How is it possible that it’s already Sunday night when it feels like Friday was half an hour ago?! The struggle of knowing the laid-back, weekend You has to dress up tomorrow and face the overwhelming to-do list of the working week again is real. That sinking feeling you experience on Sunday night is what millions are dealing with too – the Sunday night blues.
Why Sunday Nights are So Tough?
For one thing, Sunday night blues started in our schooldays, when Sunday evening meant the fun of the weekend is over and we have to return to our boring textbooks and homework. Even when those days are over, out body and mind remember those anxious feelings and Sunday night remains the trigger that brings this response back. The fact that, for many of us as adults, Sunday means roughly the same thing – returning to tasks and responsibilities on our workplace – additionally strengthens that familiar physical and psychological response we developed a long time ago. For this reason, even people who love their jobs are not immune to Sunday night blues.
Additional thing that probably happens is that you are thinking too far ahead. We described this cognitive distortion HERE, so you might want to take a look. In short, when you think about everything you need to finish during the next week all at once, stress spikes up and you feel overwhelmed. What you ultimately do is you’re cramming the workload of five working days, so about 40 working hours, into one moment of thinking; the result is, naturally, that it looks like too much to handle. But in reality, things are much easier while you’re actually going through them.
“You probably know it yourself – something seems so much more frustrating or difficult or boring when you think about it ahead than while you’re actually doing it.”
So, when Sunday evening comes, your body and mind habitually start familiar pattern all over again: worrying about the upcoming week, feeling of overwhelm for everything that has to be done, sadness for weekend being too short, anger at yourself or others for not doing everything as planned, irritability, anxiety, depression. You may even have a hard time falling asleep.
How to Beat Sunday Night Blues?
Sunday night sadness and anxiety may be common, but you don’t have to live with them. Here are a few things you can do to outsmart your sad Sundays and feel uplifted for the week ahead.
✔️ Keep your weekend plans realistic
You want to make your weekend as enjoyable as possible, and that’s great. However, it’s important to not get caught into the trap of setting the expectations for the weekend so high that it becomes a race of accomplishing everything on the list.
If you’re determined to finish work reports and answer some additional e-mails, reorganize your closet, meet with friends on a drink, spend time in nature with your family, read that exciting book that’s sitting for too long on your bedside table, and go to a yoga class all in the same weekend, activities that are supposed to be fun and relaxing might turn into obligations. The end result is that you’re probably going to end up either exhausted from running to achieve all of it or frustrated that you haven’t accomplished it all. Either way, your mind on Sunday night consequentially becomes, well, a not so pleasant place.
Sometimes, even the most organized people have to deal with the reality that things don’t always go according to the plan. Because of this, try to see plans you make on Friday afternoon as an outline, as a list of possible things that you have the freedom to do on the weekend, not as plans written in stone. It’s wonderful to have a variety of choices – embrace it. But don’t let can and want turn into a must.
✔️ Active leisure time
About 75% of people don’t leave the house on Sunday (source). When we combine it with the fact that “feelings of anxiety and depression are most common when the person is not particularly busy”, as the professor of psychology at Roosevelt University, Steven Meyers says, then it’s easy to recognize why Sunday becomes a perfect time for those unpleasant feelings to creep into our minds.
One good way to avoid entering this “empty space” is to replace your passive leisure time with enjoyable activities that will occupy your mind and redirect your attention. And by this we don’t mean doing some house chores – reschedule them for some other day. Instead, you want to do something you enjoy – spend time with friends, exercise, devote time to hobbies, do something creative, anything that is fun for you and gives you something to focus on.
One amazing way to spend your Sunday is volunteering. One study found that people who volunteer are happier with their work-life balance. Further, those who volunteered in their free time were less stressed and less likely to feel burned out at work. Another study shows that volunteering in our free time makes us feel like we actually have more time! It suggests that volunteering makes us feel more efficient, like we are doing something big and valuable with our time, and therefore like we are less stressed and hurried.
✔️ Schedule something you look forward to for the working week
You know that fuzzy excitement before a vacation? That tingling anticipation of all the adventures that you might experience on your trip? Well, a micro version of that happens before your weekend. Having something to look forward to often serves as a fuel that helps us go through stressful times. But sometimes the weekend can feel too far away, and especially so on Sunday night.
However, you don’t have to save all your fun activities for the weekend. Scheduling little things you enjoy strategically throughout the week should give you something to look forward to, which will relieve some stress and anxiety and boost your mood and energy. When, on Sunday, you know that the next time you’ll enjoy yourself won’t be on the next Friday, but actually much sooner, already on Monday even, the upcoming week doesn’t look so long and scary. These activities don’t have to be anything big – scheduling a romantic dinner on Thursday night, going out for a movie on Wednesday, or curling up in your bed with a blanket, a cup of tea and your favorite book on Monday night will do just fine.
✔️ Ask the right questions
Your Sunday night blues might simply be a product of overthinking, but they can also be an important sign. Take a step back and try to identify what’s causing you anxiety, stress, or sadness. Do you have too many commitments? Do you need more sleep? Have you neglected yourself for too long? Is your job in opposition with your personal values and beliefs? Maybe it’s time to slow down a little. Whatever it is, pinpointing the exact root of those unpleasant feelings that occur right before Monday is the first step toward a solution.
If you need additional help, do not hesitate to reach out. Your therapist can help you explore where your Sunday anxiety and sadness come from and create the right strategy to soothe them.
If you know a friend or a family member who is having a hard time on Sundays, share this article with them on social media – they may find it helpful.
How do you fight Sunday night blues? Leave a comment below! 👇
“Live in the present moment”! How many of us would roll our eyes in annoyance of hearing that overused statement again? We heard it so many times that we often don’t even stop and think about it. But we really, really should.
Although it has become a popular topic in recent years, living in the present is not just a trendy lifestyle tip. Focusing on the present moment is a way of leading a fulfilled, happy, less stressful life that is, in fact, backed up by good science.
But instead of listing all the reasons why mindfulness makes life so much better, which you can read HERE, let’s first focus on what is real.
You Already Know How To Live In The Present
Remember the time when you were a kid. Can you recall how you noticed everything back then? The smell of the grass, cracks on the sidewalk, moving clouds on the sky, smell of new books… You were in the now back then almost all the time. Your mind wasn’t overfilled with worries and plans for the future or regrets from the past. You just existed, paid attention to your surrounding, and fully participated in your life.
So, you already know how living in the now looks and feels like. The goal is to bring back that mindset as often as possible in your daily life.
Of course, you might argue that those were the times when you had fewer responsibilities, and you would be right. As you’re growing up, you are facing more complicated situations, and that requires some advanced planning, learning from your mistakes, making priorities and balancing many different areas of life. However, all this doesn’t nearly mean that experiencing the present moment is less possible. In fact, in reality, it is the only possible time to live in. Literally.
The Only Time That Exists Is NOW – The Eternal Present Moment
You’re reading this text now. You are breathing now. If the future you’re worried or excited about comes, it can do so only in the form of the present moment, just like the one right now. It is not something mysterious that will come in a spectacular way.
Time as we know it (minutes, hours, months, days) is actually an illusion – we only use it for practical purposes. As Albert Einstein said: “The distinction between the past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion”. Think about it – there is never a time when you are living in anything other than this ongoing moment.
And yet, you often miss it. You’re often going past your own life, trapped in your head. You’re maybe making plans for the next week. Or you’re replaying the same conversation from yesterday over and over in your head, thinking about what you said wrong. Or you’re so excited about some future event that all you can think about is that and you just want it to come as soon as possible. And then you’re parking your car and have no idea how you drove to work; you were so lost in your thoughts that you don’t remember the actual drive. You just missed to experience your life and went through a part of it on autopilot.
Don’t Let Your Wandering Mind Steal Your Time And Joy
According to Harvard University study, we spend about 47% of our waking time thinking about things other than what we’re doing or what’s going on, and most of this daydreaming doesn’t make us happy. Authors of the research say: “Human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind”.
A similar conclusion comes from Eckhart Tolle, the author of the best-selling book “The Power of Now”: “Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past and not enough presence”.
The tricky thing is – in our busy world that demands constant multitasking, it can be difficult to remember to be mindful about what is happening in the present moment. However, it is important for becoming truly connected with yourself and leading a fulfilled life. Present is already here. It is going on while you’re chasing your “ideal” life or beating yourself up for past mistakes. While you’re occupied with how your life could look like, your actual life is happening.
The disappointing thing is – there is no extraordinary event outside of you that will suddenly change you and make you less unfocused and absent. You need to make a conscious decision to pay attention to what is happening in the now and remember to remind yourself to do it every day. It’s that simple. When you notice you wandered off, just gently get back to the now.
The encouraging thing is – it becomes easier with practice. Once you train your mind to operate in the “present mode”, it becomes a habit and you’ll do it almost effortlessly.
Of course, all this doesn’t mean that you should completely ignore your past or your future. It’s important to learn from your past experiences and plan for the future in order to reach your goals. But don’t let these two steal the now from you. Know where you want to go, but be present on every step you take toward it.
Are you stuck in your head? Do you feel like you are worrying about anything and everything all day long? Repeating the same scenarios in your head over and over and spiraling down the hole of anxious thoughts is tiring!
Sometimes, worry can be a good thing. When there is a realistic possibility of failure or unpleasant thing occurring, worry can motivate us to work harder, prepare and focus on what we can control. However, when it slips into rumination about the things you have no control over, it doesn’t lead to productive or practical solutions. Instead, it triggers unhelpful thought patterns and excessive worry that repeat over and over. It’s completely useless and simply frustrating. But how to stop?
Why Simply Telling Yourself to Stop Worrying is Not Helpful
Your excessive worry isn’t there without a reason. You bother yourself with worst case scenarios and anxious thoughts because they give you a false sense of control. If you worry too hard, bad things might not happen, right? And if they happen, you’d surely be prepared?
Still, you don’t feel any better if the thing you were worried about really occurs, do you? Think about it.
Remember, worrying gives you a FALSE sense of control. We have a tendency to believe that rumination will bring a sense of relief, but it doesn’t because that tailspin has no end or solution, which just intensifies anxiety more.
Simply telling yourself to stop doing something is not enough because, as mentioned above, somewhere deep down you might believe that worry gives you some sense of control and relief. That’s why your subconscious mind doesn’t let go. However, this sense of control is extremely weak, and the damage to your mental health far outweighs that illusion of the “benefit”.
So the first thing you need to do is to consciously decide to give up on trying to control things you can’t control. Second, stop blaming yourself for feeling anxious. It’s enough you feel overwhelmed in the first place; you don’t need additional pressure. Simply telling yourself to stop worrying doesn’t work. So, what does?
Schedule Worry Time
It may sound counterproductive, but forcing yourself to worry during a specific time of the day may actually help you worry less. Studies consistently show that dedicating 15 to 20 minutes during the day to purposely obsess over things that worry you actually decreases the number of worrying thoughts during the day and helps to ease anxiety.
Rules are simple: schedule 15 minutes at a specific time every day to worry about your problems. Pick a time when you know you’ll be able to focus all your attention to worry without interruptions. However, try to make this time at least 2 hours away from your bedtime to avoid possible difficulties falling asleep.
Okay, now that you made your appointment with worry, spend some time with it. Dedicate your full attention to your anxious thoughts during those 15 minutes, without fighting them or trying to make them go away. Don’t try to think positive or to convince yourself these thoughts are unnecessary. Exactly the opposite – strive to come up with as many worries as you can, and try to be as uncomfortable as possible in reviewing them. If you run out of ideas in those 15 minutes, it’s important to not walk away. The goal is to fill the whole 15 minutes with worry, not a minute more or less. If you spent all your anxious ideas in the first 10 minutes, repeat the ones you already thought over.
When your scheduled date with worry passes, get up and go on with your day. You’ll meet your worry at the same time the next day, but not until then. Anxious thoughts will, of course, try to sneak in and occupy space in your head during the day. Just politely tell them that now is not the time, and they will have to wait until the appointment when you’ll listen to all of them. If they are persistent, instead of getting stuck in your head with them, try some of the mindfulness techniques like focusing on the outside sensations or on your breathing.
How And Why Worry Time Works
There is a little mind twist here. You’re probably frustrated with not being able to run away or combat all those worrying and uncomfortable thoughts; it just seems there are too many of them all the time. However, when you turn tables around and purposefully try to find as many of them as possible, you realize three things:
- There are not so many of them after all,
- Facing your worries and letting unpleasant feelings those obsessing thoughts evoke is not so terrible or unboreable,
- In the end, worrying becomes boring.
These three things change the way you approach your worry and gradually ease your anxiety over anxiety. Instead of becoming all tense on the first thought of worry, you become to experience other emotional responses, like boredom for example. That creates space for making a distance from unhelpful thought patterns and for taking a more realistic perspective.
In the end, one important note: be persistent. Give time for change. When you start practicing this technique, it’s possible that your worry will intensify in the first few days, and it will be more difficult to resist rumination between worry times. That is frustrating, but also totally natural. Just keep up the practice. Emotional changes need time. However, if this technique stirs up extremely strong emotions in you after a week, stop practicing it. Additionally, don’t hesitate to ask for additional support. Your therapist will work with you to discover what lies behind your anxious thoughts and feelings, and find techniques and tools that suit you best.
Imagine how life would be if you loved the way you looked? Yes, including all those beautiful imperfections. Instead of wanting to change that certain part you dislike about your body, what if you came to completely accept it? What if loving your body became natural for you?
Living in a social media driven world, what’s online may make one feel anything but empowered and self-assured. Unfortunately, media has led us to believe that if we look a certain way, our lives will magically become perfect.
We get it, feeling confident in the modern world may not be easy but it’s totally possible. There are many women out there who love their bodies – and they’re all in different shapes and sizes.
Loving your body completely simply boils down to respecting yourself and accepting how you look. Using yoga as a tool, we assure you that the journey to this place is going to be an incredibly joyous one, and we will explain how in this guide.
Asana in yoga helps you reconnect with your body
Asana, or yoga postures, allow you to connect with your body via breath and movement.
Postures in yoga allow us to separate different aspects of our body, comprehend their functioning and understand how these areas work together.
If you’ve suffered from negative body image at any point of your life, you’re probably aware that it largely involves avoiding and isolating oneself from aspects of the body that induce feelings of shame and self-loathing.
Yoga helps you extricate yourself from this escalating form of neglect by encouraging you to listen to your body. To perform any yoga posture, you have to acknowledge each part of your body and understand how it prefers to move.
Pranayama promotes peace of mind
Yoga comprises of two main parts: breath (pranayama) and posture (asana). Pranayama, or more specifically, Ujjayi, is a specific style of breath in yoga. It develops heat in the body while stimulating rest and the feeling of peace.
Ujjayi is a deep and potent type of breath that fires up the lungs and throat. While this may sound counterintuitive in promoting rest, one of the main purposes of Ujjayi is to relax the body. It is a long, smooth breath created by lengthening your inhale and exhale.
A longer breath signals your body to relax. Taking some time to rewind is a great way of promoting self-love.
Yoga is an excellent stress-reliever. A 2005 German study indicated that women who described themselves as “emotionally distressed” showed significant improvement in their mood and overall sense of well-being after being treated with 90 minutes of yoga per week for 3 months. Well-being scores improved by 65%, and depression and anxiety scores improved by 50% and 30% respectively. Complaints regarding back pain, poor sleep and headaches had also been resolved.
Yoga encourages positivity
One of the key aspects of yoga is performing mantras. Contrary to popular belief, mantras are quite simple and can help you during meditation. They’re simply words or phrases, each with different purposes, such as helping you overcome challenges and showing gratitude.
Repeating mantras is a great way to understand the power of a positive mind. When you repeat a mantra every day, you start believing that it is true. With each passing day, the mantra and your belief in it become stronger.
“I love myself. I am beautiful, intelligent and unique.”
You don’t have to limit yourself to traditional mantras. You can even create your own. A mantra (such as the one above) that holds meaning in your heart and resonates deep within you can be easily brought to life by you. You are the creator of your positivity.
You’re always amazed
Just a few weeks of yoga is enough to fascinate anyone. You’ll be surprised to know that it is not the yogic postures, but watching what your body is capable of that will amaze you.
With time and practice, you become capable of moving your body in ways you never even imagined. With time, you’ll be able to effortlessly stand on one foot, wrap your arms and legs into an eagle, and even balance your whole body-weight on your arms.
Whether you’re performing an advanced posture or you’re in the process of deepening one, you’ll understand that your body is strong, flexible, and incredibly beautiful.
Even though some magazine covers may make you think otherwise, yoga is for everyone. Yoga is a beautiful journey where you can witness your body’s full potential and truly appreciate what it can do.
In most cases, people never discover their body in their optimal strength, balance, and flexibility. Yoga is an invigorating experience which can make you feel like a warrior every day. Once you discover this strength within you, it’s hard not to feel grateful for the body that gives you so much.
Yoga creates communities of love
Yoga retreats, classes, and online platforms bring in several like-minded people, helping in creating a strong and supportive community. Practicing Yoga is not only fun, but it is empowering.
People join yoga classes for a variety of reasons. While some join it for physical reasons such as toning up and building flexibility, others join it to relax their bodies. Whatever your reason may be, you’ll soon realize that yoga brings about another essential outcome: feeling comfortable in your skin.
Almost anyone who joins yoga wants to learn to love his or her own body. Yoga creates a space where everyone, at the same time, is thinking about their connection with their bodies.
When you join your first yoga class, be sure to introduce yourself to someone and ask them what brought them to it. Listen to their response and share your reason as well.
Author Bio: Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, Yoganonymous, OMtimes and others. She’s also the founder and owner of Siddhi Yoga International.
FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/siddhiyogateachertraining
Brown RP, Gerbarg PL. Sudarshan Kriya Yogic Breathing in the Treatment of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: Part I — Neurophysiologic Model. J Altern Complement Med. 2005;1:189–201.
Catherine Woodyard. Int J Yoga. 2011 Jul-DecExploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life.
Collins C. Yoga: Intuition, preventive medicine, and treatment. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 1998;27:563–8
McCall T. New York: Bantam Dell a division of Random House Inc; 2007. Yoga as Medicine.
Do you experience stress on a daily basis? Do you often forget important tasks or where you kept things? Are you experiencing stress in your relationships? Do you experience difficulties in regulating your emotions? Are you having trouble losing weight despite having tried all diet and exercise versions? Are you striving to know the real you?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, this article is for you.
In the rush of things today, we often find ourselves multi-tasking. You may be talking to your kids while reading the newspaper, folding your laundry with an eye on the television, or calculating the monthly expenses while talking to your mother on the phone. Amidst all this rush to get everything completed on time, you may be losing out on your connection with the present.
Are you actually aware of what you are doing and how you are feeling? Or do you just go through each day without awareness of what is happening? Did you notice that little puppy wagging its tail at you during your morning walk or the fact that you woke up feeling a bit lightheaded? Or did you rush out of bed owing to the alarm’s buzzer and then went off on your daily routine without a pause to think or feel?
If this is how each of your days looks like, it’s time to turn to mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of consciously focusing your attention on the present and accepting it without being judgmental. Mindfulness nudges you to let go of the past and the future and be aware of only the present moment.
Often enough, we find ourselves lamenting on the past and wishing things could have been different or dreaming about the future. But in doing so, we let go of the present. Mindfulness helps us by slowing down the pace of our thoughts, letting us focus on each thought, in turn; giving us a clear head and helping us relax.
That is all good, you say, but why should I practice mindfulness? What does it have in store for me?
Well, here are 6 basic reasons why integrating mindfulness into your life is helpful.
1. Reduces stress
Know that thing which makes your heart rate rise, makes you sweat profusely, and unable to focus on anything with that unsettling feeling inside of you? Yes, that’s right.
The everyday stress and worry that hounds you all day can be gone with a poof with mindfulness.
Have I got your attention now?
Researchers now prove that mindfulness is associated with a decreased level of the stress hormone cortisol. In addition, mindfulness has been seen to increase positive affect and decrease negative affect, as well as anxiety. The research findings suggest that mindfulness brings about a shift in people’s ability to use emotion regulation strategies resulting in their experiencing emotions selectively and processing them differently. Another manner in which mindfulness reduces stress is by helping people with accepting their experiences, including negative emotions, rather than reacting to them in unhealthy ways like avoidance or aversion.
2. Boosts memory
Do you often forget where you kept your car keys or why did you open the refrigerator? Or forget about important deadlines or miss scheduled meetings? This is another problem mindfulness can help you with. We have endless deadlines these days and even with multiple to-do lists, it is difficult to keep track of everything.
Research has found that those who underwent an eight-week mindfulness training had a stable working memory unlike those who did not undergo the training. The memory capacity was also seen to increase with the practice of mindfulness.
3. Improves relationships
If you’re looking to work on your relationship with your spouse, family, or friends, mindfulness can help you do so. Mindfulness equips you with the ability to respond well to relationship stress, enhances your skills in communicating your emotions and protects you against the emotionally stressful effects of relationship conflicts. Research findings support that mindfulness is seen to predict relationship satisfaction.
4. Helps you regulate your emotions
Many clients these days come to me with complaints of being hypersensitive. They say they get emotional easily, and they would like to be stronger and not get upset so quickly. Mindfulness acts as a wonderful antidote to this. It begins by helping you recognize your patterns, like when you ponder on why your ex cheated on you two years ago, or when you find yourself thinking about how you are not climbing the career ladder as fast as your contemporaries. Mindfulness helps you recognize this repetition in your thoughts.
Then it helps you label this thought or emotion. You begin to recognize that you are having the thought about not climbing the career ladder as fast as your contemporaries. This helps you recognize your thoughts and feelings for what they actually are.
The third step then involves accepting these thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness helps you accept them without being judgmental while at the same time not resigning yourself to negative thoughts and emotions. You pay attention to them and experience them without responding to them. The last step involves acting not out of emotion or an impulsive thought but on your values, the place of long-term conviction that you hold. This is important because your emotions are ever-changing while your values are stable.
5. Helps you achieve your weight-loss goals
Have you changed your diet, started an exercise regime and still aren’t losing any weight? Mindfulness might help. A survey by the American Psychological Association involving 1328 licensed psychologists revealed that they find mindfulness training to be a good approach to losing weight. They reported emotional factors are important not only in causing weight problems but they also pose as a major barrier in overcoming them. Mindfulness training helps in training people to allow negative thoughts and emotions to come and go without dwelling on them. It focuses on enjoying the present moment. Doing so helps with weight reduction when teamed up with a proper diet and exercise regime.
6. Helps you know the true you
Mindfulness helps you go beyond those black or rose-tinted glasses and see the real you. It helps you analyze yourself objectively and also conquer blind spots which amplify or diminish your own flaws in your eyes. Mindfulness lets you observe without being judgmental and increases your capacity to attend to stimuli. It lets you get to really know yourself without feeling any negative emotions towards yourself.
How do I start practicing mindfulness?
Well, it’s not that hard. For starters, try to stay present and to pay attention to your physical senses and your surroundings. Here’s a basic mindfulness meditation procedure to give you a little push.
- Sit in an upright posture in a relatively quiet space.
- Close your eyes.
- Focus on your natural breathing or a word (for example, ‘Om’).
- Repeat it silently.
- Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment.
- Return your focus to your breath or the word.
Why don’t you begin practicing mindfulness and let me know the benefits that you experienced?
We wake up each morning, thankful for the opportunity to see the beautiful day ahead of us. What’s the forecast for the day? Maybe there are clouds rolling through the sky, or perhaps the sun is shining down on you, filling your body with warmth, Vitamin D, and rays of love. As the day progresses, you start your day’s activities – take a shower, eat breakfast, go to work. As it gets later in the day, you don’t often realize how fast time has gone by, and how much life is happening all around you.
So often we consume ourselves with tasks – keeping busy makes us feel productive, “fulfilled”, and satisfied thinking that we are doing something we “should” be doing. Have you ever stopped yourself in the moment and thought, “Wow, where did today go?” or “Why is time going by so slow?” We’ve been conditioned by our culture in Canada to keep at it, to work hard at our jobs and to give our company’s overtime: but at what cost?
I’ve spent the past year focused on being more mindful. Mindfulness is a state of focusing actively on the present, without judgment towards your feelings or thoughts. When you’re more mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without criticizing or judging them as good or bad. I like to imagine it as seeing your thoughts and feelings on a cloud in the sky. You see them there, but you just observe them as they float on by.
Taking a New Perspective Through Mindfulness
From my experience, practicing mindfulness takes time and patience. For the newbie, the concept of actively focusing on the present can seem difficult, or even daunting! “How do I observe my thoughts? I’m thinking about all of my day’s activities, troubles, concerns…it’s so hard for me to NOT think about them!” Well, it is true. It is hard for those just starting out. But, let me reinforce how valuable this technique is, the more you practice, and the more you integrate it into your life.
I heard an analogy once about learning something new. I think it relates very nicely to mindfulness, or even other techniques in personal development. In Canada, we drive on the right-hand side of the road, and the steering wheel is on the left-hand side of the car. Now, imagine you’re in Antigua, where they drive and sit on the opposite side. In this situation, we’re assuming you already know how to drive. But, you don’t have experience with driving in this type of environment. So how will you learn this new skill? Well, you’ll probably learn the rules and patterns of this different style of driving, and then get real experience behind the wheel. While driving, all of your focus will be on paying attention to the details around you (as it really should be when you’re driving!). After time, and practice, you’ll start to get the hang of things, and this new skill won’t seem as difficult.
So, as you’re going about your day-to-day business and activities, start to notice what in your life is on autopilot. Are you noticing your actions? Are you consciously aware of your activities and surroundings? If you’ve answered no to any of these then stop for a moment, and notice the sounds around you. Maybe the humming of a fan, or the sound of the breeze against the leaves, or the dogs barking in the distance. Next, stimulate your eyes! Tune in to the colours around you; let your eyes soak in life’s beauty.
As they say, “stop and smell the roses.”
Jack Kornfield once said: “There is a place in everyone that yearns to love, that longs to be safe, that wants to treat others and ourselves with respect. Sometimes that place is buried underneath layers of fear, old wounds, and pain that we have used to protect ourselves from injury.”
The path to health and inner peace is often not a path of adding to something. It is the path of letting go. This is a main principle of healing – rather than chasing happiness we simply choose to let go of that which makes us unhappy.
Let Go – it means just as it says. It is a conscious decision to release with full acceptance an idea, a thing, an event or a particular time – it’s an invitation to make room for our future by letting go our past, at least a part of our past. We all have made mistakes and bad decisions. We all have ‘baggage’ from our pasts – painful relationships and old beliefs.
How do we let go of such things? Letting go does not mean ‘getting rid of’ or ‘throwing away’ or annihilating them. It is more like setting down and letting them be. A close friend to letting go is acceptance. Accepting people and situations for what they are. This means we lay them aside – put them down gently without any kind of aversion.
A breakup of a relationship can crush our joyful disposition and replace it with tearful despair. According to brain scientists, nearly 20 percent of us suffer from ‘complicated grief’; a biological occurrence that is actually rooted in our brain chemistry. It is a persistent sense of longing for someone we lost with romanticized memories.
When we break up with someone, words like ‘time heals all wounds’ might ring very hollow.
Losing a relationship can feel like a mini-death. We may find ourselves going through the process of grief:
Denial (‘It can’t be over’) – You are shocked and in denial. You don’t believe it is over and you hold out hope.
Anger (‘How could he/she do this to me?’) – Allowing ourselves to grieve – there is nothing wrong with having a good cry. We are free to express our feelings, but not drown in them.
Depression (‘No one will ever love me.’) – Don’t go down that road, there is nothing good down there! – Replace those thoughts with: ‘All pain passes eventually’. Yes, time will do its part. A cut on your skin will heal in time, but it hurts now. The same is true with an emotional wound. In the beginning, it hurts, but over time the pain passes.
We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to it. There are steps we can take to lessen the pain. At first, we need to stop the bleeding and soothe the pain. Finally, we need to keep our wound from becoming infected with bitterness.
Acceptance (‘I’m going to be all right’) – When this process is over, try to remember: Letting go opens you up to new possibilities. Everything about holding on is torturous and an exercise in suffering. When we let go, we give ourselves peace.
Past Resentments And Hurts
Sometimes our lives are like driving. Driving down the road of life, we all look through our windshields; we focus on where we are and where we want to go. But we also look at the rearview mirror to see where we’ve been and what has happened behind us. But, imagine driving our car looking only into that rearview mirror.
What do we think would happen? We can’t see the good things or the bad things that are in front of us. We can’t see where we are going, and finally, it’s not a safe way to drive, and even, seems ridiculous.
It’s the same way in life. Often times we drive down the road of life focusing only on the rearview mirror. We can get so focused on our past that we are barely able to move forward or to see what is in front of us.
In our mind’s rearview mirror is where we can feel resentments, mistakes, bad decisions, and hurts. But they are behind us. We need to be aware of our past mistakes, but we can’t dwell on them.
When someone wrongs us, it is only normal to feel a degree of wrath. When we have, or feel that we have, been wronged, we could become bitter. Constantly thinking about the episode could result in our having negative feelings about others. We might close up, isolating ourselves and showing little interest in others.
Our heart is like an heirloom bowl or vase. What would we do if it became soiled or stained? Would our immediate response be to throw it away? Not likely. We would probably put forth the effort to clean it carefully. In like fashion, we can work hard to get rid of any feelings of annoyance toward those who offended us. With our heart cleansed of negative thoughts, we want to enjoy again the close friendship that had seemed lost for good.
Physical injuries may range from minor cuts to deep wounds, and not all require the same degree of attention. It is similar to injured feelings—some wounds are deeper than others.
There is a saying that ‘you can measure a man by the size of the things it takes to upset him.’ How do we measure up in this regard?
Do we really need to make an issue over every minor bruise we suffer in our relationships with others? Minor irritations, slights, and annoyances are apart of life and do not necessarily require formal forgiveness.
Forgiveness, it seems, is much like money. It can be spent freely and mercifully on others or can be hoarded stingily for oneself.
Positive Impact of Forgiveness and Letting Go
Scientists have launched research that has begun to demonstrate that forgiveness and letting go can positively enhance emotional and even physical health. Forgiveness is not just a good social lubricant but also good medicine!
“In a study of more than 4,600,” says a report in The Gazette, researchers “found [that] the more hostile, frustrated and mean-spirited the personality” was, the more unhealthy the person’s lungs were. In fact, some of the harmful effects were even greater than those of a current smoker!
Dr. David R. Williams, said regarding his research: “We found a particularly strong relationship between forgiveness of others and mental health among middle-aged and older Americans.”
Negative Impact of Resentment
Resentment is a heavy burden to carry. When we harbor it, it consumes our thoughts, robs us of peace, and stifles our joy. The offender, at the same time, may go his way oblivious to our turmoil!
Dr. Hans Selye pointed out: “It is not the hated person or the frustrating boss who will get ulcers, hypertension, and heart disease. It is the one who hates or the one who permits himself to be frustrated.”
Researchers report that caustic emotions like bitterness and resentment are like rust that slowly corrodes the body of a car. The car’s outside may appear beautiful but under the paint a destructive process is taking place. When a person is unforgiving, the resulting conflict creates stress. Stress can lead to serious illnesses. Statistics indicated that two-thirds of the patients who went to a physician had symptoms caused by mental stress.
Dr. William S. Sadler wrote: “No one can appreciate so fully as a doctor the amazingly large percentage of human disease and suffering which is directly traceable to worry, fear, conflict.”
Forgiveness, on the contrary, brings psychological benefits including less stress, anxiety, and depression.
Forgiving others is not always easy. The pain can be immense, especially when a person has been grievously wronged. ‘How can I forgive someone who viciously betrayed and hurt me?’ some may even wonder.
Professor Carl Thoresen of Stanford University says that there are “very few people who understand what forgiveness is and how it works.”
What Forgiveness Really Is
The Toronto Star report defines forgiveness as:
a) “Recognizing we have been wronged“ – Forgiving others does not mean that we condone, minimize, or deny the offense what others have done to us. It does not mean that we have to approve of their wrong behavior or minimize the damage it does. Nor does it mean putting ourselves back into an abusive situation.
b) “Giving up all resulting resentment“ – At times it may simply involve letting go of the situation, realizing that harboring resentment will only add to our burden. Forgiving, though, does mean letting go of any resentment for such wrongs and maintaining our own peace. By dwelling on negative thoughts and mulling over how badly they have been treated, some people let the behavior of others rob them of happiness. Do we harbor feelings of resentment and bitterness when some injustice causes us pain? Do not let such thoughts control us! Refuse to become trapped in a web of bitterness and resentment. This can easily happen. If we allow our emotions to dominate us, the result may prove more damaging to us than the injustice itself. Ask ourselves: Must we remain in severe emotional turmoil, feeling intensely hurt and angry, until the matter is fully resolved?
c) “And eventually responding to the offending person with compassion and even love” – Waiting for an apology that never comes, we may only get more frustrated. In effect, we allow the offending person to control our emotions. So, letting go is not only for their benefit but also for our own, so that we may get on with our life. Forgiveness brings peace – not just peace with fellow humans but inner peace as well.
We may never completely put out of mind what was done, but we can forget in the sense that we do not hold it against the offender or bring the matter up again at some future time.
If someone else made mistakes, we might learn to forgive them or at least let go of the anger. But, when it comes to forgiving ourselves, we often struggle. That is because it is easier to forgive others. We all make mistakes, but sometimes it’s hard to remember that when we’re in the midst of them.
Perhaps we are overwhelmed by thoughts of past sins or mistakes that we have made. Some individuals continue to harbor guilt over sins for which they have actually been forgiven. We may feel guilty without really being guilty.
But, guilt is not a ‘useless’ emotion. Psychoanalyst Gaylin says: “Guilt is the emotion that shapes much of our goodness and generosity. It signals us when we have transgressed codes of behavior that we personally want to sustain. Feeling guilty informs us that we have failed our own ideals.”
Regret is a powerful emotion and our mind has a hard time distinguishing between true mistakes that we can learn from, and little blunders that are really just a part of everyday life. Beside this, forgiveness is often today confused with condoning or lack of accountability.
In order to let the past mistakes go, we must forgive ourselves officially.
Choose to see life as a classroom, not a testing center. We are all humans on intertwining roads to self-discovery, searching for a greater purpose. On our roads, we will inevitably make mistakes – every one of us.
Dr. Claire Weekes commented: “To let past guilt paralyze present action is destructive living.” Most of us hold on to past mistakes and let them affect our self-esteem for way too long. This is not healthy and does not serve anyone. Healthy psychology is to acknowledge a mistake and cope with it. There is value in being aware of our past mistakes, but we cannot focus on them.
We can try to do our best, but we will never be perfect – We live in a world with high-performance standards. People think they need to be perfect. To err is human. We’re always going to make mistakes. Accept that we may have made a wrong choice and then forgive ourselves.
Joretta L. Marshall, PhD points out that people often try to forgive themselves for the wrong things. According to Marshall, “people don’t have to forgive themselves for being who they are – for being human and making human mistakes. Forgiveness means being specific about what we did that needs forgiving.”
Letting go our mistakes is like a technique we use to correct a problem with our computer. It is as close as we come to a system-reset button – we lost the mistake, but not the data in the memory.
Many people have little sense of what it means to have love and acceptance for one’s self. This is not the self-centered love of the mythological Narcissus. It’s not being selfish – it’s being selfish not to love yourself. It is necessary to love yourself before you can love others.
Loving yourself is all about accepting your strengths and weaknesses and even going a step further by loving yourself the way you are. Modern psychology knows this. The great psychoanalytic theorist Donald Winnicot said, “Only the true self can be creative and only the true self can feel real.“
Can we look in a mirror and love ourselves unconditionally? People often learn to love themselves based on the feedback they receive from others. But this is conditional, not unconditional, self-love; self -acceptance based upon external achievements.
But unconditional self-love is learning to accept and love the unlovable in you. Learn to be kind to yourself in situations where you usually have been harsh. When you are down, talk to yourself as if you were your own best friend and move from criticism to self-compassion.
Yes, we can find inner peace. Rather than turning our attention to the past, we must keep our eyes focused on what is yet ahead. Life is a choice – the bad experiences in our rearview mirror are meant to be valuable lessons. Although it is not wrong to meditate on the lessons we have learned from past experiences, we need to maintain a balanced, realistic view of the past.
Letting go is never complete unless people and relationships are transformed in the process. At some point, we reach a turning point. Something shifts – we feel less burdened, we have more energy. We live longer and have better health.
We live in exciting times. Wonderful events are happening now and more lie just ahead.
Jack Kornfiel: Meditation for Beginners, 2004, 2008, p.61
Six Keys to Personal Success – Awake!— 11/2008, p.7
www.ns.umich.edu/Releases/2001/Dec01/r121101a.html (Dr. David R. Williams)
www.seekingwellnesstogether.com/does-your-attitude-affect-your-wellness/ (Dr. Hans Selye)
forthright.antville.org/stories/782226/ (Dr. WilliamSadler)
forgivenessfoundationinternational.org/what-you-need-to-know/latest-discoveries/ (Professor Carl Thoresen of Stanford University)
wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2000488 (The Toronto Star)
nytimes.com/1983/11/29/science/guilt-or-why-it-s-good-to-feel-bad.html (Psychoanalyst Gaylin)
www.scribd.com/doc/168686686/Claire-weekes-hopeAndHelpForYourNerves-by-Kuryuka (Dr. Claire Weekes)
www.webmd.com/balance/features/learning-to-forgive-yourself (Joretta L. Marshall, PhD) Donald Winnicott, The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment, p.148
Most of us feel immense relaxation when we breathe in that breath of fresh air on a cold winter day. Or, lying at the beach listening to the waves, or playing in the sand brings us to that care-free state.
Nature helps most people relax; that’s why there are so many wallpapers with pictures of nature out there. That’s also why numerous apps designed to put you in a relaxed state have sounds of nature built-in. But does these artificial manifestations of natural beauty really help people relax, similar to being in nature in reality?
Here’s a great article verifying the relationship between looking at nature and decreasing stress: Nearby Nature Effect
Making headlines today was the release that Jennifer Lawrence, from X-Men and more recently, the Hunger Games, suffered from Social Anxiety. Although our society is becoming more understanding of mental health issues, stigma still exists. When it comes to discussing mental health issues and getting treatment, there is still not enough openness regarding this topic.
For a celebrity like Jennifer Lawrence, to publicly share her challenges is inspiring for us all. It helps to reduce stigma and increases awareness about mental well-being.
Social Anxiety And It’s Prevalence
According to Statistics Canada, social anxiety, is one of the most common anxiety disorders. Social anxiety is
“a disorder characterized by a fear of situations in which there is potential for embarrassment or humiliation in front of others. There are generally two subtypes of social phobia: one involves a fear of speaking in front of people, whether it be public speaking or simply talking with a person of authority; the other subtype involves more generalized anxiety and complex fears, such as eating in public or using public washrooms, and in these cases individuals may experience anxiety around anyone other than family”.
In Canada, anywhere between 8-13% of Canadian’s will be influenced by social anxiety. The disorder is more common in women than in men. Also, there appears to be an environmental and familial link to the disorder.
Jennifer Lawrence’s story of facing her fear of social scrutiny head-on teaches us all one important thing. Facing the things that cause us anxiety is the best form of treatment. Hence, the best example is exposure therapy combined with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
If you’d like to inquire about social anxiety treatment in Mississauga or Bradford Ontario at Real Life Counselling, don’t hesitate to call us at 289-231-8479.
The year was 2005.
I was in my last year of my Bachelor’s program, meticulously spending hours checking my research data and putting the final touches on my thesis defense. Night after night, I found myself ruminating over having to present in front of my professors, not to mention mine in front of my peers. Ever since I could remember, public presentations, regardless of size or length, caused me grief. I mean, not your typical 11th hour jitters, but…blushing, shaking, nauseous stomach, cold sweats – you name it, I had it.
So, the day had come. I was to defend my thesis. Although most of the day felt like a blur, a few moments still stick with me. The first was feedback from one of my peers as we were standing in the halls practicing our scripts. I shared with my friends how nervous I was, feeling unable to control the physical and emotional reactions happening in my body. My friend, Susan*, turned to me and said, “…instead of telling yourself you’re nervous and scared, why don’t you say you’re excited!”. I listening, and thought to myself – “heck, I have nothing to lose!” So, minutes before my hour of fame, I said, “I’m excited”, “I’M excited”, “I’M EXCITED!”. I think after the 3rd excited, I was starting to feel it. The reaction kicked in! Then, before I knew it, I was done.
I think that’s the second part of my memories of my thesis. My accomplishment. I “felt the fear but did it anyway”. There’s no better feeling then working through a tough obstacle. Or, overcoming a fear.
I encourage you to feel inspired, to reach out for help if you need it, and to “feel the fear and do it anyway” (as Susan Jeffers would say).
Ashley J. Kreze