glue for negative and Teflon for positive. Leah started to notice the Teflon effect when she was given compliments or positive attention, and she observed the frequency of sticky negative thoughts.

Leah realized that she learned this way of thinking as she grew up and the fact that she could change her thinking and behavior gave her hope. Many people were raised in households with little joy and ample negative thought and behavioral patterns. Our models for thinking about the world are formed at young ages and become unconscious. By gently shining a light on inner-injurious thoughts without judging herself, Leah was able to become aware of why she felt and acted as she did. Through her practice of mindfulness, she could live more fully in the present moment.

By slowing down and experiencing the moment it is possible to feel more alive, and you’ll find that sensory perceptions are heightened. It is too easy to rush through life and not take a few minutes to enjoy the simple things. Leah began a practice of staying in the present moment and experiencing joy in simple acts like washing dishes. She let herself take in the lemony aroma of the soap. She slowed down for a few special moments to experience the feeling of the soap on her hands.

By developing mindfulness skills she learned to be able to focus on the now and the pleasure of the moment. Joyful moments began to be sticky while her negative thinking became more like Teflon. Since thought and feelings are meant to come and go, she practiced letting go of  the detrimental glue of her negative preoccupation. As her focus changed to appreciation and celebration of life, she began to notice joy, love, and miracles in the everyday.

As Leah’s inner experience began to change, she smiled more and spoke more positively about life. Relationship researcher Dr. John Gottman has shown that couples who thrive over time have a 5 to 1 ratio of positive interactions over negative ones. Leah’s relationship improved as her negative filter weakened and she could expand her experience of  joy. Research has shown that mindfulness practice can help those suffering with depression. Symptoms of depression are reduced with a regular practice and parts of the brain associated with negative arousal shrink in size. Volume and activity in brain centers associated with calm awareness are increased.

Choosing Joy

  • Savoring moments of joy, like holding the hand of a baby, playing with a puppy, or stepping on fall leaves becomes a thought habit and the brain likes to repeats habitual ways of thinking.
  • The feeling of joy is a practice; As you practice, your brain wires neural networks to fire in the direction of joyful thinking.
  • As neuroscientist Dr. Wayne Drevets observed, “In the brain practice makes permanent.” Fortunately because of neuorplasticity, we can reroute our brains in the direction of gladness at any age. 
  • Notice if your thoughts are Teflon for positive and glue for the negative. Imagine letting thoughts pass through your mind like clouds overhead.
  • Imagine a neural railway and that you’re laying track toward enticing stations.
  • Look for joy in everyday things; open your eyes and imagination. Practice staying present in your body. Learn to focus as you experience moments in the day. Let your attention come into your senses as Leah did by smelling the soap when washing dishes and feeling her hands in the water.
  • Develop a simple practice of mindfulness and practice it daily to increase your ability to feel joy in the moment. So much of life is spent replaying what happened in the past or imagining what might happen in the future that people do not fully experience the present.
  • As you practice mindfulness you begin to realize that you can choose joy in the moment by getting away from repeating negative thought patterns and using your senses to fully experience the gifts of the present moment.

Your Turn

Take a moment to close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Breathe deeply using your diaphragm. Let your attention scan your body. Notice places of tightness or tension. Imagine that the tension is a knot and in your mind release the knot gently. Let it go. Feel the tension loosen.

Imagine a time when you were very happy. Allow yourself to experience that feeling. How does your body change as you recall this memory? Open your eyes and look around the room until you see something that gives you pleasure—a picture, a book, flowers. Allow your attention to linger on that sensation.

Train your brain to go to places of peace and joy. Set an intention to focus on joy instead of attack thoughts. As you do this you may experience small changes in your mood. Over time, your ability to choose joy and peace of mind will increase.

You will find if you practice this throughout the day, even for a moment at a time, you will see objects in more detail and begin to experience peaceful joy.

There is no right way to practice noticing your past thoughts and recreating them in the present. Keep trying this until it feels right for you. This is a very simple practice, however most people do not do it long enough to really make a difference. Make a commitment to set a time to practice. You can set a chime to ring on your phone as a reminder. You can do this alone or with others.

mindfulness

 

Change Your Story, Change Your Life
by Dr. Linda Miles

Do you feel as if someone else is writing the story of your life? Learn to program your brain to live with purpose. Change Your Story: Change Your Brain is a guide to living more fully in the present moment. As you live with greater intention, you can literally change the structure of your brain.

Click here to learn more.

 

choose the right partner

How to Consciously Choose the Right Partner

Dr. Linda MilesThere’s nothing worse than getting deep into a relationship and then suddenly realizing that you’ve made a poor choice. Before you get into a committed relationship with someone new, it’s important to avoid some of the common mistakes.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is becoming a “dopamine dope.” In the early stages of a relationship a chemical called dopamine is secreted in the brain that results in a high. It diminishes your ability to think clearly and see your partner objectively.
Too many people focus on making a great impression instead of keeping in mind what they want, being true to themselves and enjoying the present moment without jumping to conclusions. By taking time, you can get to know your partner and measure whether you have safety and connection.

Here is a Guide for Conscious Choices in a Partner.

  1. Kindness and Respect – The expression, “we should treat family like strangers and strangers like family,” is indicative of the amount of disrespect that is tolerated in relationships. This attitude is a barrier to the basic building blocks of long-term goodwill and respect.
  2. Ability To Learn: Curiosity – Although it is normal to have disagreements and power struggles, many couples fail to learn from conflicts and may repeat the same self-destructive scenarios and behaviors for decades.  We shouldn’t talk unless we can improve on silence.  As James Thurber noted, our tendency is to look back in anger or forward in fear, instead of “around in awareness.”
  3. Flexibility – Many people grew up in rigid families, with rigid roles. Consequently, it doesn’t occur to them to let go of patterns that clearly aren’t working.
  4. Ability To Hear Your Pain – This is what often brings couples into therapy, because they have not learned to sit and listen to one another with empathy and compassion.
  5. A Deep Inner Life On A Personal Journey – Often couples becomes too fused together, losing their individual joys and passions.
  6. Similar Passions – (Ability to have many varied good times together) – Many couples lose their pleasure bond with each other, sharing mostly complaints and drudge.
  7. Similar Values – Unfortunately we read too many “happily ever after” fairy tales, instead of understanding the importance of conscious negotiation of rules, roles, religion, and money issues, early-on in couple-hood.
  8. Compassion – Many people learn “shame and blame” games in their family. They engage in rascal hunting and learn to use these behaviors in close relationships. Families fail to watch each other with “soft eyes,” (Levine 1995) in order to address problem behaviors in a gentle manner without judgment about toward partners. Often a partner will take the “moral high ground” and lecture to the other about perceived inadequacies. Instead, of compassion shared between two equals, partners often relate to each other like they are parents of children.
  9. Ability To Laugh At Ones Self – Because many people grew up in a shame-blame environment, it is difficult for them to look at themselves lightly.
  10. Substance Abuse, Dishonesty, Cover-up – A lack of knowledge about substance abuse introduces a wild card into relationships. Also, dishonesty and cover-up cause a build-up of bad feelings, becoming ”brown stamps.”  This can lead to what I call the “anchovy pizza” syndrome. In my practice I have seen countless couples who’ve saved “brown stamps” of bad feelings, until they are ready to cash them in at the break-up redemption center. In one such case, a woman saved book after book of bad feelings about her husband’s inability to hear her needs. The last stamp was pasted when he ordered an anchovy pizza. She hated anchovies. Then, she announced, to his shock, that the pizza was the last food he’d ever order for her, because she wanted a divorce.
  11. Ability To Be A Friend And Not Just A Lover – Passion without friendship in relationships, is like doing somersaults on a circus trapeze without a safety net.
  12. Someone Who Makes Your Life Bigger, Not Smaller – Unfortunately, too many people grew up seeing family in terms of correction-city, drudge and duty. Consequently, they perceive commitment as a prison sentence, instead of a shared adventure.

Although, this is an easy list to memorize, the difficulty lays in breaking the patterns that prevent maintenance of our desired behaviors. Peggy Papp, a famous family therapist remarked that we come out of our own family of origin with a “cookie-cutter” approach to life and it requires “heroic moments” to change the shape of our own cookie-cutters.

Visualize your dream relationship several times a day and that will help to begin to change your cookie-cutter. Focus on who and what you want, instead of who and what you don’t want. Only one person can defeat you in the endeavor, that person is you. Inner correction creates outer correction.  

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by Dr. Linda Miles

Maintaining a lasting, loving relationship starts by accepting that happily ever after is a myth. Friendship on Fire is a reality tale that gives practical and spiritual strategies for a passionate connection that lasts. Love is a fire; like a fire it explodes then when the fuel is gone it starts to die. You hold the matches needed to keep that fire aglow but under control. You are responsible for your relationship; build it on a Friendship on Fire. You need passion to keep the sparks flying and friendship for to keep them under control. Therapist Dr. Linda Miles shares secrets to successful and lasting relationships based on real life. She uses her more than thirty years of experience and research to explain what really works to keep the flames alive in simple, yet inspiring language. Friendship on Fire is loaded with tips that couples can implement to be more loving. It s up to you what you do with your matches.