Mindfulness & Meditation

My Top 7 Insights from the Past Year

Posted by on Dec 31, 2015 in Mindfulness & Meditation | 0 comments

My Top 7 Insights from the Past Year

What a year! It feels like it’s flown by but when I sit down and look at what’s happened, what I’ve accomplished and what I’ve learned in 2015…there’s much to be said. Here’s my top 7 realizations…   I’ve learned…   1.That when you deny or fail to listen to your inner truths and values, you feel it…no matter what. For me the subtle scream of my body saying no comes about in anxiety, agitation, and exhaustion. We do things for all sorts of reasons. Subconsciously, we usually do things for comfort and approval – this is what we believe we need to stay safe and in control. But when our inner truths and knowings are stronger than the comfort and approval, our bodies will show us. I have a love/hate relationship with these symptoms…they’re exhausting to experience but they always force me back onto a path that is more me.    2.That crying isn’t a bad thing…in fact, it’s a lovely thing. I used to think that crying was a form of weakness or a sure sign of being depressed. But when we suppress a natural feeling of wanting to cry, we’re not allowing ourselves to process and let go of feelings and experiences. We also create shame in ourselves – because why else would we try to hold in crying? We are shameful for wanting to cry – we begin to think we’re “a mess” or “don’t have it together”.   The truth is, crying is healthy and it can be very beneficial to process emotions. When I’m alone and I feel tears coming on…I now let em’ pour – and it feels SO GOOD. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m crying about but I know that deep down, I’m releasing something that was caught within me…releasing energy that needs to get out or else it will cause stagnation and blockages later on…(usually it turns out to be quite a quick cry because you’re actually allowing yourself to feel and process…unless the crying triggers more released energy from your past…this is when you can’t stop crying but again, it’s all stuff that needs to be released that you were holding and carrying around)   If we don’t process emotions, we end up creating behaviors and patterns to prevent us from experiencing these emotions later on…(example – if someone has somehow insulted your body and you haven’t allowed yourself to experience, feel and process these emotions, we will feel shame with our bodies when standing naked in future relationships, hence possibly causing closeness/relationship problems in the future).   Therefore…allow yourself to feel it out! And if you want to cry, cry. I have also learned that naturally, my personality type is more likely to cry (see number 3).   3.That I’m scientifically shown to be more likely to cry (and you might be too!)…and I’m shown to be more sensitive to alcohol (hence a 3-day mood decline after a night of too many drinks)…and to be more inclined to withdraw from others..and apparently I’m painfully self-aware (which now makes so much sense to me…take this lengthy reflective blog post for example).   I was reading a blog this year when I came across some listed personality tests/types that intrigued me. The two I found the most fascinating and insightful were the Enneagram (check it out here) and the Myers-Briggs Personality Test (check out here). I have learned that my natural personalities (The Individualist and the INFJ type) are highly sensitive and can be prone to melancholy when unhealthy (well shoot, I thought) BUT at their healthiest levels can be...

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We Need to Create Our Positive Emotions, Not Hope for Them

Posted by on Sep 22, 2015 in Cognitive Therapy, Featured, Mental Health, Mindfulness & Meditation | 0 comments

We Need to Create Our Positive Emotions, Not Hope for Them

Science is showing that the way we perceive and interpret things has a *HUGE* effect on our emotions and overall levels of happiness and well-being.

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A Quick Way to Dissolve Anger & Agitation

Posted by on Sep 18, 2015 in Cognitive Therapy, Mindfulness & Meditation | 0 comments

We all know those times when it feels like anger and agitation are bubbling out of us…   When we’re out in public and people are taking FOREVER to pack up their groceries…   When you’re at work or at home and other people’s ideas are absolutely ridiculous...   When you’re envisioning yourself hitting everything with pillows or baseball bats… Don’t fib… we’ve all been there 😉   I’ve been there too and honestly, I cringe to think that I’m sometimes like that.   And where does it come from?   Like really…why am I so agitated? and where is it really getting me? What am I trying to control? Does being agitated really help anything OR is it actually making my health and others health worse?   A meditation class I attended last night explained that emotions such as agitation, anger and restlessness are often signs that we’re doing too much self-cherishing.   What is self-cherishing? Self-cherishing is when we put our our needs and our own happiness ahead of others.    Eeeek. How often do you think we do this?   Answer: A LOT   Ask yourself this… when you’re wanting to get out of the grocery store quicker, are you putting others needs or your own needs first? …Why is it more important for you to get done quickly versus others?   How about when someone is complaining or venting and we’re getting impatient? What about in your romantic relationships…are you often wanting things to be a certain way mostly for yourself? Are we ever putting ourselves in their shoes and seeing their perspectives and/or their challenges?   So what’s an alternative? A very healthy and easing alternative is to decrease our self-cherishing and begin looking at all beings needs and happiness as equal.    To effectively change your perspectives when you’re becoming agitated in public say to yourself kindly… “This persons’ needs and happiness are more important than my own right now.”   Further, ask yourself: “How can I help meet this persons’ needs and happiness?”   What you’ll often notice is that your agitation and impatience dissolves.   When we shift attention away from ourselves and begin cherishing and focusing on others…our actions and intentions become much more virtuous.    I know some of you wonder, “but what if I get exhausted by meeting others needs?” or “how does using this help me?”   Just try it.   Notice if you, yourself become happier and more at peace when you put others first with compassion and patience.   It doesn’t mean we have to exhaust ourselves to do things for others and it doesn’t mean we put up with others abuse or unhealthy situations for ourselves…it simply means we bring a perspective of love and kindness to whom and what we’re dealing with. Some quotes to help with this concept: “All sufferings, obstacles, misfortunes and undesirable things come from the self-cherishing thought, from cherishing the I.” – Lama Zopa Rinpoche   “We are just one person among countless living beings, and a few moments of unpleasant feeling arising in the mind of just one person is no great catastrophe.” – Geshe Kelsang   “Whenever you experience unhappiness or depression in daily life, this is caused by the ego, the self-cherishing thought. Any obstacle to practicing Dharma or even to achieving happiness and success in this life is caused by the ego. The number of times you have suffered due to relationship problems, one after another, on and on, is all totally due to the ego. Attachment and desire arise due to the self-cherishing thought, and this creates suffering, confusion...

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Why We Get Overwhelmed and What You Can Do

Posted by on Sep 7, 2015 in Cognitive Therapy, Mental Health, Mindfulness & Meditation | 0 comments

Why We Get Overwhelmed and What You Can Do

Let’s be real…feeling stressed and overwhelmed are not pleasant feelings.   And I don’t doubt that you have your share of stressors…today’s world requires plenty of responsibility, skills and multi-tasking. There’s also a societal expectation that us women are to be “jacks of all trades”, often causing us to put unrealistic expectations on ourselves and our lives.   Although challenges and stressors are a part of life, our minds tend to function on automatic reactions, usually turning what could be looked at as a challenge, into a stressor. This is what creates those awful feelings of overwhelm, exhaustion and defeat.   But why do our minds turn challenges into stressors?!   Let’s take a look at how overwhelm works… …   So we’re moseying along throughout our day and then BOOM… a situation or challenge occurs that triggers our stress response (i.e. we open that pile of bills, your child begins uncontrollably screaming, you look in the mirror and you’re not a fan 🙁 , you get jealous with your partner, etc…)   Once our stress response is triggered (a part of the brain called the amygdala)… we get a cascade of emotional and physical responses.    These emotional and physical responses are often unpleasant, signaling to the brain that we are in danger. This is when a challenge begins to turn into a stressor.   Because we experience stressors frequently, our brains have been conditioned to think automatic thoughts once our stress response is triggered.   These could include: “I can’t handle this”, “This is too much”, “My life is a mess”, “I’m a bad wife/girlfriend/partner/mother/daughter/sister/friend”, “I’m not smart enough”, “I’m not skilled enough”, “I’m not as good as…”, etc. etc. etc.   The problem is… that often, these automatic thoughts contain what are called cognitive distortions (i.e. distorted thinking that doesn’t represent reality 100%).   Some examples of these cognitive distortions include: Disqualifying the positives: We become only focused on the negatives and they cloud our perception of our lives Jumping to Conclusions: We start jumping to worst case scenarios and we begin fearing the future without adequate evidence Labeling: We label ourselves as bad or not good enough – without taking into consideration all the effort and all the good things we do on a daily basis   As you can see, cognitive distortions are quite harsh (and an FYI…I only named 3/12 distortions there…why brain, do you have so many distortions?!). Cognitive distortions are narrow perspectives and they usually contain quite a bit of putting ourselves down and self-attack 🙁   Cognitive distortions are dangerous because they often affect our moods and we begin acting and living from a place of stress and negativity.   And our actions affect…well, everything.   But remember…   Our brains are jumping to these thoughts because the pathways of these automatic thoughts have been well used. Our brains always resort to the pathways that are the best conditioned.    So what can we do to feel less stress and overwhelm?!   HERE ARE MY TIPS FOR CATCHING THE VICIOUS STRESS & OVERWHELM CYCLE AND TAKING CONTROL OF YOUR SITUATIONS:   1. Notice when you’ve been triggered – The first step is living more consciously so that we can become more aware of when we are triggered with challenges, stress and feelings of overwhelm. Catch yourself when you feel anxiety or stress – label it as a trigger.   2. Surrender to the situation – Surrendering means accepting that the challenge is occurring. A lot of the time we resist challenges. We wish they weren’t occurring and we curse when they happen. Resisting will never help us get...

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Practicing Radical Acceptance

Posted by on Sep 4, 2015 in Cognitive Therapy, Mental Health, Mindfulness & Meditation | 0 comments

Practicing Radical Acceptance

As humans we tend to resist reality. This means with any unpleasant emotions or feelings… we tend to naturally avert the situation.   Instead of addressing core issues, often we reach out and attach to things that provide immediate gratification.   Here are a few examples: You feel stressed or in a low mood so you reach out to junk food to provide comfort You feel lonely so you reach out to distraction ideas that provide quick reassurance You feel empty or lost so you reach out for a drink to ease the tension You feel overwhelmed and discouraged so you put your goals on hold and say, “tomorrow I’ll get back into it” As I said, we’re species that like to feel good so these are natural habits! The problem though is that these coping mechanisms rarely address the actual problem and they usually bring us further from our goals and desires. What’s an alternative then? Try practicing what is called RADICAL ACCEPTANCE. Radical acceptance involves surrendering and accepting reality exactly for what it is.  Instead of resisting and pushing feelings and situations away, try… Bringing awareness to what is happening and how you’re feeling Surrendering to the situation (this simply means to stop resisting and denying reality) Choosing to radically accept what is Working with the situation and your feelings instead of against. Embrace what is happening in the Now as that is what’s happening! Please take note that radically accepting does not mean you have to like or or enjoy it. It simply means we stop resisting what actually is and we start working withthe truths of our lives instead of pushing them away 🙂 Whatever unpleasant challenges and situations you are facing right now, try bringing these affirmations into your life: “I lovingly accept this situation as reality right now.” “I accept that this challenge is occurring and choose to work with it instead of against it.” “I surrender to the flow of life and choose not to deny or resist.” “I accept my feelings and emotions. It is ok to feel what I feel.” “I accept that this is present moment and choose not to focus on the past or the future.” Radical acceptance is highly effective at releasing stress, tension and resistance in the present moment.  I hope you can give it a try with whatever you are currently facing and that it eases any tension you may be feeling. If you have any struggles or want to discuss more deeply, don’t hesitate to ask 🙂     – – – – – Radical acceptance is an example of one of the skills covered in Be Free’s 6-Week Transformation Program. Other highly effective skills we’ll be discussing and practicing include: Uncovering cognitive distortions you use the most (proven thought patterns that cause suffering – we all use them!) Thought records to decrease cognitive distortions and broaden perspectives (this helps to lower emotions such as sadness, guilt, anxiety and anger/agitation) Guided mindfulness and meditation Sentence completion activities to raise self-esteem and help us follow through on our goals and desires (Sentence completion is the most effective practice in my opinion)   There’s still spots left in the program! CLICK HERE for more details and for registration.   Have a great long weekend!...

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Who Ever Said You Can’t Do That?! + 3 Crucial Steps to Reaching Your Goals

Posted by on Jun 16, 2015 in Cognitive Therapy, Mindfulness & Meditation | 0 comments

Who Ever Said You Can’t Do That?! + 3 Crucial Steps to Reaching Your Goals

Ready for a morning feel-good wake-up call? (cause I love to give them) 😀 … Who ever told you, “YOU CAN’T DO THAT?”   We all get great ideas – ideas about a career change, ideas about a project to start, a hobby to take up, a healthy routine to follow, an adventure vacation to go on… We get fleeting feelings of excitement, motivation and confidence.   Then what happens?   You wake up and it’s gone…or worse…you go to work, come home and you forget about it. But, we don’t just simply forget about it…it’s deeper than that. If we simply forgot, maybe that’d be a better excuse.   The real reason we “forget” is because our little friend the ego comes to visit.   What’s the ego? The ego is a self-image of illusion created from our past. All of our pasts hold disappointment, hurt, regret, resentment, and perceived failure.   Our ego doesn’t like these feelings so she has made it her full-time job to keep you right where you are, safe from future hurt, disappointment and failure.     It’s a nice thought from the ego, really…she doesn’t want you to get hurt again… buuuut unfortunately she’s simply keeping you from doing SO many things!   AND the ego isn’t protecting you in the nicest way either…she’s actually kind of a b**** (pardon my language). Common things she whispers to you is:   “You could never do that” “You’re not smart enough” “That takes too much work” “You’ll mess up” “You’re not confident enough” “It’s not realistic” “You’re not pretty enough/good enough/skilled enough, etc. etc.”   Darn-nit ego, why are you being so mean?!   The problem with not going towards goals and dreams is that we listen to our egos too much. We take what she’s saying as the truth and we allow her to un-motivate us and crush our confidence. We end up staying stuck.   But “Shawnaaaaa”, you say, “You can’t just come up with great ideas, believe in them, and live in a fairytale world. We have to be realistic”. Ah yes… our world of realism. But don’t worry, I agree!   You see…the problem most people have with not following their goals and dreams is two-fold:   They listen too strongly to the ego which crushes their self-esteem, motivation and inspiration They don’t create a strategic plan and follow through on needed action steps (thus creating more space for the ego to say “I told you so”)   Truth: Following your goals and dreams is hard work. It takes a realistic plan with small daily action steps. Buuuut…you’ve already done a lot of hard work throughout your life anyways so clearly you’re capable.   And what’s worse… doing daily steps that create positive changes in your life OR waking up one day and not being satisfied with what you’ve created. Eeeeek, I cringe.   Small side note – if you think you’re “too old” (too old to try a new hobby, too old to switch jobs or start-up a side project, too old to be healthier), that’s another excuse your ego is creating. Some of the greatest first-time discoveries and creative work has been made by people in their sixties. So you my friend, have a lot of time. And if you did small things daily… think about your life at sixty! (side rant complete)   So yes, goals and dreams take strategic planning. If it’s a vacation – how can you save a bit each month? If it’s a career change – how can you slowly shift into an alternative finance-wise? OR How can you simplify your life to decrease your budget? If...

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