In Mindfulness and Addiction Part I I wrote about the potential to use nonjudgmental present moment awareness (aka mindfulness) to become more attuned to triggers, cravings, and urges and help break the cycle of addictive behavior. I also used the caveat “this is easier said than done.”
When struggling with addiction, it becomes all too common to switch onto auto-pilot with little to no awareness of the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that can tip you off balance and bring you to that next moment of grasping. In his research, the late Dr. Alan Marlatt, past Director of the Addictive Behavior Research Center at the University of Washington, gave us insight into what is helpful to be aware of.
Here are 3 things to bring more awareness to:
Everyone, at some point in their life, will be affected by depression; whether it’s their own or that of someone they are close to. Almost 19 million Americans have periods during which they feel a lack of pleasure or interest their usual activities combined with feeling tired and heavy, potentially overly emotional or numb. Many also experience an onslaught of negative and self defeating thoughts that can keep invading the mind over and over again.
The more periods of this depressed mood we have in life, the more likely we are to fall back into them again. Why does this relapse occur and how can mindfulness offer hope?
Mindfulness and Psychotherapy has been gaining a mounting interest among thousands of clinicians and clients. The following is one in a series of informal conversations between Trudy Goodman, Ph.D., Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. and Steven Hickman, Psy.D., the teachers for a unique upcoming professional training retreat entitled “Mindfulness in Psychotherapy” to be held October 2-7, 2011 at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center in Southern California. This series is primarily aimed toward clinicians, but I’m hoping if you are not a healthcare professional you can also gain some insight from it. Enjoy!
Today Steve, Trudy and I talk about the similarities and differences between Mindfulness and Hypnosis.
I’d say the majority of us start off our days with an alarm ringing us awake. As we wipe the sleep out of our eyes and drink our morning coffee or tea, the cobwebs begin to break away and the doors of the mind open to start looking forward and planning/worrying about the day.
The reality is, the planning and worrying sometimes doesn’t wait and they dart in the moment we open our eyes. So, I’m going to suggest a simple and easy idea that could have a major impact not only how you start your day, but how the rest of the day unfolds.
Take a moment to consider what’s really important to you in this life.
Derrick was 13 years old when he stepped into my office complaining of “just not enjoying anything in life.” His parents told me they’d tried everything. They had him playing piano, going to soccer practice, involved in drama practice, along with a few more activities. “He just doesn’t seem to be interested in any of it,” the mom said.
One day, Derrick came into session and I asked him if he could tell me his happiest memory. Sitting slumped into the couch, his head perked up and he said: “I remember when I was six my parents bought something that came in a big box. When they emptied it out, I played in that box for hours, it was my favorite place. It made me happy.” It was clear that Derrick was missing out on his natural right to have more play in his life.
Play deprivation doesn’t just apply to kids, but to all of us. We can easily fall into a state of being overly strict with ourselves and taking life too seriously.
To bring mindfulness into our lives and cultivate a healthy, flexible and resilient mind, we need to loosen up on ourselves, allowing openings to arise, and then like cultivating a garden add in nutrients that facilitate the kind of change we’d like to see. You can think of play as a fundamental way of bringing mindfulness into your life creating spaces for your healthier mind to take root.
There’s a certain way of relating to life that I try and come back to again and again. It’s something that we often lose as adults along the way as life gets filled with overflowing and endless list of “to-dos.” It’s not our fault, our brains are wired to make life routine, getting us disconnected from the wonders of everyday life. Hafiz, a 14th century poet and mystic, sums up this way of relating to life best:
Has known God,
Not the God of names,
Not the God of Don’ts
Not the God who ever does anything weird
But the God who only knows four words
And keeps repeating them, saying:
“Come dance with Me”
If you’ve followed my writings, you know that I believe bringing back a sense of playfulness into our lives is a critical factor in our mental health. Play is important to ourselves, in relationships, at work or with parenting. This isn’t something we can just think about because the reality is for many of us; we don’t practice it much and it goes against the grain.
The first thing is discovering what playfulness looks like in your life.
In order to get a sense of this follow this short practice:
Once in a while a story comes into your life that immediately touches that soft spot in your heart and gives you a gift to carry around and support you in difficult times. I didn’t know Jeff Guyer, but my wife was friends with his sister. A few days before his final moments of battling with Sarcoma, an aggressive cancer, he wrote out a post to his friends and family that can be summed up with a single word – acceptance.
His message to everyone came from his connection with Bernie Siegel’s quote in Faith, Hope and Healing: Inspiring Lessons Learned from People Living with Cancer, “Breathe in hope, breathe out love.”
The fact is we’re not all fighting cancer right now (although I’m almost positive we’ve all been touched by someone in our family or friends who has fought the battle), but adversities come up in life that can knock our spirits down.
Whether it’s a sense of battling with anxieties about what the future, cravings and urges for a “fix” to take away the pain, or a relentless form of stress from work or family, the deterioration of hope happens to all of us.
Done slowly and intentionally, “Breathe in hope, breathe out love” is a way of activating the parasympathetic nervous system which acts as the brakes to our anxieties. We begin to regulate our blood flow and calm down a bit.
With the world getting smaller and smaller due to the internet, we all know to some degree the many wars that are currently being waged. But how about the wars that get waged in us all the time? It’s as if we perceive enemies within us trying to take us over. I remember one time I was working within an organization and there was a depression course being listed for patients and the marketing for it said, “Kill your depression for good.”
What? Pour negative energy into your depression? Doesn’t sound like a good cocktail.
There is an African Proverb that says:
“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”
This is similar to Thich Nhat Hanh’s saying:
“Peace in ourselves, peace in the world.”
I remember when I was a kid, playtime was what I looked forward to the most. I think that’s on par with most kids. But something happens to us as adults where we get indoctrinated into a system where play gets relegated down the priority list. It’s not something we intentionally choose, it’s a subtle process where a belief is planted and nurtured that play simply isn’t important and as the years go on we wonder why we “feel so old.”
Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw said:
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
This quote hits the nail on the head. Youth is a matter of mind and attitude. I was recently sitting with a friend, who is 62 years old, but he doesn’t look 62, he looks younger. He told me, “My face reflects who I am on the inside.”