Tag Archives: In-The-Moment

Your Mindfulness-Food Connection

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Weight Loss

Weight Loss

Once more, mindfulness is being totally present and in the moment and avoiding judgment. So how do we connect our increased practice with mindfulness to our eating behaviors and attitude to food?

Sadly, we let our lives become so busy that things become automatic, even some of the things we should devote more of our focus and energy toward. Eating is one of them. Even if a person doesn’t have issues with overeating, it has been proven that being mindful to our food and digestion when we eat is much healthier for us.

If we teach ourselves to eat mindfully, we give ourselves the opportunity to examine what we think and how we feel which in turn affects the way we eat or don’t eat. If we can gain an understanding of this process (which is entirely unique for each one of us and is subject to change at any given time), it only stands to reason, we are that much ahead of the game at being able to better manage things we don’t believe to be in our best interest.

If I ask you what you ate today before noon and you were honest with your response, odds are it is the same thing you ate yesterday or the day before. We tend to eat habitually, many times, the same thing each and every day. This habitual eating gets us stuck in a routine that we may not even be aware we are in.

How about if I asked you what your last meal smelled like or what the texture of the main ingredient in your last dinner felt like? It is more than likely you would have to think about it now and this would be the first and only time you will have given it this type of attention. When we eat mindfully, we experience each bite of the food we eat. Try it!

Texting

Texting

What about the percentage of your attention and focus that went into your last meal or snack? Were you in texting someone while munching on your salad? What about your last snack? Were you reading something that took up much of your focus? If you want to eat mindfully, you will need to just eat when you eat.

Do you pay attention to how hungry you are before and while you eat? If you set yourself up some type of internal scale with which to measure your degree of hunger during your meal, you can reconnect with when you have had enough to eat to satisfy your hunger and avoid overeating (or at least have a better chance at avoiding it).

Magic of Mindfulness

Magic of Mindfulness

Something mindfulness has been super effective at teaching me is that a thought is just a thought and a feeling is just a feeling. Neither are facts. If you eat mindfully, you also will be more aware of the thoughts and feelings you experience while you eat and be more able to avoid incorrect thinking that could negatively affect how much or the type of foods you choose.

Practicing the mindfulness eating connection routinely and effectively can be one of the most powerful tools in your weight loss or healthy weight maintenance toolkit.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

Mindfulness and Trauma

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Stability

Stability

Mindfulness is about stabilizing. Studies have shown that people who have experienced trauma can benefit highly from this type of work. (Cullen, 2011). When people have experienced trauma, they can be challenged with high levels of stress, anxiety and depression at any time.

When we increase focus, stress and anxiety decreases, and as insight increases, depression may also be reduced. The implications of effective mindfulness on these specific features are truly significant and the more studies that are being done, the stronger the evidence of effective results of mindfulness.

When a person experiences trauma, racing thoughts and chain reactions of distressed thinking and intense emotions are more frequent, more intense and can last for longer periods of time. The thought pattern easily becomes negative and thereby creates greater levels of anxiety and depression, especially if ignored.

What mindfulness does is brings us into the present moment. Being in the present is provides direct opposition to the racing thoughts which are based in the past, thoughts about things that have happened, or based in the future, worrying about things that might happen. When we practice mindfulness, we pull away from these past and future thinking patterns and redirect ourselves into the moment, grounding ourselves in the present where we regain the ability to address the negative emotions of anxiety, stress and depression that are associated with our thoughts.
We can, for example, tell ourselves that in the present moment, there is nothing bad or harmful occurring to us. We are most likely sitting or lying quite comfortably in a safe place where we can focus on slowing down our breathing and letting the negative feelings go as we exhale. We can ground ourselves and regain our stability, acknowledging the feelings but proving to ourselves that in this present moment, we are okay…we are fine…and we are safe.
We have managed to regain control over the intense emotions that were beginning to overwhelm us. We have become more aware, more able to calm ourselves and less of a victim to our run-away thoughts.

Kabbat-Zin (1994) provides this definition of mindfulness: “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” We are actually doing an awful lot although it seems we are doing nothing. We are freeing ourselves and giving ourselves permission to just be in the moment. And it is extremely soothing. It is like allowing our mind to float and just immerse itself in now.

It is very important for people to work out their own form of practicing mindfulness, something that works for them. I strongly advise people to do some research on it and see what feels like it might be a way to begin your personal journey.

Attention

Attention

Remember that the point is NOT to empty our thoughts but rather to pay attention to them in a purposeful way without judging them and then refocus attention onto whatever it is you were focusing on prior to the thought popping up. Mindfulness is a journey of exploration, discovering sounds, textures, shapes, temperatures, things that always exist but that we don’t focus on because we are not being mindful to them.

If you are just starting out, I suggest just a 10 minute exercise in which you find something to focus on, an object to look at or hold perhaps. It is wonderful if you become adept enough at it to practice it when you begin to notice any negative thoughts or symptoms that you are trying to decrease such as depression, racing or distressing thoughts, etc.

Snoopy Writing

Snoopy Writing

There is a wealth of information available on mindfulness as more and more people are finding it beneficial to many different situations they encounter. I would love to hear from you about your mindfulness journey and results. Feel free to comment or contact me directly.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

Interior Vs. Exterior

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Internal Image

Internal Image

There is so much more to be said for the topic of mindfulness. One image that continues to come back to me each time I start to write about it, is that of shadow boxing. When we are in a situation in which we are not able to see or understand whatever it is we have to undertake, there is no way we can be very effective with it.

The more we understand the task we are faced with, the better we can accomplish it. That seems like it would be such an indisputable fact that it boggles my mind when it comes to issues like anxiety, depression or emotional struggles we may have.

That is not to say that we all need to obtain a PhD is psychology or biology, but it does speak clearly to emotional awareness and mindfulness. Nobody knows better how we are feeling that we do. And nothing helps us get more in touch with how we feel than learning how to zero in on the moment and experience it more fully by focusing on it more intently.

By shifting our focus from the external to the internal and then back again brings a new level of awareness and depth to the way we experience life.

How Much Time

Balance

Balance

Finding a balance is key. It doesn’t help us to dwell on our feelings or sensations for too long; in fact, it could actually become counter-productive if we do. And, conversely, it isn’t effective if we don’t spend enough time and attention to our inner feelings, because we can’t truly get in touch with what is going on unless we experience it.

A good springboard is approximately 20-30 minutes a day. And, as with developing any habit, it takes our brain 30 days to learn a new routine. Devoting more time than that is not helpful and as I mentioned, it can be counter productive. The idea is to experience sensations, not to think about them too much or to focus on them beyond the allotted time.

Internal Benefits

When something goes wrong inside our bodies, if it is not easy to detect outwardly like symptoms of a cold or flu, a physician will call for testing that delves deeper like blood work, x-rays, scans or even an MRI.

I see mindfulness as the emotional equivalent of that. And the great news is that it is much less expensive! It does, however, require a lot more courage and commitment. For most of us, it is coming face to face with fear, anxiety, rage, sadness and emptiness. These are not the types of things we look forward to experiencing and yet, becoming mindful means we are voluntarily opting to experience them.

Meditatinon  and Yoga

However, by allocating a time and a place to let them come up, we become free of the fear they hold over us.

Very rarely are emotions released in a crazed rush that overwhelms or overtakes us. It is much more like time released vitamins or medication. The process is a gradual, slow and steady one. Our emotional ‘wounds’ can take days, weeks or even months to release and heal.

But if you stay devoted and committed to the practice of mindfulness, you will find that you truly hold the key to making your life better.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

The How To’s of Mindfulness

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Habits

Habits

If we wish to learn a new habit, there is much documentation to support that we need to spend approximately a month repeating the new behavior in order to get it to become routine in any way. We learn better slowly, giving our brains time to process and absorb and finally retain important pieces of information and behaviors that we wish to repeat and incorporate as part of our regular activities.

Having said that, mindfulness cannot truly be effective until it becomes a habit. And as we have stated earlier, mindfulness is something that we practice, allowing it to become more comfortable and familiar the more we practice.

Digging deep inside to learn more about who we are and what we feel takes determination and courage. Self exploration into the depths of our being means we will be confronting the sensations (feelings) associated with some of the most significant events we have faced in our lives. There are going to be intense emotions that will most likely come up.

Strong Emotions1

But if we choose to follow a path of mindfulness, we are willing to face them anyway. I strongly encourage anyone willing to follow this type of path of self-discovery to keep this in mind and take some time each day to recognize just how wonderful what you are doing is. Realize how brave you are being and praise yourself for taking these steps. I am 100% certain you would do at least as much for someone else if you learned that they were undertaking something like this.

Be gentle with yourself throughout the process. Make sure you have set up a system of support for yourself, a friend or two who you can talk to anytime about what you discover. You are looking for someone who will listen to your experiences and not judge or have their opinion over-ride your actions.

And please remember to continuously grant yourself permission to experience all the feelings you encounter without dwelling on them for too long. The purpose is to experience all your feelings, but not to get lost or stuck in them. And the glorious part of mindfulness is that you don’t have to stop feeling as you go through the rest of your day. You can do both at the same time. The trick is not to stay deep in the emotions. Just know they are there and validate them and feel them.

If what you find yourself feeling strongly is a sense of numbness, remember that is a feeling as well. Come face to face with your feelings as being a significant part of yourself (because they are) and breath through them, maybe even asking yourself when you first started having this feeling. No judging, no analyzing, just experiencing, learning and accepting.

Here is a small trial run you can try, starting today. If you place one of your hands on your stomach and the other on your chest and feel if your breath is shallow or deep, if you haven’t practiced anything like this before, you will more than likely find it is fairly shallow. If your hands move an inch or less when you inhale and exhale fully, your breathing is shallow.

Don’t get discouraged. Most people don’t breathe deeply. This is mostly because in our crazy world of multi-tasking, diversions and interruptions, we don’t take the time to even think about how we breathe. If we did, more of us would breathe deeper.

So, over the next week, make a point of becoming more present to your breathing throughout the day. I understand you will not be able to do this for hours on end. Gently bring your awareness back to your breathing from time to time throughout the day more often than you normally would.

Then see how far your hands move when you measure how shallow or how deeply your breathing is. If you’ve done this routinely for a week, you should find a significant increase in how deeply you breathe.

The reason for the change is because you have brought your level of awareness regarding your breathing to the forefront. You have become mindful of what your body is doing and the outcome is improved breathing.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness

This is how mindfulness works in all aspects of our lives. By becoming more in touch with what we feel and who we are, we improve it automatically.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

I Second That E-Motion

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Emotional Chart

Emotional Chart

Emotions are quickly becoming the focus of research in mental health fields. Where most of the focus has been on how people think (Cognition) and most recently behavior and outcome results (measurable and simply definable), there is an upcoming trend to study people and emotions.

Historically, emotions have been given a really awful rap. I can remember my father telling me from the time I was a little girl that I needed to let my head lead me, not my heart. His well-intentioned advice and the way he lived his life as well, totally devalued emotions.

Just the way our actions are ‘birthed’ in our cognition, emotions also provide a birthing ground for our behaviors. Many of our actions and behaviors are responses to how we feel. For a long time, emotions have not been looked at or given credence as a partner in human behavior.

Truthfully, not only may emotions be part of why many behaviors occur, in some instances, they are the strongest factor or maybe even the only reason for behavior.

Emotional Chartb

Emotional Chartb

Recognizing and controlling our emotions is one of the most valuable gifts we can provide ourselves with. Although many people avoid recognizing their feelings, when we choose to be courageous enough to face our feelings, we can:
• Gain control over the way we react to challenges
• Improve our communication skills
• Enjoy more fulfilling relationships

Our emotions are the foundations of us being able to understand ourselves and relate to other people. When we lose control of our emotions, we:

* Lose our ability to think clearly and creatively
* Lose our ability to manage stress and challenges life presents
* Lose our ability to communicate well with others
* Lose our ability to display trust, empathy and confidence

Loss of these skills produce confusion, isolation and negativity.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence

Emotions are constantly ongoing, but the experience of each individual emotion does not last very long. In other words, we’re always feeling things, but if I become angry at something my husband said, that individual emotional response, in this case, anger; does not last much beyond 15 or 20 minutes at the most.

Becoming emotionally aware requires getting in touch with the feelings we are having in the moment, and understanding why we are experiencing it. It also involves being able to identify and express moment to moment feelings and to understand the connection between those feelings and our behavior.

When we connect to our own emotions and become more emotionally aware, we become better able to understand and empathize with what others are feeling. This is how we begin to isolate less and become more connected with others.

Emotional awareness involves:
• Recognizing your moment-to-moment emotional experiences
• Handling all of your emotions without becoming overwhelmed

It is always a good idea to have a support system in place – someone you can talk with and trust to share your experiences with. Self-help is wonderful, but, like everything else, has its limitations. By having a strong support system available, you’ll assure yourself an added cushion of comfort during the process.

This is a great place to begin getting our lives more in balance by becoming more aware and involved in our emotional selves.

It only gets better from here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!