Category Archives: Inner Peace

Choose To Love

~ Rick Hanson's Wise Brain Blog ~

choose loveWhen we choose to love, we have to set aside the busy-ness in our lives and choose people. I challenge you to create a shared ritual in your own life, if not daily, then at least weekly? Think how it would feel to provide the powerful comfort of your attention to another human being on a regular basis? How would it feel to receive that same attention in return? You and the people you love are worth it. – Terri

What does your heart say? By Dr. Rick Hanson

Many years ago, I was in a significant relationship in which the other person started doing things that surprised and hurt me. I’ll preserve the privacy here so I won’t be concrete, but it was pretty intense. After going through the first wave of reactions – What?! How could you? Are you kidding me?! – I settled down a bit. I had a choice.

This relationship was important to me, and I could see that a lot of what was going through the mind over there was really about the other person and not about me. I began to realize that the freest, strongest, and most self-respecting thing that I could do was both to tell the person that we were on very thin ice . . . and to choose to love meanwhile. To my surprise, instead of turning me into a doormat or punching bag, love actually protected and fueled me. It kept me out of contentiousness and conflict and gave me a feeling of worth. I was interested in what the other person was going to do, but in a weird way, I didn’t care that much. I felt fed and carried by love, and how the other person responded was out of my hands.

I got interested in “loving at will,” in how to go to the upper end of the range of what is authentically available to a person in terms of feeling or expressing compassion, good wishes, and warmth. You shouldn’t falsify what’s truly going on with you, nor let yourself be mistreated. But whatever this range is for you in any moment in any relationship, it’s your choice where you land within it. I became less caught up in how I wanted the other person to think and feel and act, and more focused on my own practice of finding and re-finding some sense of love. It felt kind of like I was strengthening the heart like a muscle. I joked with myself that I was doing love pushups (not the sexual kind!)

If it’s authentically within reach, you can deliberately, even willfully settle yourself in love as a central quality in your mind. This is not phony: the love that’s there in you is genuinely there. In fact, choosing to love is twice loving: it’s a loving act to call up the intention to love, plus there is the love that follows.

Looking back, my shift out of quarreling and into a healthy feeling of lovingness helped things get better with this person. And the relationship taught me a good lesson: Love is more about us being loving than about other people being lovable.

How?

Start with someone that’s easy to feel love around. Relax a bit. Take a breath or two and come home to yourself. Sense into the area of your chest and heart. Be aware of what compassion and kindness feel like; perhaps call up the sense of a time when you felt very loving. Ask yourself, Can I feel loving now? Open to a natural warm-heartedness. Choose to love. Take a dozen seconds to open to feeling as loving as you can in your body. Take in this experience, let it sink into you. This will strengthen the neural trace of the experience – a kind of emotional memory – and make it easier to call up the next time. Also register the sense of deliberateness, of choosing to love.

Then try these methods with someone you feel more neutral about, such as a stranger on the street. Eventually, try this approach with someone who is difficult for you. It could help to be more aware of the other person’s stresses, worries, and longings. Without staring, look closely at him or her for ten seconds or so. Can you let your heart be moved by this face? Get a sense of the different external and internal forces pushing and pulling the other person this way and that – perhaps leading him or her to do things that hurt you or others. Let your eyes relax, and get a sense of the bigger picture. Disentangle from the parts, and open into the whole.

Let love be there alongside whatever else is present in your relationship with the other person. There is love . . . and there is also seeing what is true about the other person, yourself, and circumstances affecting both of you. There is love . . . and there is also taking care of your own needs in the relationship.

Love first. The rest will follow.

The post Choose To Love appeared first on Dr. Rick Hanson.

Stress Reduction in 5 Easy Steps

stress reductionThere are hundreds of ways to accomplish stress reduction. Why am I focusing on only 5? Because it doesn’t help to give you 100! That stresses me out just thinking about it.

Here are my favorite five stress reducers:

  1. Watch your physical and mental intake. What are you putting into your body?  Caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, fried foods, heavy foods, ephedrine and other agitating supplements. There is also the mental:  TMA – Too Much Activity or too much of anything, too much sleep, too much TV, too much stimulation, too much noise, too much activity, too many demands, too much clutter and too much stuff! The internet is chock full of too much: info, news, stories, drama, advice, judgment, entertainment, etc.
  1. Watch your output.  Are you trying to do too much or too little?  Sleeping, bogged down with decision-making, too many choices, trying to do everything?  Instead of multi-tasking, begin a new habit of doing one thing at a time. Studies of highly productive people are now showing that multi-tasking is highly overrated. People who really get a lot done say they do this by staying focused on one thing at a time.
  1. Use your energy wisely. Exercise increases energy. Why is it that using energy in a productive way like this, creates more energy? I don’t know but I like it! Don’t you love the feeling you get when you have worked out and you have that ‘good tired’ feeling? The energy of “I worked hard, now I deserve a rest!” Research shows that exercise is great for mood, health, and improving our coping with stress. We know this, and yet, we often don’t do it. So, I will borrow a line from one of my favorite ads:  “Just Do It!’
  1. Seek support. Get together with people who lift you up. Spend time with people who make you laugh. You don’t have to “talk it all out.” In fact, this may be less than helpful. Research shows that “venting” is not all it’s cracked up to be. Instead, just connect with that friend or family member that you can just hang out with. Find some activity that is nurturing and go do it. Laugh, play, explore, exercise, learn, anything that gets you moving and connecting with life.
  1. Enjoy nature. Appreciate the outdoors. Contemplate the beauty and wonder of life. Study a leaf, or an ant, or watch the wind or water. Be still and have gratitude for the simplicity and amazing intricacies of life.

Enjoy!

Terri Mudge, LPC is a licensed professional counselor who provides individual therapy and life coaching in Mobile, Alabama. If you are feeling tossed around by the storms of life, call Terri today for a FREE Phone Consultation, at 251-343-2597.

Nature – The Best Kept Secret – It’s Better Than Drugs

023By Terri Mudge

Nature is Captivating!

I have been captivated by the power of nature! When I stumbled on some research that proved its power in restoring our wellbeing, I paid attention. Here’s what I found.

Studies at a hospital in Pennsylvania from 1972-81 generated some interesting data about the power of nature. Identical hospital rooms on either side of the building were the same except the view from the windows–one side faced a brick wall, while the other side faced a small stand of trees.  Over many years, the patients facing the natural environment required less pain medication and recovered a day sooner than those facing the brick wall. Patients gazing out at a natural scene were four times better off than their counterparts!

In another study, psychologists studied a group of parents living with their children in upstate New York. While many of the families experienced hardships and stresses when their children were growing up, those that lived in more natural environments seemed to withstand stresses better and show a higher level of self-esteem and lower stress.

Another study asked hundreds of parents of children with ADD (attention deficit disorder), again and again reports showed that those playing outside in nature or even simply viewing nature from inside, were happier and more likely to interact with friends.

Nature Draws Us In

What is it about the natural environment? How does this work? William James, an early psychologist from the 1800s explained “involuntary attention” as something that gets our attention without any mental effort on our part. Our natural environment is full of things that capture our attention involuntarily, such as water rippling in the wind, breezes blowing clouds across the sky and ocean currents sending waves ashore. And this restores us! In the same way food and water restore our bodies, we can benefit from nature restoring our mental functioning that takes a beating in everyday life.

Nature Restores Us

Psychologists refer to this as the “Attention Restoration Theory” (ART).  One article by Adam Alter explains it this way:

“According to ART, urban environments are draining because they force us to direct our attention to specific tasks (e.g., avoiding the onslaught of traffic) and grab our attention dynamically, compelling us to “look here!” before telling us to instead “look over there!” These demands are draining — and they’re also absent in natural environments.”

Our natural environments demand nothing and yet they are ever-changing. When they move and shift, they grab our attention, require nothing, and provide an opportunity to restore our exhausted minds. Let’s challenge each other to take some time out this week to spend a couple hours with nature without any agenda of doing anything specific or urgent. Just be. Just soak it in and take note of how it changes your mood and mindset.

Prescription For Nature - Video Screenshot

Posted by 4biddenknowledge on Tuesday, February 2, 2016

 

Source: Alter, Adam. “DailyGood: How Nature Resets Our Minds and Bodies.” DailyGood: How Nature Resets Our Minds and Bodies. DailyGood, 29 Mar. 2013. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.

A Roadmap to Overcoming Insecurities

~ Zen Habits By Leo Babauta ~

By Leo Babauta

There isn’t a person amongst us who doesn’t have insecurities — some are just better at dealing with them, or perhaps hiding them.

We worry what other people think about us, we worry if we’re good-looking enough, we worry that we’re not doing all that we should be, we worry that we’ll fail, we worry that people will find out we’re a fraud. We worry that we’re too fat, worry if she’ll like us, worry if he likes that other girl, worry that we’re not good enough.

And social media, with its culture of getting us to want approval with likes and retweets, with its showing off amazing bodies and amazing travels and food … it only exacerbates the problem. But you know all this.

The question is: how do we overcome these insecurities?

How do we become OK with ourselves? How do we learn to find contentment and peace?

The answer isn’t simple, but it requires one thing to start with: a willingness to face what we usually don’t want to face.

That means a bit of courage. Just in small doses, to start with, but it means a willingness to set aside all the distractions for a little bit, and just focus on what you’re struggling with.

Do you have that courage? If so, let’s start.

The Obstacles

What gets in our way to dealing with insecurities? There are obstacles littering the path. There are old wounds that have never healed.

Some of the obstacles that get in the way:

  1. Past criticisms. If a parent or other relatives criticized us while we were growing up, or if we were bullied, we’ve probably internalized that. I’m lucky that my mom always seemed to accept me as I was, but my dad didn’t. He had his own insecurities, but those would manifest as criticisms of me. Those criticisms stay in my head, but have died down in recent years because of work that I’ve done (more on this below). Still, they may never completely go away.
  2. A negative self-image. When people criticize you over the years, you start to criticize yourself. And all this criticism, along with unfavorable comparisons of yourself to others, results in a self-image that isn’t so great. It doesn’t matter if the reality doesn’t meet this self-image … we can be competent, brilliant, and beautiful, but if we have an image of ourselves that is ugly, dumb, and a failure, we will act according to that image.
  3. Needing approval. When someone gives us approval, that’s great! We feel we are worthy, and beautiful. But the problem then becomes that we need more approval to keep this self-image, and we fear not getting the approval because then this great self-image will go away. We become stuck in a cycle of needing constant approval, and fearing disapproval. We read into everything that everyone says and does, in real life and on social media, in terms of approval or disapproval. This becomes a fearful cycle of need.
  4. Lack of trust. We learn not to trust other people to stick with us, to accept us, to see our side of things as understandable. This is trained in us over the years as people do things that we think of as abandonment or rejection. We stop trusting in the moment to turn out alright.
  5. Images in social media & the media. We compare ourselves to the hot people we see on Instagram or other social media. We compare ourselves with the hot people in movies, TV, magazines. These images are meant to sell us, but the way they sell us is by making us feel insecure about ourselves, and then needing whatever it is that the celebrities are selling us in order for us to be as good as them.
  6. Not accepting things about ourselves. In the end, the result is that we reject large parts of ourselves. We don’t like that we are overweight, or have pimples, or something about our bodies. It’s amazing, because even people you think have amazing bodies — they reject things about their bodies! We also reject parts of our inner selves, the parts that are undisciplined or uncaring or fearful or lazy. We reject the parts of ourselves that are insecure.

Those are a lot of obstacles to deal with! And that highlights why this takes courage, and why the fix isn’t simple.

But there is a way forward.

The Road to Dealing with Insecurity

Here’s the secret: The obstacles actually show us the path. The obstacles are the path.

We can embrace these obstacles and work with them. In order to do that, we need to start to develop an awareness of when our insecurities are arising. We can use them as a mindfulness bell, ringing when we are troubled by fears and mistrust, telling us, “Hey! There’s so good material to work with here.”

And that’s they key: All of our insecurities are actually an opportunity to do some good work, to learn about how we work, to develop skills that will help us for life.

So start to pay attention, and notice when you’re being driven by insecurity. And then do the following work:

  1. Forgive the past. If your insecurities have been shaped by a relative or authority figure criticizing you, recognize this. Then start to forgive them. Understand that they were driven by their own insecurities, struggling with their own demons. They behave imperfectly, but we all do. They weren’t right in what they did, but you can understand it nonetheless. And forgive them for their bad behavior, because holding on to resentment isn’t helping you. Let the past go, one step at a time.
  2. Accept all of yourself. Pause and take a self-assessment. Notice the parts of yourself, both your body and your inner self, that you don’t like. Take a look at these parts of you, and see if you can send them love. See them for the imperfect parts of you that they are, deserving of love as a friend who is imperfect also deserves love. Think about how you’d treat this imperfect friend, and be the same way toward yourself. Give yourself assurance, give yourself compassion. Embrace all the parts of you, nobbly bits and all, and see the beauty in them. They are what make you who you are, and they are wonderful.
  3. Practice self-approval. If you notice yourself wanting someone else’s approval, their praise and attention, their likes and retweets … pause, and instead replace that with self-approval. You can take away the power of others to approve you if you appropriate that power for yourself. You don’t need anyone else’s approval but your own. That doesn’t mean you don’t want connection with others, or love, but you can love others and be loved by them while also being self-approved. Accept yourself, completely, love yourself. And that’s all you need.
  4. Embrace non-comparison. Comparison of yourself with how others look, what they’re doing, where they’re traveling, how much fun they’re having … it’s never a useful comparison, and it actively harms you. Instead, when you see someone else, instead of comparing yourself with them, see them as apples to your oranges. Be happy that they’re having fun, be joyful for their successes. They’re on a completely different path from you, and they can be happy and have a great time and you can too, on your own path. Wish everyone well, but see their awesomeness as different from yours.
  5. Develop trust in the moment. Through all these practices, start to develop a trust in yourself that you’ll be OK. Develop a trust in the moment that it will unfold and all will be well. This develops over time, by making small predictions about the moment (“This moment will turn out OK”) and then seeing if the prediction comes true.

This is the path. You find the things you’re struggling with, and learn to work with them. Learn to shift your perspective. Learn to see what’s tripping you up, and turn it into an opportunity to practice new skills.

This is a good path. It has helped me to be more accepting of myself, and trust myself more. And in turn, it has helped me to love myself and others more, one moment at a time.

How Awe Makes Us Generous

~ Greater Good Science Center ~

 

Child in awe

What do the Grand Canyon, Sistine Chapel, and gazing at distant stars all have in common?

They can awaken a deep appreciation for the world around us and inspire a profound sense of awe. This sensation is often accompanied by an awareness of something larger than ourselves—that we play a small part in an intricate cosmic dance that is life.

But is that experience strictly personal? New research from UC Berkeley and UC Irvine suggests that experiencing awe can actually prompt us to act more benevolently toward others. In other words, awe can help make the world a better place.

“For hundreds of years, people have talked about the importance of awe to human life and interpersonal relations,” says Paul Piff, an assistant professor of psychology and social behavior at UC Irvine. “And just now we are beginning to devise tools for testing it and understanding it.”

Piff and his team conducted a series of experiments to investigate the types of experiences that inspire awe, how awe facilitates positive behavior towards others, and how these effects are distinct from those of other pro-social emotions.

In the first study, participants were asked to rate the frequency that they generally feel awe, and then completed a test that measured generous behavior. Results showed that those who experience more awe tend to behave more generously, even after accounting for other positive emotions like compassion or love. While this finding was highly encouraging, the team had yet to prove that awe directly led to positive behavior towards others.

In a second study, participants recalled a time they felt awe—such as the view from a mountaintop or a brilliant ocean sunset—and then were asked to complete an ethical decision-making task. Once again, those who experienced awe demonstrated significantly more ethical behavior as compared to those who recalled other emotions such as pride.

Participants consistently reported that awe produced “a reduced sense of self importance relative to something larger and more powerful that they felt connected to,” says Piff. And subsequent analysis confirmed that this feeling of the “small self” was responsible for their ethical behavior. This seems to suggest that experiencing awe prompts people to help others.

Yet another experiment exposed different groups to an awe-inspiring nature video such as Planet Earth, a funny animal video, or a neutral video. Once again, people who experienced awe reported a feeling of a “small self” which triggered more generous behavior.

And these effects were shown to be applicable outside the lab, as well. After gazing up at a grove of towering eucalyptus trees for one full minute, participants were more helpful when a researcher “accidentally” dropped a box of pens on the ground than those who just stared at a large building.

But does awe continue to have its beneficial effects on social behavior even if the stimulus is threatening or isn’t associated with nature at all? Indeed, after exposure to videos of threatening natural disasters (e.g. volcanoes) or beautiful close-up slow motion footage of colored drops of water, participants also showed a greater tendency toward fairness when distributing resources between themselves and another individual.

“Even these minute droplets remind you of the intricacy and complexity of natural world, and in so doing bring about feelings of awe and the small self,” says Piff. “And that is one of the remarkable qualities of awe. You don’t have to climb a huge mountain and take in a grand view to feel it.”

Piff is now investigating whether awe can spread between people, the degree to which these positive effects are seen in those who vicariously experience awe, and if these effects apply universally across cultures.

“When people experience awe they really want to share that experience with other people, suggesting that it has this particularly viral component to it,” says Piff. “Maybe this is yet another way that awe binds people together—by causing people to want to share their positive experiences collectively with one another.”

 

Stuck In Thoughts

shutterstock_334064456Do you, like me, ever get caught up in your mind, in righteous indignation, and harsh thoughts about being hurt by someone you love?   I certainly have been there, and continue to go there at times, and then hopefully I find my way out, and get back to the other real feelings of love, compassion and forgiveness.  When my husband notices me in that space, he will ask me to take the record off the record player; this is his kind way to say that he sees me spinning the story in my mind, and it is hurting him.   Please take a look at what Rick Hanson has to say, as he tells it beautifully here in…

Drop the Case, by Rick Hanson

Who are you prosecuting?

Why?

Lately I’ve been thinking about a kind of “case” that’s been running in my mind about someone in my extended family. The case is a combination of feeling hurt and mistreated, critique of the other person, irritation with others who haven’t supported me, views about what should happen that hasn’t, and implicit taking-things-personally.

In other words, the usual mess.

It’s not that I have not been mistreated – actually, I have been – nor that my analysis of things is inaccurate (others agree that what I see does in fact exist). The problem is that my case is saturated with negative emotions like anger, biased toward my own viewpoint, and full of me-me-me. Every time I think of it I start getting worked up, adding to the bad effects of chronic stress. It creates awkwardness with others, since even though they support me, they’re naturally leery of getting sucked into my strong feelings or into my conflict with the other person. It makes me look bad, too cranked up about things in the past. And it primes me for overreactions when I see the person in question. Yes, I practice with this stuff arising in my mind and generally don’t act it out, but it’s still a burden.

I think my own experience of case-making – and its costs – are true in general. In couples in trouble, one or both people usually have a detailed Bill of Particulars against the other person. At larger scales, different social or political groups have scathing indictments of the other side.

How about you? Think of someone you feel wronged by: can you find case against that person in your mind? What’s it feel like to go into that case? What does it cost you? And others?

The key – often not easy – is to be open to your feelings (e.g., hurt, anger), to see the truth of things, and to take appropriate action . . . while not getting caught up in your case about it all.

How?

Bring to awareness a case about someone – probably related to a grievance, resentment, or conflict. It could be from your present or your past, resolved or still grinding. Explore this case, including: the version of events in it, other beliefs and opinions, emotions, body sensations, and wants; notice how you see the other person, and yourself; notice what you want from others (sometimes their seeming failings are a related case). For a moment or two, in your mind or out loud, get into the case: really make it! Then notice what that’s like, to get revved up into your case.

Mentally or on paper, list some of the costs to you and others of making this particular case. Next, list the payoffs to you; on other words, what do you get out of making this case? For example, making a case typically makes us feel in the right, is energizing, and helps cover over softer vulnerable emotions like hurt or disappointment. Then ask yourself: are the payoffs worth the costs?

With this understanding, see if you can stay with the difficult feelings involved in the situation (the basis for the case) without slipping into a reproachful or righteous case about them. To do this, it could help to start by resourcing yourself by bringing to mind the felt sense of being cared about by others, and by opening to self-compassion. And try to hold those difficult feelings in a big space of awareness.

Open to a wider, more impersonal, big picture view of the situation – so it’s less about you and more about lots of swirling causes coming together in unfortunate ways. See if any kind of deeper insight about the other person, yourself, or the situation altogether comes to you.

Listen to your heart: are there any skillful actions to take? Including naming the truth of things, disengaging from tunnels with no cheese, or the action of there-is-nothing-that-can-be-done.

Watch how a case starts forming in your mind, trying to get its hooks into you. Then see if you can interrupt the process. Literally set down the case, like plopping down a heavy suitcase when you finally get home after a long trip. What a relief!

Enjoy the good feelings, the spaciousness of mind, the openness of heart, the inner freedom, and other rewards of dropping your case.

 

For further reading, see this post for some ideas of Un-hooking from thoughts:  9 Ways to Let Go of Stuck Thoughts By Therese J. Borchard Associate Editor